Well, starting a photography business from home is something I did 20 years ago, so I can give you a few tips and tricks to do it successfully.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is please get yourself an education. I don’t care if you do it through college, university, or you hire a mentor, but you’ve got to know what you’re doing with that camera and you’ve got to know what you’re doing with the people on the other side of the camera.
A top photography hack that might surprise you, take a course in psychology. Understand how people work, because as a photographer, your clients should not remember you at all when they look at the pictures. When they look at their pictures, you want them to remember how fun it was for them to be together, to be with each other. Their job is to create memories. Your job is to document it, not to be this super-stressful photographer that’s trying to get the dad or the child to smile the whole time while the mom’s just fussing around trying to create clothing that’s not wrinkled or keep handprints off herself. They wanted to have a fun experience.
Get an education in photography and your camera, read your camera manual, and get some kind of education in psychology and how the human brain works and how to just work with people, especially if you’re doing portrait photography.
The first thing you’re going to want to do is to start building your portfolio. This means just going out there and shooting. If you’ve just created your portfolio with no images in it, there’s no reason for anyone to hire you as a photographer, so go shoot everything you possibly can and find your niche. You might find that you like landscapes. You might find that you love working with babies. You might find that you love doing families. Maybe you love to travel photography. Maybe you love weddings. Maybe you want engagements or maternity or couple shoots, or single or high fashion. There are so many different kinds of photography that I haven’t even scratched the surface on, so shoot everything you possibly can. When you do that, you’re going to find what you love to shoot most.
When I started, I literally shot everything. I would do still lifes. I would do travel. I would do macro. I would do this grunge feel. I would experiment with everything, and gradually I found which kind of photography that I love doing most. I had to go through a lot of weddings to learn this. I had to go through a lot of family shoots to learn this. I finally figured out, as I was sitting there on the beach in Mexico and I was watching this family play, that I was having the time of my life traveling and taking these epic pictures of not just families and couples, but of the architecture and of things that people don’t get to see every day. Travel photography and travel couples photography, that’s my niche. That’s what I love to do.
Will I do the occasional wedding every now and then? Sure. Will I do professional headshots every now and then? Absolutely, if I love it, if I want to work with that person, but my favorite thing to do is travel photography. That’s my niche. Discover your niche just by shooting everything that you possibly can, and save it for your portfolio.
A tip from the pro, get yourself an external hard drive, please, at least a few terabytes in size. I bought a two-terabytes external hard drive off of newegg.com a couple of years ago. That thing is almost full and it’s growing quickly, so get yourself an external hard drive for storage.
Also, please, pretty pretty please, back up your work offsite using a site like Carbonite. You are dealing with huge files here. You’re dealing with many huge files, and you’re dealing with priceless memories that you can’t get back. Unless you have a triple backup, meaning your hard drive, your external hard drive, and something offsite, you don’t have a backup at all, so triplicate or nothing, onsite, offsite, and on your hard drive. Please, please, please back up your work.
Also, something that I wish I had done when I was first starting out, metadata. If you don’t know about metadata, learn about metadata. Metadata is this little sidecar file, it is what it’s called. It’s all the information about your picture. It’s got the location of your picture. It’s got the time your picture was taken. It’s got your camera’s data on there, what f-stop, what aperture, what shutter speed. It’s got all of the information on there. You can actually manipulate that metadata to put some extra information in there.
For example, if you went to Mexico and you shot a family on the beach there, then you would go into that metadata and add the word Mexico, add the word family session, add the word Puerto Vallarta if they happen to be there, add whatever color they were wearing, or add the word beach, anything that describes that picture because you never know. You never know when you’re going to be inspired by a contest and want to pull your beach pictures, and then you want to find that one, but you’ve got so many files, you can’t find it because you didn’t add the beach to the metadata sidecar file. Manipulate that metadata sidecar file as soon as you shoot the picture and get it into your Lightroom. Add that metadata. I promise you, do yourself that favor right now.
Another thing you need to know when considering photography is Instagram. Instagram is where all the photographers hang out. In fact, a lot of photographers don’t even have a website anymore just because they’re using Instagram exclusively. Instagram is all about images, so start a very high-quality Instagram profile. In fact, you can check out some more of my videos on how to create a very stunning Instagram profile, which you’re going to need for your photography business.
That being said, you need to master hashtagging. Hashtagging is almost like adding data to your sidecar file in your pictures on your hard drive, except now you’re doing it for the public. If you have a wedding that you shot, make sure you hashtag #wedding and the location of your wedding. If you have a family, make sure you have all of the relevant hashtags with that. In fact, I have another video for you about how to find the most popular hashtag for your images. Become a ninja at hashtagging.
When you’re starting your own photography business, it’s so important to have contracts in place. If you’ve watched any of my other videos, you know that I care a lot about managing customer expectations. That’s why I’ve recorded so much content on it. Those are going to be all outlined in your contract, and you need your contact to cover you in case there’s some kind of a dispute. I don’t care. If you’re photographing friends and family and think, “Oh, I don’t need to do a contract for this one,” wrong. Get a contract. Have everyone read it and sign it.
On top of that, make sure you have an insurance policy. You can get a million-dollar insurance policy for usually less than 500 bucks in this industry. You should have that in place. You never know when someone’s going to trip and fall on a shoot. You never know if an accident is going to happen on a shoot. Heaven forbid, let’s be real here, but you want to have an insurance policy to back you up just in case. I promise you won’t be sorry.
You can also ensure your equipment on that policy. Every time you buy a piece of new equipment, add it to the policy. It shouldn’t cost you extra very often unless it’s a giant, huge piece of equipment. But include it all in your insurance policy.
When you’re starting your photography business, you want to define what your goals are. Do you want to just build a massive portfolio? Do you want to have a certain dollar amount that you’re making every year? Really be clear, crystal clear, on your goals and understand that you’ve got to deconstruct them and reverse engineer them.
For example, if you want to make $10,000 a month doing photography, how much are your portrait sessions? Maybe they’re $500 for a portrait session. How many times does 500 go into 10,000? How many of those $500 sales could you do in a week? How many people do you need to gather at your specific closing ratio, meaning how many closes with sales can you do out of how many people you talk to? How many of those can you close in order to get however many you need every week to get that dollar amount per month? Reverse engineer your goals and then have a daily action step to do with each of those.
We’ve talked contracts, we’ve talked about what to do with your images, we’ve talked storage, so I want to actually go to a question that came in on Quora. This question is from Tiberiu Tesileanu. I hope I pronounced your name right. Forgive me if I didn’t. And the question is this. Is photography meant only for the rich?
I want to tell you about one of my favorite photographers of all time. His name was Edward Weston. If you look up Edward Weston, you’re probably going to see a black and white photograph of pepper, a bell pepper. Now, this bell pepper was photographed by Edward Weston because he was so poor. He was so poor, and he wanted… He was a brilliant photographer, but he really didn’t have anything to photograph, so he made this black and white photograph of this pepper, which has turned out to be one of the most popular photographs in the black and white photography industry.
So is photography only for the rich? Absolutely not. It’s for the creative. If you’re creative, get behind the camera and start creating some beautiful work.
Photography is also for those that want to document. Some of the most valuable photos in history are not because they’re technically beautiful, not because they’re photographed well, but because they exist. Imagine if we had a photograph of the man who shot Kennedy in the action of doing it. That would probably be a hugely valuable photograph. Imagine first-edition photographs of people like Abraham Lincoln. Or imagine if cameras were around in the time of George Washington, how valuable that photograph would be.
Photography, it’s for everybody. It’s for those that want to document and remember, it’s for creative artists, and it’s for anyone that values looking at a piece of history.
I look forward to seeing more of yours there, and I’ll be checking back in. But if you’re interested in starting your photography business at home, I’m going to encourage you to just get started. Go out there and shoot something super cool today.
Thanks for reading this blog post today. I hope you enjoyed this. Go out there, start shooting, create amazing images.