For some of us, a photography business springs from a hobby and grows into a paid endeavor, and so we feel it just landed in our laps. To others, it was more of a dream that was kept close and dear and planned to make a reality for a long time. For others, doors of opportunity open at the right time and place, and they’ve grabbed it.
Regardless of how your photography business has come about, for your business to take shape and grow, there are necessary steps to take. These steps require many initiatives and work and do not depend on luck or open doors of opportunity.
Let me share with you a few tips for building a photography portfolio and business. This article is of benefit if you are building your business from scratch or have been in operation but have relocated, requiring you to start afresh in a new location.
Now, don’t get me wrong – I don’t expect that you have a massive pile of photoshoots under your belt in the beginning (although that would be great.) All you need is a handful of carefully curated photos for your portfolio. If you have any images from practices or hobby shoots, choose your very best images. The best of the best, even if you only end up with a handful. If you are brave enough to do so, choose one genre and focus on that!
Usually the more niched, the stronger the portfolio.
2. Call for Models
If you don’t have any images to use or you feel your images are not good enough yet, plan a model call-out. Shoot new images that are more focused and consistent – your portfolio benefits from more consistent images. The goal down the line is that you are the one people think of when they need a photo shoot of a particular type.
You’re the expert in that field, and therefore you can also command decent prices. Having this in mind at the very start of your portfolio-building helps you streamline your model call plans in regards to age group, style, outfits location, and set-up. Branding is vital, especially at this stage. One could go as far as saying branding is everything.
You have two choices for model calls:
1. You can ask friends or friends of friends. You can do a public call on your social media platforms. If going the friends’ route, you may decide not to charge as you may feel they are doing you a favor. That is your call. However, money doesn’t grow on trees in business. Money comes from clients or investors who want a return on their investment.
Therefore, don’t be quick to offer your services for free, especially if you want to start charging decent fees or market rate. It’s hard for a potential paying client to start paying good money after initially being offered a freebie.
2. There are other options far better than offering freebies. You can do a barter of some sort. Think of something that either party finds beneficial with relatively equal values. You can also charge a fair rate for portfolio building that is lower than the market rate. You can offer the session at no charge in exchange for the model call but sell the prints. That way it’s not a total freebie.
Right off the bat, learn to accept money from clients without feeling guilty or feeling that you don’t deserve it. Also, don’t be embarrassed about it!
3. Have a Web Presence
Nowadays, if you are not on the web, you are not on the map. You don’t need a super-fancy website either if you feel that is out of reach at the moment. Although, it is easy enough to start a website using readily adaptable templates. More importantly, use social media platforms that are free and easy to set up such as Facebook and Instagram.
If possible, have both. However, if you are only doing one, a top tip is to think about your audience. What platform is your target market using? Parents with children are usually on Facebook. Younger age groups, like seniors, early 20s and 30s, are on Instagram. If you are after more real-time conversations and engagement with your followers, you could also link your accounts on Twitter.
A Web Presence is Your Virtual Office
Having a web presence is like having a virtual office. People can contact you and view your strongest images in your portfolio. This tool can be leveraged to reach more people, especially friends of friends. You can tag friends, share on their page, and ask them to share. All of these methods help to spread the word about you.
By tapping into your contacts’ friends, you are starting from a position of trust. You are no longer a stranger to a potential client but a referral. Use that to your advantage. By being reached easily on social media channels, you become more of a real person than just a webshop.
4. Print Some Business Cards and Stationery
While they may seem old-fashioned, business cards are useful because some people expect them, and they are great if you are networking in-person. If you want to be memorable, make your cards into a magnet, so you stay on people’s fridges! Think of something quirky, or at least different, so that you stand out more.
Having some printed promotional materials like mini-brochures and vouchers are invaluable. They come in handy if you want to collaborate with other small businesses in your area, such as your local health clinics for baby and maternity shoots, or boutique shops that sell outfits that fit with your branding.
I hope the tips in this article will help you in some way as you start your photography business. If you have any other tips, please share them in the comments below.
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