You love photography. You have a passion for it, and you’re good at it.
You’d love to start a photography business. But, what kind of business? How do you know what direction to go in?
Since I’ve been in your shoes, I’d like to share with you the best advice I received, how I found my path, and the skills you’ll need to make your business successful.
1. Start building your audience now
Even if you’re not sure what direction you’re going in yet or who your customers will be, you need to start building your audience right away.
This is the best piece of advice I received when I was thinking of starting a photography business.
The thing is that once you have a photography product or service ready to sell, you’ll need some people to tell about it. So you need to start building your audience now.
Whether your ideal customer is a stranger on the internet or someone you’ll meet in person in your town, they will do their research by looking you up on the internet and checking out your social profiles. And you don’t want them to be empty!
Get started on a few social networks and just start sharing your work. You’ll need to spend a bit of time interacting and engaging with people to get them to notice you. Follow other people, perhaps some photographers you admire, like and comment on their work, and they will likely reciprocate.
It can be slow going at first (which is why you need to start now) but having that audience will be critical to your future success.
2. Find your unique place in the market
I’m not going to lie, it isn’t easy making a living in photography these days. And if you think you’re going to do it selling prints or selling stock photography, you might need to think again.
The market has changed a lot since microstock companies arrived. Many big name photographers who made their living selling their photos for decades no longer can. Most of them are now doing workshops to make a living.
It’s really hard to sell prints and even magazines rarely pay for photos anymore. They will often run a photo contest where the entrants give away their rights to the photo in order to enter, and then the magazine gets to use all the photos for free. If they do decide to purchase, they’ll probably go with one of the big name photographers who have a reputation in the industry.
I’m not saying it isn’t doable, I do know a few people who make a living that way, but it’s a tough way to go.
On the other hand, there are lots of photographers out there making a go of it and there’s no reason you can’t be one of them.
The trick is to find your own path. Try to find a way to create something unique in the market by combining photography with something else that you have a specialized knowledge of or interest in.
Make a list of all the things that you have a good deal of knowledge about, and then brainstorm how you might combine photography with each of those things.
For example, when I was planning my business, I wrote down my areas of expertise including: software development, teaching, writing, dogs, boating, travelling, music and more.
One of my ideas was to combine photography with my love of boating. How? I could do marine based photography tours. Or I could give boaters something they all want and very few have: a photo of their boat underway. Or I could photograph boats for sale like a real estate photographer. Of course, I ended up going down a different path, but this is just an example of how you can brainstorm ideas to find your own unique place in the market.
Once you have chosen your idea, do some research, define exactly what your product or service is, and who your customers will be.
3. Learn internet marketing and sales strategies
Understanding how to market and sell your product or service is essential to having a successful photography business.
I know of a lot of exceptionally talented photographers who cannot make a living because they don’t have business skills. By the same token, there are photographers out there who are perhaps not as talented, yet have successful businesses.
The key is understanding how to market your business.
If you’re going to be marketing your products or services on the internet, there is a very specific group of skills that you’ll need to master including blogging, lead generation, email marketing, social media marketing and understanding analytics. Investing some time into learning these skills will make a massive difference when it comes to being successful in an internet business.
Don Urban says
Thanks Anne. Some sobering tips here. Simple.
Anne McKinnell says
You are welcome Don, glad you found it helpful. It does take some time to build an audience, and sometimes time on social media can feel like it is wasted, but ultimately that’s how you get an audience for your business.
Greg Burke says
Anne, I am in Australia and I am trying to purchase the Ultimate Photography Bundle but I have not had any success at this stage. I have sent an email off to the Ultimate Photography Bundle people I am hoping they can help me out.
When I hit the button to purchase the Ultimate Photography Bundle a message comes up telling me that the Order form is not supported by Windows Explorer and that I should try another browser.
Would you know anything about this?
Anne McKinnell says
Hi Greg, sorry you had trouble purchasing the Ultimate Bundle. I guess you mean Internet Explorer? Yeah … that doesn’t surprise me actually. It’s a terrible browser!! I remember when I worked in software development, we always had problems with Internet Explorer because they don’t follow the standards. It’s really hard to make any app work on all the other browsers and Internet Explorer, so we used to make ours work on all the other browsers. That’s probably what Ultimate Bundles does too. I think you’ll find you have a better experience on the internet all around if you get a different browser. I recommend Chrome. Firefox is also good. I hope this helps!
It would be great to have an insight on how you personally make money with photography – if you do. Those tips are great but very general. In regards to social media, I see people who follow an handful of people, never comment on other posts but are followed by thousands.
Anne McKinnell says
Hi David, well I have a variety of income streams, but what works is going to be different for each person. That’s why I emphasize finding your unique place in the market. For me, I have a lot of experience in writing and in teaching software since I used to work in software development. So I make a living in the educational side of photography.
About social media, those people that do not engage much with others yet have a large social media following are probably people that already have a photography reputation. If you’re just starting out, you’ll need to build that following from scratch. I hope that helps.