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How to Start a Photography Business From Scratch


By Goran Bogunovic, August 16, 2018

Have you ever been told you have a great eye for photography?

Well, you could turn it into a real business, whether as a side hustle or a full-time job.

However, starting a photography business requires a fair amount of planning and dedication if you want to do it right, especially because we’re talking about a rather competitive landscape. Statistics say photography is rather popular, especially among the younger generations: almost 40% of surveyed people between 18 and 29 years old in the U.S. practice photography, and this is only in 2018.

This popularity shouldn’t surprise us. Not only is photography simple to pursue as a hobby due to the fact it doesn’t require big starting investments, but it’s also fueled by trends imposed by highly visual social networks such as Instagram.

Almost 40% of surveyed people between 18 and 29 years old in the U.S. practice photography, and this is only in 2018.

The good thing about becoming a professional photographer is that you can control every single segment of your business; it is a solopreneurial venture, and this fact creates a lot of space for you to merge your personal and business brand into one.

So, want to know how to start a photography business from scratch? Keep reading.

Starting a Photography Business Without Spending a Fortune

When it comes to becoming a professional photographer, the key is to start small with a more modest equipment and build your way towards getting new clients and creating a recognizable name on the market. You can find great quality cameras that come with kit lenses for as little as $500-$600, which is a smart starting investment. With a solid camera, you can start working on scaling your photography skills and building a portfolio.

Even if you do have a solid budget, it’s not logical to spend thousands of dollars on exclusive lenses and additional camera accessories until your business kicks off. Chances are, you will be bootstrapping your business so you need to be wise in terms of where you want to pour your money.

If you’re a complete beginner, you need to prioritize your starting expenses and list them all on paper. For instance, you can survive your first photography days without having several cameras or extremely powerful flashes, but you need to invest in

  • Memory cards (depending on the format and storage space, prices go between $15 and $200)
  • Photoshop and Lightroom subscription (individual plans go from $9.99 per month to $82.98 per month)
  • Website that serves as a portfolio (you can register your domain name for between $2 and $50, take advantage of free website builders, and arrange a hosting service if it’s not already included within the purchase of your domain name – for as little as $2 per month; we’ll discuss this in great detail later in the last segment of this post)
  • Education (think online courses, books, reading articles and joining online communities, following relevant bloggers and YouTube channels, etc.)

Also, it’s important to ensure that your laptop has sufficient amount of memory and a quality processor so that you can easily store and work on the photographs you made. Make the most of the cloud technology to prevent the memory overload.

Some estimate you need at least $10.000 of starting capital for launching a photography business, but there are more than one way to do this.

The fact is, you don’t need expensive equipment to make great photos as there are useful tips and tricks on how to make the most of lighting and perspective.

But of course, once you get in the hang of making great photos and learn more about what additional equipment can do for you, you can save up money and gradually buy new stuff and work your way towards opening a photo studio or an actual office.

Some estimate you need at least $10.000 of starting capital for launching a photography business, but there are more than one way to do this.

The key is not to wait to start experimenting with photography until you have everything sorted out. Take baby steps, but keep moving forward.

Know Your Fortes and Make a Business Plan

Every future entrepreneur should prepare for going back and forth with his or hers business. It’s never a steady line of progress and growth, but there are many trials and errors along the way. However, smart business people always choose to outline their business plan and then be agile and adjust their goals in accordance to how things are developing in reality.

To make an outline of your business plan and prevent doing things ad hoc, here’s what you need to take in mind:

  • Choose the best business structure
  • Define services you’ll offer and choose your niche
  • Define your competition and analyze their strategy
  • Identify your USP, brand strategy, and future brand development
  • Set the pricing system
  • Set financial projections (e.g. when you will become profitable)

As we already mentioned, photography is a very competitive market, but there will always be a need for professional services of this kind. This is why it’s a good idea to narrow down your niche and work on becoming an expert within it. This means you can specialize in baby and family photography, real estate photography, weddings, fashion shootings, or pet photography, etc.

Figure out what you feel the most passionate about and where your talent is the easiest to detect. List all photography services you’re thinking of offering and analyze whether or not you have the necessary resources for them. If you go all in before actually assessing realistically if you can actually pull it off, you may compromise the quality of your services. This could be a fatal mistake for someone who is trying to build a credible name in the photo industry.

In order to set the prices right, you have to think about your competitors and how much they charge, but also about your unique selling point, i.e. what you can bring to the table that no one else can. Given the fact you’re a newbie and a small fish in a big pond – charging your services a bit lower than average is a good tactic of getting the first few clients, but don’t undervalue yourself. The price you put on your work reflects your value and communicates it to potential clients.

Smart business people always choose to outline their business plan and then be agile and adjust their goals in accordance to how things are developing in reality.

When defining your prices, think about the actual time you’ll invest into actual shooting and photo editing afterwards. Average rates go between $50 and $100.

Additional tip: Before officially registering your business, it’s good to seek legal advice and consider the option of hiring an accounting expert, so to lift the burden that comes with taking care of all the taxes and paperwork.

Take Control of Your Branding and Invest in a Great Website

Clients expect to see testimonials and a rich portfolio before deciding to hire a photographer, that’s a fact. But those are not the only reasons you want to invest in a great website for your photography business.

The biggest chunk of your strategy to attract new customers comes down to storytelling and people skills, as well as showcasing what makes you a better choice than someone else. There’s your opportunity to shine. Once you’ve defined what type of services you plan on offering and the niche you’re targeting – it’s a lot easier to set the right tone of communication and the feel of your brand.

Photography industry is very personal. Think about it: people hire you to make photographs of their wedding, birthdays, special events or their dearest ones. Having this in mind, as a photographer – you’re not just another service-provider; the industry implies a bit of a different business approach that’s warm enough to capture this narrative.

The biggest chunk of your strategy to attract new customers comes down to storytelling and people skills, as well as showcasing what makes you a better choice than someone else.

Your website will speak on your behalf, 24/7 – even when you are not near your computer; that’s the beauty of internet. Your website puts you on the radar of future customers and helps you control your online image, while also providing you with space to showcase your work and credibility.

Regardless of your profession being mainly visual, you can benefit from having a blog section on your website, and not only terms of building better visibility online through SEO practices.

Of course, creating a website for your business requires some brainstorming and planning. Here’s what you need to think about:

It is important to have galleries that are categorized so that site visitors can easily navigate through the website. Check out Victoriano Izquierdo’s website at victoriano.me for an example: with a grid positioned on the left, the website’s focus is on the gallery, just as it should be; there are three categories (Humans, Spaces, Geographies) that help us get a grip on Victoriano’s expertise, as well as three sections – Blog, About, and Contact. Social media icons are also there, so that site visitors can reach out to Victoriano across different channels.

As we already mentioned, the photography business is different than other service-based businesses, so you may want to think twice before definitely deciding on a domain name.

Our advice?

Give it a personal .ME name it deserves.

Your photography business will depend on how much you invest into crafting the perfect website copy and what type of strategy you’ll employ across social media. Since marketing evolved towards the me selling proposition, it’s your job to create meaningful relationships with your target audience.

This is precisely why many solopreneurs launch their photography business under their own names with .ME or they create a new brand that’s a blend of who they are and what they stand for in the business sense.

Undoubtedly, with .ME – you’ll be able to differentiate yourself from others and launch a brand that understands the pulse of the modern customer perfectly. Find your .ME today and get your photography business a proper online home!


Author:

Goran Bogunovic

Now, you're probably wondering how I got here! Running a marketing agency, educating people about branding, and helping you to develop your own presence online. To understand, you’ll need to follow me @Domain.Me

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