This is a loaded topic and there are many different options and styles of photography businesses. I’m going to explain what we did and how to start a photography business. From the very start to where we are now, I’m going to lay out all the steps we took, all the struggles and things we had to figure out. This post is going to tell our story of how we eventually grew a successful photography business.
We were living in Florida in 2008. Connie was going to school to finish her degree in photographic technology. I always liked photography, my grandparents had a photography business and I would go shoot events with them when I was growing up. So I had some background in photography. While Connie was finishing her degree we figured we could make some extra money by doing photo shoots and weddings. We had no clue what we were doing though. We would search the internet for any information and tips and would find all the main photographers at that time that were teaching courses. Photographers like Jasmine Star, Zach and Jody Gray, Zack Arias, and Chase Jarvis with Creative Live.
Our first shoots and weddings were not that great.
We struggled through the first couple years while Connie finished school. We never had steady work and the jobs we did get were low-paying jobs. One photographer in the area was doing really well and I asked him how he was getting so much business. He told me I had to have a website that ranked high on Google.
By this time we had enough examples of our work that were higher quality. So I had a friend build us a website, I thought that a website would be the Magic Bullet that would get us more jobs.
After a few months I realized that our website was not ranking on Google. I put a lot of time into learning SEO to try and rank the site. It never really worked and I never got it ranked very high.
Roughly 4 – 5 years had gone by and we still weren’t making much progress. We had day jobs to get by but we always wanted to be able to live off photography. Around this time we had our first child. All of our family is in New Jersey so we decided to move back to New Jersey to be near family. In New Jersey we live in a tourist area on the coast near Ocean City. The whole economy is based off vacationers in the summer which is great. We still weren’t booking jobs though.
I did some major Research into SEO and how to make it work and found out I needed to be using WordPress. I took two weeks and learned how to build a WordPress site, I thought it was going to be much harder than it was.
Once I had the website running I loaded it with all the SEO information I had learned the previous five years. In about 2 weeks my site was number one in Ocean City. I started targeting a few other towns around me. That summer was the busiest summer we had ever had. The following year we raised our prices a lot. Every year we have raised our prices and our business has not dropped off. Before we had constant business we were super cheap. But the price was not the reason we didn’t have any business. We didn’t have business because no one knew who we were and they could not find us when they were looking for a photographer.
We have expanded every year and now cover three states, NJ, Delaware, and Maryland. I book and schedule jobs and then have a few photographers shoot for us. In the three months in the summer, June, July, and August, we make roughly 40+ k.
So that’s our story in a nutshell. Every year we want to expand a little farther and grow a little more.
This is the main goal of any who wants to start a photography business. At least making money should be your goal if you want a real business. There’s a fine line when it comes to selling an art form. What are you going to sell, what people want or what you consider art? If you want a successful business you need to sell what people want and if you can merge that with your style of art, that would be awesome. If you really want to have a real business and not a weekend hobby you will need to make money. You won’t be open for very long If you’re not making steady consistent money.
Let’s talk about some of the problems most photographers have and see you can figure out how to make money with photography.
First we have the photographer who is afraid to charge a decent rate. We went through this exact same problem. When you don’t have steady bookings you start second guessing and doubting yourself. The first thing that photographers usually question is their price. If you aren’t getting the bookings then your price must be too high right? Wrong! The main problem is most likely your presentation and the fact that you aren’t in front of the right clients.
When you finally get in front of the right people with the right presentation you will find it is really easy to book clients. It took us 5 years to figure that out. In our area we aren’t even the most expensive photographers. There are others who charge close to double what we charge and they do just fine. They target a specific client and have great businesses. Our price is around 600 for a simple family portrait session and our clients are wonderful. We like where we have positioned ourselves.
Our prices are higher than the cheap 200 dollar shoots (where we started out), and less expensive than the high priced photographers. There are other photographers who charge right around the same price range as us and that’s OK too. There are so many differences between styles and personalities with photographers that not every person is going to like our style or mesh with our personality. There’s more than enough clients for everyone.
The second reason you aren’t booking more photography clients would be presentation.
Is your brand, marketing, and how you look and interact with clients professional and presentable. Are you professional and confident? Or do you seem unsure of yourself. When a potential client finds your site or runs into your business on social media, what is the message you are sending?
This is a very important aspect that beginner photographers often overlook. You don’t have to spend a fortune on branding but make sure your site, how you act on social media, and price list look professional. Our price list is actually very plain with no special branding other than our logo at the very top. I’ve seen some great looking pdf price lists. If you are targeting high price clients you would need a great looking price list. Ours works fine for our target client.
The third thing you need to do to make money as a photographer is marketing. People are searching for photographers, the goal is to make sure you are the one they find. Our preferred method is Google. Natural search results, Google local, and paid ads. The first two are low cost and almost free if you put in the time to learn how they work. If you have a little bit of money to spend on advertising each month then Google ads are a great way to find quick business. Pair all three together and you have a great starting point to attract new clients.
If you are good with social media then by all means use that as well. Be careful you don’t fall into the social media trap though. If you are posting a lot on social and getting a lot of action it feels like it’s working, but if it’s not leading directly to more clients then it might not work as effectively as you think.
We will be writing posts and creating videos all about starting a photography business. All the mistakes we’ve made and all the things that have worked for us. You can also subscribe and we’ll send out emails with some exclusive info, great tutorials, and tips.