I am always interested in how other photographers got started so I asked Paige from Paige B. Photography to answer some questions about her business. You might recognize her as a contributor on Shutter Sisters.
1. What made you take the leap from photography as a hobby to photography as a business?
I studied art in college and ended up with a degree in graphic design, which is what I currently do to pay the bills. I have always loved visual arts and been interested in photography, so when I got my first dSLR about a year ago I fell in love and started practicing with it like crazy. In addition to loving art I also love kids and babies. So I started doing little informal “sessions” for friends with kids. And from there I started thinking, “Hey, I really like this and might be able to turn it into something more.” And since then I have just been slowly learning more and more about the business side of photography.
2. What advice would you give someone just starting out?
Practice like crazy. I don’t have kids yet so it is difficult for me to practice on kids. But I just talked to our friends with kids and asked if I could do a little photo session for them. And then they would pass the word to their friends. I didn’t charge them anything so I felt like I could really practice without a ton of pressure to be perfect. I did about seven portfolio building sessions in a few months time. But since you have kids definitely use them!
Also, poke around online for articles or helpful forums. Flickr has a lot of great groups to help inspire and to learn from. I don’t have any photography books but I did go to Borders several times and flip through them.
Oh, and don’t get discouraged when you feel like you’re not good enough! You will feel that way some days, but try to remember that everyone started somewhere. When I look back at my photos from a year ago I am amazed at how much I have improved and learned. So I have to remind myself that next year I will be that much better, and so on and so on.
3. If you could only have one lens, what would it be?
Actually, I do only have one lens! Well, technically I have two because I bought my camera with the kit lens, but I think I’ve only used it once or twice. The one I always use is the amazing Canon 50mm 2.5 compact macro. It is really great for close up portraits because you can get some amazing depth of field. I am ready for another lens though, so I can have more options. The 50mm is a fixed lens so I think it might be nice to have a zoom next.
4. How do you decide where to shoot on location?
This is especially tough for me because I moved to Omaha from Chicago right around the time I started portfolio building (in August). My husband is from Omaha though so he was able to show me some spots he thought I’d like. There was a nice big park where I did two different sessions. I liked it because there were a lot of different elements to choose from, like a stone staircase and a water feature as well as wide open grassy areas and areas with open shade under big trees. But for a couple of the other sessions I just went to people’s houses. This can be hit or miss because you have no idea what you are going to find when you get there. You might find a yard that isn't great for photography, in which case I would suggest moving it to a park. I learned that the hard way. I am assuming that once I start charging full prices the yards and houses with be fairly well kept though..
But to answer the question, I typically take into consideration where the people live and the ages of the children, as well as any requests from the clients.
5. How will you decide what to charge your clients?
This is probably the most difficult thing I’ve done so far. First, I would decide where you are going to order prints from. I’ve found that the two most popular companies are ACI and WHCC. Then you will know what your actual cost of prints will be. Then from there I looked up as many of my local competitors as possible and compiled all of their price lists. Next, I came up with a sort of a weird rating system to determine if their style and skill level are equal to mine. Then I chose the three photographers that were closest to my style and where I hope to be talent-wise in about a year. Then I kind of averaged their prices and made mine about 20% less (since I am just starting out). Confused yet!? In the end, I just picked numbers that seemed to look competitive while still giving me a profit. I am trying to remember that I can always change them whenever I want, if something isn’t working.
Also, here is a link that might help:
6. How do you or how will you market your business?
I think I do have an advantage when it comes to marketing because I am a graphic designer and have been working in the advertising/marketing world for about 4 years. But, I think the most important thing to have is a nice, professional looking website. I just purchased a Blu Domain website and have been working on getting it up and running before I start telling people about the business. If you tell people you have a business, the first thing they will ask is “What’s the website?”. This is especially important for a photographer because potential clients need to see examples. I also designed a logo and business cards. As soon as I have business cards, I plan on having tons of them with me at all times. There are websites that print quality business cards for a good price. And just make sure your web address is on the cards!!!
7. How does your family feel about you starting your own business?
Luckily my husband is very supportive. He is intrigued by the idea of owning a small business, so I think he is living vicariously through me. We talk about it quite a bit and agree that it would be a great thing for me to do. I will probably be part time graphic designer, part time photographer for a while. Also, we are hoping to have kids very soon, so it will be the perfect thing for me to do while being a mom.
The rest of my family is also supportive but I don’t know if they really “get it” yet. I think once things start picking up and they realize that this is not just some crazy idea I have, they’ll understand a little better.
8. What has surprised you most about the process of starting a business?
I was surprised by how much there is to learn. I truly know nothing about running a business. But over time as I read and observe, it starts to feel do-able. In the future, I hope to be surprised by how successful I am!
Thanks so much Paige!!!