When it comes to starting your photography business, you need to start small. You’ll want to make a full business plan before launching yourself out into the world. Even if you’re not going to be seeking funding from banks, going through a business plan is essential.
Creating a full photography business plan can be daunting. So start by laying out basic ideas. These should be what you envision.
This can be in the form of a vision board, a bullet point list in your journal. Or even a constantly evolving Google doc that you update.
As you think about what you want for your new business, consider the following topics:
- Do you want this to be a small one-person operation?
- Or do you want to scale this business to have a team and several studios?
- Do you have partners that you’re going to go into business with?
- If so, what sort of legal structure do you think you’ll want?
You can answer these questions in part through your long-term life goals. You may not want to have employees or large-scale growth. This means that you may consider remaining a sole proprietor.
You might want a business that involves training a team because you want to be hands-off. If this is true, then you’ll want to consider a structure that allows for growth, such as an LLC or S-Corp. This is viable when starting up your business in photography.
Consider also that you may want to start as a sole proprietor. But then convert to a Corporation once you hit a certain financial milestone.
A financial or tax adviser should be able to help you. They can determine when it’s beneficial to switch from one structure to another.
The idea is to start thinking about what sort of long-term goals you have for your lifestyle. And how to build a business that puts you on that path. This is one of the most important points when it comes to how to start your own photography business. Check out our extensive list of Wedding Photographers in Melbourne to help capture your special moments.
Table of Contents
- 1 Why Start a Photography Business?
- 2 Benefits Of Starting A Photography Business
- 3 Can I Start a Photography Business with No Experience?
- 4 Types of Photography Businesses
- 5 What’s Needed to Start a Wedding Photography Business
- 6 15 Tips For Starting And Maintaining A Successful Photography Business
- 6.1 Have Passion And Love What You Do.
- 6.2 Know-How To Shoot And Practice If You Don’t.
- 6.3 Focus On What You Know.
- 6.4 Invest In Good Starter Equipment.
- 6.5 Get Insurance And Backup Religiously.
- 6.6 Differentiate Yourself.
- 6.7 Have The Right Attitude.
- 6.8 Have A Compelling Website.
- 6.9 Learn To Tell The Story.
- 6.10 Continue To Learn.
- 6.11 Understand People.
- 6.12 Design Your Pricing And Stick To It.
- 6.13 Know Business As Much As You Know Photography.
- 6.14 Always Think About Referrals.
- 6.15 Be Smart About Your Time.
Why Start a Photography Business?
Before we get into the how-tos, let’s discuss the benefits of starting a business in the first place. While the ability to make money is certainly one benefit, there are many other advantages that might entice you to take the plunge.
Knowing these benefits can help you stay motivated even when you experience struggles while getting started. Every business owner experiences a hurdle, but the payoff is usually worth it.
Benefits Of Starting A Photography Business
Creative outlet: It allows you to channel your creativity into something productive that can also generate income at the same time.
Money: There is a high demand for photographers across a range of industries, and you can make a decent living as a business owner. It may also open the door to other employment opportunities.
Independence: It’s something you can do from anywhere, as long as you have a camera, a computer (for editing) and a Wi-Fi connection. This means you can work from home or travel the world as your boss.
Travel: Some professional photographer jobs will take you to other cities, states or countries. You can essentially get paid to travel while doing what you love.
Job opportunities: Gaining experience as an independent photographer can open the door to other employment opportunities in-house. This often comes with benefits and a certain degree of job security.
There are countless other advantages to starting a career as a professional photographer, and they’re worth considering if you’re looking for that added encouragement to get started. With your eye on the prize, you’ll be better able to weather any setbacks and stay working toward your goals.
Can I Start a Photography Business with No Experience?
You can certainly start a small business with no experience, but having experience puts you a few steps ahead. Your clients will expect a certain degree of professionalism and are paying for high-quality work. That said, the experience can always be gained.
If you’re starting from zero, don’t worry. Many photographers gain experience by starting their own portfolio or offering free or low-paid work. There are also tutorials and courses available online on sites such as Coursera that will help you fine-tune your photography skills.
Types of Photography Businesses
So you want to start a photography business. First, you will need to decide what type of small business you want to start. In fact, there are over 50 types of services to choose from!
Here are just a few of the many types of services you could specialize in:
- Wedding photography
- Business photography
- Portrait photography
- Fashion photography
- Wildlife or landscape photography
- Stock photography
- Event photography
- Travel photography
- Food photography
- Sports photography
- Fine-art photography
Do You Need To Choose A Specialty?
You might decide to be a generalist and not focus on any particular type of photography. However, most professional photographers recommend choosing a specialty, as it makes it easier to establish your brand and market your business to a specific audience.
Know that you can always pivot or change your mind later on down the road. To start, simply focus on the area you are most passionate about and then see how it plays out. You’re likely to learn amazing things along the way. Looking for the best Wedding Photographer in Melbourne? Check out our ultimate list here.
What’s Needed to Start a Wedding Photography Business
While you don’t need to rush out and buy a ton of expensive photography gear, there are a few bare essentials that you’ll need in order to get to work.
It’s OK to start with a basic camera and middle-of-the-road equipment, as you can always invest in higher quality later on. Don’t let your budget hinder you from simply getting started.
Here are a few things you will need:
- Camera: The camera you use will depend on your needs and preferences. We recommend going to an electronics store to compare options and get advice from one of their in-store professionals. You can also check out reviews online.
- Domain and website: You’ll need a place to host your online portfolio. You can buy a domain name at registrars like GoDaddy or Namecheap and set up your website using a platform like WordPress for only a few dollars per month.
- Computer or laptop: Having a computer is essential if you plan on editing your photos. You don’t need anything fancy to start off with, but it should be able to accommodate basic photo editing software and functions.
- Adobe Lightroom or Aperture: These photo editing software options are the standard for photographers looking to provide high-quality photos.
- External hard drive: Your computer will quickly fill up with photos, so you’ll need an external hard drive where you can back up your work.
- Camera lens: You’ll need at least one good lens besides the lens that came with your camera. This is essential if you want to cover different types of photography projects beyond simple landscapes.
- Insurance (recommended): Getting insurance on your equipment will protect you if anything breaks, someone gets hurt at your shoot, or if you get hurt on your way to a job. It is an investment, but one pays off if you find yourself in a situation where you need it.
Your photography setup could be as basic as a simple DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) camera and a laptop or as complex as a multi-camera stack and split monitors for editing. When you’re just getting started, it’s OK to keep things simple. You can always grow once the clients start rolling in.
15 Tips For Starting And Maintaining A Successful Photography Business
The professional photography industry can be scary for the new photographer trying to earn a living doing what he or she loves by establishing a photography business. The competition is fierce, the bookkeeping seems mountainous, and for those introverts among us, the thought of interacting so closely with people for a living—um… promote me?—is daunting, to say the least.
Have Passion And Love What You Do.
There’s nothing worse than hating one’s job. Professional photography requires hard work and long hours on the clock (and on one’s feet). Only the passionate photographers actually succeed at maintaining successful photography businesses without burning out—and sometimes even they fail.
Passion for the craft is what will sustain you when the going gets tough, but passion will also pay off in the everyday mundane routine, in relationships with clients, and in your photographs because it will push you to give your all.
Know-How To Shoot And Practice If You Don’t.
A successful professional photographer knows his or her equipment in and out and knows how to shoot in every lighting situation he or she might encounter on the job—but it’s not just about gear and lighting. The ideal pro can seamlessly select good foregrounds and backgrounds for stellar composition and can even predict situations and key moments before they happen so as to catch them with the shutter.
Focus On What You Know.
As you build reputation and expertise as a professional photographer, make a note of your strengths and weaknesses so that you can shoot according to your strengths for paying clients and practice on your own time or during free test shoots to improve your weaknesses.
Invest In Good Starter Equipment.
Since price really does determine quality in photography, starting a successful photography business usually involves investing a good-sized wad of cash right from the get-go to purchase some high-quality gear and backup gear—although renting backup gear is a viable option as well. Don’t forget that photography is all about the brain and eye and heart behind the camera, but do remember that, while you don’t need to buy the best quality glass or DSLR to take good photographs, it certainly helps if you can.
Get Insurance And Backup Religiously.
Ensuring your gear and property is obvious here, but purchasing general liability insurance, which protects you from liability if you bump into an expensive vase while shooting a wedding, or if a kid trips over your camera bag and breaks his arm, is just as important. Many venues even require proof of insurance before they will let you shoot there.
How do you stand out in a highly competitive field like photography? You find ways to differentiate yourself from the rest by owning your unique style and by developing a Unique Selling Proposition (e.g. I work my butt off; I tell stories in ways that no one else can tell them, etc.).
Have The Right Attitude.
People skills are a huge part of professional photography, so learn to treat clients with respect, of course—but more than that, learn to have fun, keep in touch, and put your clients at ease during photo shoots.
Have A Compelling Website.
Maintaining a fast, HTML-based website with a handful of solid images will work wonders for your business. In your portfolio and/or homepage slider, make sure to feature only your best 5-10 images, including one or two sub-par images just for the sake of having more can drive potential clients away.
Learn To Tell The Story.
No matter what the gig is, capture the key moments that you’re expected to capture while also keeping alert with your head on the swivel, looking for “unscripted” moments to fill in the holes in the story between those stereotypical key moments.
Continue To Learn.
Learning goes hand in hand with practice and differentiating yourself from your competition. Push yourself to try different techniques and equipment. Shoot in unfamiliar environments to figure them out. Go on photo walks for inspiration and do everything you can to stay interested and passionate.
It may be easier said than done, but learning to understand people goes a long way in photography. Try to understand your clients, each one, and know who they are and what they like—your clients will appreciate the attention, and your photographs will show your compassion.
Design Your Pricing And Stick To It.
If you’re just starting out as a professional photographer, it might be a good idea to do a few shoots for free while you build a decent portfolio, but as soon as you have that, Cable says, stop giving your art away. Develop a reasonable pricing and deliverables list according to your financial needs and don’t waver or undercut yourself, even when potential clients request lower rates.
Know Business As Much As You Know Photography.
The sad fact is that many good and passionate photographers fail as professional photographers. Probably the number one reason for that is that having good photography sense isn’t enough; pro photographers also need to have just as much business sense—and this is where many go wrong, in Cable’s opinion. In fact, he even suggests going to school for business and learning photography on the side instead of the other way around.
Always Think About Referrals.
Treat everyone—yes, Cable really means everyone, even the kids—as potential clients. Make friends, maintain a fun-loving and positive attitude, and work diligently at all times, even when your current paying client isn’t around. Always over-deliver. Looking for a wedding photographer in Melbourne? Look no further. Vogue Ballroom has compiled an ultimate list of wedding photo companies to help you choose.
Be Smart About Your Time.
That old saying, “Time is money,” really is true. Unfortunately, the other saying that “things always take more time than you think they will” is also true. Effectively budget your time, always work towards streamlining your workflow, and make sure to factor time into your pricing.