How to Become a Successful Commercial Photographer in 3 Months or Less
written by: Larry M. Lynch•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 5/26/2011
If you have the dream of becoming a commercial digital photographer you can succeed if you turn your dream into a plan for success. No matter which area you wish to specialize in, you can jump start the process to commercial digital photography success using these seven straightforward steps.
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A Successful Commercial Photographer
Step 1 – The Dream (The First Thirty Days)
It is said that a goal is a dream with a deadline. That’s an essential part of exactly what you must do to turn your dream of becoming a successful commercial photographer into reality in the space of three months or 90 days. It won’t be a “walk in the park", but it can be done if you’ll follow these guidelines and step-by-step process. In three months from now, you’ll already have your first paying commercial photography clients. But beware, the system won’t work unless you do. Remember what automobile manufacturing tycoon Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right."
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Becoming a Commercial Photographer – Dream or Reality?
Step 2 – Going from Hobby to Business (The First Thirty Days - Month One)
Whether your dream of becoming a full-time commercial photographer will truly become a reality in three months, sooner or later is up to you. If you’re willing to do some research, make decisions, plan your business and then execute your plan without distraction, but taking into account changes or alterations which might be necessary for your ultimate success, then you CAN achieve your dream of becoming a successful commercial photographer – or almost anything else for that matter. Your digital photography business is just that – a business. When you move from the realm of an interest or hobby and into the field of commercial photography as a business, your work must take on a whole new light. Businesses require administration, bookkeeping and accounting, banking, tax, legal issues and services, equipment acquisition and upgrades, insurance, advertising, marketing and customer relations aspects all to be addressed in a professional manner. And these are only key starter aspects of your budding commercial photography business which need to be considered. Write or get a Commercial Photographer business plan written. It will act as your roadmap to success. If you need help, get it. The U.S. government’s Small Business Administration has loads of information and material available to you for free or at low cost.
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General Commercial Photography or Specialized Photography?
Step 3 – Decide whether to Generalize or Specialize (The First Thirty Days)
You should consider whether you will specialize in a particular area or two, or simply generalize and be available to photograph digital images of whatever projects may be offered to you. Being a “generalist" requires more preparation and training in overall techniques in addition to a broader range of equipment. A “specialist" may work a bit less, but earns more and is highly professional in his particular area of expertise. A specialist though, can “branch out" a bit into areas which are related to their area of photographic specialization. As a commercial photographer, you will have many different options open and available to you such as photography for:
· A score or more of other interesting, profitable options
The areas in which you choose to work will greatly affect many other aspects of your commercial photography business. So some care should be taken when considering the types of digital photography services you will offer or are able to offer. Develop and print your business cards, flyers, samples and prepare a Commercial Photography Portfolio.
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Setting Up a Commercial Photography Studio
Step 4 – Setup a studio or workspace (The Second Thirty Days – Month Two)
Whether you work from a studio space set up in your home or opt to splurge as it were, for a more proper commercial photography studio, is entirely up to you and what resources and finances you may initially have available. Often, the budding professional uses a home-based studio until business is abundant and growing before moving into a larger, better-equipped commercial photography studio. You might also consider sharing a studio space with another photographer or artist who is not a direct competitor. Be resourceful and creative. Continue to learn all you can.
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Marketing of Photography Service – The Ultimate Key to Success
Step 5 – Marketing your digital photography business services as a Commercial Photographer (The Second Thirty Days – Month Two)
The most important aspect of your budding commercial photography services business is your marketing. It is absolutely essential that you do some kind of marketing daily or weekly, but on an on-going and continual basis. This is regardless of how many clients you may have. You should keep files on local and regional competitors, not to copy what they’re doing, but in order to stay abreast of what new products, services or customer options they may be pursuing. Attend exhibitions, sign up for mailing lists, keep informed of the latest and greatest. Shamelessly promote your commercial photography business services every chance you get.
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Commercial Photographer Clients and Customers – A Continual Flow
Step 6 – Putting your best foot forward (The Third Thirty Days – Month Three)
Once you are marketing and advertising your commercial photography services extensively both online and off line, potential clients and customers for your services will begin to contact you via e-mail, telephone, letter or other form of personal contact. Be professional at all times. Present a good, business-like appearance in both your studio setup and your personal appearance to potential clients and customers. This phase is now critical. You absolutely MUST provide each with the best possible professional services you can. Why? It’s because you want their repeat business and their recommendations to other potential clients. Give prompt, courteous, good value service and your client base will definitely grow.
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Congratulations, You’re Now a “Professional" Commercial Photographer
Step 7 – Grow and expand your services (3 Months and Beyond)
You’ve organized, setup your business and studio, prepared your equipment, marketed your services and advertised – and you have your first clients. It’s time for you to continue to grow and expand your commercial digital photography service offerings while continuing to market. Go after new customers, don’t just sit back and wait for them to come to you. Network, join professional photographer’s associations, meet people, make calls, visit businesses and offices or facilities who may need your services, e-mail and find other ways to contact potential client businesses to pitch your services. Again, remember what the great Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right."