make money from photography

The business of photography

Mark Lait

Mark Lait


Are you the master of your discipline?

Johann Sebastian Bach said ‘It’s easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time and the instrument will play itself’.

Such is the wisdom of a master of their craft and the same concept can be applied to any discipline. When we look at a master like Bach, we are astounded by his knowledge of the piano and marvel at the complex concertos he wrote, but we don’t think of the countless hours of repetition, practice and discarded manuscripts that littered his rooms.

Have blind faith in yourself.

Unwavering devotion, blind faith and blinkered vision are key elements of every master’s repertoire of psychological assets and most of them have an abundance of these …

It doesn’t matter whether you’re writing a concerto or building an aeroplane, the same principles apply, you have to have systems, you have to be able to compartmentalise each step of a project into it’s own environment and test it a thousand times to ensure the success of that component.

Once that is done, you move on to the next component and repeat the build/test process, eventually you will have all of the components to complete your project and you can put them together to form the finished product.

Each component naturally and seamlessly flows into the next one until the sequence is complete and the everything works in harmony.

Systems are the key to efficiency.

The business of photography is a series of systems that link to one another, complement each other and provide that harmonious rhythm that works so well it is hardly even noticed.

There are systems for acquiring clients, dealing with objections, sales, buyer’s remorse, telemarketing, automated responses and countless others.

Each one of these systems has been meticulously tested and the success measured before being rolled out for use in the business and I know they work when no one calls or emails me – they don’t need to because the system worked.

Where did I put that again?

How many times have you filed something away, thinking it is safe only for it never to be found again? ‘you can’t remember the name of the document … but if you had a system where you could enter a keyword you would find it in seconds. It took me years to get this right and it’s one of the elements of our training courses. This alone will save you so much time and we know that time is money.

Many people see the building of systems as a formidable task and if that’s you, I encourage you to read this business tip which talks about how easy it is to get used to doing this.

It’s natural to be hesitant when trying new things, especially when that voice  in your head is whispering you can’t do this

That voice is something you created for yourself, and it’s generally forced on you by the mainstream media who want you to believe you’re not good enough, too fat, too skinny, need more money or something else to meet society’s expectations.

Get rid of the devil on your shoulder.

These self limiting beliefs are common and you are not alone. As a perennial self doubter, I never expected to achieve the success that I did but I discovered that if you do something every day, no matter how insignificant you think it might be, it might be creating a spreadsheet to track customer orders or stacking up some social media posts for scheduled release … it adds to the greater wealth of your enterprise.

If you do lack a bit of confidence, there’s every chance that this will be accompanied by some nervousness when talking to people, have a look at this article where I share some insights into how to give people simple instructions, ones that they can easily understand and that will create no ambiguity … the last thing you want are misunderstandings in the sales room – that can be fatal!

I will need the latest camera of course.

What about camera gear, and a studio, aren’t they necessary to get moving with your photography business, well, yes, of course they are but they don’t have to be anything special, you can start with the simplest of setups, like I did and start selling your photography immediately and this is one of the biggest misconceptions people have about starting up.

The other common misconception is that you will have to sell your first born child to pay for all the marketing you will have to do, that is just a myth, but unless you know better, it is a common belief. It’s just fear of the unknown and we’re all hesitant when it comes to that. This article deals with those photography marketing myths.

Nobody is ever ready.

Many customers will avoid booking their photoshoot as they feel that they are not ready, you know what, we are never ready but if we want to make a difference we have to take the plunge and we drill down into this in the article When is the right time’

It takes time to learn the skills needed to read between the lines when it come to talking to  people, finding out their insecurities (which are all the same ones by the way) and understanding how to get through to them, but if you stay focussed on what you need to do and follow your process, you’ll find that eventually you will succeed at booking them.

Stay focussed on the prize.

It is easy to become disillusioned when you aren’t getting the results you want but everything foes in cycles and as I say way too often, commitment and persistence are the keys to success. When this happens to me, when I’m having a run of outs I just focus on the job at hand

I’m the kind of guy that has fallen into the chasm of self doubt many time in my life and if I don’t do this, if I don’t just maintain blinkered vision I know that I can falter. The important thing to do when this happens is to pick yourself up and carry on – Rome wasn’t built in a day and if at first you don’t succeed …

The devil of doubt is an insidious creature and  many people, they can never shake him but it’s something you must do, to quote a line from the article ‘Your worst enemy is you’ ‘ I’ve always been a self-doubter but it didn’t stop me from creating a million dollar photography business and there’s no reason it should stop you either.

Keep it simple.

One of the most common objections I hear, which is again a fear based one is that you need to have state of the art equipment, main street shop frontage and a huge marketing budget, those things are all nice to have but they’re not necessary to get started, you would be surprised what you don’t need to start a photography business

Excuses are easy, putting in the effort is harder but it can be done and I am proof of that, me and thousands of other photographers who make a very respectable income from photography.

Many of us started when we were older but sadly, as time goes by, we feel that we feel that our opportunities are limited.

Are you too old to start a photography business?

I never found this to be the case, I actually saw more opportunities coming my way. Older folks tend to have more patience and understanding and this article explains that in greater detail.

I think that being older when you start a new venture is actually a great advantage due to the increased life experience you have so there’s no excuse in ‘I’m too old to start’ my belief is that it is more ‘Im too scared to start’ and that’s perfectly understandable, nobody wants to jump off the edge until they they know there are no hidden dangers but life doesn’t wok like that – it’s a series of mysteries that you either choose to investigate or not. For those who do the rewards can be enormous.

Read this book – it’s a beauty!

There’s a great book by Tim Harford called ‘Adapt’ which I read  (listened to) a couple of times and it has a great message where he talks about working in a microcosm, the example he uses is the development of the native animals on the Galapagos Islands.

They had no outside influence, they were not interbred with any other species and the result was that they are unique.

I applied this to my business and still do every day when it comes to fear or  pollution from external forces. I do not know what other people do in this space, I do not try to find out for fear that it might influence my direction.

I am on my own Galapagan Island, oblivious to what else is happening and it gives me a safe place to grow and develop my ideas.

I have learned many things in this space and it has given me time to understand what people value and when they see that value is not immediately evident, until they are sitting in front of their photos there is no value at all, you have only sold them a concept in all of your dealings so far … check out the sales tip on seeing the value in our resources section for a wider explanation of this.

Never put your photos online.

While we’re on the subject of sales, let’s talk about the best way to sell, are you one of those people who want to put your photos in an online gallery and let people choose what they want to buy in their own time?

Not the best idea and this article explains why. It’s a good read  which details how we, as humans  will find everything we can wrong with ourselves and justify our decisions not to buy something but when you are in the sales room with your client, the game changes all together and it’s that human connection thing.

Buyer’s remorse.

Sometimes you are going to encounter people who have seen the value at the time of making the purchase but then go on to regret their decision.

There’s a great video by one of our sales staff about this here and I have written an article which details how some of those people go on to write negative reviews about your business and tell the world that it’s a scam and that you ripped them off and at first I used to get really upset by them, but once you learn people, it’s easy to see that the ones that say these kind of things are unable to take responsibility for their own decisions and are looking for a scapegoat, or someone to blame for a decision they made, another beauty we sometimes hear is ‘I was forced into buying them’.

I so much want to give one of these people a loaded gun and ‘force’ them to shoot themselves – not really, it’s a metaphor but it adequately compares the two situations, people use the excuse of convenience when it suits them but never when you challenge them – but that’s just people.

How will I know when I need staff?

I want to talk about when you grow your business to a point where you need staff because it will come if you follow along with these systems.

Another book I read called ‘The great game of business’ is also excellent  and I strongly encourage you to read it – this different perspective on how to interact with your staff changed the way we operate, there is a you tube video about how we implemented this philosophy into our business here

Growth is both welcomed and expected in business but that transition period is difficult to address.

If you are working from home to begin with, as many of us do – a time will come when you have to make a choice between using your home as a business premises and having a dedicated studio – that doesn’t have to be anything fancy either, have a look at this video which shows you how we leased a unit in  an industrial complex and when we did that, our turnover went from 400k per year  to seven figures.


I know it seems counter intuitive to take on more of a financial load as a small but growing business and I can only share my experience but fortune really does favour the brave, taking baby steps, assessing the risk before implementing each one and having the courage to act on your decisions, despite the purported evidence to the contrary will see you grow personally, financially and businessly (is that a word? – it is now!)

There is an article called ‘How to keep your staff long term’here, it  expands on this topic and is worth a look.

Do what you love and start now.

My friend Harry Healy died recently – the boy most likely to succeed and he did somewhat, he enjoyed success as a popular musician who appeared on ‘the voice’ a number of times and played private functions all over the world by commission.

Why you should start your photography business now.

I’m going talk about why you should start your photography business now.

If you’ve ever experienced the shock of someone close to you passing away suddenly and unexpectedly, you’ll be quite shocked – ‘I was only talking to him/her last week’ you think to yourself.

The thing is that time and life slip away unnoticed, we do today what we did yesterday and will probably do the same thing tomorrow, but where does that place you in your life’s journey? you have to take massive and immediate action to do the things you want to do and get the results you want to get in this life.

No-one is going to do it for you. This article expands on this topic and gives some  practical experience on how, even though there are people who can do things better, will they actually do it?

Like the tortoise and the hare, slow and steady wins the race and quite often it’s those who start and do not stop who have the most success.

Impostor syndrome? what the!

This however, has it’s own issues, have you ever heard of ‘impostor syndrome?’ if you haven’t, it’s an unusual feeling of not really deserving the success you achieve when you have achieved it.

You can feel like a fake or a fraud and it’s not uncommon for this to occur if you’ve never experience growth and success before.

In the early stages of your growth, you will be trying everything you can think of to drum up business and will probably consider things like networking groups and the like but if you’re an introvert, (This guy is an introvert who has made millions) you can feel like you don’t fit in, that’s perfectly normal and is part of the journey so embrace it and conquer it.

My friend Andy Ford first made me aware this when I was talking to him one day but up until then, I had never heard of it.

Don’t doubt your own ability.

Impostor syndrome stems from a feeling that you’re not good enough or ‘fear of failure‘ but you can’t let doubt be your master, if you do, there’s a chance that you will never do anything and before you know it, life has gone bu=y and you’ve done nothing!

Remember the story of the little train who could? there’s a pdf versions of it here  but the moral of the story never changes – if you think you can’t you’re right and if you think you can, you are also right, it all depends on your mindset, that’s what I did.

As a self doubter I could not afford to consider that this venture would not work and with commitment and persistence, it did – I am now working on my next project which is helping people find the courage and commitment to do the same thing.

Outsourcing your photo editing and production

Let’s change tack now and talk about editing the photos that you take, in the beginning I used many different places, mostly recommended by people who knew things I didn’t, places such as Nulab, and Seldex but then, while trying to find a better and more cost effective alternative I bought a commercial grade printer and we started to produce them in house,.

This was great but what I hadn’t thought of was the time I would have to pay a staff member to print, mat and  assemble orders, couple that with the misprints, the ink costs and the maintenance costs and the cost is comparable, even though in this article I talk about the benefits of in house production, I have now decided to have my print collections produced by Queensberry due the ease and efficiency of doing business with them.

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