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How to Start a Photography Business

Lesson 40 of 87

Friends & Family Test Shoots

Pye Jirsa

How to Start a Photography Business

Pye Jirsa

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Lesson Info

40. Friends & Family Test Shoots
Taking test shots with a purpose both helps you practice your skills and expand your marketing efforts. Learn about brand ambassadors and organizing test shoots.


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1 Class Introduction Duration:13:12
3 The Road Ahead Duration:13:03
4 Find Your Passion Duration:06:06
5 The Lin & Jirsa Journey Duration:13:54
7 Stop Wasting Time & Money Duration:06:07
8 Your 12 Week Roadmap Duration:04:33
9 Great Plans Still Fail Duration:06:01
10 Strategy Vs. Planning Duration:04:16
11 Mind Mapping Duration:07:25
12 Select a Focus Duration:14:16
13 Competitor Research Duration:09:34
14 S.W.O.T. Analysis Duration:13:54
15 Strategy & Long Term Goals Duration:03:50
16 Values, Vision & Mission Duration:27:49
17 Effectively Managing Your Time Duration:15:05
18 Artistic Development Duration:07:30
19 Create Your Plan Duration:13:12
20 What's Your Product Duration:10:51
22 Quick Break for Econ 101 Duration:16:31
24 What's in a Name Duration:09:20
25 Your Client 'Why' Duration:05:43
26 Crafting the Why Experience Duration:24:17
27 Document the Client Experience Duration:08:29
28 Business Administration Basics Duration:27:03
29 Book Keeping Management Duration:06:51
30 Create the Logo & Branding Duration:07:04
31 Portfolio Design Duration:15:11
33 Pricing Fears & Myths Duration:08:46
34 Three Pricing Methods Duration:25:39
36 Psychology of Numbers Duration:07:29
37 Pricing Q&A Duration:23:51
38 Grass Roots Marketing Duration:09:36
39 The Empty Party Duration:07:03
40 Friends & Family Test Shoots Duration:16:28
41 Join Groups Duration:04:32
42 Second Shooting Etiquette Duration:07:44
44 Make Instagram Simple Duration:13:55
45 Your Automated Pinterest Plan Duration:08:01
46 Facebook Because You Must Duration:07:37
47 Giveaway & Styled Shoots Duration:12:17
48 Content Marketing & SEO Duration:08:12
49 The Monster: SEO Duration:07:26
50 Selecting Your Keywords Duration:05:45
51 Testing Your Keywords Duration:07:53
52 Grouping Main & Niche Goals Duration:12:39
53 Your Content Road Map Duration:11:47
54 Content Marketing Q&A Duration:10:45
55 Inspiration to Keep Working Duration:07:45
56 How to Craft Your Content Duration:15:03
57 Internal Linking Basics Duration:05:30
58 Back Link Building Basics Duration:04:55
59 Link Value Factos Duration:14:38
60 Measuring Link Value Duration:04:24
61 Link Building Strategy & Plan Duration:06:10
65 What is Sales? Show Me! Duration:12:58
66 Your First Massive Failure Duration:05:17
67 The Sales Process Duration:07:31
68 Your Second Massive Failure Duration:05:23
69 Understand Buyer Psychology Duration:10:00
71 Step 1: Identify Need or Want Duration:15:39
72 Cognitive Dissonance Duration:12:01
74 Step 4 : Close, Make the Ask Duration:04:32
76 Family Photography Hot Seat Duration:12:06
77 Business Example Hot Seat Duration:15:52
78 Boudoir Photography Hot Seat Duration:16:09
79 The Best Sales Person Duration:07:45
83 Chumming the Price Waters Duration:03:57
84 Creating Want or Scarcity Duration:09:54
86 Selling Over The Phone Duration:10:59
87 Forbidden Words in Sales Duration:11:40

Lesson Info

Friends & Family Test Shoots

Okay, let's start with friends, family, and your first brand ambassadors. I'm gonna show you some of the examples of purposeful shoots. Purposeful test shoots is one of the best uses of your time. This is why. You get one stone, you get a lot of birds. You get your practice, it's low pressure, you fit your target market, right, you fit people that are engaged. And guess what? You grab your friends or family's friends or friends of friends of friends, anybody, who are engaged, and you take them out to do a shoot, and you deliver them five great images. They're gonna post it. They're gonna share it, correct? Now, if they are of the age group that's engaged and getting married, or if they are of the persona that you're after, when they post it, it's going to go out to like-minded people who are also in their network. That's what we're looking to create. We're looking to get practice, low pressure, but to also make sure that the images we're creating are being utilized in the networks that...

we're looking to market to. So they fit the target network, age, friends, and then we're going to invite these people to become brand ambassadors. Which you don't do, if you sucked it up. Don't go and, like, take crappy pictures and be like I did a really bad job, will you be my brand ambassador, though? And you're not going to ask them to be your brand ambassador, but we're going to talk about what they are, 'cause on your side, you'll record them as brand ambassadors. Go deliver a few great images, we're going to keep them as brand ambassadors. So my early test shoots, no pressure. You've seen these images. Beautiful. I don't know why he'd want to jump off of that, that's really not them. (audience laughs) But it's fine. Don't worry about it. Okay, early test shoots. Again, do they fight with umbrellas on their own? No. It's just like we saw these umbrellas and it was cool, so we're gonna fight. There's a concrete texture over this, in case you're wondering how to get to this beautiful look. More recent test shoots. These are my kids. 'kay (laughs) so I love working them into my presentations. But I will take my kids out all the time. So when we were starting Line and Roots, I had six months worth of my own kids that I take out for these shoots all the time, to start plugging into the Instagram machine and the Pinterest side, and to our blog and to getting the party started. And they're my own kids. And guess what? Your own kids can look very very different in different clothes, so there's a lot of opportunity just within your own family for that kind of stuff. This was a friend of mine, who, we ran a giveaway or a contest. They ended up somehow winning it, I didn't choose the winner, they just were randomly selected. They're getting married, and so we went out and did this shoot, and then they turned around and hired us to they won this contest and they turned around and hired us to do their wedding. Interesting. This was actually, we're going to talk about giveaways, and contests, we have a full lead generation, this is a great thing to talk about. One of the 16 downloadables in this course, is a lead generation workbook. This thing we sell for $100 on it's own. But again, we include it in this because it's a big piece of what you guys are going to be doing. Where you're going to create a contest and a giveaway to get people talking about your brand, constantly. We've done this multiple times in our business and 40% to 50% of the time, the person that wins, well first, we generally select people to win that are engaged. It's again, it's a giveaway. If you say it's a randomized winner, then it needs to be a randomized winner. But if you don't say it's a randomized winner, you just pick one. Pick one that fits what your target market is. So then the person that wins, ends up getting this free shoot, and then almost half of the time that we've done this, that person or that couple has hired us back to do the wedding. So we've not only gotten thousands of people talking about the business in the process of doing the giveaway, we then got the booking. That's very very powerful. And we'll talk about that process here. So that's one of the wider environmental portraits from this shoot. This is like my, the closest thing that I have to a little sister, Olivia. She was getting married, and obviously her dream is, I want my older brother to shoot this, and I want to do this. And I'm not even going to have a conversation with her about pricing, and so, I just said Look, we're going to shoot what I want to shoot, we're gonna go to the places that I want to go, and I'll shoot it all, but you need to be willing to let me use the materials for education, for whatever I'd like, for marketing, for all this kind of stuff. Okay, fine, no problem. So we do it, and we use this, (speaks quickly) that all of us do, we took them to places that I wanted to go shoot, like Vasquez Rocks. Okay, and then I took them to another spot. Then we started marketing to Vasquez Rocks, through SEO and content marketing. And then we get more shoots of people that want to go to that place. Is that making sense? Of how we can turn these into, and it's gonna come through content marketing, but we're creating the content first for it. This is them again. I did two separate sessions with them. One was like a whimsical session, where they kind of dressed up like this and most of the shots from this session are very filmic, 'cause I wanted to test out a set of looks that I was generating for another client, who was a big wedding and they wanted a filmic look. So I was like, Oh I'll just do a test shoot with this session and kind of go for that look and see how close I can get to it. Same thing. This was actually used in Incredible Engagements on the next slide. Incredible Engagements, one of our courses here on CreativeLive. (laughs) On SLR Lounge. On CreativeLive, we demonstrated lighting techniques. For example, when you're in a pinch, how many of you have seen Incredible Engagements? This is great! You don't count! You hosted it. How do you think this image was shot? How do you think it was lit? (audience members respond) A light? What kind? A speed light? (audience member responds) Video light? Available light? Well the one on the left side is available light, for sure. This is a lighting 201 thing that we teach, and we taught it in Incredible Engagements, where, if you're in a pinch, you can do a lot with just your i-phone. (audience member laughs) So this goes, like, I wanted to throw this in here because it's like, we say lighting 101, lighting 201, all this kind of stuff, like the basics, but man, there is so much you can do with those basics. Like, create a great set of images. One that's dramatic, one that's light and airy. It's the same exact moment, 30 seconds apart. Another one of my clients, these two, Mike and Natalie, they are SLR Lounge Premium Members. They come in and they go, we want to hire you to shoot our wedding. It's gonna be out in Cancun. And they said, we understand that it's going to be expensive, can you work with us a little bit on this? And it always helps, by the way, when your clients butter you up a little bit, right? When they, like, butter you up and you're like, okay. So I said to them, look, we'll work on the package. And they still paid a really good amount in getting us out there, but I said you're going to give me a test shoot day, where I get a day to take you guys around in Cancun, and do whatever the heck I want, in your wedding dress, in your regular attire, for my own sake, for my own marketing education. They said okay. So we go around and we create images throughout the city. This is off the side of a freeway. This is inside of a cave. Which, they're covering the costs of all this. So not only do they pay, they might get a collection rate that most people wouldn't get, but then I get these opportunities to create images that I wouldn't normally get the chance to create. And what happens from each of these, is that after I show it, I get the clients that want to pay for that. Does that make sense? But until you actually show that you've done something like that, nobody has the idea of actually doing it. Our test shoots have lead us into our commercial work, which is where we do our commercial fitness work. It's lead into all this stuff. So the walk away objectives of each of these, is to check as many of these boxes as possible. When you're starting out, lower your expectations of yourself. Set a little bit of a lower bar so you don't come away frustrated. Aim for five plus portfolio images. We're not trying to go crazy. Aim to get 10 to 20 images for social media. Because, to make Instagram look poppin', over the course of three months, you don't need to shoot every single day. If you had 20 images from five different shoots, could you not cycle those hundred images over the course of six months, even, and make yourself look pretty busy. Five shoots, that's it. Behind the scenes images for social media, that's what you're looking to create as well, because each of these different platforms operate a little bit differently. We're going to talk about it. How Instagram is all about the beauty of the shot. But Facebook is a little bit more about a story, and a personality behind. So a behind the scenes image, with a little bit of a story, would probably do better on Facebook. Whereas a behind the scenes image is gonna fall flight right on Instagram. Two to three before's and after's for educational purposes, if you ever decide to educate your clients. Write a little bit of content piece for your website on why they would want to consider you, what makes you different. New conceptual work, you want to practice and hone techniques, and there's an opportunity there for network and vendor connections. For example, when I went to Cancun, or when I go to these different locations, I'm looking to meet with the local on-site coordination and marketing teams, and then get them their images. And they use them. So the hotel, locally, has those images and they use them. Does that make sense? Don't do it if you don't ever want to go back there. But I like Cancun, and I like those places. So if you want to send me back there, I'll go. So by all means, I'll market to those places that I want to visit. Does this give you a different look, in terms of the value of an unpaid shoot if it's done correctly? I hope so. And I hope it breaks down the myth that unpaid shoots are not worth your time, or a bane to the industry. It's literally how we have gotten our business off the ground. And I could give you so many examples of other photographers. Another friend of mine, Mike Kelley. Do you guys know Mike Kelley? He does architectural work. Some of his biggest clients and projects, including the airplane work that he is known for, it all started with a test shoot, something that he just did for himself. And it's kept him busy for like three years. That's crazy. And people are saying don't do these things. From these we're going to create the brand ambassador team. So, when you get to the place where you're launching. Launching, I believe, was week nine or ten in the road map. It's your launch week. During launch week, you then go back through the people that we test shot. Now, we should have test shot at least eight different couples by that point. Don't look at the same couples twice. You want diversity. We should have given each of them at least three to five great images that they love. If not more. If we're talking about boudoir, it'd be the same thing. If we're talking about maternity, you do the same thing. If you're talking about newborns, you do literally the exact same thing. And then upon launch of your site, you request that they give you a review. I really enjoy doing this. I wanted to let you know that I've just officially launched my business, and I would love for you to review my work on this site, if you found it enjoyable. And give them one, maximum two, places to do reviews. I'm gonna give you a little note here. If the place that you're thinking is Yelp, you may not let it be known that you're requesting reviews. It's a big no-no for Yelp. Okay? So if that's your target, is Yelp to get reviews, generally the way to do it, is you put something on the side of, like on your website, or you put something there. You can't ask for it. That's why when you walk into a restaurant, and it says People love us on Yelp. They're not specifically asking you to go to Yelp and do something. Any restaurant that does that, by the way, is actually breaking the terms of use of the site. Yelp is a fantastic place for reviews. But when you reference that, you say, I would love for a review. Here are a couple places, feel free, no attachments. Ask them on the phone so there's no, like, documentation of that. Because if they find anything, they can basically remove your account. Okay, so, understand the sensitivity of some of these platforms. Facebook, though, it's very easy to leave a review and you can request it. Some places are very sensitive to it. Be cognizant of it. Then the same brand ambassadors, with the first launch of your contest and giveaways, you're gonna request that they share it. Are you gonna request these two things within a week of each other? No. This is being needy. We don't want to be needy as businesses, right? You wanna make your, ask your favors, kind of few and far between. So give them a month of time. But when you start sending out this contest, say I would really appreciate if you guys shared this, and I would love for you guys to participate in it as well. And ask them to help. Now, I'm hoping in your heads right now you can go, oh man, a brand ambassador team. Well, if I did seven or eight different people across each week, that gives me eight people automatically. And now my brand ambassador team, I can automatically add people like my parents, by brothers, my sisters, all my friends that are close to me. I bet you can get to twenty people without even breaking a sweat. Twenty people, on the launch of your business, that will leave your business a review, some feedback, comments, and make it look like the party's already going. Along with the images that you created through that process, right? Can all of us probably get twenty? You think? Raise your hands if twenty's a pretty doable number. If not, go make more friends. What's your problem? (audience laughs) Twenty should be good. What did I say up there? Yeah, ask if your work was solid, or if they really love you. (laughs) But not if the work was not. Like if it was bad, no. We don't want to ask brand ambassadors for referral work. Can you guess why? I don't generally like asking anybody for referrals. It's pretty straight-forward. If your work is good, it's gonna naturally happen anyway. We want to make our favor requests, like, being a needy business, you have those friends that start up needy businesses. (laughs) Yeah, a nod right there. Yeah. And you get these requests to join this and do that, and help me review, and I want to win this, and I want to do this, can you please give me a like, can you...If your work is great, it's gonna stand on it's own and you don't need to worry about the referral stuff. That'll come.

Class Description

The content and opinions expressed in this course are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.


  • Start a photography business
  • Develop the ideal business structure and business plan
  • Research competitors and the market in your area
  • Build a short-term and long-term strategy
  • Create a marketing plan and marketing materials on a budget
  • Confidently conduct an in-person or phone sales session
  • Manage small business tasks from accounting to strategy


Professional photographers aren't just people with a knack for photography and a good camera -- because launching a small business on nothing but passion is a sure-fire way to fail spectacularly. Layer business savvy, marketing know-how, professional grit and more onto your existing passion and learn how to start a photography business. Take your hobby, vision, and creativity and build a career -- whether you are looking to run a full-time business or just a side gig.

Led by a photographer that's also a certified public accountant, Pye Jirsa, the class teaches the ins and outs of launching a photography business from the ground up. Along with three full days of instruction, Pye shares a 12-week plan to get your business up and running, a business expense calculator and more inside the class workbook. Understand what gear and skills you need before you launch and how to build a portfolio by photographing family members or organizing a stylized shoot.

Stop feeling overwhelmed by the monumental task and tackle one task a day in a 12-week plan. Brainstorm names for your business and learn the different types of business licenses available. Secure a domain name and build a website that's easily searchable. Develop a marketing plan with little investment. Master in-person sales and book your first session.

Whether you want to venture out in portrait photography, commercial work or any other client-based type of photography, learn the "business" in photography business with Pye Jirsa.


  • Photographers ready to launch a business
  • New professional photographers looking to grow a young business
  • Photographers interested in working in weddings, portraits, newborns, maternity, families, seniors, engagements or commercial photography


Pye Jirsa is a wedding photographer with Lin & Jirsa photography -- but besides running a successful photography business, he also has a background in accounting, creating the perfect blend for teaching the ins and outs of running a photography business. Along with working as a photographer and educator, Pye is also one of the founders of SLR Lounge, an online resource for photographers.

Learn from a founder of a photography business that photographs more than 300 weddings a year. Pye's Los Angeles and Orange County wedding photography business has been named among the top 100 wedding photographers by Brandsmash.


Armstrong Su

This class and materials are to the point and eye-opening on the business side of photography. Pye Jirsa is an amazing and fun teacher as well! Most photographers need more business classes offered to bring us who love to create art back to reality for a more successful business that makes a living on it's own. This course will definately get you started in the right direction and so cheap too! Great investment! armstrong outdoor tv case outdoortvcase Pye Jirsa is one of the best instructors that I have the pleasure to learn from. He and his team have given me so much more than they'll ever realize. Knowledge, wisdom, training, friendship, mentoring, inspiration, joy... I cannot thank Pye enough for changing my life for the better. I owe them more than they'll ever realize. Thank you, Pye Jirsa!!!

Angela Sanchez

This class has been an eye opener for me; a point of change in my vision as photographer. Pye is and AMAZING, INSPIRING, GENEROUS instructor, with an, authentic desire to help people and to share with them the best of his knowledge. I will not have enough words to say thanks to Pye Jirsa, as a teacher and as a human being, and thanks to Creative Live who allows us to benefit from the experience of such a knowledgeable, educated, well-versed photographer and instructor. 1000% recommended!

Yenith LianTy

Been following this guy forever. Pye Jirsa may be well known in the wedding & portrait photography world and if there is something that this guy knows it is how to create a business, a sustainable one. The workbook he provided is comprehensive, and I honestly wish I had this when I first started out as a photographer! I love that he talks about his failures, keeping it real and honest for anyone starting out. He is definitely one of the best instructors around, super humble, down to earth and with a sense of humor to boot. The course is worth it! THE WORKBOOK is AMAZING! SUPER DETAILED!