Photographer's Freedom

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How To Start A Business In Photography

how to start a business in photography blog featured image

In this post I will share with you 10 steps on how to start a business in Photography. I will also give you some great resources that will help you to design a business you love. If you have the camera, the skills, and the desire but no idea how to turn it into a business – these tips will set you on the right track.

For everything you would ever need to start and grow your online business in Photography, take a look at this All In Package from SFM. This is how I learnt to build my photography business online and why it continues to grow. They can teach you to build a business you’re passionate about and earn while you learn.

How To Start A Business In Photography – 10 Steps

Step 1 – Define Your Goal

“Focus on the possibilities for success, not on the potential for failure.”

Napoleon Hill

When the captain of a container ship steps up to the helm, do you think he has no idea where he’s going with the precious cargo? Does he just “wing-it” and hope that he and his crew end up in the right port?

a container ship at sunset symbolizing that you are the captain of your photography business ship

OF COURSE NOT?!

And neither should you. Your photography business is your precious cargo, and you have to look at it that way. If you don’t start-out knowing where you are going – how can you ever expect to get there?

Defining your end goal is the first step that you should take when you start a business in photography. And you need to be specific about this too. I suggest taking an hour or so of uninterrupted time to think about exactly where you want this business you are creating to go.

Think about the business as if it is already successful. You might consider the following things:

  • What is the name of your business?
  • What type of photography do you do?
  • Where does your business operate from?
  • Do you sell products?
  • Is your business online or a physical location?
  • How happy are you when you turn up for work every day?
  • What amount of money do you earn every week?
  • What are your customers/clients like?

These are just a few ideas, but you need to get creative and super-focused with this. Sit quietly and imagine your business as if you already run it, and imagine every detail. The more definitive you can be, the better. You want to set a goal for a business that excites you and has you leaping out of bed every morning to get started!

Step 2 – Define Your Ideal Customer

“If you are marketing to everyone, you are marketing to no-one”

Now that you have defined your business – you need to define your ideal customer.

coloured shapes of people through a magnifying glass - finding the right customers for your photography business
  • Who are they?
  • What do they do?
  • Where do they hang out? (online or physically)
  • What do they want?
  • What is stopping them from getting it?

This is something that may take quite a while but it is so important for the success of your photography business. You must niche down and become clear about who your ideal customer is. This will determine where you advertise; how you speak to your customers/clients; what your business will look like in terms of branding; and so many other things.

Business is about solving people’s problems. Meredith Hill said “People don’t buy products, they buy solutions”. Your job is to find the people who have the problems that your photography business can solve.

Step 3 – Tools Of The Trade

“The best investment is in the tools of one’s own trade.”

Benjamin Franklin

Now that you know what type of photography business you want and your ideal customer, it’s time to make sure you have the right gear. It’s no good saying you are going to be a wildlife photographer if all you have is a 50mm prime lens!

photography gear laid out on a timber floor
Make sure you have the right photography gear

Do some research into the right tools for your trade. A great resource for this is DPReview’s Best Cameras and Lenses 2020 Buying Guide. There you’ll find some great articles on Cameras Buy Budget, Lenses, Cameras By Type, Cameras By Use Case.

Another great resource for gear is Tony Northrup’s Photography Buying Guide. This book is packed full of information to help you in your buying decisions for all different types of photography.

Step 4 – Branding

“Brand is just a perception, and perception will match reality over time.”

Elon Musk

Branding is the look and feel of your business. It’s the colours you use; the language you use; the font types you use; and it’s how your business “feels”, or the emotion you want people to feel when they think about your business.

I will not tell you that this part will be easy, but it should not be too difficult if you have defined your ideal customer. Just think about what look and feel will attract them to your business above anyone else’s.

A great resource for choosing a color palette for your brand is Adobe Color. This free online tool from the creators of Lightroom and Photoshop is amazing. You can choose a color palette from any of the types listed down the left-hand-side of the website, or search for a color scheme by typing a word into the Explore tab. There is even the ability to upload an image of your own and choose your colors from that.

For choosing fonts, I suggest Google Fonts. Here you can see an amazing array of different fonts and also explore pairings that work well together.

Step 5 – Take Some Shots

“We take photographs as a return ticket to a moment otherwise gone.”

Katie Thurmes
how to start a business in photography - a man in a beanie taking a photo with a bright background

You are going to need some proof that you can not only talk-the-talk, but you can actually do what you are telling people you can do. This is where your photos come into play.

Take a lot of photos! If you are a Nature Photographer, take a heap of nature photos. Is portrait photography your thing? Then get your family, friends or anyone you can to be test subjects so you can get a good portfolio of images together. If you’re building a Real Estate Photography business, then take a lot of shots of houses and other buildings.

Whatever your niche, you want a large amount of photos that you can use on your Social Media pages or your website. So get clicking!

Step 6 – Social Media

“Content is fire, social media is gasoline.”

Jay Baer

Earlier in the post, we talked about finding your ideal customer and hopefully you did that and now know where they are hanging out online. Now you have to get in front of them. This is probably the most important step in how to start a business in photography.

Social media can be overwhelming for business owners and that is why I suggest not taking on too many different platforms to start with. If your ideal customers are Facebook users, then set up a Facebook business page. Concentrate on building that up until you are confident with it and have a good following. If they are on Instagram, then that is where you should concentrated your efforts.

Social Media is how you get your images in front of people

The key to social media is consistency. You must have a regular posting schedule and stick to it. Your customers will get used to you posting at certain times. The algorithms of social media sites like to reward consistency too and will make sure that your posts are seen.

Pay attention to the analytics of whatever platform you use. These are so important in figuring out when your customers are online and how they engage with your content. This can help you get in front of them more often.

Step 7 – Your Website

“Your website is the window of your business. Keep it fresh, keep it exciting.”

Jay Conrad Levinson

There are mixed opinions on the necessity of a website in 2020 – some say it’s a must-have and others think that it’s not that important.

The main reason for having a website when you start a business in photography is credibility. It’s a place for potential customers/clients to see that you are a real person; are knowledgeable in your field; and are trustworthy.

However social media provides much more credibility than it did years ago, and many people have found success using social media alone.

The decision is ultimately yours. Websites can be expensive; they take a lot of time and effort to set up and maintain; and I think that if you are having success on social media, then just keep doing that. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

A page from my Barry Callister Photography website

Of course the thing to remember is that if you have a website, you own that content. With a social media account, you don’t have control over anything. One day Facebook could just shut their doors and all your hard work would be for nothing. At least with your own site, you own it and control the content on it.

As far as resources for websites go, WordPress would be my first recommendation. It can be a lot trickier to learn than other website builders but there are an incredible amount of plugins available that make building your site a lot simpler.

Step 8 – Marketing Your Photography Business

“The key is, not matter what story you tell, make the buyer the hero.”

Chris Brogan

Here you have two choices:

  1. Organic Marketing
  2. Paid Marketing
Choose to spend your money or your time

It is completely possible to market your business on social media organically (not paying for ads), and have great success. This method takes a lot longer and requires patience and consistency. If you are content to spend your time and not your money, this is the path you should take.

If you want to get there quicker and are not afraid to throw some money onto the table, then paid marketing is for you. There are many options for paid marketing:

  • Google Ads
  • Microsoft Advertising
  • YouTube Ads (done via Google Ads)
  • Facebook Advertising
  • Pinterest Ads
  • Instagram Ads

Google and Microsoft have great help available for new users too, so you don’t have to go in blind.

Online advertising is something I really suggest getting your head around before you start to spend. You will find that you can waste a lot of money if you don’t know what you’re doing. YouTube can be a good free resource for tutorials around online advertising.

Step 9 – Take Care Of Your Photography Business

“Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.”

Wayne Huizenga

By this stage you have spent a lot of time, effort and possibly money on building your photography business. This is where you don’t just want to sit back on the couch with your feet up sighing “ahhh, glad that’s done!”

Don’t relax just yet

Be proud of what you have created and be protective of it. When you talk about it to people, speak as though it were the best thing ever and have them walk away excited about it too.

When you think about it, think like an artist would about a painting they have spent many hours on and poured their entire soul into. This is not just a money-making machine – it’s your heart and soul, your vision, your creation, and it helps so many people solve their problems.

Yes, you have to put your head into the books and make sure that your business is profitable and growing in the way you want. It is also important however to approach your business from your heart as well as your head. Some may disagree with this but I believe that our hearts go into everything we do whether we are aware they do or not. Business does not have to be a cold, calculated thing.

Step 10 – Have Fun!

“What is the point of anything we do if we are not having fun doing it?”

Barry Callister

When you start a business in photography, it’s an awful lot of hard work. It takes blood, sweat, and most likely more than a few tears! But never forget that you are doing this because you WANT to. This is your dream, your goal, your Everest.

All that blood, sweat and tears will sting a lot less if you remember your “why” and remember that the ultimate goal is to feel good. Isn’t that why we do anything we do?

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