Photo Opportunity: How To Start A Successful Photography Business

The photography industry is booming, which is great news for photographers looking to strike out on their own. Follow these tips to find success.
November 04, 2013

If you're in the digital photography business—or want to be—signs point to a lot of opportunity. A BBC report forecasts the digital photography market will grow to $82.5 billion by 2016. That means that in an industry that's often seen as being saturated, there's still a lot of opportunity for creative professionals thinking about starting their own businesses.

Be Unique

Mandy Fierens, a Pittsburgh-based documentary wedding photographer has enjoyed significant growth by making her career change work for her. "I turned my hobby into my business a year ago, and it's taking off," Fierens says.

The key to Fierens' success? "Try to make yourself unique," she advises. "Stay true to yourself and your interests. For instance, I am a fashion blogger and worked in the fashion industry before becoming a photographer. I try to appeal to more fashion-oriented brides."

Another aspect of making an impression is to provide superior customer service. Be memorable by making your clients as happy as possible.

"The more you please them, the more they will talk about you and brag to others," Fierens says. "You want happy buzz about you and your business."

Find A Mentor

Photography careers frequently begin as hobbies. And many newcomers to the field fall into the trap of doing low-paying commercial work.

"Unfortunately, a lot of new photographers seem to think that being cheaper is the way to build their businesses," says Peggy Farren, a photographer who has owned a successful portrait studio for more than 12 years. "New photographers need to beware of this trap."

Farren recommends that first-timers shadow successful photographers.

"The fastest way to become a high-end photographer is to work for a high-end photographer for a couple of years," she says. "Your work will be critiqued, you'll watch the pro in action, and you'll learn significant client service skills. There is no doubt, this is the best and fastest way to go full-time."

Roll Up Your Sleeves

"Photographers face a number of challenges," says Trenton Moore, a commercial and editorial photographer from Central Florida. "I think the biggest one is that most of us are blessed with a gift for the creative, a gift for the technical, or a gift for the business—two out of three if you're lucky, and very rarely three out of three."

Photographers need to keep building on their strengths, while finding solutions for their weaknesses. In addition to building a robust client portfolio, a network of freelancers can help with the business side of things and provide a creative community to call on.

"Surrounding yourself with other creatives, be it artists, designers or even other photographers, is important for sharing ideas and receiving honest feedback, as well as being a springboard for potential job referrals," Moore says.

Creative professionals should understand that progress takes time. Set goals, and work backward to set realistic plans. "If you're in a 9 to 5 job, save some money, move to part time, and then eventually full time as a photographer," Moore says. "While I don't mean to be bleak, one must also be realistic; being a full-time professional photographer is simply not for everyone. "

Expect that results will take time, dedication and hard work. Hollywood success stories are few and far between.

"You can't go from being an attorney to being a professional photographer and expect to maintain your lifestyle for the first few years," Moore says. Practice, persistence, and patience will be your guiding force.

Ritika specializes in business, marketing, entrepreneurship and tech. She writes for Forbes, Investopedia, Business Insider, CMO and the SAP Innovation Blog.

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Photo: Courtesy Mandy Fierens