So You Want to Go Into Business?

December 4, 2013 at 10:30 am  •  Posted in News & Events by

Navigating the labyrinth of roads involved in any business will be a nightmare for the aspiring professional photographer. You will be well served by educating yourself on solid business practises prior to hanging the shingle.

Navigating the labyrinth of roads involved in any business will be a nightmare for the aspiring professional photographer. You will be well served by educating yourself on solid business practices prior to hanging out the shingle.

To follow up on my last post, let’s explore the discussion further and learn if photography is the right business for you, or if it should remain a hobby?

Photography is a business, and with any business it costs money to stay in business. How much it will cost depends on a wide array of variables from capital costs to training to marketing to administrative, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

But first, let’s start by answering the question: What is a professional photographer? There are many answers from a variety of perspectives. Some would suggest it starts the moment you charge a fee for your services, but what if you only received $100 during the entire year as income? Surely that wouldn’t satisfactorily answer the test. Others have argued that professionalism is based on the quality of one’s imagery. However, there are many photographers who create stellar pieces of art but don’t consider themselves professional. The debate can go on, but from my perspective, the professional is the photographer that can consistently deliver images on demand to satisfy the client’s requirements in a professional manner with the highest standards of quality, ethics and customer service while respecting their clients, themselves, and the industry.

From this suggested criteria, the very first one that you must address is consistency. How the photographer gets to that point is through practice, just as a carpenter must learn to become a good builder. Although it is not critical to go to school and acquire a degree or diploma, it most certainly should be considered the preferred route.

As with any trade, there is no substitute to receiving a solid educational foundation from which to grow through apprenticeship. You most certainly don’t want to be working on a trial-and-error basis when a client is expecting results. Just as the carpenter, plumber, doctor or lawyer’s customer will demand a determined outcome, your client should deserve no less from a photographer. Again, there is no substitute to replace education and apprenticeship.

Should your location not afford you the opportunity to shoot as a second camera with an established wedding photographer, or as an assistant in a thriving commercial studio, you have few choices. Ideally apprenticing with an established photographer whose work you respect is the preferred option; however, if you are forced to forge ahead solo, then start working on the business of photography.

Let’s set the record straight before I get bombarded with rotten eggs and green tomatoes: NO, it is not necessary to go to university or college to become a photographer.  NO, it is not necessary to apprentice with an established firm to become a photographer. NO, it is not necessary to become a student of business administration to become a photographer.  However, should you be fortunate enough to have been able to pursue photography as a profession by travelling these paths, you will inherently have a huge advantage over the amateur who aspires to turn a love of craft into a successful business venture.

In short, you can be the best photographer in the world, but if you do not know how to manage and market your business the chances of success are greatly diminished. The aspiring pro should have no illusions—photography is a tough business and the more you can learn about the industry and appropriate business practices, the better the opportunity of success. The client will decide whether your skill with a camera is commensurate with your fee structure.