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Ready to Go from Amateur to Pro Photographer? Here’s What You Need to Know to Get Started

Ready to Go from Amateur to Pro Photographer? Here’s What You Need to Know to Get Started

Practicing photography as a hobby versus building a business upon your photography are two very different monsters. Running a successful photography business is what distinguishes a pro from an amateur. Without the proper preparations or knowledge, your budding photography business can quickly flounder. Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking of turning your hobby into a professional business.

You Need to Study and Know Business as Much as You Know Photography

One of the biggest mistakes any creative can make is diving head-first into starting a business without knowing how important the emphasis on business actually is. Without having a focus on business and an interest in learning more about business on a regular basis, a photography business will be doomed to fail. When considering photography as your profession and owning a photography business, you as the photographer go from wearing one hat (the photographer hat) to wearing many hats. You suddenly become an accountant, manager, entrepreneur, your own educator, and so on. Photography, which was once just a hobby to you, suddenly becomes merely the tool you use to sustain your income. Whereas you’ll be finding yourself spending much more time behind a desk planning, strategizing, and marketing yourself — all in addition to the post-processing work you’re already doing. In essence, you’ll be spending much more time behind a desk than behind a camera.

Time-Management Will Become Your Best Friend

Because of all the new-found desk time you’ll be partaking in, you’ll quickly learn that time management is essential to your success while running your business. If you don’t learn how to balance your time, you’ll soon burn out. One of the worst tragedies is when a photographer loses their passion for photography because running their business made photography become an obligation. The most substantial aid to help you combat this will be managing your time well. Giving yourself boundaries like where and when you’ll work and, more importantly, where and when you won’t work will help to keep the burn-out at bay. To be successful, you’ll want to have your time balanced so that your business doesn’t take over your time and all of your energy.

Personal Projects Are a Must

Speaking of all this business talk that endangers the creative mind of a professional photographer, it's imperative to continue creating personal projects for yourself while endeavoring to run a photography business. If you’re feeling uninspired and unmotivated, it may be time to cultivate some personal time with your photography to create something for yourself instead of for paying clients. Personal projects can easily reinvigorate your motivation to continue producing great work for your clients within your business. After all, we all got into photography because we could achieve fulfillment in creating work for ourselves. Don’t lose sight of that while running your business. 

You Need to Be Comfortable Speaking About Money

One of the most awkward experiences for any photographer just starting with their business is the idea of having to speak with a potential client about charging them for photography services. It can be intimidating and uncomfortable but is essential. Knowing your worth and sticking to that worth is necessary when talking about money with people regarding your photography. It’s also important to understand the idea of adding value to your services, versus taking away value. If you have a client who is uncomfortable with what you charge, try first adding more value by giving more of your time or additional products before considering discounting your rates. It’s important to educate your clients on why your charge what you charge. During the same time that you’re discussing money with clients, it’s also important to be discussing your value.

You Need to Be Your Biggest Fan

When you’re starting out in business, you probably won’t have a marketing budget. One could argue that in today’s business climate, small businesses don’t even need a marketing budget to get their brand out to their target audience. What you do need, however, is to be comfortable tooting your own horn. Marketing yourself involves pointing out the benefits clients will get if they hire you. The very idea of being an entrepreneur means that you have to become your own cheerleader. Building trust with your ideal audience and brand awareness among potential photography clients is key to successful marketing when you’re starting your business. This may involve types of marketing that you may be uncomfortable with like jumping in front of the camera to talk about yourself, your brand, and your business. Practice makes perfect when perfecting your entrepreneurial mind as a professional photographer.

Obviously, there are many vital facets involved when building and operating a successful photography business. Use these helpful tips to guide you into creating a stronger foundation for your new business. Don’t get discouraged and make sure to thoughtfully set goals for yourself throughout the year. Remember that running a successful business means knowing the best practices within the business world.

Lead image by Kaique Rocha via Pexels.

Danette Chappell's picture

Danette is a Las Vegas-based wedding and elopement photographer who's photographed over 1,500 weddings and elopements in 14 different states. She has a passion for teaching business and helping other creative entrepreneurs succeed. She also loves cats, Harry Potter, and the occasional video game.

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All hard. "You Need to Be Your Biggest Fan" is the hardest. Not only as artists we tend to struggle internally and it reads easily on our faces. And it's also hard to be your biggest fan with modesty, without showing off and look like a selfish asshole. Reaaaaaaally struggling with this one.

Know the value of your work.
In my little corner of the photo business the fees have traditionally been higher than other specialities in adv / commercial photography. Most people assisted for studios or other photographers in this specialty when we'd learn or teach not only the technical but also the business side of the business.
Unfortunately, many of the newer people are self taught or learn from workshops and YouTube never grasping the reality of the market. I have run into bids that are 30%-50% lower than mine simply because they don't know how to charge for the value of the work. The work they do is good but they leave so much $ on the table.
They have no problem being their biggest fan and have solid IG and Social Media presence and work more on their "branding" than portfolio

"Know the value of your work." >> This is necessary but not sufficient. You also need to convince your client that your work has value to them. This is key for them of course and for yourself to keep your doubts and self-esteem in control.
I guarantee that everybody has a threshold of bad experiences (of value perception from their client) in a row that will make them feel really bad.

I'd add two: have contracts written by legal professionals. And hire a tax guy.