Things you need to know before starting a photography business

I will warn you ahead of time, this is a rant about some new photography business people.  Some of the content is going to be harsh.

Questions I often see multiple times a day, day in day out are similar to, “I have a client who wants to do a lifestyle portrait session, what lens should I use?”, “I have a bride who is having an outdoor wedding but it looks like it may rain any suggestions?”, “I’m doing an [insert type of session] spam me with your ideas.”, “I’m a natural light photographer but the light was awful for this session how can I save these?”, and more.

If you have to ask these types of questions you are not ready to be in the photography business.  If you are doing “free” sessions you don’t have clients.

None of this means you can’t do this type of photography but that you should not call yourself a business.  You can do this stuff as a hobby, or find an established photographer to work with as an assistant.

Dispite what many articles will tell you here is a list of what I consider to be necessary to know BEFORE you start a photography business.  I don’t intend to discourage you but if this article does just that, then maybe you were not ready to be a business owner.

Understand your cameras

Technique before Photoshop.  Notice it is plural? You must have a good understanding of your camera.  You should know what the major controls are and how to use them.  You need to know how to take a proper exposure in manual mode.  Yes, I know there are those “auto” modes.  You can’t always depend on the camera to “know” what you want and how you want it.  While cameras have become more sophisticated and have some great programming to adjust exposure, focus, aperture, etc. YOU are the photographer.  A camera is a tool.

Understand your lenses

Along with the camera, you must understand your lenses.  Again notice it is plural?  Lenses not lens. If you have only one lens.  You are not ready for business, sorry no bones about it.  If that only lens breaks and you have “shoots” scheduled?  You need to know the limitations of your lenses, you need to understand the depth of field.  Just because you can shoot a f/2.8 or f/1.4 doesn’t mean you should.

If you have to ask what lens to use for a session, you are not ready.


If you want to photograph people in portraiture (weddings, graduation, seniors, babies, maternity, etc) you need to understand how to pose people.


You have to understand light.  You have to be able to see light and it is more than just saying it is either light or dark.  It is okay to be a natural light photographer but you also have to understand there are limitations to that.  If you schedule sessions and the light isn’t what you need then you have to know how to add or subtract light.  You need to understand how to modify the light if needed.  You have to understand how to meter the light to get the exposure you want.


You have to understand what you need to run a business.  It takes more than just some business cards and a FaceBook page.


Notice, this post didn’t talk about Photoshop or post processing.  You can hire retouchers if you need to do some post.  You can learn later.  Also notice, this post doesn’t teach you about those things either.  Those come in later articles, or better yet with a real instructor.


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