Startup Costs: $2,000 - $10,000
Part Time: Can be operated part-time.
Franchises Available? Yes
Online Operation? No

From social media video to product shots to blog posts, there is an insatiable need for top-notch photography in today's digital world. Publishers, creators, copywriters, marketers, and designers from all corners of the world are forever on the prowl for that picture-perfect image to sell their product or story. If you have the gift for finding the ideal angle or capturing the perfect moment, this could be the year you transform that in-demand skill into a lucrative venture.

What is the first step to getting started in the photography industry?

Margaret Pattillo, Owner of Margaret Pattillo Photography explains:

It really is to simply start taking photographs! Learn how to use a DSLR camera in manual mode. Evaluate the way light hits objects and explore composition techniques. This art form is a competitive field, and a low-paying one when first starting out, so you must really love it. They say your first 10,000 photographs will be your worst, and I found this to be true, but those shots will fuel learning of the fundamentals.

If you want to continue, the next step would be to go find an established photographer who you can assist, and with whom you can develop a mentor/mentee relationship. You won’t be the one taking the photos yet, but you’ll learn what it’s like to be on set and what it takes to execute a shoot, which is invaluable expertise you cannot acquire just by reading.

Is the industry growing?

It certainly is, especially with the rise of social media. Content generation is at the forefront, and new types of content and its millions of creators have opened opportunity floodgates for more and unique photographers.

What are the current trends in photography and what type of person is a great fit to try this?

One trend is that film is resurfacing, which makes it easier to break into the field. With the revival of this older technology, focus is more than ever on the talent operating the camera, not the camera itself. You can take a stunning image with a $20 camera and a horrible one with a $5,000 camera. Natural imagery with limited editing is also trending. People are tired of the overly retouched flawless people they are accustomed to seeing in advertising; they want to see real people in campaigns now.

A sociable person with an insatiable drive, a creative touch and a love for photography, of course, would be ideal. I’ll stress again the need to adore the craft, because this is an art, and your love (or not) will show through the images. Bear in mind that those who operate their own businesses in this field are responsible for acquiring clients, for operating expenses, branding, marketing, and everything else involved with operations.

Related: Want to Be Your Own Boss? Learn How to Launch Your Side Hustle Fast.

How much money can a person expect to make in the first year and in five years?

I would say, unfortunately, don’t expect to make much at all in the first year. You have no experience and probably have yet to develop a style, and there will always be people out there who will work cheap, or even free, just for the experience. As you gain expertise and confidence, benefits you’ll find from being featured in reputable publications exist more in branding and marketing rather than in the immediate finances, as the pay range is usually in the hundreds.

In five years, you will find that individuals and small businesses will pay a few hundred dollars, while big brands typically pay a few thousand, and eventually, you will find ones that will pay tens of thousands of dollars for a seasoned and established professional. The time and experience it takes to land high-paying jobs are why you need to truly love this profession because you will not be an overnight success. You may not even find true success within a few years. This is a long, arduous and rewarding endeavor that yes, can eventually take you around the world and give you the freedom to do what you love day to day, but patience and perseverance are key.

In terms of revenue streams, you can also contract with publishers, or post your photos on any one of the many stock photography services online, where people can browse the selection and purchase the images they need. You are paid a one-time fee, or a royalty each time the image is downloaded, depending on your agreement with the image broker.

What kind of experience/training do you need?

You don’t need any formal training. The internet puts everything you need to know — from taking a photo to retouching — at your fingertips, but you will need experience since any jobs you procure are based on your portfolio of work.

Related: Need One-on-One Help? Book a Session with an Entrepreneur Expert.

Are there any resources you recommend that were extremely valuable in getting your business off the ground?

I would encourage diving into social media. YouTube and TikTok are great for learning new tricks and techniques with both photography and retouching, Instagram is wonderful for connecting with new people in your area, perhaps a model or an editor, and Facebook is also a great resource to find photography- or model-centric groups of people who are willing to collaborate with you to help elevate everyone’s portfolio.

Related: Get the No.1 Guide to Starting Your Own Business


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