What I learned from running my photography business

50mm lens for event photography

It’s been three years now since I started my own photography business. It’s been a rollercoaster ride so far and, with the current corona situation, one that will rollercoast (is that a verb?) for some more time.

Still, I wanted to share some of the lessons I have learned with you already. Since there are many photographers in Belgium and even more outside of it, I think this will help many of the ones starting too!

Before we dive in, let’s talk about my background a bit. Partially to prove these tips are tried and tested and show you a bit of my story. As often, professionals’ tips and tricks are usually related to their specific geography, niche, and even age.

Fredography, corporate event and portrait photographer in Brussels

About three years ago, I started my own photography business: Fredography. At first, I was based in Antwerp; then I lived in Brussels and I am now in Antwerp again. As a photographer, I service all of Belgium and even the Netherlands.

As a photographer, I help businesses with their portraits, corporate shots, industrial photography, and event coverages. On top of that, I also give smartphone photography workshops.

This all means that I work for businesses, whether it’s a solopreneur, freelancer, or international corporate machine.

I’ve provided photos for local freelancers marketing for small businesses to international brands like Bose and Land Rover.

Enough talking about me; let’s get into the tips and tricks to help your clients!

Don’t be so shy!

One of the first lessons I had to learn. Get yourself together and go out and talk to people. A lot. Networking events, cold e-mails, just other freelancers working in the coffee shop you’re at. Don’t be creepy and weird, though, but strike up a normal conversation.

Another aspect of being shy for me was photographing people. Not in a portrait setting but in an event setting. Where people don’t necessarily present themselves to be photographed, I really had to talk myself into it. “The organizer wants these types of photos. Make sure you have them”.

Now, it goes without saying or even thinking for me. As a beginner, though, spend some extra attention on this. Your client will see if their visitor’s faces are on the photo, not so much how you composed the shots. (Though the composition is still everything).

Avoid taking shots of people’s backs as you get into corporate event photography. Or any type of event photography, actually. Faces are everything!

Reach out to your network and build new connections

Post updates on all your social media that you are a photographer. Even on your private Facebook profile. Your friends might not have a shoot for you to do, but they will know someone who does.

It’s all about getting the word out there. And make sure to remind people regularly. Maybe not by posting ‘I am a photographer’ daily, but by posting your work. Saying what you did that day or week. 

On top of that, go out and meet new people at networking events and, of course, online. Dive into the conversations happening on Linkedin and Twitter. Try to focus on the conversations your potential clients for your photography business are in, though. It’s no use to get into a discussion with some other photographer about how far you should go in editing.

Make content for your photography business website!

You probably have some photos in your portfolio already. As did I. So put them on a website. Now… make sure people go to that website. How? By providing them value. Blogposts like lessons learned, tips and tricks, and just nice photo overviews of things that might interest them.

This way, you lure them in from Google and social media.

Be sure the content is actually useful for your (potential) clients, though.

Talk to people and tell them about your business in photography

Especially tell them about yourself. What you do, who you are, and why you do what you do. Be sure to also listen to them, as it’s usually good to know who you are talking to. It might be awkward if you offer your event photography services to an accountant.

The key here is to have a conversation and not a monologue. Listen and talk. There’s a great synergy between those two actions.

Optimize your editing routine

When the shoots start rolling in, you want to fill up your days with as many photoshoots as possible. I do photography for businesses. So I like to do portraits, corporate reports, and corporate events. So I could do some portraits early in the day and then an event later on.

It’s nice to shoot that much… but. One big but, you also have to select and edit those photos to deliver them to the client… on time.

Make sure to have a way you can easily edit your photos at a fast pace. If you are overrun by shoots and don’t like editing anyway, maybe let someone else do that for you. You can use tools like Imagen AI.

Get enough memory cards to shoot for days

lenses for event photography

I am highly organized in my memory cards department. I shoot XQD, which is a fast card with big memory space. I need it for events as I shoot big raw files. You do probably too. Anyway, what type of card you shoot doesn’t really matter in this one.

Just make sure you have enough of them. I do one shoot per card. So even if the card isn’t full, I will change it for the next shoot. I actually even back the card up directly after the shoot. Upload all the raws to my Dropbox and then leave them on the card as an extra backup until I am sure the photos are safely delivered.

By the way, I use Sony XQD cards. I have 64GB and 32 GB. I estimate the size I will need for the shoot. Of course, there is always plenty of backup in my bag. But it helps to manage the cards better.

Have a system to deliver your photos to clients

Look at all those chickens! I mean photos. Great, you have captured the moments, selected the best shots, and edited those… now get them to your client.

I work in very organized Dropbox folders. This way, I can find my photos within a few seconds. Well, if I remember which month I created them. Anyway, it also allows me to give partial ‘access’ to clients.

The export folder has all the photos I edited in different formats. Full-resolutions, optimized for web, Instagram crops, … You name it. I can just make a link for that folder and send it to my client. Who can then easily preview and download the photos.

They are not able to do any rearranging or editing in the folders. The photos are thus safe. This is an easy way to deliver them. Of course, you can also use WeTransfer, Google Drive, or whatever other services you fancy.

Get a contract template for your photography business

This one took me a while to get. I didn’t really think of it, and everything was always in good faith of both parties. Now, I never needed it, but I did get one. It’s one of those things that are a bit annoying, but they make sure that you are fine, just in case.

Just in case of what? Well, anything. I went down to a lawyer’s office that specializes in these types of contracts for creatives. They asked me questions about what I did, how I did things, and what issues I encountered and expected to have with my photography business. And based on that, they made me a template.

When I get a booking, I fill in the client’s name, the date, and the numbers, and done! I send it over to the clients, they sign it, send it back, and we are both protected from anything that could happen.

Some things you might want to add: cancellation terms and fees, copyright mentions, hours of additional editing, third-party usage, …

Aim wide but start niching down step by step from the start

When I first started, I thought I would make it as a travel photographer. Though I have the skills, I did not have the portfolio. So I decided to get some jobs on the side. Like corporate events, corporate portraits, corporate reports, … 

You get it; I fell down the corporate tunnel. And the funny thing is, I love it! I don’t think travel photography would’ve been my niche. I love doing it, but not full-time. Corporate photography is definitely my niche!

So, try a bit of everything. Especially as a hobbyist, you don’t encounter these types of photography. It’s only when you actually go pro that you notice these niches. So try them out, and see if it’s a fit.

So, I think that’s about all the things that I learned from having my own business in photography. I will keep learning things, and I will remember to add them to this blog!

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