Business Ideas Insights

Tips for Running a Successful (and Profitable) Photography Business

Written by Talia Simone

You’re passionate about photography and are hoping to turn it into a full-time career for yourself, but you’re not sure of exactly where to begin. Whether you’ve done a professional training course or learned your skills simply by practising with family and friends, figuring out how to build and run a profitable photography business can be a daunting task. Here are some key things you might want to consider:

Find a niche & develop your ideal customer

The photography industry is an incredibly saturated market, particularly with the advent of quality phone cameras that have made amateur photographers out of most of us! However, a jack-of-all-trades is often the master of none, and finding a particular niche can be one of the most crucial aspects to running a successful photography business. 

What kind of things really inspire you when it comes to your creative work? And what does the local market look like for particular genres? If you’re living in an area where wedding photographers can be found on every corner, would it make more sense to explore corporate headshots, newborn photography, or boudoir? This decision should also be shaped by what kind of work you enjoy doing. If the thought of attempting to work with children leaves you feeling stressed at the mere thought of it, then moving into the corporate space and working with adults might be more your cup of tea. 

After you’ve established the foundation of your niche, it can be valuable to spend some time figuring out exactly who your ideal customer is. Although this might sound vague, it’s possible to get exceptionally specific here – and from a marketing perspective, spending time on this might be one of the most important steps you take. In order to find and market to quality paying clients, you need to know exactly who will want your photography services. You can look at demographic features such as gender, age, income, etc, but also consider questions like: what hobbies would your ideal client be engaged in? What are their goals, aspirations and values? Do they have any fears or anxieties? When you are able to clearly define your ideal client, your ability to market successfully and bring in qualitative leads can increase dramatically because you know who exactly to target your marketing strategies towards. 

Build a portfolio

In order to successfully sell photography services, future clients need to be able to see the style and quality of photographs you can produce. If you’ve been taking photos for years, you might already have many great images to choose from that you can share online. However, if you’re just starting out, it can be difficult to know what the first steps might be in building up a quality portfolio!

Although this is dependent on the genre of photography you plan to offer, the best starting point can often be family and friends. Approach people you know and enquire if they might be interested in doing a short session with you (either free of charge, or for a small fee). These can be great opportunities to trial new equipment or photographic techniques, and to really hone your skills behind the camera. Make sure that the people you are photographing provide you with an image release and are happy for you to utilise the photographs for your online portfolio. 

Establish a brand identity 

We mentioned earlier how saturated the photography industry can be, and finding ways to set yourself apart from other businesses is a critical component to ongoing success. It can often be helpful to familiarise yourself with other local competitors so you can establish how you might be able to set yourself apart. Consider what you might be able to offer that is unique to you and your business, as well as how you might be able to make your business branding stand out from the crowd. 

Whether you opt to employ a professional graphic designer to create your ‘look’, or to undertake those design tasks yourself, it is important that your branding looks eye-catching, cohesive and consistent. This might involve establishing a business name that encapsulates your personality and will appeal to your ideal client, having a visually striking and memorable logo, or even selecting a handful of brand colours that you use across your website to tie each page together. Your brand identity should communicate what your values are, and how you want prospective clients to feel when they interact with your business. 

A key element of brand identity is also ensuring that your online presence includes information and photos of you, the human behind the camera. People choose photographers not solely by the images they take, but also based on how comfortable they feel with you as an individual. You’ll be spending time with your clients during significant moments of their lives, and that requires a degree of trust and intimacy. Whether this involves having an ‘About You’ page on your website, or posting behind-the-scenes videos on social media so that future clients can see you in action, this is a step that increases your relatability and will help clients to further connect with you and your brand. 

Develop a marketing plan

Although there are endless avenues that you can use to market your photography business, it is important to first develop a marketing plan so that you can invest your time and finances wisely. When you’re just starting out, it can be helpful to begin with marketing strategies that do not involve any financial cost. This might involve building a referral program to help grow your business via word-of-mouth, developing a profile on Google My Business, utilising multiple social media platforms (e.g. having Facebook, Instagram and TikTok accounts), or networking with other professionals. 

Having a website can be an helpful step in adding legitimacy to your brand, as well as facilitating a place where future clients can submit formal enquiries for your services via a ‘Contact Us/Book Now’ page. Whether you start with something simple, or begin to dive deeply into website search engine optimisation (SEO), having a website can give you a place to consolidate information about your business. From there, exploring paid advertising (e.g. Google Ads) can offer further avenues of profitable marketing to assist in bringing in new clients. 

Determine your cost of doing business and price yourself accordingly

When it comes to running a successful photography business, perhaps the most important factor is being priced profitably. It can also be one of the most challenging components. Many new photographers feel a bit lost as to how to price themselves so that they are competitive within the market, affordable to their clients, but profitable enough to be sustainable. And although people often think that a photographer’s job simply involves showing up for an hour or two, taking some photos, and then quickly popping a filter on the images before handing them over to the client, there are significant time and expense-related costs that often get forgotten about. 

How much time do you spend liaising with your clients before and after they’ve booked with you? How much money do you regularly spend on subscription-based programs like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop? Do you need to upgrade/repair your equipment regularly? Do you provide people with printed products such as albums or wall art, and what is the cost of these goods for you to purchase? Do you require insurance? Will you need to pay an accountant to manage your business finances? 

Simply looking at the prices of other photographers offers little information regarding their cost of doing business, nor their financial situation/current goals. So whether you’re attempting to create a business that will sustain you full-time, or simply earn some money on the side, it is imperative that you take the time to figure out exactly what your financial goals are, what your personal cost of doing business is, and to then structure your pricing accordingly.  

Invest in continued professional development

This particular point is one that established professional photographers are arguably more likely to neglect, but it continues to be important throughout your entire journey when running a successful photography business. Never stop investing in yourself as a photographer and a business professional. From a creative perspective, photography as a craft is an area where there are always new techniques to try. Whether that might be trialing new lighting set-ups, working on photographic composition or even post-production/editing techniques, there are innumerable ways to continue improving your work. From a business perspective, continuing to upskill in areas like marketing, web design/development, customer service, and social media strategies will enable you to build a business that will be successful for many years to come. 

“The opinions expressed by BizWitty Contributors are their own, not those of BizCover and should not be relied upon in place of appropriate professional advice. Please read our full disclaimer."

About the author

Talia Simone

Talia Simone is the Director of Heartfire Boudoir photography studio in Sydney, NSW. You can email her at [email protected] or call 0403755507.