In 2012, I gave birth to a beautiful strawberry blonde baby girl. Being my first biological child, I was a paranoid new mom and didn’t want to bring her out to a mall for her pictures. When I priced out photographers to come to the house, it became clear to me that there was a need for affordable portraits. I spoke with one of my best friends, a very skilled portrait photographer also with young children, and in January of 2013, Mommy Knows Best Photography was born.
We prided ourselves in being a fully mobile portrait studio and enjoyed the work. Seven years later, the business is still operating on a part-time basis. Throughout our time, we learned a lot about the realities of owning a photography business.
Starting a photography business is more than buying a camera and taking pictures. There’s the often overlooked business aspects that requires one’s attention such as marketing, accounting, equipment, software and customer service. Not to mention, no longer working a standard 9 to 5 work week.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Jami Lynn of Photos by Jami Lynn which is based out of Romeoville, Illinois. Originally established in 2015 as a photographer for musical acts, Jami suffered a debilitating injury and had to put things on hold. She decided to return to being behind the camera in June of 2019 with her mother to specialize primarily in nature and animal photography including pet, trial and wildlife/zoo photography.
“I think I’ve always been into photography,” Jami said, “But my mom helped cultivate a passion for cameras and the art of photography. She has been the one behind the camera my entire life, capturing everything I’ve done for me.”
Jami takes her role in capturing memories very seriously.
“My job is special to me. I get to help people capture timeless memories. It’s hard to think about but after losing my grandma who was like my best friend, I am so thankful for the pictures, videos and things I can remember her by. I am giving that blessing to someone else. A picture is something someone can keep forever. It’s a special task creating something that is eternal,” Jami said, “And that feeling means everything to me.”
In order to start a photography business, you must be familiar with your equipment. All brands and product lines have their pros and cons but for Jami, she prefers to use a Canon camera, Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Lightroom. For hosting her online gallery, she recommends pixieset.com.
For MKB Photography, we prided ourselves on connecting with our clients. Jami agrees, I really think my work ethic and client interactions set me apart from others. I try to be empathetic to clients needs while still giving them the options that suit them best.”
Regarding social media, Jami spends most of her time connecting with her clients on Facebook and Instagram, “I post regularly on both IG and FB but it seems more customary to engage on Facebook. It allows me to get to better know my clients (current and future) by talking with them frequently.” She uses both the stories feature on both platforms to provide insight into her daily life.
The true health of any business lies in the the books and while accounting software like Quickbooks is a great option, a more cost-effective option that many entrepreneurs like Jami utilize is Microsoft Excel.
While word of mouth will always be the best form of advertising, there are cost-effective lead generating platforms such as Facebook that can boost your following but content is what will keep them coming back. If you’re not seeing results and your marketing is not hitting the mark, it may be time to refine your message.
Once you have your prospective clients on your social media or website, it is important to make it obvious how they pay you and to make it as easy as possible. Some photographers require a deposit and others invoice through services like PayPal. Jami’s clients schedule their date and receive an invoice. After the session, Jami creates an online photo gallery where they can purchase directly or she orders for them.
Like all things worth having, running a photography business has its own hardships. “I think the hardest part of my job is when you feel not valued for your work. Photography like many other avenues is an art and it takes a lot of time and energy to put out the work we love to not be valued is just deflating,” Jami said.
As far as advice from someone who has been there, Jami offers this advice, “Get all your legal ducks in a row first. [Learn] about how to do your taxes and what your plan to do them is. Take the time to plan out your business before jumping into this world head first and feel like your drowning.”
However, when run correctly, owning a photography business can be quite fulfilling.
“The best part of my job is watching people realize how they look to the world!” Jami said, “I am guilty of this myself, but you tend to think worse of yourself than others see you. They see the beauty of another person and to be able to give that feeling to someone in front of my lens makes my day. To give the chance for someone to see how beautiful [or] handsome they are to the world is a marvelous thing.”