Your first year running your portrait photography business will be full of celebratory wins and challenges. It may feel confusing at times to understand what you need to focus on to build a strong brand.
You’re going to want to try everything (kind of like throwing wet noodles at the wall to see what sticks), but don’t! Staying laser-focused on what’s going to generate the most credibility and clients is key.
I’ve worked with portrait photographers in my coaching business and have learned a lot. It’s an extremely niched niche. Over the years there are 6 areas I’ve found that are key to prioritize during your first year in business.
6 Tips on What to Prioritize as a Beginner Portrait Photographer
Building a strong brand
Portrait photography is all about personality. Not only are you focused on bringing your client’s personality out in photos, but your personality is key too. Crafting your brand is a key element to prioritize as a beginner portrait photographer and can help shape what type of clients you attract.
By crafting a strong brand focused on individuals and their stories, you’ll be able to attract individuals who want headshots for work, personal use, or event modeling. On the flip side, if you craft your brand to focus on creating a professional image and focus on the ways people used your headshots for business then you’ll be able to attract more corporate professionals and companies.
No matter which direction you want to specialize in, it’s important to develop a strong brand that reflects your style, values, and the type of services you offer. Doing this as soon as you know your ideal niche will help you start making a name in that audience niche early and help guide your marketing efforts.
Establish a clear pricing structure
The second area to prioritize in year one is to establish a clear pricing structure. This will help you avoid confusing potential clients, let you speed up proposals, and ensure that you’re getting paid what you’re worth.
To determine your pricing structure and packages, start with finding your cost of doing business. You need to be able to charge enough to cover your expenses while also paying yourself a fair hourly rate. If you need help, check out my article on cost of doing business and how to create packages that sell.
Once you know your packages and pricing, consider going further and come up with pre-established pricing for common requests you get during your first year as a portrait photographer. For example, if you’re a business-targeting portrait photographer you may want to have pricing for “per person” during company photo shoots or additional outfits and hours if you’re focusing on creative entrepreneurs. You may even want to consider subscription-model pricing!
Spend time where your audience is
You probably already knew marketing was going to be on my list! Well, you guess that you were right. A lot of beginner photographers find it hard to market their businesses. Between deciding what platform to be on and standing out, it can feel overwhelming. You want to spend your time where it will be most effective, especially if you’re still in a 9-5 job and starting your portrait photography business on the side.
Lucky for you, you’re a portrait photographer. Your niche can help you bypass some of the confusion around marketing. What I mean by that is…if you’re focused on being a branding portrait photographer for companies and entrepreneurs then you may stick to the platforms that audience tends to frequent, like LinkedIn or email marketing. If you’re a family portrait photographer, you may focus your efforts on Facebook and Instagram.
Prioritize spending time talking to your audience in your first year, and get to know where they spend their time online. Wherever they spend time is where you need to be. It doesn’t matter what your friend or competition are doing. Staying focused will help you get a leg up!
Take advantage of templates for portrait photographers
Your first year is going to be filled with a lot of you marketing and shooting to build your portfolio. You don’t have time to waste writing tons of emails back and forth with clients, trying to connect all the free software together, or trying to hire a professional lawyer to draft your contract.
Do yourself a favor and take shortcuts where you can. Invest in templates for portrait photographers!
There are templates for everything – Lightroom presets, client workflows, new client email templates, and even contracts specifically drafted for portrait photographers. All these things that you can implement within a few hours.
And note, I say this as a template creator and a business coach for portrait photographers. There are so many more important things to spend your time on. You’re going to need to spend a lot of time marketing, networking, and booking clients. Don’t let yourself get distracted by things you could automate. If you’re not sure they’re worth it, take a look at my blog on what to automate in your business that goes deeper into automation and templates.
Keep learning your light & lenses
Portraits are personal. The human face is constantly changing. Fashion styles change seasonally. It’s important to keep honing your craft whether you’re completely new to photography or you’re looking to break into portrait photography.
Now, I’m not a technical coach. But I still encourage my clients to keep learning. Host model calls to practice photographing people of different ages, ethnicities, genders, or whatever you can think of. It will help you build up your portfolio quickly as a bonus.
Build relationships with clients
The sixth and final area to prioritize in your first year as a new portrait photographer is building relationships with your clients. New photographers tend to constantly feel pressure to find more and more new clients. There’s nothing wrong with that! New clients are important.
But they often forget to build relationships with the clients who have already hired them. Many portrait photographers – no matter what niche – are able to get repeat business with their clients. Families go to the same photographers every year. Companies like to use the same photographer when they need to add new employees to their websites. It’s a serious benefit to being a portrait photographer! (And that’s not even taking into account referrals from those clients!)
You won’t get repeat clients or referrals if you don’t build strong relationships with your clients. This means you’ll need to invest time and thought into how to engage past clients and make your client experience seamless and memorable. It may be out of your comfort zone, but it’s worth it!
One last tip for beginner portrait photographers…
Your first year as a portrait photographer will have so many ups and downs. You may find yourself reprioritizing where you spend your time and focus a few times during the first year as you hone into what’s going to work best for you. Just know that it’s totally normal!
If you want more tips for beginner photographers or get updates when more blogs drop then sign up for my email list! I release new educational materials weekly.
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