5 Things You Must Do to Have a Successful Photography Business

March 19, 2021

Running a photography business SOUNDS like the dream, right? And it is, in so many ways! Creating your own schedule, building a business based on creativity, honing your own style, and telling the stories of your clients through pictures—it’s definitely a beautiful profession to pursue. On the other hand, though, there are less glamorous parts […]

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I'm a photographer, educator and weekly podcaster. I left teaching in a First Grade classroom to build a thriving photography business, and inspire and teach other like-minded women how to build, scale, and create a photo business. I am so excited to meet you!


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Running a photography business SOUNDS like the dream, right? And it is, in so many ways! Creating your own schedule, building a business based on creativity, honing your own style, and telling the stories of your clients through pictures—it’s definitely a beautiful profession to pursue.

On the other hand, though, there are less glamorous parts of the job that I think many new or aspiring photographers don’t necessarily think about (or know about)! I sure as heck didn’t realize the hours of editing that go into ONE shoot. Or the stress of dealing with bad weather when you have a full day of sessions booked. Or the panic that ensues when your memory card goes missing.

Just like any business, there are highs and lows and plenty of learning curves. And—there are certain rules of thumb you can try to follow in order to build a booming, thriving, successful photography business.

Here are my 5 tricks of the trade to make sure you build a photography business that grows alongside you!

1. Share your story and share it often.

Photography isn’t all about gear and photo shoots and cool edits. (Though, those are absolutely important pieces, too!)

At its core, photography is storytelling. It’s depicting your clients’ love story or family milestones. It’s sharing the quirky way someone’s nose crinkles when they laugh, or the adorable look in a child’s eyes when their dad scoops them up into his arms.

But the best way to tell others’ stories is to first get comfortable sharing your own. In fact, sharing your story—the reason why you got into this profession, a turning point in your life, or what inspires you every day—is what makes your perfect clients flock to you, pay closer attention, and WANT to work with you.

Whether it’s your website, your social media, or even talking one on one with potential clients, don’t be afraid to let the true you shine. Showcase your personality and your background and your “why.”

Sharing these parts of you will endear clients to you (the real you!) and build trust quicker than anything else. And trust = essential in a service-based business like photography.

2. Partner with the right people.

Getting your business and name out in front of more eyes is a huge way to connect with even more of your ideal clients. One incredible way to do that? Partnering with influencers, bloggers, small businesses, and hair and makeup artists in your area!

Find a few people and businesses in your town with similar vibes and aesthetics as yours, and then reach out! You’ll want to make sure they have a pretty decent following (i.e., more than a couple hundred followers) so that the partnership is truly worth both of your time.

Then, reach out to see if they’d like to trade: a complimentary photo session for them in exchange for a shout-out on their social channels for you. It’s a win for everyone, especially if you have similar styles and client bases!

You’ll likely have at least one (or a few!) say yes, and before you know it, your audience will grow and you’ll have more and more prospects reaching out to work with you.


3. Communicate, communicate, communicate.

There’s absolutely nooooothing worse than reaching out to a small business and not hearing back for three weeks. (Okay, maybe there’s one thing that’s worse, and that’s not hearing back at all.)

The thing that might set you apart from a similar photographer in your niche could be communication. If you charge similar rates and have similar styles, but you get back to a client quicker and more professionally, guess what? You’re probably the one getting booked!

I like to have a few easy templates that I can simply tweak and personalize anytime someone reaches out with questions or inquiries. Templates make life SO much easier, and allow you to respond to prospects all the quicker.

It might seem small, but great communication is actually everything in running a small business!

4. Know your worth.

I know it’s so tempting to have an AMAZING client reach out and discuss booking, only to start bartering with you. You know you’d love to work with this person, so you start considering, “I guess I could come down 10, 20, or 30 percent in my prices.”

But then one client becomes five becomes fifteen, and before you know it, you’re totally selling yourself and your services short.

Don’t forget: They’re not just paying for a two-hour photo shoot (or however long your sessions are). Your rates need to cover gear, transportation, business expenses, marketing, time for editing, taxes, insurance, and so much more. 

I’ve read that you should take what you value yourself at and add 50 percent, and that’s how to determine your rates. While that might sound crazy, most people undervalue themselves and don’t think they’re worth the rates they really need to charge.

But I’m telling you: Your ideal clients know you are worth what you’re charging. They won’t try to haggle you down or belittle you for charging that much. They understand that your skills are an investment that they get to benefit from!

So charge your worth, and don’t discount yourself for anyone. Trust me.

5. Learn how to say no.

On that note, not everyone’s going to be a fit for you and your business. Whether it’s someone who seems like a dream client but wants you to slash your prices, or it’s someone who you just know is a wrong fit, learn to say no kindly but confidently.

When we know who and what we need to say no to, it opens up so much more space for the RIGHT yesses. The yesses to clients who invigorate us and opportunities that energize us and people willing to pay your worth and appreciate and trust your talents! 

Saying no is scary because it seems like you’re turning away perfectly fine opportunities, but we didn’t get into running our own passion-centered businesses for “fine” opportunities, right? Trust your gut, listen to your intuition, and don’t sell yourself short.

You can apply these tips to your business and just life in general and reap so many rewards. More fulfilling work, more meaningful days, and a happier life overall, to name a few! I believe in you and know you’ll continue building a flourishing photography business you’re so very proud of!

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I’m Jillian Goulding, a photographer and educator raising babies and building my life in Sacramento, CA.

Over the years, I’ve transformed my side hustle into a thriving photography business that has taken me and my camera to the beaches of San Francisco Bay, the pages of People Magazine, and the screens of Extra TV.

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