5 Essential Building Blocks for your Photography Business

April 1st, 2017 | by Jennifer Fujikawa, Michelle Chiu, & Michelle Nicole Ng

If someone were to tell us 10 years ago, that one day we would be award winning published international photographers, we would all laugh and say “Yah right! We wish!” With our dinky starter cameras and kit lenses, we had heart and passion, but no idea what we were doing. Can this become a real job? What do I do? How do I even start? What should I buy? What does A stand for on a camera?

That didn’t keep us from trying, and down this road, we struggled. We struggled with money, with time, with making the wrong investments, with difficult clients. We’ve learned so much in our decade of experience. There are so many things I know now, that I wish I knew then. Here are our 5 essential building blocks for a photography business.

1.  Learn to make your clients comfortable in front of the camera

It feels EXTREMELY awkward to have a giant camera pointed at your face. Unless you happen to have professional models as clients who pose naturally, it’s important to learn how to make your clients feel comfortable and pose them photogenically. To ease them during this time, try to make a habit of talking to them the entire time. Tell them exactly what you are looking for and what your vision is. If you can, try to avoid general phrases such as “change your arm, move your leg.”  Instead tell them a clear way with as much detail as possible, such as “turn your face to the right slightly, more—more—good, now tilt it down, lift that shoulder slightly towards the chin—good, hold it, great!”  Also giving them warm compliments about their outfits, and how they look at the very beginning, middle, and at the end of the session helps by boosting their confidence and feeling comfortable in front of the camera!

2.  Understand light and how to maximize it

Understanding and finding light was probably one of the biggest “ah-ha” moments for me.  Before I learned to use it to my advantage, my clients had raccoon eyes, and we had ungodly shadows everywhere. Lighting can be tricky, but if you understand it well, it can be your best friend. Aim for neutral walls and grounds. When faced with horrible lighting conditions, try to find the space with the most solid lighting around the area. Most of it could be in the shade, or all in the sun—depending on the style in which you want to photograph those subjects. This will help avoid an uneven background and make your images look a lot cleaner.

3.  Learn to style and compose your shoots

Make the details work for you—look around, what is around you? Is there a tree? Is there some ribbon? Is there some left-over wrapping paper with a fun pattern? Depending on what you are photographing, you want to use as many items to tell a story with those details, as they each may have some sort of meaning to tell the entire story. Grab anything and everything you can to make a little styled location to shoot your details.

4.   Take the necessary steps to formalize your business

When we were starting out, we had no idea how to become a “real” business. We were completely clueless on the legal side! Though it varies from city to city, you can always find actionable advice and a list of requirements from your city hall (or your city’s website). It sounds counterintuitive to spend on assets before you’re making money, but make sure you have a savings plan and allocate budget early on a personal accountant. They can help you save money and maximize your business expenses (cameras, computers, mileage) when it comes to taxes, as well as counsel you on what items and spaces you can write off.

5.  Invest in workflow & editing

Along with an accountant, invest early on a business management workflow system. This will save you time, keep you organized, and help you book better clients, faster by giving you a more professional look. Your photo editing workflow deserves the same attention. Find systems that will work for you, instead of making you work for them. We recommend HoneyBook for business management, and Photomechanic, Lightroom and Photoshop for photo editing. Make sure you learn shortcuts already built into your program, it will save you so much time! For example  “Shift+Command+S” in Lightroom syncs edits across selected photo.


About our workshop—The Essentials Photography Workshop

We all felt that taking photography workshops early on in our careers was a game changer. This inspired us to put together our learnings and experiences and host our own! The Essentials Photography Workshop is an action packed 2-day workshop on April 17th and 18th at Muckenthaler Mansion in Fullerton, CA. We want you to walk away with a solid foundation of knowledge, a clear direction in how to style, pose, and edit your shoots, and a selection of strong usable portfolio images to jumpstart your website. 

Click here to learn more about what we’ll be covering during the workshop, and use promo code SWEETSAVINGS for 30% off your registration!

Meet the Author

Jennifer Fujikawa, Michelle Chiu, & Michelle Nicole Ng

are the organizers of The Essentials Photography Workshop.

Jennifer is a graduate from California State University of Fullerton. She was named one of the top 15 wedding photographers for 2013 and does regular work for the Los Angeles Magazine, and has covered events for Google, Blackberry, and Toyota.
Website: http://jenniferfujikawa.com/
Instagram: @jenfujphotography

Michelle Chiu is a graduate from UCSD. With over 8 years of photography experience, she’s been able to accrue some pretty awesome titles and publications including: Internationally Acclaimed Multi Award Winning Photographer.
Website: http://michellechiu.net/
Instagram: @michellechiuphotography

Michelle Nicole is a graduate from the University of San Francisco. She has been featured and interviewed on SLR Lounge, Confessions of Successful Asian Women, and is an international award winning photographer.
Website: http://www.michellenicolephoto.com/
Instagram: @michellenicolephoto

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