7 tips for running a photography business
Today I’m going to give you the low down on running a photography business, as always, it’s going to be chuck full of sarcasm, jabs, and hopefully some helpful advice if you’re reading this. A lot of this can be applied to other entrepreneurs, but will be mainly focused at photographers. So enjoy the show.
Running a photography business #1 | Community over competition
As photographers, we hear the term community over competition on a nuclear level. Everywhere you turn in the photographer community it’s all about helping each other out and lifting each other up. We are 100% on board and love helping and sharing what we learn throughout our career. I mean, just look at our blogs, you’re reading one this very second. We are giving out tips. Are you freaking blind?
But. There’s always a but, and a butt. We all have to take a step back and realize that we’re all competing for clients. Whhhhhaaaaaa Luke. Did you just say the OTHER C word? I did. We are all COMPETING for different jobs. The word community goes right out the window when a neighboring photographer steals a potential client because they’re offering a better deal, or has a better portfolio.
So how do you strike a balance between community and competition? Here’s how. As a fellow photographer/creative, share tips, tricks, ideas you have that pop into your head. Comment, share, and like other photographers work. Invite other creatives out for coffee, shoot together, and refer them to future clients where you aren’t available. Now that’s being an active member in your community. Now for the competition MUAHAHAHA.
This is where you stab them ALL in the back. Haha jk. Competition is where you work in the back-end when promoting your business. If it’s through google ads to building that SEO, to getting featured, to reaching out to local businesses, etc. This is where you truly shine as an entrepreneur. You need to be seen FIRST. You need the clients to see your work on your website and know you kill it. Because you’re the first on the search engines because of your bomb SEO, and you have an amazing website designed that your future potential clients can’t click away from, and because you offer such an amazing client experience, you win. What competition? There is none. That’s how you kill it in the competition.
So there isn’t a win/lose situation here, all win/win. You are lifting up your fellow creatives by sharing what you learn and lifting them up, then you freaking murder them in the back end with such amazing client experience and love for your craft. It’s science people.
Running a photography business #2 | Being your own boss
You know what sucks? Working for the man, man. Being tied down to a 9-5 can be draining, believe us, we know because we do work 9-5s and run Agape. We absolutely love our day jobs, but when we also own a business, life gets really unbalanced. We’ve had a taste of what it’s like to be full time business owners and it’s liberating. Being your own boss comes with a lot of pros, but a lot of cons as well.
Some pros to being your own boss is that you don’t got nobody above ya telling you what to do. If you wanna sleep in until 3pm and drink on the job, you do you boo. We ain’t judgin’. You just living your best life and we respect that. But do clean yourself up once in a while and go outside and see the sunshine. But seriously, not having a boss and someone to answer to is freaking awesome.
You get to create your own schedules, work wherever you want, hang out with people while you work, and take up as many clients as you want as well.
But there are cons. Everything I mentioned above can be a con. When there isn’t someone above you telling you what to do, it can sometimes lead to a lack of motivation and work just doesn’t get done. You can create your own schedule for sure, but who says you’re gonna follow that schedule? So this is where the community over competition can come in handy. Get a fellow creative to kick your butt into gear when you need it.
Running a photography business #3 | Working with your spouse is awesome
Okay, so we already have a blog about what it’s like working with your spouse. So, if you’re really interested in diving into a little bit of Mikayla and I’s life, read that blog. But to dumb it down for you, here are the top 3 about running a photography business with your spouse. They’re your favorite person, you spend lots of time together, and you get to create together. Just like the above point about being your own boss, there are many pros and cons when working with your spouse.
Spending time together is amazing, but too much time together can create problems. So make sure you find a good balance between working together and actually spending time together as a couple. When you are working, you get to create and problem solve together. If it’s on a shoot, or even in the concepting phase, you can have a lot of fun just bouncing ideas off each other.
But if you’d like to see a more in-depth blog about us working together, seriously check out that link.
Running a photography business #4 | Education is everything
Education is basically the foundation of everything. I know Michael Scott basically learned everything on the street, but sometimes, ya gotta hit the books when running a photography business. Mikayla and I both attended the University of Akron and received bachelor degrees in fine art with emphasis in graphic design. Mikayla was one class away from getting a minor in photography but decided to say screw school because skool is for chumps. With our degree, we took a huge variety of different art classes ranging from life drawing, 3D concepting, typography, branding, heavy photo retouching, video, product photography, production etc etc.
This set up a good foundation for us going into our business. In design, composition is everything. We used the KISS principle where keep it simple stupid was our motto. We learned how to craft stories out of a small idea. In design, the concept, meaning, and idea, is sometimes more important than the design itself. So all that we’ve learned in the art school, we bring into our business. Whether that be our identity/brand voice as a whole.
That being said, college isn’t everything. There are other ways that you can learn to be a better creative. We’ve attended many workshops where fellow creatives host and teach others about their processes and how they create. But be warned, really research who you’re being taught by. There are many creatives who take advantage of newer creatives and oversell a workshop and teach bare minimum information because they really don’t know what they’re doing. We’ve seen it happen, we’ve seen people lose a lot of money because the workshop wasn’t legit.
Another way you can get a good education is mentoring! We were mentored by our favorite photographers to date, Rosey Red Photography. They helped us in so many ways that we didn’t even know we needed. It was a personal one-on-one or couple to couple session that lasted for two days. We learned the in’s and out’s of business, lighting, editing etc. We got more out of that session than any workshop we’ve ever attended. There are many options out there, but education is key in improving in your field.
Running a photography business #5 | Relationships and networking are key
I have a fun story to tell. I attended a workshop/styled shoot put on by Mallory and Justin, photographers from our area. It was a cool event filled with wedding vendors from the area and about 15+ photographers photographing models all dressed up as if they were in a wedding. Mikayla wasn’t there, and that’s already a problem. Why’s that a problem you ask? Well, there was a pizza vendor there. And if you any of you know me, like truly know me, I’m where the pizzas’ at. So I’m photographing all these models but I end up just shooting a lot of the pizza (and eating it of course).
I start photographing the pizza and I take a bite and I’m in freaking love. It was the first time I’ve truly tasted a wood fired pizza and I just was in pizza heaven. I saw the dude who was making it and had to go talk to him. His name was Rocky Shanower. If you are a stranger to our blog, check out our Bahler Street shoot. I talked to him for about 10-15 minutes about pizza. I asked him all these questions about his craft, what he loves about it, everything really. We said our goodbyes and I headed home.
After all of that, Mikayla was looking through the photos and she found that more than half of the photos from the styled shoot were pizza. MORE than half. We paid money to attend that shoot to photograph wedding models, not pizza. Mikayla was somewhat mad, but I mean, I wasn’t, I ate pizza. But. Here’s the kicker. Ya ready for it? We gave Rocky all of those photos and we kind of forgot about it. But 1-2 years later Rocky reached out to us because he needed a refresh on photography. Because I invested in Rocky and really tried to get to know him, I made an impression and when paired with the photography we gave, it’s a no brainer. Now we work for Rocky and shoot all of his products for his pizza businesses.
All that to say this. We wouldn’t have met Rocky if we didn’t attend that one styled shoot. We wouldn’t have had Rocky as a client if I just shot the pizza and never talked to him. If you’re truly interested or invested in a type of photography and really want to get into that business, go to the business and talk to the owners! Attend a styled shoot or work shop and talk to the vendors. Give out a business card (I know so old school), have a genuine conversation about their business and ask them what made them want to get into this business. Because we started working with Rocky, he’s referred us to 3 other paying clients. Networking—it truly pays off.
Running a photography business #6 | Gear isn’t everything
Gear is great, don’t get me wrong. But gear isn’t everything. Guys, we shoot on the outdated Canon 5D Mark iii’s. You don’t need the greatest gear on the market to create amazing art. There are plenty of videos on Youtube that show professionals shooting on the worst cameras and coming up with beautiful art that looks like it’s shot on the best of the best. There’s even videos of newbies shooting on the best of the best and it looks like it’s being shot on the worst of the worst. Learning the technical side, and learning what your limitations are with your gear is everything.
We know that Canon is known for preserving highlights better than the shadows. We also know that Nikon is known for preserving shadows rather than preserving highlights. So with canon, low light can be somewhat difficult for us. Especially on the 5D mark iii’s we own. But everything you see on our website is shot with this camera, we’ve learned to overcome the limitations of our camera and create beautiful art (if I don’t say so myself).
If you want a fun challenge, go to the store, get a point and shoot film camera and practice composition, lighting, etc. and see what you come up with. Heck. Our phones are probably better than the lower end DSLR’s. Practice with your phone. See if you can download an app that can change your phone’s aperture and shutter speed. If you do happen to have a lower end DSLR, learn everything about that camera. Take it into low light situations and see how you can get the best picture, take it into direct sunlight and see how well you can preserve the highlights. You aren’t limited to your gear, your knowledge about your gear is limited.
Imagine going from a lower-end DSLR with the knowledge on how to use it inside and out to getting the best on the market where all of those problems you had were fixed. You now have the knowledge on how to work with low light, direct sunlight, diffused light, composition etc. because you were forced to with the old gear. (Obviously all of these are important with new gear, but it’s like going from an old beater car to a brand new 2021 car, you notice a difference).
Running a photography business #7 | Organization is EVERYTHING
The answer is in the title. If you aren’t organized, you aren’t going to have a fun time running a photography business. If you’re going at it alone and you aren’t an organized person, hire an organized person to do all the back end stuff. I promise you that if you don’t kick your butt into gear and stay organized, your business will fail. When it comes to photoshoots, back everything up, twice, or three times. Have an online back up as well as a “just in case.” We’ve had a shoot corrupt and lost and it was devastating. This can’t be a thing you overlook, we’ve had a friend who lost 7+ weddings because a hard drive failed. Back everything up twice at least.
A great tool we love to use for organization is Honeybook. We used to have all paper contracts, paper everything. We would meet in person, get signatures and then mail or scan it in, it was a hot mess. But with Honeybook, our contracts, invoices, shoot details are all In one place and we don’t have to worry about anything going missing. There are plenty of online organization tools like Honeybook, so feel free to do some research to find the best one out there for you.
There are plenty of more things we’ve learned in our photo career, but
Do you need help with running a photography business? Or just in need of some rad photographers to grab some ‘za with and socially distance hang (we even do virtual coffee dates)? We shoot everything from elopements to pizza. Shoot us a message and talk to our cats (aka the office administrators) for more information! Now booking for 2021 and the beginning of 2022.