Business of Photography

Guide to Starting a Photography Business

Anyone can be an entrepreneur, you only need an opportunity and willingness to work hard. But that is the best part in photography – you don’t have to sit and wait for the right opportunity to arise, you can totally MAKE your future prospects come rushing to you, if you take the right steps in the beginning.

And to guide you through that, we have formulated a road map for you to get your business shining!

Find Your Niche & Be Bold:

Before you even begin your business, you need to first identify which field of photography would you serve. Being a jack of all and a master of none doesn’t work anymore, because the clients have a lot of other photographers who specialize in a particular niche. So, if you’re looking to make your mark in the photography business, then it would be best if you master a niche and strive to become the best in that field. A simple way to figure out what your niche would be, is to create a simple mind-map like the one below and figure out which one interests you the most. Usually, the niches in the world of photography can be put into three main categories: People, Spaces & Still Life. This is for you to figure out which one interests you the most, and then you start developing a portfolio in that.

Niches of Photography
Which niche of photography do you want to serve by your business?

So, after you’ve figured out which niche you would like to work in, you need to find a unique business idea related to your domain. For instance, if you want to pursue Wedding Photography, you might know that a number of photographers are already out there serving in this field, but you need to be able to come up with a unique way to serve the same niche if you want to stand out.

Now you must be thinking that there are many businesses running on “me-too approach” that is, copying the work style of someone else or having nothing exceptional about them. However tempting it might be to jump on the bandwagon, DON’T. You don’t just want to start a business, you want to make it shine. So introducing something unique whilst staying within your preferred niche will give you a competitive edge or advantage!

Another great thing about uniqueness – even if someone copies your idea later on, you will always be the “first” to have initiated it, and that ranks quite high in the business world!

Understanding Business Principles:

  1. Now that you know what niche you want to step into, it’s best to have a clear vision of what you want to achieve in the long run. Dreaming big comes here. But as it is, only dreaming won’t do, your dedication and passion must be evident to anyone who gets to know you and your work, as that helps build a bond of trust unknowingly in the hearts of people which ultimately results in – clients!
  2. Education or excellent working knowledge of the domain is absolutely essential when you want to ace.
  3. Then there is the matter of Capital aka Money! Now, this is something where you can show how clever you are, as it doesn’t have to mean spending too much on equipment when you are still not as good as you need to be, whereas you can think “creatively” and figure out ways to spend less and be stupendous as well!
  4. Avoid impatience and over confidence. Don’t think too much about luck! As I said earlier, MAKE the doors to open for you. With some, it takes time, with many it doesn’t, But the worst thing you can do is stop trying.

Know Your Market:

Once you’ve figured out which niche you would work in, identify your potential customers and connect with them in a way as to build customer value and to achieve profitable customer relationships.

Within a market, there are too many customers with too many different kinds of needs, wants and demands. All customers cannot be served. Hence, to know your specific target market, an effective way is to make segments, that is, to categorize them and see which one suits well with your aims and ideas and ultimately with your vision.

For example, if you choose Fashion Photography as your domain, you may have such segments/categories to look into, as given below:

Aspiring models Fashion shoots for young guys and girls seeking a breakthrough in the fashion industry and looking for a photographer to make their portfolio in reasonable price.
Designers Fashion shoots for designers who needs all their latest designs and outfits photographed to promote.
Fashion Magazines Fashion shoots for magazines, as they also hire a freelance photographer for their photo shoots.


Doing this will make it easier for you to distinguish between who you can serve to more effectively depending on your style and circumstances. This particular way of segmentation requires for you to look into the Age factor involved, Income, Family Status of the potential clients. The Residential Location, Work Location, Likes and Dislikes, Preferences and Values also.

Understanding Competition:

Photo by © fancycrave1

This step deals with identifying your competitors. To see who else is already doing what you plan to do in that particular area and place, how are they going about it and what are they not getting right or is there something they are doing wrong? Critically analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of the competitors and deciding what opportunities are available to you by looking for loop holes in their work and also taking into consideration all the threats that might be coming our way from their side, if they are good at what they do.

Knowing as much as you can about your competition, gives you an upper hand and comes in handy. You’ll see!

Make Your Work Visible to People:

  1. Brand Yourself: As important as it is, branding yourself with something nice, neat and consistent will be good and enough. No need to go overboard with this, as what matters in the end will always be your work. A good logo, business cards, a website and a social media presence, with a consistent look, should be more than enough to get your brand established.
  2. Market yourself: You need to ask yourself some very crucial questions at this point. Such as, where are your potential clients looking today to find help in photography? What are the different and distinctive channels and methods you can use to trace and win clients?

Do an earnest research on it and promote yourself at all the places where you will be in front of them first and leading.

Make sure to even advertise in a different manner than others in that space. You have got to catch their interest, and not just the eye!

Pricing Your Work:

There are lots of pricing techniques available that you can up inspiration from. Here are a few general methods that apply to almost all sorts of businesses effectively.

  1. Customer value based pricing: It requires for you to evaluate the value your client places on the benefits they attain from your service and then using their perception of value as the key to pricing.
  2. Market Penetration Pricing: It only comes in handy when you haven’t prepared well enough in other ways like the ones we have discussed above. It’s about setting low initial price to penetrate the market, as low price will usually attracts a lot of new clients, but this is not the preferable way to start, because you don’t want to be known as the cheap photographer.
  3. Cost based pricing: The most commonly used method. Setting prices based on fixed cost and variable cost. Total cost would be the sum of fixed and variable, plus a fair rate for the efforts and risk involved.
    An example would be:
    Fixed Cost:
    Following may fall under the fixed cost category:

    • Time
    • Electricity used in editing the images
    • Health
    • Security + risk + money spent on equipment being used
    • “Only Jpeg images” might contain its own fixed price where as “RAW + Jpeg images” option may have its separate fixed rate.

    Variable Cost:
    Following may fall under the variable cost category:

    • Props (in case of extra and/or unique props needed, rather than using the background or already available props, as per the consultation of the client)
    • Location (in case of “renting” a location, its cost will be added)

    A very good tool in this regard called the “Cost of Doing Business Calculator” is available on the National Press Photographers Association website to help you through figuring out your costs. Just add in the numbers and at the end, it would tell you what your day rate should be.

I have mentioned it here for the reason that many of the folks plunge into this method without thinking, but soon they discover that they have nothing properly going for them. They also don’t have the right kind of positioning in the potential client’s mind.

If you take one step at a time and progress gradually but through the proper channel, you are bound to make tons of money eventually! So no need to make this mistake. Realize your true value and position yourself accordingly – then stick to it!

Utilize Public Relations:

Build a network of professionals. Associate with people related directly or indirectly to your domain and keep expanding the web. Maintain healthy relations with all your clients, as happy clients lead to more referrals. Keep all your connections alive!

If you are not the social type then practice becoming one because this is one area of work where PR skills matter A LOT! Word of mouth plays a huge role too. So prepare yourself for sweet smiles, small talks, “just stopped by to say hello” and all sorts of professional mingling.

Create a Killer Portfolio!

Photo by © Michal Jarmoluk
Photo by © Michal Jarmoluk

The emphasis on having a great portfolio can never be enough. But what is additional is, the “uniqueness” I told you about earlier in the post. Your portfolio should scream of your exceptional skills and your unique style. Make certain that you take good care of this specific ingredient.

Don’t Give Up!

Someone has said, “Nothing can beat you until you give in and give up yourself”. They are right. Success is directly proportional to the efforts you put in. It may take time so practice fortitude.

That’s all folks! Congratulations and all the very best to you for this exciting venture of yours. Hope this post was helpful!