This article was written from our perspective here in Australia but the overall message is still relevant no matter where you are in the world and what stage of COVID-19 lockdowns you are currently in. Things are getting better and now is the best time to chase your dreams! - Justin Castles
- How to Start a Photography Business - The Ultimate Guide
- How to Choose a Name and Logo for Your Photography Business
2020 Is Over
Photographers the world over have been forced to hang up their cameras as a direct result of being in lockdown, social distancing and pretty much avoiding other people. This was true for those that work in the photography industry running their own business, as well as those of us that are enthusiasts. But without a doubt, the professional photographers that rely on shoots for income did it the hardest. Many had to hang up their polo-shirts embroidered with their business logo and wait out the storm. Sadly, some will never pick up their camera to shoot for money again.
Fortunately, that storm seems to be passing, at least here in Australia and for the most part lockdown is over. Social norms are returning, and people can get out and catch up on some of those cancelled plans, events and gatherings. The same can be said for businesses that had to close or have all of their staff work from home. The opportunity to invest in a photographer for staff events, corporate marketing and brand awareness lay dormant for the better part of 2020. But a lot of that is about to change for the better.
Emerging from Lockdown
Given that everyone has to start on the same footing, 2021 is the best year to either launch or re-launch your photography business. Extended lockdowns of 2020 and cancellations of long-standing client relationships mean the playing field is more even than it has ever been. Everyone is vying for the same clients, and the needs of those clients will have changed to some degree. Either way, you have a perfect opportunity to promote and represent your own business in obtaining new clients.
2020 has taught many of us the importance of family, spending time with friends and connecting with loved ones all over the world. 2020 took a lot of that away from us, and now, as we emerge from lockdown, the need to reconnect is an essential need rather than a social occasion. And as we live in a world dominated by visual imagery, creating is in our DNA. As photographers we may have had our creativity taken from us, however, this new year presents us with a unique opportunity to tell stories again. It’s about getting out and about to share the memories of those who have been locked away for months on end. While some of this won’t be paid work you can bet your bottom dollar that it will connect you with more paid work.
Pivot Your Career If The Opportunity Strikes
One of the unfortunate impacts of the 2020 lockdown is that a lot of existing photographers had to close up shop. Although this is sad for them, it does provide a unique opportunity if you are looking to change your career. With financial support freely flowing from the Australian Government until March 2021, you may find yourself turning your network into a photography business opportunity. While this isn't going to be for everyone (especially if you don't have gear or some savings up your sleeve), now is the best time to start your new photography business.
With a major change like this, it is important to do your homework and plan accordingly. The first rule you should make for yourself is you don't need the latest and greatest camera equipment to make the jump. If you have a small budget, keep within your means. We have seen too many photographers go overboard with GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) and overpay for the gear they won't even use. Once you have the gear, be prepared to work hard and spread the news of your new business.
Don't be naive into thinking that you'll be a success overnight. Running a photography business into a full-time income does take years. Something we would suggest is not to pigeon hole yourself into a specific genre when starting out. Instead, think outside the square. Commercial, real estate, pets and school photography are some genres you may want to consider.
Acquisition of Equipment May Spark a New Business Venture
One of the happy accidents that happen in life is that we are often gifted with things we didn't know we needed or wanted. Imagine if you were given a new digital camera during the holiday season. Perhaps you received a camera or additional lenses for your existing camera. Had you not received these gifts, you would probably have not thought it likely you would pursue starting your own business as a photographer. But, with the right gear, regardless of how you acquire it, you may just have enough elements to make a start with your own photography business.
The right gear all depends on the style of photography you want to work with. The needs of an event photographer will vary to those of a real-estate shooter. However, some basics need to be included in any pro photographers kits. Ideally, you need a digital SLR or Mirrorless Camera with a decent image sensor, good low light performance and the ability to shoot 4K video if that's a direction you wish to head. Also, you are going to need a couple of good quality lenses - primes for portrait and zooms for weddings or group work. A lot of pro photographers will also invest in a second camera body that acts as a backup (insurance policy in the event of a malfunction) and for convenience. Your kit should also include a few spare and fully charged batteries, a decent camera strap, spare blank memory cards and a decent tripod.
Social Gatherings Will Be The Hit Of 2021
All of the events and activities that were planned for 2020, but had to be cancelled, can now be held once again. Big social gatherings such as weddings, engagements, birthday parties, anniversaries and the like are all now on the cards for 2021. And due to the delays and missed opportunities, people will be keen to make them lasting memories. Plus, the ability for people to get together and catch up after so long in isolation will no doubt result in bigger events. That calls for the need for a professional photographer, such as you, who can attend all manner of events and capture treasured memories.
With this in mind, you need to brand and market yourself as an event photographer. Promote your ability to cater to smaller intimate events as well as the larger style gigs such as weddings and engagements.
Take The Time To Partner With Venues
While 2020 has been filled with downtime, the smart photographers have taken the opportunity to partner with venues. By combining their marketing message, both the photographer and venue can fill seats and their wallets to ensure they have sustainable incomes in 2021. If you are only thinking about starting a business now, there's still time. We recommend identifying your local wedding or corporate venues, celebrants, catering companies and florists and spend some time connecting with them.
By introducing yourself through email or on the phone, you open up the opportunity to partner. By putting in the hard yards now, your photography business will have more contacts than others. This will boost your opportunity for more business in 2021 and put you ahead of the competition.
Corporate Clients Want A Fresh Start Too
Corporate clients will be looking to revamp and promote their businesses - just as you want to do so with yours. There will also be a lot of new businesses starting off that do not have a prior relationship with a photographer. These will be new business owners taking over failed companies or making the most of the new year to kick start their business ideas. They will need the support of a skilled photographer to achieve their goals and will be looking for fresh and current headshots of team members. In addition to this, they'll need team shots, product shots and other forms of imagery necessary for their branding, advertising and marketing - especially in the social media and online space.
Prepare a Marketing Plan in Preparation for Your 2021 Launch
Marketing is key to driving awareness that has the potential to lead to sales. As a photographer, there's no doubt you will have a catalogue of images ready to share. However, it would be best if you took the time to plan a social media strategy carefully. While many photographers may have exited the space due to the pandemic, 2021 will give you an incredible opportunity to stand out. Marketing will help your mission.
When considering a marketing approach, you need to think about what type of social media or media your clients consume? For instance, if you are a wedding photographer, your target audience might be brides. Therefore consider a social channel like Instagram, where females feel comfortable. Whereas for corporate headshots, LinkedIn will be the preferred place.
Also, sorting out your branding now is the perfect way to start the journey towards promoting your business. Regardless of this being your first time entering the photography industry, or you are revamping your business after lockdown, it's the best time to consider how you market your business, what tools and techniques will you use to stand out from the pack. One critical step is to work out your branding - your logo is the one feature that will stand out (aside from the amazing catalogue of images you have on show).
Part of the branding is to showcase your logo - some great ways to do that is by getting business cards, USBs, thanks you cards and even shirts made with your branding on them. Don't go too crazy though, these things are not essential for getting started and costs can add up quickly. If you have the budget and are looking to impress from day one, you can invest in a branded camera strap. When you are out on the job, others will see your logo on your strap and remember it. It also adds an element of class and sophistication to your business acumen.
Learn To Be Different As You Launch and Grow Your Photography Business
Understand your competition. As you are preparing to launch your photography business in 2021, take the time to research your competitors' offerings and prices. At no stage should you offer the same packages or prices? Instead, learn to differentiate yourself from others. By doing so, you will stand out ahead of the competition as you pave your way. 2021 gives you a unique opportunity to try things differently. Ensure you put some time aside and draw a mindmap of the things you want to achieve.
Prepare For The Wedding Season in 2021
If you are planning on photographing weddings in 2021, then this is for you. As we start the new year, last year's wedding season was much of a write-off. Many couples decided to postpone their big day between January and March 2021. While the start of the year might be difficult to obtain a booking you could plan for bookings in October to December 2021. There are many ways you can take bookings to fill up your shooting calendar. One of which is to offer wedding photography packages to couples who make their engagement announcements either on social media or through word of mouth. Take the time to talk to these couples, reach out and congratulate them as this could be another booking ahead of your competitors.
Don't Give Up Too Soon
2021 isn't far away now so over the festive season take the time to research and learn about the photography genre you are planning on entering. Planning and good implementation is key to being successful in a photography business. While 2020 was a disaster for the creative professions, 2021 should be much better, so keep your head up high and attitude friendly, and you are bound to see some success.
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