I get a lot of questions on how to start a photography business with no experience. The easiest answer is to just start. But I know you’re not here to read about that so I’ll elaborate it.
It is quite a simple process, but like in any creative field, there is never a guarantee in making an income. Determination and implementing these tips, you can easily be selling your photos within 6 months, or even in less time.
How to start a photography business with no experience
You can surely do many things without experience, but if you wish to create a successful business or becoming an artist, you do need to at least have a plan.
Now you’re thinking – ok, so you can’t really start without experience? Everyone starts without experience. Interest is the first thing to have before theres any experience. And since you’re already here, I’m assuming you already have it.
In this article I will be sharing how to start a photography business step-by-step – going through all the things you should take into account if you wish to start today.
1. Have a genuine interest towards photography
This is kind of an obvious tip to give, but I feel theres a lot of people who think photography is a certain kind of profession and they can have this ideal lifestyle when becoming professionals. Before you start photographing for clients, it’s inevitable to be interested in at least composition and lighting.
So how to get into photography?
Natural interest to your surroundings will also help you, as you will start looking at the world a different way. I started photographing my family, and soon they got used to it and didn’t mind me being there.
This allowed me to be a part of very intimate moments where only I was invited to. Not many people have access to situations like this. So look around you, what is something you find intriguing in your daily life and habits?
2. Have a camera, that won’t take up all your savings
My first camera that I actually got decent pictures out was Canon AE-1. It cost me 50$ and I was excited every time I photographed with it. Of course, I wasn’t always sure what would come out of it, but it kept me learning.
I also got a cheap Canon EOS that did the job if I’d have to take more professional photographs. Invest 50-100$ to a used camera that will let you start learning about the necessities of photography.
If this seems like not an option at the moment, almost everyone has a a smartphone; get an attachable lens to it for 15$ and you’re good. I find it to be sad, that we are advertised we need the best equipment.
Yes, as you get better and become more sure of your journey as a photographer, your equipment will play a big role in deepening your practice.
But in the beginning, you just need to find excitement in taking pictures and if financial reasons are keeping you from developing yourself, you should find a way around it. Starting a photography business will require more determination and decision making than equipment or money.
3. Find people who want you to take their picture
If you have siblings or children, this is an obvious place to start. Family doesn’t really put much of a fight when insisting on photographing them for hours. Why do you think I started my project with my mother?
After multiple failed shots and photoshoots gone wrong, you have learned what works for you and what doesn’t. Do not try to speed up this process. It is crucial in becoming better in photography.
Fail early, fail often, but always fail forward.–John C. Maxwell
If you feel like it’s difficult to ask your siblings or people you know to be photographed, start photographing yourself. Create portraits that you can use in your portfolio.
Another way is to start product photography. If you are looking at the whole photography field from a financial point of view, learning product photography is probably less time consuming – and easier to come by; no pressure of making your subjects feel comfortable, or expectations of end results.
Many brands and clients need product images for their business so it is an easier way to get started. It will require you to learn more about lighting, but in the beginning learning just natural light will get you ahead.
4. Build a portfolio that will generate new clients
This is something to think about once you have a selection of images you want to combine into a coherent portfolio. Having something to show when applying for paid jobs, is obviously crucial.
Portfolios used to be in physical form, and some still have them. If you have a smaller budget it’s easier to build one as a PDF and send it out to your prospects. If you’re looking for the best and fast results, my opinion is to try Photoshop to edit your portfolio and images.
You need to select your images and make a compelling layout for clients to notice your work. It’s a combination of pitching your work and simultaneously showing it in order to land more paying clients. Later you’d have to build a website for your work to be viewed as professional.
5. Start developing your skills and getting better
It’s not as easy as you’d think but it’s not as impossible as it seems either. No, you won’t be making any money in the first months or sometimes even years – this is only to do with how much effort you’re willing to put into what you’re doing. It goes with everything, if you’re consistent – it will pay off.
But there is no expected amount of time when it will start being beneficial for you. And here again, if you want to benefit financially or if you want to benefit by learning and understanding it’s a process you need to go through the initial difficult phase whether it’s a long one or a short one.
Photographers are never truly all-knowing or ‘ready for their field’. You learn everyday as you go and know more about what you should implement in your practice. If you find people in your circle who are willing to pay you for your photographs, that’s the starting point.
But it is unlikely someone will ask you to do a huge campaign for them if you’ve just started 6months ago. So start with small photography jobs and gradually understand how to price your work.
Don’t be discouraged by people telling you no, but see it as an opportunity to question yourself if you truly want it. To better help you get started, I created a photography business checklist for you, which will clarify what you need when starting your photography business.
6. Making your business official
It doesn’t matter if you are shooting wedding photography or offering other photography services. There are a few essential steps that many photography business owners forget to take when setting up their business “legally”. Having a business is so much more than simply taking pictures.
As a small business owner, these are some valuable tools for your business education. Don’t forget to include these in your personal finances and accounting software when crunching the numbers for your business.
You need to come up with a brand name for your services. Oftentimes photographers choose their own name or something easy to spell and remember when searching for your services. Be picky when it comes to a business name, as it will go on all your marketing materials and social media platforms.
Register Your Business
If you want to have a legal business that pays taxes, you need to register your business with the state and the IRS. As long as they get their tax money, they are happy to allow you to run your business. While registering, you will need to decide on which of the following you want to be. You can also check out legalzoom.com for more business advice if this feels confusing.
Sole Proprietor: This is the quickest and easiest way to register your photography services. It goes on your personal tax return. The only issue with this choice is you are fully liable when things go wrong in your company. That means you could be sued and lose all your personal assets, studio space, photography equipment, and much more. If someone decides to sue you, they can go after your personal belongings, including your home.
LLC: An LLC protects your assets and can still have your taxes go through your personal tax return. If you have multiple members, you will be taxed as a partnership. The paperwork is a little different than a sole proprietor but not that difficult.
S-Corps and C-Corps: This is the most complicated tier of registering and includes ongoing costs. Most single-person photography businesses don’t need to be a corporation.
But you should speak to an accountant to find out if this is a way for you to gain more money and save on startup costs like editing software, camera body, and office space. Finally, you should attend trade shows in photography to learn more about all of these and your options.
Obtain a business permit
So you take amazing photos, you have people skills and a marketing budget, but do you have a business permit? Well, this varies state by state. Some types of photography, such as a free shoot do not require a license.
The best way to find out what you need for your photography business is to call the state licensing board and then the local city hall. Within a few minutes, someone can tell you exactly what you need and how much it costs.
Secure an EIN
An EIN or employer identification number is a very important part of setting up your professional photography business. It’s free to get one, and you need to set this up so you can pay your taxes and operate as a legit business. You only need this number if you are an LLC or S-Corp. It helps banks identify you when setting up your business accounts.
Create Client Contracts
As you become the go-to photographer for your target market, you must have client contracts in place to protect you and the clients. It doesn’t matter if you shoot family portraits or pets. You always want something in writing stating your services, what you provide, and what you don’t.
Also, you may consider signing up for Professional Photographers of America for this very reason. They offer lawyers and contracts for free within your membership. It’s the perfect way to look professional to prospective clients and an easy way to create contracts without having to think much.
Get An Insurance
No matter what niche of photography you decide to work in, it’s important to get insurance to protect yourself and your customers from unexpected accidents. Professional Photographers of America offers affordable insurance made for photographers. They can also help you with a business license.
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