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Feature Image by: Rach Stewart

5 essential tips for starting your own photography business

Interested in starting up your own photography business? Professional landscape photographer and entrepreneur, Rach Stewart, shares her 5 essential tips to starting a successful photography business.

Meet Rachel

With nearly a decade of experience and a thriving landscape photography business of my own, her journey to get to this point in her career has been filled with both challenges and triumphs.

Some career highlights so far have been running a successful photography workshop business for over 5 years and helping over 100 individuals on their own landscape photograph journey, being published in National Geographic, belonging in private collections all over the world with some of her work fetching over $14k per piece, having her work published in countless publications all over the globe and winning 11 Silver awards in the Epson International Pano Awards.

Image of ladies taking photos on a flower field. Photo by Rach Stewart

“Along the way, I've learned valuable lessons about what it takes to turn a passion for photography into a successful business. I never imagined that my small photography hobby would turn into an income stream let alone my sole business, but I am so thankful and happy that it has. I now get to live out my passion as a career, something I could never have dreamed of.

As a female creator and entrepreneur in a male dominated industry, I am passionate about sharing my insights and empowering other aspiring photographers, especially fellow women, with the knowledge and tools they need to build their own successful photography business.

I'll be sharing my five tips that have helped me navigate the challenges of creating a business in the photography world, elevating your craft to the next level, and carving out a fulfilling career behind the lens. Whether you're just starting out or looking to take your photography business to the next level, I hope these tips will inspire and guide you on your journey to success. Shaping your own destiny and blazing a trail in the photography world doesn't have to be hard, but there are a few things that can really help you push your business forward and thrive as a photographer and entrepreneur.”

1. Defining your unique niche and style

The sheer diversity that makes up the photography world can be quite intimidating especially as a woman in a male dominated industry.

It is so important to carve out your own distinct identity in this field that is constantly evolving. Whether its landscape, portraiture, wildlife, weddings, fashion, or any other genre, reflecting on what truly ignites your passion and embracing your strengths and what makes your work 'you' is essential in standing out from the crowd.

Your style is a combination of all the things that make it authentically you. The equipment you use, the way you edit, the way you compose your photos, the little techniques you employ that set you apart from the rest. It reflects your vision, personality, love and why you take photos.

Image of a forest reflecting on water. Photo by Rach Stewart

It is so easy to feel pressured to follow trends, compare your work to others, to try and keep up with what is fashionable or what you feel consumers want. To a degree some of those things are important when it comes to technology and what consumers are gravitating towards, but this should never interfere with your own unique style. The clients and fans who love your work and your style are with you for a reason, and trying to change things just to be part of a trend is something I have avoided and what has kept my work authentically me.

Having said that, I am all for branching out and trying new things creatively, but always remain true to yourself and your artistic vision. I knew quickly after I began down the landscape photography journey that I loved the look of long exposure images and that dreamy vibe that comes with it. Without knowing at first, this became my signature style and because it is a method of photography I truly love, it was easy for me to authentically produce work that was in that style.

Image of ocean waves. Photo by Rach Stewart

2. Marketing and online presence

This tip is so important especially in today's digital world. Building a robust online presence really is crucial for any photography business looking to thrive in a competitive market.

As a creator who started on Instagram in the 'good old days' back in 2014 when there were no algorithms and hurdles to jump over to try and get seen, I have experienced many changes in the way to market my business and I believe trying a bit of everything is the best way to reach new clients.

Embracing social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok is a great way to engage with followers, potential clients and create meaningful relationships for starting up a photography business. These platforms also allow you to curate your work in a visually compelling way and can often be the visual connection to landing a new client.

Some of the strategies I have followed to help grow my audience on social media include:

Consistent Posting: I always tried sharing photography work on social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest in a regular pattern. In the beginning of my career this was every day on Instagram, now it is once or twice a week but I always make sure to post at least weekly.

See what music and video templates are trending: This one is especially for those who like to take advantage of Reels on Instagram or TikTok. I do believe your content always needs to be captivating to go viral, but with the help of what is trending, this can give you a better chance of being seen.

Posting High Quality Content: I have always focused on delivering high quality, visually appealing content that showcases my photography skills. I invest a lot of time into editing and curating my images to make them stand out and (hopefully) make viewers stop scrolling to take a look at what I’ve posted.

Engagement with Followers: Right from the beginning I have always made sure to interact with my followers and viewers by responding to comments and messages. I genuinely am so thankful to anyone who has taken the time to leave me a message, so it is the least I can do.

Promote Across Multiple Platforms: I think it is really important to utilise multiple social media platforms to reach different demographics and expand your audience. Some people love Instagram, others love Facebook more, you should try and reach every one you possibly can.

Investing my time into creating a professional website that reflected my brand identity and showcased my best work was so important in attracting new clients that are not as social media based or prefer searching Google etc. Your online presence is such an important marketing tool, it is you showcasing your incredible talent and artistic abilities to the world.

Image of a photography studio. Photo by Rach Stewart

3. Diversify and income

Diversifying your income streams can be an absolute game changer for sustaining and growing your business and being successful for years to come. Initially, brand deals and social media content creation were the majority of my photography business, but as my business and client portfolio grew, exploring additional revenue streams that provided more stability became very important to me. By diversifying your income you can unlock new opportunities for creativity and growth also. Monetising my passion was a game changer for me when it came to reliable and steady income.

Some ways I have diversified by income stream and monetised my content include:
 • Selling prints and digital downloads

Learn more about selling prints with Canon’s Large Format Printers.

 • Photography Workshops
 • My interactive NZ Map and Guide
 • Brand collaborations on social media
 • Partnerships with book authors, publications
 • Corporate website branding
 • Corporate and client image content
 • Calendars and other photo related products
 • Photography through online marketplaces

I will always continue to explore partnerships and collaborations with brands, publications, tourism companies and businesses to expand my reach and tap into new markets.

Image of travel magazines. Photo by Rach Stewart

By diversifying your income, you not only mitigate the risks associated with relying solely on client or social media work, but it also opens doors to new sources of revenue and fulfilment in your journey as an entrepreneur in the photography industry when starting up your photography business.

4. Invest in yourself and your photography gear

Investing in yourself and your camera gear is essential for staying competitive and continually improving your craft. There is no doubt at all that talent and creativity are crucial, but having the right tools at your disposal can elevate your work to new heights and open doors to exciting opportunities.

I have always been a Canon girl through and through. My first DSLR 9 years ago was a Canon EOS 650D and my main work horse today is the Canon EOS R5. I even have an old Canon AE-1P Film Camera which works like a dream when I want to get a little nostalgic and shoot on film.

Image of Canon gear. Photo by Rach Stewart

Upgrading my camera gear when I could over the years has been one of the best investments for my business. As a landscape photographer who sells prints, my two camera bodies (the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV and the Canon Mirrorless EOS R5) both with large sensors, have been invaluable for the quality and file size which enable me to sell large prints of my photos.

Investing in high quality lenses can make all the difference between a good shot and an extraordinary one when you start a photography business. While camera bodies come and go and require upgrading more often, investing in premium lenses is a long-term investment in the foundation of your photography.

My go to lenses I always have in my kit are the:

Canon EF 16-35mm F2.8 Mark III
Canon EF 70-200mm F2.8L IS III 
Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM 

Allocating time and resources to up-skill yourself is also so important when you are looking to begin a photography business. Whether it be photography, business, or marketing related, investing in your education and skill development will not be wasted and will keep you up to date with the latest info and technology in this field of work. There are many online courses to choose from and of course YouTube has a lot of very valuable and useful tutorials.

5. Create a strong brand with professionalism and integrity

The world of photography and starting a photography business can be very competitive and as mentioned above there are things you can do to stand out from the crowd. Establishing a strong brand based on professionalism and integrity is essential for building trust and having those long-standing clients who will use your services over and over again and recommend you to others.

Your brand is more than just your creative abilities and talent, it's a reflection of your values, your personality, and the unique experience you offer to clients. From your visual identity to your communication style, every aspect of your brand should convey professionalism, attention to detail, and a commitment to providing your absolute best.

With your branding, consistency is key. Branding elements such as cohesiveness across all platforms in colours, fonts, and imagery create a memorable and cohesive brand experience for anyone who is looking to hire your services.

Prioritising integrity in all of your interactions with clients, fellow photographers and collaborators is an absolute must do when wanting to start a photography business in New Zealand. Being transparent, honest, and reliable in your communication and business practices will not only drive your business to the top, it will create longevity in a market that is quick to move on to the next person.

The journey of starting a photography business especially as a female entrepreneur can be such a rewarding process filled with a huge sense of accomplishment, growth and creativity. I know that I am extremely proud of what I have achieved over the last decade to get to where I am today. To set yourself up for success it requires a strategic approach and a clear vision of what goals you want to reach. By implementing these top 5 tips, you can confidently embark on your journey and build a successful and fulfilling photography business.

Rach Stewart is a professional landscape photographer and entrepreneur based in New Zealand. Click the below links to check out her work!

Image of Rach Stewart