Starting a Photography Business: Practical Ideas


Dear readers, starting a photography business today is no piece of cake. But we are here to share experiences, ideas and successful tricks. As we have already discussed the basic steps you need to consider when starting your business, we want to bring forward practical ideas on how to enhance your chances on the market. As you have all experimented, photography is both an amazing field of practice and a tough business. So, let’s have a look at some aspects that can contribute to your success. These are really small things, but you will be surprised how well they can work for you if taken into account.

Your Photography Business Name

We all know how choosing the ‘perfect’ photography business name can be maddening. That is why, we thought about a few solutions for you.

  • Use Your Own Name

Maybe you think using your name for your business is a dull idea. We don’t say it’s not, but you cannot be wrong by doing so. This is what famous photographers do, isn’t it? You can use your nickname or associate your name with funny words to make it more interesting.

  • Check Successful Photography Business Names

Don’t hesitate to learn from other professionals. This does not mean you can copy company names!

  • Brave Enough to Step Out of the Ordinary?

Wonder how to create a crazy, innovative and unforgettable name for your photography business? Use catchy phrases related to photography like ‘pin me up!’, ‘say cheese!’, ‘just shoot me!’.

Photography Business Cards – a Must

Business cards are a must in our industry. Not only they are a cheap means to promote your photography business, but they are also a chance to promote yourself. We have already mentioned how important these little things are for your image when we’ve touched on how to boost your business performance.

Here are some tips to consider when you design your photography business cards:

  • Create a logo or a special ‘something’ that best represents your business idea.
  • Use one of your best shots.
  • Mention the photographic niche you are specialized in: portrait photography, wedding photography etc.
  • Keep them handy everywhere you go.
  • Give your photography business card to fellow professionals, clients and people who ask for them.
  • Prospect appropriate situations to hand out business cards such as: trainings, meetings, non-commercial and social events.


nice photography business card

© Jessica Ames Photography Business Card

Special tricks:

  • Hand-write something on the card you give, maybe a secondary email address, phone number or mailing address. This conveys to your card not only a personal touch, but also a greater visibility.
  • If you have a few favorite places you enjoy having your coffee, working, or grab something to eat, leave your business card when you pay and write something like: Thank You!, ‘Nice Place’, or ‘Nice Service’.

Flyers, flyers everywhere

Photography business flyers allow you to make your name, logo and details more visible than a business card. Of course, they belong to different contexts.  If business cards are to be as concise as possible, yet creative, flyers should contain more information about your business.

Wonder where and how to make some? Your photography business flyers can be done by yourself, or ordered and printed by someone else (someone who provides professional printing services).

How to enhance their effectiveness:

  • Think about essential content by answering to the following questions: who?, what?, where?, how much?.
  • Don’t be afraid to stand out from the crowd: bring something new, write something different.
  • Target your audience.
  • Add a short message about the kind of services you provide.
  • Provide an idea about your style either in words or visually.
  • Make flyers for different occasions or photography sectors: Wedding Photography, News Photography, Sport Events Photography and so on.
  • Highlight promotional aspects. Maybe your clients can benefit from some discounts or specials.
  • Don’t forget to leave your contact details.
  • Add your social media page names as well so people can reach out to online as well. Flyers, as well as business card are excellent networking tools.
  • Ask people who have viewed your shots to share their feelings in a few lines and include some of their thought in your flyer.

Starting a photography business is not just about money, plans and advertising. It is about the promise and reality of providing excellent services and experiences. ‘What makes you a good photographer?’ should be the first and last question to ask yourself when building a photography business.

Image Sources: 1

Are You Lying: Is It A Hobby Or Is It A Photography Business?

At what stage are you in with your business? Are you a start up or have you been at it for years?

Would you classify yourself as a hobby or as a business?

While many photographers like to think of themselves as business owners, in fact they are nothing more than hobbyists. What’s the difference between a hobby and a business?

In reality only one thing separates the two: money.Are You Lying Is It A Hobby Or Is It A Photography Business

Hobbyists don’t care about how much they make. Businesses track for profits.

Hobbies are something we do on the side after work.

Businesses are something we do to bring in full time income and we work hard to bring in as much profit as possible.

So if you have been working on the side for years now, calling yourself a business owner, in reality you may be missing the one thing that could change your entire approach.

It’s a trap we get into when we can’t take our business to the next level.

You do enough to feel good about what you’re doing, but you’re not getting results.

You’re not doing the right things to do truly big things.

And because its always holding you back, you’re not able to take things to the next level.

Passion does not equal success. [Read more…]

How To Keep Your Part Time Photographer Business Moving Forward While You Still Have A Day Job

Do you have a day job to pay the rent – and spend your evenings and weekends doing what you love, hoping one day to turn it into something more? Yep, that describes probably the majority of photographers out there at some point in their careers.

That’s where we started. It can be really tough though to keep up your stamina and your spirits when you’re working long hours at the office, only to come home and start it all over again with more work piled up in front of you. Especially when the tiny details seem to get the better of you. Its easy to ask “is this all there is?” as you begin to look for the day when you can enjoy your life too – not just work seven days of the week.

Yep, we have been there. And I’m so grateful we stuck out the odds and made it into the business we have today. Here are a few things that helped us. Make sure you have them in your own life too.

Write Down Your Goals – With Dates

Writing down your goals is probably on every small business website and information guide you’ve ever written. And while the advice may get old, the concept shouldn’t. Its there because it works. Yet if you have a goal list in front of you, have you added dates to it as well?

Rather than having a vague idea of what the future holds, put it to the test. A goal of “I’ll quit my full time job by December 31st of this year” is a lot more motivational than “I’ll quit my job someday”.

Putting a date to things creates a sense of urgency. It allows you to think beyond the basics and find ways to get things done. [Read more…]

10 Stupid Mistakes Every New Business Owner Has To Live Through

If you’ve always worked for the “boss” and haven’t had the experience of working for yourself, you’re in for quite a shock when you first quit and venture out on your own. Its hard to lose the “job” mentality and start doing everything from an entrepreneur’s mindset.

Yet if you’ve ever jumped over to your own business, you know there are some things you inevitably do that when you look back on, you simply laugh at your actions. “Did I really do that?” Yep, I’ve had a lot of those moments over the years.

And some of those moments stand out more than others. Here is some advice for those of you that have recently crossed over to your own business.

1. Making mistakes with your contracts.

We’ve made this mistake more times then I’d like to admit. Never:

Assume someone will sign a contract because they say they will. Have your policies set up and stick with them – “I’ll fax over a contract and hold the day for you for 3 business days. If we don’t receive it back with payment, the day will open up to others.”

Assume a handshake is good enough. You may have a great relationship in the beginning, but things change when demands start in. A contract is there to cover you and the client. Always use it to maintain the relationship.

Assume they won’t change your contract. We sent over a contract in Word early on in our career, never thinking a client would change our copy. They did. They signed it and returned it. We signed it without reading it again. We only discovered it when the client began making unusual requests after the wedding – things we couldn’t uphold because we simply didn’t have the capability. When they began questioning why we weren’t living up to the contract, we went back and read it. We spent six months living in fear doing whatever the client requested to avoid a lawsuit – and we learned a very valuable lesson.

2. Spending too much money.

You’ve finally made the break from the job, and your time is your own. Since the clients aren’t flowing in, you have a chance to sit back and dream. That’s when you can start getting into trouble.

You dream about the perfect studio. And with a little research, you find a backdrop system you can’t live with out, a room full of props, a computer program that will help you with all of your photography management chores, and a new camera that will make everyone say “WOW”.

Maybe you put a little cash away to help build your new business. Or maybe you’re dipping into the credit cards. But if you fall into the “buy it today” philosophy, you’ll quickly be regretting everything that made you want to start your own business in the first place.

Ask yourself a question every time you are about to spend money – “Do I really need this right now to move me forward?” If the answer is no, put it off for awhile until you can truly afford it.

3. Spending too little money.

People love to spend money on the “things” within the photography business. Yet the “necessities” often fall by the wayside.

A necessity would be anything that will help you grow and profit from your business. Anything else is simply a “shiny object” that gets in your way of building a successful business.

A fourth lens that photographers have been raving about on Facebook would be a shiny object. A new website to help you attract new clients would be a necessity.

The difference is one is required to build your business and help bring in clients, and therefore profits. The other is simply something you justify to have because you want it. Learn to spot the difference from the beginning. [Read more…]

The One Thing That Makes You A Professional Photographer

Its probably one of the hottest topics online when it comes to the photography profession:

The differences between amateurs and professionals

Is there truly a difference? Do you need something special to move from one to the other? And is it truly possible to make a living as a professional photographer with amateurs filling up the marketplace for part time work?

Right here on this blog we’ve discussed this concept again and again.

Dig Deeper: The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals

Dig Deeper: What A Pro Captures Versus What an Amateur Shoots

Dig Deeper: How To Lose A Million Dollars in 3 Seconds

I just found a video that touches on this very topic. Michael Freeman says it in the simplest way possible:

Professional photography means making a living from it.

Can’t argue with that. [Read more…]

Why Perfection Makes You A Poor Photographer

“I’ve been working on my website for months now. It took me months to choose the right system to design it on, and I’ve had to go back through all of my images, finding the perfect ones to include in my gallery. We’re almost finished with it now, but it’s still not quite the way I wanted it to look. I’m not sure how many people I’ll tell about it, because it truly isn’t up to my standards.”

Do you see yourself in the above statements? Or how about:

“I’ve been shooting for years now, and love the idea of building a business. I’ve created my business cards, and have been planning for quite awhile. But I’m just not sure what to do next. I want to make sure everything is in order before I find my first client. I don’t want to give the appearance my photography isn’t up to par, so I’d rather wait and make sure everything is right before I start bringing in clients.”

Yep, both of the above examples are a form of perfectionism – something I hear quite a bit in start up businesses.

Perfectionism is the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection. It’s the tendency for being displeased with anything that is not perfect or does not meet extremely high standards.

Unfortunately, those standards are always self-evaluated, and determined through your own mindset and opinions.

Being a perfectionist may sound good in theory – who wouldn’t want a business set with high standards? But in reality, perfectionism does more harm then good because it puts us into a state of paralysis that reduces “action”.

In a report on perfectionism, psychologist J Clayton Lafferty PhD said it best:

Perfectionism has nothing to do with actually trying to perfect anything. It is about illusion, the desire to look good.

And while he was talking about perfectionism in corporate America, the same holds true throughout small business as well.

Small businesses work because they are willing to take action, and move forward with a new idea to test and see how well the market likes the idea. Then they tweak, and tweak, and tweak, until they get it right. [Read more…]

10 Things To Think About Before You Turn Professional

It seems as if everyone you run into is a photographer these days. And part of that is true. With mobile technology, its easier than ever to capture photos and video simply because you always have a camera ready and with you.

And while many people love taking pictures, not everyone with a camera is ready to be a professional, nor do they want to be. They are happy with their day jobs, and are just as happy to take the occasional portrait of a friend or loved one when they ask. They don’t want to worry about marketing or finding clients. They don’t want the responsibility of writing up contracts and buying business insurance.

Yet for some, the thrill grows beyond just snapping a few pictures. They love the art form, and want to use their love of photography to grow something more. They want to share what they do and love with the world.

When you’re ready to move from hobby to professional, it takes a lot more than the photography. Here are 10 things you’ll need to do along the way.

1. Set Up The Business

In order to charge for what you do, you have to set up the business side of things. You can do that as simply as visiting your local government, establishing the business, and taking out a tax license. And you can get a lot more complex with it by filing for corporation status. But in order to keep things legitimate, make sure you take the necessary steps before your first client. The last thing you need is “complications” down the road because you didn’t get things established the right way in the first place.

Dig Deeper: Setting Up Your Photography Business In The Right Way

2. Think About Insurance

When you work for someone else, or buy a home, you sign on the dotted line, and have all the coverage you need. Running your own business is a bit different. You have to have business insurance to cover the cost of doing business. And if you are making this a full time career and don’t have a policy through a spouse, you may have to invest in your own health insurance policy. And finally, think about long term disability as well. If something we’re to happen to you, and you couldn’t pay the bills for 6 months, 1 year or longer, what would you do?

Dig Deeper: How To Lose A Million Dollars In 3 Seconds

3. Be Covered Legally

Every industry has its own set of legal requirements. While a handshake and a smile may have worked years ago, its hard to rely on that today, especially if you are in long term negotiations. Make sure you have a solid contract in place for all types of photography you will cover – portraits are different than weddings. And make sure you have model releases if you will be using your images for anything outside of handing them over to the client. I also use online model releases just to make sure clients know I will be using their images online and approve it. Its not a complicated process, and in many cases you can find examples to follow through other photographers. Be sure to check in with a lawyer to make sure you are fully covered for your circumstances – if its already written, reviewing is much less expensive than going through the entire process.

4. Establish Your Pricing

Don’t just guess at it; make sure you charge what you need to for your photography in order to stay in business. There is an art form to pricing your services and packages. Make sure you price to cover your costs, and to make a healthy profit.

Pricing Your Photography – the best way to build a successful business

5. Have the Right Attitude

Business doesn’t just come to you; you have to work for it. In hard economic times, it may take a bit longer and a lot more work. But if you have the attitude that says “I’ll do it no matter what”, you have a much greater chance of success.

One of the things that sets great business people apart from average one’s is keeping a professional attitude, no matter what. If a client gets on your nerves, you have to learn to handle it in a professional manner. And when you type a word, phrase or entire report online, you have to think of appearances first, not your opinion. Professionalism maintains 24 hours a day, and is affected by everything you do. [Read more…]

Setting Up Your Photography Business In The Right Way

This post is Day 8 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

It’s a big step to go from “job” to “entrepreneur”.

When you have a job, everything is built into the structure of the work environment. They pay you on a regular basis; they take out money for your taxes, insurance, retirement; and you can count on having weekends, holidays, sick time and vacation days. Not so with a photography business.

If you rely 100 percent on your photography for your income, you are in charge of everything. Creating enough sales to provide your salary. You have to take out the taxes and forward them to the appropriate agency, find the best insurance policy, workman’s comp issues if you have employees, and set up your own retirement account. Sick time? If you have a wedding scheduled, you’ll be there no matter what you feel like. Vacation time? Chances are you’ll be checking email and communicating with clients no matter where you are.

Are you reconsidering? [Read more…]

Moving From Hobby To Business: What It Takes To Get To The Next Level

This post is Day 5 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

A hobby can be different things to different people.

It might mean taking a camera along on vacations and to family events, snapping up a few images.

It might be taking a few portraits or shooting a few weddings for people you know, making very little, and doing it more for a portfolio.

However you define it, I tend to look at the way the IRS defines it.

The IRS presumes that an activity is carried on for profit if it makes a profit during at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year. A person should be able to able to determine if its hobby or business by asking the following questions:

  • Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?
  • Does the taxpayer depend on income from the activity?
  • If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond the taxpayer’s control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?
  • Has the taxpayer changed methods of operation to improve profitability?
  • Does the taxpayer or his/her advisors have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business?
  • Has the taxpayer made a profit in similar activities in the past?
  • Does the activity make a profit in some years?
  • Can the taxpayer expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity?

For me, your photography turns from hobby to business the minute you decide you want it to be a business. If you feel you can in any way generate income from taking photographs, and you are ready to set out on the adventure called entrepreneurship, then you are ready to start a photography business. [Read more…]

OMG, I Can’t Really Do This, Can I?

This post is Day 3 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

Have you reached this point yet? It’s the sudden realization that you are making a change in your life – a BIG change – and the weight of it all comes crashing down on you like a ton of bricks. You may momentarily start questioning your overall sanity. You’ll probably ask things like:

  • Am I crazy? What was I thinking?
  • Nobody around me does this, what made me think I could?
  • I’m screwing up my entire life.
  • I don’t know any of this, there’s no way I can make this succeed.

Once you start asking these questions, then the real fun starts. Your imagination takes hold, thoughts start to fly, and you come up with every bad scenario in the world. Only huge risk takers do things like this. What if your savings account disappears? You’ll soon be homeless, penniless, and friendless – after all, who would want to hang out with someone who takes this kind of risk?

You literally start freaking out.

Don’t worry. This happens to everyone.

When you start reaching beyond your comfort zone, the fear starts in. And if you let it get the best of you, your mind puts the breaks on, and holds you back. The world in front of you suddenly looks too big to charge into, so you do what any sensible person would do and hold back. And the funny thing is we may even know it and be able to define it. Yet that still doesn’t help. We’re still enthralled with it.

I received an email from Jeffrey who defined it this way.

“I’ve been doing photography for almost nine years and I’ve been wanting to sell my work to galleries, private collectors, business, etc, yet I haven’t a clue where to begin. Part of what’s holding me back may be fear of failure (even though I’m extremely confident about my photographic skills). I’ve even gone as far as building a business, a website, pricing for my work, printing, matting, and framing some of my work, networking, etc, yet for some reason I can’t seem to figure out what the next step is.”

In just those couple of sentences, I can tell Jeffrey loves photography. He’s very passionate about what he does, and probably photographs on a daily basis (or close to). He loves the photography side, and has been dreaming of doing it for a living for nine years now. He can see himself as a photographer, and imagines it over and over again while he’s doing the fun stuff: photographing, putting together his portfolio, and even talking to people about it.

But what he’s afraid of is the business side. How do you set up a business – do you incorporate? Do you need a tax license? How do you run an accounting system? How do you sell to clients? How do you find clients? How do you motivate someone to take the next step and book you? How do you create packages they will love, and be happy to spend money with you – lots of money hopefully?

While Jeffrey may not be asking all of these questions, I bet he can quickly list out a variety of business related questions that are holding him back. And I bet you can too.

How To Beat Fear of Failure

The first thing to realize is if you are freaking out, it’s a good thing. It means you are taking a chance on something new, and it’s allowing you to grow in many ways. You can do this; it may be hard to do, and you may have little support around you, but you can do it. And if you truly think about it, what’s the worst that could happen?

Yep, I know one studio that taxed their products incorrectly for over three years. When a city auditor came in for an audit, they were hit with a $30,000 tax bill. That was definitely bad news, and it almost cost them their business – how do you come up with that much money? But on the flip side, it was a good thing. Think of how much money they made – they made a ton if they had to pay over $30,000 in taxes, right? And while this could have destroyed their business, it actually made them stronger. They learned from their mistake – okay, it was actually a disagreement with the city and they didn’t win – but they learned. And they moved forward with new knowledge.

And that’s really all we can do. If you are afraid to take the next step, you’ll have nothing to learn. And nothing to show for it. Even if a step takes you into a bad situation, I bet you’ll learn from it. So why not take that next step?

Think Small, Not Big

If the future is too overwhelming, just take one step at a time. If you’ve been waiting nine years for something, declare this is your year, and take one step at a time.

Don’t over-plan; just do one thing to get you closer to where you want to be.

Fill out the paperwork to declare yourself a business – here in the US, all paperwork is online at the Secretary of State within your location. Download it, fill it out and send it in. One day’s worth of work – and one check mark.

If you want to get into galleries, and don’t know how to begin, start with one. Pick out one gallery you would love to have your work in, and go talk to the manager. Ask how they pick their artists. What do they look for? Share your work and ask how you can make it better. And if you talk to one gallery owner that refuses to share with you, go to the next one. Most people are willing to talk and share. Find one who will spend 30 minutes with you and find out steps you can take to get there.

The key is taking one step. Find one person that can answer a question, or give you advice. And if you hear “no”, move to another. Don’t get discouraged. You’ll eventually find your “yeses” if you don’t give up when you hear your “no’s”.

Your Homework:

1. Commit to moving forward.

2. Find one person to talk to that can bring you closer to your goal.

3. Write down what is truly holding you back. What are you really afraid of? This can be a difficult exercise, but stick with it. Keep asking yourself and digging deeper to find the true problem. Then create a detailed plan to fix it. “Setting up the business” is monumental. But if you break it down into workable goals – “get a tax license” and “get a lawyer to incorporate” – it becomes much more manageable.

4. Acknowledge your feelings, and work to get around it. Its okay to be scared. It’s okay to feel stuck. But being stuck forever won’t get you anywhere. Acknowledge your fear, and commit to doing one thing a day to get unstuck.

It’s the only way you’ll make 2011 better than last year.