Thursday, March 19, 2015

How to start your own photography business

Newberg Newberg

My story is a little different than most. The path that lead me to photography was a long windy one. I switched from art to major into business... So needless to say I have some background in both photography and business. That does not mean I am an expert! It just means that the advice I give is information that I have synthesized from the years of learning and experimenting in both fields.

Right now I'm a high school graphic design teacher with this business on the side. It feels like a crazy whirl wind, but I love it. That is the kind of thing that happens when you have too many passions.

I know the struggle is real for people who want to start a photography business and I think I would have benefited from someone synthesizing all of the knowledge about photography business for me early on. Like with no b.s. and with nothing held back. So that's what I'm going to do for you. :)

The reason I had this idea was because one of my students said that he wanted to become a wedding photographer. He knew after being in my class and watching his family friends wedding that he was more interested in taking pictures than anything else. He asked me how to start his own business... That opened a huge can of worms. Like I seriously unloaded my brain on this unsuspecting kid. Not sure if he took anything away from the conversation but he had extensive notes I have him.

The first thing I said is that he didn't have to have a degree to do it, but If college was the route he was following, he needed to major in photography with a minor in business or vice versa. Major in whichever doesn't come most natural to you because that's what you'll need the most help with. 

Now if you're going to take the "I just decided I wanted to be a photographer instead of what I've been doing for ten years but don't have time for school," route, then you'll want to read the rest of this blog. ;)

There are two main areas that you need to focus on and be good at: 

  1. Photography // improving your skill and craft.

  2. Business and Marketing. 

Sounds simple? Well there is a lot that goes into all of that. Lets talk about number 1 first: Photography and improving your skill and craft. 

Practice: You're selling a product/service so you need to get better at what you do constantly. People choose you based on what your images look like. Your work needs to be fresh and stay with the trends. Right now "Lifestyle Photography" is in. No one likes the posed family pictures anymore. They want more candid and natural portraits. 

  • Plan how you are going to capture those. 
  • Practice with friends and their families. (That's how I started. I gave free packages to family and friends in exchange to have them be my models). 
  • People wont start to hire you unless you have a great portfolio of past work to show, so practice and get that together! 
  • Use the rules of design: The rule of thirds, color, contrast, depth of field (I'll go in more depth in later blog posts). 

Know your camera: You will never, I repeat: NEVER get better unless you know the fundamentals of your camera and photography. You must master how to use these three parts of your camera: 

  1. ISO: sensitivity of your camera's sensor to light. 
  2. Shutter speed: How fast your shutter closes. This determines how much light goes into the camera and hits the sensor. 
  3. F-stop: this is the depth of field that your camera captures. Rule of thumb: The smaller the f-stop number, the shorter the depth of field your capturing (meaning your capturing something up close with a blurry background). Increase your f-stop to capture things farther away. 

Combined, these three parts will allow you to achieve the best images possible.

2. Business and Marketing: You must have a business liscense and EIN (tax id number). I organized my business as a LLC which stands for Limited Liability Corporation. This means that I have limited liability if something happens legally. I can not have my personal property seized, etc., but that the business is the only entity that is liable (God forbid anything crazy from happening). You have to figure out how you want to form your business but the most basic is an LLC. 

  • Start to form a plan around: How you'll get paid, how to track your revenue and expenses for taxes and personal reasons, how to market on social media, what packages to provide clients, how to prep for a shoot, what to do after a shoot, how to contact clients in a professional manner. I will post about all of these later, but it's good to start thinking about!
  • Create a free website or blog. This should be where you direct all of your clients to look at pricing and your previous work. It should include content about you and how to get ahold of you. My website holds all of this information. Take a look here.

  • Get organized on your workflow. A workflow is just the things you must do in order to go from start to finish with a client, starting at the first email or meeting with the client, and ending with a thank you note or package.You can see mine below:

If you like my workflow feel free to download the document to help you out. Its free! :D

Click Here for the workflow doc.
  • Form a business and get a business license (all in one step) on your states website. Usually $100 for two years with renewals every two years after that.
  • Apply for an EIN. This is for tax purposes. You must report all taxable income for your taxes and your EIN is the way that the IRS identifies your business.

     These are the most basic building blocks but are essential to your business. The rest will come...


    Marketing is another can of worms... The best thing to do when you start is to do some work for free and get word via word of mouth. That is how I pretty much booked my summer. My next blog post is on marketing yourself. This is a huge component of what a photographer does. Its hard because it is just you doing all of the work, so you have quite a bit to think about. The first thing to start thinking about is creating a list of all the photographers you admire and want to imitate, and why. This can help you define your style and describe it to clients.

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