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What are the top five challenges new professional photographers face?


Running a photography business is a really tough challenge. The hours of dedication coupled with financial risk and personal sacrifice don’t endear it to everyone. People striving out on their own need all the help they can get. We’d like to help get you off the ground so we asked one of our resident freelance photographers, Jill Coursen, to answer – What are the top five challenges new professional photographers face?

What Gear Do I Need?

Although quality camera equipment is reducing in price as technology advances, it’s still eye-wateringly expensive. It’s critical to remember that you don’t need the very best equipment when you’re just starting out. Learning to effectively use the tools you have will make you a better photographer.

Your camera gear should grow with your business and portfolio. Renting lenses and cameras is a good way to test prospective purchases out and help you learn if they will benefit your type of photography. Building up your camera bag can be a process of trial and error. A good camera body is essential, so you should find a balance between quality and value that is right for you at the time.

What’s My Style?

Go out and take some pictures! Regardless of what your current gear situation is, just go out and shoot. Shoot as much as you can as often as you can. Those tendencies you develop will eventually become your style. Knowing what motivates you and inspires you will make you the best photographer you can be. Once you have your photography style figured out it will be much easier for you to have a logo and brand identity created that suits your style. When people click on your website link or Facebook page, everything there should be a reflection of your style.

How Do I Build a Portfolio?

Your portfolio should contain a little bit of everything that you are willing to take on as a professional. This could be weddings, couples, families, events, boudoir etc. Take photos of your friends and family as much as possible to build up a diverse body of work when just starting out. You should bootstrap your portfolio with personal work until you have enough quality paid work.

If you want to shoot weddings, assist for an established wedding photographer. Don’t know any? Do some Google searches and write some emails. Learning from the main players in your space will improve your skills no end and the connections you’ll make are invaluable. This will give you the experience you need. Make sure you are constantly updating your portfolio with your best work and your blog with your newest. If clients are repeatedly visiting your online presences, they will be excited to see that you are passionate about and sharing your latest work.

How Much Do I Charge?

Until you have an amazing portfolio featuring quality photos from all of the areas you want to be shooting in, you are going to have to work a little cheaper. But it’s not all bad news! Every shoot you do means a few new pieces for your portfolio and blog, and every new piece adds value to your business.

In these first couple of years, don’t just look at financial compensation as a determining factor in taking the job, you must also consider your portfolio and the experience value of every prospective client. Once you’re a little more established, it’s time to research prices in your area and find a fee that’s representative of your level of experience and the quality of your work. You need to feel comfortable telling your clients your rate, and remember, sometimes charging too little can be just as big of a turn off to clients as charging too much.

How Do I Find Clients?

In the current marketplace your online presence should be a top priority. A frequently updated and stylistically consistent web presence is essential to grow a client base. Your web presence should include:

  • A portfolio website (preferably not Flash)
  • An actively maintained blog.
  • Social networking activity e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram.

Be aware, though, that it’s not the only way. The old fashioned way – by creating an amazing experience for your existing clients – is tried and tested. If your clients love you then they’ll recommend you to their friends, who will evangelise you to their friends who…

You get the picture.

People will be sharing your work with hundreds of their friends and acquaintances via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, the quality of the photos will not be the only consideration, but the enthusiasm in which they are displayed will be based on the quality of their experience with you as their photographer. All interactions with your clients should always be treated with cheerful eagerness and professionalism. Even more so in the formative years of your business. Your punctuality, your appearance and your temperament are all things that will affect your clients experience just as much as the photos they receive.


Running a business will always be hard, but taking the advice of people who’ve have made it to where you strive to be can facilitate your path to get there.

What do you find to be the biggest challenge when starting a photography business?


Jill Coursen

This post was written by Jill Coursen, a freelance photographer from Edmonton, Canada. She’s been blogging with FotoJournal for nearly 4 years. You should also check out Jill’s website!

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1 comment

Carlos Rocha
Excellent work ... Very good blog.

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