Zenfolio | Christina Terrano | I Want To Start a Photography Business

I Want To Start a Photography Business

April 10, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

So you want to start a photography business?  I get asked all the time what people will need to get up and running as a business.  Now mind you, this is as a BUSINESS, not just someone who likes to take pictures as a photographer, an actual small business owner.  There's a big difference there.  Making a facebook page, and having a DSLR does not make you a business.  That's incredibly unrealistic, isn't it?


So, what are a few things that you need to know to get going?  Here are a few:


•  Education.  I think this is quite simple.  If you don't know what you're doing, then you shouldn't be taking anyone's money.  Shooting with your DSLR then burning the images to a disk is not part of what a photography business is.  We don't do that.  An education in proper shooting, posing, and technique is what will separate you as a business from someone else who is a hobbyist.

•  Etiquette.  Proper business etiquette is likened to a good vocabulary.  If you can't spell in your emails, then you will not come across as a professional.  The same can be said about how you handle your clients, and in what tone you treat them.  It's proper etiquette to behave in a professional way with your clients and treat them with understanding and compassion.  Blaming your clients for every thing you don't understand, or can't handle in a professional manner will just lead to a very negative outlook on your business.  Treat people well, behave yourself appropriately, and always own when you mess up.

•  Cost.  Don't let anyone tell you anything differently.  There is a very large amount of spending and cost that goes along with being a small business owner.  I could start with marketing materials {you need business cards, right?  How about a few new client guides?}, or maybe a few new lenses, or how about adding some speedlites to your arsenal, or maybe the cost to host your website, then the cost of your website design, or the cost it will take for you to advertise on social media, or in a local magazine or newspaper, or better yet the cost of professional editing software, and let's not forget you'll need some digital templates to be able to market to new clients.  That's just a few of the things you'll need to keep yourself up and running.  Not to mention the cost of the education, which is the first thing I mention here.  That's vitally important too.


Are these the only things someone would need to start a photography business?  Wow, no, the answer to that is a resounding no!  You also will need a good education in business licenses and whether or not your particular state requires them.  Learning as much about taxes is also a very important part of being a business owner.  Do you want to remain a sole proprietor or move up to an LLC?  This is all part of the process, and it will be very helpful for you to go into the entire process with a general knowledge of all things business.


When I first started out I made sure to take as many small business classes, or courses, as I could find that were offered by the city.  They were very helpful for me to learn about how a business is run, what were the main objectives I needed to work for, and how to handle any issues I had.


I think the most helpful part of my life that donated information to running a small business was my 7+ years as a retail manager.  Working so closely with so many different kinds of people, learning how to handle myself in a professional manner, and knowing that sometimes nothing you do to make someone happy will be good enough, were invaluable lessons for me as I made the venture from hobbyist to professional.  I define a professional as someone whose primary source of income is directly through their business.  That's exactly what my business is to me, and I try to remember that with every business decision I make.  My choices don't just affect me, but my entire business model as well.


Am I discouraging you from opening your own business?  Absolutely not.  If you've got the talent, and education, the proper business model and ability to get a portfolio going effortlessly, I say go for it and I hope you succeed.  I'd want anyone who had a dream of becoming a professional photographer to see that dream through, and hope that in the process they could impact someone else's life in a positive way.  The idea that you can just make a facebook page, buy a nominally decent camera, and then just charge out the door ... well, I don't think it would come as much of a shock that I'm not necessarily cool with that.  For those of us who have fought, bled, and bruised ourselves to get where we are, losing business to those who don't appreciate the true business process, is exactly what you'd think it is:  a slap in the face.


The most important thing to remember is that not everyone can own a photography business.  That seems to be something a lot of people have on their minds.  That it's easy, and costs them nothing once they've bought their cameras, and let's be honest; that is not the case.  If you truly love photography, and you love being able to see your clients faces, and their reactions when you present them with your hard earned, hard fought, hard studied, incredible portraits and works of art, then you are in the right place.  You have made it about the client and that's where the best business practices reside.  Picking up a camera and saying you're now a photographer is just as presumptuous as me picking up a drill and saying I'm a carpenter.  You don't deserve to call yourself a photographer if you haven't put in the work.  End of story.  Does that seem unfair?  Good.


I've been shooting professional for six years and I've seen other photographers come and go.  Most people think that a photography business is easy money, and when they find out it's actually hard ass work, they give up.  I've watched families disintegrate under the pressures a photographer put on themselves, and I guess this is my way of trying to help people avoid that.  It is not easy, it is not cheap, and it is very, very hard work.  If you're up for that challenge, and are looking to do it all legitimately and in the proper steps, then I say welcome to the family.


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