How to make money as a Photographer
Have you found yourself living as a “starving artist?” Perhaps you’ve recently embarked on a career as a photographer and you’re struggling to get that big start, or maybe you’ve been dabbling in photography for years, but you just haven’t been able to get it to kick off the way you’d hoped. In some cases, you might be holding yourself back from success as a photographer. Do any of these phrases sound familiar?
– “I don’t want to sell out.”
– “If my art is good enough, it will market itself.”
– “I just want to get into a gallery…but I’m not doing anything to get myself there.”
If you’ve found yourself stuck in that cycle and struggling with the starving artist mentality, there’s hope! By taking these five steps, you can turn your photography business around and discover new, better ways to connect with clients and build the income you need to support yourself as an artist.
Step One: Specialize
Find the one thing that you’re really good at. Marketing yourself as a photographer is great, but’s even better when you find that perfect niche that’s just right for you. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer with amazing talent for catching those perfect romantic moments, you might not want to waste time and energy trying to figure out how to get the perfect picture of an uncooperative baby. Choose the specialty that you’re genuinely passionate about! Ask yourself these questions:
– What genre do your best pictures fall into? It’s okay if you have a couple of different ones, especially at this point in the process.
– What types of pictures do you really love taking? Do you enjoy shooting couples? Children? Families? Do you prefer landscapes to portraits? Think about what really makes you excited about an upcoming shoot.
– What pictures have received the best compliments? Which ones would you love to be able to try again?
– What demand is there in your area for a specific photographer? Some areas are bigger wedding venues than others–and filling a need in your area will make it easier for you to build your business.
Once you choose your specialty, get obsessive about it! Take the time to learn everything there is to know about the area you’ve chosen. Build your knowledge and your skills to help offer that expertise to your clients.
Step Two: Create a System
It would be nice if all you had to do was worry about taking the pictures. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy! Since you’re self-employed, you also have to be self-marketing. Create a system that is sure to bring in an ongoing stream of clients. Make sure you include:
– Facebook: a great profile that you update regularly to keep people interested in your business and your photos.
– Google AdWords: the perfect way to build content that will appeal for people who are looking for pictures like yours.
– SEO: if you aren’t optimized for search engines, especially local SEO, clients won’t be able to find you.
Creating and maintaining awareness about your business is an ongoing process, but it’s also well worth the effort! When you keep an updated website, your clients will be better able to find you.
Step Three: Shoot Your Heart Out
You can’t be a professional photographer if you’re only shooting a couple of times a month. Get out there with your camera and get creative–and don’t forget about that specialty! If you have paying clients, great! Take as many pictures of them as you can fit into the session. Get creative, but don’t forget to fall back on familiar standbys to ensure that your clients get the pictures you’re looking for. When you’re between clients, find ways to help build your business. For example:
– If you’re specializing in babies, offer new-parent friends a free photo shoot. They’ll love having the perfect pictures of their little one, and you’ll have a model to play with!
– Specializing in wedding photography? Talk to friends about offering an extra camera at their upcoming weddings. If you don’t know anyone getting married, pay a trip to a bridal store and let a friend dress up in a wedding gown. You might even be able to pick up a wedding dress at a steep discount from a thrift store. Visit bridal shows and fashion shows. Expand your portfolio one shot at a time.
– When you love taking family pictures, you can find families anywhere! Talk to your friends about taking pictures of their families.
– Take your camera with you wherever you go. Parties, gatherings, and events are all great places to find your new favorite shot–and it will help build your skill at capturing candid pictures.
Step Four: Be Honest and Price Yourself Well
Develop a good idea of what you’re worth and charge a price that’s reasonable for the time and effort you’re putting in. Take the time to research the prices of photographers in your area, then set a rate that you consider reasonable and that reflects what you’d like to make. When you believe in yourself and your skills, your clients are more likely to believe in you, too.
Step Five: Use Your Money Well
As a self-employed photographer, you have to spend each dollar wisely. Buying more equipment probably won’t earn you any more money, but investing in marketing and sales training will! For example, spending $2000 on a new lens is unlikely to increase your overall income. Investing that money in Google Adwords or in Facebook Ads, on the other hand, can turn that $2000 into $8000. Sales training can also go a long way toward teaching you how to market yourself and increase your income. If you really need more gear, book more clients, sell more pictures, and save up for the gear that you really want–and don’t purchase it until you’ve hit that threshold. It’s tempting to throw your money into new equipment as quickly as you can make it, but wise investments will go much further toward growing your business.
Artists are notoriously terrible at making money. You want to be able to focus on the creative side of things instead of having to go through the process of bringing in clients, marketing, and keeping up with your website. If you want to quit your day job and grow your client base, however, you need to focus on marketing–and you’ll quickly discover that it’s well worth the effort you’ll put in.
Humberto Garcia is the world’s leading photography business growth expert.
Founder of Photography to Profits and high-performance coach to multiple 6-figure photography businesses. Humberto coaches photographers from his special operations military experience and photography sales and marketing experience. After years of high performance in Marine Special Operations and building businesses, he knows what works.