Skip to main content

How to Establish a Business

Lesson 5 from: Building a Successful Photography Business in a Small Market

Clay Cook

buy this class


Sale Ends Soon!

starting under


Unlock this classplus 2200+ more >

Lesson Info

5. How to Establish a Business

Lesson Info

How to Establish a Business

So, we kind went through a lot of the psychological stuff that it requires to build a successful commercial photography business, but now I want to get into, sort of, the technique and the technical stuff because, of course, you can build relationships and you can really make strides in that world, but if you don't have a really good product to back it up that's gonna really not help yah. So, brand and identity. This is gonna to play a huge role, into your overall approach and strides of being a successful business. So, over the years I've learned how your name, your logo, the image, how you look, can play such a crucial role into the way people value your work and your work ethic. With music, graphic design and retail photography when I first started, I seemed to think that having some sort of cheap handle would increase my perceived value, but I couldn't have been more wrong. So, I'm going to tell you something that I wasn't going to say, but I'm going to say it. So, my first busines...

s that I had was called Dirty Cheese Designs and I was Dirty Cheese Photography when I first started. That is ridiculous. No wonder people didn't want to work with me. So, I was like, you know, maybe I can just take this graphic design business take it into photography, no. And once I went to my name I owned my brand, I owned my identity, everything changed for me. You are your brand. You represent you, off set and on set. So, have a professional presentation. While the goal is to appear as an expensive brand you want to have an image that is approachable. Your identity is the backbone to every new relationship. If you don't have a professional product and you don't really have a professional home base, such as a logo, website, email, social media, than you can't expect to trust you to return their investment. So, you want to offer a solution, build trust and prove your worth. If you help people fulfill their goals with ease then they'll remember it. I often use the example of, if you had a brain tumor, for example, as horrible as that is, would you want to go to a local pediatrician or would you want to go to the Mayo Clinic with the best doctors in the world? So, own your identity, own your brand, and be the expert. And that's how you get paid the big bucks. This is your portfolio, a website is your portfolio. I do have a print portfolio, but that's not as important as your website. This is your product. Do not cut corners on your viewing platform for your work, whatsoever. Potential clientele will, they might only spend a couple minutes, but they spend that couple minutes judging your work and figuring out if they want to work with you. And literally, if I look at the analytics, the average person spends about 3 minutes on my website, at most, so it's very important to make sure that you have the best, most simple user experience possible on your website. Nothing complicated, very simple. So, this is my quick portfolio and this is the homepage on my website. You click, boom, brings up my portfolio. They can analyze it, judge it within a minute and see if they want to work with me. So just yesterday I had a email from a photographer and it was similar to And so, what kind of perceived value does that give? When you have this email that you created 10 years ago? Have a professional, personalized email address consistent with your website and make sure you have a short, easy to access URL that is easy to remember. My first website critique was eye-opening. At the time I had roughly two hundred photos from all over the place, spread through dozens of galleries and it required like 20 steps, just to figure out who I was or what I was doing and what kind of work I had. You want to make it easy for visitors to see your best work, which should only consist of your 30-50 best photographs. Now I that this is an argue point and a lot of people say 20-30, so I think that if you haven't shot a lot I would stay stick to that lower number, but if you shoot a lot, like me, I shoot all the time. I'm shooting, I've done, I do shoots all the time, so it's hard for me to put a collection of work into just 20 photographs. So, I use the best 30-50 photographs and that's how it is also in my print portfolio. Your portfolio should flow by concept, color and mood. There are a lot of variables that go into a strong website portfolio, but you just want to kind of keep it simple. So, this is my fashion portfolio. So, as you can see you get a gist of it very quickly. This is my portrait portfolio, so this is what people see when they got to my website and see my portrait work. Simple, easy access. Everything is titled, clear descriptions and it's laid out in a super user experience, super easy user experience. Who are you? So, countless times I've visited websites and there is zero glimpse of information on the photographer or who this person is. So, it's important to have a personalized identity and an about section so people can really know who's on the other line. And identity can go into everything, like what you look like again, the color of your website, the graphic, how it looks, all that plays a role, so you want to make sure that all your identity stuff is consistent through your brand and consistent through your website and your portfolio, it all looks very good. So, I love this. List your contact information. How many people here have on their websites a contact form? Okay, a lot. Yeah. So, that's fine, but let me say this. Let's say you have a leak in your toilet, right? And like water is freakin' everywhere, so you immediately take to the internet and you're like, "Hey, where's a good local plumber?" You find a solid looking guy, solid looking prospective with a good website, and under it is like "Contact Us", right? So, you click that and you see a generic contact form. You fill out the form, click submit. I think at this point you'll ask yourself, "Hey, where did that go to? Will I ever hear back from them? Who am I talking to? How will they touch base with me? Will they call me, will they email me? I don't know? Should I contact someone else? Will my toilet ever be fixed?" All these questions when you see a contact form. So, list your contact information, including phone number, mailing address, email, so that people will know who they are contacting. They know that they are going to email Clay. They know that that email is going directly to me. So, I think that a contact form can look cool, but it can also result in a lost communication and clientele.

Ratings and Reviews

Koko Hunt

I love Clay Cook, his stories and his teaching method. He is genuine and to the point. This class is very concise and easy to follow; it touches on basic yet important points that are practical and useful. He provides good insights into commercial photography business for a small market, using some good, benchmarkable examples.


Clay Cook gets into the nitty gritty of the business side of photography. He is super informative and confidently concise about his knowledge and experience in the industry. As a modestly-small business owner, I found this course to be insightful and motivating. It is very helpful, and I highly recommend it!


I really appreciate how he just lays out numbers. I think that's super helpful for the industry as a whole, and it sets some perspective of how much guac photographers can really make.

Student Work