Mentioned in this Episode

Taylor Jackson

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This week, Rob from Montreal asked me, “How should he get started, and what would I do if I were just starting out?”

So, the first thing that I thought of was, I would …

Work on my photography
That is, I will work on improving my photography until I am confident I can produce quality photos.

Now, I don’t mean I have to lock myself away and not come out until my photos are perfect. I mean, constantly work on improving.

When I started, I was shooting my daughter’s figure skating, and it took me a few months to figure out what worked best. Luckily, I had an online mentor who helped me. His name is Mark Newcombe, and he is an Australian sports photographer. He was doing what I wanted to do: make money shooting kid’s sports. It was Mark who introduced me to products like posters and magazine covers.

This podcast is me paying it back and trying to mentor/help as many new photographers as I can.

I’m not suggesting you need to have a mentor. I’m just trying to get the point across that you need to educate yourself in any way you can. Whether it’s a website, a book, a mentor, or a course, you need to move forward.

There is a market for all levels of photography. You don’t have to be perfect before you start charging. Start off small and charge a little, and as your quality improves, scale up and charge more.

Like I’ve said in past episodes, your work needs to be above average to stand out from your competition, and I wouldn’t stop there. I would keep trying to perfect my technique until I was at the limit of my talent.

If you shoot everything and anything, you will find that improving all your different genres is next to impossible. That is why I would …
Niche down
Concentrating on one genre would give me a better chance of improving my skills and building a reputation.

This is where I failed in the past. I tried to shoot everything I could, and I was above average at some things and okay at others.

If I were starting out today, I would specialize in portraits, nothing else. I have said in the past that there is a toss-up between headshots and pet portraits, but I am leaning towards creative portraits. If I ever get the 85mm 1.2, I might go for it.

I would spend money and attend workshops and courses with the best portrait photographers.

Yes, they are expensive, but I would go from A to Z in one big step. Not experimenting for the next two years until I figure it out. If I learn from the best, it will allow me to offer my work at a higher price point sooner. I might work it all out in a year, but how much money am I going to miss out on?

If all I was shooting were portraits, I would only be selling prints. That is where portrait photographers make their money, selling prints. The only time the customer would get a digital file is if they have bought a print of it.

By niching down, I would be aiming to be one of the best portrait photographers in my area. I want to be fully booked because of my quality, not discounted prices.

One of the major reasons a photographer can produce quality images is …

Editing is the differentiator between the best and the rest. Producing beautifully edited images is the key to building a reputation.

When I first started, editing a portrait in Photoshop could take hours. Nowadays, you can do a better job in under 10 minutes. So today, I would put as much emphasis on editing as I would on shooting.

There isn’t a professional photographer out there that doesn’t edit their photos. If I were to start out again, I would get up to speed on Lightroom and Photoshop as quickly as possible.

Next is …
Keep your costs down
To do this, I would definitely buy used equipment. A semi-pro body and one or two pro-quality lenses. Putting most of your money into a camera body is pointless. It’s the lenses that make the difference in photos.

If I were going to shoot real estate, I would buy a 10-18mm zoom if I had a crop sensor body or a 16-35mm zoom on a full-frame body.

For sports, I would buy a 70-200mm zoom and maybe look at a 100-400mm. It all depends on the sport and being able to fill the frame with the subject.

For portraits and headshots, you could use a 70-200mm zoom or an 85mm prime lens. The lens I’m craving at the moment is the Canon 85mm 1.2. The quality is amazing, and the super-shallow depth of field at f/1.2 makes me want it even more.

Okay, I’m meant to be talking about keeping the costs down, and the 85mm 1.2 at $2800 is blowing the budget. So, I would go with a semi-pro body, like the full-frame Canon 6D MK2 and the Canon EF 85mm 1.4. That would be all I would need to start shooting portraits.

I would need a couple of lights, and to keep the cost down, I would get two cheap Neewer or Godox flashes. I would also need two shoot-through umbrellas or softboxes and a couple of light stands.

The more you reduce your equipment costs, the quicker you will make a profit. Don’t waste money on unnecessary equipment.

Next is a …
This is your business hub, and all your marketing is aimed at sending people to your website. A strong portfolio will make visitors want to work with you.

You need a mailing list and a sign-up form on your website. This would be one of the first things I would do. It’s that important.

Website visitors are telling you they are interested in what you are offering by signing up for your list. All you need to do is send them special offers and get bookings.

Get known & be a people person
A big part of being a business owner is putting yourself out there.

Social media is the easiest way to do that. Now, you need to consider your ideal customer’s age range.

You will find people under 25 on TikTok, 20-40-year-olds on Instagram, 35+ on Facebook, and business people on LinkedIn. Those are rough guides, but I don’t think you will find many people over 40 on TikTok. Just realize that it is important to find where your audience is hanging out.

Don’t forget that good old-fashioned direct contact with potential customers is still a great way to get bookings. Send brochures to local businesses or drop them off in person.

Try to be a people person and help people out. Make working with you easy. You want customers to refer you to friends and show your work off on their favorite social media platforms.

The happier customers are, the more they promote you online to their family and friends. Use a blog or Facebook to give each customer a mention after their session. Make them feel important.

You want your name to be known for the good that you do.

Okay, this last one is something I wouldn’t have considered ten years ago …
I wouldn’t use video for portraits, but if I were shooting Weddings or Real Estate, I would definitely do video.

For Real Estate, I would do a walk-through video and use a drone to shoot the exterior.

For Weddings, check out Taylor Jackson on YouTube. He switches from stills to video, recording 20-30-second videos before returning to stills. I’ll put a link in the show notes and over at

If you want to use a drone at a wedding, you will probably need an assistant. But imagine having drone footage of the bride and groom leaving the church as a married couple. Or for outdoor weddings, being able to have drone footage of the whole ceremony.

You need to consider Video and Drone footage if you want to stand out from your competition.

So, if I were to start out again today, I would shoot only portraits.

Working on my shooting and editing techniques so that my style is repeatable and consistent. I would take courses and workshops to get the skills needed.

I would initially keep my starting costs down by buying good-quality used equipment, remembering that your lenses are your most important equipment.

My website would have my portfolio and a mailing list form.

I would promote myself on social media platforms where my customers hang out.

If I were considering Weddings, I would definitely offer video.

Right then, that is what I would do if I were just starting out.

If you need help with anything, you can find me in the Facebook group.

You can find the transcript for this episode in the show notes and over at

While you are there, you can help support the show and “Buy Me a Coffee.”

Okay, I’ll be back next week with a softbox overflowing with waffle.

Talk to you soon. Bye.