In this world of digital photography everyone is packing a camera where ever they go; either on their cell phone, a compact point and shoot, or a DSLR. One side effect, good or bad, of everyone having a camera is that there are a lot of people who feel that they are ready to start their own photography business.
The more I read on social media the more I am convinced that there are a lot of photographers out there that went into business before they were ready. Because so many people have started their business before they are ready, it means that they are always going to be playing catchup and they are not going to know what to do when the client asks for something.
I think that the first thing photographers need to really understand; before they ever consider starting a photography business, is their gear. What gear do you have? Do you know how to use the gear you have for maximum effect? Do you need more gear? If you feel you do need more gear then what gear do you need and why do you think you need it? When it comes to technology side of photography I agree with Scott Robert Lim, once you have a good understand of the technical then you can let your creativity really go. The simple fact is, if you don’t know how to use the gear you have to achieve the look you want more gear is not going to change that, learn to work with what you have and then when you do get more gear it will only be easier to achieve great photos.
The next item on the list of things you should understand before starting a photography business is to “Understand why you think your customer should by your art.” Every business should know why customers should come to them and not their competition. Most of the general public doesn’t know the difference between a fine art photograph and a snapshot, but I believe a photographer running a business should know and be able to explain the difference to another person. Knowing the difference between a snapshot and fine art is only part of being able to explain why customers should come to you for photography services.
These are only a few things that you should be aware of before you start your photography business. One thing you do need to remember is that you are going to spend most of your time on the business side of things and not on the photography side. The business side is where all the decisions are that no one wants to make; these decisions directly affect your clients and what you are going to tell them when they ask for something. As an example; I read a post about a photographer who was hired to do a wedding and while on the job the client was asking about getting other portraits done at the same time and the photographer didn’t know how to answer this client. When I read the post the answer was clear, you tell the client that yes you can do the other portraits but they will be an additional cost for the extra work. Telling the client that there will be an additional cost for something is not going to make them happy and if you have not already made up your mind on how you will handle this type of situation then you will be doing a lot of extra work and not getting paid for it.
The most basic goal of your business should be trade goods and services for money. We all want to get paid to do something we enjoy doing; one main problem is that there are a lot of harder business decisions that come with running a business that most people either don’t realize of don’t want to address because they don’t want to make their clients unhappy. One thing I have learned in trying to build my photography business is that the client is not always right and you have to be willing to walk away from the deal, this is where the paper work such as contacts and model releases come in. Remember you photography equipment costs money, you have invested a lot of time and money into your photography education, it takes money for you to travel to the locations of your shoots, if the price of your services do not reflect this then you are losing money and letting your clients walk over you.
This is the first of a multi-part post on some of the things you should be aware of when you are considering starting a business as an artist.