What I Learned During Year 1 – Missouri Wedding Photographer

It’s May 27, 2014, and one year ago today we officially launched Mitzi Starkweather Photography. The website, the Facebook Page, the price list, etc. The business license and legal things were in order and we officially opened for business.

During the five previous years as a part-time shoot and burn photographer (who made NO money–just did it for the practice), I learned many valuable things that served to help me during my first year as a small business owner. I also couldn’t have done it AT ALL without all of the mentors in my life.

So last night I sat down and made a list of the things I learned. I’m one of those people who goes into teacher mode whenever possible (it’s in my blood), so that’s what I’m going to do here. I’ve read that “the only photographer you should compare yourself to is the one you used to be,” and I’ve held onto those words during many rough spots this year. It’s so true, and I find encouragement when I look at who and what I used to be (in all aspects of life–not just photography) and just analyze the changes I’ve made and see why some things worked and others didn’t.

So here’s the list. If you’re a photographer (especially if you’re just starting out), or entrepreneur of any kind, you will probably find at least one thing beneficial!


-Whatever qualities you’re jealous of in someone else are usually qualities you know YOURSELF to have and are too afraid to show.

-TRULY, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

-If you can’t do _______ for every single client and still be in business next year, don’t do __________ for any client.

-Be generous with your time, money, and gifts.

-Don’t measure your personal worth by how high/low your profits are each month.

-When you feel lost or confused, just remember that everyone feels this way, and just do your best. It’s all you can do.

-EVERYONE has times when they think, “I have no idea what I’m doing.” Everyone.

-Don’t cut corners.

-When you’re nervous, just take a deep breath and pretend you’re not.

-Some people care only about themselves. Don’t take it personally.

-Isolation is a sure-fire way to fail in our industry.

-Be nice.

-Don’t Facebook stalk your competition. Find talented, successful photographers on social media who live far away from you–they’ll inspire you!

-Do personal projects and never stop shooting for yourself.

-When you get an idea and you inevitably tell yourself the list of reasons why it won’t work, go back and say, “How CAN I make it work?”

-Surround yourself with inspiration.

-Thank your family for their support.

-Never stop learning / Always be teachable.


So there’s my list. I’m sure I could add more, but I feel like anything else is just a subcategory of what’s already listed.

Good friends of mine once asked me to define what “success” meant to me in my photography business. Here’s what I wrote down:


“Being able to work with ideal clients and travel to do so when necessary, having time to make dinner every night, listen to my kids when they need me, go on dates with my husband, sleep in once a week.”


It seems so simple when it’s written down like that. But I have to go back to that regularly… because success cannot be “more money.” (And this is often what I tend to define it as in my actions.) That goal will always get bigger and bigger.

The number one thing people say on their deathbed is that they regret not having spent more time with their family. I DO NOT want that to be me. I refuse to let that be me. We live in one of the wealthiest places with the most conveniences and yet we never have “time.” I’ve learned that busy-ness is a choice. Workload is a choice. Stress is (often) a choice. And in the year ahead I plan to get better about that. Mitzi does not equal Mitzi Starkweather Photography. They have to be separate entities to survive. At the end of the day, if my Excel spreadsheet has a big number at the end but if I haven’t stayed true to myself, if I myself am running ragged, if my husband misses me, and my other relationships are dying, what do I have?

Well that’s a lot of heavy philosophical stuff. In the end, it comes down to my daily decisions. And today I choose to celebrate! One year. And I have something I’m proud of. So in honor of this I’m discounting session fees by $100 for any session that’s booked today (regardless of when it’s scheduled for), because my clients are awesome and I want to give back to them.

Thanks for reading! If you’ve learned something during your years as a business owner, I’d love for you to share it below!





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