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3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Starting a Photography Business

3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Starting a Photography Business

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These days so many of us have nice cameras.  It’s always so tempting to start a photography business. There is a lot of negativity in the industry with people that will tell you that you can’t/shouldn’t do it.  I think that it’s always good to follow your dreams, but If you’re considering doing so, listen to my story first…

Five years ago I invested in a Canon Rebel.  I had a two year old and a brand new baby.  That camera was my best friend.  It didn’t take long and I started getting requests from others to take pictures for them also.  I was flattered and of course eager to say yes. My next step was starting a photography business.   So I got online (all the cool kids were doing it).  I created a blog, slapped “Kristin Wilkerson Photography” across the top and clicked away. My story about my first journey to becoming a professional photographer might sound familiar because many take this path, while other photographers despise it.

I’m here to tell you that it was a bad idea, a really bad idea to start a photography business this quickly.

While my pictures meant a lot to me and others seemed to admire them I wasn’t qualified or ready to put myself out there as a self-labeled professional photographer. The stress of honoring the requests of what I called “clients” was sucking the life out of what once brought me a lot of joy.  It didn’t take long for me to quit the business (that never really was a business). Instead I took a class to help me better utilize my camera, studied like crazy, and tried shooting in all sorts of lighting situations.

Let’s fast forward 4 years.  My love for photography had grown and so had my knowledge and understanding.  I also had more time to invest in myself.  It felt like the right time to start my business and after evaluating my life goals, my time restrictions, and my risk factors I decided to move forward.  I’m still in the early stages  but because I have taken the time to learn about both business and photography I am optimistic about the future.

I’m sharing this story with you because most of us that enjoy photography reach that point where we ask ourselves “Should I start a photography business?”  Assuming you are confident in your photography and feel you can handle most “photo-related” scenarios thrown at you, here’s a few things to consider before taking the plunge:

  1. Am I willing to take the time and money to register for a business license, pay sales tax, and personal income tax?  If filing taxes and being registered isn’t something you are willing to do then offering your services for money is not a good idea.
  2. Do I have the time needed to invest in making clients happy? It’s not about just taking the pictures for them.  You need to be able to answer emails and give clients the attention they deserve.  You also need to be able to take criticism from clients and if you can’t then you’ll have a hard time managing a business.
  3. Does turning my gift of photography into a job suck the fun out of it?  For me 5 years ago the answer to that was yes.  Because I was already so busy the added pressure of deadlines and pleasing others ruined the joy.  It’s ok to keep your gift as a hobby or wait until it feels right.

Just because you love photography and have invested in equipment doesn’t mean that you have to be a professional photographer. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t be either.  There is no shame in being a hobbyist and there is no shame in turning your talent into a career.  Do what makes you happy but after my mistakes I’d suggest to do it right.

Kristin Wilkerson, the author of this guest post, is a Utah based photographer. You can also find her on Facebook.

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26 Comments

  1. Buffi
    March 19, 2012 at 12:16 pm —

    What’s wrong with a canon rebel? It’s also not what you shoot with! So tired of hearing that! All my teachers tell me my cameras perfect! Guess what, I also shoot for gap kids with my rebel!!

  2. March 21, 2012 at 10:46 am —

    The only way I want to make money on my photos is to sell prints! Of course my preference is fine art photography, so unless someone commissions a picture of their favorite flower, I shoot what I want.

    Even then I worry about the fun going out of it. 🙂

  3. Greg Flint
    March 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm —

    Good points about what was fun becoming work, taxes and the like.

    One other thing to consider is that it is easy to pick the low hanging fruit – for example, when your friends want photos of their wedding (which they probably want at no or low cost – which is why they went to you in the first place) or somebody wants you to take pictures of their kids.

    Great – but you can’t make a living on work like that – there is simply not enough of it. Soon you have to advertise to pull in enough business to pay for equipment upgrade and repairs, the advertising itself and all the other expenses (e.g., any travel costs and vehicle wear if you aren’t always in your studio, rent if you’ve grown large enough to need space outside of your home, and so on) that will crop up.

    Hustling jobs is probably the least “fun” part of their business for any self-employed person I know and yet it eventually (if you want grow) becomes one of the most time consuming.

    Unless you are serious (or only want a part-time income), starting up a photography business is a lot harder than people think – as the original poster pointed out.

  4. Jenny Mandarin
    June 7, 2012 at 12:35 pm —

    Thanks so much for the great article. It is very helpful! My brother is starting a photography business and he would like some pointers? He asked all the questions to himself. And still would like some pointers. Anyone got any?

  5. July 19, 2012 at 4:44 pm —

    It’s all about the sales and marketing these days. If you want to become a professional photographer you need to know what to say when someone says “I know someone who can take decent wedding photos for £200”. Photographers need to know how to meet these questions in a friendly way that also helps the person understand why your photography is more valuable than someone else’s. This side of the business is just as important as the photography – probably more so.

  6. May 4, 2014 at 11:33 pm —

    thank you for all this information, just curious which photography courses did you take? while mine taught me a lot Instill feel like something is missing

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3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Starting a Photography Business