So You Want to Start A Photography Business?
One of the most common questions I get from aspiring photographers is “How do I start a photography business?” While there’s definitely not one route to success, there are a few guideposts as well as tips and tricks that I like to share.
Know Your Craft (or learn it if you don’t)
Know your camera inside and out. Your camera and the rest of your gear are the tools for your business. Whether you just purchased your first DSLR (congratulations!) or you’re a photography pro looking to start making money, your craft and the work you produce is the what you are building your business on.
Learn how your camera works and how to operate it. Figure out which lenses you like to use in which situations and why. Figure out how to photograph in a variety of lighting situations—because rest assured, you’ll be thrown into many that you cannot control!
Practice, Practice, Practice
In order to do #1, you’ve got to practice! When I first started my photography business, I photographed anyone who would hop in front of my camera: friends, family, neighbors, pets. Once you hone your skills you can start building up a portfolio and getting your first clients. Because you’ve practiced and now take phenomenal photos, those first clients will refer their friends to you which will lead to more clients… and before you know it you’ve got yourself a business!
If you’re having a hard time finding people to photograph, remember to offer to photograph people for free, especially when you’re first starting out. While you want to one day make money doing this, you’re going to need to put the time and effort into building up a portfolio and establishing a name for yourself. Sometimes unpaid work can be such a great experience and portfolio builder that it brings you multiple paid clients later on!
Find a Mentor
Find someone who is further along in the photography business than you and ask to learn from them. Jasmine Star has a wonderful approach to finding a mentor. Rather than asking someone to help you, first offer to help them.
I found my first photography mentor by asking a local wedding photographer if she needed an assistant at any weddings. I carried her bags and assisted her at a few weddings, all the while soaking in everything I could about how she conducted herself on a wedding day, how she shot, and how she ran her business. We would sit down for coffee every few weeks and she would answer any of my questions, as a thank you for assisting her. Oftentimes these relationships can lead to second shooting gigs later on.
Want to Photograph Weddings? Start Second Shooting
One of the hardest things about starting a wedding photography business is booking your first wedding. You want to photograph weddings? Great. Any bride who wants to hire a wedding photographer is probably going to ask to see a portfolio of other weddings you have photographed. The best way to build up this portfolio is to second shoot for other wedding photographers. I second shot for multiple wedding seasons before I went off on my own as a wedding photographer.
Not only is second shooting a great way to build up your portfolio, it’s also a great way to gain wedding experience without all the pressure of being the lead photographer. Second shooting is a great way to work with and learn from other photographers. Soak in all the information you can: the tips and tricks each photographer uses, and how each individual photographer runs a wedding day. Everyone is different, and I’ve learned so much from second shooting.
Fun fact: All of the photos on this post were taken second shooting for the fabulous Taylor Kinzie Photography! She took me on a wedding in Yosemite this fall, and it was beyond magical!
Here’s a photo of me, Taylor and the couple!
This industry is one of collaboration and helping each other out. Network and meet other photographers. Go to photographer meet up groups. Network with non-photographers as well: florists, makeup artists, food vendors… anyone who may ever need a photographer. If you’re trying to build up your name in an area, it can be a good idea to offer to photograph for other vendors within your world (for example, florists and makeup artists if you’re in the wedding world). If they like your work, they may recommend you next time one of their clients needs a photographer! Remember—offer to help others out. It’ll come back to you eventually.
Use Social Media
Social media is the best friend of any photographer in 2017. Instagram is a HUGE source of photography publicity and I get many of my clients off of Instagram. It’s a platform built for photo sharing, so why not leverage it to your advantage? Facebook is a great platform to use as well. Whenever you photograph someone, you can post it on Facebook (with their consent- I always have my clients sign a model release form) and tag them in it. This is free advertising—all their friends will see the photo, and if they ever want photos they will know who to go to!
I recommend establishing a social media page for your business, for example I am Kylie Nic Photography on Facebook. This way, you can post and update as you’re shooting. I get many inquiries through my facebook page.
Set Up a Website
We’re in the digital age, so any portfolio that photographers of yesteryear would have had are now housed on a website. Your website is your home, and your place to look your best to potential clients. Keep your website updated with your best work to attract your ideal client. You can have pages on your website that talk about your philosophy as a photographer, how you conduct business, your pricing, etc. For more information on websites, check out my post on branding here.