How to build a sustainable business with photography

Earning money from photography is great. Whether it’s paying off your gear as a hobbyist or making a living from it - there’s no better compliment than someone paying you for your work.

In this blog - I’ll talk about my story with commercial photography and MY experience with it. Just because I did it this way doesn’t mean it’s the correct way for everyone or even the most effective. But it’s worked for me.

My background: From a very young age I loved learning about money and how it works, basing my school and eventually university studies around Commerce. Through University, being a broke student I tried everything to make a buck. Eventually photography allowed me to move up from living on 2-minute noodles, work flexibly and allow my studies to not suffer. I started working as a content creator for 2 small businesses whilst also running my own business, Decorum Cars. I learnt the power of content for small businesses and discovered value in what I do. This led me to starting up Logan Smith Content Creation which is my solo freelance avenue and the website you’re currently reading this on. Further down the line I met Esmé, where Esmé & Logan was born. Esmé & Logan, still relatively new, is an absolute powerhouse and my most successful venture yet. At the time of writing, Mediablocks has also just been born. A commercial oriented design agency where I can niche into business strategy with content whilst working with some amazing creatives. I have no doubt this one will become a monster.

Anyway, that’s my story. Here’s how I did it in the easiest format possible.

Let’s start from step 1: Recognise the strengths in your work and what type of stuff holds value to others. This can generally be determined by people organically reaching out for you to replicate the work for them and/or their business. In my case - I had people I didn’t even know asking me to take couple photos of them purely just from pictures I’d taken with my partner on a tripod with a self-timer, this goes to show how small an idea can grow from.

Step 2: Figure out if you actually LIKE doing whatever it is. Point, case and example is wedding photography. Seemingly glamorous and boasting good money to its name, wedding photography sees a massive turnover of photographers trying it, hating it, and moving on. Whilst doing your work commercially can be an amazing way to make money - you’ll quickly learn to hate something you consider you love very quickly if you don’t like what you’re doing. Period.

Step 3: Build a portfolio. Here’s the difficult part. You can be worth $300 p/h doing wedding photography but when a gym wants to hire you for a commercial solution and you can only show them wedding stuff, it’s hardly appealing. You’re going to take a pay-cut. See this as a long-term investment and your future self will be paying you for it. Discuss with the client and negotiate to see what is fair between the two of you when building portfolio work. Absolutely slay the job - this will give you not only killer portfolio work but killer referrals from said business.

Step 4: Slightly overlapping step 3, absolutely pour your heart into what you do. Not only will you enjoy what you do more, but you’ll get more & more work through referrals and amazing portfolio to your name. Care for your clients and make them feel looked after. Every single couple that I work with for Esmé & Logan is so special to me - as they’re trusting me to capture one of their most important days of their life; the least I can do is give them my absolute all. Always over deliver and keep awesome communication with your clients.

Step 5: Ensure you have the right gear to do the job. Different types of photography require different types of equipment, whatever it is you do, make sure you’re equipped. I only buy G Master lenses as I predominantly shoot weddings commercially. Autofocus is king and I couldn’t imagine missing a moment that could’ve been so special to my clients so I pay more for the best. That is my personal preference and not necessarily one I expect everyone to agree with, but I definitely haven’t and won’t cheap out on a client. Find what it is you need or can utilise to deliver your best work.

Step 6: Learn to market yourself. When I first started I was too embarrassed to even show my friends my Instagram, I kept it totally private. Be confident in your work, and know that others will value it and you. Utilise connections and networking to find work and thrive off the referrals that come from it.

Step 7: Enjoy it. At the end of the day you’re doing this because you love it. Never forget why you started.

Unfortunately I couldn’t go into full detail on each step and how I did everything, but is definitely an avenue for future blogs to elaborate on or possibly a video series?! I hope there is value in this and motivation for you to just start. All you need is drive and love for what you’re doing. Go be the best version of you <3

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