A Solid Contract, Insurance, and Business License
We have all done it. We have all made the mistake of booking a client without a contract when we first start out. However, most of us learn quickly that this is never a good idea. I even tell people that if your photographer DOESN’T send you a contract it should be a red flag that they aren’t professional. There are lots of templates online and even lawyers giving free advice on youtube for designing your contract. The contract protects you and the clients from unexpected hiccups.
Shoot to dual cards & Backup System for all cards
BACKUP YOUR PHOTOS! ALWAYS AND OFTEN! This also goes along with really understanding the technology people are paying you to understand. When someone hires you they aren’t just paying for your time and talent. They are paying for a professional experience and that includes safekeeping their memories. Always shoot to dual cards and always have at least 2 copies of the RAW files for at least 3 months post delivery. I usually backup my card to an external hard drive as soon as I get home and then keep another mirrored drive (an exact copy) of the drive on a completely separate drive. Have a system for every single shoot and follow that system every single time. This way you don’t have to question yourself because you know you followed your system.
UV Filters on Lenses
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve broken my own rule on this one and regretted it. UV filters over your lenses will protect them from scratches and dings. Be careful though! I once had a UV filter pop out and then rubbed against my lens CREATING scratches.
Backup camera bodies & lenses on every shoot
When you first start out you probably can only afford one camera. That’s ok, but charge accordingly. I always bring 2 bodies to every shoot and 3 to weddings. You never know what could happen and the last thing you want is to be in a very awkward situation with no camera to take photos.
Backup Batteries & SD cards on every shoot
A camera is hard to overlook but I can’t tell you how many times I forgot my “battery bag” and had to have my husband come to the rescue! I have a pre-shoot and a pre-wedding checklist I go through the day before and the morning of my weddings. Always have more than you need when it comes to batteries and SD cards.
Anticipate the unexpected & own things that are not “your job” (i.e. umbrella, emergency kit, etc)
I have found the best way to present yourself as professional is to expect the unexpected. Learn from every experience and anticipate what people will need before they need it. That is the best way to get 5-star reviews every time! I keep a pair of flip flops, a blanket, a clear umbrella, and an emergency kit at all times in my car! I’ve sewed wedding dresses, repaired shoes, gotten stains out of bridesmaids dresses, and supplied bug spray for the wedding party! Doing that extra little something is what people will remember and tell their friends about you! Not to mention being prepared for unexpected delays keeps the shoot rolling and lets you produce the best quality photos!
Minimize unnecessary gear
When I first started in photography I brought a literal wagon with me to even simple engagement shoots. I cringe at the thought of it now. Figure out your style and what you need and simplify it as much as possible. Sometimes being overwhelmed with options and possibility can be creatively crippling.
Leave no trace!
A professional photographer respects and protects their surroundings and other businesses. Never shoot on private property without permission and never leave confetti or props behind! Respect the rules even if you don’t understand them. Always pay other property owners and businesses the respect you expect to be paid in your business.
Community over Competition
Building community is way more important than being cutthroat. The reality is I am, in fact, a competitor to some of my best friends. However, building each other up and respecting that their are enough clients out there for all of us it what being a good human is about. I will never compromise my ethics or friendship for money. It’s just not who I am. It’s never a good idea to compare yourself to anyone anyway. Do YOUR thing and win your clients because of your talent and experience. Plus, I get a ton of referrals from my friends when they are booked or unavailable!
Respect your clients and protect their experience.
Treat your clients how you want to be treated as a client. That’s the real golden rule. Being a portrait photographer I’m not just getting creative with a camera, I’m documenting memories. I never want those memories to be tainted by me. I always look to add to their experience and not take anything away. I’m always looking to ease their anxiety and serve them. I’m not saying be a doormat, but I am saying that wedding and family photography is a service industry we our job is to serve them the best way we can in our own style.
Want to Learn More About Photography & Running a Side Hustle?
I’m Sarah and I grew my portrait and wedding photography business to 100k in 2021 all while working a “day job”. I can teach you what I know about photography and business so that you can do it too! Photography changed my life in so many ways and I’m so excited to share what I’ve learned with you!