The more photographers I meet, the more I realize how many talented photographers are struggling to make a career or part-time career with their photography. Besides wanting to give them a big hug and console them, I want to give them a pep talk, a big shove and say, “You can do eet!”
Tip #1: Don’t work for free
It seems simple, but it is so hard to do. Unless you are building up your portfolio, don’t work for free. Ok? If everyone works for free, no one will expect to pay for photography and then photographers will never get paid. It’s a vicious cycle.
Your photography is worth money. Say this after me, “I deserve to get paid for my photography”.
The time and money you spend to rent gear, plan a shoot, travel to and from the location, and post-process takes days, not hours. I got paid $500 for my first wedding shoot. The gear I rented cost $250. The other shooter I hired cost $150. I spent 3 hours planning and setting up the shoot, 1 hour driving to the location, 8 hours shooting the wedding, and 12 hours on post. All said and done, I was working for little over $4 an hour. Learn from my mistake and don’t do this.
Find out what other photographers are charging in your field and start with that rate. If you feel happy receiving that amount then it’s probably a good rate. If you feel sad and unappreciated and angry at the world, then increase your rate. Make sure you always include your post-processing time and set boundaries on how many final photoshopped images your client gets. Start with one to three. If they want more, then charge extra.
Say this again after me, “I deserve to get paid for my photography”. Now breathe.
Tip #2: Build a portfolio of your work
In order to charge money for your photos you need to make a portfolio web site for your work. If you don’t have a website, Instagram or Facebook page, tumblr, blog, or portfolio of your photography, make this the year you create one. No excuses. You don’t need something complex, just a place where clients can see the following:
- your 10-20 best shots
- your rates — because you are charging money now ;)
- your contact info (very important so people can give you work)
- a little bio about you
- links to your social media pages
Don’t over complicate this process. You don’t need an award winning website. Some good options include, Smugmug (where I have my current portfolio), Squarespace, Photoshelter or even a free WordPress site. You can even set up an Instagram page for free. Not as elegant, but a good way to advertise your work without spending too much time messing about with websites. That being said, if this is something you really want to do, then set up a website now. It is a huge pain to do it later when you are busy all the time. Take the opportunity now to get things done like a boss!
Tip #3: Specialize in one area of photography
Many photographers can’t decide on which type of photography they want to specialize in. If you want to have a photography business you need to focus on one area and establish your own style. I’ve seen some photographer’s portfolio sites with 20 different categories: Events, travel, weddings, maternity, glamour, landscapes, wild life, architecture, moody black & whites, water photos etc. Pick one main type of photography, whether it’s weddings/engagement, landscape real estate, actor’s head shots, maternity/newborns, or fashion and focus your whole portfolio on those photos. If you also take macros of insects, post those shots somewhere else, but not next to your cute, lil newborn feet macros.
Marketing your work will be much easier if you focus on one area of photography.
Once you’ve picked the area you want to specialize in, then you can focus your attention on that. Perfect your skills, acquire the right gear, and target your marketing efforts to that area. Get to the point where you can describe your photography business in one concise description: Jake Smith, Vancouver Wedding photographer or Maggie Smith, New York fashion photographer. Sounds a bit more catchy than Jake Smith, Vancouver Wedding, Maternity, and Insect macro photographer. Once you add this to the title description of your website, it will be the “searchable” item. Then when people Google “Vancouver Wedding photographer”, hopefully they will find you.
Tip #4: Promote your work like it’s going out of style
If you aren’t actively promoting your work, no one will ever see it. This is why photographers are some of the most obnoxious over sharers on social media. Sorry about that. It’s a competitive market out there and unfortunately you have to be loud and proud on a daily basis to be heard. Now that you know which area of photography you are focused on, you can gear all your Tweets, Facebooks, Instagrams and blog posts to suit that sector of the industry. Find someone who is doing what you are doing and figure out the key things they do on social media to promote their work. Don’t get discouraged and don’t worry about how many followers you have. That is a horrible trap that will bring you down on a daily basis. Stay genuine and post photos and words that best encapsulate your photography.
Believe in yourself and dream big. If you don’t have confidence in your work, no one will. You learn things by doing them and by doing them a lot of times over and over. It takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, so start now.
Why are you still reading this? You should be taking photos and building your portfolio! Go! Hurry up, the sun is going down!