some things I've learned.

A few days ago I had the thought that I should do this blog post.
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I don't claim to be a pro photographer or have it all together,
but I have learned some things over the past 2+ years in doing my business, and if this post helps even one person 
run their business better then it's worth sharing publicly on this little corner of the web. :)
Over time I have had multiple e-mails or questions from girls wanting to start a photography business. 

Questions like...

How do I decide what to charge?
Is $ (insert amount) too much? 
Should I charge by session or by hour?

Pricing is definitely challenging...I hear ya.

When I started my business, all I had in my portfolio were images from photoshoots I had done for fun.
And when I had to come up with an actual price list I thought, woah, where in the world do I start?!
I ended up picking a price that was--looking back--super cheap.
But I had only gotten my 'real' camera 9 months prior, didn't have much for a portfolio of work, I was self-taught, and so just went with what I personally felt comfortable with.

I can't really tell a person what to charge, as that depends on a lot of factors:
how long you have been shooting, your location, who your clientele is, what you plan to offer, etc.
However I would advise you to think through your costs more if you are wanting to start a business, and list them out.
As I reflect back on my early days, I wish I had realized more about the expenses of photography and planned more for those in my pricing at the beginning.

For example:

- your camera. I started with a Canon Rebel and later upgraded to a 5d mark ii--
the Rebel was totally awesome to start with, and I highly recommend it if you are looking for something!
- lenses. If I hadn't had a good portrait lens when I started, my beginning pictures would have looked a lot different, frankly. It is so, so worth it to invest in good glass!!
- computer. This is pretty obvious, but you have to think about how much disk space your computer will hold, and remember that it is bound to die at some point. 
Happened to me last year. :)
memory cards. And if you shoot raw instead of jpeg, you will need a lot.
- editing software. Using programs like Lightroom, Photoshop, etc., definitely make a ton of difference in your pictures.
- external hard drive to store images.
- presets/actions to use with editing.
- website for client galleries. I have personally used Zenfolio, but there are other options out there such as Smugmug, Showit, etc.
- gas mileage for driving to and from sessions.
- all your time spent importing/culling/editing/touching up the photosThis will get faster as you go, but at the beginning it took me an eterrrrnity.
- packaging. (flash drives/boxes/business cards/etc) Invest in packaging that looks nice. Even if all you have is a CD disk of the pictures, wrap it in kraft paper and add some washi tape. It doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg, but it should look professional.
- workshops/mentorships/courses for educating yourself. Totally invaluable. If you don't have funds to invest in this right now, e-mail a local photographer in your area and see if they would be willing to meet for coffee. Just chatting with someone else who has done photography for awhile will benefit you more than you know.
- postage for mailing.
- print/product costs. (if you want to offer these)

The list goes on and on -- you get the point! :)
You may not need all of these elements of your business right away, but down the road more will come, and you want to be thinking ahead and make sure you aren't losing money with each session you do, because you're trying to cover so many expenses.
With all that said, plan for your costs, start with a price you're comfortable with,
and as your business grows raise your prices.

As I reminisce back, some other advice I wanted to share in this post are:

Limit the amount of images for your sessions. 
Sure it's cool to say that there are 80+ images in their gallery, but who needs a million pictures? Cull the images down to the very best ones.
35 amazing images tops 80 okay photos any day. 
It is challenging because we want to give people all the 'good' images from their session--
but be assertive, make executive decisions as the artist, and give them the cream of the crop.
And only the cream.

Set a time frame for the shoot. No one wants to do 6 hours of senior portraits, and so stick with just 1 or 2 hours. Your time as an artist is worth something, and shooting endlessly will just make you and the client burned out.
Also, charge per session not per hour.

Keep your business/packaging/logo/e-mail interactions with people/etc. as professional as possible, from the beginning. 
I've said this before many times, and can't stress it enough. 

Get a facebook page so you can tag clients in their pictures.
Facebook and word of mouth have honestly been my biggest tools in marketing.
I know some people are against facebook, which I totally respect, 
so if that is your case, then look for different ways you can spread the word about your business!

Shoot so that you feel something as an artist. 
Don't just take pictures like everything else you see on pinterest or instagram. 
Strive for producing images that resonate with you personally and bring glory to God.

Don't be afraid of the mistakes you could make, or unexpected things that come up.
Believe me, you will make mistakes and have challenges to work through -- but don't let them bog you down!! 
Take the hurdles as they come, be humble, and learn from it for the future. 
Over time you will grow, and you can't beat yourself up about situations in the past that you wish you had handled differently.
We all have tomorrow--fresh and new with no mistakes in it, right?!
Just because one session went totally downhill and you feel like a failure when you drive away doesn't mean you quit.
Use it to push you further and make changes so things will go smoother next time!

I took these photos the other day of Natalie..more coming soon!
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If this post was helpful to you, even just a little, please comment!
I would be grateful to know that putting this content into a blog post was beneficial for someone. :)

Also feel free to ask any additional questions in the comments or e-mail me at hannah@hannaheliseblog.com at any time!

~H. Elise
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  1. This was SO helpful, Hannah, thanks for posting it! I know we'd talked about pricing and such a little, but reading a whole post was even better. :) I feel so much more knowledgable now, lol.

    P.S. Thought you might like to know I finally got my online portfolio up and running!


    1. glad to hear!

      your portfolio looks awesome! :) so glad you got it up!!

  2. Thank you!!! Definitely so helpful, as I'm really, really wanting to start a photography business this year!

  3. Your perspective on photography and business is so unique and so professional. I love that about you. :)
    I really like what you said about taking images that resonate with you and bring glory to God. We hear that resonate part pretty often and it's so important, but remembering to bring glory to God with each image? That's a lot harder to do, in my experience. :)
    And those two images are just stunning! I can't wait to see the rest :)

  4. Very helpful, Hannah!

    Thanks for sharing. :)

  5. Hannah, I loved it. There were some thoughts in there that I needed to hear from somewhere other than just my own head. Thank you. :)

  6. Hannah, this was sooo incredibly helpful! Thank you for sharing!!! I'm hoping to get a small photography business going over the summer and am looking for tips! :) Love the pictures of Natalie. . .grrr, that hair is so purty!!!

  7. Hannah! Oh my goodness! I was just wondering some of these things TODAY (online portfolio, pricing...etc.)! Thank you so much for offering your perspective on getting a business up and running. This is my year-- Sage Hill Photography is really going to come together. I've put it off so long, and now I think I'm finally comfortable with starting. Yay!

    Thanks again! You've been a great inspiration to me!


  8. This will be my 2nd year of being "in business". I have found everything you said to be true. I love photographers that share what they have learned instead of acting like they have something to hide.

  9. I so appreciate how you take the time to bless aspiring photographers with posts like these - Q+A styled posts are definitely some of my very favorite to read. Thanks bunches, Hannah friend! And ahhh, those portraits! So much beauty and I'm excited to see the rest :) Have a blessed evening + thanks again!

  10. so so helpful!! I wish you would live close here in PA... i would definitely get you to take my pictures :)

  11. I loved this post, Hannah! I've definitely needed to read a post like this after just getting a new camera that I'm still testing out. It meant so much to me when you took time to respond to my questions and give me tips through email. You've really blessed me through your blog and you've also been such a huge inspiration to me.


  12. Thank you SO MUCH for posting this! I think you posted this just for me...haha. ;) I am hoping to start a photography business sometime soon and I have a lot to learn! A lot about the very things you mentioned - thanks for answering! I get discouraged looking at the tips from the super pro photographers who are basically like, "Don't even THINK of being a 'professional' or being an ANYBODY when all you do is shoot with a Rebel and charge a couple hundred bucks and give them digital images. Get out of the way and leave the business to the pros." So... :/ Idk, what are your thoughts on that?

    Also, your thoughts on naming photography businesses after the photographer's name? How is "Sharon Joy Photography"? :/

    1. Sharon,

      you are so welcome!! That is so awesome that you are hopefully starting a business soon! :) I'm sorry but I haven't really come across photographers or blogs that have given me that impression..I know there are people out there who cause others to feel that way, so I would just encourage you to follow the photogs who will build you up! :)

      I definitely think using your own name, when possible, is very beneficial! Sharon Joy Photography sounds great!! :)

  13. This is such a great post Hannah, chock full of some really great info! I love reading your business posts because your outlook is always so positive and refreshing! You rock girl!!!

  14. Thanks so much, Hannah! These are some of my favorite blog posts to read as well... always love seeing into another photographer's workflow, hearing their thoughts, and learning from their expertise! Love your honesty about making mistakes, too - we all need those reminders that it's normal to mess up from time to time, and you've just got to take what you can from them. =)

  15. Thanks a lot for posting this--I'm looking into photography and this information will be a big help when I want the details for a business to come together. I found your blog through Ana Campbell's blog, in case you were wondering why you couldn't recognize my name. :)

  16. Oh, so helpful! Thank you, Hannah, for sharing!

  17. This was VERY informative. Loved the advice about it being ok to make mistakes... I usually don't like to do things that I think I'll fail in, but I'm learning to surrender it to The Lord.

  18. Thanks for this post, Hannah! I love photography and it would be awesome to start a business sometime, so it was helpful to read this! ~Tashia


please leave a comment -- I would love to hear your thoughts on this post!! :)