So you’re pretty handy with your SLR – and you’ve heard from your sister’s neighbor that you should *totally* start a business. So you’re thinking about it. But have you considered everything that goes into owning a business?
Here’s a few solid guidelines that I suggest for those considering a business:
1 – Can you produce solid images?
You shouldn’t even be considering a business yet unless you have the basic skills down. Knowing the three “poses” is essential – expose, compose, and pose. Do you know to properly expose an image? (NOT on auto!) Can you compose a photo? Can you pose your subjects? (Yes, lifestyle photography is less “pose-y”, but lack of posing know-how does NOT equal lifestyle.)
2 – Can you provide a consistent gallery of images?
If you’re thinking of going into business, you’ve probably been practicing on friends and family. Can you provide them with a consistent amount of images (that number is up to you, typically 20-40) that meets the standards from point 1?
3 – Do you have an understanding of light and different lighting situations?
Being a photographer is ALL about “finding the light”. Can you see the light? Can you walk into a new situation and look around and “see” the light? It takes a lot of practice, so don’t feel bad if you can’t do it just yet. But being in business and walking into homes or new locations requires that you’ll be able to look around and quickly be able to assess the best lighting situations. Keep in mind that you don’t have to use just natural light – feel free to bust out the flash. BUT that leads to a subquestion – do you know how to use your lighting equipment?
If you answer “No” to 1,2 or 3 – stop and continue skill building. Practice on your kiddos, your dog, your best friend, etc… but you’re not ready to set up a business just yet.
If you answer yes to all 3 questions – it sounds like you may be ready to portfolio build. What does that mean? Well, it’s the interim between skill building and owning a full fledged business. This is the time to determine your pricing and policies and work out the kinks before you open up shop.
Do you have insurance?
Every photog should have at minimum some level of insurance. Liability is a must, in my opinion, especially if you’re shooting weddings. It should not be negotiable for a wedding photographer. Equipment and liability insurance can run you $300+/year for a decent policy.
Have you evaluated your pricing? Check out this post: http://melissapalomoblog.com/thinking-of-going-into-business-pricing/
Do you have proper equipment?
Every working professional should have the proper equipment to do their job. This does NOT mean you need a full frame camera and a $2000 lens. A mid level camera, 50mm 1.4, and a Tamron 28-75 can be a perfect setup for a newer photographer. But what happens if your camera fails? Once you’re at the point of charging big girl prices, you should have backup equipment. This means at least 2 bodies and 2 lenses. If you don’t have a backup camera just yet, that’s ok for the portfolio building stage, in my opinion. But once you’re a full-fledged photographer charging full prices, you should have at minimum two of everything. For a while I had a 5DII & 40D body. The 40D could work in a pinch – and yes, I had my 5DII fail on me once at the very beginning of a shoot. But I was prepared and grabbed my 40D – no one knew anything was wrong.
If you’ve answered yes to all of the questions above, then happy portfolio building! There are many great forums that offer great business advice, including www.ilovephotography.com, www.digitalweddingforum.com, and www.prophotogs.com
Feel free to email me with any questions!