Posted June 30, 2015 by Steve Young

Do you have a passion for photography, but you just don’t know how to get started in the business?

Photography can be a challenging industry to launch yourself into, but if you follow a few steps, have the talent, and work hard, you can get your feet wet and start making the essential contacts that will drive your business to success.

Here are some steps you should take to get started as a photographer.

Start as an Assistant

Don’t expect to launch your own business right away. There’s a lot you have to learn and decide first, so take baby steps and work your way up to building your own clientele.

The first thing you need to do is decide what niche in photography you want to work in: baby photography, family portraits, sports pictures, wedding photography, etc.

Erica McCartney, from Erica McCartney Photography, says, “As a full time freelance still life photographer in NY, my advice is get on set as an assistant. You will get the direct exposure to what working as a full time photographer is like.”

If you reach out to rental studios in your area, you will find that most of them have lists of assistants they recommend to the photographers who shoot in their spaces. It’s not easy, but you will eventually find a photographer you “click” with, if you’ll pardon the pun, and will begin to develop your experience and portfolio.

Branch Out on the Side


Many photographers don’t start out as full time photographers, instead work on the side while still holding down a job somewhere else. If you can get a job in a photography studio, that’s all the better, since it gives you exposure to the industry and often gives you a chance to work on your portfolio.

Richard Storm, from, suggests starting off small by doing some work for free. “I found clients at first by doing gigs for free to build up my portfolio.

After that, I established a price point and just went after whatever I could find.” This might mean working outside your niche, but any experience is better than no experience.

Draft a Business Plan

Once you’ve built up a decent portfolio, it’s time to grow your business. This is the point where you need to take a few important steps to ensure your success in the business. It might not be time to quit that full time job just yet, but we’re getting there.

If you fail to plan, you can plan to fail. Before you start your own business, even a part time business, make sure you have a solid business plan. The Small Business Administration (SBA) has a ton of resources on this, as will your local library. Peggy Farren, from Naples Portraits, points out, “It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.

Figure out which equipment you’ll need and the cost. Be sure to factor educational costs into your business plan. You will need to have strong photography and strong business skills. What will your overhead be? Website, phone line, etc.”

Have an Online Presence


Speaking of websites, you will need one. Don’t skirt away from this, because a good web page is more important than any ad you might take out in the local newspaper or the Yellow Pages. Erika Seress, of The Pod Photography, says that her business “really took off when I hired a SEO company to get us to the top of Google and in front of people who were actively looking for photographic services.” Your web page should reflect you and your work, and should showcase the best of your portfolio.

Did you know? SmartShoot provides photographers with their very own listing page that is optimized for SEO and highlights your work?

Start a Newsletter

Peggy Farren, Naples Portraits, points out that newsletters are a great way to connect better with your clientele and their needs. “You can remind them that it’s a good time to get their family portrait before the holiday rush,” she says. “If you just did a newborn session, put some pictures in and ask for referrals of expectant moms.”

You can start out by sending your newsletter to your friends and family, asking them to pass it along, and adding people as you meet them.

Don’t Be Pushy

Make sure you don’t get too pushy, is a business tactic that Brock Lawson, from Brock Lawson Photography, has seen many beginners learn the hard way. “I have watched a number of startups spiral out of control as they try to forcefully push their service on individuals through social media when they are still in the learning stages,” he says. “Their end result is not yet refined. It almost always ends in drama and hurting you more than you can imagine.” The one piece of advice Lawson says to hold on to is to “let your work do the talking.”

Remember Success Takes Time


Peggy Farren points out you should not get discouraged. “It took me about one and a half years of really hard work to go full time. I worked one job all day and worked my photography business nights and weekends.”


Beginning a career as a photographer is gratifying, but it can be one of the most competitive and challenging industries to take off in.

Even so, it can be done, and there is always room for another artist in the studio. Just be smart, business savvy, and hone your skills. Start off small, and gradually build yourself into a full time photographer.

Many great photographers have started and seen their businesses flourish on SmartShoot. Sign up for our creative network today.

About Steve Young

Steve Young is the Director of Product Marketing at SmartShoot. He enjoys writing about marketing, design and product development. Although he shares the same name as a famous quarterback he unfortunately does not share the same bank account, so please throw him a bone and share or comment on his posts. Connect with him on Twitter and Google+.

Keep in touch: @stevepyoung

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