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How To Start a Photography Business

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Business planning is an essential activity if you want to start a photography business, no matter what type of photography you do. Did you know that entrepreneurs who develop their business plans are x2 more successful than those who choose the “somewhere somehow” route?

Creating a business plan for your photography business may be an overwhelming task, but we’re here to help you figure things out. Read this guide on how to start a photography business from scratch.

What is Your Mission as a Photographer? 

Begin with defining your general goals and specifying your strong points as a business.  

We photographers often tend to be jacks of all trades, but essentially, what we’re doing is pulverizing our chances for success. Do your market research, correlate the results with your interests, and define a niche with your business’s best potential. 

Would it be wedding or portrait photography, limited edition prints, or anything else, figure out the area that would best represent your uniqueness as a professional. 

Read our previous article where we asked successful photographers what is the one thing they wish they knew when started a photography business.

Who Is Your Target Audience? 

It’s critically important to define your target audience from the beginning to shape your services, products, branding, and marketing activities as a whole system. 

define your target audience, when you start a photography business

Photography clients are looking for their special moments to be captured the way they couldn’t do it themselves. Still, it would be great if you were specific while defining your ideal client and factors influencing their purchasing decision. 

For instance, if you prefer portrait photography and live in a military community, your target audience might be military wives. They want to send beautiful pictures to their husbands. So you might want to focus on beauty/boudoir shoots rather than corporate portraits or seniors.

How is Your Photography Business Going to Bring Profit? 

If you want your business to succeed, make sure you treat it as a business, not a hobby. You need to set up a budget and cash flow plan to stay aware of your income and operating expenses. Clarify who you’ll need to pay for and figure out the approximate date you’ll break even. 

Separate your private bank accounts from your business ones. While working on your pricing, ensure your travel, studio, equipment, preparation costs, and taxes. 

How Are You Going to Track Your Progress? 

Specific, time-bound goals are critical to successful business planning. How much do you want to make in your first year in business? How many photo sessions a year/quarter/month does that sum translate to? 

Don’t be afraid to dream big – as long as your dream is described in hours and figures, it’s a milestone that you can achieve step by step, reaching smaller milestones.

Where to Start Photography Business?

One of the first things you need to do when starting a photography business is creating an online portfolio. It will give you the ability to properly showcase your work and give your clients the necessary information to hire you. 

Some Usability Stats

58% of U.S. retail sales will be digitally impacted by 2023, meaning those sales either will occur online or may occur in-store but be influenced by digital technologies, according to a new Forrester report that was emailed to Retail Dive. It means that running a successful business without a website is no longer an option. 

Your online portfolio is a place to present your products and services and also a cheap marketing tool you can completely control. It will help you grow your client’s list and find clients outside of the people you already know. 

Mobile-Friendly Site

Analyzing Google and Bing traffic statistics from 2013 to 2019, the research shows that 39% of users used desktops and 61% used mobile devices. With the rapidly growing use of mobile technologies, you, as a photographer, should build your site taking into account smartphone users. 

How To Select Photos For Portfolio

Despite the fact, you may have a lot of amazing images to showcase in your portfolio, try to narrow down your choices to the more vital pieces. Too many photos can influence loading time. Moreover, your portfolio may look overloaded. Choose a few great shots for each category you have in your portfolio. And use only high-resolution images.

Fast Performance 

40% of web users leave a web page if it takes more than 3 seconds to load (Source: Why Good Website Design is So Important Infographic). 

Taking into account a vast number of high-resolution images on the portfolio site, you need to consider its loading time. People do not tend to wait too long for a website to load; they will leave it faster. So, optimize your pages to make it load as quickly as possible.

All This Can Be Found In Format

All these features mentioned above can be found in Format. Format is an online website builder for photographers, designers, artists, and other creatives. The tool allows you also to create client galleries for photo delivery, schedulу tasks, create an online store, and build a blog. 

Create a portfolio as one of the first things when you start your photography business.

We have a detailed review and step-by-step guide on how to create a photography portfolio on Format! 

Define Your Price: 6 Influential Factors

Pricing is not the topic every photographer likes: it may be boring, tedious, or even awkward. However, it’s an essential part of your business.

You need to consider six factors that influence your prices:

1. Quality. You’re able to deliver high-quality finish results when it comes to photography products and services.

2. Value. You’re able to present your work beautifully and give importance to the market.

3. Confidence. You’re confident in your ability to do photography work from A to Z.

4. Competitors. Your price on photography services should also depend on the costs of your competitors in a particular area. Of course, it does not mean you need to copy a whole competitor’s price list, but consider local prices while setting up yours. Be careful not to enter into a race to the bottom pricing. Nobody wins from this strategy.

5. Cost-of-goods. It means the cost of your time, labor, and materials while creating your photography. 

6. Cost of Doing Business. Like we already discussed in a previous lesson, you need to take into account the cost of doing business. 

Clients and Prices

For many photographers presenting their pricing list to clients can be a challenging experience. If you’re afraid that your prices are too high, remember that there will always be people who can’t or don’t want to afford your services. On the other hand, some people are willing to pay for your work as much as it is needed. 

Create price packages and display all the value your photography business offers.
As an example, think about packaging your service, like Rachel Levine is doing

You need to have a list of reasons why your pricing list is so high if somebody asks. Explain to your clients briefly that you need to cover studio rent, travel cost, insurance, website hosting, equipment, and other business stuff. 

It would help if you learned to say NO to your client, who asked for a discount or reducing the price. Also, you may use a psychological technique called “Reject and Retreat Sales Technique.”

The ideas behind this technique are the following: you offer a massive proposition first, and when the client says no, you offer (“retreat”) to a second cheaper offer to which the client is most likely to say yes. 

You also need to show some of your prices on your website to filter out those clients who are unwilling to pay. 

Ask for a prepaid, non-refundable fee. Sometimes people get their photos, and they’re not entirely satisfied with the results. However, your work is done and time has been spent, so you need a guarantee that you will be paid. 

These are just a few tips on how to deal with clients and prices. 

You need to clearly understand what you charge and when you demand to remain your business on your prices. Be confident about your pricing list once it is set up, and don’t let your clients dictate terms of your business.

Blogging Tips

Blogging has become one of the most popular income sources for photographers these days. So if you haven’t yet leveraged this powerful tool to market your photo business online, better start later than never.

Blogging is good for your career. A well-executed blog sets you apart as an expert in your field

– Penelope Trunk

Simple math: according to ThinkCreative marketing agency, small businesses that blog receive 126% more lead growth than companies that don’t. So you still think blogging is not for you? 

Define Your Niche

The more narrowly you define your target audience from the very beginning, the easier it will be to create content to fit their needs and reach these people out with your marketing messages. 

Blogging is almost an essential part of starting a photography business, if you want to attract more clients.
image source

For instance, if you’re a wedding photographer, it’s better to focus on wedding, couple, and family portrait photography topics to attract people who could be your potential clients.

Upload New Content Regularly

To build and maintain your audience, you should upload content to your blog regularly. If you write posts yourself, you most probably can’t handle more than 2-3 articles per week. Keep your articles short, but blog regularly, which will make Google see your blog.

Work on Creating Your Photography Community

Instead of focusing on publishing content exclusively, develop your blog into an online photography community. Encourage people to post comments and feedback, interact with each other, share their ideas and photos. 

Promote Your Blog

Of course, it will take some time to build an audience and beat the competitors. To achieve this level of success will require promotions, sponsored posts, guest posts, submitting your blog to various directories and blog searches, and even paid advertising on similar blogs from your niche. Make friends with other photography bloggers for cross-advertising.

Of course, it’s better to build a blog on the basis of your portfolio website. Or at least place a link to your blog in the portfolio. Share your tips, high-quality images, and keep posting articles constantly to achieve success in blogging.

Spend 10 minutes of brainstorming ideas for your next blog post. Following the next steps: 

  1. Choose a competitor’s blog and paste the link to the Ahrefs Site Explorer. 
  2. See which posts are the most popular on the Top Pages and Best by Links tabs on the left. 
  1. Spin the topic of that post thinking about some other related factors that might be interesting to the readers. For example, if “10 outfit ideas for a family photo shoot” might be “10 outfit ideas for an engagement photoshoot” or “10 preparation tips for a family photo shoot,” etc.

SEO Trends

SEO will help your website get on top of Google’s search results and get new clients. So, when starting a photography business you can’t ignore SEO. 

Content is a king, and this statement is here to stay. Only quality photography, blog posts and services will attract clients, make them like and share your content, and as a result, make Google see your site.

As portfolio websites do not tend to be updated often, Google may stop seeing your site. That’s why blogging is so important for your business. By publishing new articles constantly you’ll make Google see your site and use various keywords for it. 

Guest blogging will help you to build your brand authority. Provide excellent content to build your reputation, and make everyone see your brand. 

Keywords, Titles, and Tags

When it comes to blog posts, and any information you post of your site, you need to pay attention to keywords, titles and tags. All of them need to match each other.

For example, suppose you’re going to publish a quick post telling about seasonal discounts. In that case, your titles should be something like that: Seasonal Discounts for Portrait Photography in New York. So, your keyword would be Portrait Photography in New York. Tags may vary, New York photography, portrait photography New York, discounts for portrait photography in New York. 

Images and SEO

When it comes to the images you upload in your portfolio, take care to rename them properly, as sometimes people use Google Images search to find what they need. So, your photos are part of developing SEO on your site. 

Instead of DCS557754.jpg name, put something like 1-family-portrait-photographer-new-york

SEO and Social Media

The more likes and shares your portfolio or blog posts, the more chances to see it on top of Google. Social media is a new form of link building. These days, links are mainly archived by providing high-quality viral content that is in turn shared via various social media accounts. 

SEO seems to be a time-consuming and boring job, but as long as you make SEO part of your workflow, your ranking stats will improve. You can analyze your website’s SEO using the free Screaming Frog SEO Spider tool

SEO is important when starting a Photography Business

It allows you to export the key SEO elements (url, page title, meta description, headings etc) into an Excel doc, see your errors and correct them. 


Owning a photography business makes you a wearer of many hats. You will most likely be a photographer, an accountant, and your own online marketer all in one. When talking about “online marketing” we mean everything from SEO, to social sharing, to community growth, as well as management of your company’s presence on visual social networks.

Powerful Visual Storytelling

You have probably heard the words “content is a king”, however the rapid growth of visual social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest showed that the old adage “a picture worth a thousand words” is more relevant these days than ever before. 

Instead of relying on text-heavy content, a visual story requires a “show, don’t tell” approach which will lead to bigger engagement, relevant traffic, and sales. As you know, photography is all about a good story.

Use Your Own Photo for Social Media Profiles

An eye gaze study by a team of psychologists at the University of Padua, Italy finds that images with human faces that either look at or point to prompts are more successful in driving traffic. 

People tend to feel more comfortable following other people even if it’s a stranger in a photo. So, it’s better to use your own picture on all social profile pages instead of an abstract image or even a logo. 

Use Visual Networks

In order to start getting advantages in storytelling, you should use visual networks. Twitter and Facebook are giving growing importance to images, while visual-native networks like Instagram, Pinterest, or YouTube can be ideal places for your photography content. Just stay creative and update your content regularly. 

Share Brand-Related Stuff

Try to share every story of your brand, will it be your new photoshoot or an interesting location you have just discovered. You may share some photos of your computer display where you edit new photos, but make sure to take a photo with your logo or some personal sign to indicate yourself. 

For example, look at Chris Burkard Instagram profile. He is a landscape/travel photographer from California with 3.6M followers. 

Along with personal stuff, Chris shares his clients’ photos, announcements about coming workshops, and other brand-related things to grow his engagement and number of followers. 

Keep It Coming

Share your last photo session, best photos, personal stuff, videos behind the scenes, and some other stuff related to your and your branding to show people you’re social. Be active, communicate with people, feel free to tag your clients on pictures, and start the conversation in the comments.

With this post I hope you are ready to take the next step to start your own photography business.

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