Every successful business needs a solid foundation. Follow this plan to turn your passion for photography into an exciting venture.
Turning your passion for photography into a business is an exciting and highly rewarding endeavor—one that requires strategic planning and careful execution to pull off. You could be the most talented photographer in the world, but to rely only on talent alone to create a profitable photography business would be a mistake.
Just look at the numbers: Fifty percent of small businesses fail within the first five years. And, according to reports, a lack of financial planning is the number one reason for that failure. Launching a business requires a plan.
Every great business needs a business plan. Image via Dusan Petkovic.
To help, we put together a comprehensive guide to getting your photography business off the ground, including advice from professional photographers, and links to resources from Shutterstock Academy.
1. Identify Your Niche
If you’re starting with a completely blank slate, establishing a niche is one of the first steps you should take when defining your new photography business.
Photographers starting out will often make the mistake of trying to do it all. This mistake stems from the fear that if you say no to an opportunity, you’ve missed out on a chance to grow your business.
But, being a jack of trades and shooting anything and everything—documentary photography, landscape photography, macro photography, stock photography, and so on—won’t help you build up a consistent roster of clients that you can rely on for your work.
Once you’ve identified what you want to specialize in, you can tailor your business to reflect your specific niche or niches. This makes it much easier to target and appeal to specific clients.
Stock photographer Jacob Lund advises aligning your work and clients in a niche that you love. “If you take on jobs for clients that don’t fit your niche or the direction you want to go, you are already wasting time not moving towards where you want to be,” Jacob says. “At the same time, you are putting work in your portfolio that doesn’t align with where you want to be.”
Choosing a specific niche means you can focus your energy in one field and perfect your craft as a specialist.
Stock photographer Jacob Lund recommends pursuing a specific niche and working with clients that align with your creative direction. Images via Jacob Lund
2. Develop Your Business Plan
There’s no shortage of advice on the steps you should take for launching a photography business, but above all else, a business plan is key.
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A business plan essentially outlines your services and what you hope to achieve. It’s an opportunity to organize your thoughts on paper—a detailed roadmap to success.
A good business plan guides you to your goals and helps you track your progress, allowing you to recalibrate your professional objectives along the way.
It lays out what your business is and how it will be profitable, establishing things like expenses, competition, pricing, and so on.
Developing a business plan helps you create goals and stay on top of them. Image via Ape Man.
A comprehensive and well thought out business plan should include the following:
Executive Summary: What is the purpose of your business? What are your goals? The Executive Summary is an overview of your business plan—your so-called “elevator pitch” for how your company is unique and how it’s positioned to succeed. Business Description: What type of photography business will you be in? Portrait photography? Product photography? Commercial photography? While you might have a clear vision of your business in your head, it’s essential to relay that vision to potential clients. This is a chance for you to refine your messaging.Products and Services: What are your products? What are your services? This section of your business plan is where you can provide a comprehensive pricing model for the types of sessions and services you offer. When determining your pricing, it’s important to consider the quality of your work, the perceived value in the marketplace, what your competitors are charging, and your cost-of-goods. Market Analysis: Who’s your target audience? What does your competition look like? What’s the going rate for photos you’ll be directly up against? A market analysis helps you understand your target market, and how you can thrive and remain competitive within it. Marketing Strategies: To ensure a continuous flow of new and repeat clients, it’s essential to engage in continuous marketing efforts. This includes email marketing campaigns, direct mail initiatives, your social media presence, any paid social media campaigns, and so on. Timeline: Setting a timeline is key to staying on top of your business goals. Whether you’re tracking your marketing, financial, or operational goals, using a timeline as a management tool can help you stay accountable. How many photo shoots would it take to cover the overhead costs of XYZ? Set a deadline, write it down, or even put a reminder in your google calendar as you approach the anticipated completion of a task.
3. Choose a Business Structure
One of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is what type of business structure you want to operate.
For instance, do you want a sole proprietorship? This business type is relatively easy to form and more manageable than other types of structures in terms of tax filing. But, they also leave you liable for your business, meaning if you incur any business debts, your personal property is subject to possession. You’re even at risk of being sued.
Keeping that in mind, perhaps you want to form a limited liability company (LLC), which will offer you greater protection should you run into any legal problems.
Consider the pros and cons of each business type before making the final call.
Choosing a business structure is required when launching a photography business. Image via YIUCHEUNG.
4. Create and Register Your Business Name
Once you’ve established a business plan and which kind of business entity you’re going to choose, the next step is to create and register your business name. What you name your business is directly tied to your brand image, so it’s important to choose a name wisely.
You could either go the “personal name” route or pick a name that reflects the type of photography you want to shoot. Just make sure the name is short, sweet, and easy to pronounce/spell, and check that it’s available to use as a web domain.
Your brand name is a reflection of your brand, so choose wisely. Image via Gustavo Frazao.
Once you’ve picked the name of your business, you’re ready to register that name officially. If you’re opting for a business name that doesn’t include your name, you’ll have to file for a DBA—a.k.a. Doing Business As, or a “fictitious business statement.”
Where you file the DBA entirely depends on where you live, and the fees associated with registering a DBA vary from state to state, too.
5. Obtain Business Licenses and Permits
Depending on the state, there are several licenses and permits that may or may not apply to you. One call to your state licensing board and another call to your local city hall will safeguard the lawfulness of your business.
Many places require you to have a permit to operate a profitable business. Reach out to your local government to ensure legal legitimacy. Regardless of whether you need a permit or not, you should additionally ensure you’re prepared to pay and charge proper taxes.
6. Get Your Camera Gear Ready
If you’re a professional photographer, chances are you already have the essential equipment you’ll need to get your photography business off the ground. What you need depends on your chosen niche of photography.
Still, to have the basics down, a quality camera and lens, a tripod, a lightbox, a computer, and simple editing software like Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom will be more than enough to get started.
Choose wisely when purchasing camera gear to avoid overspending on things you don’t need. Image via Denis Andricic.
Avoid overspending on photography gear you don’t need. Use the gear you have, and when it’s time to upgrade, think about buying used.
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7. Establish a Strong Brand
Building a strong brand is more essential than ever in an overcrowded market. It can reflect who you are, allowing your clients to connect with you and your personality.
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Commercial and editorial photographer Laura Thompson says that once she started working with brands that were in line with her portfolio, she found she needed more consistency in her websites, contracts, invoices, emails, etc.
Photographer Laura Thompson recommends investing in your branding to increase income. Offset images by Laura Thompson
“I wanted to be taken seriously and seriously raise my prices,” Laura said. She understood good branding increases business value and would give her business the leverage it needed. Laura reached out to Sharon Wagner of Swail Studio to have a branding suite made—informed by her body of work.
“She took some of the colors I was using and designed a logo, suggested fonts, and created an outline of how to use my assets that I can work from when I’m designing something new for my business,” Laura continues.
Ingredients of an Era-Defining Logo
Since implementing the branding suite, Laura has been able to increase her income, and the look of her business finally matches the quality of the work she produces for her clients.
“My branding definitely makes me look more professional, but remaining consistent with the quality of work I produce and attention to detail with my clients is what makes me successful.”
A cohesive and professional brand helps leverage your business, and attract the right clients. Offset image by Laura Thompson
Beyond the visual identity of a brand, the language you use plays a huge part in connecting with clients. Consider your target audience and which words to use to connect and be relatable.
Are You Thinking About Your Brand’s Visual Consistency
8. Build a Website
Once you’ve established your brand, it’s time to create a website. There are plenty of platforms out there that you can use, including Square Space, Wix, Format—the list goes on.
A website is an opportunity to show off your best work, including your online portfolio. Ensure your work is up to date and features curated images that make an impact.
A strong website should also establish you as an authority. In other words, it positions you and your work in a way that leads the reader to conclude that you’re an expert.
Give your clients an easy roadmap toward booking you. Image by Yuriy Kulik.
Lastly, encourage people to take action by providing links, cues, and prompts throughout your website. Support a potential client’s booking journey and guide them to an inquiry.
Ensuring each page on your website has a meaningful call-to-action (CTA) invites people to take the next logical step in gaining more relevant information on the road to inquiring about you and your services.
9. Expand Your Client Outreach
During the pandemic lockdowns, photography was one of the worst-hit industries, which is perhaps not surprising given the CDC’s recommendations on crowds. As a result, the industry as we know it has changed, adapting to the challenges that are unique to this time.
When we asked how photographers can approach starting a business differently in 2022, photographer Laura Thompson suggested expanding your client outreach.
“Clients are a lot more willing to work with photographers remotely these days,” Thompson reveals. “Consider offering some remote packages and looking for clients outside of your local area.”
Clients have become more open to remote work, meaning new business owners can expand their client outreach. Offset image by Laura Thompson.
10. Stay Open to Machine Learning and AI
It’s no secret: Machine learning and Artificial Intelligence are going to completely transform industries. As discussed in our deep-dive into how AI will affect creatives, AI is already being used in the photography industry today to enhance human creativity—not replace it. Luminar 4 became the first AI-powered editing software, and it won’t be the last.
The increased use of AI in the photography industry is inevitable, so to start a photography business in 2022, it’s essential you be open to cutting-edge technologies that promise to push the industry to new heights.
The coming year promises to be an exciting time to launch a photography business. Refer back to this guide whenever you need some extra guidance.
Remember, if you love taking photos and you’re willing to put in the work, it’s completely viable to make a good living out of it. Balance your passion with real business skills, and you’re on your way to success.
Cover image via Yuriy Kulik.
The post How to Launch a Photography Business in 2022 appeared first on The Shutterstock Blog.
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