Getting Your Photography Business Up and Running

by Guest Contributor

Guest contributor Jaimie Bowman started her photography business over six years ago, and specializes in babies and families. Visit her website at www.jbowmanphoto.com, and her blog, The Wonder Years.

In her last guest post, Jaimie Bowman discussed the “Do’s and Don’ts” of starting a photography business. Here she takes you through the next steps of how to get your photography business up and running.

After deciding to “take the leap” and start a photography business, it can be a bit overwhelming knowing exactly where to begin. Many new photographers enjoy the process of taking the photos, but may try to avoid the business aspect. However, this can lead to problems later on, and a successful photography career needs to have a great start. The following list will aid you the first steps you should take. Keep in mind that this list is helpful if you already have all the equipment you need (including a back-up camera and lenses), and is in no way exhaustive. Here are 10 tips to get your business off to a great start:

Obtain a business license

You may not think you need this, but if you are going to be regularly taking photos of people, you need a business license. It is legal, it is ethical, and you don’t want to get caught (and fined) later for not having one. Look up your city or county’s website, and find the department that handles the business licenses. Usually it is one form and one trip to the office (or you can mail it in). Fees vary by city or county. Along with this, you may need a DBA if you open a separate checking account (which is also highly recommended).

20100604-IMG_0954Photo courtesy Mindy Newton Photography

Buy insurance

If your camera or lens breaks or gets stolen, insurance will help you. You can purchase insurance on your supplies at places like http://www.bhphotovideo.com. Some photographers even take out disability insurance in the event of an emergency. Decide what type of coverage you will need.

Get your portfolio together

Be sure not to use mainly photos of your own children, because others will pick up on this. Try to get at least 8-10 clients before officially launching your business, so you can use their photos to market yourself. Be varied with the ages you photograph, the poses, the backgrounds, etc.

Photo courtesy Portray Life Photography

Establish your online presence

Decide what type of website you will have. First buy your domain name (godaddy.com is one place to buy a name. Next decide if you will buy a professional website template, or go with a free option, such as a blog platform. A great place to find cheap photography templates is through bludomain.com. Another free option is to use blogger.com or wordpress.com for your photography site. You may want to start a Facebook fan page for your business, and offering periodic specials. Have your friends spread the word, and your clientele will begin building.

Get business cards

People will ask for them, and you can also use these as a marketing tool. Leave them in stores that cater to your clientele (with permission, of course). You can find low-cost, even free business cards to get started on www.vistaprint.com.

Have all of your forms and supplies ready

Good forms to have ready to go include: invoices, receipts, order forms, CD labels, and copy write release forms. This may mean that you need to get familiar with Microsoft Word, Excel, or Publisher. Keep meticulous records of your photo shoot dates and customers, including all income and expenses. This will be helpful when tax time rolls around.

Choose a photo lab

Will you offer print packages? Will you do the ordering and shipping yourself? If so, find a good lab near you with good reviews. Another option is to choose an online lab, and have the clients order themselves, bypassing you for all the labor. SmugMug is one site where you can pay a yearly fee, upload proofs, and set your prices, so that they do all the work for you. They will send you a commission check when you reach a certain amount. They also offer portrait packages, various sizes, and re-touching. You can find other sites that do this as well.

Photo courtesy Misty Dameron Photography

Be prepared for questions

Questions such as: “How much for a CD of images?” “What should we wear?” “Where should we go for our photo shoot?” and “What is your turnaround time?” are common.

Study, study, study

Photography is very competitive, and there are so many different styles. Find your own style. Decide ahead of time what poses you will want to try, so you’re not fumbling on the spot. Learn as much as you can about your camera, about flash, about the best times of day for shoots and the best locations in your area. Visit other photographer websites in your area to see what the competition is like, and what their strengths are.

Plan your time wisely

Decide what your work days and hours will be. This can make or break your business, because photography can overtake your life if you let it. It is a fun but a lot of work, and it is important to pace yourself so you don’t burn out. Don’t say yes to every opportunity, and be ready to refer to other photographers if you are getting too busy. This will only make your business stronger.

As stated earlier, this list is not exhaustive, but will hopefully give you a place to begin. Having these things in place will ensure that you get your business off to a great start and have fun at the same time!

Jaimie BowmanJaimie Bowman is a full-time mother of two sons (ages 3 and 5) and a part-time professional photographer. Jaimie and her husband are also pastors and she enjoys traveling and speaking on faith and family.

Visit her website at www.jbowmanphoto.com and her blog, The Wonder Years. Tweet with Jaimie at @jmebowman

As with any self-run business, a great deal of responsibility and work will be added to your daily agenda if you want to keep the business running smoothly. Be prepared to make a schedule (and stick to it!), keep track of any financial information and, also, be prepared to handle a stressful day here and there. It would be a smart investment to purchase or download tax software as well. Running your own business means you will have to keep track of and pay your taxes. Nonetheless, your business will thrive so long as you make smart decisions and don’t let one bad day get the best of you.



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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 LolliF May 13, 2011 at 5:52 pm

I have been running a pretty successful photography business (at least based on return and referral business…) for the last few years and I am ashamed that I have not done a few of these things. I need to get my butt in gear! SO often, I forget to bring a contract/model release with me to a shoot. Or then I lose them after the shoot. I’m really bad!

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2 Susan May 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm

Fantastic advice Jamie!

Thanks so much for sharing this post here at 5 Minutes for Mom.

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3 Mindy May 22, 2011 at 1:35 am

Thank you Jaimie for the fantastic post! I needed to be reminded of a few of things such as not letting photography take over my life and setting aside specific hours aside for work.

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4 james May 22, 2012 at 4:33 pm

thank you Jaimie for sharing this valuable info. i’m actually heading to get a business license today and i was wondering why the city requires me to get a home occupation permit when i do not have any customers to come into my home. But anyway, I really appreciate all your tips and this will help me start my part time photography business.

PS. I’m a pastor and my wife is a nurse and we both love wedding photography and church family portraits.

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