- Things You Do That Are Ruining Your Photography Business
- How to Set Up a Photography Business Step-By-Step
- 4 Facts About Being a Photographer You Need to Hear
- 7 Things You Need to Know to Succeed in the Photography Business
Starting out on any of life's journeys can be a mixture of excitement and terror.
Venturing out on your own and starting a photographing business is no exception...
The problem, of course, is that most of us that try to get a photography business off the ground fail spectacularly.
And while there's plenty of reasons why businesses fail, a common culprit is simply not understanding what you're getting into.
With that in mind, consider this list of 21 misconceptions about starting a business as a way for you to avoid what not to do.
You Think You Can Work Whenever You Want.
The reality is that you work when your clients want you to work.
If you want weekends off, don't become a wedding photographer.
If you only want to photograph landscapes in the summer, don't become a landscape photographer.
If you think that your maternity clients will agree to your desired schedule, think again.
You get the point...being a self-employed photographer is much more like a 9-5 job than you might think.
You Think You Don't Need Help
Yes, you do.
Whether it's a second shooter to help you at weddings, an assistant to answer phone calls and keep your calendar organized, or an accountant to do your books, you definitely need help.
And that's just scratching the surface...
Many photographers also have attorneys, website people, social media gurus, and so forth.
You won't be able to afford a huge team like that when you're just starting out, but a good helper to start with is a business advisor, attorney, or accountant who can help you set up your business in a logical, effective, and legal manner.
You Think That Lots of Likes on Instagram Means You're Ready for Prime Time
Nothing against Instagram, but getting tons of likes on your photos isn't exactly a good bellwether for being a good photographer.
By that, I mean that I've seen plenty of terrible photos on Instagram that had an obscene number of likes.
If it's feedback you're after, ask an expert - an experienced photographer, for example.
Alternatively, you can take a class to learn specific skills and get feedback from the teacher.
Another option is to join a photography website (like ours!) and participate in the forums, where you can post and share your photos for critical feedback from photographers.
When you start wowing people in the industry with your images, then you know that it's time for the big leagues.
You Think That Being a Natural Light Photographer Means You Don't Need Lighting Gear
You can be a natural light photographer all you want, but the notion that that precludes you from having artificial lighting gear and knowing how to use it is nonsense.
Natural light photographers are a dime a dozen, even though it seems like they're everywhere.
Not every photo shoot will have ideal lighting, nor does every subject call for natural lighting.
So, get outfitted with some flashguns, strobes, light stands, diffusers, and so forth, because you'll need them!
You Think You Can Build Your Portfolio Once and Be Done With It
Don't think of your portfolio as a one-and-done sort of deal.
Instead, think of it as a living document that requires constant updating.
The photos you have in your portfolio right now might not be representative of your work six months down the road.
With that in mind, keep a constant eye on your portfolio and curate the images contained therein. Include only your best work, because your portfolio is often your first impression on clients.
You Think You Can Charge Whatever You Want
Though technically you can set your prices at whatever you please, the market will force you to adjust them.
That is, if you charge $10,000 for a wedding package and you've yet to shoot your first wedding, you'll be waiting for that first gig for a long, long time.
You'll have the freedom to raise your prices as you gain experience and get positive reviews from your clients.
Until then, be realistic about your pricing strategy, and if you aren't getting many clients, bite the bullet and lower your prices!
Get some more insights about what to charge (and other issues for new photographers) in the video above by Jessica Whitaker.
You Think If You Charge $100 Per Hour, You Make $100 Per Hour
Similar to the previous point, this isn't exactly how things work.
Sure, you can charge $100 per hour, but that's not what your take-home pay will be.
You have to think about your overhead - rent, insurance, office supplies, salary for your employees, and so forth - and deduct those expenses from your gross income.
Instead of working backwards from a price per hour, work forwards to a price per hour.
In other words, sit down and figure out all your expenses, how much you'd like to take home in terms of pay, and work forward from there to determine your prices.
Just remember - your prices can't be whatever you want, so come up with something reasonable that customers will be likely to pay.
You Think One Camera is Enough
I'm not saying that you need two Nikon D850s, but you certainly need more than one camera body.
If something happens to one camera, having a backup will help you avoid disaster.
The same goes for lenses, tripods, batteries, memory cards, and other essential gear.
You Think Happy Clients Will Give You Referrals
Just because a client is happy with their photos, doesn't mean they'll jump on Yelp and leave you a glowing review.
Often, you'll need to ask them to leave you a review or ask them to recommend you to friends.
It's not that they don't want to do it, it's just not something a lot of customers - even the happy ones - will think to do on their own.
So, if you want to build a good reputation for your photography, be frank and simply ask your clients to give you a shoutout.
You Think There's No Such Thing as Bad Publicity
A couple of bad reviews from disgruntled or dissatisfied clients, and you might find that your appointment book has a lot of empty spaces.
Not every client is going to be in love with the photos you take or be in love with working with you, for that matter.
All you can do is do your best to rectify any issues before the client leaves you negative feedback online.
If a bad review is left, don't panic, though.
Respond to the negative feedback and be polite, courteous, and genuine, offering to discuss how you can make things better.
You might find that a dissatisfied client comes around and becomes a happy client if you offer to work things out.
You Think a Website is All You Need to Get Clients
A website is important, but it's only part of the marketing puzzle that you'll need to solve as a photography business owner.
You also need a social media presence, perhaps a blog and a YouTube channel as well.
Traditional forms of marketing like a business card or ads in the local paper are usually a must, too.
But the most important kind of marketing is word of mouth, and the only way to get clients to rave about you to their friends and family is if you are fun to work with, do a great job, and make your clients feel special.
Oh, and like I mentioned earlier, you'll also need to ask your clients to give those rave reviews out!
You Think You Don't Need to Network
Networking might be an old-fashioned way of drumming up business, but it works.
The more people you know in your area, the more connections you have for finding more clients.
What's more, if you network with other photographers, they might throw business your way (i.e., if they can't book a wedding, maybe they'll recommend you).
Learn more about networking in the video above by Simeon Quarrie.
You Think You Need a Fancy Website
I wouldn't recommend slumming it with your website, but you don't need to spend thousands of dollars on a custom-built site, either.
The likes of Squarespace and Wix is more than enough for you to create a nice-looking, functional website all on your own.
Often, you can work off an existing template, plug in your business name, address, and other details, upload your images, and be done with it in a few hours' time.
The money you save by doing your website yourself can go toward other important needs, like investing in good lenses or being able to afford an assistant.
You Think You're Just a Photographer
If you're going to make it in the photography business, the sooner you realize that you're a jack of all trades, the better.
You're the CEO, the marketing wizard, the customer affairs representative, and so much more.
You need to wear a ton of different hats - even if you have employees - and you need to be ready to spend the majority of your time not wearing your photographer's hat.
In other words, most days will be filled with tasks other than taking photos!
You Think Your Day Will Be Nothing But Taking Photos
As noted in the previous point, you'll have a lot of draws on your time each day, and unfortunately, many of them have nothing to do with being behind the lens.
For every hour you spend taking photos, you probably have at least that much time talking with clients, developing shot lists, editing photos, collecting payments, and so forth.
Just be prepared for a photography career in which actually taking photos takes up very little of your time.
You Think You Don't Need a Contract
This is a HUGE mistake.
If you're working for money, you need a contract, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
One mistake is all it takes for you to get sued, and without a contract, you're left wide open to all sorts of calamities.
If you're not sure how to draw up a contract, consult an attorney. It'll cost you some money, but it will save you in the long-run.
You Think That Because You Take Nice Photos, You'll Get Lots of Clients
Unfortunately, taking nice photos doesn't necessarily mean you'll have clients beating down your door.
With so many people throwing their hat into the photography ring these days, you'll face stiff competition for a finite number of clients.
So in addition to being a skilled and knowledgeable photographer, you need to find ways to differentiate yourself from all the other photographers in your area.
Find a niche, nail the marketing, build your portfolio, and you'll be better positioned to build a solid business.
You Think Facebook is Marketing Gold
Facebook is a great tool for business owners to promote their products and services.
But it's not the only thing that will get customers coming through the door.
As I mentioned earlier, just having a website won't cut it, and just having a Facebook page won't cut it, either.
You need to diversify how you market yourself if you want to see the green stuff in your bank account.
You Think People Skills are Optional
I know plenty of introverts that are wonderful, amazing people.
But they'd stink at being a photographer.
When you're behind the lens, your job is to make whoever is on the other side feel comfortable.
You can't do that if you're shy, quiet, and withdrawn.
To succeed in this business, you have to be able to win people over with your people skills!
You Think That Learning Photography Stops at Some Point
Quite the contrary...
A photographer that stops learning how to hone his or her craft is the one that will be out of business the first.
Whether it's learning a new composition trick, finding new ways to edit your photos, or brushing up on business-related things, your job as a learner will never be done.
You Think That Loving Photography Means You'll Love Being a Photographer
Taking photos for fun and being a professional photographer aren't necessarily the same thing.
As noted earlier, you have to wear many different hats and juggle a variety of daily tasks, many of which have nothing to do with pressing a shutter button.
Being in business for yourself is a lot of work, so if you think that taking photos for money will be as great as taking photos for fun, you might find yourself sorely disappointed.
Before you dive in and start a photography business of your own, see if you can work part-time, perhaps as a second shooter.
That will give you a taste of what photography is like from a business perspective without all the risk of starting one of your own.