When I bought my first DSLR in 2009, I had no intentions of starting a business. I merely wanted to begin taking pictures again as it was one of my favorite hobbies growing up. Over time though as I learned how to use my camera and people started asking me to take pictures for them, I began to consider starting a photography business.
My first client was a girlfriend who wanted pictures with her new puppy Paxton. We met up at a park in town and had an awesome time Let’s be honest-I had no freaking clue what I was doing. I didn’t know what the golden hour was. Looking back at my pictures, pretty sure we shot at like 2 p.m. because the light is SO bright and harsh. Also pretty sure I shot all the pictures in automatic mode. I found Lightroom presets and put crazy filters on my work. Even though I cringe now looking back, I still remember the fire in my belly that started that day. Getting to capture these great memories, explore the city and use my creativity made me feel so alive and energized! From that day, I knew I had to pursue this passion.
From there, I did a few things to help grow my business. These tips may help you in your journey if you’re just starting out.
Get a website
- This may seem like a no brainer to some but you can’t escape the need in this day and age to have a place on the web. Having a FB page isn’t enough. People need to be able to find you, view your curated portfolio and learn more about you. This is your handshake and if people like what they see, they will connect with you.
- There are SO many ways to create a website. You can do something simple and free like Squarespace, you can come up with your own WordPress website or if you want to spend some money, a designer can help you. I use Prophoto as my WordPress base and then customized a template on top of that. It does require some work to make it your own and patience but in the end, it looks professional and does a good job of showing off my brand.
Come up with your business name and buy your domain
- This can be as simple as “Your name photography,” (that’s what I did) or you can come up with something else. Regardless of what you pick, know that you will probably need to stick with it a long time so you better like it! Once you pick a name, buy your domain. You can go through Google Domains to do this and they include the feature to hide your personal information so when people look up your domain (on the back end) they can’t see your personal registration information.
Business cards are a must!
- I know it can be scary when you’re first starting out to even say “I’m a photographer.” For me, I would say it under my breath when people asked what I did for fun. As time went on and I became more confident in my craft, I would tell any and everyone that I was a photographer. When you get a chance to share your story with people, give them your card. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had those one-time meet and greets either call me up for business or pass my name along because they enjoyed meeting me.
Do free work
- In the beginning, you need to build your portfolio and to do that, you need clients. When you are starting and having nothing to show people, they will be less willing to pay for your services. You can use family or friends or even put an ad on Craigslist offering a 30 min session and 5 images for the person’s time. I don’t recommend doing this for a long time but it’s important to get experience, practice and portfolio material when you start.
Find a mentor
- In 2009, I connected with a friend of friend who was a wedding photographer. She graciously met me for coffee and from that day took me under her wing as her assistant/second photographer. I am forever indebted to her for the knowledge she shared with me and all the shoots I was a part of. While she did pay me for my time, I was able to gain so much knowledge about wedding photography by getting that first hand experience without having to be the lead photographer. She also guided me on best business practices. Having a mentor will be a game changer. Don’t hesitate to reach out to those that you look up to for advice!
Be present and ACTIVE on social media
- Today it’s more important than ever to have a FB page and IG account. These are extensions of your brand to help share who you are and what you do with your clients and potential clients. Use these platforms to share your work, your personality and connect and engage with your clients. Be consistent with your posting. This is so crucial because it let’s your clients know what they can expect out of you. Nothing is worse than visiting a FB page or IG account that hasn’t been updated in weeks. That could translate to the client or potential client that you’re not busy or working which isn’t necessarily true.
- In the beginning, it’s so important to just do the work. Practice using your camera in manual every day – even if that’s just photographing your boyfriend or dog. Write blogs posts about your work. Write a personal and compelling about page for your website and social media platforms. Share your personality and life on your social platforms. Meet other photographers or creatives – build your network and rapport/ If you don’t have any client work, spend time learning about your craft or other photographers that you look up to. There is ALWAYS something you can be doing to get you closer to your goal of running your photography business.
My hope is that this information is helpful to someone who is looking to get started with a photography business. These are the things that I did that helped me reach where I am today.
With that being said, I’m still learning and still growing. I currently still work part time during the week for a company in Buckhead and spend the other part of my time with my baby and doing my creative work. So if you’re sitting at your desk at your non-photography job reading this, know you can start your photography life now while you are still working for someone else. Being a photographer is great because you can work on your editing anywhere and anytime that works for you and most people can only meet on the weekend for sessions. This allows you to build your craft as slowly or quickly as you want!
I’d love to hear from you if you’re trying to figure out how to start your business or feel stuck in your progress. Please comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I’m here for you!