Many new photographers get lost in the sauce of getting their first camera. Whether you shoot with a Nikon, a Canon or a Sony and intend to shoot for fun or profit, the following are essential to making the most out of your equipment!

A SanDisk SD card
Photo: Amazon

1. Several high-performance SD Cards

This is literally the key to success when it comes to writing photos quickly. When I first started out I had no idea why it would take so long for my camera to catch up with my shooting. I thought it was because I had a cheaper body kit and let other photographers convince me it was time to upgrade my the lenses that came with my kit. The truth is it was my SD card that was holding me back. I started with a relatively cheap one that resulted in a ton of lost shots because it would take forever to load. My advice is to invest in several Pro Master Professional SD cards. Go for the SD HC “secure digital” version. A 32 GB will run you about $90. It’s always better to have several just in case you fill up or break one.

2. Dropbox Pro

The pro version of Dropbox is necessary. Make sure that you are budgeting the $99 a year or $10 a month into your success plan. It helps with data safety. The minute I get home from a shoot I back everything up to Dropbox. When you’ve been in the game long enough you learn that anything that can happen will happen. I’ve had SD cards split, equipment stolen, external hard drives fail… you name it.

Dropbox Pro is also good for accountability. No matter what happens, most of my clients can rest assured that if they lose a disc or a flash drive, there’s a good chance I can still recover their photos. Some of my greatest referrals have come from the systems I’ve
set into play.

It also helps the flow of your business. Dropbox Pro is key for me because I am able to drop an entire set of photos into a folder, share it with the appropriate parties and allow them make comments on photos they want edited. It saves you from editing a bunch of photos that they might not want.

Photo: Square
Photo: Square

3. An online payment/credit card system

This might sound silly but there are several steps that make a difference in this, so start sooner than later. PayPal is a good service that works for me. if you’re going to use PayPal, make sure that you make it work for you by ordering the debit card. It makes a big difference when you don’t have to wait for your funds to transfer to your bank account. I can use my PayPal debit card anywhere and take cash out at the ATM.

Another service is Square Appointments. Once you graduate into booking several shoots a month, Square Appointments is the way to go. Not only can I keep up with my schedule, clients get notifications about their upcoming appointments and I keep up with sales and booking information. I also love the system because it shows my pricing to “window shoppers” so I’m not going back and forth gauging interest levels.

4. Pinterest 

Not only is Pinterest full of great shooting advice and tips, there are a ton of great creative resources as well. I’ve gotten some of my favorite shoot ideas from boards created by other photographers. I tell people I shoot all the time, it’s not about taking pictures — it’s about making them. What can you do to take the same concept and make it your own? That’s how you find your voice as a photographer.

5. Editing software outside of mobile devices

Once you start contributing to websites, blogs and paying clients, you have to be able to produce high resolution work. Unfortunately, most mobile applications, including VSCO cam, distort and compress your images. They’re great for Instagram and sometimes blogging but if you haven’t made the investment to learn how to utilize Photoshop or Lightroom, you should do so. They are crucial to your success. I worked with a great photographer who did some awesome headshots for me but when I went to print my marketing materials, over $250 worth of fliers featured grainy imagery.

Most of my clients eventually send their family photos and wedding pictures over to Shutterfly or Walgreens to be wrapped in canvas, so for those projects, VSCO just doesn’t work. The great thing about Photoshop and Lightroom is that you can now utilize the Adobe Creative Cloud and pay monthly for the software rather than paying for it all at once. Back in the day, Lightroom was over $1,000 and once you paid for the system you were stuck with whatever version you purchased. Now you can stay updated and have access to tons of creative tutorials for under $50 a month. It’s a steal and will certainly help set you apart as your grow in your creative career.

The importance of these resources

The most essential thing to remember as you grow through photography is that you have to constantly challenge yourself and be willing to learn. Some of my greatest lessons in shooting came from asking mentors to just take a day to shoot with me. Be willing to pay their hourly fee and come ready to learn. Photography is about self expression but it’s critical to know the basic principles of design and how to operate your equipment. The goal is not only to see the image through a trained eye but also have the technical skill to capture it.

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