The first month of 2020 is officially in the books. It’s usually during this time that we reflect on the past year and determine what goals and resolutions we can set for ourselves to tackle as we embark on this new year. We want to help you build the business of your dreams which is why we created our Photography Business Training System, designed to guide photographers at any stage of their career to a bigger, better and more successful business.

While there is a lot to learn from our personal mistakes and journies over the length of a year, our peers are running the same course alongside us, fighting the same battles or different challenges of their own. We asked our Master the Business of Photography Facebook Community what their biggest lesson of 2019 was so that we could encourage our community to learn and grow from one another. Here’s what they had to say:

Trevor Dayley – Website | Instagram

lessons

“In 2019 one of the biggest lessons I learned was to be sure to take time from the busy schedule and specifically schedule time with each one of my kids. I’ve always tried to make my family a priority and we do a lot together as one. My wife and I started scheduling time on our calendars back in September 2019 when each of us would be spending a day alone with one of our kids, giving that one child our full attention. The key here is you have to schedule this time on your calendar, otherwise, it will never happen. There is always something else that can be done, but nothing ever as important as spending time with your family. My kids talk about these days and the memories created all the time. It’s so important to show your kids you care, and I don’t think there is any better way than to give them all your attention.”

Jesse La Plante – Website | Instagram

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“My biggest lesson learned in 2019 was that other people don’t notice our mistakes as much as we think. I’m a bit of a perfectionist and I tend to only see the faults in the things I do. This mindset can be valuable for a photographer (or for an artist of any kind), but it can also become destructive if it goes unchecked. More and more, I’m realizing the importance of cutting myself some slack now and then. It’s still very much a work in progress.”

Wes Shinn – Website | Instagram

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“The biggest thing I learned in 2019 was to be selfless instead of selfish. My fall wedding season was the best series of weddings I’ve had the opportunity to shoot. I became an amazing friend to all of my couples and in turn, learned so much from each and every single one of them – it’s like I became an adopted family member for a day. Since I’m already adopted, I just fell in love with the deep connection family members have with each other, it’s something I’ve never had and have always wanted. For the first time in my life, I felt compelled to meet my mom for the first time and it has radically transformed my life and I was able to experience the love that I so often captured at weddings between family members. While my mom and I have only started our relationship, so many things have been answered – and it all came from what I learned from capturing weddings.”

Anna Nguyen Stratton – Website | Instagram

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“My biggest takeaway from 2019 was that your biggest cheerleaders and biggest fans are happy clients. If you offer an exceptional and elevated client experience and really show that you care about them (beyond gifts, but actually getting to know them) that they will literally tell everyone about you, stand by their referrals of your business and are genuinely happy for your success. I am so grateful to all of my clients, without them, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

Kristina Robinson – Website | Instagram

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“The biggest lesson I learned in 2019 is that marketing and generating leads consistently needs to be as big or bigger of a priority than fulfillment. It has to be intentional and consistently consistent. Even when we are shooting 2 weddings every weekend and don’t feel like we can keep our head above water, we need to have workflows in place where we are lead generating for the months when work is slow. If not then the cycle is off and business decisions are made poorly and from a place of desperation.”

Jos & Tree Woodsmith – Website | Instagram

lessons from photographers

“Our biggest lesson learned in 2019 was advancing our teamwork game. It’s no cliche: “teamwork makes the dream work.” Whether it was photographing a massive chaotic Indian wedding, almost being trampled on the dance floor, managing gear in the most extreme conditions, or precisely feathering the light ever so slightly amidst the most intimate fleeting moments – teamwork saved the day. Trying to do it all alone can be very limiting, a massive disservice to our clients, destructive to our morale, and a fast track to burnout.

A few years back we had the privilege of learning teamwork strategies from the lead trainers of the Navy Seals. This has nothing to do with war and everything to do with communication. Seals only work in “swim buddies” and each would always have the other person’s back. They would literally chant mantras saying “Two is one, one is none” or “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast” among many more. What does this mean? Well, in essence, we may be faster alone but we are stronger together. So we started asking ourselves how we can work better as a team? How is “our” performance affecting our clients’ experience, the quality of our work and the long term health of our relationship and others who work with us? This year we developed a system of communication that enabled us to almost photograph an entire wedding without saying a word to each other. What if we could work together without shouting from a distance or in a loud environment to place a light? The risk of being embarrassingly awkward in-front of clients while trying to get great shots was our weakness. Sound familiar or strange? So we developed a language that is helping us capture insane photos without going insane. This is still a work in progress. Anyone in this field knows the truth, the behind the scenes work can get messy. We are not perfect, but our strategies are helping us. This year we had the serious honor of having several high-end photographers (Farhad Khan, Brandon Russell, Greg Hastain, Angela Rose Watts, Andrew Larkin) join us at big weddings and work together in teams. The collaboration and shared experience between our team and our clients are taking us to a new level.”

Jared Gant – Website | Instagram

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“One of the biggest lessons that I learned in 2019 is that I can do more than I think when I work smart and fully utilize the tools and resources in front of me. This should be obvious, right? But, it takes a large time investment up front, which sometimes is difficult to fully commit to. This past year I have completely automated and systemized nearly all my client’s written communication and education, which in turn gives my clients a better, more consistent experience. Simultaneously, this requires less of my own time and has allowed me to explore other opportunities, build strong network relationships, and launch a second business.”

Dave Moss – Website | Instagram

lessons photographers learn

“The biggest lesson I learned in 2019 was to change my perspective and find my blind spots. This was accomplished in a few ways.

  1. Asking and listening to others about what they perceive my strengths and weaknesses to be, and then actively working to increase the former and reduce or eliminate the latter.
  2. Hiring a coach, because it is impossible to see all the blind spots in your own business. Having an external view of your work and life is 100% the best way to move forward. Also as a coach, I believe in practicing what I preach!
  3. Realizing that I am the sum of the 5 people I spend the most time with, and curating my life to surround myself with other successful, happy, and hard-working people so that lift me up.

By doing these three things, not only did I have my best financial year ever, but also my best mental health year. There were, of course, a million other things I did in 2019 to support this value shift, but these were the big ones.”

Rey Benasfre – Website | Instagram

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“In 2019 I learned never to make assumptions or judgments about my clients. I’ve had clients who were wealthy, drove nice cars, but wanted their photography for cheap. On the other hand, I had a lot of couples who were super young, lower-income, but valued my work and paid $1500-$2000 on just an engagement session alone. I used to make assumptions that people wouldn’t be able to afford my prices and what I would do is lower my prices to get them to buy. But what that did was make them sense what I was doing and be turned off enough to not spend more. I switched that up and this year I treated everyone as if they were worth a million bucks and gave them my pricing menu with confidence. In return, people spent more and if they couldn’t afford any more they would simply tell me.”

Kristen Schulle – Website | Instagram

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“The biggest lesson I learned in 2019 was that I am only limited by my knowledge and my imagination. I am pushing myself to learn something new in my field every day and to get better with each photo I take.”

Tanya Parada – Website | Instagram

photographer lessons

“My biggest lesson learned in 2019 was embracing change. At the start of 2019, I decided I was done staying in my comfort zone and that in order to take charge of my business like never before, I would need to completely change my mindset. I decided early on that 2019 be my “make it or break it year”. That mindset scared me but also fueled me to work harder than I ever had. It meant saying yes to as many opportunities as possible. It meant getting over my fear of failure. And it meant trusting in the process of change, even when it wasn’t fun or easy. As I began to see changes in my business and in myself, my confidence grew. Ultimately, this led me to book more clients, having better processes set up for my business, meeting and collaborating with incredible peers, traveling to different states and countries for work, and exceeding the goals that I had set at the start of the year.

I understand that embracing change will be a continual lesson for me. But now I meet it with a more positive outlook. I reaped the benefits of taking many leaps of faith last year. And I look forward to what this year has in store, not only for myself but for everyone determined to embrace change.”

Raph Nogal – Website | Instagram

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“The biggest lesson I learned in 2019 is that you can’t stay stagnant, get too comfortable and you need to progress in many ways, artistically, personally and business-wise. The wedding and photo industries are changing, the players are changing and we need to embrace that change otherwise we will end up like some of those photographers who said the film is king and that digital will not take off.
Some examples of change are changing how you price your services, being in tune with the current market, sending price lists or custom packages? online galleries or in-person sales? etc etc. The list goes on. So in 2020 embrace change and make a change!”

Angie Nelson – Website | Instagram

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“The biggest lesson I learned in 2019 was to accept and embrace the word “no.” I was told “no” a lot in 2019. Contests, venues, planners, potential wedding clients – and which each no, I found that if I started focusing more on the opportunities I’ve created in my own business the less the word “no” meant to me and my perception of success. To look back on 2019 as a year of no’s would be a disservice to all the work I’ve put into my business. Really, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that my self-worth and success are not dependent on other people saying yes to me.”

Nic Hilton – Website | Instagram

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“In 2019 the biggest lesson I learned was to slow down. During a wedding day, I always used to feel like I had to move as fast as I could to capture everything, but I started slowing down and began to feel okay if I just stopped talking/moving/shooting to just think for a second. Nobody ever thought I didn’t know what I was doing, I think they actually respected that I wasn’t rambling or just shooting to shoot. I also feel I increased my bookings by slowing down on the phone, saying less and waiting for them to speak. (sometimes this is extremely hard). This has transferred over to different aspects of my life and taught me to be a lot more patient, more collected, and more focused.”

If any of these lessons resonated with you and you’ve been inspired to get your business in better shape for the rest of 2020 then the Photography Business Training System was made for you! You can stream all 4 courses as part of our training system or join us in SLR Lounge Premium and enjoy our library of other photographer resources to jumpstart your career, no matter what skill level you are at!