Obviously all you need to run a photograpy business is a camera, right? Maybe it would help if you knew how to use that camera (maybe) but other than that you're good to go! Well that was a quick blog post...... good luck in your new venture!!! :)
If only it were that simple! A photography business is after all, a business and if you're serious about making a success of it then there's a ton of stuff like marketing, planning, financial management, customer service and all sorts of 'business' type stuff that needs to be in place however I'm assuming that you knew all that already as it's not exactly rocket science - and I'm not about to sit here and lecture you on the basics of business (or rocket science) "so what's this flippin blog about then" i hear you cry! Good question....let's see where we end up shall we....
I'm a people person and for me one of the most enjoyable aspects of photography is being able to meaningfully connect with people - not just potential customers, but all sorts of people - in fact taking all of the practicalities of running a business into consideration I'd say that your ability to engage people is a a fundamental compenent of any business.
I'm a firm believer that the more people you are connected to the stronger your business is going to be and a great way to do this is by intentionally building a network of people - i don't mean some surface level/speed networking thing - but a series of real, reciprocal and lasting relationships, partnerships and friendships!
In doing so you are increasing the number of people who are going to positively support you, refer you on to friends and colleagues, involve you in interesting projects and all sorts of cool stuff.
So having a great network of people is one thing but being a photographer is obviously a visual medium - it can be difficult to know how to start off.... where and how to build your portfolio of work, again it's about connecting with folk....
Another great aspect of being a photographer is the opportunity to work with other creative bods such as models, make up artists, hair stylists and designers, working together to create images that you can all use to build your portfolio, there's a short hand term for this 'TFP' which in ancient times stood for Time For Print - harking back to a bygone age when people actually 'printed' images (i know, strange innit) therfore it's more commonly shortened to 'TF' however the premise remains in that everyone commits their 'Time' in exhcange 'For' some (hopefully) great images! TF projects are another great networking resource and way to build up your business contacts too - I've been refered on to loads of paid work by people who I've met through TF projects.
I hear a lot of photographers complain that "i do loads of TF work and it never leads to any actually paid work" well i say to those people that you must be doing it wrong then!! People who work with you TF should be in a position to help spread the word about your business and how great it is working with you to others in the industry and I gladly undertake TF projects if i can use it as an opportunity to create images that will emebelish my portrfolio (which for a photographer is basically your shop window) or to try out new techniques which i might use on a paid project later on.
So the trick is to be discerning about who you collaborate with on a TF basis so that you are all going to benefit from the images - i think a common mistake some photographers make is to only work TF with relative newcomers to the industry and in that sense of course the project adds little to your portfolio and doesn't give you any traction with other potential clients.
Another great source of TF projects is events - if you're wanting to get more events work but you don't have enough images in your portfolio then you should approach some charities or local businesses who are running events, they'd bite your hand off for photography! again it's creating a win-win situation they get some good images and you get some good images out it, you will also meet people at the event and market your photography services at the same time - I offer Charities and Community groups free/heavily discounted photography services because a: I like to support good causes and just generally get involved in community stuff and b: it helps me refresh my portfolio and network/promote myself... oh and c: it's bloody good fun! :)
You need the ability to create some strong images and working on TF projects is a great practical way to make sure your techncial abilities are on point without the pressure of money being involved - people are a lot more forgiving if you're offering time for free! Also sometimes the only way to develop those photography skills is by getting out there and shooting - and a great way to start out is by working collaboratively with other folks and getting that Win-Win situation..... A lot of my techniques for professional work have been developed on TF shoots, paying clients aren't paying you to learn how to shoot their projects they expect you to have this sorted already (quite rightly)!
I see a lot of photgraphers starting out on the basis that once they've bought a decent camera that they are basically good to go but it's so much more involved than that.....there are of course many other factors involved but here we've focussed on building a network and your portfolio - two vital areas for photographers! there's other important stuff like marketing and deciding what you're going to specialise in (or not) maybe that'll be a future blog....
Going back to TF projects my biggest commercial job to date came about as a result of doing some TF work so there it is definitely a worthwhile exercise- i think you've got to be able to produce string images that people will value In future posts I'm going to take you behind the scenes on that particular job and also on a relatively recent TF shoot too - you lucky, lucky people!