How to Start a Photography Business

How to Start a Photography Business

Guide to Starting a Photography Business

So your passion in life is photography. You’ve loved it since you got your first camera and you’ve even taken numerous photography courses on your journey of learning how to become a photographer.  You’re always the person taking the photos at all the family events and you love it!  Your family and friends are always suggesting to you, “Hey, why don’t you become a photographer?”  And now you’re thinking to yourself, “Hmmm, why not?”  So let’s get serious and really consider how to start a photography business.

There are, of course, so many things to consider when starting a photography business…or any business for that matter.  But the following tips will help you at least get started on the right track.

The Photography Business is a BUSINESS

Sure thicalculator-178127_1280s might sound obvious, but it’s listed as the number one tip because so many people tend to forget this when setting up their photography business.  Once you decide to move from hobby to business, you need to treat it as such.  This may become the most difficult part for photography business owners.  But there are a number of business issues that need to be considered:

  • You need to set up a business entity, such as Sole Proprietor, LLC, Partnership, or Corporation.
  • You will need a Tax ID number for both Federal and State.
  • Name: Have you consider photography business names?  You’ll need to register that name.  While you’re at it you may want to purchase the domain for your website.
  • Licenses and permits at the state and local levels.
  • Business insurance.

These are just the basics of setting up a business.  You’ll need to handle each of these based on your specific situation.  Check out the U.S. Small Business Administration website for more details on what you need to consider.

Photography Marketing 101

Do some research into the market for photography services in your area.  Segment your potential customers and choose a specialization that makes sense.  Understand that the photography business is likely to be saturated in your market area.  So you need to specialize in order to gain credibility and to differentiate yourself from other photographers.  You can broaden your services later when you’ve established yourself as a known brand within your market.  There are so many specializations within the field of photography that there’s bound to be one that both appeals to you and is a market need in your area.  Here are just a few:

And the list goes on.  Pick one or two that make sense for you and become the authoritative expert for that type of photography for your market area.  Once your customers recognize you to be a great photographer in one type, they’ll surely ask you to do a different types of photography for them.  As that happens you can then take advantage of your brand to expand into other areas of expertise and gain more customers.

Know How to be a Photographer

lens-637558_1280Yes, this also sounds quite obvious but you need to know your stuff.  You must have a level of technical skill in photography that is beyond the knowledge of your customers.  They are paying for your expertise so you must provide what they are looking for.  Don’t think that just because you are the go-to person in your family to take pictures at birthday parties and holiday gatherings that you can charge people as a professional photographer.

Make sure you not only understand what aperture, shutter speed, ISO, etc. are, but that you know how they all work together to achieve a desired look and feel of a photograph.  Know your lenses, which ones will you need for a particular shoot?  Understand lighting and how various types of lighting can dramatically change a shot.  Sure you can read about all the technical aspects of photography, but only experience through trial and error can really provide the expertise and understanding of what works and what doesn’t in the “real world.”

By the way, being a good photographer often means more than just having the technical knowledge and skill.  It’s also about knowing how to manage people in many cases.  Do you know how to get a crowd of people to follow your instructions for a pose?  Can you anticipate a good shot for a toddler who isn’t about to sit still for even a moment for the camera?

Be sure to understand what is most important for your clients as well.  For instance, if you’re shooting a wedding, find out from your clients what their expectations are for the types of shots they want.  Perhaps they’re very family oriented and want lots of photos with various family members.  Maybe they want to capture certain special moments (bouquet toss, father-daughter dance, etc.)  Yes, you should capture as much of the event as possible, but by knowing what is most important for your client you can be sure to deliver the best product and service.  This type of personalized attention, over time, can really differentiate you from the competition.

Create a Portfolio of Your Work

Photography is a visual business.  Potential customers need to SEE what they can expect from your service.  This is especially true when you are just starting a photography business.  You must be able to show potential clients the work you’ve done in the past.  If you are truly just starting out and have no past clients, not to worry, just put together a portfolio of photos you’ve taken in the past.  They don’t have to be from jobs for previous paying clients.  They just have to be great work that shows off your skill as a photographer.

Of course the type of portfolio you build needs to match the type of photography you are trying to specialize in.  For instance, if you are looking to enter the field of wedding photography, your portfolio should showcase several weddings you’ve shot.  If you don’t have any weddings under your belt, you might consider working under an established photographer as a second shooter.  This can provide invaluable experience for you prior to launching your own photography business.

Whichever way you decide to create it, a professional portfolio of your work is a must have for building credibility.

Learn How to Sell

The term “selling” might give off the wrong connotation but as a business owner you need to learn how to sell.  This doesn’t mean the “used car salesman” type of selling that you might immediately think of.  Rather, you’ll need to learn how to talk and listen to potential clients by asking the right questions in order to understand their needs.  Once you understand their needs you can offer the right solutions.

Selling is not about being pushy or techniques to pressure people into buying something.  Particularly in a service business like photography, selling is much more about creating trust and rapport.  Get to know your potential clients’ wants and needs.  Sincerely try to figure out how you can best service them.  Once they feel that you understand what they are looking for and that you care about providing the best service for them, they will feel comfortable with you.

Also research the photography prices in your area.  Find out what the range of photography rates are for various competitors.  You will most likely find that there is a wide range of pricing.  when starting out, you may want to keep your prices a bit lower than the most established photographers, but don’t sell yourself too cheaply.  Provide a high  level of service so that you can feel confident enough to justify a higher end fee.  It may be difficult at first, but try not to use price as differentiator to gain customers.

So do you still want to start a photography business?  If you’re passionate about photography and you keep these tips in mind, you’re sure to be a huge success!

For some great tips on how to GROW your photography business, read this article <link to: other article on>