How To Start A Portrait Photography Business

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Starting and running a profitable photography business is a lot more than knowing about how to create a beautiful portrait.  Being a portrait photography business owner involves organization, knowledge, patience, perseverance, people-skills, and a number of other traits.  Many business owners fail, not because they weren’t skilled in portraiture, but because they were not skilled in running a business.

Here are some links to ebooks that provide some excellent portrait photography business tips along with teaching to help improve your portraits: Natural Light Portrait Photography and One Light Portrait Photography.

The larger you want your portrait photography company to be, the better you need to be as a business owner, as the responsibility will be greater.  It is not wrong to dream big, but if you are a new business owner, it is best to start small and work your way up.

3 STEPS TO STARTING A PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY BUSINESS

There are three basic steps to starting a portrait photography company from scratch.  First is planning.  Second is registering with proper government institutions.  Lastly, you will need to promote your business in some way to attract customers.

1.  Plan Your Portrait Photography Business

Develop a Business plan

Before diving in to any business, you should develop a business plan.  If you want to become a professional portrait photographer, you definitely need to start with a business plan!  Photography equipment can cost a lot of money.  Don’t forget about insurance costs, not only for you, but for any employees you may want to have.  A business plan doesn’t have to be anything complicated, but is something that will help organize your goals and priorities and help you make wise decisions.

Planning properly will help you decide if you are going to specialize in a specific niche such as senior portraits, or child photography, or if you will offer a variety of services.

  • Set short and long-term goals – Plan your business before you spend a dime.
  • Decide what services you will offer – Decide the scope of your business.
  • Find a niche – What will be your specialty?  What will set you apart from the competition?
  • Choose a business name – Put some thought into deciding a name for your portrait photography business.
  • Decide what you will charge for your services
  • Financing – You may need to get a business loan

Get Organized

As soon as you start your photography business, you will need some sort of organizational structure so you can keep your customer communications and business-related paperwork in order.  You won’t necessarily need a full office when starting out.  An office desk dedicated to your photography paperwork would be helpful.

Get a daily planner or use your smartphone to schedule estimates, jobs, and other work-related appointments.  An easy way to lose customers is to arrive late or even forget a scheduled appointment.  A schedule will help you plan your day, week, and month, so you can make best use of your time and your customer’s time.

  • Set up an office
  • E-mail
  • Business phone
  • Estimate forms
  • Bill Forms


Equipment needed when starting a portrait photography business

You obviously can’t start a portrait photography business without at least a camera and some other basic equipment.  Your photography equipment will probably account for the largest portion of your startup costs.  Computers, software, and cameras need updating every few years as the technology often quickly changes.  Other photography equipment such as lighting, backdrops, tripods and other stands are a better long term investment.

Starting out, you don’t necessarily need all brand-new gear.  You will save thousands of dollars in startup costs by purchasing a used camera, backdrops, lighting, and other gear.  Another tip is to only buy photo gadgets as jobs require them.  This will help keep you from going into debt for equipment you may end up never using.

2.  Register Your New Portrait Photography Businesshow to start a portrait photography business

Make it legal

Make sure you are following proper protocol in your region.  This means having necessary insurance, following tax codes, getting proper licenses and permits, etc.  This applies even to a part-time photography business.

Some steps to starting your photography business legally:

  • Select your business structure (sole-proprietor, LLC, Corporation, etc.)
  • Register your business name
  • Register your business entity
  • Open a business bank account
  • Taxes- either get an accountant, or do research on filing yourself
  • Liability Insurance
  • Worker’s Compensation
  • City Licenses and Permits

3.  Grow Your New Portrait Photography Business

In order to grow your photography business, you will need to work hard, have people skills, and be patient.  You will also need to market your business effectively.  Success and profit won’t come overnight.

Customers

Beside employees, dealing with customers can cause a great amount of stress.  Learning how to communicate well with customers can help boost sales and increase word-of-mouth referrals.

  • Learn how to promote your portrait services to a potential customer
  • Price your portrait sessions and products appropriately
  • Communicate regularly and clearly with the customer
  • Be fair and honest- take responsibility for your mistakes

Marketing

After you start your portrait photography business, you need to market it.  Some low-cost advertising to get started can include a basic 1 or 2 page website, setting up a free business listing for on Google Business and other online directories,  setting up social media accounts, and printing some business cards.

Click on a state to find out how to register and start a new portrait photography business in that state.

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