Boss Lady

Establishing a photography business from scratch


Photography is one of the most competitive fields for professionals and amateurs alike and getting your foot in the door can be a challenging ordeal. There are many things you’ll want to keep in mind, and you’ll need a lot of patience to build a good base of clients that you know you can reliably work with. While technical skills are not a strict requirement, knowing your way around a modern computer can certainly help a lot if you want to make a good impression for your clients.

Why you should never work for free

Get ready to hear the phrase “work for exposure” a lot if you’re just starting out. There is a huge number of people out there who’ll try their best to get you to do something for free because “they can get you a lot of exposure”. What will really happen is that the band you spent an entire night taking photos of and then meticulously editing them for their Facebook page will just give you a shout-out in their next post, which may get you a couple of extra likes for your page and that’s pretty much it. You have invested time in your craft by visiting workshops and taking dozens of photos so know your worth.

Not only that, but the “clients” who demand free work are usually the most picky and pretentious ones, and the ones that will make you regret even trying to get started in photography in the first place. Spare yourself all the trouble and drama and simply be patient until you’re contacted by someone who values your work properly.

Simplifying things for your clients

In a field as competitive as this, the smallest hitch can often lose you a potential client. You’ll want to make sure that everything is hassle-free and as straightforward as possible for the people you’ll be working with. Using a professional photo proof service like is a good start, as it will let your clients pick the photos they’re most pleased with without having to discuss everything with you individually.

Make sure to pay attention to feedback in this area, too. People love to complain (more than they love to praise, unfortunately), so if someone points out that they dislike something about the way you’re handling things, try to address that issue.

Building an online presence without good tech skills

If you don’t have your portfolio somewhere on the Internet, you might as well not exist in today’s world. Even better, you can set up your own website where you regularly post new photos and samples of your work. It does take some know-how to get these things right though, and it’s not as simple as following a few tutorials if you’ve never done anything like this before.

There’s no shame in using a website builder app for your online portfolio, and products like Format can make the process very simple and intuitive. All you’ll have to do is pick the details about your site’s appearance (theme, fonts, etc.), and of course, have lots of sample photos ready to upload. The rest will be handled in the background by the app itself and you’ll hardly even have to lift a finger to see some amazing results.

Network actively

One of the best ways to get extra exposure is to use every opportunity to network with other professionals in your field, as well as the communities of your clients. Parties, conferences, trade shows – there are lots of places where you can go and get your name heard, especially if you’re just starting out. Take full advantage of that and don’t disregard the importance of quality networking, because it’s the one thing that can help your business take off in the best possible way.

If you do it right, you won’t have to put in so much effort into finding new clients at some point. In fact, they’ll start coming to you and you’ll actually have to start turning some of them down if you want to stay afloat. While that may sound like a good “problem” to have, keep in mind that it is still a real problem. In fact, it’s something that is probably responsible for the biggest number of failed small businesses in many fields, not just photography.

Avoid getting buried by your own rapid growth

A common mistake in this field is to get too carried away with the growth of your business. Sure, watching peoples’ interest in your work explode can be exciting, but before you take on too many new clients, make sure that you can actually serve all of them properly. Otherwise, you’ll eventually start making various compromises with the quality of your work, and that will quickly kill your business once people catch on. It only takes one major incident for your reputation to be tainted permanently, and you’ll have to be very careful with how you handle yourself on the market.

It’s a difficult situation, because that’s usually the time you’ll want to start charging more for your work, but you can’t simply raise the price for all your current, loyal clients; that will be just as disastrous in the long run! You need to be patient and calculate things carefully before making any moves on the market, and it’s best to always prioritize the quality of your work and your ability to get it done right over getting more customers on board. If you maintain your current reputation, there will be no shortage of potential new customers in the future.

The customer is not always right

We already touched on this point above in another light, but it’s important to realize that the old cliché “the customer is always right” is actually very harmful if you believe it. The sad truth is, there are some people out there who don’t value your work at all and will only see you as a servant to their wishes. Going out of your way to please those people will not bring you anything positive in the long run. It will only slowly, but steadily, kill any motivation and passion you might have for your work. Before you know it, you’ll have a cynical attitude to every new customer and you’ll be annoyed at the smallest hiccup along the way. That’s not a healthy mindset for anyone, professional or not. Don’t allow yourself to fall in that hole, and always stand your ground when someone is being unreasonable. Losing a customer like that is not actually a loss for your business – it frees up a spot for someone who you’ll actually get along with. And if you know what you are bringing to the table and know your value, then there will be plenty of those people down the road.

The first few months are always the hardest. Your patience will be tested, and you will likely feel like giving up on more than one occasion. But as long as you remember why you started this business in the first place and know how to stand up for yourself, you should be able to see some great results in the long run, and you’ll cherish those moments most of all later on when you look back at the start of your career.

About Business Woman Media

Our women don’t want to settle for anything but the best. They understand that success is a journey involving personal growth, savvy optimism and the tenacity to be the best. We believe in pragmatism, having fun, hard-work and sharing inspiration. LinkedIn

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