Have you always had the talent to click the perfect picture and the people around you always suggest you become a photographer? Well, maybe it’s time you give it a shot! Pun intended.
We all have contemplated turning our hobbies into business at one point in our life. But we never know how to do it or where to start. If your hobby or passion is capturing the world around you in beautiful pictures, and you want to do this more seriously, then this article is written for you.
In this article, we will discuss a guideline on how to become a successful photographer by building a business out of it. We have listed down all the necessary steps and broken down the process of starting your very own business.
You might assume it’s just a camera and raw talent that is needed to set up a business, however, there’s quite a lot more that goes into turning a dream into a successful venture. A business has many aspects that need to be taken care of.
Starting a Photography Business Checklist
Having an idea and building a brand are two different things. Turning your idea into a brand is what a successful business should be able to do. Don’t get disheartened though, it is possible and we are here to help. Here is a checklist of all the things you will need to get started.
Initiation: A business is really just a solid plan
For many people, the hardest and the biggest hurdle is knowing where to begin?
Start with a plan. If you want to take pictures as a hobby and for a few events only, then going to buy a camera is your first move. But we are talking about starting a photography business.
So, before you run to the store for all the fancy camera equipment you need a proper business plan. A business plan is basically the future goals and a strategy that will help you accomplish those goals from your business. Follow this link for more details on the business plan.
Make a proper timeline of what you want to achieve in the first few months of your business. Set out a list of actions you plan to do to help achieve your goals. This is the roadmap for your business.
Ask any business person for advice, and they will first ask you- what’s your plan? Having a proper plan will help make your business journey easier and well organized. You will also gain more trust from people you want to partner with. Every other step that follows from this point on is in some way dependent on the business plan. A successful business has to have a great foundation, and you can only get that with the right start.
Once you have a fair idea of what you want to achieve, then you can go out and get the tools that will help you achieve the aforementioned goals.
The Camera: A business needs resources
The most important tool you will need to start a photography business is a good-quality camera. You might already have one that you have mastered and take amazing pictures with. If not, you will have to look for a camera that will best suit your abilities and your business needs.
To get started on this, you must first do your research. Look up the best cameras in your budget and read people’s reviews on them before investing. One good practice would be to consult other fellow photographers to know what camera has the best performance and what the professionals are suggesting.
Do proper homework and research as this is a big investment and a core element for your services. A good camera, even in the hands of an amateur, will produce amazing pictures, while an unsuitable lens can ruin even the best of the photographer’s images! Some of the top preferred brands by photographers are Sony, Fujifilm, Canon, Nikon to name a few.
Looking through models of these brands could be your start. Apart from the camera, you will also need camera accessories like a tripod, a few extra batteries and memory cards. You will also need a few camera lenses, this will depend on the kind of photography you want to do. This information should be in your plan.
For example, your choice of lens for shooting a wedding and shooting a concert will be different. If you also want to work with videos, which many clients have come to expect nowadays, you’ll also need an external mic.
With the camera and the right equipment in hand, you can go about offering your services. But a sure shot way to increase credibility for your business is to get professional experience.
Even if you have a pure talent for photography. You will run into some clients that could want a credible background. Having professional experience also helps in building the brand and having a professional edge.
Find opportunities to work with other professionals, or take a photography advanced class, and add that to your portfolio. A talented and credible photographer with the perfect camera and a business dream can go a long way.
Editing Tools: Taking shots vs. Making photographs
With your camera in hand, you can set out to click amazing pictures for your clients. But no professional photographer ever hands over raw files to their customers. Taking the picture is only half the work. To deliver the pictures to your customers you will need to edit the pictures to perfection. Editing also helps customize your end products as per your customer’s requests.
To start your photography journey you must first be well aware of some of the available editing software. The app used by most editors and with the best reviews is applications by Adobe which are Lightroom and Photoshop.
You can find other editing tools as well. We suggest you try a few and see which is most comfortable for your style of editing. You also need a computer that is powerful enough to run the software.
Another thing to keep in mind is the premium features that are available in these applications. The best way to go about this is to purchase the whole package of editing software so that you can utilize every aspect and don’t have to compromise anywhere.
However, if you are on a tight budget or are only trying out photography as a side hustle rather than your sole income source, you should test out the free version and see if that satisfies your editing needs and then only decide if you want to go forward with the full version.
Whichever version you choose depends on your needs at the initiation of your business. But make sure you do have an editing tool ready for use and you can navigate in it to meet your client’s deadlines.
Backup and Cloud Storage: Better safe than sorry
Becoming a professional means managing every aspect of your business efficiently. From your tools to your clients and even your data. Getting the perfect picture does not happen in a single click, you need to click multiple pictures for one shot to turn out great, multiply that with every different pose and the span of an event.
One day of shooting leaves you with thousands of pictures that will take up all your camera memory. Having no backup space to store all this data would mean disaster for your business. So you need to figure out where you will store all your work and also keep a backup of every file. This is necessary not only for the storage but also to prepare for any file loss situation.
Though the advances of the digital world have given us many advantages, it comes with drawbacks as well. All of us have been through a situation where we have ‘mistakenly’ deleted our files or lost a good amount of pictures.
There is no room for error when you are running a business, your clients might lose their data, but you must be prepared with a backup file. Being prepared for every situation and planning for any scenario is what makes a good business.
Some good websites to back up your files and store your data are Backblaze, Drobo, Crashplan, Google Drive and Dropbox. You can find a lot more websites as options. A good choice would be to pay for unlimited storage, you will most likely be charged a monthly fee. For long-term use, that cost will become a business cost.
Having unlimited cloud storage is very important as it helps you clear out your hard drive which in turn helps your devices work faster for editing and working on other tasks. Having storage in the cloud also means you don’t have to keep purchasing hard drives and you are safe from any physical damage to your computer or hard drives. The management of your files also becomes way easier and quicker.
Branding: Who are you and why should anyone care?
You have set up all the things you need for your business. You have the talent for it, you have the camera for it, you have even purchased all the necessary software and apps. But you still haven’t gotten any customers or are not growing as you had hoped? This is when you should set up an online brand and start marketing your business.
In the digital age, a website is more important than a physical office. When someone hears that you have your own business they will ask to see your online presence. Clients want to see all the details and samples of your work before hiring you. So, having a legit website is a must.
Websites building tools like Squarespace or Wix make things very easy. These tools have readily available templates and formats that you can modify at any time. Make use of these tools to help set up your shop.
With your website set up, you should also focus on other aspects of your digital presence. You need to build your brand online through social media and content creation. These days you can display your portfolio through your social media handles and reach millions of people around the globe.
Use this to your advantage. Get to know the trends, hop on it and stay relevant so you can build a brand for the new generation. However, while focusing on the new generation, don’t forget the best tools of the old world- make a nice business card to hand out to people you meet.
These are some of the aspects that can go into bulking your brand and marketing your business. You will learn more as you go through your business and keep expanding.
Client Management: Now these people are your best friends.
Your business is not only composed of your hobby of taking pictures, there is a human element to it. You will have to deal with and manage clients and customers regularly. You will get new clients and recurring clients, you will have to manage a lot of information and data from the clients.
Their address, photo specification, payments plans, details, price, product requirement, follow-up emails. It might get a little confusing and disorganized if you do all this on paper. And who does anything on paper in this day and age?
There is proper client management software that can help you build a proper network and manage it like the pro! Some of the useful software and websites you can browse for this purpose are Keap, Honeybook, Zendesk, and Zoho. However, many professionals also find the good old MS-Excel or any other spreadsheet to be capable enough to handle such information.
These systems will help you better communicate with your clients, Set up your business standard from the get-go, sign contracts, and maintain professional communication and standard with your partners.
Funding and Financing: Money needs money
Planning your money is as important as the camera itself. You need to plan what your budget is gonna be and how you are going to finance it. If you are doing it on your own, you should plan everything, from budget to start and to run the business. If you can’t fund it alone, you should go out and find investors and get your financing sorted.
You can crowdsource or pitch your idea to family and friends. They are going to be your first source of funds. If you have a friend or an acquaintance who also likes photography, you could also partner up. Finding money, in the beginning, is going to be more challenging, but if you can survive and build a good list of customers, people will be willing to invest their money in your venture.
Without a budget, you can’t go about buying a camera or any other useful tools we have mentioned before. So figuring out your budget and your plan could be a start to everything.
Along the same lines as managing your finances, you will also have to plan your pricing. A photography business is a competitive business, so you will have to set a competitive price that will still keep you at a profit. Before you start taking clients, plan out and be clear about the types of services you provide and the prices you charge. Do you have packages and how much do you charge for overtime?
You also need to know the market rate for your services. In the beginning, you may have this urge to undersell yourself to land some clients, while charging a little less, in the beginning, is okay, but don’t do it for too little. If you do, then you will have trouble explaining your prices when you want to charge the market rate for your services.
So, keep your prices around what the current market price is in your region. You can offer cheaper services by giving a discount for festivals and different seasons to help in the marketing aspect.
The Legal Side: Gotta do it right!
When opening a business, even if you are doing it on your own and on a small scale, you should keep the legality in mind. When you have clients and payments and contacts about any type of work you should be legally ready to deal with any citation that might arise.
This is for the benefit of your business as well as to safeguard any of your finances. You can get a short-term lawyer to help you set up the business and get started or if you have the budget for it, hire a lawyer to manage all your legality.
Though this is very confusing in the beginning, you need to get it sorted and safeguard yourself and your business. Most cities and councils have services to help you set up a business, and will help you with the paperwork as well. This is very important. This will make your business legitimate.
This is the best practice for any business owner and legality will eventually come into play when there are finances involved. Legality is also crucial in the photography business because your products are your intellectual property.
Networking and Growth: It takes people
Though you may start small and on your own, you eventually want your business to grow into something big, something significant. For this, you need to delve into networking and expanding your business.
A successful mantra to get new and bigger clients in business is networking. Whenever you are on the job at any venue, keep an eye out for future potential clients, or even investors and partners.
The possibilities are endless. Not only while working, but you must actively seek out networking opportunities, maybe it’s joining photography clubs or attending events hosted by local photography groups. You should learn how to network your business and help spread the word about your brand. This is an excellent way of expanding your business.
So here is your checklist with detail for starting your own photography business. This might seem overwhelming but take it one step at a time. Remember, a good business is a good plan that is put into action.
Building a brand does not happen in a day, it takes patience and perseverance to build a business out of an idea.