How to start a photography business with paying clients

So you want to start a photography business. But what if you have no clients and no portfolio? Then this blog is for you.

Who Is Your Dream Client?

First, define your perfect audience. What do they value? Where do they live? How old are they, are they married, have kids? Where do they shop? What is their favorite way to spend their weekend?

Second, find your influencers. What persons would be your perfect first clients?

The one that tells all their friends about how perfect the experience with you was!

They probably have lots of friends, or they have a job where they speak to a lot of people, or they are very active on social media.

Read more on the importance of identifying your dream client here.

Find 10-15 prospects

Search your immediate contacts, and friends of friends to see if you can find 10-15 people that fit the description of your perfect first client.

Then, offer them your services at a highly exclusive first run fee. Therefore, they will get a very exclusive treatment for a very nice first run fee. Make them apply for these packages so it is clear you are not offering them to everyone and you are setting standards to who you think would be a great fit.

Describe who you want to apply. If you are doing ‘Day in the life’ sessions, and you like to shoot indoors, maybe you can say that people with light interiors have a preference. If you want to do family shoots, you can say people with kids have a preference.

The ‘catch’ for them is that they allow you to promote their shoot (or a limited number of images from their shoot) in your portfolio.
There should be only a limited amount of spots. Think 5 spots. That will give you enough portfolio work to get started. Invite everyone on your list personally and update them as spots run out.

Overdeliver (not over give)

The experience you offer them should be top notch! If you under promise and over deliver on every step, you are making them into ambassadors of your brand for life.

If you need step by step help with providing a rock star experience, sign up for the Free 7-day workflow course over at ShootZilla.

So on every step of the way you should inform them, treat them as rock stars, make them completely feel like the VIPs that they are. Always be one step ahead of them. First, send them information on what to wear if you think that is occupying their minds, or send them information on what to do when it rains if you are doing an outdoor shoot. Then, send them all the information they need and always do it before they wonder about it themselves.

Don’t overgive out of insecurity. Make sure you plan what is included in your offer ahead of time and you plan your emails and your communications so they feel like rock stars.


In order for you to make the shoots worth your time, you spend enough time in giving your clients the opportunity to buy.

First, make it easy for them to upgrade their shoot with extras. Then, help them make decisions ahead of time on what to do with their photos when they are ready. Do they have plans for that empty wall in the living room? Or would it be fun to have some color in the photos that match the color of the couch or the wall? Last, make it a first class experience.

On the shoot, you are the expert. Make them feel relaxed and create your work!

Make the sales process go as smooth as possible. There are tons of resources out there to help you with that. I will list a few here:

Follow up multiple times

In order to get enough material for your testimonials, you ask them during and right after the shoot how their experience was. Then, as soon as they get the first previews, ask them about their feedback. Last, after the whole shoot and sales process, follow up with a formal review of your services.

Promote your work

Use all the bits of feedback as testimonials. Then, promote the hell out of this shoot and your testimonial.

Don’t blow it all out with one blog post and one social media update. Use different angles to promote one shoot multiple times, here are some examples of promoting a family shoot:


  • Faces of the family – cool story about how precious it is to have different family portraits over time
  • Family time – lifestyle photos – highlights of moments of the shoot
  • Details galore – show some details of where the shoot took place and why you picked this place
  • Story time – the story of why they choose you or what the story of their family is (use a questionnaire to get some content for your blog)
  • Testimonial – your favorite image and their favorite image with their testimonial (use a questionnaire to ask them about their favorite image from the shoot)

Facebook & Twitter:

  • Share all blogs at least 3 times. Change the image or the text each time you share it. Share it as soon as you published it, 1 day later and one week later. Always on different times of the day. Schedule the updates all at the same time so you save time on overhead.
  • Post an image of the shoot with a cool quote on the importance of family.
  • Tweet feedback as soon as you get it.


  • Families I treasure – highlights!
  • Happy clients – create a board where you can share photos of people’s living room with the prints they ordered + testimonial blog posts
  • Quotes – Put the quote that you shared on Twitter on the image and share on this board. Then, make sure to create a template to include also your watermark or URL.

That will get you busy for the first 5 clients. And it’s a paid first step too!

Any blocks coming up?

This may sound simple, so why isn’t everyone doing this? Usually, it means something is blocking them.

Lastly, if you feel hesitant to take action but you do need clients, read on!

Second of awareness: What are the thoughts coming up when reading this? Any of these sound familiar?
“That would never work for me”
“I don’t know any influencers and if I do I am too afraid to email them”
“People really don’t value my photography that much”
“I can’t pull it off”
“I am not experienced enough”
“I am not good enough”

Basically, all of these thoughts are blocks that are stopping you from sharing your work and creating the life you want.

Starting a business is difficult enough, let’s get rid of those hidden unconscious blocks that keep you from living your dream and making lots of money!

Wishing you a beautiful and profitable photography business start-up flow! Love!

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