How to Make Money as a Photographer - Even in a Small Town

How to Make Money as a Photographer – Even in a Small Town

How to Make Money as a Photographer - Even in a Small TownHas that thought ever crossed your mind? Sure, that well-known photographer can get that kind of money working in that swanky town where all the bigwigs live, but your town is different; it’s just regular working class folks. They’ll never spend big bucks on photography…. Right? Don’t be so sure.

If only things were different

We all have moments when we dream about how things would be so easy if we were taller, better looking, younger older or had rich parents and so on. There’s no harm in that as long as we get over it quickly and take stock of the talents and possibilities before us that we can actually take advantage of. Wishing and hoping have never made anyone rich or successful.

Real obstacles or just excuses?

The “my town is different” line seems perfectly reasonable and real,in some cases, possibly even true. However, I find it a comforting excuse that many people use to do nothing rather than risk trying. Most small towns across the country are very similar; in most respects there are usually some “nice” areas in the town, and some that are a little more run down. Even the most affluent areas will have some blocks where there are more typical middle class folks.

First in, last out

My studio is located in Rhode Island where the state is known to be one of the first states to slip into a recession and one of the last to come out of a recession. Prior to the recession in 2008 Rhode Island already had the fourth highest unemployment rate in the country.

Even with all that baggage I have still managed to run a successful studio for more than 20 years. I don’t say this to brag but just to make the point that most committed photographers can make it work in their towns and states, even if it’s not the ideal situation.

You don’t need everyone

As photographers we can only accommodate a finite number of clients. The main reasons are that we want to maintain a certain level of quality, and we don’t want to burn ourselves out. It’s hard to stay creative with eight sessions a day, five days a week.

To a new photographer 40 clients a week sounds like a dream come true, but believe me it can quickly take the fun out of this wonderful profession. Since we want to remain creative and passionate, we need to focus on acquiring our “ideal” client. This client is someone who appreciates nice photography and can also afford it, and there will be some of those people in your town.

Your town and beyond

Now when I refer to your town, I also mean the surrounding towns or cities where potential clients could come from. In some states people think nothing of traveling two hours to a desired destination. In Rhode Island, the smallest state in the Union, the joke is that a 30-minute drive is a major deal, so when I have a client from the far end of the state book a session with me that’s quite an accomplishment.

Setting up shop

Another option for starting your business where the most qualified clients are is for you to set up shop in their town. If you’re considering opening a studio location in your town because it’s close to your home, maybe it’s better to a have a little commute if it puts you in a better market. Just be sure to do some research since you’ll want to take into account if your rent and expenses might be higher.

A really fresh start

Perhaps you’re young with no responsibilities or dependents or maybe you’re retiring from your “real” job, and you’re open to new adventures. Either way, If you’re in a position where you can just pick up and move anywhere, then by all means take a look at areas of the country you’d like to call home but also dig deeper to see if they’re a good fit for your photography business.

The grass is always greener

As photographers and business owners we all face the same challenges and share many of the same fears. Even studios in affluent towns have their own challenges. Just because one of your clients is wealthy does not mean they’re going to drop a huge bag of money at your feet. Sometimes they just want an 8×10 for themselves. Many of my best sales have been from average middle class people who viewed my photography as an investment in their family and home.

Become the local “legend” in your neck of the woods

Rather than wasting energy and time worrying about your little old town, find ways to get displays in local stores, doctor’s offices or restaurants that your ideal client uses. Become the “go-to” photographer in your ZIP code and beyond. Remember you don’t have to photograph everyone to make a good living.