3 things that took my photography business to the next level

Photography

Nicole Hill

by

3 things that took my photography business to the next level

If I could have told my younger self the amount of lessons that she would learn as a photographer and a business owner, I’m not sure I would have even believed it. Truly. These last 14 years or so have been so full of mistakes and wins and tears and excitement and joy and everything in between, and there are so many pivotal moments that I can look to and say “that. That’s when absolutely everything changed for me.”

And, lately, I’ve been doing lots and lots of thinking about those pivotal moments, too. It’s been 14 years of doing this — of making my life around a lens and a memory and a beautiful capture — and I’ve been so, so fortunate this whole way to keep learning these lessons and growing and now helping others grow too.

So, today I wanted to talk to you about the 3 things that I did that really took my photography business to the next level. When I think back on my journey these 3 things really stick out to me when I’m thinking about everything that I’ve learned and grown from. Plus, I can’t help myself… I love nothing more than sharing anything that might help you on your photography journey.

Let’s dive in, yes?!

1. LEARNING FROM THE EXPERTS

First and foremost, I keep thinking lately about how thankful I am to have learned the technical aspects of photography from the experts. Now, don’t get me wrong — I really do think you can be self-taught to an extent! But, if I hadn’t really focused on learning the true technical scope, I wouldn’t have had the tools and the tips and the tricks to get to where I am today… and I know it sure as heck would have taken me a loooooot longer. You don’t know what you don’t know…, you know?! (that’s a tongue twister) And, while I knew that I needed to educate myself as a new photographer, I didn’t realize that at the time I actually, truly, knew nothing. I was teaching myself and practicing in fields and with artsy photos of my friends and sisters, but choosing to step into the true educational realm of expertise with photography school changed it all for me… and taught me those technical fundamentals so that I could lay a foundation that I’ve built my entire business around.

Now, these days photography is a lot more accessible, and you don’t have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to go to actual photo school like I did — not even close, actually. You can take courses where you can learn from people who can teach you the technicals and fundamentals in a digestible, downloadable way without going into massive student debt (this is part of the reason I started The Photographer’s Path), learning a proper technical foundation is key and extremely helpful in setting you up for success as a photographer. The Photographer’s Path was built on this idea, too — that you can learn from an expert without investing years and hundreds of thousands — and I can’t even tell you how helpful setting yourself up with this kind of foundation really is.

Plus, something really beneficial that stems from that entire arena of education are the people that you meet along the way… which brings me to the next thing that completely changed my business —

2. HAVING A SUPPORTIVE COMMUNITY

Your life will completely change when you start to have people who understand and support you. Photography is a weird avenue and area, and finding people who just GET it — those people who understand why it’s so special when you finally get the perfectly lit shot, those people who understand how it feels to stay up until 3 AM editing, those people who understand how there’s truly NOTHING like the passion you feel around photography.

Because, let’s be honest, starting something creative and new can be so, so isolating — especially when you have “impossible” goals (which are the best kind!) that you want to push towards with everything. My friends who I love dearly that aren’t photographers just really don’t always understand — and they definitely didn’t get it when we were younger and I’d stay in to edit on a Friday night.

I didn’t have a huge supportive community like our students in The Photographer’s Path do when I first moved to LA to go after my “impossible dream.” But I did meet my husband Dustin in photography school… and he’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Without his support I don’t know if I would have made it through all the ups and downs that come with starting your own business. When I had bad days, he lifted me up, when I failed terribly he told me to keep pushing and when I needed to edit until 4am he made sure I had a cold brew in my hand when we woke up. When you’re surrounded by people who just GET IT, you’ll never feel guilty for following what you love. Because they want nothing more than for you to be happy.

It’s so important to have people to lean on and I know a lot of us don’t have that, which is another a big reason why we started The Photographer’s Path so you don’t have to do this alone anymore.

Lastly, more than anything, is THE most pivotal thing that I did that changed my life and my photography career:

3. When I stopped letting fear hold me back.

Let’s be honest, fear is real. And, chasing your dreams lends itself to fear anyways. To disappointment. To heartbreak. It’s scary. But, chasing your dreams means that you absolutely have to be okay with the fear in itself. Getting in deep, holding hands with that fear, and leaning into it even when it’s absolutely terrifying is what you gotta do.

In the beginning of my photography journey this was almost kind of easy for me to do, too — because when I first found photography, I was incredibly unhappy and ready for something to change. Those fears didn’t feel as scary to jump into, you know? I knew that the fear was a lot better than the way I had been living. That fear was a lot less painful in itself. This isn’t the best way to do it, though… and I don’t want you to enter the photography world in pain! I want you to jump into the fear because it lights you up. It shakes you up. It moves you around. It feels like an adventure, all the time. There’s nothing quite like that feeling. There’s nothing that feels as magical, as real, as right to me… and if you feel that way, too, then why wouldn’t you jump in, headfirst?

If you’re reading to this, right now, I KNOW you feel the same. And I know you’re probably a little scared. We all are. But, trust me in this with every inch of your gut: that fear is so much smaller than the possibility. You can achieve so, so, SO much more than you might think. So, stop setting those tiny goals. Set the BIG ones. Set the ones that scare the hell out of you. Set the ones that light you on fire and make you nervous. Why? Because I KNOW you can do it! And, when you set yourself a big goal like this, you encourage yourself to pursue that growth in so many ways.

Plus, when you surround yourself with people who set the same crazy goals, they feel a heck of a lot less crazy, and they feel a lot more doable. So here’s to us, my friends! Here’s to you. Here’s to the ones who chase the crazy and lean into the fear and do. it. anyways. Here’s. To. Us.

This week — right now — I have some homework for you, okay?

I want you to get a piece of paper, or the voice notes app on your phone, or, hell, your roommate to talk to, and I want you to make 3 crazy, impossible-feeling goals. I want you to make 3 goals that genuinely scare you. Then, I want you to write down the top 3 areas you want to improve in your business this year, and then reach out to one (just one!) photographer in the HF community to befriend and to talk to. 

When you can take those tiny steps — those small little movements — you *will* find massive change! So, as you go through this, I really, really want you to challenge yourself. MAKE them crazy. MAKE them seem unattainable. MAKE them feel impactful. If you can focus this year on really attaining them, you will create a massive, massive change for yourself.

After all, the small things are really the big ones. The most pivotal ones. The life-changing ones.

You’ve got this. And I’m so incredibly proud of you.

ARE YOU READY?

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meet the photographer

HI! I'M NICOLE HILL

I've spent the last decade of my life traveling the world as a fashion photographer and I created Horizon Found to give you everything I wish I had when I was starting my career. Here you'll find community, inspiration, and education - to help guide you down the path towards building the photography business of your dreams. My dream is to use this platform to help build a supportive environment in the photography industry.

I'M HERE FOR YOU!

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