Everywhere you look these days it feels like there is a new photography business popping up. It seems so easy…own a DSLR, take some nice photos, have a bit of business sense, set up a website and off you go and the money will start rolling in. Too easy, right?
BUT there is a bit more to it then that, especially if you want to be a legitimate business and be in it for the long haul. You might make great pictures with your DSLR and are keen to start making some money from photography, but are you really ready?
Here are a few things I believe you need to have in place before jumping in:
Are your skills up to par? Are you comfortable shooting in manual? Can you nail focus and white balance? Can you handle all lighting situations, in particular if you’ll be shooting in-home sessions? Can you shoot a consistent gallery of images in every situation?
Build a portfolio of images for what you to shoot. Practice on family and friends first before taking on clients. It is very different working with and shooting other people and children that aren’t your own family.
Use your portfolio images to build your website. Some may argue that a website isn’t a necessity these days with social media pages, but if you want to look professional to potential clients and if you want Google to find you, in my mind a website is a must-have. Remember your website will be your client’s first impression of you, so spend some time on it so it looks professional.
Know who your target market is. You’re not going to be the photographer for everyone, and that’s okay. What do you plan on shooting - families, newborns, events, headshots, real estate, pets, landscape, etc. Once you know what you want to shoot, work out who your target market is and who your ideal client is. You need to know everything about them in order to market directly to them.
Have a model release and client contract in place. You should be using these for your portfolio images of friends and family as well. Don’t rely on verbal consent, even from those you love. Have it all in writing in case there is ever any dispute.
Have a business plan and price list. Work out the business model you plan to use - all inclusive, IPS, collections, etc. How much do you need to make per session to cover your costs. Know what you need to make and start off with those prices offering a discount for your first X amount of clients. Remember it will be a lot harder, and you’ll most likely lose your client base, if you start out with very low prices and then try and raise them over time.
Be a legitimate business. Register your business name, register for tax, have business insurance and have the relevant permits in place for your location.
Have your studio policies in place. We’ve just posted a studio policies tutorial on our Business Tips newsletter. If you’re not already subscribed and want to have a read, as well as have access to other tutorials, you can sign up here.
Be ready to wear a lot of different hats. Unfortunately, running a photography business means you’ll spend a lot more time doing business-y stuff more than taking and editing pictures. Be ready to be an accountant, marketing executive, administrator, web and graphic designer to name a few.
If you are ready, being a professional photographer is a great career choice! So if you have all of these in place, are ready to work hard, and have the patience you need to let your business grow…then jump on in!