Oh hey! Didn’t see you there. So you’re a teen who wants to start a photography business? Well, if you think you’re read, pull up a chair, sit down, and I’ll share all my secrets with you kklsjdfklds;jsklgj Welcome back to The Bliss Bean! So if you watched my budgeting and saving video I mentioned that I make most of my money from doing photography, so I’m finally doing a video to explain how exactly I got into doing that and how I’ve sort of developed it over the years. I’ve only been doing it for about two years so “over the years”. As I was planning out I realized there was so much information I wanted to share I have like this outline printed out. I’ve split the video into different topics and we’re gonna go pretty quick so get ready to pay attention, get a notebook, get a pen, get a snack and let’s do this SECTIONONE: the very very beginning every single photographer’s biography begins with “I’ve had a camera in my hands for as long as I can remember…” and that was pretty much me. I’ve always liked taking photos, doing creative things I’ve been blogging since seventh grade but I never really got into portrait photography until the summer before my junior year. A friend of mine who was a year older than me asked me if I did senior portraits, cause she knew that I liked taking photos and that I had like a decent camera and so I told her that no, I had never taken senior portraits but I would love to try. So she actually ended up getting her senior portraits done by someone else which was a good call because I did not know what I was doing, but she still let me practice on her. So we went to this prairie near my house, we took photos for a little bit, and it was definitely a struggle for me but I edited the photos and I loved how they turned out. I no longer love how they turned out just to clarify. And I was like, this is so fun, I could actually do this. So that was September of 2017 and from there on I decided to do some practice portrait shoots to just kind of develop my skills and get more comfortable with taking pictures of people. I think I did five practice shoots and I think it’s a good number. Don’t go doing 15 practice shoots, you might have a voice in your head telling you that you’re not ready to go and do actual shoots, but if people see your work and they’re willing to pay for that, then yes, you are ready to start doing professional shoots. So as I was taking these photos for practice I also started an Instagram account for photography. It was very casual, I didn’t have like a consistent posting schedule or anything, but I think the important thing was that I established it as a photography account so I didn’t to start posting these photos on my personal account I created a separate account and I was like I’m a photographer now!!! so that brings us to SECTION 2: the beginning, but less so the beginning. This was spring of 2018, so I decided that I wanted to start doing senior portraits and I wanted to get paid. So I took some of my favorite photos that I took during those practice shoots and I made this cute little graphic. I also spent a long time drafting up some text to put alongside it. I really wanted to sound professional but also a little bit humorous and light-hearted just the perfect balance that would entice people to book with me. So what I ended up posting is my official offering was $99 for 60 minutes of shooting and at least 20 edited photos, but since I always just edited all the photos that I thought turned out well, I basically would end up with like a hundred photos per shoot. And I’ll talk more in the pricing section about how I arrived at $99. So I posted this graphic and like announcement on Facebook and Instagram on my photography account. I also asked people to share it so a few family members and friends shared that and it just kind of got spread around a little bit. All of my very first clients were my friends, love you guys! which makes sense because I wouldn’t expect people who don’t know me personally to trust me with that kind of job especially when it costs $100, so I was really grateful to my friends for trusting me with that. During that first year I also shot for some acquaintances so like people I didn’t know super well but they were still in my grade so they knew me I knew them and yeah, it wasn’t until the second year that word-of-mouth played a bigger role and I actually started shooting for people I didn’t know at all, even people who didn’t live in my city. So it’s a process but it happens slowly. So that first senior portrait season I had fourteen clients which I was pretty happy with, but I definitely had a lot of room to improve not just in terms of how many people I was shooting for but my professionalism about it, and so that brings us to SECTION 3: making it an official business. This is the part I don’t really enjoy because it confuses me so much but for the 2019-2020 senior portrait season I really just wanted to get more serious about this and that included making this into an official like registered business. In the description I’m going to link to an article that really really helped me, it’s basically a step-by-step guide to creating a photography business. I’m just gonna talk briefly about how I did it so when you’re starting a business you can either go with the sole proprietorship or the LLC route and that article does a great job of explaining how you decide which one is right for you. So like some of the criteria for going with a sole proprietorship were: if you don’t have much money in your personal account or many significant assets. Check. if you expect to earn under 80k with your business. Check. And if you won’t participate in higher risk shoots worth
more money and for higher risk clients and again, check. So since my business was going to be much simpler, much smaller I decided to go with the sole proprietorship especially since you can always change to an LLC if you want to So this route was much less complicated and in a very summarized short version of what I did: I filed for a trade name with the Wisconsin Secretary of State which basically meant that I was doing business as “my full name photography”, like that was the name that I was going to be doing things under. I filed with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue to get a seller’s permit and a sales tax ID I went to the bank that I already have a personal account with and I set up a business account, so that basically just added like another checking and savings account that was specifically for my business related income and expenses With that new bank account I set up a PayPal business account so that people could pay me online without having to do cash or write out checks. From that same website where I read the step by step article I also downloaded some photography contract templates. I require each client to get that to me before the shoot so that I don’t get sued. And then finally in addition to a monthly budget I created a separate spreadsheet just for tracking business finances and if you want to learn more about that I talked about it in my budgeting and saving video. So now, SECTION4, the most loaded question of them all is how do you price yourself. So as I mentioned, that first season my price was $100 and I rounded it down to 99 because psychological pricing tricks! I thought for so long about how I was going to charge myself. I talked to my family about it, I asked a bunch of friends about what they thought I should charge, and finally I ended up settling on a hundred because my reasoning was this. I wanted to be earning at least 10 dollars an hour because if I wasn’t, I might as well just get a part-time job. It would be less of a headache. Obviously that’s not taking into account all the valuable skills and experience that I’ve gained from doing this, but just from a purely monetary perspective. I calculated that I spent about 10 hours per shoot planning shooting editing etc and so I did 10 times 10 and I got a hundred. A few months in I did raise my price to a hundred twenty-nine because I felt comfortable with the amount of clients that I had and I also felt like my photography was definitely getting a lot better and was worth more. But then the following year as I mentioned I wanted to get more serious about how I was doing everything and that included how I did my pricing. First of all I incorporated price tiers because I realized that there were some people who just wanted a really quick basic photo shoot because they literally just wanted a good photo to put in the yearbook and then there were other people who wanted to go all out and have multiple locations, multiple outfits, and lots and lots of photos that they could share and put on grad party invites, etc. To accommodate all of them I created a silver gold and platinum package and, write this down, you can’t just name it basic names like tier 1, tier 2, and tier 3 because you’re not going to get any business. I’m just joking but yeah the silver, gold, platinum I went with because it sounded fun. So, second of all, remember how I said I would edit like a hundred photos per shoot. That was not going to work anymore. First of all people need to know exactly what they can expect to get from you because there is a very big difference between what I offered, which was “at least 20 photos” and what I ended up delivering, which was a hundred. And so basically anywhere in that range is what they could end up with. Also as I got better at editing I realized that I needed to spend more time and care with every single photo to make sure that it looked the way I wanted it to and that was not realistic if I was editing 100 photos. I also learned how to retouch photos in Photoshop and I would die if I had to do that for 100 photos. So I add a precise number of photos to each package and I would allow my clients to choose their favorites that they wanted me to edit. So finally this is the pricing that I came up with this is what I started with at the beginning of the 2019-2020 season I’m only showing senior portraits although I also do some couples and family shoots but the majority of what I do is senior portraits and the pricing for the rest of them is pretty similar if you do want to see what I price for those you can go to my website and there’s a link in the description. As the season went on I think I changed these numbers two or three times and I finally ended up arriving at these prices which is where I’m at now. One, because I felt like my work was just getting a lot better and I felt comfortable charging that much and two, I shortened the amount of time that I would spend shooting because I realized that I was able to get all of the shots that I could think of at a location in a pretty short amount of time and so it would end up being kind of awkward near the end of it because I’d just be racking my brain trying to think of what other photos I could take and so I just felt like that was kind of a waste of time for me and for them. So if you’re trying to figure out how to price yourself I would first start by trying to figure out how many hours it takes you to complete all the tasks associated with a shoot. Figure out how much you would like to earn per hour and then just multiply that. Second I would definitely look at some photographers in your area to see what they’re charging. I did that and I was like blown away by how much they were charging so that definitely helped me feel more comfortable with my prices, even now I think that I charge way less than a lot of the more professional established photographers that are out
there. And thirdly remember that whatever price you start with you can always change, so if you notice that you’re not getting as much of a return on the amount of time that you’re investing as you would like you can always bump up those prices. If you notice that people are not booking with you as much because you might be charging too much, you can always reduce them, it’s not set in stone so don’t worry about it too much. One last little thing: I did not and still do not give out friend discounts because one: I really love living a drama-free life and I really did not want people getting upset about who got a friend discount and who didn’t. I also just firmly believe that my work is worth what I charge. I’ve spent a lot of time developing my skills, I put a lot of time into each and every single shoot and yeah, I just don’t want to discount that and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Alrighty, SECTION FOUR, wait, SECTION FIVE is promoting yourself. So first I want to talk websites. I did create a website as soon as I started. I used Wix and I didn’t buy a domain name so it was like this super awkward and unprofessional URL but it worked I had a page that was just a big, like, grid gallery of images to just give a quick overview of what my work looked like. I had a services page that described how much my senior portraits cost, I had like a blog page where I would post every single shoot that I did and my favorite photos from that shoot, and then I think the last thing was a contact form that people could use to easily email me. So it is super important to have a website because first of all, you can do it for free, and so if you don’t have one it literally just means that you were too lazy to create one Also while Instagram accounts are great for displaying your work I don’t think they are a substitute for a proper portfolio, so your website is where you can really develop your best work and show what your style is. The following year I did want a more professional website so for one, I bought a domain name that was just my first and last name. I also went over to Squarespace which I already used for my blog so I feel very comfortable using it. I do have to pay $16 / month for that but it’s so easy to use it looks so good and so professional. I also made my website a little more organized so I split my portfolio into my senior work, portraiture, families couples videos and then website projects that I’ve worked on. So now it’s very much like a home base for all of the photo and video and website, etc work that I do. I also added a frequently asked questions page, and you can go over to my website to see exactly what I included in that. Basically all those questions are answered in my contract but since people don’t get a contract until they book, they should have a way to access those answers before they decide to book with me, and it helps me to not have to answer the same questions over and over again. Then moving onto Instagram. Having an Instagram account is definitely a necessity, so I started mine as soon as I started doing practice portrait shoots and as I mentioned it was very casual at the time. Now I take it much more seriously, so I have a folder on my computer where I have, like, a backlog of photos that I really like and haven’t posted yet and I just pull from those. Every time I post I copy and paste in a set of hashtags that I wrote out that will help me get those photos discovered by people who don’t follow me on Instagram. I would recommend looking up some articles online that’ll help you find hashtags that are related to the specific type of photography that you’re doing. I have a note in my Notes app where I have like blocks of hashtags for each of the different kinds of shoots and whichever kind of photo it was I’ll just copy and paste that one into the caption. I’ve also recently set like a daily goal of how many comments I want to post on other people’s work whether it’s in my feed or in my explore page This is something that I do with my blog Instagram and so I wanted to start doing it with this one as well just to kind of get my name out there a little bit. In terms of my Stories, after every shoot that I do, I go through and I just select my favorite photos and I do a quick little like run through preview thing Occasionally I also post like behind the scenes of editing or, setting up for a shoot. I use my Stories highlights to compile behind the scenes stuff, client testimonials, booking information, and then some editing before and afters, like you know how they do that tap to edit thing, and that’s just to impress people and show off my editing skills 😛 So in terms of finding client, as I mentioned I did start with just shooting for friends. For the next year since I didn’t know as many people in the class of 2020 I literally just went and followed a ton of people from my high school just so they would get that notification and hopefully follow me back and just know that I existed and that I did photography. It’s really helpful as a senior portrait photographer to actually be part of a school community so in that way I think you do kind of have an advantage if you are a young photographer. However if you don’t attend a school or if senior portraits are not going to be your focus it’s definitely gonna be a little harder to find clients but the process is still pretty similar. You do some practice shoots, you post those on Instagram, you ask people to tag you when they post your photos, you network, you ask people to recommend you, etc etc. all right
finally we are on to SECTION 6 which is all about workflow. This is probably gonna be my favorite part to talk about because you know how much I love productivity and planning and things. So the first year I was pretty disorganized with how I did things, but the second year since I knew that I was gonna have more clients, I just knew it, I started using Trello. Trello is a productivity tool where you create boards and within boards you have cards and cards can contain all sorts of information like text and to-do lists and attached files and reminders etc. So I created a separate board just for photography and then I have a card for every single client which contains a to-do list of all the things I need to complete from start to finish, and then different columns to sort those cards under. So my columns are inquiry, booked, shot, post-processing, and done. So to give you an idea of how I work, we’re gonna pretend that you’re my client and you reached out to me. So it all starts with you sending me an email or a message and me doing a little be dance because I love getting new clients. Once you tell me that you’re interested I would duplicate this template card that I have on Trello and put your name on it and put you in the inquiry column. We would set up a phone call to discuss what date you want to do this, what location, which package you want, I would answer any questions you have, and I will also tell you about my contract and the 50% retainer fee that I require. So then after the call I would customize a contract for you and I used to send that just as a PDF and then have people print it out and sign it but I recently discovered a tool called Adobe Sign where you can actually email contracts and have people sign them digitally which is so much easier, so I send that as well as a follow-up email to confirm the location, the date and all the details as well as information on how to pay the retainer fee. Then we keep in touch we do the shoot, yadda yadda And then when I get home I get my SD card out right away because I do not want to risk anything happening to those photos. On my computer I create a folder which I title in this format and I also rename all the photos in this format and then I back up those photos to my external hard drive as well as well as my external solid-state drive. So the solid-state drive is the one that I edit from because it just works faster. After everything is totally done and completed I delete them from there but keep them backed up on my external hard drive. But from the very beginning I have all of the photos on both drives because it’s so important to have your photos in at least two places. I open up the photos in Lightroom and I just do a quick sort through. It takes like an hour so it’s not very quick but I sort out all of the photos that are blurry or where your eyes are closed, just any that didn’t work out, and then all the ones that are remaining I export them at a low resolution and upload to Google photos. I create an album that I send to you and allow you to choose which photos you want me to edit and you just select those, create a new album, and send them back to me, and then I edit those in Lightroom. I recently created a rule for myself where I have to spread out the editing over at least two days because if I look at my computer screen for too long, I just am not seeing the photos with fresh eyes and that makes me do some pretty questionable edits sometimes. Once I feel good about them I export them again in a low resolution because they’re just previews and I send you a new Google Photos album and just ask you for your feedback. If you’re ok with them, I will export them at full resolution so that I can import them in Photoshop and do the retouching and then finally I upload that to a final album in Google photos and send you the final photos. Some of the post-processing stuff that I do is, I will resize the photos so that I can upload them to my website as a new blog post, I’ll add some of my favorites to my portfolio, save a couple of them to post on Instagram, and I also send and write a thank-you note that includes my business card. I also realized that I did not talk at all about equipment or editing or anything like that, so super quick, SECTION 6: equipment and editing. When I started I was using the Nikon D5200 camera body with a Nikon 50mm f/1.8 lens and surprise, surprise this is exactly the same setup I’m still using So this is a pretty basic photography setup and I do think I need to upgrade pretty soon, but I’m holding off on that purchase because I recently found the very first portrait shoot that I did and I compared it against some of the more recent photos that I took and I realize just how much I’ve improved without changing anything about my setup. I literally just got better at camera settings and holding my camera the right way and editing, obviously. People say this way too much but it really is the photographer, not the camera. Obviously you won’t be able to do professional photography with a point-and-shoot but you also don’t need the newest camera body with a huge lens. Focus on developing your skills first and not buying new equipment. As for editing, I have always used Lightroom, I love it. I also use Photoshop but only for retouching. When I started out I was pretty much editing from scratch for every set of photos that I did because I never felt like I could create a preset that worked well for a majority of my photos. Recently though as I’ve gotten better at editing
I have kind of developed a cohesive style and so usually I will start out by applying this one preset that I created, making some adjustments and then going from there I have not purchased any presets from like other photographers, I know that’s something that people do, I don’t know how I personally feel about it because I feel like the editing is such a huge part of like, the art of it, that it feels almost wrong to me to, like, take settings from someone else and drop them onto my photos, especially if they are photos that I’m doing professionally and getting paid for. I would love your thoughts on that maybe there’s different ways to look at it that I’m not seeing But yeah, holy crap, this was an insanely long video. The entire time that I was filming I was just watching that clock go by. Hopefully this was helpful. There’s probably stuff I forgot to mention so if you have any questions please comment them and I’ll definitely get back to you. Looking back I’m so so grateful that I started doing this even though I don’t know if I would like to do photography as a career, it was a fantastic part-time job to have towards the end of high school, and I just want to give other people concrete advice and motivation and confidence to start doing it because it’s definitely scary at first but it’s very worth it. Please give this video a like if it helped you and subscribe to my channel, maybe share this with your photographer friend, and I will see you next week. Thank you so much for watching, bye!