Guest Post: Where To Begin Your Photography Journey

Today I'm sharing something I've never done before—a guest post. This post was written by my lovely wife, Hannah. Hannah is the creative vision behind our photography business, Cottonwood Road Photography. In this post she addresses the question of where to begin your photography journey. If you or a someone you know, wants to start a photography business and aren't sure where to start, this post is for you.

One of the highest joys of my job is the opportunity to help other aspiring photographers develop their skills and start their own photography journeys. It is stressful and overwhelming to figure out how every aspect of your camera works, how to compose and use light and everything in between. As a result, people reach out regularly in search of help getting their head around things. What follows is a collection of resources I share with those just jumping into photography.   

Running a photography business can be incredibly hard. Long shoots, responding to inquiries, hours of editing, and travel are more than enough to keep you busy. Despite the difficulty, it is super rewarding to work with couples leading up to and celebrating the biggest moments of their lives.

Whether you're interested in starting your own business or just want to learn how to use your camera, I highly suggest taking a photography course. You can take one online or attend a class of some sort. Focus on mastering the art of photography, and learning your equipment. I took years of classes in high school & college to learn the basics. However, my real break through came when I started teaching myself. Here are a few resources that helped me personally grow and develop as a photographer once I got serious about developing my skills. 

Photography Information

Digital Photography School - explore the whole site! This is a great place to begin learning the technical side of your camera, from lenses, settings, lighting conditions and more. If you are a beginner, they will help me learn how to manipulate your camera so that you get the shot you envision.    

Justin & Mary Pancake Sessions  - Who doesn't love pancakes? Explore everything they have for photographers! These short and sweet posts cover everything from their favorite equipment to how to host a client meeting in your home. They were instrumental as Preston and I started our business.

Jasmine Star - Excellent videos from another photographer on how to run a wedding photography business. I used to watch her short videos nonstop as I sought to learn everything I could about how to be the very best photographer. 

Psychology for Photographers - This was extremely helpful in learning how to manage client relationships, how to have hard conversations, the why behind pricing and value, among many other things. This helped me learn how to mentally handle all of the challenges that came my way. 

Creative Live - You can find an answer to almost any question somewhere on their site. They cover a ton. This is the next step in learning not just the technical aspects of shooting, but building a portfolio and running a business as well. Careful, you could get lost in all the helpful resources they offer. 


B&H Photo Video - We order all of our camera equipment through B&H. They have great prices, their site is easy to navigate and they take the stress out of the equipment buying experience. 

Ken Rockwell - Before you purchase another piece of equipment, check out Ken. He does some of the best reviews on all different kinds of equipment! In the process of making an excellent decision about what to buy, Ken serves as our ace in the hole. 

Once you've done the hard work of nailing the art form and how your specific camera works, you'll be ready to start narrowing down what field of photography you're interested in pursuing. But that's a post for another day.    

Hope this is a big help as you get started! :) 


One Sure Fire Way to Accomplish More in 2016

As we bring 2015 to a close and stand ready to welcome 2016 with open arms, I want to share one small tip that can help you achieve more next year. 

Don't wait until the calendar changes to start working on your goals.

Get a head start on them now.

The momentum you build these next few days before we turn the page on a new year can propel you into achieving more than you ever thought you could.

We often over estimate what we can accomplish in the short term, but rarely do we realize fully what we can achieve over the long term. 

Go into the new year energized and excited to tackle all you hope to accomplish. And while your at it give yourself a head start while you can.

I started attacking my 2016 reading list this past weekend and have been over joyed to have already completed my first book on the list.

What are your big goals for 2016 and who said you had to wait until then to start working on them? 

The Pareto Principle

You have so much going on that it can be quite overwhelming at times. To make it worse, a lot of what you spend your time doing doesn't add to your bottom line or help you accomplish your goals. With your attention pulled in so many directions it can be hard to keep focused on what truly matters. But how do you break this cycle and cut through the waste so you can focus on the truly important? 

 Vilefredo Pareto just might hold the key to unlocking the magic code to increasing productivity and regaining your sanity.

Never heard of Vilefredo Pareto? You're not alone.  

Vilefredo Pareto was an economist of little note who lived and died Switzerland almost 100 years ago. Not much of his work or life garners our attention. However, at some point in his 75 years of life Pareto stumbled upon a mathematical truth that could truly transform your life.

The Pareto Principle first popped up on my radar while reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss a little over a year ago. At it's most simple The Pareto Principle simply states that 80% of outputs come from 20% of inputs. This has been found to be true across all manner of disciplines including time management, customers, and economics.

A few alternative ways to look at the principle include:

• 20% of your customers generate 80% of your income

• 20% of your customers create 80% of you problems

• 80% of your results come from 20% of your effort and time

It drives home the concept of prioritization. What you focus on matters immensely. If you are focusing all of your efforts on the wrong things you won't get the results your working so hard to achieve. You will run yourself ragged with nothing to show. Thankfully, you can learn and apply the 80/20 principle to your life and alter the outcomes you are working so hard to reach.

Pareto and the 80/20 principle will be of most help to you if you leverage them to assess your current efforts. Here are three ways you can apply it:

1. Take stock of current efforts. Write down everything you are doing and outcomes it is producing. Be unattached from the outcomes here, simply list out your activity and how it has impacted your work, life, etc.

2. Reprioritize what's producing. Perhaps you find that phone calls are driving your business and resulting huge returns for you, despite the fact that you make very few. In that case, pick up the phone and start making more calls. The key here is to determine your areas of strength and multiply them.

3. Eliminate waste. Consider cutting those things that are wasting your time and energy. It might be something you think would be generating results but its just sucking up resources. Cut it ruthlessly. Find your inefficiencies and eliminate them. This will free you up to focus on what's actually generating for you.   

These three steps show where to double down and where to eliminate. Apply this principle to your life, get a hold of the few things that truly matter, and see how drastically it transforms things for you. 

Bonus tip:

Develop a "Stop Doing" List

A few weeks back I wrote a series of questions to help you evaluate the items on your "to do" list that pairs well with the Pareto Principle that will be helpful to you. Here is an expert from that post:

"The solution to your crazy schedule and consequently a crazy task list isn't just another list but the process of evaluating exactly what you are doing each day. A "stop doing" list helps you take a cold hard look at what you are doing and literally stop doing those things that are not the most fruitful for you and your team."

Bonus Resource:

For more on the Pareto Principle and other awesome tips that are sure to shatter your world, in a good way, check out The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss