It wasn’t long ago when I was asking myself the question of how to start a photography business with no experience.
I was still pretty fresh out of college.
I studied commercial photography at my local trade school and got my degree in 2 years.
After finishing school, I got a few short-lived photography jobs that made my parents happy. But jobs that didn’t give me much experience.
Fast forward 5 years & 2 kids later.
After being a stay at home Mom for 3 years, I got the itch to start my own portrait photography business.
I had zero clue what I was doing.
I didn’t have any experience.
I never even took any portraits in school.
Yet, I was determined to open a portrait business so that I could earn some extra money while being able to stay at home with my kids.
So, I enthusiastically started learning everything that I could.
From what editing software to use, posing tips, and lighting suggestions. I buckled down and started soaking everything up that I could like a sponge.
The only issue was: I still didn’t know how to start a photography business.
I fumbled along for many years trying to figure it out.
I “marketed” the best way that I could with the knowledge (or lack thereof) that I had.
I tried to gain a sense of who I was and the clients that I served.
And I made a whole lot of mistakes. Both behind the camera and as a business owner.
If could go back in time and do it all over again, I probably would, only because that is how I learned to become a better business owner.
Making mistakes is what helped me grow as a photographer and a person.
And now? I can book sessions with a flick of the wrist and without any hesitation for my clients.
I can fully book my calendar and earn a sizeable income as a part-time photographer because I have set up my business like a well-oiled machine.
But, that took me YEARS to get to the point where I could start doing that.
If you don’t have years to waste like I did, then it might be more practical to learn from the mistakes that I made instead.
These are the things that I recommend all beginners to keep in mind when they are wanting to start a photography business from scratch.
Lay out your photography business
I am talking about the foundation of your business and getting all of your ducks in a row.
Making your business legal and setup to be able to collect payment from your clients should be your TOP priority.
Things to consider when starting a business:
What you need in order to start a business depends on your location. Ask a local attorney, CPA, or government official to help you get started.
- Tax ID number
- Business registration
- Vendor license
- Legal tax Paperwork
- Client contracts approved by a local attorney
- Business insurance
Don’t sit on this. Even if you’re not making any money yet.
The last thing that you want happening is starting to become more and more busy and putting this stuff off. It’s not a smart business choice, so make it your priority to get it done so you won’t have to worry about it
Build your Portfolio
This one might seem like a no-brainer, but a lot of people try to start a business without having one. Or having a strong one.
Before starting your business, having a portfolio for others to view your work is critical.
A portfolio allows your prospective clients to view your work before they hire you. After all, if they are going to hand over their money to pay you for your services, they should know the type of work that you do.
A portfolio also helps others to recognize your style, which is an important factor as a photographer. The way you light your subjects, how you pose them, and the settings that you choose, are all important factors when it comes to having a strong portfolio.
Not sure where to start?
My favorite way to build a portfolio fast (while getting paid) is through model calls. With my first model call, I made over $2,800 with only 2 clients following this method. Since then, it’s become my favorite way to test out new styles & locations WHILE getting paid.
If you need to start making money with your photography business while building your portfolio, consider running a few model call sessions.
Nail down your photography business niche
This one is also a key factor when starting your photography business because it helps to distinguish yourself in the industry.
I hate to break it to you, but you won’t stand out from the sea of photographers if you don’t have a niche.
So, what’s a niche?
Simply put, it’s your area of expertise and the types of photo sessions that you mainly focus on.
Photography business niche examples:
- personal branding
- lifestyle / documentary
Not only will having a niche help you stand apart from the crowd, but it will help potential clients find you because they will be seeking you out.
If you have no idea what your niche is or what it should be, don’t fret!
The beauty of building your portfolio, especially if you’re utilizing model calls, is to get a feel for what type of genres that you enjoy. Over time, you’ll be able to nail down your niche based off the types of photos that you want to be taking.
And if you already know what type of photos light you up & you’d like to make a business out of, then you’re one step ahead of the game.
Create a marketing plan for your photography business
Now that you have your legal matters set up, a portfolio ready to be showcased, and a niche that you’ve decided on, now it’s time to find some clients.
This is where having a marketing strategy comes into play.
Without having a plan of where you’ll find your clients, how can you expect your business to grow?
I won’t lie, this is the part about having a photography business where most people fail.
You can be the best photographer in the world, but if you don’t know how to get the word out about your services, then you’re not going to make money.
This is where I suggest photographers who are serious about building a profitable business spend their time & money learning this stuff.
All the fancy cameras, lenses, lighting equipment, and gadgets won’t matter if you can’t turn a profit.
So, where do you start with marketing your photography business?
Here’s a few resources that I recommend:
1 page-marketing plan. This book is an amazing resource to help you get thinking about marketing. Not only does it show you the basics, it can help you map out a simple plan to grow your business quicker. For the price of this book, it’s worth at least 10 times that.
15 ways to market your photography business. If you want to see success in your business, apply at LEAST 5 of these marketing streams into your strategy.
Fully Booked. Ready to take your business up a notch? These marketing playbooks detail everything you need to know in order to launch a successful business. These are the exact strategies that I have used in my business to go from barely earning to fully booked and turning clients away.
Experience comes with Practice
At the end of the day, experience comes with practice. Even if you’re a beginner and have zero idea where to start, you WILL get these in time when you start taking those first steps.
Use the tips above to start your business journey and just get started.
Because your business won’t bloom & grow unless you take that first step.