The Part Time Photographer Startup Series:
The business model I’m going to use throughout PartTimePhoto.com is portraiture: children’s, high school seniors, engagement, bridals, couples, family, maternity, and baby photography. I believe it’s the easiest to imitate, both as a business and artistic endeavor, until you are able to further develop your talents and become an innovator.
Most photographers start out wanting to be artists. They get a digital camera, show their photos to friends and family, and get told “oh wow, you take amazing photos! You should be a professional photographer!”
Artistry and innovation will come with experience and self development. Right now, I want to concentrate on giving you the tools of knowledge you need to practice making saleable portraits and getting paid for them. Art, bless its heart, will come in due time.
Business success will enable your artistic success. Once you get your first few paid shoots under your belt, you’ll have some money to play with – what you do with that money is your business.
That said, investing money and time back into the development of your business will only make your business easier to make money with.
- Buying better camera equipment will improve the technical quality of your images and open doors to more advanced portraiture techniques like bounce flash and small depth of field.
- Buying better computer equipment will make the post-processing part of your job more efficient, saving time and frustration.
- Investing in photography education, through books, online classes, webinars, in-person workshops, professional memberships, magazines, and other training will greatly improve your art, which gives you a much more valuable product. The better your art, the easier it is to get clients, and to get clients to pay what you want.
- An investment in good marketing is the easiest way to multiply your volume of business, such as through Google AdSense, a more professional web site, graphic design for a new logo and visual identity, or local advertising via print, radio, television, direct mail, mall displays, etc.
I will get into all these aspects of growing your photography business with time. For now, I want to brief you in summary as to how you’re going to make money as a part time portrait photographer.
How to make money as a part time portrait photographer
First, we’re going to keep costs low – in fact, if you’re reading this, odds are you already have everything you’ll need – a camera, computer, Internet access. We’re going to pull a Dave Ramsey and only buy what we can afford – we’re only going to spend money when we make money to spend. We’re going to use the equipment you have, open source software, and free online tools to shoot, process, sell, and market.
Second, we’re going to make it nigh impossible for people to turn you down: no session fees, no minimum orders, buy what you love. That is basically the tagline of my own photography business, and it works just as well during the startup phase as it does 10 years down the road.
Third, we’re going to sell exactly five products: hi-res digital files, 4×6’s, 5×7’s, 8×10’s, and sheets of wallets (8) – nothing over $20. We will expand our product line as money is made and you’re able and desirous to invest in better equipment.
We’re also going to practice three principles of good art and good business:
- Occam’s Razor – To paraphrase, to do with more what can be done with less is vanity. Simplicity in learning and simplicity in practice is how I will help you grow from enthusiast to paid part time professional photographer.
- Kaizen – The Japanese philosophy that small improvements over time create huge advantages. We’re going to start where you are, wherever that may be, and improve from there. There is no disadvantage or ignorance in your life that we cannot overcome on our path to you making money with your photography.
- Patton’s Law – A good plan violently executed today is far and away better than a perfect plan tomorrow. You’re never going to take the first step on this journey if you don’t accept that you’re not perfect. You won’t say the perfect things to a client, you won’t have the perfect marketing materials, you won’t take the perfect set of pictures. Start today with what you have and what you know and we will find ways to improve in some small way every single day.
One of the best parts of the model you will follow with this plan is that it’s guilt-free and no-risk, for you and your clients. They don’t pay a dime until they see their photos, they only buy and spend what they want, and you make money when your clients walk away with photos they are happy with. There is immense wiggle room to screw up and learn from your mistakes, so there’s no pressure.
Use what you have, in equipment and knowledge, and make small improvements every day. With time, you will have a shooting calendar filled with ecstatic clients and your only limit on income will be in choosing how much and when you wish to work.
Been there, done that – now let’s you and I do it together.
Tomorrow in our Startup Series, Part 2, I’ll go over what equipment you’ll need to get started with your photography business.
- Visit the low-fi portraiture gallery on Flickr.
- Brainstorm session: From the above gallery, write down all the ways you see photographers making good portraits with inexpensive, low-tech gear. Add to your Brainstorms folder.
- Read PartTimePhoto.com daily for all the delicious details of how to make good money through part time photography. To make it easy, scroll to the top of any page on this site and click on the “Subscribe” link.
- What have friends and family told you about your photographs? Have they said you should take up professional photography? Leave a comment below, e-mail me, or call or text me at 830-688-1564.
- What you need to start a part time photography business – Startup Series, Part 2
- Want to make money as a part time photographer?
- Your source for making money as a part time photographer
- How to balance humility and confidence as a part time photographer
- Your first photo shoot: expectations and results – Your First Customer Series, Part 7