Colorado Chihuahuas
Credit: Jaime Rowe

The answer is Yes and sometimes No. There is a fine line between an expensive hobby and a job. The photography industry has recently experienced a flood of amateurs in the field due to the introduction of inexpensive digital cameras and massive corporate layoffs. A person can start a photography business for less than $1000 over a weekend. They just need a camera, website or facebook page, business cards and some clients. There have been some people who are successful with this shotgun approach but many others that have taken this same approach say goodbye to the American photographer dream within one year of opening their doors for business.

Here are some tips to help you become one of the photographers that turns a profit with their photography business and not a photographer that leaves the industry overwhelmed with debt and a sense of failure.

#1 - Buy Only What You Need

I wish I had a dime for the number of photographers that I have met that drop $5,000-$10,000 in the first three months of their photography business on "stuff". They buy the top of the line camera, the most expensive lenses (that they will probably never use), flashes, latest versions of photo editing software, photo presets, blog themes, websites, logos, postcards, business cards, and displays only to find them sitting in a pile of credit card debt with absolutely no clients. For example, I met one woman who spent $10,000 on her camera and lenses but failed to purchase photo editing software. She closed her doors within one year. Another woman purchased every new photo editing software and plug-in available but failed to purchase a professional grade camera. She was closed after one year also.

Sit down and assess your finances. Buy only what you can afford and handle. You might want to buy the $5000 camera but you only have $1000 in cash. Ask yourself this question, do I even know how to use the $5000 camera and with all of its "bells and whistles"? Will my images from the $5000 camera be 5x better than the images from the $1000 camera? Probably not. Use only cash when starting you business and you will be 95% ahead of the crowd that is swamping behind you with their new professional camera.

#2 - Know Your Camera

Have you met someone that has a fancy camera but continues to shoot only in the automatic mode? I was there myself. I had a beautiful camera and I used to shoot in the "P" automatic mode. As a joke, it is called the "Professional" mode. I trained myself to learn all the "bells and whistles" of my camera and I learned my craft. It has paid off time and time again in many client situations. I highly suggest that all hopefully photographers to become a certified photographer and excel in their craft. It will set you apart and justify charging higher prices for your quality work. Quality Work + Higher Prices = Make More Money.

#3 - Market Your Business as a "Boutique" Business

Never compete on price. EVER. The people who charge $50 a session and give a CD of images away for free are not your competition. If you position yourself as a "high-end, boutique" photography business than people will be willing to spend more money on your images. Refer to your work as "artwork" not photos and offer remarkable items that they cannot purchase at a local photo store. Also, go the extra mile for your customer with outstanding customer service that makes them want to share their amazing experience with friends and family. Your past clients will become "raving fans" and they are the best marketing machines for your small business.

#4 - Charge More Money

If you charge $2.00 for a 8x10, then you will not be in business very long. A widely used rule is to charge 3 to 4 times your cost. Of course, it depends on your client base and your fixed costs. There are a lot of free photography pricing guides available online. Find one and build a pricing strategy that fits your client's needs.

Also, review your overall fixed and variable expenses and determine how many sessions you need to book in order to break even financially for the month. For example, if your fixed expenses are $500 and your sessions are $100, then you need to book at least 5 sessions a month to break even. If you do not book five paying clients that month then you have lost money. Photographers that are financially success create a sales plan and budget their expenses accordingly. You are a business person first and then an artist second. Sometimes people have a hard time swallowing this statement, but in the end,  the business-savvy photographers are the ones that do well in the industry and are around to offer high quality products to clients for years to come.

To conclude, there are many ways to make money as a photographer. Buying only what you need, knowing your camera so you can take quality pictures for your clients, marketing your small business as a specialized "boutique" business, and charging appropriate prices for your clients are just four ways to help you be financially successful with your photography business.