The Business Side

  • Ask Anything

So many people have emailed me about wanting to start their own photography business. They want to know where to start, what to purchase first, how to get clients they love and when they can charge more. WHEW! If I responded to all of those questions thoroughly, it would be a 10 page email!!   When I first started my business, I had no IDEA what I was getting myself into.  I knew that I loved design, I loved photography and I loved people.  Perfect! I’ll just create a business! ….. It’s not that easy. I’m afraid owning a small business requires a HUGE amount of responsibility and there are so many things I wish I had known when I first started out.

As I think back to 3 years ago when this all started, I remember being overwhelmed at the thought of shooting 6 weddings in 4 months and I had a small panic attack when my email inbox had over 15 unread emails. Oh those were the days!!! I also remember thinking “Ummm… this is a lot more work that I thought it would be”.  You see, owning a photography business doesn’t mean you just take “pretty pictures”…. oh no! It means you’re RUNNING a BUSINESS. This is HARD work and here is the crazy part….. the reason I created this business was because I loved photography… but I actually only spend 20% of my time photographing my clients!  20% of my business is ACTUAL shooting and the rest of my time is spent doing paperwork, filing contracts, entering invoices, responding to emails, post processing, blogging, album design, etc.  That list could go on and on. I didn’t even mention taxes and insurance and equipment maintenance.  So why am I writing this post? Is it to scare beginners and overwhelm them? NO WAY! I’m writing this post because I want to educate beginners about all that owning a small business entails so that they can start WELL.  And that’s my first piece of advice! :


1. START WELL : Work hard at the beginning! Make sure you’re starting your business the RIGHT WAY. Don’t cut corners and take the easy way out, that will only hurt you later. For example, you NEED to have a business license. This takes time and a few hours of work but it’s just something that has to be done.


2. TAKE TIME TO BRAND YOURSELF: I borrowed this from J&M’s blog post a few days ago. You HAVE to figure out who you are as a photographer before you can create a cohesive brand that is unique to you. You can’t rush this. If you rush to start a business with just an OK logo and “Look”, you will have to spend more $ later to re-brand. Take time in the beginning stages of your business to really focus on your brand and your style. This is going to be hard because most entrepreneurs are go-getters and want to launch their business ASAP!!! It’s great to be a go-getter but be careful that you don’t sacrifice good branding just because you want to make it happen NOW! It’s definitely not worth it in the long run!


3. FIND YOUR WEAKNESSES: If you KNOW you’re not good with details and organization, do something about that BEFORE you launch your business. Start practicing new habits and learn how to keep yourself accountable.  If you have no motivation to respond to emails within 24hours of receiving them, that is going to be a problem. Running a business means a TON of correspondence and organization! If it takes you two weeks to muster up the motivation to clean out your inbox, you are setting yourself up for failure. No bride wants to wait two weeks to hear back from a photographer! I realize this is HARD. Photographers are artsy people! … and most of the time, ARTSY people are not ORGANIZED people! So before you launch your business, really step back and think about how you’re going to handle this huge workload that doesn’t involve being creative.


4. GAIN EXPERIENCE: So many people ask “What’s your secret?!”.  I really don’t know how to answer that question because there are no secrets.  Really. I never took a photography course, I am self taught but I STUDIED my users manual like my life depended on it. I would read other photographer’s blogs and literally study EACH image to find where the light was coming from. I knew what I wanted my images to look like and I worked SO hard to make that happen. It took YEARS to do this! I practiced all the time and eventually started shooting totally manually, even when I was just hanging out at college! I knew that was the only way I would grow. As I started my business, I had several second shooting opportunities and these weddings were CRUCIAL. I needed experience and I needed a portfolio so second shooting was a must!!


5. BE PROFESSIONAL: Be professional in every area. Your web presence, your branding, your correspondence… you have to be the REAL DEAL in order to attract clients that will feel comfortable trusting you with their wedding day.



Well I realize I just gave you a TON of information and if you’re a new photographer, you’re probably so overwhelmed.   Just take it one step at a time. Prepare yourself for a lot of work but get excited because you’re following your dream!!!! I hope this was somewhat helpful for some of you out there!!! Your feedback is so so appreciated!!:):)



xoxo, Katelyn
11 Comments Ask Anything, Education
  1. Mary Marantz reply

    Amazing!! To the nth degree!! Love you! M:)

  2. Lupe Ruiz reply

    Thank you SO much for this post. I’m in the beginning stages and totally overwhelmed when I think about what I need to do. I LOVE your photos and get so excited to see what’s new on your blog. I have to say, though I love your work, some of my faves have been sneak peeks into your beautiful home :)

  3. Kimber Wassenberg reply

    Thanks for the advice…it’s wonderful! I liked how you said that you only shoot 20% of the time…what a good reminder! :) I would love to second shoot, but who else (other than you) would/could I go with???

  4. Denise reply

    Thank you so much for this information. I’m just trying to get started…trying to come up with a brand, trying to come up with a logo, wishing I had the money for a kick-butt website…sometimes it’s good to sit back and take a breath, and realize that it doesn’t all happen at once!

  5. Jennifer Krieg reply

    Katelyn you are a fav of mine!! Your work is beyond stunning and I have learned alot from reading your blogs daily. Thank you for being you & taking the time to share your insight. I’m just stepping into the waters but I have a fabulous instructor that demands learning on manual only. I hope to meet you someday!! Your Va Beach fan~~ Jennifer ;)

  6. Annamarie reply

    YAY! i am still OBSESSED with my bouquet and i love this picture!!! :)

  7. Kristin reply

    Awesome advice.

  8. Kristina N. reply

    I’m not interested in becoming a professional photographer but I love that you put advice up so candidly! :)

  9. Michelle reply

    Thanks for being willing to share advice with other photographers. I visit your site regularly and it is such an inspiration and great place to learn and grow.

  10. Jenny Davis reply

    Hi! I’ve been following your work for a long time. I read your blog, I’ve blogged about your work and you have been a real inspiration to me. I am 100 percent self taught, shooting only manual, and enjoy the process so much. I was so excited to see this post. Thanks for imparting your wisdom. ~Sincerely,

  11. Brooke Summer Photography reply

    I love this information Katelyn! It really is a lot more difficult than people think. They see us show up and shoot… and that’s it. There’s so much more to it! The one thing that I would say in regards to branding though… after about two years in business people change SO much and grow SO much, and usually the branding will be way different. Someone (I think Promise Tangeman) said that branding before you know who you really are as a photographer is like creating the cover for a book that isn’t written yet. The content isn’t there – the meat, the nitty gritty. Sometimes that can take time. :)

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