• Sydney Leigh

Things I Wish I Knew Starting a Creative Business

Updated: Jun 16

So, you decided to join this crazy world of creatives, huh? Well, buckle up, friend. It is going to be a wild ride. I mean that in the best way possible. Really, though. It may be crazy and stressful at times, but it is honestly such an amazing career. If you are thinking this job is a "head ache", "not a real job", or "super stressful".. it is time to move on to something else. If you are not all in, this is not for you. First things first. You are here to grow and learn. So, if you are thinking that you are just going to be amazing and doing things correctly right off the bat, you are sooooo wrong. There is so much more to this than you think.. and let me tell you some of the things I wish I knew when starting my creative career in photography.

Photography is a busy business.

You may be thinking, "I want this to only be a hobby. I have a job I love/want to continue." Some of you may be able to do that and thrive. Others, like myself, realize very quickly that this job gets extremely busy and takes up most of your time. When I started photography, I was not expecting it to turn into my full time job. I was thinking it would be a side hustle during the summer or just a hobby. A few years later, here I am. A full photography business that keeps me bust all year round. This job entails so much more than just taking photos and giving them to people. You need to be your own accountant (keeping track of income and expenses for taxes), you need to become a legal business, you need to respond to messages and emails, market, blog, post on social media, send out contracts, update websites, edit and take photos. And trust me, it gets to be a whole lot busier than you think. When I decided to go full time, I had 1-3 sessions almost every day and at least three weddings every month. Yes.. BUSY. I would shoot and then edit, shoot and then edit. Pretty soon I realized that I was slacking in other areas of my business like slowing down my response time, not posting on social media or marketing to other clients. Soon, I was overwhelmed and I had kept getting inquiry after inquiry before I realized that I was over working myself and not valuing my time enough. Which leads me to my next point.

Value yourself, your time, and learn when to say, "No."

This was SUCH a hard concept for me to grasp when I first started. I had NO idea what all went into photography, how expensive everything was, and how much time it actually takes. I was SHOCKED at prices that other photographers had and continually told myself, "I will never charge more than X amount." When in all reality, I was the naive one who had no idea what I was about to experience. As you can about imagine, I was burning myself out. I couldn't say no. More bookings = more money = more freedom. HECK NO. Every weekend and night I was busy, taking photos or staying up until the a** crack of dawn editing away just so I could stay "caught up." I was exhausted, on edge, and resenting my passion. I missed out on so much. My senior year of college weekends, date nights, spending time with family and friends, church, etc. It wasn't until I invested in education for photography until I realized I was not alone. I learned that it is GOOD to say, "No." I learned that pricing high does not mean you are "outrageous" or "expensive." It means you are valuable. It means you are an investment. Your time is worthy. This hit me like a wall. I was amazed. I did not have to give up every weekend, I did not have to give up date nights or "me" nights, and I could enjoy my passion again. I instantly changed my scheduling habits and made designated days off. Almost every Monday is a "me" day, almost every Thursday is a "date" night, and Sundays are my complete days off to relax. On these "off" nights, starting at 7pm, I am not on my phone or lap top for work. I am spending time doing things I want and going out or having a date night with my hubby. I also set my prices higher. I know.. something I told myself I would never do. But, I realized that my time is more precious to me. And guess what, PEOPLE STILL BOOKED ME. I know.. crazy! So, I am not saying start off with high prices, but start off with prices that make the entire process (driving time, session time, editing time, delivery time, follow up time) all worth it as well as helping to cover the costs of your expenses (equipment, programs, etc). AND ALWAYS REMEMBER, IT IS GOOD TO SAY NO.

Buying a ton of different presets will not make your pictures look like the pictures you see.

I will say it again, buying a ton of different presets will not make your pictures look like the pictures you see. EVERYONE HAS A DIFFERENT STYLE, EYE, SETTINGS, LOCATIONS, MOOD, ETC. I can tell you right now, I found this out the hard way. Literally, after spending THOUSANDS of dollars on presets, I was educated from fellow photographers that if you just sit down and mess with a preset pack you like, you can alter it to fit exactly what you are wanting. And sure enough. I did. Now, I get it. My Minnesota, midwest photos do not look like Katie Byrd's photos in Cali. Want to know why? The colors, the time of day, the location, and most importantly THE PHOTOGRAPHER THEMSELVES. YES. Katie and I have used the same presets, on the same photos, in the same exact location, with the same couple. Guess what. She tweaked hers how she liked it and I tweaked mine how I liked it and then we showed each other and they STILL looked different. WE USED THE SAME PRESET. HOW?!?! Because. I am me. And she is she. There is never going to be the same exact style. You can try and try and try, but you will never be able to copy someone exactly. And why would you?! What is the point. You will always be second best then. Be your own person, build your own empire, and show the world who YOU are. Always have those you look up to. But DO NOT fall in their shadow.


I have talked with photographers just starting out say, "I want to do this but there are so many photographers out there already. Our small town has a really good one. No one will hire me." YOU ARE SO RIGHT. With that attitude, and that mindset, no one will. I hate to be cliche here, but do you think everyone who ever invented something didn't at least have that thought cross their mind? I know I sure did when I started. I had my doubts, my set backs, my failures. But I did not let them stop me from pushing my way to continue to work and create. There will ALWAYS be someone out there who is "better" than you, "smarter" than you, "prettier" than you. But does that stop you from trying, from working, from putting your makeup on? NO. So why should it now? You are made to be you. To show the world who you are, not who someone else is. Show them your talent and what you have to offer. You are enough. You are good. You are talented at what you do. Believe it. Put it into practice. Achieve your goals and go kick some butt.

I hope to see you join the creative world and explore your talents that God has given you! If you want more advice or to learn from me, check out my photographer's page for more info!

Much love



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Mountain Elopement Photographer

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Destination wedding and

elopement photographer
based out of Minnesota but

always ready to travel.