Q. Hi Tom. I have a question for you. My wife and I are starting up a photography biz on the side and I was wondering how often you sell prints on your website. I don't know if it's worth messing with doing that or not, so I figured I'd ask someone that would know.
A. Honestly, I don't sell many prints from my website. But I didn't set up my business that way. After a photo shoot, I meet with my clients in person to share images and products. This way I can be assured that my clients' needs and interests are being met. So why have a website? It is the online face of your business. If people are interested in hiring you they will certainly check your website before committing. There are also pages on my website that the public does not see. Some pages are strictly for clients to see their images. Some are geared toward student groups so they may purchase photo books that are not available to the public. So for me, it is worth the cost. Here are some other things that are worth the cost:
1. Membership in PPA, the Professional Photographers Association - a great way to receive guidance from others who have been down this path already.
2. Insurance - if you've got upwards of ten thousand dollars wrapped up in photo gear, you don't want to take a chance on breaking a lens (which I have done, before I had insurance) Also if you are shooting an event and someone gets hurt, you want to be sure you can cover their injuries. Better to spend $350ish/year than to take a chance on losing much more as a result of an accident.
3. Professional Gear - These days everyone has a camera and they carry it in their pocket. If your gear isn't significantly better, (and your vision, see below) why would they want to hire you? This includes your camera and lenses, of course, but also lighting equipment and modifiers, computer, monitor calibrator, printer, etc.
4. Education - Build your skills so that you are truly outstanding, creative, and artistic. First, you want to know your camera and accessories so well you could operate them in your sleep. Learn how to compose a shot. Learn how subjects look in all different types of light. Learn how to use the light and image elements to guide the viewer's eye within your images. Then you need to become very adept at post-processing. Right now that means using Lightroom and Photoshop to make things look the way you want them to, whether you are recreating what you saw in the scene or making surreal images.
5. Invest in some sample products. Customers will want to see what your photo albums, print products, metal prints, acryllics, etc. look like before they invest their hard-earned money in your work.
I answered way more than the question you asked. Sorry. Old teacher habit. Starting a photography business is not a cheap endeavor, despite what everyone thinks. I hear people say it doesn't cost anything with digital. (It is certainly cheaper than film!) But to do it right requires a significant investment. I know you don't want to sell your customers short.