Growing a Successful Studio with Advice from Pure Photography
Debbie Riggs, owner of Pure Photography, mastered the art of the photography business before she got behind the camera. She explains to Pinhole Pro why she spent four years studying photography before calling herself a professional photographer. With a strong brand and a growing client list, you’re going to want to check out Debbie’s five tips on how to build your own successful photography business.
How long has Pure Photography been in business?
Pure Photography was launched in the summer of 2004. Prior to that, I worked for three years for a home based, high end photographer running her studio, but never had a camera in my hand. You might say I came into the photography business backwards! First, I learned about running a business and then I learned the techniques of photography. I was always paying attention, though, to how she composed her clients, the natural light, etc. Those three years were invaluable.
In your opinion, how has the industry changed from the start of your business until now?
The biggest change I’ve noticed in my eleven years is the number of folks with professional level cameras who are out there photographing. I feel like I meet someone or hear of someone almost daily that is a “photographer!”
Have you had to change any of your approaches to how you do business to adjust? If so, what?
I think Pinterest has had an interesting effect. I have people call me frequently requesting a certain “pose” or “setting” that they saw on Pinterest. They call me because they love my work, but then ask me to copy what someone else has done. I won’t even begin to go there. We have a conversation about that and I discuss that my clients trust me to give them beautiful portraits and not something gimmicky. Those that book a session are truly my clients and those that do not, were not meant to be mine and they’ll be happier with someone else….perhaps another photographer who is just getting started.
What is your advice to photographers who are just starting out?
My biggest advice is to get 3-4 years of education/experience before you call yourself a “photographer.” A doctor finishes college and does four years of medical school before they earn their title. However, anyone can go buy a camera and call themselves a photographer. My mentor told me when I got started that I should go to every education event/conference/seminar for four years and then I’d have solid ground for a good business. For those four years, FOUR YEARS….I never referred to myself as a photographer. I would say, “I enjoy taking pictures” or “I’m working on starting a photography business”. If someone referred to me as a photographer, I would say, “no, not yet, but I’m working at it.” So, I would highly recommend joining a state guild (mine is TPPA, Texas Professional Photographers Association) and even PPA (Professional Photographers Association). They have so, so many education opportunities for their members and some you can take advantage of right from your own home.
What are your 5 tips for building a successful photography business?
- Education and never stop learning no matter how long you’re in business. You need education not only on photographing, but on business, marketing, sales, etc.
- Have a solid business plan and start goal setting.
- Decide from the beginning what kind of business you want to have. Home based….studio….shoot/CD sales? Long time business or just hobby to make a few extra dollars.
- Surround yourself with professional photographers who have been in the business long term and can mentor you.
- Learn pricing. If you’re truly a professional, you will not undersell your work. If you are a professional, price your work to reflect that.
What’s a lesson that you learned early on in your career that you still actively adhere to today?
When the market is saturated with so many people taking pictures (some professionals and some not), you must separate yourself from the others. I’m always looking for new items to offer my clients (besides prints and canvases, etc) and also, a new way to photograph a client. Don McGregor says, “God gave you two feet and two eyes, get moving!” I can’t tell you how many times I hear him say that in my ear!
Welcome to Pure Photography! I hope you can tell that I love photographing families, children and high school seniors! I also hope you can see that this is not my hobby. I work very hard to give you professional portraits to hang on the walls of your own home and the best customer service you can find!