ABJ Photography and Growing a Photography Business
In my last post about photography I mentioned I might talk about aperture as a follow up to ISO. But, I feel like something that might be a little more helpful would be some reflections on our last two years in business.
What does it mean to start your own photography business, and how did we do it? Our way is a conservative route, full of hard work, working full-time on top of building a business, and the benefits of soaking up every bit of knowledge we could. If you are just starting out, here are some tips that we both learned and leaned on the past few years:
Something that taught us a world of knowledge about this business was joining photographer forums, and specifically Pictage. In the forums you could ask questions, get equipment reviews, and glean good practices from other photographers. Pictage does a great job at supporting folks who are just getting started. I think David would say he was a sponge for website building, branding, and business. I would say we both learned how to be better photographers. I certainly learned a lot about advertising, and how to shoot.
2. Be Yourself
To piggy back off of the first point, take what others have to offer, but BE YOURSELF. This business is not about being just like the next guy. Although I have been greatly inspired by other photographers, and envied their businesses, I found I can only be truly successful and happy as myself. For us, this was about building a debt free business, shooting on location, being a team, being relatable, and serving clients the best we could...all the while growing and learning. We are still in that process...
3. Be Confident
Own it, work it, be yourself, be proud of your work, do your research, show your stuff. I found that often-times I would get down on myself because others said I should have a certain type of equipment, or be shooting a certain number of weddings, or using a certain kind of whatever...Be confident in your product. Allow for growth, and have an honest awareness of where you are and where you want to be. I knew going into business that we had no clue. This became obvious as we started the hole process, we were not business majors. But, we had the confidence that we could make something of ourselves, we could do it our way, and that we would be open to re-assesing as we went along. Each tier of business gets easier and harder at the same time. But, be confident in who you are and what your brand is and you will come out even more confident in the end.
4. Take Care of the Business End (really abbreviated version)
Do your research early to be read for taxes. Get Quickbooks, or some type of business management helper. For me, I had a math major husband. But, it is rare for the creative mind to also be a business mind. Please do not confuse good customer service with taking care of 'money business'. Get your contracts straight, and do not give yourself away. Set your prices where you will reap some benefit of all your efforts. I certainly agree that pricing is a topic that you can argue many points. Starting out it is hard to price yourself where you can really contribute to healthy lifestyle and tell the truth about what you are making to the government. So, take that into consideration when starting and price yourself where you can do both well. This was easier for us because we both worked full-time jobs. Our income from photography, or what was left after taxes, went back into business and still currently does. I think that everyone's journey is different, as I mentioned I think ours was conservative. We used what we made to pay off debt, others might just do it to supplement house income, others might only have photography as an income. Take time to figure out what YOUR business will look like and how you will be successful for YOU. Also, check with local government as well as federal...we owe them both.
What has been our greatest growth point and my favorite learning curve?
Shoot manual. Shoot manual. Shoot manual. It is like driving a stick-shift vehicle, I feel like I have more control, I pay more attention. It was CrAzY the first wedding we did this- where was my crutch? What happens when I forget to adjust settings? Take too long? I jumped in the deep end with one family session under my belt...I have never gone back, I never will.
What has been our greatest investment?
I wanted to say my Canon 5D Mark II, but as I type this I realize it was our Mac computers. Specifically our laptop that has produced the majority of my work., and allowed me to be mobile. Thank you Apple!
What has most helped our business?
As I mentioned above, Pictage has been such a great help. They save us time, help educate, and produce good products. Also, the fist Rep. I spoke with did not laugh at me as I entered into conversations that I had never had before. Another great source is SmugMug. I use them at the capitol and they have been a great resource as well.
There are some GREAT resources on the web, but if anyone who is starting out wants more newbie info please feel free to contact me, or comment questions below! I might only be a few years ahead, but maybe that makes me more relatable? Maybe not. Maybe your business model is similar to ours and you just want some support as you juggle life, and two jobs!?!?! I am here!