Almost 4 years ago now, I decided that I was going to start my journey as a Chicago Wedding Photographer. With pure grit and determination, I was able to start my photography business out of nothing and create a sustainable business in a span of three years. It definitely was not easy, as unfortunately back then there were not a ton of super accessible resources for a broke college student like there are now, so I definitely made a LOT of mistakes, but if I were to start all over again today, these are the three things I would do to start a photography business from scratch.
1. Spreading the Word
Even before I started my photography business and made things official, I started telling everyone I knew that I was starting my photography business. As I was sharing with my loved ones, friends and everyone else I knew, people began to think of me anytime that they needed a photographer or knew someone who needed a photographer. Along with spreading the word face to face, I started an Instagram and began posting photos that I had taken every single day.
2. Shooting for Free
My first year of business and the year prior to starting my business, I probably shot around 80-100 sessions for free. Here’s an example where I photographed my cousin modelling with her boyfriend for free so that I could practice flash photography. Whether they were my friends, family or strangers, I was taking photos of people and doing smaller sessions for clients for free for a couple of reasons. Some of those reasons include building my portfolio, learning how to edit different types of lighting and styles, learning how to use my camera in different scenarios and SO many other amazing reasons. I also worked as an assistant to wedding photographers for little to no money so I could learn the layout of a wedding day and how to photograph a wedding day.
3. Building a Website
Once I made things official with the government and felt ready to start taking on paying clients, I built myself a website. I created my first website on Squarespace using a photography focused template to create my site. My website was bare bones, it had a “portfolio page” filled with images I had taken while building my portfolio and anything that I felt confident in sharing with potential clients. I HIGHLY recommend Squarespace as a website for wedding photographers just starting out. Not only is it easy to use but it also has a contact page option so you can take new inquiries directly to your email.
4. Creating Packages
When starting my business, though I was nervous to do so, I made sure to create a handful of package options for potential clients as well as a pricing guide for potential clients to look through when trying to book me. Having packages outlined exactly what I provide to my clients, and also put a monetary amount on each package option. This made things easier for me to sell and promote, as well as kept me accountable and on track when providing my clients their deliverables.
5. Learning How to Use My Camera
Learning how to use my camera when I started my photography business was an ongoing process. When I initially decided to start my photography business I made sure to use my camera once a day that entire summer. This pushed me out of my comfort zone and forced me to learn how to create with and master my camera. Once I mastered the basic settings I was able to put more focus on my client experience and creating art with the people in front of my camera.
An awesome way to learn about being a wedding photographer and the experience that goes into a photo session is to hire one! Once I decided I wanted to start a photography business I also looked in Facebook groups and on Instagram for photographers who were looking for regular people to model for them. Tanner and I modeled for multiple styled shoots so I could be on the other side of the experience and feel what it was like to be posed for photos. Elopement Styled Shoot by Teresa Williams Photography, couples session shot by Hello Hana.
Though this is not everything I did when starting my business as a Chicago wedding Photographer, this is a great start. This first year of business was one of the hardest in business, but I am so thankful I went for it and was able to grow my business to where it is today.