Setting and achieving goals for your photography business.

January 5th, 2024
undated planner page with a black sharpie pen and a vintage camera on a marble tabletop

January–a time when the air is filled with thoughts of reflection, renewal, and change. No matter your field or profession, chances are you’re jotting down mental notes on the exciting things you hope to achieve in the coming year. I have always found the word “resolution” a little intimidating; it’s like you’ve officially signed a kind of cosmic contract, and the commitment is now set in stone. In our everyday lives, what we do is set personal and professional goals. Changing the way you talk about your growth as a photographer and small business owner can be a powerful shift–from making resolutions to defining goals that are realistic, clear, and–most importantly–achievable.

Why set goals in the first place? In a nutshell, establishing goals keeps you on track and ensures that you take responsibility for your personal growth. They serve as a compass, preventing a return to old habits that may not have served you well in the first place.  Plus, having a clear focus is the ultimate remedy to procrastination. Sometimes, taking on those tough projects, even the ones you might be avoiding, is exactly what your business needs to succeed. 

While it’s easy to dream about what you’d like to accomplish in the new year, it’s also important to devote time to setting constructive, focused goals. You don’t need a fancy planner, or dedicate yourself to multicolored thought mapping for all of this purposeful planning, but writing it all out is highly recommended. So grab a pen, a pencil, a computer, or a crayon, and let’s dig into some tips and tricks for strategic goal setting!

Step 1: Take a look back.

“You really can’t know where you are going until you know where you have been.” Maya Angelou’s wise words even hold up when it comes to business. The first step in setting clear, realistic goals is to look back over the last year. Your business should be examined from both a subtle and a concrete perspective.

Yes, jotting down those final financial and session metrics is useful, but also include how you felt about your journey and what truly mattered to you. What did you enjoy shooting most? Were weddings overwhelming, but you liked the more intimate nature of couple sessions? Did you try out sports photography and fall in love with the rush? Where did you feel most comfortable and creative?

For the more tangible, financial aspects of your business, it is helpful to record some benchmark numbers before setting new goals. A few examples are as follows:

  • Total Sessions: How many sessions did you shoot in total?
  • Types of Sessions: Knowing how many of each type of session you shot can be helpful.
  • Total Profit: Revenue minus expenses.
  • Total Profit Per Session: How much did you make from each session? This might vary greatly by type of session and can be broken down further into those categories.
  • Total Profit from Prints/Products: What products are giving you the greatest financial return?
  • Total Spent on Equipment: New camera, new lenses, new lens caps? Include it all. (This can also get you ready for tax time!)

Your account dashboard is a great starting point for gathering session and revenue data. Investing the time to conduct both the personal inventory, and organize the more concrete aspects of your business will help pave the way for creating goals for the new year.

Step 2: Clarify your vision.

Now that you know where you’ve been, you can decide where you want to go!

A vision is like the North Star of your business. It could be capturing breathtaking moments at weddings–traveling all over the world to photographically document the love stories of your couples. It could be a financial milestone that you are hoping to achieve. It might even be based on what you hope to gain creatively from your business. Is there a technique that you want to master? 

Be sure to document your vision, but also know that it can change as you grow as a person, and as a photographer. Being flexible is a key component of any business, small or large, and you shouldn’t be afraid to adjust your goals if they no longer align with your vision. 

night photography of stars and comet in blue gradient sky

Step 3: Goal setting–where realistic meets reachable.

To create impactful goals, it is helpful if they align with the well-established S.M.A.R.T. criteria, which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. Consider it the GPS for your ambitions. By sticking to these criteria, your goals become more effective, focused, and conducive to success. 


When it comes to goal setting, get comfortable with precision. Pass on the wishy-washy and open-ended. Articulate your aspirations, and be sharply specific about what you want to achieve. The clearer the goal, the simpler it will be to plan small steps throughout the year to ensure your success.


Your goals should be measurable. Think percentages, milestones, or numbers. Using wedding photography as an example again; if your goal is to book 30 weddings, take a hard look at what times of the year you interact with clients the most and book the majority of your schedule. Focus on how you can be even more effective during those times, where you can improve your bookings in the slower times of the year, and set achievable numerical goals for these months or quarters of the year. Setting a measurable goal is like having a real live progress bar and helps you really hone in on the finish line. 


Make sure your goals are grounded in what is actually attainable. Don’t set yourself up for failure right out of the gate. As you create your goals, maintain an awareness of your limitations and be mindful of the commitments you have outside of your business. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge yourself- the mountain can be big, but it should also be scalable. 

Since we all have limitations to our time, this could mean examining where you can outsource, how you can improve your word of mouth or client referrals, or automating parts of your workflow. Sharing the load rather than trying to find the theoretical “more time” we all wish for can help make larger goals more attainable. 


Make sure your goals match up with what you see for your business. If your vision is being the top newborn photographer in your state, your goals should be meaningfully laid stepping stones to turning that dream into a reality. In this example, these steps could look like honing your technical skills, optimizing your client experience, ensuring a consistent editing process, and making connections with other newborn photographers and others in the newborn industry to increase exposure and new referrals. Connecting your goals to your broader ambition will help guide you forward with purpose and clarity.


Give yourself a deadline to accomplish your goals. If your goal spans the entire year, assigning milestones or mini-deadlines along the way can help keep you on track. Deliberately sprinkling these deadlines along your timeline helps you keep up the momentum, and enhances your ability to see tangible progress and celebrate victories, making the journey to your ultimate goal both more obtainable and gratifying. 

Step 4: Ready, set, action! 

Now that you have crafted realistic and measurable goals, it’s important to consider what steps or adjustments are required to set this plan into motion. Setting goals without a roadmap to achieve them is like trying to assemble IKEA furniture while blindfolded–you might end up with something, but it probably won’t be like the picture you saw in the catalog.

Think carefully about the specific actions necessary and create a strategy to help you reach the finish line. If you have given yourself a year to achieve these goals, break down the milestones and give yourself actionable bread crumbs along the way so that you don’t get lost in the forest of ambition! Being thoughtful and intentional as you create your plan of attack will ensure that you reach your final destination. 

portrait of a photographer wearing a white top and holding their camera in front of their face

How can Zenfolio help?

Zenfolio offers a comprehensive set of features and tools designed to streamline your workflow and manage your clients. 

  • The integration of our booking and scheduling tool simplifies client bookings, allowing you to easily oversee your sessions, auto-create client galleries during the booking process, and provides a hassle-free experience for your customers. If one of your goals is to book more clients this year, this feature will help pave the way to success! 
  • With our insightful gallery overview, you can gather detailed information about activities like visitor views, downloads, view client favorites, and even get feedback on editing requests through image commenting. 
  • The user-friendly interface with social media integration, built-in blog, and the options for creativity and brand alignment on your online portfolio pages using our custom layout blocks make showcasing your work effective and captivating. 

A successful photography business is not just about attracting potential clients–it’s about leaving them with a lasting impression that continues to resonate with them even after leaving your website or having a photo session. 

Tips For Triumph! 

  1. Find a goal buddy (or buddies): Connecting with an individual or a group of people can strengthen your commitment to achieving your goals over the year. Communicating your aspirations with someone else puts those dreams out into the air and provides accountability and support toward your progress. Being accountable to others encourages you to stay on track and pursue your goals with greater determination. 
  2. Put it to paper: Write down your goals, and place them in a spot where you’ll bump into them often, such as a high-trafficked area in your home or an in-your-face bulletin board above your desk. This way, they can serve as visual reminders as you go about your daily routine. You know what they say…”Out of sight, out of mind.” Keeping your goals in plain sight will help you visualize your target, and will leave less room for procrastination.
  3. Check in with yourself:  Set aside time in your calendar to touch base with your progress regularly–grab a cup of coffee and have an appointment with yourself. By scheduling these check-ins, you instill a sense of routine and commitment into the process. This creates a time and place where you can take stock of your progress, give yourself a high-five for the wins, and clarify your next steps.
  4. Course correct: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” This 200-year-old quote by Robert Burns might be more true today than the day he wrote them. Every journey has its twists and turns and unexpected challenges. Embrace change as it comes–it is inevitable, after all. Whenever you hit a bump that could potentially derail your ability to reach your goal, be proactive and make adjustments. Don’t be afraid to alter things along the way! Being nimble and flexible in your approach is absolutely essential and helps to keep your goal within arm’s reach. 
  5. Don’t be hard on yourself: Life has a habit of getting in the way sometimes (okay, all the time.) If you didn’t meet every single goal, that is okay. Maybe you shouldn’t meet them all anyway! Attaining all of your goals might mean that you didn’t challenge yourself. Feeling disappointed is natural, but don’t let it overshadow the goals and milestones you DID achieve. Brush yourself off, reevaluate, and change the strategy a bit or extend the end date of your goal, and move on. 
  6. Finally, and perhaps most importantly–don’t lose your creativity. While all of this strategy and planning makes perfectly good sense and sets you on a solid course toward reaching your business goals, there is still room for checking in on and maintaining the creative spark that led you to become a professional photographer. Allow space for the joy that imagination and creative thinking can bring. As you plan around the practicalities, don’t discount the power that comes from that creative spark and how it can get you through periods of stress and burnout.  

As we cross the threshold into the new year, take a moment to pause for reflection and set some realistic, achievable goals for you and your business. Buy a bullet journal, invest in that planner with motivational stickers, or stock up on a huge stack of Post-it notes–now is the time to start laying the groundwork for a monumental and successful year in your photography business. Keep an eye on our blog as we unwrap more meaningful articles to help you grow both professionally and creatively.


  • Amanda B

    Amanda B lives with her fly fishing husband along with her four amazing children in the Western Maine Mountains. She was a professional wedding and portrait photographer for over 10 years and has been part of Zenfolio since 2013. She loves knitting socks, baking bread, and wearing flip flops (even in the winter).

Create your photography website in minutes.