Confessions of a Utah Wedding Photographer | Turning Your Hobby intro a Career
10 Things I wish I would’ve known when my hobby turned into a photography career…
You need to find your niche.
If you want your small business to grow and turn into a career, you need to stand out. Don’t try to fit in with the rest of the fish (photographers) in the sea. Finding a specific client base is extremely important. That ideal client won’t find you over night, but if you’re speaking to a specific type of person, then they will WANT you WHEN they find you.
I didn’t learn this till about 2 years into my career as a wedding photographer. I tried to hard to make my poses and editing look like other photographers in my area. I did this because I thought that’s what would get me hired and that’s what the clients in my area liked. Boy was I wrong. I started to not enjoy my passion anymore and my client base wasn’t who I wanted to work with. The second I changed that mindset and found my niche, my client base evolved and I don’t dread going to shoots anymore!
2. Invest in the proper equipment.
I first started shooting on a Canon T3i rebel. YUP. The second I got asked to do my first wedding, I upgraded my camera. However, at the time I didn’t know I was going to be a wedding photographer and that would be my passion. I was doing tons of portraits and dance photography at the time, so all I cared about in a camera was that it was a Canon, it had a relatively decent shutter speed to capture action shots, and it had a good amount of megapixels to capture quality images. So, I did my research and I debated between the Canon 5D mk III and the 7D mkII.
I got the 7D mk II because it was less expensive and it had a higher shutter speed. WHAT WAS I THINKING?! At the time, I had no idea what the difference was between a full frame and crop sensor camera. I wish someone had told me. So, here I am telling you, if you have the choice and financial ability to buy a full frame, DO IT.
3. Different lenses can make a world of difference.
After I bought my 7D mkII, I bought a 50mm f1.4 lens. And this lens is a game changer. If you don’t have a nifty fifty in your bag, you’re doing life wrong. This was my favorite portrait lens for the longest time. The best thing about this lens is that it gives you a great depth of field, it’s not heavy, and it’s relatively inexpensive!
A nifty fifty got me far. But not nearly as far as my 35mm f1.2 Sigma Art lens. This lens is my baby and I don’t know how I went my whole life without it. I shoot with this lens 98% of the time. I can shoot an entire wedding with this lens. It’s great. The only downside is it’s a little heavier and because I use it so much, I need to get it calibrated about every 6-8 months.
Next on my wish list? A 70-200mm f2.8 Canon lens. I rent this lens for weddings on occasion, and it is a BEAST!
4. If you make money on your services, you should register your business.
Not gonna lie, I didn’t start paying taxes for my photography until last year when I registered my LLC… I didn’t know I needed to! If you are making money off of a hobby it’s no longer a hobby.
The best thing you can do is register your LLC, get a tax number from the IRS, register with your state, and register with your city. Because, yes, you have to pay taxes to all of them. And guess what? In Utah we are required to pay sales tax on photography!
Registering your business as a LLC will save your booty! Not only with the IRS, but also if (heaven forbid) you get sued. Your LLC will separate your business assets from your personal assets. Therefore if someone sues your business, they can’t take your home, car, etc.
5. You should also get business insurance.
This is worth the monthly expense. It covers your equipment and covers your ass. Literally. As in if you get injured and can’t work, your insurance can pay out for lost income.
6. TAX WRITE OFFS!
You can write off almost anything business related. Your camera, laptop, website, gas, even lunch with a client! My favorite apps to use for tracking expenses are Dropbox and MileIQ.
I have the Dropbox app on my phone and I have a file named “Business Receipts.” The app allows you to take photos and save them as PDFs. This is where I keep photos of physical receipts I have pertaining to my business. That way I don’t have to worry about losing an actual receipt.
MileIQ is my best friend as a photographer. It tracks how far I drive and will export of PDF of my drives to and from shoots. If you drive for work, you need this app!
Moral of the story, save your invoices and receipts in a folder because you (and your wallet) will thank yourself around tax season.
7. If you want to go full-time with your hobby and make it a career, you should keep a rainy day fund.
I didn’t follow this advice hahahaha! I wish I had. I asked so many entrepreneur friends about how they went full-time, and almost all of them said that you just have to do it. So I did! But, what they didn’t tell me is to make sure that you have at least 3 months saved away to cover all your bills.
8. Don’t be afraid to charge what you are worth.
When I first started charging people, I would charge like $50 for a one hour family session and give a crap ton of final images to my clients. HAHAHAH Wow. That doesn’t pay the bills and that doesn’t keep your business afloat. If you’re just getting started, sure! Maybe charge $50 or whatever for your first 5 clients, but slowly start to raise your prices!
I still, to this day, don’t charge what I want to charge; but that’s slowly changing. I’ve raised my prices over the years with the more experience I get from shooting weddings and the more I invest in my business, the more I’m worth as a photographer.
When you do raise your prices, don’t be surprised if you hit a lull in bookings. You might enter a new budget range for clients and your clientele will change with this. This is how you will eventually find that ideal client and thus finding your niche as well.
9. It is so worth it to pay someone to do your logo and website.
Hands down the best business investment I ever made. Not only did this solidify my brand, but also made my brand look much more professional and appealing to clients. Trust me. Spend the money and save the stress and have someone do it for you! Catherine with Treadaway Co. did mine and I couldn’t be happier with my branding. Not to mention the time and stress I saved by outsourcing those huge undertakings!
10. Invest in your education.
I’m not saying go get a photography degree…although I did haha…but never stop educating yourself. Youtube is a great resource. Especially if you need to figure out how to do something in Lightroom, Photoshop, or how to use a function on your camera.
Workshops are my next best friend. Not only do they allow you to learn from other photographers, but workshops typically help you build your portfolio. Sometimes my favorite shots are from workshops because I’m not there to serve a client. I’m there for myself and I can try new things without feeling the pressure of delivering to a couple.
So, there you have it folks! The 10 things I wish I had known before my hobby evolved into a career. Feel free to share and if you have any questions, comment below!