One thing I get continuously asked by hobbyists trying to go pro is some variation of, How do I even get started? Usually, well-meaning friends and family have already begun asking them to take photos of various celebrations, weddings, and they naturally begin thinking that maybe they can start charging for their work.

Can you do it?

The short, optimistic answer: You can! (throw confetti, do a happy dance)

Long answer: In order to do it right, you will need to put in the work to build a solid foundation for your photography business. Preparation is the name of the game.

In this article, we are going to cover some of the very first, logical steps you should take in making this transition from hobbyist to professional.

Making The Transition: Establish Your Firm Foundation

A quick preface: before I dive into the steps, Im going to assume you are already aware that you have to be awesome at your craft. That includes knowing your camera inside out, and understanding that you need you will continuously need to practice, even when you don’t have a shoot lined up. In this day and age, this is a given.

Okay, lets get to it.

© Chamira Studios
Chamira Studios

1. Determine What You Want To Bring Into the World

This should be a fun step, because youre simply identifying what type of photo you enjoy making most. Without this step, its all too easy to get swept up into numerous shooting commitments that you may not particularly enjoy. This leads to learning by lengthy trial and error, rather than having a focused strategy on the types of shoots you want to do.

When I first started out, I took any gig that was offered, including the ones that didn’t seem like a natural fit for me. For some reason, I thought I had to grin and bear the tough gigs. It didn’t occur to me that I didn’t have to take a gig simply because someone asked me to. It was only years later (yes, years) that I realized saying an occasional, professional no could be a tool that was beneficial for myself, as well as the other party involved.

Rather than taking on every random gig people ask you to shoot, put some thought into what type of photography you want to focus on.

What type of photos will make you happy as a photographer?

I understand that for some people, they may not fully know if they will enjoy a particular type of shoot until theyve roll up their sleeves and experienced it firsthand. Thats fine. As you get a feel for different types of shooting, take special note of the types of gigs you enjoy, and also the types of people and situations you enjoy working with. Begin to focus on these.

2. Determine Your Target Audience

Now that you know what area of photography you want to focus on, think about the type of audience that would want these types of photos. This is where you begin honing in your target demographic.

The more detailed you are in this process, the better. Consider their age, where they spend time, and what they spend money on. Professional photographer Jeffrey Shaw is excellent at determining these details, and states that you need to develop a strong sense of empathy for your target audience. In short, you need to understand them inside and out.

The answers to these questions will be drive how you represent yourself moving forward, and who you focus your marketing efforts on.

© Chamira Studios
Chamira Studios

3. Determine Your Pricing

This next point may fill you with dread, especially if youre just starting out, but Ill say it anyway:

Determining your pricing from the beginning is crucial.

*Queue the dooms-day music*

You’re probably wondering, How in the world am I supposed to know what Im supposed to charge if Im just starting out?

The key is to determine beforehand how much you need to make in order to live, and then how much you want to make on top of that. Consider the following:

  • Your living and business expenses. This includes but is not limited to your equipment, software, utilities, and marketing budget.
  • How many shoots you want to shoot per month, and per year.
  • The area you live in, and your target demographic

The answers to these questions will help you nail down a number that you need to charge per shoot. Even if you don’t start off at this number, you will know what you need to quickly work up to in order to make a living wage.

As painful as you may think this step is, consider this: Many new photographers contemplate giving up and throwing in the towel because the stress of paying bills becomes too much. Had they sat down at the very beginning of the process and pinpointed what they needed to make, they could have saved themselves countless gray hairs and sleepless nights.

Concluding Thoughts: Stay Tuned for Part 2

If you follow the steps we covered in this article, then you will be that much more prepared when starting your photography business. However, theres still more to it. In Part 2 of this topic, well cover the importance of having a solid contract, the process of building a focused portfolio, and building an effective marketing plan.

Putting in the time and effort to lay a firm foundation for your photography business will make it much for enjoyable for you in the long run!