Here are some things you Need to Know when Starting out in Photography.
1. You’re not a machine - Don’t be tempted to Overbook Yourself.
Once things really start to pick up with your business or if you are doing a ton of free sessions to start out and get your name out there, don’t overbook yourself. This will lead to burn out and sometimes taking a break can prove to be the best thing you can do. Taking a break gives you time to rest and recover and reflect. Everyone needs Rest or you will actually go insane, you need to recover from the hours you’ve already spent editing and communicating with clients. This means take time for yourself watch your favourite show or go to bed early. Reflect on everything you’ve learned during your sessions, figure out what things you liked and what you need to change for the next session. Think about how you spoke to your clients and how you communicated with them before and after your session.
At some point you may find that you’ve booked way too many sessions that you’re losing track of who you photographed and which photos belong to which client. This is a terrible spot to be in and it makes you look super unprofessional. If you have a ton of demand like this, it’s time to start charging or significantly up your prices.
Keep in mind too that you don’t just need time to shoot, you also need time to edit and if it’s taking you a significantly long time to give your clients their edited images, you’re either overbooking yourself or not committing enough time to editing and customer service.
2. Don’t think you can edit everything out.
One of the hardest lessons for any new photographer to learn is that you can’t just shoot and worry about it later. You’ll notice something during your session, and rather than move that piece of hair or move your subject so that there isn’t an annoying car or fence in the background, you’ll say to yourself “I’ll remove it in post”. You get home, upload your images and start editing, you realize that it’s not as easy to remove those distractions as you once thought and now you’ve spent countless hours working on the same image. Yes, you’ll learn how to edit by doing this, but you’ll also cause yourself a lot of unnecessary stress, especially if you had promised your client that you would remove or add something to the image.
If you notice something that doesn’t look right when you’re shooting, don’t be afraid to ask your model or client if you can adjust their hair or if you can move to a different location, you’ll thank yourself later.
3. Buy A Camera - Not the Best, Not the Worst.
When you start a business you’ll need to invest money, but that doesn’t mean taking out loans or borrowing money from everyone you know. Save money from the job you currently have and buy yourself a camera, start there. If you’ve never picked up a camera in your life, you’ll want to go with a cheap option to see if you even like Photography. If you are familiar with how a camera works, you’ll want to go with something in the middle ground. For example. If you’re starting out if you’re completely unfamiliar with a camera or are unsure if you even want to start a business, I’d recommend something in the Canon Rebel line. If you are looking for a more intermediate experience, I’d recommend starting off with something in the mid Canon line, such as the Canon 80D or an older model. When you’re experienced with photography and you’ve started to make money, It’s a great idea to invest in mirrorless or A higher end Full Frame Camera, such as the Canon 6D, Canon 5D Mk4, or the Canon R6.
When you’re just starting out don’t spend all of your money on equipment before you have experience. Find a Camera that suits your needs. If you want a camera that shoots RAW go to a midline camera.
4. Understand that it will take time.
Your Photography business won’t be a success overnight. Depending on where you live, you might have to work hard for years before you see any financial payoff. For most photography businesses it can easily take 3-5 years depending on your genre of photography to have a consistent client base and before you’re able to have an income that you can rely on.
There is a ton of learning to do when you start your own business, especially for the first time. It can seem super overwhelming at first but eventually all of the pieces will fall into place. It’s helpful to create a list and check things off as you go.
Growing your business is going to take Long Nights and Fully Committing yourself to learning. Learning the business side of things is just as important as the technical side of things. You’ll need to take the time to research and you’ll need to take the time to go out and shoot. Shoot whatever you can. Eventually things will get easier and you will know your camera without having to constantly think about your settings. It’s like driving a car, it can take years to be a good confident driver who knows how to operate their vehicle without worrying about how to turn the wheel.
5. Find Your Genre
Every Genre of Photography will have a different average time period before you might see a profit. Some Photographers start off doing Weddings because its a guaranteed money maker but Weddings are a ton of work and if you’re not in love with shooting Weddings and you don’t have an amazing mentor, you can really burn yourself with client management. With Wedding clients, you may have to be available to them to answer questions and offer services for a Year or more. Some Couples are very picky and you have to know exactly where your boundaries are and how much work you’re able to take on. There is a lot of money involved with Weddings which means a lot of responsibility for you and making sure you have all your ducks in a row before you jump in.
The Genres that I wouldn’t recommend for anyone just starting out in Photography is anything to do with babies. When you work with a population that is incredibly vulnerable, you need to know what you’re doing with your camera first before you even think about touching a baby. If you really want to be a Newborn Photographer, take a class from a leading professional in the industry either online or in person. Learn Newborn Safety and don’t attempt any pose such as froggy until you’ve mastered everything else.
Sub Genres that fall into Newborn Photography include: Birth Photography and Fresh 48 Sessions. Both of these types of photography include a lot of on call time and knowledge about how to shoot in low lighting situations. With Birth you need to be comfortable with the process and know how to document without getting in the way.
For those Just starting out, I would start with Portraits - Adults and Teens, Landscape and Pets. None of these genres will prove profitable right away but they will provide you with amazing experience and knowledge before you go to take on a different genre if that’s what you want to do. With Any Genre, they come with their own concerns and complications, but if you find Joy in one Genre, stick with it and grow.
6. Charge your clients appropriately.
Creating Packages can be overwhelming but also a super fun part of the job. You have to decide how much you’re willing to give for what you need to make based on your Cost Of Doing Business. Like your packages, your CODB will evolve and change over time. Things that you must account for when pricing your work are:
- How Much time is it going to take you to shoot and edit.
- What are your Studio Expenses? - Electricity, Rent, Heat, Internet
- How much have you invested into your business?
- How much do you need to cover your personal expenses? Rent, Gas, Heat…
- What are your Administrative Expenses? Paper, Ink, Pens.
- What about business services? Accountant, Online Gallery Services, Website Hosting, Marketing.
There are many factors that play a part in how much you should charge for your work. Don’t undervalue yourself, but also when you’re just starting out don’t overvalue yourself either. Watch what other photographers in your area charge to find your ball park. After you’ve had some experience you can absolutely charge more for your work. Be Mindful and Self Aware with your pricing. Only you can price your work. You need to feel confident and understand your worth and how much you need to earn to make things work for you. This might mean starting on the lower end of your CODB and doing more sessions to make up the difference, or it could mean not charging until your work is exactly where you want it for the price you need to be paid. Another way to go about it is to Charge Exactly what you need and be confident in your work.
You will never have a successful business if you’re not meeting your basic financial needs.
7. Be Prepared for People to Not Understand
This is a big one. Be Prepared for some clients to not understand why you’re priced the way you are, why you can’t edit out someone from a photo, why you can’t edit another photographer’s work. Be prepared for that one client who wants their photos edited the same day or who doesn’t understand why they have to sign your contract.
Talking to clients gets easier with practice and the more you understand your business the easier it will get. It’s about educating your clients by explaining exactly how your process works and the reasons behind every decision you make.
It never feels good to say no but you have to sometimes so that you don’t end up promising things that you can’t possible follow through on.
Be Prepared for your family to not understand or be the most supportive when you first start out. Unless you’ve been committed to photography your entire life, they may not understand your seemingly sudden interest. Part of the reason for their hesitation might be because roughly half of photographers who start out, they end up quitting within their first year of business. If you keep at it and are fully committed to your business and providing an amazing service to your clients. If you really care about improving your work, your loved ones will understand that this is important to you and they’ll be happy to watch you succeed.
8. Compare your work to Others.
This advice may seem contrary to everything you’ve been told before, but how will you grow if you don’t learn from other photographers. Especially in the very beginning, not every image you create will be a masterpiece. Sometimes the best thing you can do is watch what other photographers do, learn their techniques, learn how they create their images so that you can one day create equally beautiful images. Don’t let it discourage you if you can’t achieve the same results with your images, they’ve been at it a lot longer than you have and they’ve had the opportunity to invest in education and better equipment. One day you will get to their level too.
The best part of comparing your work is that you get to create goals for yourself and watch yourself achieve those goals. Whether it’s Editing, Shooting, or Client Communications.
9. Find Yourself a Good Mentor or A Photography Friend
Having someone in your corner to teach you the ropes is invaluable. They will teach you so much about how to be a professional in this industry, even if you photograph different genres. If you can’t find anyone to mentor you, definitely find someone in the industry who would be a valuable friend to you. Meaning that you and your friend have open communication to talk about things going on in your business and theirs. If you’re having a rough day with a client or a particular image its always good to have someone to talk to that completely understands the same struggles and hopefully they can offer you advise on how to handle the situation.
We are all independent business owners which means we don’t have a boss or a higher-up telling us what to do and what not to do. We don’t have anyone setting company policies, we have to do that ourselves. If something happens in your friend’s business that you never thought of, its a great opportunity to add something in your contract before it happens to you.
At the End of the Day we all are learning from Each other. There is more information out there now than ever before when it comes to learning the art of photography and business. If this is something you really want to do and you’re committed to it, you can do it. You can make it.