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Zack Arias’s Tips on Starting Off a Photography Business

By fotosiamo on August 14th 2012

Zack Arias Ask Me Anything

I simply love Zack Arias’s Ask Me Anything About Photography Tumblr blog. If you haven’t checked it out before, it’s chock full of photographic wisdom from the One Light Man himself. The premise of this site is that anyone can drop a question related to photography in Zack’s virtual mail bag and if the question is good, he’ll post it up along with his advice on it. His advice are often funny and almost always practical.

Recently, a reader asked a question that I’m sure many of us are all too familiar with:

I’ve been having a hard time getting my business off the ground. I’m finding with the economy the way it is no one wants to spend the money on a professional photographer in my area and worse yet they think that their Iphone with Instagram takes great pictures and so don’t see the need for professional photo’s. Have you encountered problems like this and how have you overcome them?

Zack, ever the realist, didn’t sugar coat it and told it like it is. Here is the first excerpt from his answer:

As you are getting started as a professional photographer you have an amazing amount of hurdles to cross. Think of starting to climb a mountain. In the pouring rain. Straight up. And it’s cold out. The rain is starting to freeze. You’re going to have a very hard time finding your traction at first…

You’ve got 100 other photographers breathing down your neck trying to get past you. You, yourself, are part of the 100 photographers breathing down someone else’s neck. They’re underselling you just trying to find a hold on the rock face…

You know that somewhere beyond the line of fog above you there is a solid ridge to find some rest on. It’s not enough to build a house on but enough to catch your breath and get to climbing the next phase…”

Quite the gut check, right? So once you get past that, Zack has five important tips that can be applied to your business. You can read about these tips along with the rest of his advice in his post.

I do agree that as much as we can get frustrated with finding clients, it does come down to who and where we are targeting our clientele base. As Zack said, your clients are “probably in a different zip code than you are. You’re going to run the tires off your car for awhile.”

But that is where research is key. Know where your clients are and don’t just expect or wait for them to come to you. One of the best advice that I got about the photography business is that it’s “25% photography, 75% business/marketing.”

Without consistent marketing and networking with clients (and not just with other photographers), your photography business will stall or worse, crumble.

So readers, what are some of your nuggets of wisdom in regards to those starting out in the photography business?


Thanks to Zack Arias for the awesome post!

About

Joe is a fashion and commercial photographer based in Los Angeles, CA. He blends creativity and edge with a strong style of lighting and emotion in his photographs.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ed Rhodes

    great read

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  2. How to Grow Your Wedding Photography Business in 2014

    […] [REWIND: Zack Arias’s Tips on Starting Off a Photography Business] […]

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  3. Christopher O’Driscoll

    sadly disspaointed that my views as a full time professional photographer were removed. If you cannot accept facts and critique, perhaps you shouldnt write articles that draw such a response.

    perhaps this will be deleted as well

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  4. marc osborne

    I think too many people feel like becoming a full-time professional is the only option. Why does anyone need to make money doing anything they love? Is their work suffering because they feel like it must generate income? Is money the most important type of validation? How many people buy Jet-skis or motorcycles for $10,000 and expect to make an income from that? Why can’t someone spend $500- $20,000 on camera equipment and be content with just producing great images?

    My dad has a plane… that is what he does for fun. He works a new full-time job post-retirement just to pay for it. That makes him a pilot and he doesn’t need to make money to enjoy it. He doesn’t charge anyone to fly around with him.
    I hear photographers whining about needing to pay for their gear – that is why they must charge so much for prints. You should value your own work and its great to sell it as works of art – but don’t make gear cost an excuse…make quality and product demand an excuse.

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    • A real photographer.

      I’m going to assume that you are not a photographer. You obviously have no concept of the work that goes into making those prints that in your mind cost so much. The years some of us have put in to learn the art, to become good enough to call ourselves professionals and to become efficient enough to scrape out a living. We work weekends, evening, long hours and short deadlines. We don’t do it because we make tons of money, we do it because we love the art and for you to suggest that we should do it for free because we’re doing what we love is incredibly insulting.
      Maybe your employer should start subtracting money for your check every time you smile, because that is basically what you are suggesting we all do.

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    • A real photographer.

      I’m going to assume that you are not a photographer. You obviously have no concept of the work that goes into making those prints that in your mind cost so much. The years some of us have put in to learn the art, to become good enough to call ourselves professionals and to become efficient enough to scrape out a living. We work weekends, evening, long hours and short deadlines. We don’t do it because we make tons of money, we do it because we love the art and for you to suggest that we should do it for free because we’re doing what we love is incredibly insulting.

      Maybe your employer should start subtracting money for your check every time you smile, because that is basically what you are suggesting we all do.

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    • KoKo Krispy

      You should be paying to hear advice from SLRLounge and Zack’s web page. You also should be paying Marc the fee for listening to his opinion. I mean, you are reading this works, so you should have to pay for it by your logic.

      @google-5cd8d78567918e495109fe01d548b1c1:disqus i completely agree with you. Why do people feel the need to go professional all the time? Why can’t they just enjoy it instead of focusing on going professional and saturating the market with sub-par talent/skills? I love photography and have felt that if people wanted me to take photos for them, lets exchange something or take me to dinner. I enjoy it. If they agree I get a free meal because i enjoy shooting to shot. I get excitement everytime i hear the shutter because i want to see what it looks like when I get home to my digi-darkroom.

      @arealphotographer:disqus There is grey area in what marc is saying, you can be a professional but all too many people are taking photos thinking it is easy money. I facepalm when i see a handful of housewives posting their shoots that they are charging over $100 and cringe to the thought they consider themselves pros.

      My validation as a photographer and appreciation is going over to a friend’s house and seeing that your picture is printed and on a wall. If someone demands I do an event I would probably say no if i don’t see the fun in it. I am one of those people Marc is talking about. I love photography and have no plans of getting anything more than a pat on the back or dinner.

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  5. Dan

    Establishing is always a difficult process no matter what business you are in. I have found that our business has gone through several stages of refinement and restructuring due to new information or processes coming to light (no pun intended)! The advice is correct though, that you have to climb through several phases in order to be established, and once that happens the clients will start to flow in. There is never a shortage of images being required. That being said, I think its very important to be in good report with other photographers and to elevate the market, instead of downgrade your ‘opponents’.

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