There is potentially a lot of money to be made as a photographer and it can be an extremely interesting and varied business to run. With very low start-up costs, it’s also perfect for first time entrepreneurs.
Why start a commercial photography business?
Most businesses need to hire a professional photographer from time to time – whether it’s to take photos at a company event or images for a new marketing campaign. Commercial photography services are very much in demand and, therefore, the potential this business offers is huge. If you enjoy photography and like the idea of a business where no two days will ever be the same then this could be the perfect business opportunity for you – however you must remember that the market is tough, partly due to the fact that there are so many photographers out there, and you will need to demonstrate you worth in order to win clients, especially in the early days when you may lack experience.
What skills will I need?
Obviously you will need to be good at photography. Your clients will expect professional results and thus you will need both excellent technical knowledge and a creative appreciation in order to achieve it. Remember, each photograph is different and will require a slightly different skill.
Your job as a photographer is to be both innovative and achieve good results on a consistent basis. You will also need good interpersonal and communication skills as you will spend considerable time liasing with your clients in order to find out what it is they are looking to achieve. When it comes to tasking photographs of people, getting the best out of them is a specialist skill and one that you will refine over time as you gain more experience.
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Starting a commercial photography business is extremely attractive to entrepreneurs since the start-up costs are very low. Lots of photographers are one-man-bands and often work alone, although there is the potential to expand into a commercial property. To start with you will need professional photography equipment – including a good camera, additional lenses and lighting equipment – plus you’ll need a reliable vehicle to travel around.
Your other big cost is likely to be marketing, although many photographers keep their marketing budgets low and rely largely on word of mouth to generate new business. Increasingly people are searching for photographers via the internet so you will also need to spend money on establishing a strong web presence.
What are the keys to success with this business?
Photographers rely on earning their reputation through achieving excellent results for their clients. If somebody hires you and they are unsatisfied with the photographs you take then quite simply they won’t hire you again. It is essential that you build up a portfolio of work to show to prospective clients – after all, the only way they can really judge you is to look at photographs you have taken in the past. The more extensive and more varied your portfolio is, the better.
Qualifications and Training
Although there are no formal skills required to become a photographer, you will need to be good at what you do. Lots of professional photographers start off as amateurs and turn their hobby into a business – but remember that there is very much a gap between “professional” photographers and those that are merely “excellent amateurs” – so you might want to consider investing in a professional training course to learn more about things such as framing, lighting, shutter speeds etc. Most colleges offer photography courses – many of which are aimed at people looking to start their own photography businesses – and there are also recognised courses run by the British Institute of Professional Photography.
Your next steps
If you haven’t already got some experience then you will need to start now. Building up a strong portfolio will be the key to winning your first client, so consider initially offering your services to family and friends and local businesses for free in order to build up a bank of images. You will also need to do some market research, so spend time finding out how many commercial photography businesses operate in your area, how much they charge and what specific services they offer.