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Are you a budding photographer looking to make the move into creating a professional photography business? Or perhaps you’re working in your photography business part-time, but wanted to take it to the next level.
How to Start a Photography Business
Setting your business up correctly from the beginning will save you time in the long run. Creating a solid foundation to start a photography business means that you’ll establish a career that could last a lifetime. Take the first step today towards starting your photography business, or get a refresher and strengthen your existing business for the better by reading our guide below.
Create a business plan
The first step towards building a profitable photography business is to create a business plan. Sure, it doesn’t sound very sexy, but having a solid plan means you’ll have clearly defined goals from the beginning. That means you’ll always be one step ahead of the game.
Your business goal is a single statement which should define the long-term vision for your business. That might be something like:
- My goal is to make a full-time salary working in photography and quit my day job
- My goal is to travel the world on photography projects and supplement my travel costs
Your goals might change after the first year or two, as your business grows so you’ll need to keep revising your goals as needed.
Work out your business goal and break it down into monthly and yearly goals. For instance, if your goal is to eventually work in your business full time, perhaps your goal for the first 6 months is to make $xx per month or to do 2-3 large projects per month. You’ll then need to break this down into monthly goals to define what your focus will be each month.
In the beginning, you may need to revise your goals every month to ensure you’re on the right track.
Build a professional website
To start a photography business, the first thing you’ll need is a professional website. Your website can always be modified as you go with your updated portfolio, but you need to start with a solid website that’s clear and easily navigable.
It should include, at a minimum:
- Your name and business name or details
- A little about yourself and what kind of photography you specialise in. If you have completed any photography education or have any certifications, it’s best to add these here
- Your contact details
- At least a few samples of your work
- Make sure your site is SEO optimised so that it’s easy for people to find you
As your business grows, you may also want to include a rate card, testimonials and details about your packages and how you work.
Act like a professional
Above all, you want to create a great first impression. Try the following:
- Hire a graphic designer to create a logo and email signature for you to use. Add this on your website, too, to keep things consistent
- Create a professional email address
- Create business cards so it’s easy for people to find and contact you
Consider your positioning
When you start a photography business, you need to consider how you’ll position yourself as a photographer. Consider what you’d like to specialise in; whether that’s weddings, events, food photography, corporate photography or portrait photography.
Consider who a potential client looking for a photographer for a wedding would rather hire; a self-proclaimed wedding photographer with plenty of relevant samples, or a jack-of-all-trades who does all different kinds of photography.
Ensure that your specialty is clearly outlined in all your website and any marketing communications.
Define your pricing
Decide on your pricing options. Your pricing will vary depending on a range of factors, such as:
- The duration of your shoot or the number of images required
- The number of edited images required. Remember; each image may take at least 10 minutes to edit. Unless you’re applying exactly the same editing settings to all those images, that could be a huge time investment
- Whether or not you’ll need an assistant to shoot
- How much equipment will be needed, and whether or not you’ll need to hire anything to take on the shoot
The great thing about a photography business is that it’s so affordable to set up. That said, you may need to secure some initial start-up funds if necessary, for any set-up costs, such as editing programs, laptops, cameras, additional camera lenses, lighting or other equipment. Even still, some of this equipment can be hired when needed.
Make sure you research whether or not you need insurance. In Australia, you may need public liability insurance up to a certain value when shooting in certain places; for instance, in shopping centres. This can represent a significant cost, too, so ensure this is built into your pricing.
Create a digital marketing strategy for your photography business
Once you start a photography business, it’s usually easy to get a couple of clients from your existing networks. But how do you continue to keep new clients rolling in?
Marketing is one of the key ways you will continue to grow your business. There are many different ways of marketing your business.
What you decide to implement into your marketing plan will depend on where your strengths lie. For instance, if you’re already a skilled writer, you could utilise your writing skills to create a photography blog which will help with SEO and establish you as an authority in your field.
The most important thing is that you have a solid plan in place to maximise your marketing dollars. Try the below:
- Social media; for photography, visual mediums like Instagram and Pinterest are great ways to showcase your skills. Even if you’re new to photography, these channels can act almost like an extended portfolio showcasing your creativity. Be sure to post consistently and use lots of relevant hashtags. Optimise your profiles and ensure they link back to your website.
- Email marketing can be a great way to keep in touch with existing clients, even if you use it infrequently. Try to send a monthly update with any referral deals, blog content, or your favourite shots for the month
- SEO; it can take a long time for your website to rank but, at a base level, ensure your website is optimised for search
- Many of your future clients will come from referrals if you’re doing a great job and you’re a pleasure to work with. Make it as easy as possible for your clients to refer you, by giving out business cards and sending follow up emails after you deliver the photos for each project. Create a referrals scheme with discounts for existing customers
Continue to educate yourself
Education in photography doesn’t have to take the shape of formal study. It could involve short online courses, practical courses or even mentorships and job-shadowing.
Courses might represent an additional cost outlay that you need to front, but they’re worth it in the long term. By investing in yourself and improving your skills, you can be the best professional photographer you can be. From there, you can start to charge the premium prices you deserve.
Practice your craft
Photography is a creative skill unlike any other, which can be honed and refined with practice. Once you’ve learned the basics, you have to learn, practice and develop your own unique style rather than copying from other photographers
This will likely change over time as you learn more about both technique and style. It also involves continuous improvement and critical consideration of your own work. Try to switch up your technique consistently, experimenting with different angles, styles and photography editing.
Master servicing your clients
Aside from mastering photography itself, become a master at service. While it’s important to be a great photographer, while you’re on assignment on a professional project, you also want to come across as pleasant, friendly, and easy to work with.
This is extremely important if you’re shooting portraits, family photos or weddings. If you’re working with kids, the shoot will only be successful if you’re prepared, and you’re good at interacting with children or can develop these skills.
Servicing clients correctly includes;
- Being friendly, pleasant and positive at all times
- Patience, especially when working with animals or children
- Communication; if you will be delivering images later than your deadline, communicate this to your client. Be clear and reasonable when it comes to deadlines and manage expectations, so your client isn’t disappointed
- Adaptiveness; sometimes plans change, especially during events. As a professional photographer, keep communicating with the client. If you can’t get a certain shot, try something new
When you start a photography business, you’ll be more concerned with just trying to make ends meet. Once you’re set up, though, it’s helpful to network.
Attend industry events where you can meet other photographers, potential customers and other professionals who can assist you in your business operations. If you’re, say, a wedding photographer, attend wedding exhibitions in your area. You never know who you can meet that might be able to help you in future. Ensure you have professional business cards printed and ready to distribute.
Upsell with products and services
After you start a photography business and have mastered the basics, go one step further. Extend your services and grow your business by adding on products.
Ensure that you are respectful when upselling. You should only upsell if you feel it’s right for your customer, or perhaps even if you’ve worked together before and you understand what that customer needs.
Try the following services to upsell:
- Create different photography packages with certain variations on your packages; for larger shoots, upsell with the addition of more edited images or add printed photos to add to frames. If you’re upselling additional, ensure that you have enough time to capture that many high-quality images. There’s no point upselling to a package with more photos if you don’t have time to capture enough decent photos in the timeframe you have. Or, enlist the help of a second photographer to take additional images
- Turn your photos into stunning, high-quality canvas prints
- Create gifts, such as photo mugs or photo cushions
We hope this guide has helped give you a confidence boost. Any photographer can start a photography business and grow that business into a profitable career with care, a solid marketing plan and a continuous commitment to providing high-quality service.
To keep growing your skillset, click here for photography tips.
To discover what else you can upsell or see how you can display your most prized shots, browse more of our products.