It’s strange that you were given the advice you were given when you asked about starting a business. I mean, sure you need to perfect your skills, but… More importantly you need to figure out your cost of doing business, set up a tax ID, get your insurance squared away (most home owners and rental property insurance do not cover your equipment (computer, hard drives, camera, lenses, flash, tripods etc. at all if you use it to make money, plus there’s liability insurance to think about), get your contracts and model releases drafted, yadda yadda
Here’s a cost of doing business calculator. It isn’t tailored to portrait/event photography, so you’ll have to tweak it a bit, but it can give you a good idea of where your prices need to be to get started if you fill it out honestly.
Here are some articles on pricing that you might find helpful
The reason why I feel it’s important for anyone looking to start a photography business to set their prices and look at costs first and foremost is because doing so will not only give you a better picture and understanding, it will also help you answer the question in your head “Is my photography good enough to try to make a living with?” in a more realistic and honest way.
From the get go I had family and friends badgering me to go into business. “You would make so much money”, “you are so talented”, “I would SO pay you”, “Will you shoot our wedding?”. Yikes!!! They were relentless, and wouldn’t let up. I think this is more due to a lack of understanding why someone would get into and invest in something without monetary gain. Why create? Are you going to sell it? What are you doing it for? What do you mean it’s just for you? You should do something with it? Almost like they are saying there is no value to what I do, unless I get paid to do it. Bullshit!!! But I know they mean well, and I am very interested. It WOULD be very cool to make a living with my camera as long as I was still able to shoot for myself too.
So I set and figured out what I’d have to charge per session, and what I’d have to make in sales (say the word and I can link you to how to price your prints as well) to cover minimum wage part time. My session fees to start a part time business and insure that I got paid the equivalent to working at McDonalds part time, ended up being approx $200 if I added in print sales as well.
When friends inquired and started once again pushing for me to go into business I finally gave in and said “O.K, yes, I’ll do it if I have enough interest” (kind of knowing full well what direction the convo would go. My portrait work isn’t all that and a bag of chips. It’s technically sound, but eh) told them what I’d be charging to start and…. “But so and so, and what n what only charges such and such”. Well so and so and what n what didn’t take the time to figure out their cost of doing business, doesn’t mind working for less than minimum wage, or isn’t running a legit business and collecting and paying taxes/isn’t insured and/or isn’t profitable at all and is going into debt being “in business”. I can’t afford to do that. My family can’t afford me to do that, so Id have to charge $200 sitting fee, and hope to sell you about the same amount in finished work to make it worth my time, and give myself any sort of chance at actually making a living at this part time or full time. “Would you pay me $200? Do you think lots of others would? Do I offer that caliber of quality photography? Would I be able to offer a good experience and service so I could eventually charge more, so I could make MORE than minimum wage?”
Crickets… More crickets… I no longer get badgered by my friends and family to go into business lol
I’d be hard pressed to compete with all the fly by night $50 togs that come and go. I’m no better than most of them. I just took the time to figure out how NOT to go into debt shooting for people and get paid the same as a high schooler flipping burgers BEFORE I went all in.
So, I still shoot what I want when I want, and I couldn’t be happier. Shooting for the love of it, and for myself is much more rewarding and fulfilling than constantly having to explain why I charge more than so n so because although my portraits won’t end up on the front page, they aren’t any better that that girl Sue’s down the street that doesn’t value her time or her talents.