What I learned from running my photography business

50mm lens for event photography

It’s been two 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 a lot of photographers in Belgium. And even more outside of it, I think this will help a lot of the ones starting out too!

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 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 to this. Your client will see if their visitor’s faces are on the photo, not so much to how you composed the shots. (Though the composition is still 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’ on the daily, but by posting your work. Saying what you did that day or week. 

On top of that, go out and meet new people. This on 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.

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. Both of them!

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 have to also select and edit those photos so you can 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.

Get enough memory cards to shoot for days

I am highly organized in my memory cards department. I shoot XQD, which is a fast card with a 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. Actually, I back the card up directly after the shoot. Upload all the raws to my Dropbox and then let them on the card as an extra back-up until I am sure the photos are safe.

Which usually means after I deliver the photos to the client. Photos delivered means I can wipe the card clean (in-camera!) and use if for a next shoot.

By the way, I use Sony  XQD cards. I have 64GB and 32GB. 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 in. 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, IG crops, … You name it. I can just make a link for that folder and send it to my client. How can then easily preview the photos and download them.

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 service you fancy.

Get a contract template for your photography business

This one took me a while to get. I just 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 lawyers office who specializes in these types of contracts for creatives. They asked me questions about what I did, how I did things, what issues I encountered and expect to have with my photography business. And based on that they made me a template.

Now, when I get a booking, I just fill in the client’s name, the date, some 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, 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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