Feb 17, 2009

PhotoBiz

Since many scrappers have now gone BEYOND the point and shoot digital camera and moved on to the DSLR's, I am seeing what seems to be an epidemic of photography business owners among scrapbookers. It reminds me a bit of the scrapbook industry 10 years ago - everyone who liked to scrap wanted to open a store.

I really kind of cringe a little when I see messages like I saw on a forum last week that said (and I'm paraphrasing), "Hey, my husband ordered me my first DSLR and I'm ready to open my photography business! Where would I take classes to learn how to use my camera?" YIKES! Those messages scare me. Just because you have a DSLR - even a killer one - doesn't mean you're ready to open a business. It's sort of like the woman who loves to cook and cooks well thinking that's all the skill she needs to run a restaurant. Not to mention you seriously need to be able to use more than your auto settings on your camera to take good photos. And, Photoshop can't perform miracles.

So, before you run off and start posing teens by dumpsters in alleys (seriously, what's up with that?), here are some things to consider:
  • Do you have a business plan?
  • How much will you charge for what kind of sessions?
  • What's your specialty or niche
  • Do you have the other equipment that other pros have? Lights? Backdrops? Lenses?
  • Where will you consult with clients? Your home? Starbucks? Their home?
  • Do you have a portfolio with a good variety of photos you have taken?
  • Do you have a professional website that has REAL information on it? I hate websites full of pretty photos but not one indication of hours or package prices.
  • Do you have a nice place to have prints made that DOESN'T have "-mart" in it's name?
  • Do you have the correct business licenses? You need to be legal - collect taxes, etc.
  • Can you deal with a bride who hates every photo you took of her big day? This isn't always a glamorous industry - sometimes people FREAK OUT at you because they were thinking "traditional" and you were thinking "edgy" and you can never recreate the day. For every happy client there will be 3 willing to string you up for being the worst photographer ever (in their minds). Can you take the criticism?
  • Do you have the correct insurance? There is liability here that you may not think about - see the tip before this if you need an example. People love to sue!
  • Do you have a contract to sign that is clear and legally binding/protecting?


Owning ANY business is more than just the fun, artistic, creative side you see. Behind that is hours of work and months or years of marketing. Those types of things are what I call the "un-fun" parts of being a business owner - but they are the MOST IMPORTANT parts that will make or break your business.

I haven't read this book, but I would suggest you get something like the Fab Job Guide to Opening your Own Photography Business for starters. It seems like it's very elementary and if you've never owned a business before, it's probably what you need.

3 comments:

Keylocke said...

Excellent points.

Hobbies do not always translate into brilliant business ideas. Photography is one of those alluring careers which sound perfect and looks easy. There is much more to running a photography business than posing cute kids at the local park.

Do your due diligence. Research. Apprentice. Learn before you leap.

Maria said...

Thanks for this.

As a freelance writer, I really hate when people who don't NEED to make a living start "dabbling" in a creative "profession." Their lack of skill and professionalism bring the rest of us down to their low level. While that might set up our potential clients for low expectations, it also sets them up for low prices (because they don't NEED to make money) and work without contracts (because they don't understand legal protection).

I admit that I'm also an amateur photographer and I keep an online Photo Gallery where my best images can be seen and even purchased. But I'm smart enough to let the professionals run the photo businesses. Just one look at the work and equipment (lighting, props, etc.) that go into a REAL photo shoot (check THIS out: http://www.vimeo.com/3131408) is enough to convince me that I'd be completely out of my league.

Still, there's a local single mom in my small town who is also the local "photographer." Her work is consistently hit and miss, shot with a low-quality DSLR and printed up at the local CVS drug store. She manages to make money mostly by being pushy and the only game in town. Go figure.

Kim said...

I think people with great cameras and good eye buy into the praise their friends and family heap on them and mistakenly start thinking they are a DARN GOOD photographer. My family relies on me to bring my DSLR to family events and take some great shots. They heap praise on my photos. But, I know it's largely because they are all using cheap point and shoots and I have a Sony Alpha 100. It's going to take better photos no matter WHO's taking them. I don't make the mistake of thinking my photos are pro, though. They are just okay shots with a great camera by someone who can barely use the auto settings. Never in a million years would I think I was ready to be a pro.