• Jessica Tapscott

What I Wish I Knew When I Started | Gainesville, Virginia Photographer

Do you want more success as a photographer? Because, I wish someone had written this blog post when I started my journey. Listen up friends, I am about to drop a ton of information that is eight years in the making.


What type of photographer do you want to be? Take the time to think about this and find your niche. Are you a newborn photographer, but your website has head shots, senior portraits, commercial work, landscape shots, and all the rest? While your work in different genres of photography may be beautiful, you aren't doing yourself any favors by showcasing it. Figuring out what type of photographer you want to be takes time. It took me almost four years to figure out where my passion lies.

High paying clients are looking for a specialist in the type of photography they are interested in. If they are looking for wedding photography and your portfolio shows how great you are at landscape photography they are going to keep scrolling. It is also important to remember that a specialist demands a higher price for a higher quality product. So master one thing....YOUR thing, and be the very best at it.

You may be thinking I am crazy, and you might be convinced that the more you showcase the better. But I promise, you will be far more successful and far less worn out.


I don't care who you are or how amazing you think you might be, in order to be a great photographer you have to take the camera off the auto setting and learn how to use that baby on manual. I know it's scary, but it is SO worth it. Your image quality will be a million times better.

But I get it, learning to take it off auto takes time and determination. You need to understand lighting, depth of field, how to pose your clients, where to place people in the setting.....I HATE when people have trees growing out of their heads! And the bokeh...you have to have to bokeh! That's that fancy blur happening in the background of your favorite picture.

When I first started I did NOT shoot in manual. It was probably a year in and by the grace of God I met a gal and she showed me three things... ISO, shutter speed and aperture. After I understood those three things... mixing in knowledge of the golden hour and how to manipulate light in any given setting... the sky was the limit. Trying to shoot any and all of your work in auto mode is a huge mistake. This knowledge is what separates us from Uncle Carl and his iPhone 11.


Part of being a professional photographer is providing your clients with beautifully shot....and edited....images to capture that specific time in their life. In order to edit your images at a professional level, you need to invest in Adobe Lightroom and/or Adobe Photoshop, but your best bet is to go for the photography plan with Adobe Creative Cloud. These programs will help you view, sort, and edit your images with ease.

If you just want simplicity and basic editing for your work, Lightroom is probably your best choice, because it is very user friendly, but packs a big punch. If you are looking for more creative liberty and the power to make major changes to your images, Photoshop might be a better choice.

You might be cursing me for introducing you to these programs because they are daunting to learn and master, but I promise you that it will be more difficult to run a top notch photography business without them.

And while we are on the topic of editing, save yourself some time and energy by investing in and learning to make your own presets and actions. These are one click adjustments you can make to an image in Lightroom and Photoshop and they will CHANGE . YOUR . LIFE! Sometimes I kick myself that it took me 5 years to figure that out.

But, similar to having a good firm grasp on using your camera on manual mode, you do need to develop your editing skills as well. While using presets and actions can be a huge time saver, using them....and them alone.....won't help you develop your own style. So get to know the sliders. Practice. You might find you enjoy the editing as much as you do the photography. I work very hard in trying to master my image in camera so my editing is minimal. There are so many ways to create your Art and practicing is the only way you will find your style.


While you always want to provide your clients with more and better than they expect, there should be consistency throughout the session and the gallery shouldn't look like a buffet of styles and moods. You want the whole gallery to have a cohesive feel, and let it tell a story. Something I always say... 'under promise and over deliver.' This has never lead me astray.

You know what this will do?

It will keep those clients coming back year after year, because each session has a unique vibe. They will know what level of quality to expect, but the overall feel of the session will be different each time.

Social Media has been a blessing and a curse for me. I have found myself comparing myself to others and often wondering if I am good enough? I follow incredible photographers online and sometimes find myself trying to imitate them. This is SO WRONG you guys.

One day I decided I was going to unfollow the majority of photographers I followed. This has helped me SO MUCH. I concentrate on my own art and I continue to keep striving to be a better Jessica. Head down and hustle on.. :)


This might be the most important tip I will give you all day! You can master the camera, the editing, the website....but if you can't interact with your clients, THE END! The greatest compliment I could ever receive is repeat business, and that is always my end goal. Making the whole family comfortable is the best way to ensure they come back over and over again.

Let's be real, more often than not Dad HATES family photo day. So my job is not only to make him smile genuinely, but also to relate to him. To remind him how happy he is making his wife and how much he will cherish theses photos in the future. I joke about bringing fireball to the shoot. 'If you would have asked me, I could have brought some airplane bottles.' HA! Anything to get him to laugh and feel comfortable.

And the kids.... :) They are always the ones that make me earn my money. A person passing by one of my family sessions......especially with tiny friends.....might think I should be locked in the looney bin. But you know what? That is my job.....to make that baby laugh no matter what I have to do. I sing, I make fart noises, I giggle, I whistle, I pretend I can't see them and call for them to get out of the tree. It works every time! I do whatever it takes. There are some evenings I leave my family sessions so exhausted I don't want to talk for days. But I will....the very next day...because this is the gift God gave me, and I enjoy every minute.

And let's not forget the most important person, Mom. If she doesn't like herself in the pictures she will not print them to hang on the wall, they won't go on the Christmas card.....they will die on hard drive somewhere, lost forever. So fix her bra strap. Make sure her hair isn't in her face or awkwardly tucked behind her ear. She is worried about her family in that moment...it is your job to be worried about her. Make her extend her neck, lean forward, and position herself in a way that makes her look smaller. If you hook Mom, you have a client for life. Can I get an amen?

I hope this advice helps someone. Starting a photography business has been nothing but trial and error. Making mistakes, fixing them and always putting one foot in front of the other. Sometimes at a slower pace and sometimes I'm running like someone is chasing me. Either way... you keep going and you keep believing in YOURSELF and the talent the Lord blessed you with.



These pictures are from this year's Christmas Tree Farm Minis taken at Hartland Farm and Orchard. I love working with the owners of the farm. They are incredibly kind and the scenery is just perfect! We had both morning and evening sessions, and the light was INCREDIBLE! Props and decor are from Home Goods, World Market, and Hobby Lobby.