how to start photography business in 2021 | how to start your own photography business
Oh hey! Didn't see you there. So you're ateen who wants to start a photography business? Well, if you think you're read,pull up a chair, sit down, and I'll share all my secrets with you. Welcome back to The Bliss Bean! So if you watched my budgeting and saving video
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I mentionedthat I make most of my money from doing photography, so I'm finally doing a videoto explain how exactly I got into doing that and how I've sort of developed itover the years. I've only been doing it for about two years so "over the years".
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AsI was planning out I realized there was so much information I wanted to share Ihave like this outline printed out. I've split the video into different topicsand we're gonna go pretty quick so get ready to pay attention, get a notebook,get a pen, get a snack and let's do this. SECTIONONE: the very very beginning.every single photographer's biography begins with "I've had a camera in myhands for as long as I can remember..." and
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that was pretty much me. I've always likedtaking photos, doing creative things I've been blogging since seventh gradebut I never really got into portrait photography until the summer before myjunior year. A friend of mine who was a year older than me asked me if I didsenior portraits, cause she knew that I liked taking photos and that I had likea decent camera and so I told her that no,
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I had never taken senior portraitsbut I would love to try. So she actually ended up getting her senior portraitsdone by someone else which was a good call because I did not know what I wasdoing, but she still let me practice on her. So we went to this prairie near myhouse, we took photos for a little bit, and it was definitely a struggle for mebut I edited the photos and I loved how they turned out.
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I no longer love how they turned out just to clarify. And I was like, this isso fun, I could actually do this. So that was September of 2017 and from there onI decided to do some practice portrait shoots to just kind of develop my skillsand get more comfortable with taking pictures of people. I think I did fivepractice shoots and I think it's a good number. Don't go doing 15 practice shoots,you might have a voice in your head telling you that you're not ready to goand do actual shoots,
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but if people see your work and they'rewilling to pay for that, then yes, you are ready to start doing professional shoots. So as I was taking these photos for practice I also started an Instagramaccount for photography. It was very casual, I didn't have like a consistentposting schedule or anything, but I think the important thing was that Iestablished it as a photography account
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so I didn't to start posting thesephotos on my personal account I created a separate account and I waslike I'm a photographer now!!! so that brings us to SECTION 2: the beginning, butless so the beginning. This was spring of 2018, so I decided that I wanted to startdoing senior portraits and I wanted to get paid. So I took some of my favoritephotos that I took during those practice shoots and I made this cute littlegraphic.
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I also spent a long time drafting up some text to put alongsideit. I really wanted to sound professional but also a little bit humorous andlight-hearted just the perfect balance that would entice people to book with me. So what I ended up posting is my official offering was $99 for 60 minutesof shooting and at least 20 edited photos,
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but since I always just editedall the photos that I thought turned out well, I basically would end up with likea hundred photos per shoot. And I'll talk more in the pricing section about how Iarrived at $99. So I posted this graphic and like announcement on Facebook andInstagram on my photography account.
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I also asked people to share it so a fewfamily members and friends shared that and it just kind of got spread around alittle bit. All of my very first clients were my friends, love you guys! which makes sense because I wouldn't expect people who don't knowme personally to trust me with that kind of job especially when it costs $100, soI was really grateful to my friends for trusting me with that. During that firstyear I also shot for some acquaintances so like people I didn't know super wellbut they were still in my grade so they knew me
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I knew them and yeah, it wasn'tuntil the second year that word-of-mouth played a bigger role and I actuallystarted shooting for people I didn't know at all, even people who didn't livein my city. So it's a process but it happensslowly. So that first senior portrait season I had fourteen clients which Iwas pretty happy with, but I definitely had a lot of room to improve not just interms of how many people I was shooting for but my professionalism about it, andso that brings us to
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SECTION 3: making it an official business. This isthe part I don't really enjoy because it confuses me so much but for the 2019-2020 senior portrait season I really just wanted to get more serious aboutthis and that included making this into an official like registered business. Inthe description I'm going to link to an article that really really helped me,it's basically a step-by-step guide to creating a photography business.
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I'm justgonna talk briefly about how I did it so when you're starting a business you caneither go with the sole proprietorship or the LLC route and that article does agreat job of explaining how you decide which one is right for you. So like someof the criteria for going with a sole proprietorship were: if you don't havemuch money in your personal account or many significant assets. Check. if youexpect to earn under 80k with your business.
Check. And if you won'tparticipate in higher risk shoots worth more money and for higher risk clientsand again, check. So since my business was going to be much simpler, much smaller Idecided to go with the sole proprietorship especially since you canalways change to an LLC if you want to. So this route was much less complicatedand in a very summarized short version of what I did:
I filed for a trade name withthe Wisconsin Secretary of State which basically meant that I was doingbusiness as "my full name photography", like that was the name that I was goingto be doing things under. I filed with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue toget a seller's permit and a sales tax ID. I went to the bank that
AndI already have apersonal account with and I set up a business account, so that basically justadded like another checking and savings account that was specifically for mybusiness related income and expenses. With that new bank account I set up aPayPal business account so that people could pay me online without having to docash or write out checks. From that same website where I read the step by steparticle
I also downloaded some photography contract templates. I requireeach client to get that to me before the shoot so that I don't get sued. And thenfinally in addition to a monthly budget I created a separate spreadsheet just fortracking business finances and if you want to learn more about that I talkedabout it in my budgeting and saving video. So now, SECTION4, the most loadedquestion of them all is how do you price yourself. So as I mentioned, that firstseason my price was $100
and I rounded it down to 99 because psychologicalpricing tricks! I thought for so long about how I was going to charge myself. Italked to my family about it, I asked a bunch of friends about what they thoughtI should charge, and finally I ended up settling on a hundred because myreasoning was this. .
I wanted to be earning at least 10 dollars an hourbecause if I wasn't, I might as well just get a part-time job. It would be less ofa headache. Obviously that's not taking into account all the valuable skills andexperience that I've gained from doing this, but just from a purely monetaryperspective.
I calculated that I spent about 10 hours per shoot planningshooting editing etc and so I did 10 times 10 and I got a hundred. A fewmonths in I did raise my price to a hundred twenty-nine because I feltcomfortable with the amount of clients that I had and I also felt like myphotography was definitely getting a lot better and was worth more. But then thefollowing year as I mentioned I wanted to get more serious about how I wasdoing everything and that included how
I did my pricing. First of all Iincorporated price tiers because I realized that there were some people whojust wanted a really quick basic photo shoot because they literally just wanteda good photo to put in the yearbook and then there were other people who wantedto go all out and have multiple locations, multiple outfits, and lots andlots of photos that they could share and put on grad party invites, etc. Toaccommodate all of them
I created a silver gold and platinum package and,write this down, you can't just name it basic names like tier 1, tier 2, and tier3 because you're not going to get any business. I'm just joking but yeah thesilver, gold, platinum I went with because it sounded fun. So, second of all,remember how I said I would edit like a hundred photos per shoot. That was notgoing to work anymore. First of all people need to know exactly what theycan
expect to get from you because there is a very big difference between what Ioffered, which was "at least 20 photos" and what I ended up delivering, which was ahundred. And so basically anywhere in that range is what they could end upwith. Also as I got better at editing I realized that I needed to spend moretime and care with every single photo to make sure that it looked the way Iwanted it to and that was not realistic if I was editing 100 photos. I alsolearned how to retouch photos in Photoshop and I would die if I had to dothat for 100 photos.
So I add a precise number of photos to each package and Iwould allow my clients to choose their favorites that they wanted me to edit. Sofinally this is the pricing that I came up with this is what I started with atthe beginning of the 2019-2020 season I'm only showing senior portraitsal though
I also do some couples and family shoots but the majority of what Ido is senior portraits and the pricing for the rest of them is pretty similarif you do want to see what I price for those you can go to my website andthere's a link in the description. As the season went on I think I changed thesenumbers two or three times and I finally ended up arriving at these prices whichis where I'm at now.
One, because I felt like my work was just getting a lotbetter and I felt comfortable charging that much and two, I shortened the amountof time that I would spend shooting because I realized that I was able toget all of the shots that I could think of at a location in a pretty shortamount of time and so it would end up being
kind of awkward near the end of itbecause I'd just be racking my brain trying to think of what other photos Icould take and so I just felt like that was kind of a waste of time for me andfor them. So if you're trying to figure out how to price yourselfI would first start by trying to figure out how many hours it takes you tocomplete all the tasks associated with a shoot. Figure out how much you wouldlike to earn per hour and then just multiply that.
Second I would definitelylook at some photographers in your area to see what they're charging. I did thatand I was like blown away by how much they were charging so that definitelyhelped me feel more comfortable with my prices, even now I think that I charge way less than a lot of the more professionalestablished photographers that are out there. And thirdly remember that whateverprice you start with you can always change,
so if you notice that you're notgetting as much of a return on the amount of time that you're investing asyou would like you can always bump up those prices. Ifyou notice that people are not booking with you as much because you might becharging too much, you can always reduce them, it's not set in stone so don'tworry about it too much. One last little thing: I did not and still do not giveout friend discounts because one
I really love living a drama-free life andI really did not want people getting upset about who got a friend discountand who didn't. I also just firmly believe that my work is worth what Icharge. I've spent a lot of time developing my skills, I put a lot of timeinto each and every single shoot and yeah,
I just don't want to discount thatand I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Alrighty, SECTION FOUR, wait, SECTION FIVE is promoting yourself. So first I want totalk websites. I did create a website as soon as I started. I used Wix and Ididn't buy a domain name so it was like this super awkward and unprofessional URL but it worked. I had a page that was just a big, like,grid gallery of images
to just give a quick overview of what my work lookedlike. I had a services page that described how much my senior portraitscost, I had like a blog page where I wouldpost every single shoot that I did and my favorite photos from that shoot, andthen I think the last thing was a contact form that people could use toeasily email me.
So it is super important to have a website because first of all,you can do it for free, and so if you don't have one it literally just meansthat you were too lazy to create one. Also while Instagram accounts are greatfor displaying your work I don't think they are a substitute for a properportfolio, so your website is where you can really develop your best work andshow what your style is.
The following year I did want a more professionalwebsite so for one, I bought a domain name that was just my first and lastname. I also went over to Squarespace which I already used for my blog so Ifeel very comfortable using it. I do have to pay $16 / month for that but it's so easy to use it looks so good and so professional. Ialso made my website a little more organized so
I split my portfolio intomy senior work, portraiture, families couples videos and then website projectsthat I've worked on. So now it's very much like a home base for all of thephoto and video and website, etc. work that I do. I also added a frequentlyasked questions page, and you can go over to my website to see exactly what Iincluded in that.
Basically all those questions are answered in my contractbut since people don't get a contract until they book, they should have a way toaccess those answers before they decide to book with me, and it helps me to nothave to answer the same questions over and over again. Then moving ontoInstagram. Having an Instagram account
is definitely a necessity, so I started mineas soon as I started doing practice portrait shoots and as I mentioned itwas very casual at the time. Now I take it much more seriously, so I have afolder on my computer where I have, like, a backlog of photos that I really likeand haven't posted yet and I just pull from those. Every time I post I copy andpaste in a set of hashtags that I wrote out that will help me get those photosdiscovered by people who don't follow me on Instagram.
I would recommend lookingup some articles online that'll help you find hashtags that are related to thespecific type of photography that you're doing. I have a note in my Notes appwhere I have like blocks of hashtags for each of the different kinds of shootsand whichever kind of photo it was I'll just copy and paste that one into thecaption. I've also recently set like a daily goal of how many comments I wantto post on other people's work whether it's in my feed or in my explore page.This is something that I do with my blog Instagram
and so I wanted to start doingit with this one as well just to kind of get my name out there a little bit. Interms of my Stories, after every shoot that I do, I go through and I just selectmy favorite photos and I do a quick little like run through preview thing.Occasionally I also post like behind the scenes of editing or, setting up for a shoot. I use my Stories highlights to compile behind the scenesstuff,
client testimonials, booking information, and then some editing beforeand afters, like you know how they do that tap to edit thing, and that's just toimpress people and show off my editing skills :P So in terms of finding client, asI mentioned I did start with just shooting for friends. For the next yearsince I didn't know as many people in the class of 2020 I literally just wentand followed a ton of people from my high school just so
they would get thatnotification and hopefully follow me back and just know that I existed andthat I did photography. It's really helpful as a senior portraitphotographer to actually be part of a school community so in that way I thinkyou do kind of have an advantage if you are a young photographer. However if youdon't attend a school or if senior portraits are not going to be your focusit's definitely gonna be a little harder to find clients but the process is stillpretty similar. You do some practice shoots, you post those on Instagram, youask people to tag you when
they post your photos, you network, you ask peopleto recommend you, etc etc. all right finally we are on to SECTION 6 which isall about workflow. This is probably gonna be my favorite part to talk aboutbecause you know how much I love productivity and planning and things. Sothe first year I was pretty disorganized with how I did things, but the secondyear since I knew that I was gonna have more clients, I just knew it,
I startedusing Trello. Trello is a productivity tool where you create boards and withinboards you have cards and cards can contain all sorts of information liketext and to-do lists and attached files and reminders etc. So I created aseparate board just for photography and then I have a card for every singleclient which contains a to-do list of all the things I need to complete fromstart to finish, and then different columns to sort those cards under. So mycolumns are inquiry, booked, shot, post-processing, and done.
So to give youan idea of how I work, we're gonna pretend that you're my client and youreached out to me. So it all starts with you sending me an email or a message andme doing a little be dance because I love getting newclients. Once you tell me that you're interested I would duplicate thistemplate card that I have on Trello and put your name on it and put you in theinquiry column.
We would set up a phone call to discuss what date you want to dothis, what location, which package you want, I would answer any questions youhave, and I will also tell you about my contract and the 50% retainer fee that Irequire. So then after the call I would customize a contract for you and I usedto send that just as a PDF and then have people print it out and sign it but Irecently discovered a tool called Adobe Sign where you can actually emailcontracts and have people sign them digitally which is so much easier, so Isend that as well
as a follow-up email to confirm the location, the date andall the details as well as information on how to pay the retainer fee. Then wekeep in touch we do the shoot, yadda yadda. And then when I get home I get my SDcard out right away because I do not want to risk anything happening to thosephotos. On my computer I create a folder which I title in this format and I alsorename all the photos in this format and then I back up those
photos to myexternal hard drive as well as well as my external solid-state drive. So thesolid-state drive is the one that I edit from because it just works faster. Aftereverything is totally done and completed I delete them from there but keep thembacked up on my external hard drive. But from the very beginning I have all ofthe photos on both drives because it's so important to have your photos in atleast
two places. I open up the photos in Lightroom and I just do a quick sortthrough. It takes like an hour so it's not very quick but I sort out all of thephotos that are blurry or where your eyes are closed, just any that didn'twork out, and then all the ones that are remaining I export them at a lowresolution and upload to Google photos. I create an album thatI send to you and allow you to choose which photos you want me to edit and youjust select those, create a new album, and send them back to me, and then I editthose in Lightroom.
I recently created a rule for myself where I have to spreadout the editing over at least two days because if I look at my computer screenfor too long, I just am not seeing the photos with fresh eyes and that makes medo some pretty questionable edits sometimes. Once I feel good about them Iexport them again in a low resolution because they're just previews and I sendyou a new Google Photos album and just ask you for your feedback. If you're okwith them, I will export them at full resolution so that
I can import them inPhotoshop and do the retouching and then finally I upload that to a final albumin Google photos and send you the final photos. Some of the post-processing stuffthat I do is, I will resize the photos so that I can upload them to my website asa new blog post, I'll add some of my favorites to my portfolio, save a coupleof them to post on Instagram, and I also send and write a thank-you note thatincludes my business card.
I also realized that I did not talk at allabout equipment or editing or anything like that, so super quick, SECTION 6:equipment and editing. When I started I was using the Nikon D5200 camera bodywith a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens and surprise, surprise this isexactly the same setup I'm still using. So this is a pretty basic photographysetup and I do think I need to upgrade pretty soon, but I'm holding off on thatpurchase because I recently found the very first portrait shoot that I did andI compared it against some of the more recent photos that
I took and I realizejust how much I've improved without changing anything about my setup. Iliterally just got better at camera settings and holding my camera the rightway and editing, obviously. People say this way too much but it really is thephotographer, not the camera. Obviously you won't be able to do professionalphotography with a point-and-shoot but you also don't need the newest camerabody with a huge lens.
Focus on developing your skills first and not buying newequipment. As for editing, I have always used Lightroom, I love it. I also usePhotoshop but only for retouching. When I started out I was pretty much editingfrom scratch for every set of photos that I did because I never felt like Icould create a preset that worked well for a majority of my photos. Recentlythough
as I've gotten better at editing I have kind of developed a cohesivestyle and so usually I will start out by applying this one preset that I created,making some adjustments and then going from there.I have not purchased any presets from like other photographers, I know that'ssomething that people do, I don't know how I personally feel about it because Ifeel like the editing is such a huge part of like, the art of it, that it feelsalmost wrong to me to, like, take settings from someone else and drop them onto myphotos, especially if they are photos that I'm doing professionally andgetting paid for. I would love your thoughts on that maybe there's differentways to look at it that I'm not seeing But yeah,
holy crap, this was an insanelylong video. The entire time that I was filming I was just watching that clockgo by. Hopefully this was helpful. There's probably stuff I forgot to mention so ifyou have any questions please comment them and I'll definitely get back to you. Looking back I'm so so grateful that I started doing this even though I don'tknow if I would like to do photography as a career,
it was a fantastic part-timejob to have towards the end of high school, and I just want to give otherpeople concrete advice and motivation and confidence to start doing it becauseit's definitely scary at first but it's very worth it. Please give this video alike if it helped you and subscribe to my channel, maybe share this with yourphotographer friend, and I will see you next week. Thank you so much for watching, bye!