10 Things You Should Know About Running A Photography Business

Updated on October 18th, 2015

10. It always takes a plan.
I talk to photographers all the time who started a business because they love photography. So they create a simple business card, and start offering their services without any thought to the business. No matter what type of business you are trying to build, you have to start with a plan. Is your goal to bring in a part time income every month? Or do you want this to become a six figure business? By setting up goals and tasks that you can see, it’s easier to find a way to make it more successful. It also gives you something to strive for each month.Online marketing for photographers

9. Understand how you will ultimately make a profit.
Even if you have a camera in place, it won’t last forever. And chances are you’ll need more equipment along the way. How about advertising and marketing costs? Insurance to protect you against damages if something doesn’t go right with a client? There are many things to think of when you run a business – not just showing up and shooting, and collecting a few dollars on the side. By putting everything on paper, you can start to see how your prices will ultimately have to cover your overall expenses. Sample – pricing your photography>>

8. Protect yourself.
Do you have adequate insurance for your business? Have you ever thought about turning your business into a corporation? There are many ways to make sure you are covered from all types of problems, accidental or otherwise. Being good at business means you think of all the possibilities before they happen, and make sure you are adequately protected from the start.

7. Don’t forget the contract.
With today’s Internet savvy world, it’s easy to put your photographs everywhere to show off your work. But did your client give you the rights to do so? Make sure you have contracts and model releases in place that give you rights to the photographs for advertising/marketing purposes, and specify Internet rights. Check with an attorney to make sure you are fully covered once the client signs.

6. Don’t be a jack of all trades.
Are you a specialist or a generalist? I’m on sites all the time where the photographer describes himself by saying, “I specialize in weddings, families, babies, children, model portfolios, commercial work, fashion photography…” you get the point. That isn’t specializing; that’s generalizing. Choose what you love to do and do it well. Not only will you become busier – people will know exactly what you do – but you’ll also have an easier time marketing because you are concentrating on finding one type of clientele.

5. Stick with it.
Have you heard the story about the miner who heads west during the gold rush, and stakes his claim. He digs and digs. And digs. Only to abandon everything and head home, leaving his interest to someone else. That person continues to dig, and finds gold 10 feet from where the original miner stopped. Moral: sticking with something to the end will often result in gold. Instead of jumping from idea to idea, advertising source to advertising source, create a plan and see it through. You’re often very close to success right when you are ready to abandon your idea.

4. What separates you from your competition?
Many small business owners get their start by “copying” a mentor. That gives you your idea. Now, what will turn it into your personal success? It’s easier to start a business with a great idea in mind, and someone to follow along the way. But don’t forget to turn it into something personal, something that gives you real passion towards everything you do. This idea develops along the way, so be sure to watch for the types of clients that truly make you happy. Then find more ways to bring in those clients.

3. Know it all or hire those that do.
Bookkeeping. Production work. Paperwork. Taxes. There are so many things that you have to do as a business owner. And I’m positive you could quickly come up with a list of things you hate doing. Instead of spending hours a month doing things that frustrate you, learn to hand those items off as quickly as possible. While its easier to do things ourselves, or put things off because of the cost, it ends up taking away the time you could be doing more productive items.

2. You have to be good at business as well as good at photography.
Yet these two can develop over time. The key is recognizing the two aspects of running a great studio. And knowing when to ask for help to become better at the points you are lacking.

1. Evaluate and learn along the way.
What works for one may not work for another. The important thing is to test and evaluate along the way. What works for you? What doesn’t? Where can you improve? A great business owner will always learn from her mistakes, and use them to refocus future direction. Your failures and successes will help drive you towards future success. It’s all in the way you use what you learn to guide you towards doing it in a better way.

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clientexperience@todaysgrowthconsultant.com' About Virtual Photography

We're the co-founders of VirtualPhotographyStudio.com and have been writing on this blog since 2004. We started Virtual as a way to help photographers stretch beyond a part time income, and develop strategies to become a Five Figure Photographer or a Six Figure Photographer. Ultimately its all about lifestyle, and if your goal is to live as a photographer 24/7, we think you should have the knowledge and the tools to do so. Welcome!

  • CG Leuschke

    A very good bit of info. Thanks! I just completed a project working with a start-up on a non-photography venture, and it actually led me to understand many of these points(some deeply). It also inspired me to get back into photography again full-time, and in the last month I have lived each of these points at least once.
    Regards,
    Coby

  • Wilson

    Reading ths info @ 2am in the mornging is an inspiration towards my plans of runing my own studio for the last 12year’s as a photograpic printer .

  • http://blog.frameablefaces.com Doug Cohen

    This is a FANTASTIC POST. Great reinforcement for us – proud to say that we have addressed almost all of these! We absolutely need to hand off some bookkeeping crap (number 3) and every once in a while we get sucked into doing a job that isn’t our core business and we end up kicking ourselves for it almost every time (number 6). For the most part we are actually very good about this one though – sticking to our core business and we always stay away from big events – NO big weddings or bar mitzvahs etc. We absolutely do NOT specialize in event photography and we are perfectly fine turning people away who would be willing to pay us a lot of money to photograph their big event.

  • http://www.smudgedphoto.co.uk Yorkshire Wedding Photographer

    Good advice, I’m slowly getting towards ticking off most of those. I think I’m at the transition point of creating the business card and website and now looking to make a profit and turn it into a proper business.

    Thanks for sharing

  • Rajiv Singh

    Thanx for this… Iam sure it will help me in divirting my business to success from worthless struggle.
    really thanx….

  • Veronica from SC

    I am working toward starting-up a home/internet based wedding photography business. I thought I had all the bases covered for a good start (I created a business plan, talked to a CPA, got liability insurance, opened a business account to separate my personal and professional expenses, I’m setting up my webpage, etc). I was asked by some friends to take their pictures, and I was scouting for locations in our town. I posted those pictures on my FB page for my friends to see what ideas I was collecting for their photo shoot. Next thing? Another female potographer (who used to live in town, but recently move 200 miles away to another city in the same state), sent me this private message telling me that I should have a business license in every town that I’m shooting, even if there is no money transaction for the service.

    I was surpirsed to read that. She went on and on about the cost of the licenses and how that is affecting those photographers, like her, that try to make of photography their living, and struggle to meet month’s ends. She also said that that’s why the hobbyist will flourish, because they have extra-money to pay for their gadgets and the licenses without worrying about anything. She also said that when she started, her competition made sure she had that license, and now she is making sure that I have mine, since she found out through my FB page that I had decided to go pro. She said that she was going to make sure I was legit, specially when hers and her daughter’s living could be affected.

    Aside of the fact that this woman is hinting the possibility of dropping my name in the town hall next time she goes to renew her license, this is the very first time EVER I have heard such a thing . I tried an internet search and I found contradictory information. So I decided to go to our town hall to inquire about it, since she was threatening me to report me if she found that I was shooting without a business license from the town.

    At the town hall, they told me that I need to pay the business license if I will do a photo shoot in town. It is $60 if I live inside city limits and $120 if I live outside city limits, and they also told me that this only valid for this town for one year. If I go to another town, I will have to pay the license there as well, and so on. Has anybody ever had to pay in every town you go to shoot a wedding?

    I have to confess that I am concerned, because even though I want to market my business outside my town (that’s the business model I designed), now I feel that this woman will be looking over my shoulder and waiting the next time I shoot in a location nearby to drop my name at the town hall. I feel really bad, and I don’t know how to handle the situation because she appears to be right. Any advice?

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Hi Veronica

    I hate to be vague about this, but I will have to say is it depends.

    Every city, state, country has different rules and regulations, so unfortunately you may have to do some research and/or talk to a lawyer.

    In some cases it comes down to where your studio is and where you are selling from. As long as you are legally in business at your studio location – that’s where the sales occur – you are okay.

    Other locations require different things. So again I hate to say because I’m not sure what your state’s rules are. If you’ve talked with a CPA, I would go back to him/her and start asking questions there. They should be able to help you or at least point you to someone that can answer that question for you.

    Lori

  • Chris Kervin

    That is some great advice! It is definitely important for modern day photographers to be good at business, as well as being able to take a decent photo! The field of event photography has certainly been flooded since the creation of digital photography!

  • Julian Tai

    Really solid post on specializing and delegating what you cannot do to others. I like how pragmatic your list is. People are really excitable and sometimes they just need a reality check. I also think your portfolio website is critical to starting a photography business. Having no site or a poor site is unacceptable, you need to WOW your clients with a first impression. There are a variety of options to help you build a killer site like http://squarespace.com, http://weebly.com, and http://clickbooq.com

  • VirtualPhotographyStudio.com

    Thanks, Julian, for sharing your thoughts and suggestions with us. We totally agree on the importance of creating a strong online presence for your business. We’ve actually discussed the topic in many of our posts. E.g. http://virtualphotographystudio.com/2011/08/building-an-awe-inspiring-online-portfolio-in-5-easy-steps/.