Things I Wish I Would Have Known - Starting Your Own Photography Business

The photography world is constantly growing! More and more photographers are finding their true calling and following through! However, there's a few individuals who find this calling but have no idea where to start. Let's be honest, starting a business is scary! It's difficult! But it's all worth it in the end!

Today I'm going to give you my personal Top 10 Tips in starting your own photography business!

#1: Know Your Camera!

So you got that super nice camera for Christmas, your birthday, and you love taking pictures with it, but do you know the limits of your camera? Do you know what ISO means? Aperture? How about Shutter? If you answered no to any of these questions, or if you think you're in French Class (don't worry lol you're not!), than I highly recommend calling over a friend, or even using a child or a pet for a test shoot! Test shoots help you learn how to not only use your camera but accomplish perfect exposure.

Exposure is when you use Aperture (blurry background or sharp background), Shutter Speed (how fast or slow you're wanting to capture your image), and ISO (how much light you want to let into your camera) to create the perfect lit picture.

Now each person is different! So please keep that in mind! For one photographer's 'perfect exposure' may be bright and crisp, while some prefer the more dark, moody exposures. With doing test shoots you're able to find out how exactly you want your photos to look.

#2: If You're Charging Rates, It's No Longer A Hobby

Y'ALL. This is a BIGGIE! Uncle Sam does not play when it comes to his money. So when you're starting a photography business remember, you need to make sure that you have all the proper forms filled out. You're no longer a hobbyist. You're a business owner. So you have to think and act like a business owner. You have to have those papers filed with the Government, you also need to figure out:

  • COGs - Cost of Goods - how much time are you wanting to spend editing? How much time are you wanting to spend with a client?
  • CODB - Cost of Doing Business - this is not the same as COGs. CODB is figuring out how much your supplies will cost, how much is your internet, your phone, supplies, basically anything you pay for, what will it cost your business?
  • Register your business name
  • File for a Tax ID Number

On top of those things to keep in mind, also remember you're not "Just A Photographer". You're a book-keeper. A customer service rep, a secretary, a CEO, a branding wiz, and so much more! A lot of people assume we just click a button, but there's so much more work than just that.

The thing about this tip is that it can go on and on and on. So I highly recommend that you check out The LawTog. This is by far one of my favorite websites that has helped me understand the business side of owning a business since I started!

#3: Shoot For Free

This one may ruffle some feathers but personally, it's a tip that I stood by for years, and still stand by it. I officially didn't start charging clients until two years AFTER I figured out the ins and outs of my camera. Now to some this may seem stupid. Why would you give your products away for free? Why did you do that Rebecca? It's simple. I did not believe I knew enough to be considered a "professional".

Yes I knew how to talk to people, yes I knew how to use photoshop, but back to tip number one, I knew nothing about my camera. I did not feel like I had the right to just randomly charge a client when I wasn't going to give professional pictures.

Shooting for free gives you the best time to test the waters. See if you are actually going to follow through with running a business.

#4: Fit Will Hit The Shan

I'm not going to lie, being a photographer has not been all Unicorn Frappuccinos, and rainbows. There has been some bad days where I just wanted to quit! There's been days where I felt like everyone hated all the pictures I posted. There's been really bad days when things have happened and it was just a giant mess! But here's the thing. You can dust your hands off and call it quits or embrace the failure. Every time I have messed up or failed at a shoot, I made a note on what I did wrong. Whatever I did wrong I made sure to remember that next time I should do this, to avoid that mistake again.

Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day,  neither will your business. Take your time and learn from your mistakes.

#5: Stop Buying Unnecessary Gear!

I am SOOOOOOO guilty of this!! When I first started out I figured that I need this thing that this World Famous Photographer was using. I needed all this studio lighting equipment that this other Famous Photographer was using. It was just basically need, need, need! When come to find out (when I was way way WAY down in the negatives in my bank account) I hate studio pictures. I hate using a exposure disc when it does NOTHING. You really should only buy the equipment that you know you have to have! Remember, quality over quantity.

#6: Stop Worrying About Your Competition

If you noticed in the last tip I talked about what other photographers had, so I thought I needed that. Here's the thing. STOP. Stop worrying about your competition. Let's be real just for a minute. Let's ignore the funny jokes, and be serious. As photographers, we are one of many. Every day there is new photographers up and coming and when we start getting upset because they chose the same career as us, it's making us take our focus off of what's important. What's important is that we focus on what we can do to better OUR business. Worrying about some John Doe and what he is doing for his business, isn't going to make you more successful or a better photographer than him. It's actually going to cause you to stress and more than likely there will be a nagging voice in the back of your head making you feel defeated.

#7: Don't Believe Everything Your Read On Facebook

Let's say you're having a fantastic day. You're feeling pretty hot in your yoga pants and that cute barista at the coffee shop just gave you their number. You're feeling it. Then you open Facebook. It's like you're being swamped with everyone's success! One photographer got published, one photographer got thousands of likes on a picture, they just keep popping up as you scroll further and further down your news feed. 

At that moment you look down and you realize you're in yoga pants. You realize that your coffee is all wrong, and feel that emotion of being defeated slowly creeping up on you. You start wondering, what in the world am I doing wrong?!?

Let me tell you. You're believing what everyone is posting on Facebook. Not everything that you read on Facebook is true. But you know how you can avoid that feeling of defeat? Be happy for them. Lying or not, be positive! Enjoy the cat videos where they are scared of the cucumbers and enjoy the funny Kevin Hart memes. Don't start devaluing yourself and your work at other's success.

#8: Join Local Photography Groups

I really wish that I would have done this a lot sooner. I have met some of the most amazing ladies and men that have not only help build me up, but have offer such kind words that it keeps me going. Facebook Photography groups have a bunch of people that are like you and me. There are beginners in there, there are experts. And most of the groups that I'm a part of, I don't feel judge, I don't feel like I don't belong there. Instead it's the exact opposite.

If you haven't already, search for photography groups on Facebook! BE VOCAL in them! You have a question, ask!!! You never know, you could learn something new and meet some of the best people! I know I have! (I love my EKP gals and guys!! <3 )

#9: Learn From Constructive Criticism

I can not tell you how many time people have gotten so mad at me for asking for constructive criticism. Here's the thing, CC is the best thing ever! Have you ever stared at a photo and thought something was wrong with it? You posted it on a Facebook Photography group and people start giving you back comments on how to make it better. Instead of you looking at it with a positive mind, that people are wanting you to succeed and grow, you're looking at it like they are picking on you. That they are making fun of you.

They're really not. Constructive criticism can help you grow. Others may have experienced the same mistakes that you are going through and can help you fix the problem! This photography community that I love is more about helping you succeed. Because we've all been there.

#10: Have Respect

I can't preach this enough. Respect will get you a long way. I was raised to always respect someone and the work they do and there's a lot of photographers that I feel forget that this is much needed. When you start being rude, back talking, overall tearing someone down, you lose respect not only from clients (current and potential) but other photographers as well.No matter where they are at in their business, give them respect. Would you want someone disrespecting you?

And that's it! Those are my personal Top 10 Tips in starting your own photography business! Leave a comment down below on what you found hard about starting your own photography business!!