Starting A Family Photography Business


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In this photography business Q&A session, I share the answers to a few questions asked on Instagram. Hit play below or scroll down to read the post.

Read the video transcript:

1. What is the biggest tip for starting a photography business?

First of all, putting it out into the world that, “I’m going to be a photographer. I’m going to open my doors and be a business!”…doing that in the fall is wonderful timing because everyone needs a photographer in the fall. There’s plenty of business to go around. It’s really a great time to work with as many people as you can. So I fully support you in this decision, but there are three things that I want you to make sure that you do this fall: 

1.Make sure that you are planning to start your business in the direction you intend to go.

The point is to stop thinking about “right now” and instead, I want you to think about the end game. I want you to think about: 

  • What does your dream business look like?

  • What kind of clients do you really want to work with?

  • How full-time do you want to be?

  • How much money do you want to make a year? 

I want you to think about the end game and make choices now that are going to take you in the right direction.

The first thing that you can think of when you are talking about making decisions and setting yourself up for success is pricing. I know that you’re just now opening your doors. I know that you are brand new here, but that does not mean that it is acceptable for you to charge pennies for your time. You are giving up your time to photograph people. You’re going to give up a lot of your time to edit.

Even if you are just now starting out, you have business expenses: your camera costs money, your cards cost money, your gallery software costs money, etc. It all costs money. So don’t just think of it as “Oh, if I charge them $50 to photograph somebody for 20 minutes in a mini session, I just made $50 and 20 minutes.”

No, you didn’t!

You didn’t add up all the time that you are editing, all the time you’re emailing with people, all the time you’re working on social media to grow your following, all the time it takes to load a gallery, to do a blog, to do all the things…you’ve just made PENNIES! Okay, so I need you to think about the end game, you need to earn a decent wage for your time.

Even if it’s on the lower end of things, don’t you dare start under $100! You will burn out by the end of this year and you will not want to be in business anymore. Even if right out of the gate, you deserve to make some money. 

2.Make your clients work for you!

I want you to ask them to market for you. There’s a lot of ways that you can do this, but the easiest is going to be to do a Google review or to text or email you a review that you can screenshot and save and use later. Also make sure to ask them explicitly to reshare any images that you share online and to tag your business. All of those things are very small, easy things that clients can do for you, but that will make a huge difference in the long-term plan of your business. Get as many people to market for you now is possible so that you can grow that following.

3.Do not overwork yourself!

I know you are so excited! It’s really exciting to finally open your doors and say, “I’m doing it! I’m putting myself out there. I’m going to be a photographer!” BUT I want you to be very careful about your boundaries. You’ll overwork yourself and end up in burnout.

At first, it’s going to be really tempting to take on every single job that comes your way. You’re going to photograph your neighbor. They’re going to love their images. They’re going to share the images all over the internet. All of their friends are going to reach out to you. You’re going to want to say yes to everybody and well, YOU. JUST. CAN’T.

Hold strong to your boundaries. Know how many sessions you can take on and still be a good human, still be a good partner, still be a good mom, still be a good friend, still feel like yourself, not feel like you’re crying yourself to sleep because you’re editing all night long, hold firm to your boundaries.

2. Which do you think is better for photographers? Digital or paper planning?

That’s a personal question. I have been on team paper for my whole life. I like paper. I have a hundred million notebooks in my office. I use 2 paper planners at one time. I like writing things out and I like seeing them on paper.

That being said, I have started to be a hybrid digital/paper planner this year. .I’m still not super good at the digital part, but I’m trying to sync them and anytime I get appointments, like hair appointments and doctor’s appointments, where it has the option to click and add to the calendar, I do that. It makes it possible to, in a pinch, know I’ve got most of my stuff on a Google Calendar in my phone, but that being said, if I had to choose, it would be paper all the way!

You might be digital, you might hate paper. You might be minimalist and love to not have clutter and paper and notebooks. Cool! Whatever works for you is what is best. I don’t think there’s one better than the other just find a system that you can stick with and is sustainable for you.

3. Do you ever warn clients about wearing certain colors or patterns?

Yes! So, I love color. I mean have you see my office? I love color. If you’ve ever looked through my Instagram feed, it’s like all the colors of the rainbow all the time. I love color so much.

Here’s what I tell my clients personally…I tell my mom to dress first, that’s above all else. If you don’t listen to anything else, I tell you regarding wardrobe and what to wear, dress Mom first.

After that later in the instructions, I tell them that red and neons are really hard to edit when they are next to a face. So, if Mom wants to wear a red skirt. Cool! A dress? A little harder! I tell them that upfront but then I do put a little *caveat next to that that says “However if red is your power color and you feel like Queen of the world and the most beautiful human being ever in red, you wear red, I will deal with it.”

I literally tell them that because my number-one rule is I want Mom to feel beautiful.

So, basically, I’m asking her to do me a favor. Don’t put red or neon on anybody near their face. You can wear it as an accent color. If it’s florals and it has red or if it’s red on the bottom, but near the face is hard. The only other warning I give them is no huge logos. No Nike, no Gap, that kind of thing. I let kids wear big graphics. You can wear a big shark T-shirt if you’re happy, that’s totally fine with me. But the big logos can be a little annoying.

4. Can you link booking and available dates from your CRM to your website? (This particular person said they were looking at Dubsado or Honey Book.)

Yes, you can through Dubsado or Honey Book!

You can set up all the direct online booking in the CRM and then you get a link that you can make public on your website. I think this is a great idea for mini sessions. I would not do this for your full-year availability unless it is just for an initial phone call.

If you are the type of photographer that wants to have a phone call before you actually booked a client, then absolutely, you can have a phone call calendar where people can book their own phone call. If we are talking about booking sessions, I would only do mini sessions booking directly through your website.

Why do I say that? I personally want to vet who I’m going to work with.

Mini sessions are a free-for-all. It’s a different story, but for the rest of the year, I want a vet who I’m working with. I want to make sure that I am the right photographer for them and they’re the right clients for me. I don’t want them to be able to book my services directly without talking to me first.

The other thing I would say is I don’t think you have time to set up your CRM and your booking calendar and get it linked on your website before you start booking for fall.

It is October. You should be already booking for fall. So if that’s the case, if you have not already gotten your CRM set up yet, I think you need to make that a plan for next year at this point and use an outside booking software for right now. That would be something like Acuity or Session where you pay a very small monthly fee to use it and you can set it up in under 30 minutes.

With either program, you will get a shareable link where people can book and pay their deposit and do exactly what you want it to do. Then as soon as you get through the busy season, you just cancel your account and you stop paying for it and move over to a CRM.

If you are interested in getting on my weekly subscribers list I would love to have you! I send out a Monday morning newsletter called Lifestyle Lessons and it has 3-4 tips, tricks or pieces of information. Easy Peasy.

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