Photography is many things: it’s an art, a hobby, a way to document everyday life (which will eventually become ‘history’), and of course – it’s also an exciting profession. Event photography in particular can be very demanding, with clients relying on their chosen photographer to capture their special gathering for posterity. Whether it’s a birthday, wedding or corporate event, it’s a huge responsibility, because there’s only one chance to get it right. So, for those who earn a reputation for delivering consistently beautiful, creative and high-quality photos, professional event photography can be both a lucrative and rewarding career.
Naturally, there’s a difference between shooting photos as an amateur enthusiast, and running a professional photography business. There are also differences between various types of professional photography, like fashion photography, food photography, real estate photography, travel photography, and many others that require a particular set of skills and expertise.
If you fancy yourself an event photographer but don’t have any experience as one, you may want to work for a professional event photographer for a while first, to learn the nuances that are specific to event photography and to understand whether there are any aspects you may need to prepare for that may not have occurred to you before.
Here are five tips to help you understand the basics of launching your own event photography business:
1. Invest in quality equipment, and know your stuff.
Investing in quality equipment is your obvious first step. As an event photographer, it’s likely you’ll be working in all sorts of venues – both indoor and outdoor – under all sorts of conditions, so you’ll need a good camera, lenses, lighting, spare batteries and memory cards as a minimum. Obviously, you’ll also need to know how to use all of this equipment, so if you feel your skills need bolstering, you may also want to invest in relevant training to help you capture the best images possible and stand out from your competition.
2. Develop a portfolio that showcases your skill and style.
Creating an event photography portfolio is essential to showcasing your best images to potential clients, so they can get an idea of your style and skill level. If you don’t have a portfolio of work that you feel represents those things adequately (yet), you may want to consider offering your services – either at reduced rates or even for free if you think it’s a great portfolio-building opportunity – to friends, relatives, colleagues or any other contacts who would be happy to give you a shot at their next event. Just make sure that the terms are clear at the outset, so that there’s no misunderstandings about your role.
3. Make sure you have a solid contract to avoid any legal mishaps.
Speaking of misunderstandings – when it comes to high-stakes events like weddings or corporate functions, you’ll want to make sure that your clients’ expectations are crystal clear about every aspect of your work process, commitments, timelines, deliverables and payment terms, so that you’re legally covered against any potential claims. The last thing you want is a disgruntled bride or irate, high-flying executive taking you to court over an aspect of your service they misunderstood.
Investing in a solid contract – even if you need to engage a lawyer to get it done professionally – may be one of your most important one-off expenses, not only because it could end up saving you a lot of money, but also major headaches down the track. You might also want to consider investing in liability insurance so that you’re covered for things like property damage and/or accidental bodily injury to a third party.
4. Set your rates and adjust them as you gain experience.
Setting photography rates usually depends on the photographer’s niche, experience and skill level. Photographers generally charge hourly rates, day rates, or package rates. This photography rates guide from Fash, for example, details different pricing benchmarks based on a variety of factors. You can use these as a reference, but to calculate your own rates, you should also make sure your fees are competitive with other photographers in your area, so you’ll need to do a little research locally as well. Don’t forget that whatever you charge your clients isn’t what you’ll ‘make’, because you’ll need to deduct all sorts of relevant expenses for equipment, travel, administration and more. So, you might want to take those business expenses into consideration as part of your pricing process.
5. Network, hustle and market yourself – with gusto!
Networking is key when it comes to event photography. You’ll need to build relationships with event planners, venues, and other professionals in the industry: attend networking events, join industry associations, create partnerships with local charities or businesses in your area, and keep up with industry news and developments. As part of networking and hustling for business, you’ll also need to market yourself to improve your success rate when reaching out to potential clients. Start by creating a professional website, promoting your services on social media, and asking your satisfied clients for a testimonial. Nothing is more convincing to a potential client than glowing praise from an existing one!
If you’re itching for a career in event photography, diving into the industry head first with nothing more than basic equipment, a passion for photography, and a dream – won’t be enough to grow a business efficiently. Proper preparation can make all the difference, so If you’re serious about launching a professional event photography business, these five tips should help get you started on the right foot, and build a more solid foundation for long-term success.