Spreading Your Wings

March 02, 2017

Scholars of CambridgeScholars of Cambridge

The halls of academia are lined with pictures of previous students and sometimes their greatness may be immortalized in statues. As photographers increase their skill levels; the thought often turns to turning professional and earning an income from their skills. Whilst a noble goal; many photographers fail to thoroughly analyze their prospects. Peer review and objective analysis are the key drivers to doing this. Things to consider are:

  1. Am I good enough. Don't rely on family and friends to review your photographic work. They will always tell you that your images are fantastic. This is not objective and what is required is a portfolio review by a photographer that has skills above yours.
  2. Have you invested in photographic education. Whether it be through the halls of academia or through the plethora of on-line learning courses.
  3. Do you have any business savvy or business background that will help you in running a business. Generating income from photography is 75% business and 25% photography skill. Your images may be good enough but unless you have business acumen you will not succeed. 

So far so good. You are ready to proceed in starting up your business. There are the necessary legal and regulatory requirements to address such as company registration, taxation numbers, vendor licenses, etc. The main thing that is required is to generate a business plan. There are numerous web references on how to develop a business plan. The big caveat is that males tend to over estimate their potential income and females tend to under estimate their potential income. You need to be conservative in your numbers. If the numbers don't add up you won't be putting food on the table.

As part of your business plan development you will have to decide what photographic services to provide. A lot of photographers tend to gravitate towards the wedding and portraits services. Is this a conservative choice or a foolish choice. This comes down an analysis of the local market you are in. It doesn't matter whether this is a photography business or if you are manufacturing widgets. You have to look carefully at the competitors in your local market. In business sense it means that the price of entry in an established market comes down to three factors: 1. Do you have a better product or service 2. Is your customer service better than your competition 3.  Is your price more attractive.

Looking objectively at the wedding and portrait market an aspiring photographic entrepreneur is unlikely to win in the first two categories. The third area to compete in is on the price. The danger with this is that you will not generate enough income to sustain your self. The other negative side effect is that you contribute towards the bottoming out of the photographic services market.

As a key part of your business plan development and analysis there should be serious consideration given to serving parts of the photographic services market which are non-traditional. These are often considered to be niche markets. It may take longer to develop a client base but you are likely to be sustainable in the long run. To look at potential niche markets you need to do your research as part of your business plan development. An excellent resource that showcases photography niches is the web site The Niche Notebook. Here you will find an excellent resource on photographers and their specialty niches. The web site provides a detailed breakdown of specialty photographers, the target market, link to the photographers web site and how long they have been in business.

So lets summarize this:

  1. Decide what it is you want!
  2. Write it down
  3. Make a plan
  4. Work on it every single day

Lessons from the trenches:

  1. Don't quit your day job just yet.
  2. Don't bet the farm on it.
  3. Always have a Plan B.

  Resources to get you on your way:

Watsonphotography.ca creates unique images of fashion, models, people, travel, nature and racing sports by Toronto photographer Peter Watson.

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