Launch a New Commercial Photography Business in Just 10 Steps

commercial photography business
Photo: Jim Garner

Jim Garner is best known for his wedding photography but, that wasn’t always the case. There was time when Jim and his wife were shooting 60+ weddings a year. They were burnt out and they were broke. The knew they had to make a change, so, Jim says, “We decided we were going to do something different, we were going to deliver art.”

So they started pitching art-focused photography services with an emphasis on selling products, not pictures. A totally new clientele appeared.

Commercial photography is a competitive field. Learn how to thrive in it.

The same thing happened when Jim and his team made the decision to branch out into headshots. Jim had already been booking commercial clients, using the skills he developed as a wedding photographer and through his non-wedding work he knew he could offer photography services that were less time-intensive, less stressful, and way more lucrative – if he played his cards right.

So Jim came up with a plan. And once again, the new clients are showing up.

It’s a plan you can use too because, as Jim says, “You have the ability and the skills.”

1. Identify what you love to shoot in the retail world. For Jim, he likes the details, but he really loves the people. “I love the retail world because its about energy between the subjects.” So he’s selling headshots that capture that energy.

2. Set your goals and create a plan to reach this goal. “Everything related to business has a plan, write it down.”

3. Define your style. Jim’s new headshot business has a set of predefined lighting set-ups and poses, “we have 5 looks and I love the looks we have.”

4. Branding and identity. Don’t overcomplicate it. “Start with logos and let it morph into something.”

5. Mind the business essentials. This means getting all of your paperwork in order. Its not sexy but you need to make sure you’ve got the right insurance, business license, solid contracts, a plan for managing your financials and your web presence secured.

6. Invest in equipment. “There are many tools out there for light modifying and you’ve already got a lot of them.” Don’t worry about re-inventing the wheel, get the essentials and expand later when you have the money to support it.

7. Build your portfolio. Jim threw a party, invited a bunch of friends into the studio, took their photos, and viola! headshot portfolio.

8. Build your website. Use your images from your portfolio-building shoots to lay the groundwork and don’t be hesitant about using turn-key photography websites – you just need a place to send people and a little inbound-marketing savvy. A modest Google Adwords account can go a long way to making your website pay off.

9. Marketing, marketing, marketing! “Our target is firms, individual people get us firms.” So Jim markets headshot services that target individuals and offers group pricing that gives groups a modest discount. Booking individuals shoots doesn’t take a lot of time and it opens doors to the right people.

10. Refine, reinvent, thrive. You are never done learning. Jim went from low-end, low yield weddings to an art-focused business. From there he expanded into maternity, product, and family photography. Now he’s building a business that doesn’t rely on him as the shooter. Your photography services can always evolve to meet yours and the market’s needs.

Commercial photography is a competitive field. Learn how to thrive in it.

Rachel Gregg FOLLOW >

Rachel is the content marketing lead for the CreativeLive Craft Channel. Her side hustle is floral design and her day job is awesome. @ms_gregarious.