Sooner or later, most photography enthusiasts think about “how to start a photography business“. Unfortunately, there are ‘some’ challenges that “punish” us for failure. One of the biggest challenges we bring is our failure to distinguish between our love of photography (again: our love and passion for photography) and the photography business (understanding the buying and spending habits of people who are photography customers).
For example, many of us think that because our photographic work is “very good,” we shouldn’t have too much trouble selling it. Sometimes we mistakenly think that great art and photography “sell itself”. Big mistake! Good photography doesn’t sell itself. In the business world, nothing sells itself – nothing! Knowing this is very important for starting a photography business.
Our failure to distinguish between our passion for photography and our desire to be in the photo business is also evident in the way we try to tell people what we do. For example, photography customers don’t care what kind of equipment we use.
They don’t care how many mega-pixels we have, or how much our equipment costs, or what brand of camera we use. Photography customers (current and prospective) want to know that we can, and will, produce high-quality photographic work for them.
Think about it, the mechanics who repair our cars don’t tell us what tools they use. The chefs at the restaurant we served did not tell us what kind of pots, pans or stoves they use. In this business, it is determined what the customer wants and the best way to get it to them.
In other words, other businesses do a better job of understanding their ‘niche’. To start a successful and growing photography business, we need to be clear about what niche we offer and how to sell the benefits of our niche to customers.
Another mistake we repeat as budding photography business owners is failing to “specialize” (knowing our photography niche) in what we do. As photography enthusiasts, we love to shoot just about anything. As a photographer, it’s fine. However, when we started the photography business, we mistakenly tried to be ‘everything for everyone’ – we took every photography job that was offered to us.
One of the real problems with this approach is our failure to recognize how it drastically reduces the value of what we do as skilled photographers, in the eyes of our customers. Wrong, we want our customers (current and prospective) to know that we can shoot anything – after all, we are incredibly versatile photographers!
What customers really see is that we are not “all-in-one photographers”, we are simply someone with a camera available to take pictures when they contact us. Serious photography customers (re: those who can afford to shop regularly) want to do business with specialists – photographers who know their photography niche.
Successful wedding photographers are clear on this, as an example of my point. Their ‘main’ customer (usually the bride) has been dreaming of her wedding day for most of her life. He’s not looking for a vesatile photographer. She wanted a “wedding photographer” who could make her ‘look’ as good, happy and beautiful as she had in all her lifelong dreams of her ‘day’ – her wedding day.
There is a special skill set for this type of photography service. Actually, this niche has more to do with well-developed ‘people skills’, I think. Successful wedding photographers who are clear about these nuances are more successful in business.
Do your research.
Your Photo Collection Inventory – View your photo collection. Decide what you
1.) shoot the most;
2.) shoot consistently well; and
3.) enjoy shooting. Identify yourself and categorize photos into different niches, i.e. portraits, sports, glamour, pets, kids, landscapes, etc.
Research the Photography Market – Do an internet search using the words “niche photography.” Also, use the kind of niche that you think is suitable for your photos. For example, “event photography niche”, “wedding photography niche”, etc. Also, a good resource to help identify some photo markets is “The Photographers Market”. This is a book that is published annually and claims to provide contact and photo purchase information.
Online searches are the most useful, in my opinion. Books by author and photographer, Dan Heller are a good place to get a better understanding of the vast world of photography, without all the ‘art-hype,’ in my opinion. He also has a very informative website
Identify the ‘Real’ Market – Find out what type of photography (your specialty) your customers are buying. What types of photography are sold? At some point, you have to ‘balance’ the different niche realities. There may be several factors that are inconsistent across all photography niches. For example, some niches require longer “workflow” periods and tasks (a workflow is a photo-taking post-production process) than others.
Higher quality portraits usually require photo editing – which is time consuming. Event photography requires processing, packaging, and shipping (presenting) photos. True story: I checked my large collection of photos and found that I have a lot of very beautiful flowers. I can’t begin to share my disappointment when I found out that there was ‘almost’ no flower photo market – it seems like everyone has one, all of them! Lesson learnt – identify the ‘real’ market.
Ten Tips To Help You Identify Your Niche
- Identify a specialization that fits your style:
- Determine if you have the necessary tools for the niche
- Do you have identifiable, specific skills in this particular area – can you articulate them?
- Who is your target audience?
- What type of photography do they buy the most?
- Where are they taking their photography business today – your competitors
- What would be different about your service?
- Does your place of residence support your chosen niche?
- Is your niche ‘stock photography’ or ‘assignment photography’ – do you know the difference?
- What is the future potential and trends of your niche?
Fortunately, the internet makes this information just a few clicks away. The information is not difficult to find and learn. Knowing your niche greatly increases your confidence. Really know your niche – and your photography business will follow!