Becoming an amateur photographer is easy. If you wish to become a professional photographer, especially one that is trusted by the photographic community, you have a lot to learn. Photography is a massive subject, and it takes a long time to master every nuance. Your dedication to learning and your commitment to photography will determine what type of photographer you become. Will you become a qualified, insured, licensed and professional photographer? Or, will you become a keen hobbyist that is occasionally hired or occasionally sells a photo?
Becoming a ‘Momtographer’ is a great career to pursue, either as the single mom or as a stay at home mom. You get to be your own boss, work (partly) from home, while also working with clients. It’s not easy being a photographer or to get enough work to make a full time income, but it’s one of those careers that you can a) learn on your own if you put in the effort and b) slowly work your way up get more jobs. In time, you might just be able to make a part time or full time income as your own boss.
Here’s how to get started on your path as a momtographer.
Start by learning how to shoot in manual mode
It will force you to learn what is going on around you and how the light dramatically alters your shots. Shutter priority and Aperture priority modes are great automatic settings, but they may make your job harder if you are not fully aware of how even slight differentials in light will affect your pictures.
Read Photography Tips Online
The web is a huge resource for improving photography. Start of by reading some photography tips, especially on websites about your specific photography area. For example, if you want to master wedding photography, you should be reading wedding photography blogs and watching tutorials on YouTube. You should ALSO put into practice what you study online. This might seem like common sense, but this is how you teach yourself photography.
Shoot in manual mode to make the editing process easier
Every shot you intend to sell, be it on the freelance market or be it pre-ordered, will need to be edited. If you shoot in manual mode, your exposure is very consistent, which will help make your editing process far easier and quicker. If you hone your manual shooting skills, you will get a better feel for your shots so that the science of shooting becomes more of an art.
Referrals are your best friends
They are free and they are the hottest leads you will ever get. They are also tremendous value for money. When people refer you to other people, it is their reputation they put on the line, and many times the new people trust you already. Much of your marketing process is already cut out. Many times, the referred people will want a few questions answering before making their order. Encourage referrals as much as you can.
Market and sell with a view to filling your diary
The occasions that require a photographer will often require months of planning. As a result, you are able to book weeks and months in advance. Your aim is not to secure your next booking; it is to fill up your diary with bookings. If you find yourself becoming more and more popular, then take deposits, and consider taking bigger deposits.
There are some shots that you should consider keeping
Obviously, if you take a bad shot, you should delete it right away. However, when you are handing over your shots to your client, you should only give over the best shots. The shots where they are not perfect should not be included. Nevertheless, you should consider keeping some of your shots when you are working different projects.
For example, you may be shooting images for a new product that is appearing in the mall. While you are there, you may get a few good shots of the mall, but they are not what your client requested, ergo they are not sold to your client. You could keep those shots and sell them independently to other companies that want shots of the mall.
You will be doing more than taking shots
Small business owners are unable to hire business managers, marketing directors, and even accountants. In many cases, you will have to personally take up the many roles that are required to run a modern business. Here are a few of the roles you will be expected to take up.
[+] Business manager
Decide how you are going to make your money and what market you are going to operate within. Decide what your target audience is, what their needs are, and how you are going to fill those needs.
[+] Marketing director
Once you have your target audience in mind, you need to do market research to find out what they want the most and what they need so much that they are willing to pay money for it.
[+] Social media administrator
You need to update your Google+ and your Facebook pages on a regular basis. You need to present a professional and high quality service. People need to see examples of your work, and they need to see other people writing positive things about you.
If you want to save money, then learn about accounting and do your own accounts. At the very least, you should do your own book keeping where you diligently record your income and outgoing.
[+] Scene setter
You should know by now that you are in charge of setting up your shots. This also includes managing the area, the people, the kids and the wildlife that may appear in your shots.
[+] Customer service
Your customer services are often the first that your clients see of your business. You need to deal with comments and questions very quickly. If you are lucky, they may turn into future work.
[+] Client manager
As a small business, you need to take care of your clients. You need to go the extra mile and make them feel very special. Your goal is to make them happy about their purchase, to keep them happy after the purchase, to have them come back for more, and to tell their friends about you so that they use your services too.
[+] Website creator and manager
Building your own website is easy, and if you take the time to learn, you can create a very professional looking website. Managing your website means getting it ranked up the search engines and making sure it appears on listings/directories for your local area.
[+] Budget maker and accountant
Doing your own accounts is recommended if you are knowledge enough about accountancy. You will have to cook up your budgets to run a successful business. People forget about things such as how much their time actually costs and things such as depreciation.
Part of being a photographer is being a good editor too. You need to learn how to use Photoshop to improve your images. Simply adding filters and changing a few settings is often not good enough.
[+] Legal expert
There are many legal issues surrounding images. There are things you are not allowed to photograph, and things you are not allowed to sell. Some states demand that you have permission from people before selling their images, especially when it comes to child protection. There are also copyright issues you need to be knowledge about.
What about when demand fades a little?
There may be times when your services are in less demand. These are known as off-season occasions, and they differ depending upon what type of photographer you choose to be. As a stay at home mom, the way you deal with your trough-demand times will depend on your circumstances.
If you heavily rely on your photography income, then you will have to diversify a little so plug the gaps during off-peak seasons. On the other hand, as a stay at home mom, you may have the ability to take time off and concentrate on another project until business picks up.
This doesn’t mean that you should take a holiday from photography whenever things slow down. It means that there are certain times during the year when your service may not be in demand. These are your off-peak seasons, and it is up to you to either fill them with another form of photography, or to concentrate on something else until your photography work picks up again.
Learn how to “Price” your time
Some people waste a lot of time dealing with clients, scene setting, using social media and networking. Many professional photographers start out making this mistake. This is because the photographer doesn’t know how to place a value on his or her time.
For every task you perform, ask yourself what it would cost an employee to do the same thing. For example, if you just spent two hours updating your Facebook profile, would you have paid an employee minimum wage for those two hours? If your answer is no, then you need to reexamine how you spend your time. If your answer was yes, then hire somebody to do it for you.
You may think you are networking when you spend 45 minutes chatting to a grandfather at a wedding, but would you allow an employee to do that? Every minute you spend on your photography business is going to cost you money. You need to recognize that your time costs your business money.
Hire an accountant eventually
If you are able to turn a profit on your business after a year, then consider hiring an accountant. Not only will an accountant help you save money on your taxes, he or she will also save you from jail for not paying your taxes correctly. Do not hire an accountant right away, especially if you are not sure if you are going to stay business in the long term.
Explain what you do on your website and show the areas you cover
Many people do not know how to order photography services, and even fewer know what they will get. You need to show them on your website. You need to show them how to make an order, what they will get, and what they have to do to get it.
You need to show them what your package deals mean, and explain that you will edit the photographs to make them perfect. They need to know how they will receive the images, especially if you are not able to print the images for them personally. They may find it cheaper to take your images in digital form to a printer and have them printed off themselves.
It is also vitally important that your website shows where you are based. Some photographers show the areas they cover, but it limits how attractive they are because some clients may want you to travel to different locations. You are better off stating where you are based, and explaining that you are prepared to travel to far off locations in some circumstances (if you are paid more)
Add notes to your client list
You need to create a client list. It holds the information of all your ex-customers. It is handy to have if you wish to solicit for more work in the future. You should also add notes to it. They will help you understand what you did, when you did it and why. Add notes about your clients and what you did for them, and it will help create an instant rapport when they contact you again. You can mention something about the job you did for them last time and instantly regain their trust, which will make the selling process a little easier.
Stop trying to compete on price
You simply cannot win, and you will shortchange yourself every time. No matter what type of photographer you decide to become, there is always room for your business. There may be 33 other photographers within a 10 mile radius that are better and more popular than you, and yet you can guarantee that every month those 33 will have days where they are fully booked and people will come to you. If you compete on price, you never win, even if you actually win the project–because you will be working for a fraction of your worth. Find a way of promoting yourself without competing on price.
Being good with children is a plus
Some people are restricted as to the type of photography jobs they can take because they are not good at something. Some are not good night shots, others are not good with animals, heights, staging, and so forth. Some people cannot do certain photography jobs because they are not good with children, but that is not the case for you.
There are many events that involve children. As a stay-at-home mom, you could target events that have children. There are children’s parties, charity events, kid’s celebrity events, birthdays, bar mitzvahs and so forth. Managing children at these events is tough. It is a skill, and such a skill can make you more employable than your closest competitor if there are children involved.
- Flickr.com (the best photo sharing website with millions of examples of different photography types)
- BetterPhotograph.com (a great website with photography tutorials and tips, especially for travel and landscape photography)
- National Geographic (a landscape photographer’s go-to source for tips and inspiration)
- photo.net (one of the better, no frills photo tip website on the net)