Growing up as a kid with a camera, Megan Nolls always had a passion for taking photos. Even though it was a personal love of hers, she still decided to pursue a career in physical therapy because of her desire to help people. While attending college, Megan found her hobby become lucrative because friends and peers began putting in requests to get their pictures taken for a fee. Before Megan knew it, photography had taken off and she decided to take the leap of faith and forgo her developing career of becoming a physical therapist, to pursue photography full-time. Now Megan has been voted Best Wedding Photographer by Cincinnati A-List and City Beat Magazine. She’s also been awarded the Couples’ Choice Award from Wedding Wire for 6 consecutive years, and The Knot’s Hall of Fame for best wedding photographers.
– Were you off to a quick start? Or did it take some time to build?
Yes and no!
The initial obstacle of getting business was not something I struggled with. I found that everyone needs pictures, and I have an incredible group of friends and family that were quick to spread the word and support me. My first year of taking weddings, I did probably 25. For a first year, that is a pretty decent amount!
While getting started happened quickly, it took a lot more time and intentionality to build my business in the direction of high end weddings and events. I definitely didn’t start off with crazy high end things, and looking back now, I’m glad it took time. As creatives we are constantly growing, and honing what we do. There is a lot of trial and error. If I would have been a hired for a super high end event in my first year, I wouldn’t have been able to deliver the way I can now.
– You were voted best wedding photographer in Cincinnati. How did you perfect your craft?
Oh gosh. That is still weird to read, because like I said before, I want to always be growing. I’m really critical of myself and my work. When the day comes that I feel like I don’t have something to learn is the day I plan to quit. I’m always looking for ways to better myself, my photography, and especially my client experience.
Because of that, I’m always going to conferences and workshops. Thankfully, the photography community is a really open one. Asking other photographers for advice and guidance is something that is totally common for me. If I don’t know how to do something, I’ll reach out to someone who does it well, and try to learn from them.
I also am constantly seeking feedback. When you ask for help, be willing to really listen and consider the advice that is being given to you. It can be easy to get caught up in that “artist” mentality, and write off constructive criticism. I am constantly seeking out constructive criticism from my peers. I really don’t want to be patted on the back and told how pretty my work is. If I wanted that, I could go talk to my mom. To do that, I think you do have to have a degree of thick skin, but that is, without a doubt, a huge reason why I am where I am.
– What advice do you have for photographers hoping to grow their business?
How much time do you have? Haha!
First, I always recommend seeking out mentors that you can trust. Find someone that will be authentic, and build a relationship with them where they feel comfortable giving you honest feedback. I actually mentor and teach a lot of new or newer photographers, and it’s one of my favorite things!
One of my favorite things to teach is marketing and branding. People really want to see consistency in photography work, so they know what they can expect from you. That becomes easier to do when you have a clear vision for the direction you want your business to go, and where you want to end up. That means not posting one picture that is crazy moody and dark, next to a light and airy picture. Those two images are going to attract two very different couples, and if you are showing both, your odds of turning both off are high.
Also, I think it’s important to learn the power of saying no. I think a lot of photographers start out willing to do anything and everything. That is how I was. I tried newborns, engagement, seniors, weddings, families, and probably every category you can imagine. It wasn’t until I really settled into being comfortable with saying no to things I didn’t want to do, that I was about to really focus and build confidence in my skills as a wedding photographer.
– What is the most important thing you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?
Authentic connections are everything. I believe in forming real, honest relationships with people. To have supporters, you have to be a supporter.
“Networking” has gotten a bad reputation, because people think of it as greasy. They think of networking as rubbing elbows over cocktails, while people with ulterior motives try to convince them to hire them, or refer them. I try to stay as far away from those situations as possible.
Putting in the work to make real friends, and to support those friends is one of my greatest passions. It’s not uncommon for me to ask my fellow vendors and entrepreneur friends things like, “How can I support you?” and “What can I do to help you get there?”. It comes from a place of me genuinely wanting them to succeed. If I can do something to make that happen, I want to do it.
When you love people, and show them that you believe in them, it’s contagious. Yes, I have hustled and worked hard to get where I am at, but it would all be for nothing without the support of my network. Being an entrepreneur can be lonely. My friends and family have been a huge source of encouragement for me. The most important thing I’ve seen is how much relationships matter, and how much joy I get from seeing my friends succeed.