26 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting My Photography Business // Part 1


We started our photography business in 2006. That’s only 6 years ago, but it feels like a lifetime, especially when we look back on all that’s happened. And when we think about all the mistakes we’ve made, well, it feels more like two lifetimes!

But mistakes are just wonderful little learning opportunities in disguise. And while we’ve had our fair share of screw-ups, we’ve been able to learn and improve as a result.

So we’re going to pull the curtains back, share a ton of our mistakes, and the things we wish we had known when we were just getting started. We learned these lessons the hard way. Hopefully by sharing them with you, you’ll be able to avoid these mistakes, and have a smoother ride to success!

1. Learn To Shoot In Manual Mode Right Away

We shot our first year of weddings in Aperture Priority Mode. At the time, it seemed like the easier option. But we’ve since realized that it was actually making things harder on ourselves!

See, the importance of learning to shoot in manual mode isn’t because modes like Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority are useless. They can be a solid choices in certain situations.

The real value of manual mode shooting is in how it forces you to understand what’s going on with your camera, and the light around you. Learning this early on will help you get more control over your images, and improve your shooting skills quickly.

Another bonus is that manual mode also lets you be more consistent in your exposures, which helps you save time with your editing!

So this isn’t some photography snobbery here. Learning how to shoot in manual mode is going to help you in a ton of ways, and the sooner you can learn how to do it, the more benefit you’ll see!

(If you need some help learning how to shoot in manual, check out our Extremely Essential Camera Skills tutorial!)

2. You Are Not Just A Photographer

When we got started we thought that if we had great photography skills, we’d have a successful business. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

If you’re starting and running your own business, you need to wear a baker’s dozen of hats. You are a photographer/customer service expert/book keeper/marketing director/social media whiz/branding dude/website creation person/secretary/treasurer/CEO/CFO/ and pretty much any other title you can think of.

The sooner you realize that you’re going to need to become good at a LOT of different things, the sooner you can start improving at them all. Great photography skills are important, don’t get me wrong. But you need to have a LOT of other ones if you’re going to make a business out of it!

3. Be Patient

This is a lesson we still have to remind ourselves of constantly. When we first got started, we figured we’d have a wildly successful business rolling within a year. Fast forward 6 years, and we’re still trying to get there.

It takes time to get good at photography. It takes time to get good at marketing. It takes time to get good at customer service. It takes time to get good at business organization. Basically, it takes time to get good at the dozens of things you need to be good at to run a wildly successful photography business.

So don’t beat yourself up if things aren’t happening as fast as you expected. If you stick with it, and keep improving, you’ll get there.

4. People Skills Are The Most Important Skills

Photography is a people business. Even if you’re a landscape shooter, your clients are people. And the better you can work with, and take care of, the people you do business with, the more success you’ll see.

We didn’t understand just how important this was until we read the book How To Win Friends & Influence People. From that point on, we saw that the more effort we put into being great with people, the more success we had. That book changed our business, and our lives. I know that sounds like an exaggeration, but I promise it’s not.

(To learn more about the book, and how you can apply it to your photography business, check out our Book Report on it!)

5. Unnecessary Gear and Business Purchases Can Be Crippling

It’s very easy to get caught in the never-ending cycle of buying things to “help your business”. With photography, it’s even more dangerous because the purchases are fun and exciting! It’s not hard to convince yourself that if you just had that better lens, you’d take better photos, and your business would be more successful.

I don’t even want to think about how much money we’ve wasted by buying gear that we didn’t really need. It all ended up collecting dust in our closet until we sold it for a serious loss. After a few years of that nonsense, we got wise and started being very, very, very thoughtful about purchasing anything. Our gear might not get many jealous stares from other photographers, but as long as it’s creating the images we want, that’s all that matters.

It’s the same deal for business purchases. Think carefully before pulling out that credit card. It’s hard enough to make a solid profit with photography without huge expenses to deal with.

(Need some help deciding which gear to actually invest in? Check out our Gear Guide for all our articles designed to help you figure it out!)

6. Branding Is Important, But Stationary Is Not

Along with our collection of rarely used equipment is a BIG collection of outdated print materials. Brochures, packaging, and thousands (yes, thousands) of business cards. All of them are totally useless, and a big waste of money and paper.

When it comes to your branding, creating something personal, unique and consistent is super valuable. It helps you stand out from other photographers, and communicates who you are.

But when it comes to ordering branded printed products, be careful. Don’t think that the huge order will save you money, because chances are you won’t ever use it all. This is especially true near the start of your career, when you’ll potentially change your branding a couple times before finding the right fit.

Try to find ways to print smaller runs, or print on demand. We’ve gone from ordering thousands of business cards, to printing out a couple dozen at a time on our home printer. If you run out, then you know you’re actually using them, and can order a slightly larger batch.

7. Get Outside Inspiration

When we first got into professional photography, we were wedding shooters. We spent countless hours looking at the websites and blogs of other wedding photographers. We spent tons of time on forums with other wedding photographers. We read wedding magazines, and watched shows about weddings. We basically immersed ourselves completely in that world.

Don’t get me wrong, you can definitely learn a ton from the people who share the same profession as you. But if you don’t look for inspiration outside of that realm, you will find yourself just doing the same as everyone else. Great businesses and photographers don’t just do the same. They find ways to stand out!

As a photographer, the sources of inspiration are nearly endless, so don’t limit yourself to looking at photographers who do the same work as you. Study the work of the great photographers of history, check out the new work being made in different genres, read about painters, watch movies, flip through comic books — artistic inspiration is everywhere, so open yourself up to it!

The same goes for business inspiration. You can learn tons from internet marketers, copywriters, and pretty much anyone in business. After all, it’s all about helping your customers get value out of what you do. The end results differ, but the fundamental concepts are more similar that you might realize!

8. Referrals Are Essential

Word of mouth referrals are the most powerful sources of bookings for photographers. People are way more likely to trust the recommendation of a friend than an ad in a magazine. You need to be working hard to get referrals.

At first, we didn’t realize that we actually had to encourage referrals. Sure, you’ll get some just because folks like to talk about great companies. But many clients probably have no idea just how valuable their referrals are to you!

There are lots of ways to encourage referrals. You can set up a formal referral program that rewards clients for sending new business your way. Or you can simply give them a stack of business cards along with their photos, and let them know just how much you appreciate them telling their friends about you. Or do both!!

However you do it, just don’t neglect those referrals. They will be the backbone of your business!

(For more help with getting referrals, and some tips on setting up a referral program, check out our article Referral Programs: An Easy, Affordable & Effective Marketing Plan)

9. Market Or Die

Does this sound familiar? You start something up. A blog. A website. A business. You’re sure you have a brilliant idea, and that it will be wildly successful. You make a gorgeous logo. You create a stunning online presence, filled with witty writing and enticing images. You press publish, sit back, and wait for the inquiries and comments to pour in.

And then nothing happens.

It took us a loooong time to realize that, in general, no one cares about what you’re doing. Unless you make them care about it.

And that, quite simply is what marketing is all about. Showing people that what you’re doing is interesting and valuable. You could have the most amazing photography in the world, but unless people know about it, you will not see any success.

So look at this way. Getting your business all set up with a website and name and logo and all that stuff — that’s what gets you to the starting point. Then the real work begins. You need to get out there and tell people about it, and market yourself!

(Need some ideas for marketing your photography business? Check out our totally free eBook, 7 Simple Ways To Market Your Wedding Photography Business. The ideas are written for wedding photographers, but can apply to any sort of photo business!)

10. Your List Is Crazy Valuable

One of the most valuable marketing assets you can create is a newsletter list. These days it’s really ridiculously easy to send out updates with emails, giving you a direct link to your best customers!

We never put enough effort into building a newsletter list for our photography business, and have always regretted it. We just didn’t realize how important it was. A great list can help you get more out of your marketing promotions, book sessions when you’re going out of town, get feedback on how to improve your business, and more.

The sooner you start building your list, the more it will grow, and the more power it will have for your business. Here’s an article with more tips on creating a list for your business!

11. Develop Off-Season Income

For many years we struggled with this one. We’d have a great summer, shoot tons of weddings, portraits, and the money would be flowing. Then, come fall, things would slow down, and by winter it was silent. There were months with no income coming in, and things would be super tight by the time spring rolled around.

If you live in a place where the shooting is seasonal, try to figure out a way to develop income year round. There are no simple answers here, and it will really depend on the type of photography you do, and what other skills you have. But if you can get even a small stream of cash flow in the off-season, it will make things far more comfortable.

For the record, this is exactly how Photography Concentrate was born!! :)

12. Go Outside The Box

It’s easy to do things the same way everyone else does. It feels safe and proven. But it can actually make things harder for you, because you don’t stand out, or offer anything unique to clients!

At first we offered the same products, the same packages, and had our business organized the same way as most wedding and portrait photographers worldwide. And it was boring. It didn’t reflect how we felt about photography, and how we wanted to work with our clients.

So we stopped being so afraid, and starting offering different products. We started shooting in different ways. And we were way happier, and so were our clients!

Try something new. Be creative. Be bold. Get outside that box, and you’ll see just how much fun it is out there!

13. Think Big

If you’re going to start a business, don’t be afraid to think and dream big. When we first got into wedding photography, we were talking about how our first season would go. I was hoping that we booked at least 5 weddings. Rob was expecting more around 15 – 20. I thought he was crazy, and just thinking about those numbers made me scared.

Well, we ended up shooting nearly 30 weddings that year. But if we stopped trying after 5, because we figured that was enough, we would have never been able to go full-time right off the bat.

So go ahead and think big. With some patience and creativity, and a lot of hard work, chances are you’ll surpass even your wildest dreams!


Whew! Is your mind spinning?? I know mine is. So I think that’s a good place to leave it for today. We’ll finish up the list soon, but take some time to meditate on those ideas. Write down your ideas and thoughts. And start planning to take advantage of our mistakes, and make your own business stronger!


Your Turn!

What do you wish you knew before starting your photography journey? Share with us in the comments now!


Ready for more? Click here to read Part 2, where I share 13 more things I wish I knew before I started my photography business!

Lauren Lim

Hey friend, I’m Lauren! I’m a photographer and head ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I’m downright obsessed with photography, and love sharing it with super cool folks like yourself. When I’m not shooting, or writing, you can find me cooking (and eating!), traveling, and hanging out with wonderful people.


100 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. Thank you!

  2. Great reminders in there.

    • Lauren Lim says:

      Agreed! Just writing this post reminded me of tons and tons of stuff I need to work on for our own businesses! :)

  3. “…You are a photographer/customer service expert/book keeper/marketing director/social media whiz/branding dude/website creation person/secretary/treasurer/CEO/CFO/.”

    I’ve read a blog a while ago in which a person wrote: ” I would never, ever hire a photographer who also build websites. He/She is a photographer or web developer”.
    Maybe a writer meant a photographer who also promote himself about ability to build website next to photography. I don’t know, but I know pros who do design, make magazines and so on.

    • Lauren Lim says:

      Hey Adam, thanks for the comment! Now I certainly didn’t mean that professional photographers were also going to need to be professional web designers! But there is a lot of work involved when creating your own website for your photography business!

      You will need to figure out what your web presence is going to be (site, blog, blogsite, etc.), work on the design, either by tweaking a customizable theme, or communicating with a hired web designer, creating copy and content, and then keeping the website updated!

      That’s what I meant by “website creation person”. Hope that clears things up! :)

      • Hello,

        Can I share my opinion here? I just start my Photography business and I know I will wait for a long time without any work. However, I am right now working full time in a Web Design Company as a Senior Web Developer. What is wrong with that! First, my company now doing Photography and they are selling it with the Web (They even do not know photography but they are selling it – They hiring a photographer when they got the work and they do). I built my site by myself, why to go and spend Thousands of $$ for something I am professional on it.

        I have been learning photography almost for 4 years now and I am feeling I can do it. I like to have my own business instead working for other companies and I deiced to be Photography NOT Web. I worked 7 years as a web developer and I am not going to through it out without taking benefits from it. I am now involving it with a new ideas: I am offering with the Wedding Photography (OR others) to built a website for free (ONLY 1 page with the gallery for one year). What is wrong on it?! It is FREE. I need to offer more to win a clients. I do not even charge the Website Work with the wedding price.

        I believe in this: More skills you have that you can improve your business … More success in your business …

        At the End “I would never, ever hire a photographer who also build websites. He/She is a photographer or web developer” IS NOT CORRECT.

        I know a lot of famous ACTORS that they are in fact Engineering or Doctors !!! AND they Succeed as an Actor!

        Imagine this: I just came to USA 5 years a go, I have no Relative, No Friends, No Support People, No Referrals, Even I came with 0 English as a language … BUT I am exciting to Success in my Photography business. I met a doctor when I first came to USA and he asked me this “Would you like to be success in your work?” I said “Of course” He said “If you would like BE … then you will BE”

        Thanks Lauren Lim

  4. Oh boy, can I relate to your story about stationary…I ordered 250 business cards and promptly stopped doing web design for other people, which is predominantly listed on my card. Since then, I use my new design cards (which I printed, cut, and cleaned myself) for times I want to wow people, and my old design for everyday stuff. It works fine for me.

    Regarding building a fan base and mailing list…what do you actually send to your subscribers?

    • Lauren Lim says:

      Thanks for sharing Tyler! Man, do I wish we only had 250 useless cards in our basement ;)

      Figuring out what to send your list subscribers comes down to one question: How can you be useful to them? So brainstorm some ways you could help them! Maybe some tips on what to wear during photo sessions, or the best times of year to book. You can also give them information about your business, like upcoming promotions, travel days, etc. Get into the mind of your fan base, and try to figure out how to help them!

      • Thanks! What’s your opinion on a mailing list versus a blog? Some of the same content on both? Different content? Is one of these enough?

        Currently I don’t even have a blog, since I’m in my first year of business and don’t have the content (read: clients) to make one worthwhile. That and I’m working part-time outside my business, starting college in the fall, and already write a transit blog, so I’m not quite ready to commit to another thing I have to keep up to date.

        • Lauren Lim says:

          I feel like the goal of a blog is quite different than the goal of a mailing list. A blog functions really well to improve your search engine rankings, and help potential clients find you. A newsletter list is more about connecting with your highest quality leads, and past/current clients. In that sense, just having one doesn’t quite do the trick! And the content will likely be different, since they are fairly different audiences!

          We started off blogging from the beginning, and while it is definitely a considerable time investment, it meant we showed up in Google rankings from the get-go. We now rank in the top 3 for most photography related search terms in our city, without doing anything fancy, other than consistent blogging! Even when we didn’t have any real clients, we would blog recent photos, and that helps so much in getting your business noticed. So when you’re just getting started, I’d personally say that a blog is top priority. You can collect emails from any clients you have, and begin a newsletter later when things get rolling, and you have more time. That’s just my own thoughts though, it really comes down to what works best for your own situation!

          Hope that helps!

          • Thanks for all your advice! I’m putting together a mailing list now (to be sent out with the announcement of my new client referral program) and will be reconsidering a blog once I start college and discover how much time I actually have to write one.

            Keep up the wonderful work!

      • Hi! My name is Mary Conrady and I own Conrady’s Creative Eye Photography. I got in the habit of making my own business cards specific to each wedding or event that I photographed…i.e. reminder cards to place on the reception tables that gave my info and directions to my website for ordering those specific photos. ..At first I was proud of myself for this “bright idea”..As it did help with sales and referrals. ..but then after the event I was left with 100 to 200 excess cards that were useless for future events. ..I’m now sticking with traditional business cards in groups of 100…till I make more…which I do myself on my home printer.

  5. I’m not a photographer; I’m just obsessed with them and the business of creating. I’ve definitely hired a professional photographer a time or two (or 20) and I couldn’t agree more with #4: People Skills. Just recently I hired an out of town wedding photographer to help with a family member’s to do list – they had a winning website, stunning portfolio and perfect online sense of humour, but when it came time to actually meeting them face-to-face and standing in front of their lens… disaster! Personality paired with professionalism is SOOOOO important (especially for repeat business and referrals). I ahh-dore your website – ridiculously addicting.

    • Lauren Lim says:

      Thank you so much Sara! People skills is really what it all comes down to, doesn’t it? I think you described it perfectly: personality AND professionalism! Critical stuff! Thanks for sharing :)

  6. I found myself laughing when I read this post because I feel like I have experienced so many similar things. My business has been going for a year and a half and I have realized that Marketing is so much harder than I imagined. Recently I moved to a new city and am trying to meet new people. I guess it is a great opportunity to tell them about my photography. I love the way you write your posts–they are so down to earth and they keep me motivated.
    Also, good to hear that printed material is not the only answer. I have a box of business cards that are now obsolete. I think I will try just printing a few at a time:)

    • Lauren Lim says:

      I hear you Marcelle! Marketing is such an essential part of any successful business, but you don’t really realize it until you’re in the middle of it! Then you think “Hmm, I guess I need to do something to get people to notice me!”. And then the real work begins :) Thank you so much for the comment, and your kind words! So glad you’re enjoying the site!

  7. so great! thanks for sharing! keep ‘em coming!

  8. You guys are AWESOMENESS. Thanks! :)

  9. Another great post!!!

    Every time when i was reading your post, i have a feeling like this is exactly my life now. You guys are great!

    Just that i cant agree with point 1. Shooting Raw. Although I’m capable of shooting raw, but i still set it to A mode most of the time, especially when i have hot shoe flash on. The only time i will use flash is in daylight and the wedding table is under the shelter where the rest of the area is exposed under the sunny sun, A mode will work if you point-metering the couple but troublesome. So i will use M mode in this situation to avoid back light.

    Anyway, really really good post!

    • Sorry i mean “point 1, shooting in M mode”

    • Lauren Lim says:

      Hey Jack! Thanks for the comment and the kind words!

      Regarding that point, what I think is important isn’t actually shooting in Manual mode all the time, but knowing *how* to shoot in Manual mode — understanding the relationship between aperture, shutter speed and ISO, knowing how to control them, and how they affect the look of the image. Because you are right, sometimes Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority are super useful! Hope that clears things up a bit! :)

  10. Thank you so much for this. I think you guys are one of the best resources for photographers online. Your advice is straightforward and always on the money. I bought your wedding photography book and after reading just a few pages – I was like “I wish I had found this when I first started.” Every question I had ever had, even the most random ones (i forget which now), were covered. You truly are photographers who understand photographers and remember what it was like to first start out – I think a lot of people forget the apprehension, confusion, self doubt, frustration etc. that goes with being a newbie. Anyway, just wanted to say another awesome post as always and I am already feeling better about myself, so thank you Rob and Lauren. God bless you guys for all that you do so. You totally rock!!!

  11. Thans for the recomendations. I’ll keep it in mind!

  12. Thank you so much for this Lauren! Now I’m addicted to your site!
    Keep on rocking!

  13. Glad you said that. 5 years later and I am still getting there. I have also lightened up on my equipment over the last year because I find less is more and I am more confident in doing so. Sometimes you see a person with a camera and a big lens and you think… WOW he has to be good. Far from the truth.

    • So true! Understanding lighting and composition, etc. is what separates a professional from an amateur. I could switch cameras with Uncle Charlie at a wedding and still take better pictures than him.

  14. Lauren Lim says:

    Thanks for all the kind words guys! So glad you enjoyed this one! :)

  15. Thank you for this post! I wish I had read this when I first started out. Y’all are really one of a kind – sharing your knowledge FOC, the world needs more people like that. :)

  16. “Branding Is Important, But Stationary Is Not!” That hits the nail on the head. I work with new photographers to set up their websites and to create a basic branding package. So many people are ready to pull out the credit cards and spent thousands on designs and branding that they will end up completely throwing out in a year or two. I always try and have my clients slowly work their way up to the “high-end, professional, one of a kind level branding,” even if it means less income for me initially. For a lot less they can get started with a nice look and when they are actually pulling in the money, then they can consider investing more into their business branding.

  17. Great article! Thank you! I’m from Scotland, but I’m moving to Toronto in 2 months for a year. It’s really daunting to think that I’ll need to start my freelance photography work from scratch, so these tips were really helpful. I’m going to go and buy How to Win Friends and Influence People right now!

    Caroline :)

  18. Kaamilah says:

    Hi Lauren.

    Thank you so much for inspiring me to open my own business in photography. I’ve always wanted to make my passion my career. I’ve studied photography for a year bt coudnt go any further because financially I wasn that fortunate. But with hard work and dedication… I’m sure I’ll get there… Thanks again for you help and advice.:)

  19. We’re a bunch of volunteers and opening a brand new scheme in our community. Your website provided us with valuable info to work on. You have done a formidable job and our entire group can be grateful to you.

  20. Hi Lauren.
    Great post this but ………… do people listen?
    These are all such valid points that all businesses need to consider but so often the initial enthusiasm overtakes the practical mind. The over ordering of brochures and pamphlets is a typical example. Far better to get out there and take photos for free or very little, get experience and build your reputation.
    Thanks for sharing.

  21. Thanks so much for this great article, you have no idea how it motivates me and made me break all the business start-up fears.

    Adam Khaled
    Cairo, Egypt

  22. Ashleigh says:

    Thank you so much for writing this! I was a photography student throughout high shcool and some college. I never imagined doing any kind of portrait work, my love was in landscapes and still life…Until my little girl was born. I started my business in 2010 after working with quite a few photographers and doing a lot of free portfolio work. I did ok in my first year but not what I expected. I always had a good understanding of how my camera works but oh my, I had no clue about the marketing side of it. I still don’t have a handle on it. My husband is in the military and we have moved 3 times in the last year. Its been hard trying to start over all the time. We should be here in VA for at least 3 years so I would like to get re-established the right way this time around. I am so happy to have come across your site, I already see it is packed with great info. It is nice to find a photographer who wants to help rather than point their nose down and someone for having questions!!

  23. Everything you say here is absolutely rock solid advice. The reason most photographers fail is because they want to be artists, not businessmen. If you are a sole proprietor, your business skills are even more important than your photography skills (which are obviously essential as well).
    I LOVED the fact that you mentioned people skills. RIGHT ON! I recognized early in my career that the reason people chose me to take their portraits was not that my posing and lighting were better, but because I am really good with people, especially children. I am able to make people feel comfortable in front of the camera and getting good expressions. I read Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People over 30 years ago, and it made a big impact on me. both professionally and personally.

  24. Two ways of looking at the inputs mentioned above. If I had read them 4 years back, I would not have agreed with most of the points mentioned. But after having spent 3 years as a full-time photographer I simply agree with most of the inputs mentioned. The inputs were more of a Déjà vu.

    I feel that a photographer has to grow from clicking images to making images in the viewfinder and then processing it in a way so as to get that punch in the images especially the fall of light and color. That takes time but more than that requires one to focus , and get blended with the environment. Now thats a bit of asking a lot.

  25. Good read, There was only 13 (26?) but what I wish I knew was the little things are just as important as the big things. Booking the gigs, building a fantastic website, billboards and buying top gear are great but if you don’t know the tiniest details of your portrait packages booking them is hard. When someone asks “You offer 1 8″x10″ but can I get 2 5x7s or 4 4x6s or can I use the credit of an 8×10 toward a 16×20?” if you don’t have an answer they’ll go elsewhere. If you have to explain your business card they’ll put it away and never look at it again.

  26. Wonderful resource! Thank you!

  27. Hello,
    My best friend dreams of being a professional photographer, and boy does he have talent! I will show him this website, and your helpful tips which I know he’ll appreciate. Thank you for the article–for someone just starting out, it’s great!
    Warm regards,

  28. What a helpful article, particularly the part about over buying ‘stuff’! Thank you – well and truly bookmarked!

  29. Excellent list and definitely hits home. Also another risk with the big stationary order is moving. Now all those cards and the letterhead are useless.

  30. Thank you so much for this. Im trying to start my photography business and even though I know what I want to do, I have no idea how to start any of it. This has helped so much. THANK YOU!!!

  31. I think persistence and marketing are the two things most people struggle with. In this modern era of instant gratification it’s tough to think that something you want so badly takes such a long time to acquire. Focus on the marketing with persistence and you won’t have to wait quite as long. I always say that people are desperate for a photography business in a monday morning but not so bothered on a Friday night. If you’re working on your photography marketing on a Friday might then you’ll be made of the right stuff to succeed.

  32. I am at that point where am debating whether or not to start my photography business. So you can imagine how helpful this advice has been. Asante sana! – Thank you so much.

  33. Thank you this has been an amazing reality check resource. I just started thinking of using photography as more then just a hobby and realized I’d need to think of a name to go with it since the studio I was working at closed. Hardest thing I’d ever have to do, try to name my own Photography business. Do you have ANY advise about that? and Where can I find help with Branding?

    • Hi Mell!

      A business name is a tough decision.

      A little side story: We started out as “3 Point Photography” (we originally had a third partner). We spent a ton of time thinking about that name but after a year we abandoned it in favour of using our own names instead (Rob & Lauren Photographers). We felt we needed to have a name that we could stick with forever, and wouldn’t limit the types of photography we did. It’s hard to come up with a really versatile business name. At the same time a business name can be a fun reflection of your personality – so there’s nothing wrong with choosing a name for your photography business that isn’t your own name. Hope that 2 cents helps!

      For branding check out Design Aglow for inspiration.

  34. you are so specific. its like you totally read my mind. found my doubts and answered all my queries
    sincerely thanks

  35. Jackie Wright says:

    I recently decided to start my own photography business, and I purchased all this equipment. I wwish I had seen your article beforehand. I decided tonight that I wanted more information about starting my own business before I invested anymore money. I am so glad that I ran across your article, it has been very informative. Thank you for sharing, I do believe it’s very helpful to beginners.

  36. Hi.
    I’m starting my BA project, starting my photography business and this is exactly what I am gonna write about. Yours articles are gonna be one of my fav references!
    So excited to find your website and can’t wait to read more and more :)

    thank you so much!

  37. Hey Lauren,
    Thanks for your valuable information,it was very helpful for me,and i need more guideline from you………..coz my website is getting ready and i m very eagerly waiting to see my website……..so if you could help me in some different ways for my photography it will be very helpful and i have sent you some of my snaps……….and i really want to do something different in photograph………

  38. Where is the second part to this???

  39. Hey thank you for all these fantastic facts i would love for you too check out my hobby page on facebook it’s all good fun love taking photo’s :) https://www.facebook.com/natures.moments

  40. I’m surprised for found a site like yours. I wish you a year filled with all kinds of blessings for all the help you had given. God Bless you!! ;)

  41. I’m just starting out. This article is more than inspiring. It’s helpful and and encouraging, supportive and only confirms I’m on the right track. I’ve been taking notes, then u said sit on these ideas for today….. It’s hard to but ill let all this sink in. Thank you incredibly, Mandy~

  42. Hi,

    Your article is very helpful and inspiring.
    Do you think that someone who doesn’t have any basic in photography can learn it?
    Me and my boyfriend is interested to give it a shot.
    We have a plan to do baby/toddler photography but we still not sure what we should do first.
    May be it’s more on me. I’m not sure if we can do it remembering we don’t have any experience.
    can you give me some advise on what should we do first?
    Thanks before


  43. Thanks for the info. Thinking of starting a small photography business and this was very helpful.

  44. this is a great article! and it made me feel a lot better about my current position, which is with a photography business and absolutely NO business. it is seriously crickets over here. i just moved to a new area, i know exactly where i want to focus my business, i have all the right tools, but i have zero contacts. my question is: what advice do you have for someone who doesn’t have any contacts? i moved here 6 months ago and i don’t know anyone. i’ve tried to reach out to other photographers in the area, but i don’t want them to think that i’m trying to steal their business or that i only want to connect to get business for myself. i honestly don’t know where to turn or how find someone to just hire me already! any thoughts? i’d so appreciate the input! thank you!

  45. Hey, I just wanted to know if you have some type of contract between you and your clients before you start to shoot for them. Great article btw VERY helpful

    • Rob Lim says:

      Hi Dave! Thanks for commenting. Yup, we absolutely have a contract with our clients before we shoot them (it’s great to get those details sorted out before the shoot).

  46. Zoila Garza says:

    Hi! I really liked your post its very informative. I still have a couple questions. I have only photo shot/ video recorded 2 quinceneras i have no other education nor experience and i really liked it and picked it up quick, and I want to start to do this, should i get an education on photography & videography/ editing before i start anything? What equipment do i need?

  47. leah CHudzisnki says:

    Thank you from a rookie!!!!

  48. Hello! I love reading your posts! This one I think will be especially helpful because I am in the process of starting my business at the moment. Some of these things I kind of already figured out (like I started with a blog before anything else. haha.) and some of it hadn’t occurred to me yet. Thanks for sharing!!!!

  49. Awesome list! Lots of thought in this & lots to chew on!

  50. Hi Lauren! Thank you so much for taking the time to write this article! I have been taking photographs for years just because I love it. I just upgraded to a camera that will now allow me to branch out into portraits and weddings as a side business. I’m excited and overwhelmed and I appreciate all you have shared here. I have also found you on facebook. Happy shooting!
    -Brenda Owens

  51. I just read this article and oh…my…goodness. I’ll admit, it sounds scary because i’m trying to open my own business soon to support my husband and myself so he can go back to school in the fall, but I think about it..and it excites me. I love hard work and I love to have fun! There is definitely way more to do than just build a portfolio and open a website. Now I know that due to this good reading! Thank you for all that you wrote =) Kudos!

  52. My husband and I have been considering starting a photography business, and this article has a ton of great tips and ideas! Thank you!!

  53. Carl Roccia says:

    You said you shot 30 weddings your first year. How long were you in photography before you got your first gig?


    • Rob Lim says:

      Hi Carl!

      We had been shooting for about 2 years before we booked our first 30 wedding season. The first two years we did odd photography jobs and photographed two weddings (second year before shooting a wedding).

  54. Hi,

    I have a question. I have had my business for two years and every photo shoot I have done in every picture that has been bought and printed, and the CD that also has been bought has my signature in the pictures. I recently had a custom tell me that when she bought the CD it had my signature in the pictures and made it look like she didn’t buy the picture. I apparently didn’t make it clear that my signature was going to be in the pictures due to her wanting to use the pictures for media and for other promotions that she wanted to use these pictures for. She wants me to take out my signature and give her a hole new cd. I would like to keep my signature in my pictures not only cause its my hard work and I want to protect it but also I would like recognition. Am I wrong in this situation?

  55. Thank you for sharing this, it’s all wonderful advice! You mentioned so many different elements that are important.

  56. I’m only 13 but, when I’m older I think (I’ve never set in-stone which career I want. Today I decide I want to teach Kindergarten and on the side be a photographer) I might want to be a photographer. I haven’t got my first camera yet. My mom might buy a Sony Cybershot DSC-H7 from a friend, it comes with a camera case, Memory Stick Adapter, one 2 Gigabyte Memory Stick, one 32 Megabyte Memory Stick, and a 256 Memory Stick. My computer has a slot for the adapter to fit in so I guess I’m set. Do you think this is a good camera? I’m sorry for this paragraph lol.

  57. Nathan Forrester says:

    Great points to think about. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  58. This is very inspiring it brought me to tears. I want to be bigger than what I think I could do right now. Thank you for writing this. ☺

  59. My best advise is to learn to use a film camera first! Learn what light does. Shoot at night and day and odd light conditions. Take some photo classes at a Art school or local community college. I have a 4 year degree from SVA in NYC. I have been is business for 21 years.
    My work is Fine art and architectural , and portraits. Mostly B/W white film with a Rolleiflex SLR camera. When first starting as a photographer, shoot as much is you can. I assisted for 8 years in NYC, Denver and Boulder,CO. I learn as much about the biz, almost more that art school.
    I work for some famous photographers some where cool and some self inflated jerks!. Art director can be hard on photographers. having website is important, but get out there and network and meet future clients face to face! Good luck!

    Scott McSorley Photography
    Oregon City,OR USA

    • “My best advise is to learn to use a film camera first!”

      A new beginner can go through the process of shooting, reviewing images and learning a lot quicker and cheaper using a digital camera and a computer.

      If people want to learn (the hard way, like you did) they can buy a DSLR, switching it to full manual and cover the screen on the back.

      “Start with a film camera” I would not agree with.

      By the way, I started in the days of film, with a Nikon FM2. I can use a camera in full manual mode. Even if the light meter in the camera is broken I would get usable exposure in most situations, using the two light meters in my head and experience.

  60. What camera should I.start out with

    • I guess this is not a question related to starting a photography business?

      Anyway, your question should always be answered with a question – buy a camera for shooting what?

      Will you shoot weddings, fashion or just take a few snaps of your dog?

      And if you want my advice, stay away from the old 35mm film cameras. Instead of spending money of film and getting it developed and printed, just buy an entry level DSLR and get going. View the images on a computer and learn to edit them.

  61. Pick up old nikon F4/F5 or F100, ( KEH camera) the use modern lens, some you use on digital camera.(cheap 150 to 300$ for a body) ( I used them all)
    or a Rollei TLR ( 120 format ) I like 2.8, A,B or C. (400-600$) Or If the Rollei 6008 SLR if you can.

    use one lens don’t get a zoom lens. yet.

  62. This was incredibly helpful information as I’m trying to market my photography business in a new city…thank you for all the ideas! :)

  63. Hi, I am very interested in photography and as a mom of 3 beautiful girls, I am starting to feel my calling down this path that you began 6 years ago! I have found myself to you and have read and really enjoyed all the tips and advice… with that i would like to ask you a question that might come across as odd or actually quite silly!! ( keep in mind I am very green and have just realized my love for photography) with saying that my question is … let’s say I have my business up and running, once i have finished a shoot, taken my photos with my camera and edited them, how do I get them to the client?…. Do I have to purchase printers and such devices or send and order through an online service to get my prints? Like if I did a wedding , how would I give my clients there photo’s (albums)? The whole issue of that is a little confusing for me, for I remember film and darkroom’s ect….. not quite sure how the new technology allows me to get them all there photos and different sizes ect excluding CD”s, for a CD I know I would put the photos on my self and give it to them… I am hoping you don’t find my question’s silly as I really am interested… Thank so much…

  64. Hi there so I’ve been thinking about trying my hand at actual photography for a while but always put it off but my girlfriend decided to buy me a camera as a birthday present I was wandering if u happen to know of any websites that u can upload ur images for people to give u their opinion on them and pointers for what may need work on? Thanks

  65. I love photography. Very amateur with a professional camera. How did you find the confidence to open a photography business?? I would love to do so, but I don’t feel like I know enough yet. My favorite are outdoor, natural vs weddings and poses.

  66. Harmony Hartig says:

    Thank you so much!!! Inspiring and helpful read!!!

  67. Deepak Kumar says:

    Hi Lauren,
    Great Article , thank you so much for this one , really appreciable .

  68. Joe Barragan says:

    Great article and a lot of helpful tips. One thing I didn’t see that I was curious about is the legal aspect of things. A release form to use photos for advertising and such things. How would one go about setting that up?

  69. LowTideBob says:

    Time is the biggest dream killer. I started living the dream circa 2004. One year freelancing for a newspaper. Another year and a half doing about 30 weddings as a second shooter. Could not wait to hang my own shingle. Gear acquisition was the easy part because I had a full time job. It was the time editing, traveling, meeting, marketing, shooting for free for exposure that killed the dream. My skills eroded along with my desire. Photography came first, my day job second, and sadly my spouse third. Something will have to give. My best piece of advice is to start by working for other professionals. Apprentice for a few years so that you can make informed gear purchases based on your style. A quality second shooter can make a lucrative income and be a shooter 100% of the time!!! Working under the wing of a pro allows you to help manage people, posing, etc in an efficient manner. Make sure the spouse is involved (not just assuming of giving lip service). Photography is at best 20% of being a professional. Be careful what you wish for… the best day of my photography career was my last wedding. My gear was up for sale on Ebay the next day. Gave it up and shoot as a hobbyist and enjoy it more than ever because I have a life.

  70. Lauren, thanks for the tips, I see from the posts, your tips where posted back in 2012. anyway, I really enjoyed the information and wanted to thank you personally for sharing your experience. I’m thinking about a second career in photography and those tips helped.

    Rob Ambriz

  71. This post has been aged, but the content serves generation…..Thanks A bunch for sharing this experiences for us to learn from….as for me it means alot to me at my start up level…..trying so hard to gain the market…I think is time to market my skills to this environment. Thanks

  72. If I choose to go into portrait photography would I need to have a “studio” set up in my home or rent a space in order to have backdrops, etc.??

  73. Great read! I had this saved in my bookmarks for months and i have only just had the time to read it! Thank You!

  74. Hi Colleen,
    Don’t worry, you don’t have to have a studio at all. In fact, I’ve found that people tend to invest more money if you do the photographs in a location that the family has an emotional connection with. That way the location becomes like an extra character in the images. Hope that allays your fears. Dan.

  75. Paulius says:

    You missed the most important one: make sure you’re competent before you start charging people for your services.

    I had an acquaintance that thought simply buying a $1500 camera made him a photographer. He advertised online, booked a few weddings and within a year ended up getting sued. For some reason people didn’t like paying a thousand dollars for a ‘wedding package’ that consisted of terrible pictures shot in auto mode and printed on a home inkjet printer

    Oh, and backups are key. Especially with weddings. If you memory card dies, you can’t exactly ask the happy couple to fly all their relatives back over and rebook the church for a do-over.

  76. Thank you guys for the great article! It’s encouraging to see a family working on a business together. My wife and I are wanting to do what you guys are doing! Thank you for posting your insights and lessons learned.

  77. Akshay (India) says:

    Hi Lauren,

    Liked what you have written and just to let you know, I am commencing a business now.
    Your ideas will really help.
    Thank you

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