How To Start a Photography Business as a Stay-at-Home-Mom With No Money

Hi guys, since I’m not a seasoned blogger quite yet, I thought I’d share something I am knowledgable in, and something I know so many of you could benefit from: My photography business. My first year in business just ended and I’ve learned soooo much. If you’re looking to start a business of your own and have, like, no money (I’m talking 20 year old college girl with a 3 month old baby and no job broke) then keep reading, because I’m here to help!

How To Start a Photography Business as a Stay-at-Home-Mom With No Money

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Delaney Thornton

All new photographers become instantly discouraged by the cost of photography equipment. You look at another photographer’s work, a successful one who’s been in the business for years, and you think that you’re never going to be able to do that because you can’t afford the things that they have. But that’s where you’re wrong. A majority of the things that photographers own are for convenience only, you do not NEED them to have a successful business. Here’s why:

1. Even though full frame DSLRs are preferred, they are not necessary.

I got my camera in 2014, which now goes on the market for $279 + $135 with a good lens, that’s only a little over $400! You can’t beat that; that’s nothing. I will even be writing an article soon on how I mastered this camera, so that you can have your own business, too! My dream camera, Canon 5D Mark IV, is over $3,000 just for the body alone. My God it is beautiful, I cannot wait to get my hands on this baby so I can revel in its amazingness. I’ll get there one day, but I know that I don’t need it now. I have a Canon Rebel T3i, with a Canon 55-250mm Zoom Lens, which most professional photographers would laugh at. Seriously. The reason my work is so good, which you can see here, despite the lower pixels as compared to more expensive DSLRs, is because I know how to work my camera, I’ve been using it for years, I know it like the back of my hand and I know how to use it to the best of my ability. My clients love my work the way it is, why would I go spending a bunch of money to change that?

2. Photoshop Lightroom Photoshop Lightroom Photoshop Lightroom, that’s all you hear these days, but you don’t need it right away.

Yes, Lightroom is an amazing program – I worked with it in school years before and I’m currently using it again. Same with Photoshop. It has way more to offer, and is the best for graphic design, but it’s not nearly as user-friendly. Even though you don’t need them right away, I highly recommend upgrading with Lightroom. It offers so many gorgeous filters, processes RAW files, and has so many other editing tools to personalize your work, & it’s only $162 upfront or $9.99 a month through creative cloud! There are other options for you if you don’t have that kind of money right now, like me in the beginning. Would you believe me if I told you that you could spend $0 on editing software? Honestly most of your friends are probably using it. Its called VSCOcam. This app offers wonderful filters and adjustments, and it’s free. When it comes to retouching, I use an app called facetune which is $3.99. It’s a one-time cost, and it’s extremely low for all of its capabilities. You can also purchase extra filters on VSCO if you like them – I did. Now, I’ve pretty much mastered the manual setting on my camera and can get my images almost exactly how I want them, so I usually only use VSCO when I want to tweak the coloring with filters. Sometimes I just get way too over-excited with how a filter adds to the feeling and overall look of my photos and I end up editing every single one in the gallery when I never had to in the first place. Oops, photog probs 😉


3. All of the fancy lighting that you’ve been told you need… You don’t.

Every session I show up with my camera and my chalkboards and chalk markers, which is pretty much my staple and I’ll talk about that another time. Given, I only do outdoor sessions, which I’ll talk more about in the next section, so I use natural light to the best of my ability. I’ve done photo shoots in the rain, on dark cloudy days, extremely low light situations where the sun sets faster than it was supposed to, shade, full sun, even snow. And guess what? My photos always come out looking beautiful because I’ve mastered natural light in all of its forms. I will say that reflectors are not expensive at all, but I’ve still gotten away this long without one. The only external lighting I ever purchased was a Canon Speedlite 430 EX III – RT, and it works flawlessly, but I’ve never used it professionally. I have my first wedding coming up soon, so I’ll be using it there. But for everyday mini and full sessions, I never have to use it. For any indoor situation, however, I strongly recommend this.

4. You do not need fancy invoice programs for payment, or programs to view galleries, or even a website at first.

My business is coming up on its first year anniversary this month and I JUST made my website. My Facebook page alone has been a huge success in marketing and I didn’t pay a single penny. It’s also way less stressful than starting a website, although this is something you will eventually have to do to be taken seriously in the professional world. I do pay to promote my page and boost my posts every once in awhile, but I never spend more than $5 a month. And each time I do it my posts reach a couple thousand people in my area. That’s a literally 1000 people that have never heard of my business otherwise, 1000 potential clients, 1000 potential opportunities to make money, all for $5. It’s honestly amazing. To be completely honest, whenever I go searching for other photographers in the area, AKA my competition LOL, I always search them on Facebook and Instagram. I truly never look at anybody’s website, but that’s just me I guess.

As far as payment goes, I only accept cash and that works perfectly for me. I’ve never had a complaint. So until I do I probably won’t ever setup credit card payment. Until I do my first all day mini session, then I suppose I’ll have to 😉

When all the photos are finished and ready to be sent to my client, all I do is upload them to a Google Drive folder titled with the clients name and Wallah. Google Drive isn’t free, but it’s extremely cheap. I pay $1.99 per month for 100 GB of storage which I haven’t even got one third of the way through for the year. The other option is $9.99 for one terabyte per year, which I someday might have to upgrade. I really love Google drive though, some people have trouble with it at first, but it’s so simple to explain to my clients if they’re having an issue. It’s seriously so user-friendly. Also, it’s great for personal use as well – win-win.

5. How on Earth am I going to afford to pay for a studio!? Oh that’s right, DON’T!

Now you might be confused by this, what about in the winter when it’s too cold to be outside, or on a rainy day. Well my friends, the great outdoors is free compared to God knows how much should it cost per month to own a studio, so any work that you have to do to make it work is worth it. The coldest it ever was during any of my photo shoots was 27 degrees. With wind chill. My client was 33 weeks pregnant, and I’m pretty sure we were all suffering from frostbite. So we cut the session short and I only charged her for a mini, but the pictures still came out so beautifully. You would have no idea that she was suffering the whole entire time unless I told you. I’ve also had it rain last second before photo shoots, complete downpour. Sometimes the weather is right, sometimes it isn’t. If it looks like it’s going to rain before a session early in the day, I always ask the client if they want to reschedule. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. If they don’t then sometimes I have to deal with shooting in the rain, that’s completely okay with me. And if they have to reschedule then that’s fine with me too.

I’ve been driving myself insane comparing myself to other photographers, beating myself up over my lack of professionality and the amount of money that I put into my business. The thing is, everything that I’m doing is working for me so I don’t even know why I care. Almost all the money that I make at my sessions is profit. And the best thing about it is, that I’ve learned to do it so that I never compromise the quality of my work by cutting costs down everywhere I possibly can. I’ve been told over and over again that I under charged my work, which I do completely. Mostly on the time that I spend editing, but in the grand scheme of things, I save so much money and stress from doing things this way. If you have any other questions, feel free to email me!

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