5 Tips For Starting A Photography Business

August 26th, 2020
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The majority of professional photographers start out as hobbyists and one day find themselves wondering how they can make photography their “real job”.  Chances are, if you’re reading this, you are in this situation right now.  So, what can you do to make this dream a reality? Here are 5 tips to start you in the right direction in building a successful photography business.

1. Build a portfolio and define your brand. The more you shoot, the more you’ll discover what you like to photograph and what you’re naturally good at. Find your niche and shoot like crazy. 

To get you started: 

  • Offer portfolio building sessions at a discounted price to your friends and family. 
  • Start to define your style and brand; don’t try to be everything to everyone or you won’t stand out.
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2. Create a website.  One goal is to be found when prospective clients are looking for a photographer on Google. A website is search friendly and can showcase your style and genres, and provide information about services. 

Your website will host your portfolio and embody your brand, but not take focus away from your images. 

It should be:

  • Easy for prospective clients to navigate as well as pleasing to the eye. 
  • Choose 10 to 15 images per genre for your portfolio and continually update them to make sure they are fresh and embody your best work.
  • Add a contact form or your email address and a phone number. That information also helps Google know where you work and to rank your site for your area. 

Yes, a website can do a lot more but if this is your first website, don’t get overwhelmed with ALL the things it could be. Build it over time as you grow. I’d recommend looking for photography specific options including Zenfolio so you have the options to add print orders, digital download sales, and scheduling as you grow your client base. 

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3. Tell everyone! This is not the time to be shy; use every tool you have to get the word out that you are now a professional photographer. I found success with things like: 

  • Create a business account on social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, and be sure to link them to your website. 
  • Hang your work in local shops/offices and make sure to provide a link back to your website so they can see more. 
  • Barter and trade services!  Does your hair-stylist need family or engagement photos done? Not only can you get your hair done, but you’ll have someone else to sing your praises and show off your work.
  • Create posts linking to your website regularly to social media. Help your friends get the word out for you with likes and comments. 

4. Know your craft and keep learning! If you can’t consistently create salable images then you aren’t quite ready to be in business.  Know your camera inside and out; get off of automatic! 

  • Learn to read the light and how to manipulate it with reflectors and lights (flash/strobe/constants).  
  • Make sure your focus is “spot on” (pun intended) because there is no good way to fix a photo that is out of focus.  Your goal should be to need as little post processing as possible. 
  • Joining an online community of photographers is a great way to get honest feedback and ask “how-to” questions. 
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5. Have a Business Plan. This is probably the most overlooked and important step in establishing a successful photography business.  

Figure out your costs: 

  • Fixed and cost of goods sold. Fixed costs are expenses you’ll have whether you have 1 or 100 shoots a month. Examples of fixed cost are your equipment, insurance, and other photography business necessities. 
  • Cost of goods sold are hard costs associated with creating and delivering a product; lab fees, shipping, packaging are some examples. Knowing your expenses is necessary to develop a pricing structure (what you charge for sessions and for prints/products) that makes sure you aren’t working for free, or worse, at a loss.

Additionally, applying for a business licence, getting insurance and drawing up contacts should all be in place before you start booking clients. 

*Bonus tip: Provide an amazing client experience from the first point of contact through to following up after you’ve delivered their order. This type of personalized service will not only keep clients coming back, their word of mouth referrals are worth gold.

Cheryl D is the Senior Manager of Customer Success at Zenfolio and the Owner/Photographer at Portraits by Cheryl in Raleigh, NC. She has worked as a professional photographer for more than ten years and her images have been published in several national magazines. She has guided countless new photographers who are looking to build successful photography businesses.