Over the years, there’s been more than a handful of things I wish I’d known about running a photography business. Thanks to years of trial and error, some post-session breakdowns, and more than a few all-nighter editing sessions, I’ve finally figured out a system that works for me and brings me only dream clients. So, I’m gonna take you through a little time capsule and we’re gonna get you set up to rock and roll before you have to hit any of the bumps and obstacles I did. Without further ado, here are 3 things I wish I knew when I started my photography business.
1. Don’t try to shoot everything.
- Only book sessions in your niche
- Create a portfolio of things you genuinely love to shoot
- Only shoot the things that fuel your creativity
- Only show what you want to book
So let’s dive into what these really mean.
* Only book sessions in your niche.
It’s super important that after you’ve shot everything for just a little bit, you start to only book sessions in your niche.
(I’m probably not the first person to ever speak to you about the importance of a niche. But in case I am, and you’re unfamiliar with that funky term- let’s break it down.)
Niche – “a specialized segment of the market for a particular kind of product or service.”
So, that means for us, a niche is a strategic segment of a market in need of our photography services. Easy enough. Some examples: seniors, couples, weddings, families, newborns, etc – those are different “niches” within photography.
You can get even more specific, and choose a niche like “traditional” or “modern” wedding photographer; or adventurous senior photographer, or adventurous couples photographer. The list goes on and on.
You’ve probably also heard the saying, “the riches are in the niches.”
Okay, so what the heck does that mean!?
Basically, that means you can scale your biz better by niching (or narrowing,)
down the scope of clients that you’re attempting to serve.
If you’re like me, when you read that sentence you gulped and felt a pit form in your stomach. Because in your head, narrowing down means *fewer clients*, which means *fewer shoots*, which means (ugh) *less money.* (We’re bein’ honest here, right!?)
You may be feeling a bit down because you also want to do it ALL. And I understand because I’ve been there too. I remember wanting to serve everyone, simply because of how happy my photography services made everyone who stepped in front of my camera.
BUT – one of the greatest messages I’ve heard comes from a woman I admire so dang deeply.
“You can’t do it all, and do it all well.” – Lara Casey
Read that again. Seriously, do it. This doesn’t only apply to your photography biz, but girl – it’s about your LIFE.
If we’re trying to do it all, we’ll be mediocre at a lot of things, but not great at anything.
I’m not saying you have to narrow down your services to just ONE niche (if you can, that’s legit. But I couldn’t either.)
However, I was able to get it down this far:
I’m a – senior, couples,
family, newborns, children’s, action, pet, event, real estate, wildlife, aerial, landscape, brand, astrophotographer, photojournalist, concert, macro, baby, food, vehicle, street, underwater, advertising, stock, equine, – photographer.
So, how do you even begin to start narrowing things down…?
I recommend writing down all of the things you’re currently shooting. Then, start to scratch out the sessions that you’re never really excited to show up for, and the ones you aren’t on fire after shooting. You know… the ones you dread.
That brings me to my next point:
* Only shoot the things that fuel you creatively.
Whew. If this isn’t one of the top things I wish I knew when I started… I don’t know what is.
A good rule of thumb to set for yourself is: “if it doesn’t fuel you creatively- don’t shoot it.”
In the beginning, I’ll be honest, I shot everything. (Seriously. If it moved, I shot it.) And I actually advise that, because it’s through shooting everything that you’ll find out what you love, and what fuels you creatively. (But, once you’ve figured those things out, you can’t grow and thrive until you start narrowing them down.)
But keep in mind, just because you eliminate certain types of photography out of your scope, doesn’t mean you can’t ever shoot them again. (I actually advise you to from time to time, just to keep your mind fresh and creative juices flowin’!)
For example, just because I’m not a landscape photographer, doesn’t mean I’m not gonna shoot landscapes every time I go on vacation. Uh, you BET I am! (Not shooting landscapes in New Zealand would’ve been like… a sin.)
But, you don’t need to be repetitively showing these on social media.
Want me to let you in on a secret?
* Only show what you want to book.
Just because you shot a session, doesn’t mean you have to post it.
I know… for some reason that doesn’t really register with us. We think “well I shot this session, so obviously, I have to post it.”) But, it’ll hurt you in the long run if you’re posting sessions you don’t even want to book. Because if you’re showin’ it, people are gonna keep bookin’ it.
So, when you’re just starting the process of niching down, you can keep taking the bookings for the sessions you don’t really want to continue booking, but start phasing them out in your portfolio and on your social media channels – and then, drop ‘em when the inquiries stop rolling in.
The next thing I wish I would’ve known before I started my photography business:
2. WORK WITH WHAT YOU HAVE,
WHERE YOU ARE.
I remember when I first started I was following all the photography blogs and drooling over everyone else’s work, (meanwhile wondering why mine wasn’t there yet. Ugh.)
And that’s okay. It happens to all of us. But, I wish I would’ve focused more on what I could do with what I had instead of thinking a new lens or new camera would fix it, when honestly – I just needed to know how to really use my own camera.
If you’re not comfortable shooting in manual mode, you DON’T need more than an entry-level DSLR. Simple as that. Once you’ve mastered manual mode, then it may be time to upgrade to a full frame camera.
Now, there are definitely times when it’s more beneficial to have a full frame camera vs an entry-level DSLR. For example, entry level DSLR’s (and most crop sensor cameras) don’t handle low light situations very well, meaning- when you go to crank the ISO up, it can get pretty noisy/grainy, (sometimes to the point where your images aren’t salvageable.)
But, if you aren’t being limited by your equipment yet,
then it’s not time to upgrade.
3. INVEST IN LENSES FIRST
I wish I would’ve known to upgrade my lenses before anything else.
Granted, I believe it’s important to get yourself a full-frame camera if you’re determined to really do this thing, but – the quality of your images is primarily dependent on your glass (or in other words, your lenses.) If there were ever a scenario where the words “you get what you pay for” applied – it’d be right here.
I remember when I first started, I was shooting on a Canon 7D and one of the kit lenses it came with. I had finally gotten the hang of shooting in manual mode, but I was just stuck in a rut because none of my images looked how I wanted them to. They just weren’t sharp enough, and they didn’t have that “wow factor” I was looking for.
I was interning at a local magazine, and we were headed out to shoot content that day for an upcoming article in the magazine. The editor knew I was primarily interested in learning about the photography side of things, so she offered for me to take some photos of one of the models. So, I set the camera up the way I would’ve with my own, and started snappin’.
I remember the moment I looked at the back of the viewfinder to check the images- and my jaw fell open. (I’m sure the model was probably scared as to why lol… BUT- I couldn’t believe my eyes.)
It was then I knew I’d finally gotten to a place where I’d outgrown my equipment;
because THAT was an image I’d be stoked to slap my watermark on.
It had that exact “wow factor” I was looking for. The catch? The lens was the 70-200mm/2.8 USM II Series lens (If you’re unfamiliar with that particular lens, it was a whopping $2,000 at that time. Yes, JUST the lens.)
Now, not all lenses are that expensive, and the price for them depends on a ton of different factors. But moral of the story? That was some dang good glass, and the images proved it.
If you haven’t bought any good glass for yourself yet, one of my all time fav lenses is the Canon 85mm 1.2 – and yes, the 1.2 version is worth it. I know it’s pricey, but if you save up long enough, you can totally do it. This was the lens that completely revolutionized my work and set me apart from the rest- allowing me to finally create those quality images I was dreaming up in my head. Yeah, it’s that big of a deal.
If you’re super tight on cash, the Canon 50mm 1.8 (also known as the “nifty fifty,”) is a really good lens for the price – it’s super cheap (like $100 cheap,) and produces some beautiful images for the money. It’s def better than your kit lens, I promise. In fact, if you can lay your kit lenses to rest, for like… the rest of ever, that’d be a good idea. 😉
You can find the exact list of all the equipment I use and recommend in my biz, here! 🙂
So – to sum it up- here are the top things I wish I knew when I started my photography business:
1. Don’t shoot everything.
2. Work with what you have, where you are.
3. Invest in lenses first.
Are these helpful for ya, friend!? Do you have any other q’s regarding tips for starting your photography biz? If so, pop ‘em in the comments and I’ll get back to ya in a jif! 😉
If you need help building, growing, and/or systemizing your photography business, totally reach out and book a free strategy call with me. Helping you flourish is what I do best. 😉
If ya liked this little gem, you’ll LOVE this guide on how to create a photography business with zero competition. (Cause that’s what we all want, right!?)
Wanna stick around and stay learnin’? I knew I liked ya. 😉
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