Starting a photography business can seem so overwhelming. There are a million things to do and learn equipment and editing techniques to master. Then you step back and wonder if you’re even doing any of it right, or are you wasting time and money on things that don’t matter in the long run. I get it I was there once. It’s completely overwhelming! I got really hung up on making sure I was doing things right. While I did a lot right, I also got stuck in research mode and didn’t actually do anything to move my business forward. Have no fear, my friend today. I’m flipping back to my business’s early days and sharing the five things I got right when it came to starting my photography business. Tackle these things and you’ll up and running in no time, already checked some items off the list, way to go, keep up the good work!
When you first get your camera you want to Practice practice practice on your friends, your family, your dog, it’s what everyone does when they get a camera. But there comes the point when you decide you are going to turn this into a business. You are going to exchange photos, whether digital or prints, for cash money! That’s awesome that’s amazing you are about to enter the world of entrepreneurship its fun, its exciting, its scary sometimes. But to make that transaction, ya gotta make it official with your state! That means legally creating your business. I highly suggest getting your LLC, limited liability company, especially if you are going to be photographing people of any kind.
An LLC is set up to protect you. If heaven forbid something crazy were to happen, and you lost all the photos from a wedding, or someone got bit by a snake and died after you told them to stand in tall grass, and a client decided to sue you, they could only go after the business and not things like your house or other assets. For more information on LLCs and to learn what an article of organization is head to episode 18, where I sat down with Paige, the lead attorney at shop creative law .com oh and grab a pen because Paige shared so much in that episode you will want to take notes!
Each state is a little different on the paperwork required to create your LLC, but a quick search on google will get you started in the right direction. Don’t be afraid to call your state, too, with any questions you may have!
Once you have your business all squared away with the state, its time to figure out precisely what you want to photograph, what you want to be known for photographing. This is called finding your niche. Your niche is basically a narrowing your focus. You could be a newborn photographer, but you could niche down to a lifestyle newborn photographer who only shoots in clients’ homes. You could be a wedding photographer who loves photographing tattooed brides, or maybe a beach destination wedding photographer. By narrowing in on your niche, you can be extremely specific of who your ideal client is. When you really nail down who your ideal client is, you can stop screaming to the masses and speaking to the heart of the people you are here to serve with your talent and creativity.
I did a deep dive into finding your niche back in episode 2, but here are the basics to consider when you are trying to find your niche. First, it’s okay to not know right off the bat what you want to specialize in. I’m guessing you change your mind a few times, deciding on what you wanted to be when you grew between the time you were five and now. You may need to try a few things to figure out what you like and what you don’t like. If you think weddings might be your thing, then second shoot some. If you want to try food photography, try it. Remember you don’t have to share every single image you take, you are allowed to try things make mistakes.
Once you find a subject you like to shoot, start to narrow in on how you can carve out your own niche in the market. When you get to identify your ideal client, you want to get crystal clear on who that person is and who they are not. Then you have the opportunity to start gearing your marketing and branding to speak directly to them instead of screaming into the crowd, hoping anyone will hire you!
I started pulling out the best images from ever shoot I shot and uploading them to an online gallery title portfolio. This did a few things for me. First, it gave me a sudden confidence boost because I got to see all of my best work in one spot. I got to see how I was growing as an artist. I was able to look back on images and see what I did right and where I could improve. This was almost a way of tracking my progress. Ya know when you start working out the tell you to take before and after photos. As human beings, we thrive on achieving goals. We get a nice little hit of dopamine, the happiness hormone when we achieve something. Research has proved time and time again that we are at our happiest when we are improving. By keeping all your portfolio images in one spot instead of scattered around, you are able to see that progress.
Another thing you can do is see if there is anything you want to add to your portfolio. Take a step back and see what is missing. Do you always use the same two poses, maybe you need to focus on learning more poses to create a more diversified gallery for your clients? When you take that step back and see something is missing, you have an opportunity to plan a portfolio building photoshoot. These shoots are designed to help you learn and grow as an artist. You can use them to brush off the dust at the beginning of a new season or practice a new technique if you are interested in learning more about how you can get strategic in planning and executing portfolio building photoshoots tune into episode 28!
I started using a client management software, or CRM I started using one almost right out of the gate, and it made me feel and act like I had a legit business. Nearly a year ago, I switched companies and switched to Honeybook. It took me a while to make the decision to change since I had so much data stored with my other provider, but Honeybook made it super simple!
Whatever client management system you decide to go with, it should be capable of these things at a minimum.
Honeybook checks all of these boxes, plus it is super easy to customize with your branding colors and elements to provide your clients with a polished and professional look!
Honeybook has a special offer for listeners of The Wise Photographer Podcast. You can get 50% off your first year of honeybook by going to honeybookwithchelsy.com
Did you know I was in business for two years before I upgraded to a full-frame camera? Yep! I did invest in a couple of full-frame lenses before I upgraded my body, but I wanted to absolutely master my camera before I upgraded. This meant I had to learn how to shoot in manual mode. You can not fully become a photographer of any kind if you can not master the basics of shooting in manual.
I use to take my camera and go for a walk around the house, making sure to go into different lighting situations. I would go from dark to light and back again, practicing finding my settings quickly. Now my camera is an extension of my hand almost. I can set my settings before I even take a single test shot. But it took a lot of practice to get to that point. Don’t rely on auto ISO or aperture priority; make it a goal to learn how to shoot in full manual everywhere you go. Get to know your camera like the back of your hand. A camera is only as powerful as the person holding it.
I promise when you finally figure it out and really understand how you can use your settings and manipulate them to take this idea for a photo and turn it into a real photo, you will be ecstatic. It’s like unlocking this secret. It’s incredible and wonderful and gives you the ability to stretch yourself as an artist, so you can propel your business forward leaps and bounds!
You guys, that was so much fun taking a look back down memory lane to the early days in my business. I didn’t do everything right, I made some mistakes, but these five things really set me up for long-term success. They helped me get a jump on my business, and I hope these items will do the same for you! If just started or you’re thinking about starting your own business, grab this free download the 12 things you need to start a photography business. You can get your copy by going to the show notes below.