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Starting Your Photography Career

If you're enrolled in an online photography degree or certificate program, it's never too early to consider your career options. A comprehensive program will introduce you to the fundamentals of traditional and digital photography. You'll learn about camera choices, printing, composition, exposure, film choices, lighting, posing techniques, and the use of filters.

Your choices are exhaustive: you can go into fashion photography, journalism, fine arts, advertising, portraiture, or a combination of fields. If you're thinking of setting up your own studio and going into business as soon as possible, here are important things to consider:

Buying Your Equipment
You can easily get overwhelmed by the range in prices and features of photography gear. Your instructors can be an invaluable resource in narrowing your selection of cameras, from digital single-lens to large-format print cameras. Make a list of everything you'll need at the outset, creating an additional "wish list" of items that you can add as your business grows. Consider these essentials:

  • Camera(s)
  • Lenses
  • Flash
  • Lights and stands
  • Tripod(s)
  • Backgrounds (seamless paper, etc.)
  • Digital or chemical printing tools (enlargers, computer, printer, and papers).

Creating Marketing Essentials
Have a business card? You'll need to list:

  • A phone number (need a separate business phone?)
  • address (renting a studio or using your home?)
  • and website (you'll need one for email, posting a portfolio, and generating leads).

Prepare a flier. You can post these at cafes and a wide variety of markets, schools, storefronts, etc. You may want to put them on doorsteps or car windows if you're going into portrait photography.

Attend meetings at civic groups, churches, or professional organizations, and talk up your work. Offer free portraiture to friends and families to build your portfolio and references.

Sweating Legal Details
Name your business. You'll need a state or local business license. Complete a doing-business-as (DBA) registration. Consider establishing a separate bank account for tax purposes. Don't skimp on insuring your equipment and business against theft and burglary.

Consider all your initial expenditures as an investment in your future. Don't be afraid to purchase quality used gear and cut corners wherever possible until you get on your feet!

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