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Business Snapshot: 6 Steps to Get Started as a Photographer

Once you have the equipment, choose a niche to concentrate your study and skills on. Then, build a portfolio and set your rates.
A woman who is thinking fondly of a camera.

Photography can be an enticing way to earn money from home—flexible hours, decent pay and the fulfillment of that creative itch are just a few perks of working as a photographer. But there's more to being a photographer than just snapping a few shots with your camera. Running a photography business takes dedication, hard work and talent. Still interested? Here are six steps to get started.

Find Your Niche

Photography is a broad subject and often the most successful photographers excel in one particular area. Are you interested in photographing events, portraits or products? Photographers can earn money by being paid by clients to take certain photos or by buyers who like their existing photographs as artwork or stock images. Choosing a niche doesn't mean you have to turn down someone that requests services outside of your area, but it will help you to focus your efforts.

Get the Know-How

Taking great images of your kids doesn't mean you're ready to work as a professional. Take the time to really look into the type of photography you are interested in. Learn the terms, the tricks and the techniques. Pick up a few books or start following a few educational websites. Enroll in a few classes or workshops. But don't stop there. Get some hands-on experience. Intern with a studio, offer to take portraits of your friends for free, or head out to local events with your camera.

Get the Equipment

To take pictures professionally, you will need, at the very least, an entry-level dSLR, a quality lens and a good flash unit. To take indoor portraits, you'll also need a backdrop set and lighting equipment. The equipment depends on both the type of photography and the price—more expensive studio photographers, for example, will have more props and a higher end camera than a low cost studio.

Build a Portfolio

Very few people will hire someone without seeing some of their work first. But like the old question of the chicken and the egg, it's hard to develop a portfolio before someone hires you to take pictures. To build a portfolio, you may have to take pictures for free. Take portraits of friends and family, ask to take pictures at a friend’s wedding even though they already have a photographer. Or, look for an internship or job shadow a photographer and get permission to take your own shots. Try to include a variety of different shots that display your style and what you can do with a camera.

Set Your Rates

For many photographers, this is the trickiest part of getting their business started. To pinpoint where the rates should be, consider your own goals, what other photographers in your area charge and your experience level. Keep in mind that a wedding photographer with 20 years of experience can successfully charge several times more than a beginner in the field and still have a full schedule of clients.

Get the Word Out

So you have a niche, the know-how, the equipment, a portfolio and a set of rates. Now you just need clients. Tell friends what you are doing, start a website (you may already have one from developing a portfolio), open a Facebook page, take out an ad in the local paper. The marketing schemes that work best for you will depend on your niche area. But often the best, and least expensive method, is to do good work—your business may start to grow simply by word of mouth.

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