Start Taking Pictures :: Start a Photography Business
Starting a Photography Business!
Photography Biz Start Taking Pictures

Before We Begin

Starting a Wedding Photo Business

Have you ever wondered what it takes to start a business? Sure, there are many obstacles to overcome in the process, but if you are serious about getting your photography business up and running fast, you can utilize the information on this web site to help you!

Some Initial Questions:
What type of photography do you like to take: weddings, children, aerial, scenic, automobiles, sports, action?

Where do you expect to take your photos: indoors, outdoors, combination?

Do you have quality equipment: lighting, camera's, lenses, filters, computer, software?

Shooting photos in a studio

Hopefully you have answered the above

questions before now, but even if you are still figuring out your niche, you can begin building your business strategy today. As you will see, I am a believer in building a business without going broke.

I hope you are ready to roll up your sleeves for a little hard work and a big reward! Taking the right steps will ensure that your business starts right, is run right, is fun, and profitable.

Here is what you will need to be successful in your photography business:

  • Take some time to completely read through the material on this web site.
  • Take notes and create an action plan. Be sure to include specific dates when you want things completed.
  • Contact a business consultant if necessary, but you should be able to do most everything on your own. Don't be afraid to ask other photographers you know.
  • Develop a budget for your business startup. If you are creative, you can start for next to nothing by boot-strapping the marketing and web site (see below).

Before you start your business, do you know if you have what it takes to take consistent high quality pictures for money? I'm not talking about the opinion of your mother or a well meaning friend, but the opinion of another professional photographer.

Many people can take good pictures, but if someone entrusts you to capture the images of their wedding, you only get one shot at making it look right. Your business is built on your reputation and can quickly be destroyed with only a couple mistakes.

Ok, so you can take great photos. Great photos are only a portion of starting a photography business. There is a lot more to think about before you can truly be successful. Part of being successful means running the business

Starting your Business

If you are reading this, you are likely pretty serious about starting your own business. That is great! You are going to be and independent entrepreneur. You get to be the boss, set your own hours, and keep all the money! Sounds great, right?

Well, don't forget about the rest of the "FUN" we business owners have including: marketing and advertising, writing contracts, billing clients, accounting, taxes, paying your bills, and making everyone happy.

Yes, it a lot of work, but in the end, I believe it is worth every bit of hard work. Eventually, you will get the satisfaction of owning a successful company and yes, PROFITS.

Well, are you ready? Lets go...

Pre-Work :: Starting your Business Right

You will need to do some preliminary work to make everything legal. This includes, but is not limited to the following:

Setting up a business entity is required in all states. You will need to check with your city, county, and state for exact requirements, but if you are going to be a business vs. a hobbyist, you will need to make it official.

  • Contact your Secretary of State and register your business name. Make sure it is not already in use by someone else.
  • Apply for a State Tax ID number so you can report sales tax to the Government and make purchases of re sellable merchandise tax exempt.
    Do a search for your state's ie., "Wisconsin Department of Revenue."
  • Apply for a Federal EIN number. This is like your social security number for your business. It allows you to make purchases for your business, set up bank accounts, and buy wholesale.
  • You will need to decide what kind of company you are going to become: Sole Proprietor, LLC, or a Corporation.
    All business types have pluses and minuses to consider. You should talk to your CPA before you make any decisions.
  • Learn about Legal Liability. Sole Proprietors are personally liable for business mistakes, but LLC's and Corporations provide a separation of Liabilities.
  • Guerrilla Marketing by Conrad LevinsonMarketing Plan - You will want to develop a marketing plan. How are you going to market your business once you get it started? Create a plan and follow it. Make adjustments along the way. I suggest the book: Guerilla Marketing by: Conrad Levinson.


The Business Plan

The Business Plan

The first thing that every successful business needs is a Business Plan. Unfortunately, the most overlooked part of most new businesses is the Business Plan.

Entrepreneurs are great at getting an idea and running with it, but typically forget to chart the course. Eventually, they run into a brick wall and fail. Studies show that 90% of new businesses fail.

Developing a business plan is like bringing a map and compass with you on a long voyage across the sea. You will need them to help you stay on course as you sail your boat. Without them, you may end up on the rocks!

There are many great resources for Business Plans. I highly suggest checking into the following resources:

The Service Contract

The Service Contract

Before looking for customers, make sure that you have developed an official Service Contract. Your Service Contract needs to spell out every detail of the photography session including: your fees, terms of payment, description of deliverables, exclusions, legal terms and conditions, expectations of parties in order to complete the project, etc.

The contract is a legal agreement between you and your customer. You want it to be completely binding in the event that they decide they don't want to pay for your services or if the groom gets drunk and punches the brides dad before the reception is over, and he refuses to pay your bill.

As I stated previously, contact 1 or more professional photographers and ask for a sample service contract. If you are turned down by one, just ask another. Eventually you will get one to review. I suggest reviewing at least 2 before you create your own.

Ask them what their experiences have been and tell them what you are trying to do. Unless you are direct competition, they will likely be enthusiastic to talk about their business. It is human nature to complain or brag about yourself. Don't be nervous to ask, it may save you a lot of time and money!

Quick Tips:

  • Have your pricing structure in place and stick to your prices. Many people, especially "friends and family" will want a discount. You will have to decide if you want to comply. However, you will soon find out how many friends and family you have that you didn't know about.
  • Make sure that the contract is signed before you take a picture.
  • Get a Deposit before you start and make sure you specify a refund policy and under what conditions a refund is allowed.
  • Keep the power of negotiation in your court. Don't give an inch or they will take a mile. That doesn't mean you can't give discounts or deals, but YOU give them, don't be manipulated into them.
  • If you start to feel like the relationship is not working, explain your expectations and go over the contract with them. If it is bad at the beginning, it will only get worse.
  • Find quality customers and look for repeat business.
  • Don't give them the photos before you are paid. The only leverage you have is the photos they want. Utilize a web site to show proofs.
  • Copyright - What can your customers do with the photos when the receive them? Make sure they know your policy before they sign the contract.
Turn photos into money starting a business

Running your Business :: Rules for Success!

  • Separate personal and business expenses from each other.
  • Don't run your business through your personal checking account!
  • Keep good records and receipts of all business expenses, mileage, and receivables.
  • Get a good CPA. They are worth their weight in gold come tax time.
  • Get it in writing! Use a Solid Contract and hold customers to it. If you let them, people will walk all over your business. Be the leader and lead.
  • Talk to other Professional Photographers in the business. Ask them lots of questions about their business. Pay attention and take notes.
  • Bill on time. Set your terms and get your invoices out right away.
  • Try to get a deposit, then final payment upon completion of editing, but before delivery.
  • Don't give them the photos before you get paid!!!
  • Have a web site that displays low quality proofs that they can purchase online.
  • Decide if you will give them a CD of the pictures after you get paid.

Setting up a Website...How Hard is it?

Web site Design

Amazingly, there are still businesses that don't have a web site. How much money have they left on the table because they aren't online?

If you are going to have a serious photography business, you will need a web site. Your customers are not looking the yellow pages for your services, they are looking online.

You can go to a web design firm and have one designed for thousands of dollars or you can go the route of a high quality out of the box solution for less than $200. I suggest and endorse the latter. My pick is: Smug Mug, because they are the best.

A photographer's web site has to have several functions for me to endorse it. Here are the basics:

  • Personalized Web Site Design
  • Personalized url :: You pick out the name of your web site
  • Hosting Included
  • Photo email
  • Online cropping and editing
  • Online Gallery :: Unlimited Secure Storage!
  • No Ads
  • Online Store to sell your prints at your price
  • Online Store to sell downloads of your pictures
  • Guest Password
  • Image Protection from theft
  • Custom Watermarks
  • Much, much more!

I have worked with many clients, helping them set up a web site, but I haven't found any as easy as SmugMug.com. They make it easy for a new business to have a high quality, personalized "branded," web site with very little costs. For less than $200, you could be sending your customers to your web site to view their proofs, buy prints, and share with their friends.

Final thoughts:

I have started several businesses both brick and mortar and online. It doesn't matter how good of an idea you have for a business, you have to follow certain steps to assure that your business will succeed. Bottom line: there are no guarantees, but only those who try will find success.

America is a country run on Small Businesses. Large companies are less than 1% of the businesses in America. If you decide to follow your dream there will be a lot of work ahead of you, but when you succeed, you will never want to quit!

Now, are you ready to "Start Taking Pictures?" Don't forget to see the business links and opportunities on the side bar.