There are all kinds of factors to consider when starting your own photography business. If you don't know exactly what to do, you could quickly find yourself overwhelmed by the industry's fierce competition. To help keep your business profitable, it's important that you understand what training you need, what to do when you get started, and how to keep everything running smoothly.
Professional photographers come from all kinds of backgrounds. Some choose to learn the trade by being an apprentice or assistant to a more established photographer. Others go to school at a two-year tech program or liberal arts college. Jobs in a camera store or chain studio can also prepare a person for a career as a professional photographer. Anyone with decent training and a good eye for photography can potentially make a career of it.
Getting started is perhaps the most complicated part of owning your own photography business. First, you must decide what your niche is going to be. Will you have a studio or will you freelance? Will you market yourself to the public, or focus on selling to publications or stock companies? Will you specialize in people, landscape or objects?
Next, you should create a business plan. Put simply, this is a document that describes your business and your market, and explains how you plan to situate your business within that market; it can also be great tool to help negotiate with a loan officer for startup money. Once you have a plan, you can begin the process of making it a reality. This involves all sorts of tedious tasks: choosing a name and location for your business, getting a tax ID number, and learning when and for what services you should charge sales tax. All of this can be quite confusing, so it's a good idea to hire a CPA and attorney to help you navigate the complex system of taxes and trademarking you'll face as a photographer.
You can't relax even after your business is up and running; building and maintaining relationships with clients and corporate purchasers is key to being a successful photographer. Networking with other photographers is a great way to gain client referrals, learn trade secrets, or even find a mentor to guide you in your early years. However, you can't rely completely on others to market your business. Keep an updated portfolio and consider posting some of it on a custom-built Web site or on social media sites like Facebook. You could even do some pro bono photography at a local charity event. These efforts will help your community -- and possible clientele -- get to know your work.
Armed with the proper equipment and a prudent plan, you could soon be making money with every click of the shutter.
More Great Links
- Bavister, Steve. "Making Money from Photography in Every Conceivable Way." Cincinnati: David and Charles, 2006.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2009: 27-4021 Photographers." Occupational Employment Statistics. May 14, 2010. (Jan. 21, 2011)http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes274021.htm
- Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Photographers." Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition. Dec. 17, 2009. (Jan. 21, 2011)http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos264.htm
- Cribb, Larry. "How You Can Make $25,000 a Year with Your Camera (No Matter Where You Live)." Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books, 1991.
- Gugliatta, Guy. "Scientists Get Portrait of the 'First Photograph.'" The Washington Post. July 1, 2002. (Jan. 21, 2011)http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A5653-2002Jun30
- Heller, Dan. "The Five Truisms of the Photography Business." The Digital Journalist. November 2000. (Jan. 21, 2011)http://www.digitaljournalist.org/issue0011/features_frameset.html
- Hollenbeck, Cliff. "Big Bucks Selling Your Photography: A Complete Photo Business Package for All Photographers." Buffalo, N.Y.: Amherst Media, 2007.
- Lilley, Edward R. "The Business of Studio Photography." New York: Allworth Press, 2009.
- Orenstein, Vik. "The Photographer's Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business." Cincinnati: Writer's Digest Books. 2010.
- "Photography Business." DPhotoJournal. 2011. (January 21, 2011)http://www.dphotojournal.com/category/business-opportunities/
- "Profit Center: Business, Marketing and Sales Strategies." Professional Photographer Magazine. 2007. (Jan. 21, 2010)http://www.ppmag.com/profit-center/
- Saltz, Jerry. "It's Boring at the Top." New York Magazine. May 13, 2007. (Jan. 21, 2011)http://nymag.com/arts/art/reviews/31785/