Being a photographer can be a challenging career choice, whether you live in a small town or a big city.
Most photographers are freelance photographers. Which basically means a self-employed photographer that does not work for one company/business.
One downside to being a freelance photographer is that you never know where your next pay check is coming from.
With not having a set income, many photographers have more than one job and only do photography as a part-time thing.
There are many obstacles when becoming a small town photographer, and there are also many benefits to being a small town photographer.
One of the best benefits to being a small town photographer is having the photographers work being spread easily by word of mouth.
Most photographers need to promote themselves a lot more than a small town photographer.
Clarissa Lewis, Nicole Kahler, and Sarah Hogg are all small town photographers that live in the Kneehill county area in Alberta, Canada.
“Word of mouth in small towns is key,” said Hogg. “It get’s me most of my business.”
Being a small town photographer has its ups and downs, said Hogg. It is good if you make friends with other photographers because If one photographer is busy, it is easy to get referrals.
“like ‘oh I’m busy, why don’t you check this person out, I would recommend her’,” said Hogg.
“I can find it sometimes challenging, because sometime people get competitive about pricing and getting those clients,” she said.
Hogg said she is not so much like this, she is more about “Supporting everybody, it doesn’t matter.”
Hogg also mentions that sometimes photographers are better at certain things. One photographer may be better at taking newborn portraits than others.
“Small towns want to support the small town people, and the simple fact is that since you are not so busy, you’re not as expensive as the city photographer that are booked solid,” said Hogg.
Nicole Kahler sums up small town photography in one word, “Challenging.”
“There are quite a few photographers in town,” she said. “I don’t want to say that it is competitive, but sometimes it feels that way.”
There is a college in Three Hills that has recently been offering a photography program, which means there are a lot more photographers in town, said Kahler.
“Getting business that way is a little bit difficult,” said Kahler. “But, you just have to put yourself out there.”
“Personally, I don’t really like to be competitive with other people,” said Kahler. “I love knowing that other people get chances to grow.”
Kahler said she wants to start doing more creative shoots and if someone does ask her to take family photos, grads, or weddings, thats great. But she said she more just wants to take photos because she passionate about it, not thinking about needing to be competitive and get mad when somebody chooses someone else to be their photographer.
“That not really what its about.”
Clarissa Lewis said that both the city and a small town rely on word-of-mouth.
“But small town is like so much more,” said Lewis. “You do pictures for a certain person, and if they are well connected and know a lot of other people than the work just keeps coming in.”
In a small town, there is less advertising that has to be done, said Lewis.
“The main thing that I did was have a Facebook page and start posting one or two little things that I did and it just traveled from there,” said Lewis.
“It’s a lot of personal connection.”
Lewis said that she feels that in the city people are looking for the best quality, the best price, the best overall look of the photographers business.
“Where is here, I find a lot more you’re selling your personality, your friendliness, and the way you get to know people,” said Lewis.
In a small town, it is a lot easier to have more than one job and to do little bits and pieces of everything that you want to do and not directing your energy towards one focus point, said Lewis.
“I can spread myself out and it works fine; it actually brings me business.”
Follow Clarissa on Instagram @cm_lewbird
Clarissa Lewis, a small town lifestyle photographer, got into photography at a young age.
“Photography has been something that I’ve enjoyed doing since I was little,” said Lewis.
One of the first photographs that Lewis remembers taking is when she was little and lined up all of her dolls in a row.
“The dolls heads are at the very bottom and the rest of it is the wall,” laughs Lewis.
Whenever Lewis’s family would go on vacation, her mother would put Lewis in charge of the family photos.
“I never considered it to be something that I would pursue until I tried doing the four year school thing and realized that it was not my jam,” said Lewis.
She then found a program for photography that she liked and ended up taking a two-year course in Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada, at Holland College.
Starting at the end of her second year at Holland College was when Lewis started shooting professionally.
When she came back to Three Hills, working as a waitress helped get her photography jobs.
“A server would need some family photos, ad then that leads to another thing,” said Lewis. “Small town spreads by words.”
“It’s 100 per cent your own product, so it’s a little more stressful, a little more entrepreneurial,” said Lewis.
Lewis said that one of her favourite thing about photography is the energy.
“I love the positive emotion,” she said. “It’s kind of an energy that you feel when you’re in the middle of it.”
Another one of her favourite things about being a photographer is that it puts the photographer in the position to help people have a better day.
“I’m in this very unique position to, first of all, give the bride and groom time alone,” said Lewis. “And you can just coach them through the day and just remind them to breathe and to be present.”
“I like being in this really unique position in weddings.”
Lewis said that she has a couple different most memorable photo shoots.
One of her most memorable shoots was her first wedding she shot. The wedding was in New Jersey, the bride and groom flew her and a friend out there.
“It was one of those days that everything just felt positive and happy.”
Another photo shoot that sticks out to Lewis is a grad shoot she did out in the mountains. They shot for three hours.
“When I left it, it was like, ‘oh these are some of the best photos I’ve ever taken’,” remembers Lewis.
She said that she almost lost that entire shoot, but she did end up having it get recovered.
“I find though that usually, the most recent shoot I’ve done is always one of my favourites, because it’s the freshest and the newest.”
“Every time you also are trying to get better. The the next shoot you get a few more of your favourite moments and you’re like, ‘thats it, thats the best one’.”
Follow Nicole on Instagram @nicole.c.photography[dropcap]N[/dropcap]icole Kahler, a small town lifestyle photographer, and owner of Nicole Coralie Photography, started taking photos when she was in grade 6.
“I’ve always loved capturing people’s moments,” said Kahler.
Her mom bought her a point-and-shoot camera and she started taking pictures around their house and slowly evolved from there.
Getting to know people is Kahlers favourite part of photography.
“I used to be a huge introvert, so I never put myself out there,” she said. “But with photography, I have to force myself to do that. Which is like a challenge for me, and is what I like about it.”
Kahler is a self-taught photographer. The New York Institute of Photography did reach out to her four years ago, but at the time she couldn’t afford it, so she decided to teach herself.
“I watched a lot of YouTube tutorials on editing,” said Kahler. “That’s how I taught myself on how to use Photoshop.”
She also had a friend that helped teach her different tricks to photography.
She doesn’t consider herself a full-time photographer, she also works at a bank in her town.
“I don’t do it for the money,” she said. “I just love shooting pictures.”
Kahler has been shooting professionally for the last five years, and has started to get busier with weddings.
“I saved for a really long time to get my camera, and I finally got it two years ago,” said Kahler.
“lately I’ve been doing more creative shoots,” she said. “I like that you can be something different and have a different style than other people.”
One of Kahler’s most memorable photo shoot was a wedding she did last November.
“I was really proud of the work I did there,” said Kahler.
“It was so beautiful.”
She said that she has done a few weddings before that, and that some of the weddings she has done she was a bit disappointed in her work.
“When you’re disappointed in your work, and you have to give those pictures out, it really bums me out,” said Kahler. “Because you want to give out your best work.”
Being an introvert, weddings can be difficult for Kahler. With being with a lot of people that she doesn’t know, she tends to get quiet.
“I actually pushed myself to talk to people and I felt a little more comfortable and at ease.”
“It just turned into a really fun day, and the couple was amazing.”
Kahler like one-on-one photo shoots the best.
“I love doing grads, because I’m just with that person and I can be really creative with them.” Said Kahler.
Kahler does not want to get a studio, she prefers shooting outside.
“I like shooting in natural light. I think shooting in the evening, during the golden hour in the summer.”
Kahler also loves to shoot landscape, architecture, and storm photography.
Sarah Hogg is a photographer and the owner of Sarah Lindsay Photography. She does a variety of lifestyle photography from family and newborn portraits, as well as beauty shoots and landscape photography.
“I kind of dapple in everything and any kind of thing that people want to take pictures of,” said Hogg.
She started taking photos when she just had her daughter, who will be turning nine in April.
“I couldn’t get enough of how cute she was.”
She then started shooting lot of pictures of her daughter with her point-and-shoot camera.
“I just thought, oh this is fun,” remembers Hogg. “Who knew that all these different angles could change a picture so much.”
Hogg would then take those photos she took of her daughter and start scrapbooking them, and people would see these photos and ask her if she could take family portraits for them since she had an eye for photography.
“I started doing that and I took a couple of families here and there and then I was like, oh wait, this is awesome,” said Hogg.
From there she entered some photography contests and built up confidence to keep going. The more people would see her work and get photo shoots which allowed Hogg to build a business around that.
“Learning to be a photographer is you go out there and you do it.”
She then upgraded from her point-and-shoot camera to a basic DSLR Cannon camera. She loved to learn about photography, so Hogg started buying photography books and looking online for different tips to help her out.
Even watching other photographers to see how they shoot and how they pose their subjects can be helpful.
“Learning from other photographers is beneficial and useful,” said Hogg.
Hogg does not only a photographer, she also teaches playschool for two towns, an early childhood development coordinator for east Red Deer county, sells Ronda Fields skincare line, and she helps out her husband on the family farm.
On average, she has about two to three photo sessions a week along with her busy schedule.
“I like the variety of being anywhere,” said Hogg. “Studio picture are beautiful pictures, but to me they always have the same feel.”
One of the things that Hogg does, especially with families, is she get the family to pick a location that means something to the family.
“Then the emotion is already there. Where if you are in a studio, it’s just plain, awkward pose.”
“I like to try and get some emotion in them, like what is your character actually like, what is your personality, what is your connection with that person,” said Hogg. “I think that is lost in a studio.”
One of Hogg’s most memorable photo shoots was of a young girl who had cystic fibrosis (CF).
“She was always that curly haired girl smiling in her shy way when she was little, and I remember watching her dance across the dance floor at community events,” said Hogg.
“It wasn’t until I was older, that I knew she was diagnosed with CF and I’m not sure if she had it then, but it hit me, that such a sweet girl I knew would have so many challenges to face in everyday life.”
“One day I was looking to pay it forward and doing something nice for someone with the use of my photographic skills, and her smile kept running through my mind as I read about their family’s daily struggles on Facebook,” said Hogg.
“My friend, Alison, and I decided we needed to steal her away and surprise her with a hair, makeup, and photo session.”
“It was only a small token to show her how beautiful she was and experience a simple joy, but it was myself and Alison that were blown away. Still today when I think about favourite images, I think of that session as it had all the feels.”
Sarah Hogg, owner of Sarah Lindsay Photography, talks about her favourite thing about photography.
Tips for a beginner photographer
Don’t be afraid to be out there.
Anyone getting into people photography, don’t be afraid to boss people around, as long as you do it in a friendly way. People like firm, strong directions.
Give people positive feedback and make the experience fun.
It’s easy to look at someones picture and copy it, but its best to find your own style.
save for good camera equipment as long as it takes.
And do what you love. If it’s something you want to do, just push yourself to do it.
Find your style. Don’t copy other photographers.
Stay true to your brand and who you area as a photographer. People will come to you if they like you.
If you try to be someone your not, you’re not going to enjoy taking the pictures.