Julie Kulbago Photography is a nationally published photographer who is trained in newborn safety practices and has mastered the technical knowledge & experience to use advanced photoshop techniques to capture challenging poses safely.
Her full service boutique photography studio works with families to capture fleeting moments so they last a lifetime. Let’s plan your perfect session!
Are you working full-time, raising kids, managing your home, running errands, cooking, cleaning . . . and a million other things? After all of that, are you still working your side hustle to become a professional photographer? Are you tired? I know I was.
Just 12 short years ago I was in your shoes. I was working my nine to five job. But let’s be real here, it was more like nine to eight – – What company respects a 40 hour work week anymore? I had 4 kids and was burnt out, tired, and beyond frustrated.
I knew I needed more for myself and for my family – – I needed a new career that I could transition into relatively quickly – – I needed to be in charge of my time and my schedule. Photography has been able to do that for me. And I really want photography to do that for you too.
One of the most asked questions I hear is “How did you become a professional photographer?” And that friends, is where we begin!
Have you ever heard the saying “You just don’t know what you don’t know.”? Well, that pretty much described me!
Picture this – – I stroll into Ritz Camera (I’m totally dating myself with that reference. I don’t think Ritz Camera exists anymore!). I was feeling really cool…walking in I now considered myself a real photographer. I still had my full-time money because I hadn’t yet quit my job. And to boot I had a little bit of part-time money too. I told the guy working that I was looking to make my photography business full-time. I needed to know what I would need. Well, you know he probably saw the most naive person standing in front of him and he sold me everything he could – – a camera I had no idea how to use, a tripod (which I had never used), a light meter (which I had never heard of), and an external flash.
I’m not saying any of those are bad investments. However, at the time, I was photographing families outside. I had no need for a tripod because, well, families move! I was photographing these moving families outside, so I had no need for an external flash. To boot, the camera had a light meter in it! In other words, I waaay over invested.
I ended up selling off all that stuff a few years later when it was just collecting dust in my closet. The moral is, do not feel like you need to have this extensive equipment list or extensive prop list to become a professional photographer.
Knowing how and where to invest your money is going to save you so much in the long run. When you start your business, really all you need is a camera that you know how to use, extra SD cards, an extra battery, and a computer for editing. And of course, you.
If you’re doing newborn photography, you might need a few blankets and a few props. You don’t have to have an extensive collection right away. You can really add a ton of variety by shooting things differently – – switching up angles, lighting, etc.
Don’t put yourself into a financial hole when you’re just starting. Also, keep in mind renting is a great way to try out equipment. There are rental companies in every major city. There are also a ton online – – www.borrowlenses.com and www.lensrentals.com are a couple of my favorites.
Some of the very best advice I was ever given was to make sure that before I collected even a single dollar from my new business, that I had the whole back end side of my business solidified. This is not the fun stuff, for sure. However, it is extremely important as you become a Professional Photographer
All states vary on their requirements so you’ll absolutely have to check with your state to figure out what specifically you need to do. In a general sense, you’re going to want to make sure you get a federal EIN number. You need to apply to your state to make sure that you can collect and submit state sales tax. After that, talk to an insurance provider and get business insurance. You, your family, and your business need to be protected. Also, check with your local municipality to see if they have any rules and regulations about operating a business wherever you live. See? Not fun, but necessary.
You need to have a very solid website. I’ve said it before and I’ll keep saying it. You cannot run a professional business from social media alone. If your business is on a platform you don’t own, ie, Facebook/Instagram, take a step back and create a website.
I know they can be time consuming and confusing. But, to be a professional photographer and to actually start getting high-end clients (and to be protected, ahem, insurance and disclaimers) you’re going to want something that you own. You don’t own the social media site. They can change the rules at any time. They can take the whole site down if they want. Also, you don’t have any way to drive traffic to your business. You’re at their mercy.
When I first began, my contracts and model releases were pretty basic. They didn’t cost very much money. As your career grows, if you find it necessary, hire a lawyer to draft something specifically for you.
You absolutely must have your pricing established AND use it consistently across the board before you become a professional photographer. As soon as you’re transitioning from hobbyist to professional you need to have a price list that you can share with your clients. Add some verbiage on your website and stick to it.
I hear a lot of my mentees state their prices and when someone asks for a discount or they ask if there is any flexibility (and they will ask, I can guarantee that) all of a sudden their pricing foundation starts to crumble. You can’t waiver on pricing when you’re running a business. And remember, this is a business.
You’re going to want to make sure you have a solid pricing structure. How do you do that? Well, you need to know your cost of doing your business. You’re going to want to make sure you put together all of your costs, what you want to make, how much you want to work, and then from there you can kind of back down into your pricing.
I know pricing can be very overwhelming. We actually devote a whole section to it in my “Creating Freedom” membership. There are multiple modules on pricing for profitability and I actually have a template in the membership where you can input all your numbers and it will tell you essentially what your pricing should be in order to cover your costs and make the profit that you need. If that’s something you’re interested in, make sure you check out that membership.
If I were to look at your website (which you should have at this point), am I going to see only your kids? Or only 1 living room? Am I only seeing one kind of photoshoot spread out throughout your site?
You really need to start expanding when you’re building up this portfolio. In order to go from side hustle to pro, you also want to make sure you have a very consistent look. You don’t want one session to be dark and moody, one to be light and airy, one to be a journalistic style and one to be lifestyle. When clients look at your portfolio, they need to be able to picture themselves and think I know exactly what I’m getting. I’m not saying you can never do anything a little different but working on a consistent portfolio is going to actually bring more clients to you and not less. It’s also going to lead to happier clients because they know exactly what to expect. So, when you deliver their images, they’ll be thrilled.
So how do you actually get these clients that I’m talking about without being established? You probably started with your own kids, right? I know I did! You can also talk to your neighbors and co-workers. You can also post on your personal Facebook page that you’re looking to build a portfolio and you need people to photograph for your site. Just make sure you get those clients to also sign a contract and a model release. Remember, you need to use these on your website and social media.
I would go so far as to say you need to set very high expectations of what you want them to wear and where you’ll go with these portfolio building shoots. You get to direct the ship, not them. You could even buy the wardrobe or often, I pulled stuff from my kids’ wardrobes. I would also request specific ages of children. For me, I didn’t want to get a six month old – – no offense to six month olds but they’re kind of hard to get to do what you want. So, I would often ask for a six-year-old and a nine-year-old, for example. You can be very specific on what you want as you’re starting to build this portfolio. Fill in the gaps in what you show on your website.
I often get asked “Should I charge for these portfolio building sessions?” My rule of thumb on that (and I’m a big ‘charge what you’re worth’ kind of person) is no. If you’re asking for help, essentially making it a model call, you don’t charge. I would say something like “I need a model (specific ages) at this location, and wearing these clothes for this amount of time. In return, you will receive five digital images (or whatever number you think you can safely deliver).” You could then offer to show them all their pictures and they could pick 5, and any extra images are X amount.
I would not spend a ton of time on those sessions because you’re not going to be making a lot of money, if any. I would keep them short, about 30 minutes. The goal here is variety. You’re trying to get a variety of people at a variety of locations. Your future clients, paying clients, can see that you have experience. They see your skill set and they can be super excited to work with you.
If all this seems super overwhelming, believe me, I get it. I was in your shoes 12 years ago. . . . working my full-time job, trying to side hustle photography with the goal of making it into a full-time career. I really knew nothing about taking pictures, cameras, clients, contracts, business pricing, etc. What I’m saying is, I get it. I’ve been there.
If you want to learn even more about how to become a professional photographer and learn how to start and grow your photography business, make sure you check out my FREE 5 Day Challenge to Start and Grow Your Photography Business.
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