Photography Marketability

In my last post I discussed how to understand the basic competition in your area. By doing this you can begin to see how easy it could be to get lost among the competitors in your industry. If you’re considering whether or not your product is marketable, you should continue to research. Even reaching out to your social media community can help guide your way. In doing this, you can determine if the product you are offering will satisfy customer needs. Researching can also uncover any trends that are present that can either benefit you or deter your business.

SONY DSCIt is also important to focus on your target market to see if your product is viable in this segment. Focusing your target market will also help in your future marketing decisions. Your target market may be segmented by the geographical area. When I performed research on the number of registered photographers, I stayed within my geographical area as that makes the most sense for the product offering. Be smart about how you limit this area. I chose Seattle and the surrounding areas as it is easy to travel from for Seattle to the surrounding cities to perform my business.  Limiting my research to just the city of Seattle wouldn’t give me accurate information. Also, I researched the average number of marriages in year in my last post. I couldn’t find the number of marriages in the Seattle area, so I proceeded with my next best solution. I used the average number of marriages in the United States and used that percentage with the population of the Seattle area.

It is simple to go further with these segmented markets. For different photography products that are offered, the age range or gender will help in determining the viability of your product. Be sure to research current or as close to current information as you can obtain. Being up to date on this information will help to paint a more accurate picture than if you are pulling data that isn’t current

What research have you done that has helped form your business?



Knowing Your Location – Photography Competition

In my first post I had you consider the following questions:

  • What types of activities will you be performing?
  • When do you plan to start your business?
  • Where will your business be located?
  • What business structure will you have?
  • What do you plan to call your business?

In this post I wanted to focus on the location of your photography business.

hands-way-guide-touristWhen I talk about your location I’m not necessarily speaking of the specific address of your business, athough this can also be important. In this post I’m speaking on the more general area that you will be located.

One thing you must keep in mind is the market of your business in your area. I had mentioned the importance of defining your photography style in my post Photography Business – What’s Your Specialty?, and I had mentioned the importance of how marketable your style may be depending on where you live. As I had mentioned previously – being an event photographer in Las Vegas, or a fashion photographer in San Francisco may be of higher demand than if you were located in a small town lacking the clients needed to be viable. However, just because you’re in an area where your product is viable, doesn’t mean there won’t be competition among other photographers.

I’ll give an example of the area I’m currently living – Seattle. Let’s say you want to be a wedding photographer. As of 2010 there are 608,660 residents with a population estimate of 662,440 for 2015. Expanding to the county that Seattle is located, King County was home to 1.9 million residents in 2010. On average .68 of the population are married each year in the United States translating to about 13,000 marriages in King County. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code for Photography Services is 541921. In the State of Washington there are approximately 6,400 businesses registered with this NAICS code. NAICS codes identify  firm’s primary business activity in the State of Washington. The codes are established by the US Census Bureau and are generally assigned based on the taxpayer’s highest taxable activity.

What does this information tell us? First off we need to understand that not everyone who is married will hire a wedding photographer and not everyone who is registered as a photographer is a wedding photographer AND not all wedding photographers may be properly registered. So although this data is not completely accurate for our purposes, we can start to see the data that represents our market and competition.

With the seemingly endless amount of choices for wedding photographers in the area you need to understand how extensive your competition is and what you must do to be competitive in this kind of market. When you’re looking at the area you plan to do business, and the style of photographery you will be practicing, take a moment to do some research to see what the competition is like.

What kind of competition have you noticed in your area and how you do separate yourself?


Seattle – Department of Planning and Development 

Washington State – Department of Revenue

The Bottom Line – Profiting in Photography

If you’re starting a business in something you’re passionate about and don’t necessarily have a business background, it’s easy to not think about the bottom line – how much money are you really making. We can go into a long discussion about this, but initially I wanted to cover the topic in a very basic format.

Profit is essentially a function of revenue and cost. That is, how much money are you bringing in compared to how much you are paying to have your business function. The reason I wanted to discuss this is because there are many small factors that need to be taken into consideration when you’re looking at your bottom line. It’s always important to remain knowledgeable and understand all of what goes into running a business so you can be successful.

numbers-money-calculating-calculationCosts are things like licensing your business, equipment purchased, gas for getting to and from clients, car insurance/maintenance, even small items like paper, ink, or advertising. Don’t forget to include what you will be getting paid, labor is a cost that you need to take into consideration unless you want to work for free. Costs may depend on how many clients you have, or they may be a cost regardless of the number of clients. A fixed cost is an expense that is paid regardless of the number of clients you are working with, this will be something like the rent you’re paying at your studio or the cost of the equipment you’ve purchased. A variable cost will change depending on the number of clients you serve or the amount of work you’re performing. Variable costs will include things like travel expenses or prints. Revenue is the amount of money that you receive, including discounts and deductions for returned or refunded products. Revenue is calculated by multiplying the price at which goods or services are sold by the number of units or amount sold.

When you understand the profit function, this will help you determine what prices to set in order to cover all of your costs – you will break even when your costs equal your revenue. Although there are many other factors that will need to be taken into consideration when setting prices, this will help you get a realistic look at what you will need to charge to make a profit in your photography business.

In future blog posts I will continue to discuss profit and how important of a role accounting plays in your business. Subscribe to my blog to receive e-mail updates for new posts.

What Business Structure Will Suit Your Photography Business


When starting your own business, it is important to understand the different types of business structures that are available so you can build your business to suit your needs. Most will default to a Sole Proprietorship as this is simple to form and operate; however, one needs to keep in mind that as the business owner, you are personally liable for all debts incurred by the business. Below is a basic overview of the different types of business structures taken from the State of Washington Business Licensing Service:

A Sole Proprietorship is one individual or married couple in business alone. This type of business is simple to form and operate, may enjoy greater flexibility of management, fewer legal controls, and fewer taxes. However, the business owner is personally liable for all debts incurred by the business.

A General Partnership has two or more persons who agree to contribute money, labor, or skill to a business. Each partner shares the profits, losses, and management of the business, and each partner is personally and equally liable for debts of the partnership.

A Limited Partnership is composed of one or more general partners and one or more limited partners. The general partners manage the business and share fully in its profits and losses. Limited partners are not usually involved in the day-to-day operations of the business, they share in the profits of the business, but their losses are limited to the extent of their investment.

A Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) is similar to a General Partnership except that normally a partner doesn’t have a personal liability for the negligence of another partner.

A Limited Liability Limited Partnership (LLLP) is a LP that chooses to become an LLLP by including a statement to that effect in its certificate of limited partnership. This type of business structure may shield general partners from liability obligations of the LLLP.

A Corporation is a more complex structure where it has certain rights, privileges, and liabilities beyond those of an individual. Doing business as a corporation may yield tax or financial benefits, but these can be offset by other considerations, such as increased licensing fees or decreased personal control.

A Nonprofit Corporation is a legal entity and is typically run to further an ideal or goal rather than in the interests of profit. Many nonprofits serve the public interest, but some engage in private sector activities.

A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is formed by one or more individuals or entities through a special written agreement that details the organization of the LLC, including provisions for management, assignability of interests, and distribution of profits and losses.

A Joint Venture is formed for a limited length of time to carry out a business transaction or operation.

A Tenants in Common allows two or more people to occupy the same business while retaining separate identities in regard to assets or liabilities resulting from business activities.

An Association is an organized group of people who share a common interest, activity, or purpose.

Be sure you understand what each structure entails and choose the one that is appropriate for your business needs.

What has been your experience with operating as a photography business in the State of Washington?

Photography Tools At Home – Wacom Tablet

There are many tools that will increase your productivity and help with the efficiency of providing quality product. I wanted to focus on a product that may not be considered when you’re starting out in photography, but the further you get into your business the more beneficial it will become. Using a Wacom tablet in place of a mouse can assist with production as it supplies additional tools that won’t be available for you unless your utilizing a pen tablet. The bottom line here is purchasing a piece of equipment that will improve your efficiency and increase the quality of your product will only help your photography business.

If you’re unfamiliar with a Wacom tablet is, here is a quick video that describes the benefits for users – taking the place of your mouse and providing pressure sensitive touch, this tool helps to increase productivity when utilized effectively. Although Wacom can be used for a huge variety of other purposes, what we’re concerned with is how it can improve your photography business.

Below is a short comparison of four different Wacom styles:

Wacom Tablet Screenshot

As you can see, the Intuos style is great for serious photographers. The Intuos Pen and Touch Small is compact and used well with a laptop or a small screen and it is the most affordable starting at $99.99. The Intuos Pen and Touch Medium is used for a larger screen (15-21 inches) which costs $199.99.  You’ll want to keep in mind the size of your screen when purchasing a pen tablet as the size of the tablet represents the size of the visible area on your monitor. The pen and touch is basic and does not come with multi touch or an eraser tip. The Intuos Pro Range is a step up and is used for those who will be doing more than just the occasional work. Pro is available in small, medium, and large ranging in price from $249.99 to $499.99. The key benefit of the Intuos Pro range is increasing productivity. All models feature five finger multi touch input, 2,048 levels of pen pressure, express keys, a toggle ring, and wireless connectivity is standard.

It is important to know what tools are available to be efficient with your time. Although it may be difficult to make the initial switch to a Wacom tablet, the benefits will follow when you begin to elaborate on your photos in ways not possible before. Be sure to research and discover the product that is right for you.

Let me know your experience with Wacom tablets or any tips on pen tablets for photographers.

Photography Business – What’s Your Specialty?

In my last blog I left you to consider the following questions when you are thinking about starting your own photography business:

  • What types of activities will you be performing?
  • When do you plan to start your business?086
  • Where will your business be located?
  • What business structure will you have?
  • What do you plan to call your business?

In this post I wanted to focus on the first element which begins with defining your photography focus or the style in which you want to shoot. Determining what you will specialize in will help establish some of your goals as well as define who your market is – you can begin to look at how and where to market to your clients. Also, having a specialization will help to refine your skills in that area. Your interactions with your clients and potential clients will build your business into a strong brand. Defining your style will also determine the equipment that you need, where you will need to be located, and will help you discover competition in your area bringing into question the feasibility of your business.

There are many different styles in photography such as fashion, beauty, nature, landscape, wildlife, travel, wedding, and maternity – just to name a few. If you are not new to photography then you may have found a style you are comfortable with and enjoy doing. Some of you may have decided you want to open a business without a substantial background or specialization; this is the time narrow your focus to help decide where you want to be. Think about the styles you enjoy and the marketability of those styles in the area you live or plan to do business. Being an event photographer in Las Vegas, or a fashion photographer in San Francisco may be of higher demand than if you were located in a small town lacking the clients needed to be viable. When you’ve decided on a focus you can practice techniques within that style – improving your skills in a specialized area will only help your business. However, don’t think that you have to restrict yourself to just one style or that you can only practice one style.  Although it may be difficult to change styles between something like wedding and wildlife, that doesn’t mean that the skills you learn in one style will not assist with the other. Just keep in mind to not spread yourself too thin – potential clients may find it distracting if a photographer specializes in too many styles and they may look elsewhere where they can find a photographer specialized in the specific area they are interested in. You should find a style that you’re comfortable with and that you enjoy – don’t hesitate to try a few if you are beginning the process of deciding your focus.

What are your tips for defining a photography focus?

Photography – From a Hobby to a Business Venture

For many years I have enjoyed photography as a hobby – when I was a kid I always had a camera in my hand taking pictures of my surroundings and throughout my life I always remember the joy I felt when taking pictures. Growing up I never had anything fancy, the majority of the time it was a disposable camera and later on a simple point and shoot, but that was enough to get me through the years until I purchased my first camera that took my learning up a notch.

After graduating from college and getting my first full time, good paying job, I sucked it up and decided to make the $1,000 purchase of a DSLR that was packaged with two lenses. This may seem like a small investment to some – for me it was a big deal. I have always been one to save my money and I don’t often buy anything of substantial cost in one go. Not to mention it was hard to shake off the “starving college student” spending. I did what many photographers say not to do and I purchased a camera prior to having a any real experience or knowledge. I did my research, read reviews, and decided to purchase a Nikon D5100 – nothing too fancy but still having all the specs I needed learn the details of how to further my photography. Lucky for me, I made a good investment and purchased a camera that suited my needs. Fast forward to today – I have purchased and borrowed a number of lenses and have continued learning the importance in the details of photography. This has always been a hobby of mine but I’ve wanted to  take the next step and turn it into a business.

There are many photographers that choose to do just this, the problem is, it is easy to overlook the laws that are in place to be compliant. Having worked for state government in the past, I have seen it countless times – people want to start a business but have no clue what they need to do to be in compliance – whether it be proper licensing or paying tax. It’s easy to overlook the details if you’re not aware of the proper way to conduct your business.

Although this will be a part time gig for me, it is still important to conduct myself with credibility. In my future posts you can follow my journey of transforming my photography into a proper business and how to do so compliantly. To start off on the right foot, here are some points to keep in mind when you’re thinking of starting your own photography business:

  • What types of activities will you be performing?
  • When do you plan to start your business?
  • Where will your business be located?
  • What business structure will you have?
  • What do you plan to call your business?

Thanks for the read and I look forward to sharing this adventure with you.