More than once your friends and family have “oohed” and “aahed” over your photos. Perhaps you’ve perfectly captured the expressions of a young child, or used light to create a romantic mood in a wedding shot. Your photos are always beautiful and evoke emotions in those who see them. With the right equipment and a solid business plan, you can turn your passion for photography into a thriving home-based business. As with any business, though, succeeding in photography requires commitment, planning and dedication to providing an outstanding product.
Define your specialty. Shooting stock photography differs from shooting portraits, which differs from shooting weddings. Determine where your strengths lie, and focus on learning as much as you can about that type of photography.
Develop your skills. Becoming a professional photographer requires more than just a nice camera and some photo editing software. Know the ins-and-outs of your camera and learn about composition and lighting. Attend photography workshops and courses to hone your skills.
Write a business plan. Your plan should cover, at minimum, a description of what you plan to do, the structure of the business, your prices, your competition and a marketing plan. The business plan keeps you organized, and can help you get outside funding, if necessary.
Apply for federal and state tax identification numbers. Visit the IRS website to apply for a federal number, and contact your state bureau of taxes or revenue department to get your state number.
Construct a studio and equip it. A spare room or an unused corner of your basement can turn into a photography studio with the right backgrounds and lighting. Invest in lights, diffusers, backgrounds and other equipment. Often, photographers will sell their used equipment through online photography sites or local professional groups.
Research photo printing services. A local photography association or photography magazine generally has vendor listings that provide a starting point. Choose a vendor that offers quality products with a reasonable turnaround time.
Recruit friends and family to help you build your skills and portfolio. Offer free or discounted photo sessions in exchange for use of the images for your marketing.
Build a website to market your photography business. Your work is your strongest selling point, and a website helps potential customers see your style. Include photos that you’ve taken for friends and family, as well as information about your background, pricing and packages.
Create marketing materials, including business cards and brochures. If you do not have the skill or equipment to design quality material, invest in a professional design and print service or trade photo sessions with a talented friend. Also, promote your business on social media. Facebook and LinkedIn profiles offer potential customers a way to stay in touch and learn more about your skills and what you offer.
Develop relationships with other small business owners to cross-promote your photography business. For example, if you shoot weddings or boudoir photography, talk with local day spas or hair salons about displaying your brochures. In exchange, you will direct your photography clients to them for beauty services before photo sessions.
Join local associations to build your client base. Many cities have a local photographer’s association that offers education, networking and equipment discounts. If you specialize in a particular type of photography, join relevant associations, such as the local wedding vendors association.
As you gain experience, consider working toward the certified professional photographer designation from the Professional Photographers of America. This credential sets you apart from other home-based businesses.
- U.S. Small Business Administration: Follow These Steps to Starting a Business
- U.S. Small Business Association: Marketing 101
- Shuttermom: A Home Based Photography Business – You Can Do It!; CIndy Bracken
- Shuttermom: Starting Your Own Photography Business – Essential Elements for Success; Kimberle Balsman
- Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images