You are about to head into a career that is becoming less and less required by the public. The days where anyone with a film camera and a handful of lenses could charge $10K for a wedding shoot every week are over. Those jobs are still out there but now there is a much higher percentage of competitors all competing for the same work.
Decide what kind of photography you want to specialize in.
Deciding you want to become a professional photographer is only half of the battle. Perhaps of more importance is deciding what kind of photography you want to do.
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Keep in mind that just because you choose a specialty does not mean you have to completely limit yourself from doing different types of gigs. However, there is real value in defining yourself as a brand so as to better target a specific audience.
You may decide to become a wedding photographer, your core audience is going to be couples and doing photos for them. Outside of shooting the wedding day, your sessions and wedding packages involve couples in other ways. Offer couples sessions, engagement sessions, and day after sessions all oriented around providing new photo opportunities for your couples.
Do portraits and family sessions, which are completely open to other types of photography opportunities as well; but your main focus is on weddings and the experience of couples.
Start your photography business on the side first
You already have a day job. You work as a associate in retail/fast food 9-5 but it’s not your passion. You’re sick and tired all day long to the sounds of the same music playlist playing over and over again. You’d rather be getting paid to produce photos that you are passionate about.
If you just quit your day job and declare to the world that now you are a full-time professional photographer you may quickly end up on the street without a cent to your name.
Start to take professional photography jobs on the days off from your 9-5 job. Then as you find that you are becoming booked consistently then you can cut back your 9-5 job from 5 days to 4 days a week and start offering another day for booking photography work, and so on.
Establish a Pricing Strategy
Setting your prices just right can mean the difference between making and breaking your fledgling photography business. Contrary to popular belief among photographers, you shouldn’t overcharge for your work based on the belief that charging too little will make you look like an amateur.
After all, if you only work part-time as a freelancer, how can you expect to charge and get what full-time professionals charge?
Facebook and a blog for your marketing tools and portfolio.
A website can be an expensive investment, especially in the beginning. As can marketing. Facebook is a great tool for sharing your recent work and gaining attention. You can also connect with local business owners that you’ve worked with. Having a blog is a great starter website for new photographers.
Using a blog platform such as WordPress will also be easy to convert once you are ready to purchase a domain and craft a website.
Use portfolio building as free marketing!
With each portfolio building session (assuming it was a discounted session and not a free session), tell them to share their images with friends and family, and for every booked full session that they refer, they get a free $xx print credit.
They will share your images for the print credit (or a free print, etc.), and you’ll receive new clients without paying big bucks for marketing and ads. WIN WIN! A solid referral program could really change the flow of incoming inquiries and booking clients.
Websites like Sticky Albums and ShootProof make it easier than ever!
Figure out what you need for equipment.
The beauty of photography is that it is an eloquent blend of artistic skills and technical components. A good photographer has a keen eye for capturing moments by examining the environment, and the people who are the focus of many of these shots, and being able to quickly adapt their settings to have a correct image exposure – all well understanding what their gear will (and will not) allow them to do from a technical perspective.
Equally important is having the right tools, and knowledge of how to use those tools. Here are some great starter kits to get you going.
Professional level camera bodies, such as the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 5D Mark IV provide a solid foundation on which you build by selecting lenses that will suit your style of photography best.
Pro lenses tend to be fairly expensive, and as a result you may have to be selective, especially early on, with what you choose to shoot with.
Practice, practice, practice.
Every photographer had to start somewhere. Just because you set up a photography business does not make you a good photographer.
The key is to continue to hone your skills. The valuable skills at play are not just within the camera and the photos you take, but also refining how you do other things – like posing your couples.
Offer inexpensive services for a few clients.
When just starting off, you are not going to be able to start charging $3,000 for a wedding. It is a simple reality. To get your foot in the door, offer lower costing packages to really entice new clients.
During this time, it is also important to set expectations with these clients so they fully understand that you are just starting out – because paying a newbie $500 dollars to do a full wedding day vs. paying a seasoned pro thousands of dollars is no doubt going to result in different images.
Learn how to edit photos.
Post processing of your photos will help you establish your style, and make you more able to stick out in a saturated photography market. Modern photography is really reliant on being able to provide edited images – something that can be done in a range of software.
I use Adobe Lightroom for most of my editing needs, and open files in Photoshop when more detailed work is required.
Create a Workspace
You can’t do much with your brand-new editing software if you don’t have a designated place to work. No, your favorite spot on the couch or your kitchen counter won’t do. While these are nice for when you have a little bit of work to do, you need a place where you can get your mind into work mode every single day.
That space may be a room at home that you turn into an office, a co-working space, or a private office space that you decide to rent. Whatever it is, you have to create your space and make it exactly what you want before you start getting clients.
Keep in mind that if you’re trying to do photography sessions in your studio – like for headshots or family pictures – you need to make room for that, too. You’ll also need to invest in backdrops and special lighting, and maybe create a seating area for your clients.
Start Booking Clients
This is the photographers’ favorite part about starting their business. It’s amazing what happens when you put so much work into something and the fruits of your labor start to show.
Before you know it, you’ll be shooting sessions back to back and having to make people work around your schedule. Your days will be filled with taking photos and doing edits and collaborating with clients to create the best vision possible.
It’s a wonderful process, constantly filled with challenges and surprises. It’s all possible if you take the leap to start the business you’ve been dreaming of.
Photography isn’t just a popular hobby, it can be a legitimate business, provided you have an eye for a great shot and the passion for turning other people’s actions into timeless memories. Starting a photography business takes as much dedication as any other business, but the added bonus is your work can be visceral and affecting. It’s also a business that is easy to start small and build up.
So if you’ve been wondering how to start a photography business, stop messing around with the photo apps on your smartphone, and get started.