By Rachel Brill
Starting your own business is an exciting process, but for many photographers it can also be challenging. Wouldn’t it be great if you had a group of successful professional photographers giving you advice? We’re here to help, so we asked some of the top photographers in the industry “What is the one thing every photographer needs to know when starting a photography business?” We divided their answers into three themes: stay true to yourself, key business strategies, and creating a business plan. This article delves into the first theme: Trust that what makes you unique will make you successful. Below, six pros share how being different is a business asset for photographers.
Since creativity is at the heart of good photography, it’s important to focus on what makes you unique. This includes acknowledging what you can’t do while celebrating your strengths. Sports and nature photographer David Liam Kyle says, “Only take assignments that you know you can handle. Don’t get discouraged by negative criticism, and always look for ways to improve your skills.”
Wedding photographer Sara Kauss also encourages new photographers to be themselves. “Do not judge yourself against others’ work. Your passion and talent is why your clients will hire you—your clients want to see your energy and love shine through the photos. Don’t be discouraged if someone doesn’t pick you as their photographer; it simply means that they were not a good fit for your style. Stay encouraged and keep being you; eventually those who relate to you will want to work with you because of it,” she said.
Wedding photographer Kevin Mullins emphasized the importance of finding a style of photography that you enjoy. “Don’t let the industry dictate how you should do things if that differs from your own idea. If you find the idea of shooting lots of formals at weddings horrible then find clients who also think that. There are clients for everyone out there, and being different is often the unique selling point,” he said.
For adventure travel photographer Laura Grier, true success is getting to do what you love for a living. She urges new photographers not to compare themselves to others and to be unique. She also stresses the need to view it as a business. “My best advice for launching a venture is you have to love it, and you have to be prepared to focus a lot of energy on it. If you go into it thinking it is a ‘side project’ it will never grow larger or be more successful than that vision,” she said.
Sometimes being true to yourself can mean stepping outside of your comfort zone. Documentary-style wedding photographer Dennis Berti says staying in that zone will only box you in and emphasizes the need to be different. “Put you on your photos and your photos will be authentic” he said.
Being inspired by other photographers is part of the creative process, but the key is to balance that with your own style, according to wedding photographer Steve Bridgwood. “Take inspiration from others, but stay true and have faith in your own creative vision and in developing your own style. This is ultimately what will make you different and stand out,” he said.
The experts agree that in the photography field, having a unique point of view is a stepping stone to career success. In Part 2, we share the pros’ tips on how to become business savvy.
Rachel Brill is a marketing editor at Zenfolio. She has been editing for 13 years and writing for six years. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.