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10 Steps to Starting Your Own Photography Business

Wanna start your own photography business? Well, you've come to the right place!

By Jasmine Smoot-LeyvaPublished 5 years ago 4 min read

1. Know Your Way Around a Camera

First and foremost, you have to be considered a photographer. If you're not sure where to start, check out this article on picking a decent DSLR camera, and this article about the basics of photography. All in all, you need to know how to operate a camera, learn lighting and editing techniques, and so much more in order to be considered a professional photographer.

2. Choose your name.

Picking a name can be the funnest, yet most stressful part of the process. This is the name you'll be seeing for the rest of your life! A lot of people choose to incorporate their name in their photography business: "Johnson's Photos," "JRS Photography," "Samuel's Captured Moments," etc. I think this is a classy way to name your business—but be careful, because there's millions of people out there and you never know if you might be using someone else's photography business name.

3. Set goals for yourself.

Do you hope to be a part time photographer, or full time? Do you want to make upwards of $100,000 a year, or are you okay with a mere few hundred dollars? Other things to consider are if you want to be an on-site photographer, or own your own studio. Set goals and plans for yourself so you can base your effort off them. You need to have a basic understanding of your business plan, too, in order for your business to be successful. Check out this article on coming up with a business plan

4. Set up a Website

You need a place to showcase your work and attract new clients. Therefore, you need a website! Now, there are TONS of resources available to you when it comes to web design, such as Wix, Weebly, Wordpress and Squarespace. If you've never made a website before, or if you need a bit of help, I highly recommend this user via Fiverr. They offer great packages and will build your own personal website within days at a low cost.

5. Know Your Worth

A lot of photographers that are starting out don't charge enough money for their services. Prices are definitely relative to location, so I suggest finding out what other photographers in your area are charging and base your own pricing around that. You don't want to be too cheap (cheap prices often attract... well, "cheap" clients), but you don't want to cost a fortune, either. Think affordable, yet competitive.

This is also a good time to consult a lawyer to get some contracts and business policies written up. It is so, so, so important to have contracts, because otherwise, you might run across a client who's gonna screw you over. You want to cover you bases. There are a lot of places online where you could find templates for your contract, and that may work for a while, but you definitely want to consult a lawyer at some point, just in case.

6. Register yourself as a DBA, LLC, or otherwise.

Legally, you do have to register your business (unless you want the IRS coming after you for unpaid sales tax, of course). Depending on your state and your business plan for your photography business, you may want to register as a DBA, LLC, or otherwise. I suggest doing some research and find the best fit for you, or even talking to a lawyer.

7. Advertise!

Advertising is an art in itself. Effective marketing specifically for photography, however, normally revolves around social media and word-of-mouth. My advice? Don't be ashamed to spam your personal Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with information about your photography. Make it well known that you're a photographer—and soon enough, your friends & family will be referring their friends and family to you for their weddings, family portraits, Christmas photos, etc. You also want to look into advertising via the internet. Since photography is very digital, it's only logical to advertise digitally, too. Start up a blog, offer a referral program for previous clients; even ask your friends & family to promote for you. Offer some services for free, such as product photos for your friend who's starting up their own candle business, or event photography for your city. This is a great way to get your name out there & become more well known in your community.

8. Get Involved

I know I mentioned this before, but get involved in your community. Offer to shoot city-wide events for free, and even offer your services to other small businesses to build up a network. Word-of-mouth is the most effective way to market yourself and your brand—so get out there and let people know!

9. Stay Organized

Once you get the ball rolling, business will be booming. It can be easy to become overwhelmed with the amount of information you have to keep—client contacts, contracts, files, invoices, income, expenses—it's best to stay organized. Keep your files organized by date/by client's last name, and make sure you put everything in its right place. I personally use Google Sheets to keep track of my expenses/income, and I use Trello to keep track of my to-do lists and client workflow.

10. Have Fun!

Owning your own business, photography or otherwise, sounds like the best thing on Earth—but in reality, work is work; and you will get burnt out at some point. So, remember to work on photography projects for yourself, too. I submit work to Bevie Magazine at least once a year to keep the creative juices flowing, and I'm always working on different projects and collaborating with my other artistic friends. This helps you to keep from overworking yourself, and remembering that photography is truly your passion.

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About the Creator

Jasmine Smoot-Leyva

I’m a professional photographer, filmmaker, musician, podcaster, and author based in Dallas, TX. I'm obsessed with tattoos, my two huskies, and being my own person.

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