Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Planning the plan... The first steps!!!

Planning THE PLAN
What the heck??? Now you want me to PLAN THE PLAN? This is getting kind of like looking in a mirror with a mirror behind it... it goes on to infinity. 

OK. Never mind. Let's call it the research stage. 

As with any business there is a LOT that goes into photography and you have to find out what you don't know; gather all of the information and options and THEN you can really begin your plan. 

You also have to make a few decisions before you can start the plan.That's where we are today-those decisions.

1. What? What kind of photographer are you and what do you want to do? Are you a child photographer? Portrait photographer? Wedding Photographer? Pet Photographer? Landscape? Maybe at this point you are thinking a little bit of everything? Decide what your business is going to be. 
There are several different schools of thought on whether you should define yourself to solely one thing or to do it all. They all have great points. You have to decide which school of thought is for you.
I suggest you get involved in the prominent photography forums. You can gather some incredible wisdom from the people that are there working in the business as well as their opinions and experiences. From their experiences you can get a pretty great feel of what is for you and what isn't. There is no right or wrong. Only what's right for you and your business.

2. Where? Where will you be located at? Your home? Storefront? On-location? There are pro's and con's to all of them. Maybe you want to start from your home studio or on-location now and plan to move to a storefront down the road...

Home Based Studio. There are some great benefits here if you have the space to do it. Obviously your commute is... well it isn't. Your overhead is much less than it would be if you had to maintain a separate location-that doesn't mean you don't have a rent/mortgage and utilities. There is then a portion of those things that would be an expense of the business (we'll touch on that in pricing.) It would just be significantly less than renting or purchasing a completely separate location.
Con's-sure, there are some. It's your home. You have pepople in your home and you give up space, privacy... It does not have the same “cachet” that having a storefront location has. Hey, a studio is even awe inspiring to most of us IN the business! A home based studio can say “AWAC” if it's not extremely well done...
We do all know the term AWAC? Right? Amateur With A Camera. Let's face it, going to someone's house to have your portraits done kind of feels like going to your neighbor's for a discount hair cut. That can be spun into a great positive-a home based studio keeps the cost to the client down significantly AND the professional comes to the client, takes the photograph where the client wants it taken and everything about the whole experience is customized!! Is the glass half full or half empty? 
It is a matter of managing expectations and creating the experience for the client. 

Storefront Studio. There are some incredible benefits to having a storefront. Visibility, presence, ease of shooting... feeling REAL. There are also some drawbacks. There is more overhead with a storefront than a home based studio. You have to recoup those costs somehow and that is always passed down to the client. The profit margin is lower in a storefront studio than a home based one. This is where that membership to PPA I have been preaching about comes into play. Their Benchmark Survey is a wealth of knowledge on this topic. 

3. Operating Format. Sole Proprietor? LLC? Incorporation? You can find more information regarding the different business formats and their pro's and con's at the SBA's website. I am not here to re-write the book, just to gather it all and get you started. Check out these articles:

4. Naming Your Business. MANY schools of thought on this one. You'll find it often said that you should use your name as your business name. It does make some sense, but it's not the answer for every photography business ever made.
You are always you. If you shoot some landscapes, some portraits and some weddings, you are still YOU, Jane Pinkerton. 
If you are photographing newborns now and you decide you like Pink Paisley Newborn Photography it's all great. Cool name! However, if you decide down the road that you also want to do senior portraits there is a little problem. Adding another name to your business is a little more complicated. Not to mention another website, facebook, twitter, Google+ and so on down the line.
If you go with "Jane Pinkerton Photography" you can always have "Newborns by Jane Pinkerton Photography" OR even "Pink Paisley Newborns by Jane Pinkerton Photography" and "Weddings by Jane Pinkerton Photography" and "Senior Portraits by Jane Pinkerton Photography..."
Is that what you HAVE to do? Heck no. You have to do what's right for YOUR business. If it's not right down the road even though you committed to it today-it CAN be changed. It's just a little more work.
Those are the first big steps you have to make here. They're actually fairly monumental! THIS IS IT! You are on the path to your dream now! WOOOT, WOOOT!


  1. Wonderful post. I've been looking for a starting point and I'm looking forward to your future posts. Up until a few days ago, I was focusing my efforts on trying to learn as much as I could on becoming a Bette photographer in the hopes that I would be able to do this professionally one day. But the more research I'm doing and stories I'm reading from others, becoming successful in photography has a lot more to do with being good at business than it does with photography. But the amount of content there is on photography business is dwarfed by the amount of photography training material. I'm really glad to see that you've started a blog like this.

  2. Thank you! I am slow getting started, but I hope to add more!
    I also seriously suggest as a business resource. Todd and Jamie Reichman are incredibly insightful and pretty bloody brilliant when it comes to the business side of this!