“Many called, but few are chosen”.
Matthew may not be the patron saint of photographers, but this sentence remains true. Professional photography is one of the most competitive sectors. Every year, thousands of photography enthusiasts plan to turn their passion into money printing – or at least make it a profession they could live in. Do you know what that means? That if you want to reach the Nirvana of photography, your prayers will not be enough. You will have to define a clear strategy and implement it surely, armed with the right tools.
Fortunately, in addition to being your favourite community of photographers, we give you the best tips at every stage of your professional journey. Here are some steps to get started professionally (and successfully) in photography.
1. Make a business plan
In an ideal world, a philanthropist would come out of nowhere and offer you mountains of money to carry out the photo project you have been preparing for three years. You are not told to stop dreaming (never stop), only you can just as well take the lead. That’s why you have to build a business plan. Take matters into your own hands and show everyone around you that you have enough credibility to become a professional photographer. This does not mean that you must sell your soul to the devil along the way. There is a gap between the “commercial” and the “hobby”. It is between the two that you must find your place and flourish.
How exactly do you do it? First, list all your expenses, from licenses to exercise to insurance, to photo equipment and the cost of the studio if you need it. Secondly, list all the services you plan to offer, starting with the ones you have the best skills and experience for.
2. You know your value, set a price, but be fair
For each service, you choose to offer in your business plan, set a price. Depending on your sector, you will charge per project, per sale or based on an hourly rate. It is up to you to define how much your time and skills are worth and this depends on the types of customers you work for, and your previous experiences and reputation. It may not be easy to estimate your value in the market, so talk to other photographers on professional forums to get a quote on what they charge. Surf your colleagues’ sites in the area, and even try to call a few as a customer to get a quote. In the end, set your own prices, keeping this basic rule in mind: be ambitious but not dissuasive.
A mistake made by many photographers is taking into account only the time of the shooting. In fact, for each hour spent at an event, you will have to count at least two additional hours of photo editing. Or, take this deal, Picha Images offers a one-of-a-kind AI editing that edits photos in a jiffy. Talk to us.
3. Have an online portfolio
Once upon a time, photographers went from one customer appointment to another with a real book of their best shots. Today, all you have to do is open a tablet or smartphone, and enter your site address to impress your audience. Create a beautiful online portfolio, whether it’s a website or an account on Behance or Instagram!
4. Promote your new business
Part of the job, when starting a photography company (or any small business for that matter) is to create a brand identity. In addition to being an artist, you are a commercial entity. It is a psychological shift that you must make. From now on, this turning point will affect many decisions you make on a daily basis. For example, every new person you meet is now a potential customer, to whom you can possibly propose a photo session.
To help you act like a brand, you must shape your visual identity starting with the logo, which you will affix to each online and offline document that will include your name: book, business cards, invoices, emails, etc. We must be seen!
5. Be active on social networks
Just as your camera needs lenses to capture more items, your brand needs social networks to attract more eyeballs, and therefore more customers. Active pages on LinkedIn, Twitter or (and especially in your case) Instagram are essential when it comes to launching an activity. They will be used to create a community for you, that is, a group of people potentially interested in your services, or who know people who may be interested in your services. In addition, a well-crafted publication on social networks can be more effective and easy to achieve than an advertisement in a local magazine – while remaining completely free!
- Instagram: an absolute must for photographers and photo enthusiasts.
- Facebook: everyone is there, from your youngest customers to your grandma.
- LinkedIn: the number one professional network is also a perfect tool for looking for institutional customers, connecting with other professionals and feeling the pulse of the market.
- Twitter: As for the blue bird, well, I think it is not essential here. However, you can use it in your free time. It remains a plus and you will quickly get into the game of the tweetosphere!
6. Have a blog
A blog is an excellent marketing tool, which will give a great boost to your growing photography activity. What exactly does that mean? First, it will help you build your reputation as an expert, who knows the best practices of the profession. Secondly, a blog will allow your website to be ranked in a better position on Google results pages. Last but not least, the content created will attract an interesting community, which you can easily turn into enthusiastic customers.
7. Activate your networks
Immediately inform your friends and family of your decision to start outside the darkroom. Good old word of mouth is always effective in the first steps of a company, especially for service providers who can only count on their own reputation. Networking is also very good. Join as many clubs, forums and groups as possible, to make sure people know who you are, starting from your neighbourhood to the farthest you can reach.
Your name must then resonate on the web planet. Place your brand and portfolio wherever people are likely to look for a photographer like you.
8. Think and act business
At first, you have the right not to have the same self-confidence as the Wolf of Wall Street. And between us, it’s probably a good thing. But you still need to master a few skills to see the colour of your first mbesha. First, work on your presentation and negotiation skills. Keep in mind that you not only sell beautiful photos: you also sell a person (yourself), and a unique experience to your customers.
A good idea would also be to team up with other companies in other sectors (additional if possible) in your geographical area for example a DJ or a caterer if you are a wedding photographer. It is also recommended to start with reduced prices, in order to attract new customers.
9. Get Equipped, but don’t ruin yourself
Just as the panga is essential to the farmer, good equipment is crucial to starting a photography business. Make sure you have included in your business plan all the costs related to the equipment you need, from the camera to the different lenses and subscriptions to editing software. This represents a lot of money that will leave your pockets in the first few months, but it is an investment that you simply cannot avoid.
This does not mean that you must break the bank. To avoid going bankrupt even before you start your business, gradually buy your equipment, starting with the vital minimum: you will acquire the rest when you have more funds.
Another option is to turn to second-hand equipment. Of course, it does not provide the same feeling as when you are the very first to take control of this state-of-the-art device. But your bank account will be better off, and at this point, that’s what matters.
Finally, more and more photographers are partnering and lending themselves their equipment – and, again, being a member of the community will help. A win-win practice, which will help you in your first missions, until you have what you need to move forward solo.
10. Legalize your business
Sooner or later, you will start earning money. So, whether you like it or not, photography will not only remain a passion – it will also become a professional activity (and that’s the goal!). This means that you will have to become a legal business fulfilling legal, accounting and tax obligations. Especially if you are working or planning to work with large organizations that may prefer to work with businesses.
11. Be prepared for ups and downs
Get ready, because starting an activity in photography is not (only) a part of fun. There will be difficult times, and you will need strength, conviction and sometimes even desperate momentum to continue doing what you love. In particular, when you face whole months where you will earn less than when you were a waiter. Take good habits from the beginning, such as reinvesting every penny in your business, and saving for less prosperous periods. Stay patient, whatever happens. And remember: like Rome, no one expects your Photographic Empire to be built in a day!
Grow your Business with Picha Images
Picha Images is a community that links photographers to more opportunities to craft stunning images for the best brands. For photographers, it opens doors for revenue and for business, you get to choose from a moderated pool of skilled photographers and other content creators.
Through the monthly Picha Talks webinars, you get to learn from professionals on how to make it big in photography.