How to Start Your Photography Business in 2016

(Last Updated On: November 10, 2015)

start a photography business

Before You Begin Your Photography Business

It’s a big decision to start a photography business. You can do it! However, it takes the right frame of mind and it has little to do with the type of camera you own.

Before you read further, please consider this warning.  Family and friends who hire you and rave about your awesome photography is not reason enough to go into the photography business full-time.

You need more than a good eye and the ability to work the camera well. Millions of people like you have access to cameras and demonstrate excellent photography skills. Today, photography is like most of the arts. Only the top 10-20% will make a good living from their craft.

How do you know when the time is right?  When people in your personal circle, such as, family and friends refer you to people outside their circle; this a good sign of competence and trust. Once the referrals come at a consistent pace from outside your family and friends you can now evaluate the reality of being a full-time photographer.

For most people, starting part-time is the right answer. It may also be the long-term answer. There is nothing wrong with working on your dream part-time as long as you respect the industry and take the business side of photography seriously. This means charging what you are worth, act professional, understand and respect the value of your copyright.

Full or part-time, it’s is important to understand that you are about to start a real business. The competition in the photography industry is too great to ignore the value of a well-managed photography company.  Many photographers fail full-time because they take poor part-time photographer business practices and apply them to a full-time photography business.

Your Plan

Decide what type of photography you wish to focus on and who might be interested in hiring you or purchasing your images. Test ideas until you find the right persona for the type of photography you enjoy creating. A persona is the demographic make up of your main target audience, such as, a young twenty something bride or a marketing director at small manufacturing company. The more specific you are the better. This doesn’t mean you can’t do other types of photography. However, it is important that you find your niche or speciality so you stand out in a crowded field of photographers.

One thing I recommend is that you discover your and.  This helps you separate yourself from competition. The reality is everyone with a camera or smart phone is your competition. When you combine your craft with another skill, technology or style you become an expert rather than a commodity.

Facing The Numbers

It’s not easy to know how much to charge. The first step is to add all your expected expenses. Include everything such equipment, rentals, gas, insurance, set materials, assistants, processing time and how much you wish to make in a year. Then divide the number of assignments, days or hours you expect to earn over the next year. Use your current history as a guide; not what you hope or think the number will be. This calculation will give you a realistic gauge about how much you need to charge. I recommend the per image pricing model for most types of photography. If you are still unsure, compare prices of other local photographers.

Don’t be the cheap photographer. It’s foolish to think that you don’t have any overhead because you already own a digital camera and have no studio expenses. The business practice of the lowest price is a race to the bottom.  The only way being the cheapest will work is if you are Wal-Mart. You’re not Wal-Mart. You are a professional. My experience tells me that photography buyers don’t give the big or important jobs to the cheap photographer.

Helpful Hint: Keep a list of your rates easily accessible so you will properly estimate all projects.

Facing Your Audience

Develop a brand style and look book for your company. I recommend you hire a good designer to support your branding and marketing efforts. It will make all the difference in the world in terms of making your business look professional. Keep the key elements of your look consistent throughout your paperwork, business cards, sales materials and website.

A photographer must have a website. If you don’t have a website in 2016, you are not in business. Start with a professional website design using your best images. Make it easy to find your contact information; list your contact options on every page. Don’t expect people will click over to a contact page or fill out a form to do business with you.

Make it easy to do business with you.

Contracts are important to protect you and your clients. Always keep your copyright unless someone pays for it. The only real good reason someone needs to buy your copyright is if they plan to resell your images. Remember, if your copyright didn’t have value, then why are people working so hard to get it?

It’s About People

People are the secret to business success.  Network, network, network. Connect with people who represent the industry or persona of your target market. Do this online and off and never stop. Everyone is an opportunity for a referral. Ask the powerful question who do you know that uses or many need my type of photography (be specific). It’s amazing who the people around you know.

I recommend you encourage and reward people who refer new business to you. These are your fans, supporters and champions. You must cherish them.

How To Stay In Business

If you plan to stay in the photography industry for a long time, never stop learning.  Photography, business and marketing rules are always evolving. Read books, watch tutorials on YouTube, take classes, workshops and seminars. Keep on top of your craft, technology and the latest marketing strategies.

Go to work every day.  If you work for a company full-time, you are expected to be on the job at least 40 hours per week. You hired you and you must prospect for new opportunities and do the work required to make your photography business a success. When you don’t have work, spend time to develop better and more efficient workflows, create new techniques, and improve your marketing. The best photographers create images everyday whether they have an assignment or not.

Remember, the day you think you have arrived is the day your business and photography begin to decline.



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