When I started my photography business, I really struggled with the comparison game at first — and I see so many other photographers do it, too.
See, starting a business can involve two hard things:
- Being wildly passionate about what it is that you’re doing.
- Being terrified that you’re not doing enough.
The balance is a lot to handle — and we all feel it. And, when you alternate between really loving what you do AND feeling like you want to do it all the right way, it’s so easy to start getting caught in that wheel of comparison — even though that wheel goes nowhere.
Then, once you’re on that wheel, it never stops — and you’re feeling like there’s a billion things you have to do before you can get started, and like you have to stay on that wheel the whole time so you can keep up with everyone else.
I want to tell you that you don’t have to stay on that wheel. In fact, you don’t even need to get on it in the first place. You can get started now, no fancy cameras or logo designs or Facebook ads required… no matter what the Instagram business coaches of the world are telling you need.
Because, all you really need? You, yourself, and that deep sense of meaning you find when you get behind the camera. THAT is all you need at first, and I can promise you that.
Focusing on what really matters = the key.
I want to paint a little picture for you:
Have you ever had something that you reaaaaaallllly needed to get to on your to-do list, but you did everything else you could possibly do instead? It’s like you knew what you *should* have been doing, but instead you ended up cleaning the kitchen, starting a new alphabetical organization system in your makeup drawer, going to the grocery store, calling your mom, and doing literally anything else you could think of so you didn’t have to do the thing you really needed to do.
That’s also what you’re doing when you focus on those things you *think* you need in your photography business, instead of just getting behind your lens, focusing on your clients, and chasing your dreams.
See, everything else is clutter. While there’s nothing wrong with building a gorgeous website or buying an expensive camera, there’s no point in doing any of those things if you can’t just start building up your business like it deserves. It’s human nature to avoid things and to focus on little tasks and arbitrary details when we’re scared about the bigger picture, but that bigger picture deserves to be painted first.
You just have to paint it.
The 4 Things You *Don’t* Need to Start a Photography Business
When it comes to that photography comparison game we can all find ourselves in sometimes, there have been 4 things I’ve seen over and over again. These are the things that you probably see on Instagram, listen about on business podcasts, or have in your head that you need — and you don’t need them. Not yet. I promise.
Thing #1: Logos, color schemes, fonts, and the like.
So many photographers get caught up in the thought that they need the perfect logo, the most beautiful color schemes, and a brand identity package… all before they get started. They don’t, and neither do you. See, this doesn’t matter as a photographer — especially as a new one! So many people stop themselves from actually jumping in and starting their businesses because they feel like they need these branding packages, and it’s just not necessary, or true.
Why? Because people care about your photos. They care about your work. They care about the stories you tell.
They don’t care about the font on your website, and it’s silly to pay a ton of money to get a logo designed and a brand developed… especially when you’re not even sure where exactly your brand is going to go yet. Your first job? To focus your attention on your photography, to do everything you can to improve and get better, and to grow your business that way first.
Thing #2: A custom, professionally-designed website.
One of the biggest hurdles I see with newbie photographers comes down to their websites — especially the idea that you have to have this huge, impressive, fancy website to book clients. You don’t have to have a stunning, custom site to book your clients… I can promise you that.
Now, do you need a website? Absolutely, yes! But that’s why being in business in 2021 is so dang powerful — because there are a ton of inexpensive resources that can make you LOOK like you’ve invested a ton of money… all without investing a ton of money. And, when you’re starting out as a photographer, all you really need is a place to showcase your images and offer a way for dream clients to get in touch with you. You don’t need a copywriter or an SEO expert or a web developer to do that.
Thing #3: The fanciest, most expensive camera and lens.
And, in the winner of the things photographers think they need but really don’t… enter: expensive cameras and lenses.
Here’s some tough love here for you: if you don’t know how to really, truly use your camera — if you don’t know how it like the back of your hand — then it doesn’t matter how expensive it is. You can make magical, next-level images with a $50 thrifted camera, and you can make lackluster, no-thanks images with a $5,000 one.
Your camera can only perform at the level you can, so make sure you can perform at the level you want it to, too. I have so many photographers who tell me that they feel like they can’t start because they don’t have a nice enough camera, and I know that feeling. But, trust me here: if you can make art with your camera, you can deliver high-quality images… and that’s really all that matters.
(Pssst… a big piece of this comes with knowing how to shoot well in manual mode. You can download my free guide here.)
Thing #4: Paid advertising.
If you’ve ever thought you needed to invest in Facebook ads or other forms of paid advertising as a new photographer, you really don’t! First, there’s a big science to it — and, unless you really know what you’re doing targeting-wise, you’re just throwing money away in exchange for some more likes on a photo or post. It’s really not going to help you get anywhere in the long run, and it can be really expensive.
Don’t waste your money on paid ads early on — just shoot more, work more, and get your images out in front of more people organically. That’s what matters right now.
So, I want you to take this post as a reminder that, to be successful as a photographer, all you need is a deep passion for what you’re doing and the willingness to grow in it. If you’re scared, or you’re overwhelmed, if you’re anxious… that’s okay. Do it anyway. You have this — and it doesn’t matter what camera you hold in your hands, what logo you’ve designed on Canva, or what website you call yours.
Are you ready to take the chance on yourself? Because you have you. You have passion. And that’s more than enough.
In the meantime, we’d love if you joined us in the Horizon Found Community — the very best place on the internet, full of photographers making it on the same journey you are. We’d love to meet you, support you, and lift you up.