This is a message for hobbyist or amateur photographers on the fence about starting a photography business. This advice is for you if you find yourself wondering if you’re “good enough to charge”. Or if models don’t return your calls for portfolio builds. Or it seems like you can’t even give your photography services away.
Don’t rush into a photography business.
If you aren’t completely sold on working for hire and are still in the portfolio process of your photography, then fully commit to that process. You can always get licensed and start to charge later. That being said, there are things you can do in the mean time to help you deal with flaky models and grow faster in the direction you’re aiming to grow:
1. Build value.
If you have trouble getting people to commit to a session with you, you can bet it’s because they are having trouble valuing your time or your work. It’s not personal–it’s part of running a business! And it has little to nothing to do with your quality of work. But you can build value by emphasizing your work as art. (Ex. say “let’s create stunning portraits and artwork for your home”, not “can you let me take your picture for my portfolio”)
2. Improve your work.
Anyone and everyone needs to be in a constant state of improvement to keep up with the photography industry, but this is especially true if you are relatively new to photography as a hobby or as a business. It takes a lot of practice to know how to direct people in a moment without taking away personality from their portraits. Practice practice practice. Aim to be better than you were yesterday.
3. Don’t depend on anyone but you.
You’re going to face rejection a lot in the photography business. I did, I do, and I will continue to face rejection. Rejection is part of any business, but it stings just a little more for photographers because we are a people-centric art industry. What we do for others is so crucial and so moving, it can really hurt when people stand us up for a session. But at the end of the day, let those people go. DONT work with them again unless they come to you, and choose to work with people who are excited about the process.
4. Have a contract.
Yes, even hobbyists should use a contract with their models. Whether you charge or not (you should NOT if you aren’t licensed according to your state requirements), you absolutely need a solid contract. Contracts help to manage expectations before a session, and protect yourself and your artistic rights afterward. In addition to protecting yourself and educating your models, a contract will weed out those who aren’t serious about showing up to your portfolio build, or otherwise take advantage of you, your time, and your photos.
The bottom line:
You can do this. Whether you’re pursuing photography as a hobby, or building a portfolio toward having a business of your own. There is a right way to go about it, and a little patience goes a long way.