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Think Different Than Other New Photographers: It’s Your Business, But Is It Sustainable?

Studying concept: Think Different with optical glassThe image to the left says "Think Different" and my goal for this blog post is for you to "Think Different" than a lot of photographers just starting out. There are a lot of photographers just getting started that will not be doing photography 5 years from now. Do you want that to be you?

If you run a photography business, part-time, full-time, with a studio or homebased, it's up to you to make your own decisions about how to handle pricing, images, printing and more. The key to whatever business model that you choose to implement is whether it is SUSTAINABLE. In other words, will you still be in business 5 years from today.

There's a saying, "To make money in photography, sell your gear." I think that mentality comes from those who have not set up a sustainable business model and have let more creative competition put them out of business. Yes, there is still money to be made in photography. Is it easy to make a living as a photographer? NO! But I don't think any kind of self-employment is necessarily easy.

The problem with most new photographers is that they buy decent camera, get a business card, start telling friends and family what they are up to and start trying to make money at photography. However, it seems that LOW pricing is a key strategy. Yes, a photographer can do 5 shoots a week at $99 each, burn it all to a CD and keep pressing on. However, that's only $495 per week before taxes, insurance, overhead (even if home based) and trying to pay bills. Even if that number is doubled to 10 at $99 each, it's still likely not a long term sustainable business model. It will be hard in the beginning to get 10 sessions every week non-stop.

So what's the answer?
Well, the answers could be long enough for a book which is far beyond a short blog post. However, I do have a few tips for creating a sustainable photography business.

1) Stay home based as long as you can.
2) Create a pricing model that's not based on being the lowest in your market.
3) Charge enough money to cover equipment and liability insurance, save money for new gear (there will ALWAYS be new gear) and to make a living (paying the big bills not just the electric bill). These 3 core areas will quickly make you reevaluate your pricing model.
4) Find a mentor whether online or face-to-face (better option). But remember, your mentor is human and fallible.
5) Do the best you can with the gear that you can afford and avoid gear envy. The photographer that has all the gear you want and envy likely either has debt or is established and able to afford the gear.
6) Hire a good accountant and a good lawyer. Yes, they both cost money, but to be sustainable, you need both for your business.


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David Williams

Short Bio About The Author: I'm David Williams a professional commercial photographer focusing on corporate and business clients with some personal branding, lifestyle photography in the mix. My love for photography began in late 1981 while still in High School. I started making money with his camera in 1982. Brenda, my wife, and I started working together in photography in 1988 shortly after we met. Brenda and I married in 1989 and have two adult daughters. Please be sure to get a quote for services if needed. Call or Text: 919.723.8453. Please reach out to connect with me on LinkedIn.