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The Ultimate Checklist To Starting A Photography Business

By Jacob Terrence

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If you are one of those people trying to figure out how to make money with photography, you’ve come to the right place. But before anything else, you should have a dose of reality.

Just like any other business, consider photography business as a gamble. There are
a lot of factors involved that could potentially close your company down. But with a
smart approach, you can tip the odds on your favor.
You can make it less of a gamble and more of a calculated risk. This checklist can
give you a more or less straightforward and easy-to-understand approach to attract
more customers and projects.
Let’s get things started.

How to Use This Photography Business Checklist?

If you are one of those novice photographers trying to figure out how to become a
professional photographer, this might be too advanced for you. This checklist is
specifically made for pros looking for ways how to become a photographer business
owner.
Everything that we are going to include in this checklist has been proven effective
over the years. Try to follow everything that we include in this list to see the desired
results. However, if you miss a few ones, don’t worry too much as well.
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1. Choosing a Photography Business Name

What’s in a name? Names can be powerful especially when starting a photography
business. The truth is that a name can go a long way. It can mean the difference
between failure and success in your niche.
 
Having the right name can bring in customers and even make it easier to market
your business. A name should be infused with personality plus it should be easily
remembered by your audience.
 
But when it comes to choosing from photography business names, there are several
things that you need to consider.
  • Is it taken?
The first thing you should check is if it is already taken. The last thing that you want
is to get sued because you failed to check the availability of the name. You’ll most
likely have to do a trademark search to make sure that there is no other company
that uses the proposed business name. But of course, it is always a good idea to play it safe. You also want to check on social media if the name is not taken by some business. Having a business with a similar name can confuse potential clients.
  • Does it catch other people’s attention?
Next, you will have to say the proposed names aloud. You want a name to be sound
good. Try to let your friends hear it as well. For instance, some of the most
successful brands made use of alliteration to capture the attention of their
audience. Good examples of this include Dunkin Donuts, Coca Cola, and PayPal.
  • Does it reflect the type of service you want to deliver to your audience?
The brand name can also be a good way to depict the type of services that your clients can expect from your photography business. For example, the name “ Fast Shutter Photography ” can be a good name for a photography business that offers sports photography services.
  • Does the name have a deeper meaning?
If you will look at Lululemon, Chip Wilson intentionally included three Ls in its brand
name since Japanese people can’t pronounce the letter L. And this would make the
name distinctly from North America. Keep in mind that during the early stages of
Lululemon, their yoga pants were made in Vancouver.
  • KISS (Keeping it Simple Stupid)
But of course, you don’t always need to find a deeper meaning on your photography
business name. A simple name is sometimes the best choice. Some photographers use the simple formula of name + photography when it comes to naming their business.
 
Give it time and think everything through. It is better if you can come up with at least ten possible names for your business.

2. Decide on the Type of Services That You Offer

There are plenty of reasons why clients need a photographer. Some need a product
shoot for a company’s website while some need a photographer for wedding
photoshoots. To cover all bases, you want to list down the things that you can offer
to your audience.
 
But the thing with the industry today is that clients expect more from photographers.
For instance, a typical wedding photography contract may also include video coverage.
 
One common mistake that photographers make is to take ambitious projects that
they can’t finish. For instance, if you are covering a wedding, be sure that you have
enough manpower to cover everything. It is a common practice among wedding
photographers to bring two to three other staff members that will provide photos and video coverage as well. If you are offering this type of service, it is ideal to assemble a team that you can trust.And also, if you are going to offer a particular service, be sure that you are confident
 
about it. As a rule of thumb, everything that you are going to include in your website’s services page should be something that you’ve done for a number of times already. You need to have a certain level of proficiency wherein clients are going to be happy with the finished product.
 
And not only that, you should also be honest with yourself if you plan on offering these services. The last thing that you want is to under perform than what your clients expect.
 
And of course, be sure to fix your schedule. You don’t want to cancel on projects since this can paint a bad picture on your company. Keep in mind that it only takes a few bad reviews to see your photography business crumble to pieces.

3. Hire the right people

If you are looking for ways on how to make the most from your photography
business, you have no other choice but to have multiple clients. If your weekly
schedule looks stacked week after week, might as well hire a staff that can assist
you. It can help expand your business. You can get more clients and earn more from
your venture.
 
You might be hiring another photographer or a videographer who can cover the
video editing and video shoot aspect of your projects. When it comes to opening
photography jobs for your business, be sure to be picky during the selection phase.
It is always a good idea to scrutinize their experience, work ethic, and style. Take
the time to interview each applicant before hiring someone.
Before hiring photographers, one question that you need to know is how much do
photographers make? This way, you’ll know how much to offer potential
employees/partners.
 
In reality, there is no fixed rate when it comes to their pay. But perhaps, expect a
bigger cut from more experienced photographers. And also, rarely do you see
photography businesses offering a fixed salary for their mainstay photographers
and videographers.
 
It is more common that photographers and videographers get a cut from your
photography pricing. But since you own the business, you’ll most likely get the
bigger piece of the pie simply because it is your photography business’ reputation
that is on the line.

4. Know Your Market

Next, to be able to run a successful photography business, you need to know your
target market inside out. At the core of any successful business is their familiarity
with their primary audience. Though a general description of your market is a good start, you have to narrow things down to know more about their behavior plus their
expectations.
 
This way, it is easier to build a persona behind your company’s brand that can
communicate with them. And also, you will have an idea about their usual budget.
 
Try to build a profile of the typical client who you want to target. Are you looking to
attract a particular niche? If your forte is wedding photography, do you offer your
services to couples looking to have a grand wedding? Or perhaps, you want to offer
services to small business owners in need of product photoshoot?
 
Aside from their profile, you shouldn’t forget about the location where you plan to
offer your services. Are there specific areas that you want to offer your services to?
It doesn’t mean that you are already excluding other potential clients that don’t fall
under this description. But instead, it becomes easier who you should typically be
focusing on.
 
Here are some tips on how you can find the right market for your photography
business.
  • Who are your current clients?
If you’ve started your business already, who are your typical clients? Try to make a
profile from the current pool of clients and see who typically avails your services.
  • Check similar brands
Another good strategy is to check your competition’s market. There are instances
wherein you are vying towards the same crowd.
  • Know your services inside out
Next, you also want to know who will typically need your services? If you are
offering product photography services, who do you think typically needs this kind of
services? Most likely, you are going to attract business owners rather than random
individuals.
  • Evaluate your market
And of course, make sure to always evaluate (and re-evaluate)your market
regularly. There are instances when their attitudes change as well as their needs.

5. Secure Your Funds

Though you can find a good number of guides online on how to start your own
photography business, you don’t find a lot of tips on how to secure funds that can
keep the ball rolling.
 
Finding the funds to start your business can be a bit of a hassle. Some prefer to use
their savings for this type of business. On the other hand, some entrepreneurs stick
to their photography business plan to secure a bank loan.If you are going to submit a business plan, you need to have a thorough proposal.
 
It should include where you plan on starting the business, the amount that you need,
plus preferably a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats)analysis. Since you will have to pay the bank loan with an interest, the bank will then evaluate the feasibility of your business. The goal is to convince them that you can pay them back and you are not going to close your business down before settling your loan.
 
Another good way to secure your funds is to get the help of other likeminded
individuals. It can be a team of other photographers who will join your team and
become co-owners of the business. Or maybe, it could be an angel investor who is
willing to let you borrow the money for a small interest. Getting other people can
help lessen the risk, but it can also complicate the operations of your business on
some occasions.
 
If you are getting help from other people to co-invest with your dream photography
business, expect them to also get involved in the decision process regarding the
direction of your business. It could result in conflicts and even your business closing
down.

6. Have the Right Tools

To be able to deliver the best photos, you will need the right gear. The right camera
and accessories can all make a big difference when it comes to doing projects.
  • Camera
There are plenty of cameras to choose from in the market. When it comes to
choosing the camera brand, it is mostly preference and familiarity of the
photographer. Some individuals prefer Nikon than Canon, while it is the complete
opposite for others.
 
Another consideration when buying a camera is the type of work that you want to
cover. For instance, if you are going to offer sports photography or cover events,
Nikon D5 is a good option if you have a budget that runs around $6,000. This
camera also takes 4k resolution videos if you plan on offering video packages.
 
But of course, there are always cheaper alternatives. And also, don’t be intimidated
by well-funded photography businesses. You always have the option to start small.
  • 5-in-1 reflector
Ask any pro photographer and they’ll tell you that lighting is everything in photography. Without the right amount of light, you won’t be able to get the right exposure that on your photo. With a 5-in-1 reflector, you can easily redirect and produce a harder or a softer light on your subject. This comes in handy if you are going to shoot outdoors such as prenup photo shoots.
  • Tripod
When it comes to investing in a tripod, be sure to pick something that can support a
good amount of weight. The last thing that you want is to compromise your camera,
lens, and flash because you are trying to save some money on your tripod.
  • Prime 50mm lens
There are a lot of benefits to a prime lens. This comes in handy for portraits.
Compared to lenses that have variable focal lengths, prime lenses have bigger
aperture typically around f/1.8 and even f/1.2 in some instances. It provides a good
bokeh which makes it suitable for shooting portraits.
  • Flash(Strobe and Speedlight)
There are instances when you need to even out the lighting on your subject. A flash
is a great way to provide the right lighting. If you are running a studio, it is a must
that you have strobes. On the other hand, if you are shooting events whether
indoors or outdoors, a Speedlight flash can come in handy in these situations.
  • 24-70mm Multi-Purpose Lens
A 24-70mm multi-purpose lens is also suggested for any photographer because you
want to be able to shoot your subject without really getting too near. Plus, a
multipurpose lens allows you to take wider shots if needed.
  • Computer
Next, for your photography business, you will need to have a computer where you
can do the post-processing and save all the files of your clients. However, always be
sure to have a backup hard drive. Make it a habit to save it the files in two different
places to be sure that if anything goes wrong, there is always a backup that you can
rely on. If not, you will end up giving a refund to your client.
  • Photo and video editing software
A photo and video editing software is a must for any photography business. For
photo editing tools, there are free ones available online such as GIMP and Adobe
Lightroom. On the other hand, you’ll most likely have to buy video editing tools if
you want your product to look professional.

7.Have a Competitive Price List

At this point, you might still be wondering how much to charge for photography
services that you are going to offer.
 
Pricing can affect the number of clients that you are going to have. Remember that
clients also want the best bang for their buck. As a rule of thumb, make sure that
your pricing is competitive especially against your other photography businesses in
your area.
 
The first thing that you have to do is to do a bit of research and see your
competition’s pricing. Try to compare at least five companies. Check everything they offer from their real estate photography pricing to their product photography
pricing. Here, you will have an idea of how much each service costs within your
area.
 
Keeping the price lower than the market average can sometimes attract clients.
However, if you are dealing with a detail-oriented client, they’ll most likely check
your reviews as well.

8. Build a Solid Brand

No matter how good your photography services are, if the business isn’t marketable, then it will all be useless.
 
The next step is to build a solid brand for your business. Have you encountered
photographer business cards that stand out from the rest? Perhaps something that
made a good first impression? That’s the power of branding.
 
Branding is usually misinterpreted simply as the company’s logo. In reality, it goes
beyond an artist logo. Branding pertains to the voice that you will be using on your
copy to communicate with your audience to the colors and fonts on your website.
 
Branding is everything that makes your business stand out as an individual from the rest. These are the things that you’ll see in photography business cards, website, social media, and even their marketing materials. This is a critical step for many reasons. With the right branding, you can make a good impression on your audience. Even if you have a small business, you can be seen by your market as a business with strong capabilities.
 
As a rule of thumb when building a brand, always think of your business as a person. How do you want this person to dress, talk, and act in front of others? To give the business its personality, you will need to decide on its logo, typefont, color,
and voice.
  • Logo
Having the right logo can be challenging and overwhelming. At times, the most iconic photography logos are simple ones. You can decide to use a simple symbol, typography or a combination of both.
 
But to have stand out logo, you will need to do a lot of research. Try to save all the logos that you liked even those from different industries. Also, you should also take a closer look at your competition’s logo. This way, it is easier to instruct a graphic artist to work on your logo.
 
Once you’ve finalized your logo, you should also know how to trademark a logo. This becomes part of the company’s asset.
  • Fonts
Choosing the fonts for your branding can go a long way. Websites such as Dafont.com and urbanfonts.com offer a variety of options that you can check for inspiration.
  • Color
Color is something handy when it comes to building first impressions. The right color
can make your brand look premium and modern. Colors can be used as a theme for
the logo and the entire website. And also, color can trigger emotional responses to
consumers.
  • Voice
What type of voice are you going to project to your audience? Would you be using
something more casual or something more formal?

9. Create a Website

Every business today needs a website. By having a website, it becomes easier to connect with your audience. When it comes to having a website, you will need to focus both on aesthetics and functionality.
 
When it comes to aesthetics, the site should be reflective of the branding that you want to establish in your niche. It should have the right color to reflect your personality. Plus, it should include informative content and a voice that is
recognizable to your audience.
 
And also, you need to pay close attention to the features of your website. For example, if you are selling photographs on your website, your site should have a photography copyright release form upon checkout. It ultimately means that your
customer has the freedom to use the photographs however he or she chooses to do
so.
 
Nowadays, a website has to be fast and mobile-friendly. Apart from the fact that fast and mobile-friendly sites rank well on search engines, this approach to design is also user-friendly and intuitive. Just put yourself in your client’s shoes. You’ll most likely try another photographer if you have to wait for more than three seconds per page or if the website can’t be used conveniently on your mobile device.
 
What should you include on your website? You should provide your audience with a brief history of your work as a photographer. Your website is your opportunity to highlight your strong points. Perhaps, mention the years of experience and awards that you’ve won over the years? What sets you apart from other photographers?
 
Also, you want a photography business website to have a complete list of pricing. If you can’t give an exact amount, at least give a range. Or maybe, you can also have a portion where your potential clients can contact you for a quote.
 
Another important rule when having a website is to have it on WordPress. Just to give you an idea WordPress runs around 35% of websites in the World Wide Web. Wordpress makes it easier for web owners to have control of their site’s backend. You can easily add plugins to add the necessary functionalities that you need.
 
In addition to this, WordPress complies with Google and other top search engine’s
standards. This makes a WordPress website rank easier. And also, there are plenty of themes to choose from online. If you are on a tight budget, you don’t have to hire a web designer to have your website designed from scratch. Instead, you can make use of websites such as Themeforest.net and mojomarketplace.com. You can have a
site for as low as $25.
 
To narrow down the selection, you can select from modern photography portfolio websites. Here, you can test each theme to see which one fits your needs.
 
Once you’ve purchased a theme and you have no idea how to set your website, you can hire a freelance web developer to set everything up for you. And since you already have a ready WordPress Theme, it won’t cost an arm and leg anymore since the site is 90% done.

10. Make a Portfolio

Though your website can be used as your portfolio, you should also know how to make a photography portfolio using other platforms. You can use social media particularly Instagram as your portfolio.
 
What makes Instagram a good portfolio online is the fact that you can easily grow follower and even build a community in this platform. It makes it easier for potential
clients to check and follow your work. And not to mention, you can use relevant hashtags to gain relevant engagement.
 
Aside from Instagram, Flickr is another good platform that you can use as a portfolio. Unfortunately, Flickr gets less traffic from the average Joe. Usually, Flickr attracts photography enthusiasts.
 
However, if you are going to have a photography portfolio, you also need to make sure that your work isn’t going to be used by other individuals or companies. Photography copyright has been a pertinent issue in the industry today given how easy it is to download a photograph and use it as your own. To safeguard your work, take a closer look at different photography watermark ideas. This way, you can have an idea how to watermark photos without ruining the aesthetics. Plus, it also helps if you know your local laws especially on how to copyright photos.

11. Implement a Local SEO Campaign

Photography businesses usually operate within the local community. And with this, it is important to have run a local SEO campaign. Simply put, the business shouldappear on local searches. Here are simplified approaches that can help improve your local ranking.
  • Include the location in your meta description and title
Meta description and titles are important since Google spiders read these when it crawls your website. And also, meta and title tags can be an opportunity to attract clients. You get around up to 200 characters on your description tag and up 60 characters on your title tag. If done correctly, not only can it help your ranking, it can even convince your target market to click on your page. One thing that you have to remember is that every character counts.
  • Citation Building
It is already a fact that your clients are most likely using search engines to check for the nearest photographers in their area. Or perhaps, a potential client is already doing his or her research checking more information about you online.
 
One of the biggest blunders by small businesses today is to not claim even a single listing. Yelp, Citysearch and Merchant Circle are among those sites that you want to focus on. Here, you can fix all the information that can confuse the part of your audience.
  • Google My Business Listing
If you have a business, be sure that you are going to claim your Google My Business (GMB) Listing. As a photography business, it is a must to have an address. If you are a freelance photographer who doesn’t have a studio, a home office can work as your address. This way, you can claim your Google My Business Listing.
 
There are several perks once you’ve claimed your GMB listing. You get full control of the photos displayed. Plus, you can also answer the reviews made about your business.
To boost the activity in your Google My Business Listing, be sure to ask your clients to leave a review once you’ve completed the project. This also serves as a good source of backlink on your website and ultimately helps your ranking.
  • Keyword research
Before having any content on your website, it matters if you do your homework. You
want to do a thorough keyword research and utilize area-specific keywords and
long-tail keywords. One thing that you should stay away from is focusing too much
attention on highly competitive keywords. Instead, you should utilize long-tail
keywords.
  • Purposeful and informative content
Now that you have your keywords, you need to have a content-driven website. Google loves websites that can produce high-quality content. And if there is
anything that you can learn from successful marketers, it is the adage that “content is king”.
 
Highly informative and purposeful content can help improve your traffic. A solid content marketing campaign can also give the impression that your photography business is the market leader in your niche.
  • Know How to React to Bad Reviews
And always remember that you can’t please everyone. Plus, if you are just starting
your business, you are inevitably going to encounter challenges along the way.
These are things that you can learn from. Unfortunately, bad reviews can pop up
online.
 
A lot of business owners have no idea how to handle bad reviews. What you can do
is to always consider bad reviews as constructive criticism. It might be a good idea
to admit your mistake and even apologize online. Replying in a professional manner
can win your clients back. You can even give the reassurance that you are going to
do your best to avoid such inconvenience from happening again.
 
It shouldn’t be an excuse for you to commit silly mistakes along the way. However,
you have to aim towards improving holes in your service.

12. Create a Strong Social Media Presence

It is a no brainer that every business should have a solid social media presence. For
a photography business, you can focus your attention on Facebook, Instagram, and
even Twitter. But on most occasions, Facebook and Instagram can already get the
job done.
 
How do you build an audience on social media? You can first invite family and
friends to like your page. Word of mouth is still the best form of marketing that you
can rely on. Once you have your initial followers, you can explore paid options to be
able to target the right audience.
 
Facebook has a great tool when it comes to profiling its users. You can choose the
interest, age group, and narrow down on their location.
 
Apart from promoting your page, you can also promote your posts. If you have an
interesting post, you can gain interactions from your desired audience. However,
your reach on Facebook may not always translate to the number of clients that you
get. Instead, you should look at your reach as your effort to raise brand awareness
online. And also, consider it as a long term investment.
 
When it comes to Instagram, as mentioned earlier, it can be used as a portfolio.
Using the right hashtags can go a long way. Since you are running a photography
business, might as well curate your photos. Use a single filter or better yet, have a
preset on Adobe Lightroom. This can significantly improve the quality of photos that
you post on social media.
When do you post? Make sure that you are posting regularly. Try to have it
scheduled for the entire week. This makes it easier to run your social media
campaign.

13. Network Locally

Though online presence is a good thing for a photography business, you also need to build your local network. There are many ways how you can get people to know your business. For starters, you can start covering community events for free. In exchange, you can give your business card and leaflets to the participants of the event. Or maybe, you have a booth that people can visit to know more about your work.
 
Another great way to expand your network locally is by collaborating with other local businesses. For instance, you can set up a photobooth for a local shop that just opened in your area. Maybe upload the photos on your Facebook page to gain more likes and interaction.
 
You can also attend conventions. For instance, if you are a wedding photographer, be sure to attend wedding expos/conventions. Soon to be married couples attend
these events to select from different professionals ranging from photographers to caterers and wedding organizers.
 
And lastly, be sure to always put your best foot forward for every project that you are going to do. Referrals from past clients can increase the chances of having new projects.

14. Offer Promos, Contests, and Discounts

To get noticed by your market, you will need to offer promos, discounts, and even
run contests every now and then.
 
For instance, on special days of the year, you can offer special promos or discounts
that can attract more people to go to your photography business. For instance, on
Father’s Day or during Mother’s Day, why not offer a 50% discount on families who
want their photos taken? You can also offer discounted rates on repeat customers.
 
Now, you can also run contests on your social media. A lot of small businesses give
freebies for people who like their page and those who share their post. You can do
something similar on your social media.

15. Evaluate Your Campaigns and Strategies

Lastly, you will have to evaluate your campaigns. From your SEO to your social media campaign, be sure to always monitor the numbers regularly. Compare data on a monthly and see if there are any improvements or if there are any trends that you see.
 
You will be surprised by the things that you will discover. Maybe, your business is more popular among wedding clients? Or perhaps, most of the money came from covering product photography?

The Bottom Line

Having your own photography business can be tough and exciting at the same time. It takes a lot of effort to find success in this industry. However, with a smart approach, it is possible to turn your passion in photography as a full-time business.
 
Though we’ve included several strategies that you can apply on your venture, there is so much more out there that you can do aside from this list.

Did you like our checklist? Which one worked best for you? Feel free to leave a comment below.