So You Want to Start A Photography Business? Photography Tips for The Brave at (entrepreneurial) Heart!

Often people ask me how can they start a business as a photographer. The photography business, it is extremely rewarding for a creative individual and it can also be quite a challenge.  A few years ago when the economy  began sinking there  were many online articles suggesting to start a small home photography business. The idea was valid, however, there is much more to the photography business than simply taking pictures.  There are a multitude of things to be learned in photography as well as within the business aspect of the industry. Photography itself is something that is never truly mastered. The greatest photographers of all time were perpetually students of the craft.

For those of you who want to "go pro" let's take a little test.  How well do you know and understand the following concepts:  "depth of field"   "White balance"   "RGB"    "reciprocity factor"   "flash ratio"   "exposure latitude"   "rule of thirds"    "ISO"   "light diffusion"   "dragging the shutter"   "exposure meter"   "fill flash"   "bounce flash".  If words  and phrases such as  these leave you scratching your head you are probably not ready to take the plunge into the deep end of business and the photography.  This list is just a few of the technical aspects of the camera. There are entire worlds to learn about Photoshop, post production processes, the world of online marketing, SEO,  networking, printing, posing and the list goes on. If you know these terms well, then congratulations - you may be ready to begin your adventure into the realm of professional photography! 

This isn't meant to discourage you. Quite the contrary. I'd genuinely like to see people succeed in the photographic business. However, the harsh reality is there is far more technical proficiency needed then simply owning a $1,200 SLR which was purchased at Best Buy. ( And yes, that is where I started!) This article is meant to serve as a baseline for your understanding of photography as well as set realistic goals. Hey, professional photography is not for the the faint of heart!

Now that we have that out of the way, let's discuss the steps that should be taken for someone who is seriously considering a foray into professional photography. Here are a few photography tips for you to ponder...
First, understand that photography business is 51% business. This seems to be the number one struggle for photographers. Most individuals start with the intent of spending the majority of their time with their camera taking photographs. The reality is there is insurance, Web hosting, marketing, advertising, budgeting, networking, Web content, client meetings, sales techniques, contracts, and many more tasks which are strictly business-related.  Also, a significant part of my time is spent at the computer. This often involves following up on e-mails, blogging, reworking contracts and estimates, entering data into QuickBooks, researching keywords in Google, and many more tedious tasks. Plain and simple, be prepared to spend a lot of time doing trivial details.   If you are administratively challenged such as myself this is nothing short of  horrendously painful.  Be realistic.  It sucks. 
 Second, be sure you genuinely love photography. If you don’t the business side will make you hate photography. You need to love it enough to put up with the “dark side” of the business.  Just to use myself as an example, I constantly think about photography. It isn’t a hobby. It isn’t just the lifestyle. It is a mindset. I wake up thinking about photography, I go to bed thinking about photography and as I go about my daily life I am constantly thinking about aspects of photography. When I talk  to people I notice how the light is coming across their face and what I would do to change it for a portrait session. Or, I will see how someone is  seated and think about how I would pose them for portrait.  when I watch movies I make comments to my wife all the time about the lighting within the scene (she is an amazingly patient woman).  when I see other photographers work by constantly critique and analyze how they accomplished this shot. It’s in my blood. He needs to be in your blood as well.  And being a really good photographer isn't enough.
 Third, constantly look at others to compare yourself with in quality. Early on I spent too much time looking at only my pictures. Because the scope of my vision was so limited I was overconfident about my photographic ability. Looking at other photographer's websites on a daily basis not only challenged me to get better, but allowed me to be realistic about my abilities and my areas of growth. It also was a source of inspiration.
 Fourth, shoot often and continually experiment. What I now use as my typical portrait session techniques started off as experimentations. The more you shoot, experiment, critique, compare, and challenge yourself the better you will become as a photographer. Network with other photographers. Share ideas with them. They are one of your most valuable resources. Join a photography club. Shoot as a second shooter or an assistant for a wedding photography session. You will learn far more working side-by-side with someone than reading a blog, reading a book, our trying to do it all on your own. I wasted a lot of time trying to teach myself when I should've humbled myself and sought mentoring.
 Lastly, don’t quit. If you have a genuine fire in your belly to be a photographer and you know you were called to it as a vocation never stop growing, challenging yourself, experimenting, networking, and sharing ideas with others. 
Here is a list of some websites that I frequent for inspiration and ideas:

Here a are some of the technical sites I regularly visit:

Here a are some of the photographer sites I regularly visit:
Here are some great articles about starting a photography business.  Well worth thinking about.

 Hope this helps a  future photographer out there a little bit.
Keep shooting!
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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent advice. I also find myself noticing light in the movies and different ways to see people when I'm not "on duty".

Great article.