Photography is both an art and a science, and an incredibly rewarding hobby to cultivate. The more you learn and the more experience you get, the better your work becomes – and the results are plain to see. Photography is also one of those hobbies that is particularly easy to monetise.
If you were interested in joining the 2.2 million freelancers in the UK, either full-time or through a side-hustle, photography could be the way forward. But how would you start such a business?
First things first, you’ll need a robust plan for starting your business. This is just as true for any business as it is for photography and will require a little research and acumen beyond your creative eye as a result. For one, you’ll need to do some serious market research into your preferred niche. For example, if you’re planning to take family portraits, will you be competing directly with others in your area?
Your planning will need to take into account both the short term and the long term of your business. What does growth look like to you, and what will you need to facilitate that growth? Will you be hoping to hire other photographers, or do you have a ceiling for clients and projects? This could also affect the way in which you register for tax.
With a firm knowledge of the kind of work you’re hoping to take on, you can now take steps to invest in the various tools of your trade. It need not be suggested that you buy a camera, but you may find it beneficial to expand your range of lenses and flashes.
Whether you’re shooting gonzo or in a studio, you’ll need to spend some time thinking about lighting rigs and light-blocking solutions. You will need generators to power your lighting rig, as well as the various stands and boxes to use them safely.
You will already have a computer on which you edit photos, but you should endeavour to invest in more memory for your computer – and more hard drives for backing up your projects. Future you will thank you when a flash drive unexpectedly becomes corrupted!
With your plan in hand and your equipment acquired, you can start to ply your trade as a photographer proper. But winning new clients and customers will be difficult without proof of your skills, or results. To demonstrate your style and aptitude, you’ll need a portfolio – that is, a curated collection of work that customers can peruse to get a feel for your abilities.
If you are relatively new to photography at all, let alone photography as a career, you may not have enough material for a portfolio – or you may not be sure how to build up one up without clients in the first place. While ‘exposure’ is a rightly maligned form of recompense for any freelance work, it can be necessary and even useful to offer your services at a discount when starting out.
By doing some low-charge or gratis work for friends or acquaintances, you can build your portfolio organically and get a positive testimonial out of it. Positive reviews can go a long way to building a customer base, especially where word-of-mouth is concerned.