A number of people see photography as just taking pictures and keeping them for archival purposes, but it’s more than that – it definitely goes beyond just taking pictures. My own definition of photography is simple, I believe it is the art of capturing priceless moments – moments that cannot be caught twice but once in a lifetime, therefore it is expensive! Many Nigerians see photography as a mediocre kind of job, but it’s surprising now that photography is the “In Thing” and people make thousands of naira and even millions taking pictures.
Although, there’s one major thing you should have if you want to start a photography business – Passion! It is very important to have a passion for the art of photography. A photographer is not just someone who takes pictures; a photographer is an artist because he or she has to tell a story from every picture he or she takes. Every work of art has a story behind it and should not be underestimated. There are things one should know when starting up a photography business:
1. Explore Your Options: When I say this, I don’t mean to look for another other than photography; what I meant to say is, choose a specialization. Choosing an area of specialization in photography is one of the best ways to distinguish “yourself” from other photographers. You have to find an area of specialization that you love and at the same time, are better in. You can start by learning about and also trying various types of photography like: Landscape photography, wedding photography, baby/child photography, travel photography, portrait photography, fashion photography, food photography, commercial photography, and the list is endless. Once you get an area of specialization, you can start working on giving yourself a brand.
2. Equip yourself, but don’t clutter yourself with equipment you don’t need: The problem some photographers have is that they just buy what they see someone else using or what they see online. They don’t carry out enough research on what kind of equipment they need for their particular area of specialisation. For example, a nature or landscape photographer doesn’t necessarily need a beauty dish for his pictures but he or she goes on to purchase it rather than investing money on a better range of wide-angled lens.
3. Get Professional Experience: Working alongside a professional photographer is a great way to show your prospective clients what you can do, and also to get some experience and start to build a portfolio of your own. You can work as a photographer’s assistant while starting your own business.
4. Choose a Business Name and Logo: You need to get a name for your business as well as creating a cool, unique logo that depicts you. If you can’t create a logo on your own, you can get professional help from a graphic designer.
“A brand is not just a logo, it’s the overall impression and experience you give to your audience and customers. Your brand expresses the value you provide. It’s YOU!” – Amy Locurto
5. Create a Price Plan: If you want to be taken seriously as a professional photographer, you need to come up with a price plan. What and how much will you charge your potential clients? If it’s per hour or per day; you need to carry out thorough research on that aspect to know the price range of what other photographers charge. Let me warn you though, when you just start, you might have to bring down your prices a bit just to attract clients that may end up being lifetime clients that can refer you to others.
6. Create a Cool Website & Photo Blog: A website shows the world what your business is about, what you do and what your clients expect from you. Your work should obviously be showcased on your website and your blog. Your website should have your contact details; must be well structured and organized. Both your website and blog must be very impressive so as to attract clients. I’ll advice that you get a professional to work on your website design but you can handle the blog on your own. The blog is a way of communicating with your clients or potential clients; you don’t only post your pictures on the blog, you also tell the story behind those pictures. Make sure the quality of your pictures are top notch.
7. Be Aware of Marketing Techniques: As a photographer, you need to market yourself and your work by setting up official pages on social media platforms such as: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, LinkedIn and Ads. Let people know more about you and what you can do by showcasing your work on these pages. You can also print out business cards with all your contact information on it; from your official email to your phone numbers, website, blog and other social media platforms you’re on. Referral programs are also an easy, affordable and effective marketing plan. A referral program is a way to thank your happy clients for recommending you to their friends.
8. Learn to Shoot in Manual Mode As Soon As Possible: When shooting in manual mode, you’re in control of the camera. The aperture, white balance, shutter speed and ISO are all under your control so you have to learn and know how to set them right on your camera. Make your camera your best friend; eat, breathe and live it. Keep practicing with it in your free time and if possible, play with it just to know the “in and out” of it. Don’t get too comfortable with other modes (such as aperture priority, shutter priority, auto, sports, portrait modes…) that will give you limited results as they have “already set” themes which cannot be changed unless you change to manual mode.
9. People Skills: These are the most important skills a photographer should have; not only should you know how to handle the camera but you should be able to communicate well with clients. Also, try and keep a good relationship with your clients and be prepared to refund money sometimes. As much as you need to be friendly and approachable, you also have to be strict when it comes to some funny clients who want to take you for granted.
10. You are Not Just a Photographer: Always have it at the back of your mind that you’re not just a photographer; you’re a businessman, a CEO, CFO, photo editor, social media administrator, web designer, treasurer, secretary, customer service representative and any other business title you can think of. So you have to be business savvy, well informed and equipped when running a photography business of your own. “Take charge!” As your business grows and expands over the years, you can begin to employ new staff to take the work load off you; you can’t be in the same position forever.
As a photographer that is new to the business, you have to be patient because as the popular saying goes: “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It takes time to build a great business and clientele; you just need the right preparatory tools. You can start by covering family/friends’ functions for a token or at times for free, just to get referrals and prospective clients as well as to build up your portfolio. Remember, it is a competitive market out there; quite a large number of photographers are emerging by the day and you need to “up your game” by distinguishing yourself from others. Find what makes you unique; think “out of the box”; come up with a style or setting of photographing, and make it your signature (your brand), such that when people see your pictures anywhere, they’ll know it’s you without even sighting your logo. At the same time, don’t be too predictable; try surprising your clients with amazing pictures once in a while.
Stay Strong, Never Give Up on Yourself and in Your Dreams! You’ll Definitely Succeed!