Starting your own photography business is one of the most popular entrepreneurial ventures. Launching your own photography service is relatively easy to do, there’s low overhead, and it can be a lucrative business if you can attract high-paying clientele.
Customers off all sorts seek out professional photographers to capture their memorable life milestones. Whether it be a wedding photographer to document their special day or a baby photographer to capture those special moments — clients are willing to pay a skilled professional for high-quality photos.
In this guide, we’re going to walk you through the steps you can take to become a photographer. We’ll show you how to get started, launch your own business, and grow your customer base.
Learn the Ins and Outs of Photography
Before you start your own business, you’ll need to become a top-notch photographer. This includes receiving a photography education, getting all the right gear, and perfecting your craft.
Learn Photography Principles
There’s more than meets the eye to being a photographer who’s able to take professional looking pictures. There are many aspects that go into taking spectacular photos. Things like depth of field, contrast, movement, and balance are principles you can implement to take a great picture.
You can learn basic photography principles by taking online photography courses with Udemy, taking photography classes at a local community college, experimenting on your own, or completing a Bachelor’s degree at a fine arts school. Some people suggest going to a fine arts photography school to learn the fundamentals of photography. Others say school is a waste of time and believe your work speaks for itself. How much education you want to pursue will be completely up to you.
Purchase Camera Gear
Getting ahold of professional camera gear will help take your photography business to the next level. When you first start looking for camera gear, you should consider buying gently used equipment. This will help you perfect your craft without spending a ton of money. Professional camera gear can be very expensive, especially when you start adding in all of the accessories and tools you’ll need. You’ll need to think about purchasing a camera body, multiple lenses for different shooting situations, a camera tripod, lights, and a carrying case.
Understand Your Camera
Once you purchase your camera, it’s time to get to know it like the back of your hand. Don’t be afraid to read your camera manual from start to finish to better understand every camera setting and feature available to you. You can also go online and scour online forums to get any photography tips from fellow photographers who may have the same equipment. Knowing how to control your shutter speed, aperture, and shooting settings will help you get the most out of your camera.
Learn How to Use Editing Software
You need to understand how to use digital photography programs to take your raw images and turn them into something truly beautiful. You’d be surprised what a few tweaks of saturation, contrast, and cast can do to make a picture pop off the page. Photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom are great places to start. These photography programs are the two main players and will give you everything you need to start editing photos.
Intern or Shadow Another Photographer
When you’re first starting off, you can reach out to someone who’s already a photographer. Pick their brain and get a better understanding of the profession so that you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into before you jump in full-time. You can always reach out to a photographer and offer to help out, intern, or shadow them while they’re on photo shoots. You’ll be amazed by what you can learn from someone who has already been doing this for a living.
Launch Your Photography Business
Now it’s time to get your photography business off the ground. Let’s see how you can launch your business, build your portfolio, and start making money as a photographer.
Pick a Photography Niche
As a photographer, it will be important to set yourself apart by picking a specific niche to focus on. For example, you can decide to be a wedding photographer and primarily shoot weddings. You could also specialize in other types of photography like highschool graduation pictures, baby photos, or executive portrait photography for businesses.
Whichever niche you choose, stick to it and become the best around. If you’re trying to be an expert in every field, you’re bound to fail. It’s alright to take jobs that stray out of your niche but try to focus on one area as much as possible.
Build a Portfolio
A great portfolio will help show potential clients how great you are at your craft. This will be your chance to shine and show off your best work. You can create a digital portfolio on sites like Behance. You could even create your own photography website. Social media is another place you can highlight all your work. Facebook and Instagram are both visual platforms you can use to get your name out there.
Create Your Business
When you’re ready to start your business, you’ll need to come up with a company name, develop your own branding, and have promotional materials to share with potential customers. You could simply use your own name and market yourself to clients or decide to create a unique company name, branding, and logo. Whatever you choose, having business cards will be a must. You can also create a business plan to organize your thoughts and develop a roadmap for success.
Now it’s time to find your first clients. Word of mouth is a great way to get your first clients. Get the word out to your inner circles that you’re now a photographer. Friends and family can really help you get the ball rolling. You can then direct people to check out your portfolio or even offer discounts to first-time clients. Once you start landing a few gigs, give your clients incentives to refer new customers. Joining freelance websites is also a good way to get your first few paying jobs.
Keep Your Day Job
Success won’t happen overnight. It’s important to manage your expectations when you’re first starting out. You won’t be making crazy money at first, but after you start building your portfolio and client base, you’ll be able to pursue your business full-time. Until then, you should consider keeping your day job until you’re comfortable with leaving and are able to support yourself as a full-time entrepreneur.
Grow and Manage Your Photography Business
Your business is up and running. Now it’s time to grow your business and manage your business to the best of your ability.
Get Client Referrals
Client referrals can be a primary source of new clients. Offering your current clients incentives like 10% off your next photo shoot for each client they refer will help keep prospects coming in the door. Plus, if you do great work, your clients won’t hesitate to spread the word and send customers your way.
Advertise Your Business
There are several ways you can advertise your business and get your name out there. Social media is a great place to not only show off your photography skills but also to find new customers. Another way is to run localized Facebook ads that can target people who are looking for photography services in your area. You can also join local Facebook groups to network with others. Professional networking groups can be a nice way to exchange services with other entrepreneurs and help them grow their business as well.
Have a Contract in Place
When you take on a new job, you should always have a contract in place that details the scope of the project. You should detail how much you’re charging for your services, the extent of the work to be completed, and any other requirements of the job. This will ensure that you’re covered if there’s ever a dispute with a client or you’re having difficulty receiving payment.
Increase Your Rates
Once you’ve managed to build a steady stream of clientele, you can start to increase your rates. If you’re delivering great work, you shouldn’t be wary about increasing your rates. People will understand that you’re a professional offering a professional service. Setting higher rates will fetch you more dollars every time you’re on a shoot. And if you’re ever swamped with work, higher rates help balance the demand by weeding out clients that aren’t interested in paying more for your service.
How to Become a Photographer
Beginning a photography career will take a lot of hard work and dedication. It won’t be easy getting your business off the ground, but if you’re truly driven, the reward will be extra sweet. Before you know it, you will have perfected your skills and transitioned from an amateur photographer to a professional. If you think you have an eye for it, follow the steps above to get your photography business off the ground. If you want more small business ideas, check out our guide here.