How to Start a Photography Business

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.

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Copyright: Mommy Knows Best Photography

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.

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February 2014 – Behind the scenes of working with small children. Copyright: Mommy Knows Best Photography

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.

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Copyright: Photos by Jami Lynn

“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.

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Copyright: Photos by Jami Lynn

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.”

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Copyright: Photos by Jami Lynn

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.”

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Copyright: Photos by Jami Lynn

Why Your Marketing is Missing the Mark

BY: Ashley Bodhaine

“Marketing” is a noun defined as meaning, “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services, including market research and advertising.

In the digital age, there are countless ways to promote one’s brand such as social media, Google AdWords, sponsoring events, using social media influencers and of more classic outlets such as radio and print. How does one choose?

I reached out to Empowerment Business Coach Pat J. Honiotes of Pat Honiotes, Inc., based out of Los Angeles, California for her opinion on the struggles of developing market efforts for small business.

Pat specializes in working with, “smart, savvy, and sometimes sassy, women leaders and business owners who are working long and hard to achieve success and are burning out along the way.” In her 80 Hour Work Week Cure program, she teaches them how to reclaim their time and to stop sacrificing themselves for their business, “so they can have more success, more time and more money all on their own terms.”

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Photo Credit: CMCA

“Along the way,” Pat says, her clients “many times discover aspects of themselves that change their lives. These women who are struggling day after day after day — these women who got into business because they wanted to make a difference, make some money, and empower others — but now who are slaves to their business and on the verge of quitting. These women who don’t feel good about themselves, who are more irritable than they’d like to be, who are worn out, stressed out, and wondering where the fun in life went.”

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all of the options promising to grow one’s business. Common mistakes entrepreneurs make is, “Not having a clear message for a definite group of people with a specific call to action and forgetting or not knowing to put your guts in your marketing,” Pat said.

She advises entrepreneurs to, “Get absolute clarity on your message and who you are marketing to before you ever begin and put you in your marketing.”

When asked which forms of marketing she feels are universal, Pat said, “Plain ol’ talking and communicating whether it is on social media, print,  radio or good ol’ word of mouth.  People are talking and giving referrals all the time — whether they realize it or not.  It’s our job to make sure they are using the words that will help them connect with us by using the words ourselves first.  People will repeat the words we use to describe ourselves and our products so it is imperative that we are precise in the words we use.”

While Pat primarily only uses social media for her Straight Talk series, she prides herself on having a clear message to her clients, “ I am not a marketing guru and don’t do marketing for others and don’t do marketing for myself.  When I do market, I have someone handle it who is a marketing guru and knows what the heck they are doing in terms of when, where and how much and figure all that stuff out.

Here’s what I do know about marketing, teach people about marketing and do for myself — before you can successfully market in any of the mediums, you must be absolutely clear on exactly who your tribe is, what they are looking for solutions to and what it is they are willing to pay money to solve.  This is called messaging.

It is about having your message so precise and targeted, your unique audience will immediately recognize it.  It is about knowing your audience so well AND how to talk to them so that they recognize you and respond.

Now that you’ve got the messaging down pat, you can then market or turn it over to someone else to market.  Messaging has to be in place first or you are wasting your marketing dollars.”

Pat J. Honiotes, M.S. is an internationally renowned personal empowerment coach, educator, Reiki Master Teacher, healer and author. Formerly a special education teacher, Pat has a Master’s Degree in Counseling Psychology and is also a Board Certified Hypnoanalyst.  Since 1982 she has helped thousands of clients take ownership of their lives through private sessions, seminars, workshops and classes. Her down-to-earth honesty and non-judgmental outlook creates a relaxed and  safe environment for all who work with her. A firm believer in “walking the talk”, Pat’s book, The Practical Guide to Figuring Yourself Out” is the culmination of her personal life journey combined with over three decades of work devoted to helping clients reclaim their self-worth and experience the joy and richness of life itself.

E-mail Patricia at: Pat@PatHoniotes.com

Bo Dee: Doing What He Loves in the Crescent City

In late August of 2017, I was in my soul city – New Orleans – hanging out on the rooftop area of the Omni Royal Crescent Hotel, simply enjoying existing in such an amazing place.

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My personal heaven is gonna have a lot of wrought iron. Just saying.

I looked over and saw two gentlemen around my age who were clearly on a mission to shoot a professional looking music video. Being my type A self, I noticed a few things that I thought would improve their shots (force of habit – sorry guys) so I offered my two cents. Instead of being annoyed with a random tourist giving unsolicited advice, they listened. They shared the music and although it was a brief, chance meeting, I instinctively knew to keep tabs on this up and coming artist. Not only did I like his music – I liked him, and he clearly had a good head for business on his shoulders.

After years of being randomly asked for my opinion and advice on various stages of business growth and development, I decided to “get back into the game” of consulting and networking and one of the first people I reached out to in order to expand my network was Bo Dee, the charming east New Orleans native multi talented rapper, content creator, graphic designer, singer, producer, songwriter and Artist Advisor for the up and coming music discovery app, Tweedl.

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Photo provided by Bo Dee

Bo Dee graciously agreed to let me interview him via Facebook video chat to share his story with aspiring musicians because as he says, he’s “always networking and exchanging services. You never know what kind of history you can make. If it feels good, go for it!”

This Jack of All Trades currently lives in New Orleans where he grew up playing tuba in the marching band and alto saxophone in his school’s concert band, in addition to a number of other instruments which is why he says his influences rang from American pianist and songwriter Fats Domino to rapper Ludacris. For producing, he admires Drake’s producer 40, Kanye West and Just Blaze. In junior high, he moved to Memphis and found himself on somewhat of a musical hiatus to focus on sports then later returned to New Orleans.

Bo Dee cites Fats Domino as one of his many musical influences.

“[I] try to mix different elements and be as original as possible,” Bo Dee said, because the goal is to “stay fresh and versatile and not confine myself to a box.”

— Bo Dee, September 2019 to MG Small Business Services

For a 30-minute set, Bo Dee charges a minimum of $700, however, he humbly appreciates when venues will throw in extra perks such as nice hotel accommodations and will perform longer. He’s performed live in cities such as New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio, Shreveport, Austin, Atlanta, Memphis and Miami and hopes to finalize additional tour dates in Los Angeles and New York City some time in 2020.

While some independent artists struggle on the actual “business” side of the music business, Bo Dee is clearly not one of them. His single-member limited liability company TruPhoria Music Group, LLC accepts a variety of payment methods including Square, CashApp and PayPal and his music can be purchased on a number of platforms such as Apple Music, Amazon and Tidal. He’s even branched out to Spotify and YouTube.

In addition to promoting his own music, Bo Dee eats, sleeps and breathes the music industry and is constantly looking for ways to improve himself, his brand and his network. For his own promotion, he uses his background in graphic design to design his shirts and hats and says he typically creates new campaigns in the fall while the music industry is slow so he can work on new content for the following year. As far as software for video editing, he recommends Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects. For music, Bo Dee recommends Studio One.

As far as his network, Bo Dee is the Industry Advisor for the up and coming music discovery app, Tweedl, which is currently available for download for Android and Apple users. He works closely with Tweedl CEO and former CFO of Combs Enterprises (for Sean “Diddy” Combs) Tony Abrahams to give feedback regarding the needs of an independent artist.

“It’s like American Idol meets Tinder,” Bo Dee said excitedly, “[users] can listen to thirty seconds of a song sample and swipe left or right based on if they like it or not.”

— Bo Dee, September 2019 to MG Small Business Services

The more a user’s votes align with what other users choose, the user receives a higher voter score and acquires badges. Based out of New York, Tweedl will help artists grow a tangible fan base in the hopes that the artists become discovered by a major record label. While it’s still being developed to add more bells and whistles, users are welcome to create a free account now.

While Bo Dee describes his usual weekly routine as, “Studio, studio, videos, studio, squeeze in conference calls and meetings” in addition to various legitimate side hustles, in his free time, he enjoys water parks, food, video games and roller coasters (even though he has a fear of heights).

Bo Dee and I agree – your most valuable asset as an artist (which is a small business) is your network. He says the premise of his production company is based on giving back. He searches social media for an artist he would like to work with and offers to work for them either by inviting them to perform on a track or even sometimes offering to create content for them. He offers live studio sessions, music videos, mp3 visuals and graphic design services, to name a few. He performs for people but “produces for himself,” which in my opinion, is admirable to do what one loves.

Bo Dee is an example of what hard work, talent, hustle, creativity, networking and learning how to properly market your strengths looks like. Not everyone gets to get paid to live their dream but with the right guidance and knowing when to ask for help, anything is possible.

For other artists who would like to follow in Bo Dee’s footsteps, he advises three key things to remember, “Number one – be you, because everybody is trying to be someone else. Be consistent and move at your own pace.”

When asked what the hardest part about doing what he does is, Bo Dee grinned and said what most entrepreneurs can agree to, “Doing what you don’t feel like doing when you don’t feel like doing it” but for him, the most rewarding part is getting to see peoples’ reactions to hearing one of his songs or seeing him perform live.

“That’s the best feeling in the world,” Bo Dee said.

— Bo Dee, September 2019 to MG Small Business Services

Check out Bo Dee’s YouTube channel as well as his United Masters page

For social media content creation inquiries, to be added to our vendor and expert network and other small business development services, please contact MG Small Business Services at ashley@mgsbs.com or visit us on Facebook.