Professional Photography Tips: Starting your Journey

Are you a budding photographer who needs professional photography tips?

In this blog, we will hear from Industry experts with their professional photography tips. Here are some essential insights from experienced photographers who successfully navigated their way through the industry.



Getting to Know the Pros

Meet Doug

Doug Levy, a multi-talented individual, embarked on a career transition from professional baseball umpiring to becoming a commercial and editorial photographer. In 2009, Doug bid farewell to the baseball field and embraced his true passion: capturing powerful images through his lens. Today, his photography work encompasses several captivating domains. One of his main focuses lies in traditional brand advertising, where he expertly crafts visuals that tell stories, evoke emotions, and elevate brands to new heights.

Additionally, Doug’s editorial portraiture showcases his ability to capture the essence and personality of his subjects, leaving viewers captivated by their unique stories. Alongside established brands, he has also developed a penchant for working with startups and higher education institutions, capturing their spirit, and vision through his photographs. Doug’s journey from the world of professional sports to the realm of photography is a testament to his unwavering dedication, versatility, and keen eye for storytelling

Meet Marc

Marc Lebryk, a seasoned professional photographer with nearly two decades of experience, has journeyed through various stages of his career, discovering his passion for photography. His initial fascination with the art form was ignited by his grandfather. Marc’s interests fluctuated until he enrolled in college and enrolled in a black-and-white photography class. It was during this time that his love for photography was rekindled, reigniting the fire within him. Following his college years, Marc had the privilege of working as a staff photographer for the Indianapolis Star from 2006 to 2013. Being part of such an incredible team of photographers significantly shaped his skills and artistic vision, molding him into the photographer he is today.

Since 2013, Marc has been navigating his own path as an independent photographer. His repertoire encompasses a diverse range of subjects, including large sporting events, commercial product shoots, and captivating magazine portraiture. Additionally, Marc generously shares his knowledge and expertise through teaching endeavors, both online and in-person. His dedication to educating aspiring photographers shines through his affiliations with reputable institutions such as Roberts Camera, Ivy Tech, Sigma, and Elinchrom. Marc’s remarkable journey is a testament to the power of passion, perseverance, and the transformative impact of being part of a supportive and talented team.

Meet Jama

Jama Pantel, an accomplished portrait photographer hailing from the vibrant city of Austin, Texas, has dedicated her craft to capturing the essence of individuals through her lens. With a specialization in business branding, high school seniors, and family photography, Jama’s expertise spans a diverse range of subjects. With over 20 years of experience, including a decade of running her own business, Jama’s passion shines through in every frame she captures. Her driving force lies in empowering women, making them feel seen and beautiful.

Throughout the entire client journey, from the initial phone call to the final delivery, Jama is committed to providing an exceptional experience. Her goal extends beyond photography.  Her photography encompasses creating a space where clients feel valued, cherished, and celebrated. With Jama, it’s not just about taking a photograph; it’s about crafting an experience that leaves a lasting impression and showcases the inherent beauty within every person.

Meet Amy

Amy Parrish is a versatile and adventurous photographer whose artistic journey has spanned over two decades. Throughout her career, Amy has explored various genres of photography, leaving her mark in the world of portraiture. Her early years were defined by capturing the essence and emotions of her subjects, creating captivating portraits that resonated with viewers. However, Amy’s path took an intriguing turn when she made a bold decision to sell her farm and embark on a personal artistic odyssey. This transformative experience led her to immerse herself in diverse art projects, culminating in a move to India.

In the present day, Amy’s creative focus has shifted. She now devotes most of her time to creating work for herself, indulging in the freedom of artistic exploration and self-expression. Embracing this newfound independence, Amy spends the majority of the year in pursuit of her personal projects. She immerses herself in the vibrant culture and mesmerizing landscapes of India.

With a glimpse into the backgrounds of our contributors, let us now delve into their invaluable professional photography tips.

Building a Sustainable Business

In the fast-paced world of photography, where social media platforms often dominate the marketing landscape, Marc has found his own unique approach to running his business. While acknowledging the visibility and promotional benefits of Instagram and Facebook, he candidly admits that his primary source of clients is through word of mouth. He humbly recognizes that others may excel at generating revenue through social media, but he has yet to crack that code. Instead, Marc relies on three fundamental principles that drive his business.

First and foremost, he strives to go above and beyond for every client, without giving away the farm. Whether it’s adding that extra touch or demonstrating his unwavering commitment to a project, Marc consistently exceeds expectations. Secondly, his ultimate goal is to leave clients feeling amazed, saying, “I can’t imagine having done this without you.” This emotional connection and sense of irreplaceability form the foundation of his client relationships. Lastly, Marc aspires to be the go-to person, the “easy button” for his clients. He wants his name to be the first that comes to mind when they need photography services, bypassing the need for bidding or quoting.

Being trusted and sought after is a testament to his reputation and the level of service he provides. Marc believes that nobody should feel ashamed about starting out as a photographer. It’s a journey, and he embraces it wholeheartedly, building his business through dedication, exceptional service, and a passion for his craft

Plan for the Future

Jama offers invaluable advice to aspiring entrepreneurs venturing into the world of photography. Her foremost tip is to recognize that running a business takes precedence over being a photographer. While honing one’s artistic skills is crucial, understanding the business aspect is equally essential for long-term success. Jama emphasizes the significance of seeking guidance from mentors who have excelled in the business side of photography. Learning from their experiences and leveraging their expertise can prove invaluable in navigating the challenges of entrepreneurship.

She urges aspiring photographers to think beyond their immediate goals and envision their desired outcomes five, ten, or even fifteen years down the line. By planning for the future, individuals can lay a solid foundation for growth and adapt to the ever-evolving industry. Jama acknowledges the wealth of knowledge present within the photography community and encourages newcomers to tap into this resource. Establishing oneself from the outset, with a solid understanding of business principles, can save aspiring photographers valuable time and spare them unnecessary heartache in the future. Jama’s advice serves as a guiding light for anyone aspiring to build a thriving photography business, reminding us that success comes not only from artistic talent but also from a sound business mindset.

Set yourself apart

According to Amy, starting a business in professional photography requires embracing your unique self and telling your stories through that lens. In a sea of visual competition, it’s vital to rise above the sameness and discover the authentic facets that make you stand out. Celebrate your individuality and let it shine through your work. Find your own voice, your distinct style that resonates with others. By staying true to yourself and embracing what makes you unique, you can create a brand that stands out in a crowded market. Remember, in a world saturated with visual media, authenticity is the key to capturing attention and leaving a lasting impression. So, be uniquely yourself, tell your stories, and let your photography shine in a sea of visual content

Overcoming Challenges

Jama highlights one of the biggest challenges faced by photographers when starting their own business: not treating it as a proper business. Many aspiring photographers fail to grasp the essential concept that running a business is ultimately about generating profit. Without a solid understanding of financial management and proper business practices, photographers may find themselves losing money instead of making it. Jama’s advice to overcome this challenge is to seek guidance from a mentor and invest in education specifically focused on the business side of photography.

Taking pictures, while a crucial aspect, represents only a fraction of what it takes to run a successful photography business. By prioritizing the development of business, photographers can ensure they have the foundation needed to thrive and avoid the pitfalls that can arise from neglecting the financial and operational aspects of their ventures.


Iris Works Invoices Summary for Photographers
Iris Works invoice example

Use a CRM

Utilizing a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system like Iris can be a game-changer for your photography business. It not only streamlines your workflows and organizes client information but also demonstrates to potential clients that you mean business. With Iris, you can efficiently manage client details, track inquiries, and keep a record of important interactions. By centralizing all client data, including contact information, project details, and preferences, you can provide personalized and attentive service. Furthermore, Iris’s invoicing software enables you to create professional invoices, making it easier for clients to understand and pay for your services promptly. The seamless invoicing process demonstrates your professionalism and commitment to transparency. As a result, using Iris not only helps you streamline your business operations but also instills trust and confidence in potential clients.

Moreover, Iris’s invoicing software plays a crucial role in client retention. Timely and accurate invoicing not only ensures prompt payment but also strengthens the relationship between you and your clients. By utilizing Iris’s invoicing features, you can effortlessly generate customized invoices that reflect your branding and project a professional image.  By providing a hassle-free and transparent invoicing experience, you enhance client satisfaction and loyalty. When clients receive well-crafted and professionally presented invoices, it reinforces their perception of your professionalism. Ultimately, Iris’s invoicing software becomes an invaluable tool in your arsenal for maintaining strong client relationships and fostering long-term partnerships.

Hurdles in Business

According to Doug, one of the most significant hurdles is maintaining discipline. It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of acquiring an abundance of gear, software, cameras, and lenses in the pursuit of creating the perfect setup. However, Doug advises photographers to resist the urge and instead focus on doing the most with the least. Renting equipment as needed and relentlessly keeping costs low can help prevent financial strain. This ensures a sustainable business model. Another essential aspect Doug highlights is the importance of building an emergency fund. This financial cushion can provide peace of mind and allow photographers to navigate through lean periods without compromising their business.

Moreover, Doug emphasizes the significance of continuously improving one’s photography skills. By striving to make photographs better than those created yesterday, photographers can elevate their craft and attract potential clients. He encourages photographers to focus on personal projects, as they serve as a platform for showcasing the type of work they aspire to be hired for. The key lies in avoiding the distraction of shooting and displaying everything, and instead curating a portfolio that aligns with their desired clientele.

By honing their expertise in specific areas and consistently showcasing their best work, photographers can position themselves as specialists, increasing their chances of being hired. Overall, staying disciplined, controlling expenses, prioritizing personal growth, and aligning work with desired clientele are critical factors in overcoming the challenges faced by photographers.

Building a Client Base

According to Doug, the key lies in recognizing that retaining existing clients is often easier than constantly chasing new ones. By investing in nurturing and maintaining strong relationships, we can ensure a steady stream of work and referrals. Alongside client retention, Doug emphasizes the value of Google AdWords in expanding our reach. However, he advises delving deep into understanding the intricacies of this advertising platform to maximize its cost-effectiveness.

One of the captivating aspects of the photography industry is the unpredictable nature of opportunities. Today’s assistant designer could ascend to become tomorrow’s chief creative officer, opening doors we never anticipated. To build a lasting career, it is crucial to treat everyone with respect and appreciation, recognizing that their contributions matter. People will remember the experience of working with you and your team as much, if not more, than the final results you deliver. By prioritizing client relationships, leveraging effective marketing tools, and fostering positive experiences, we can pave the way for a thriving photography career.

Marketing Matters

Jama understands the challenges that come with marketing oneself and building a client base. She initially tackled this by prioritizing S (SEO) through her blog, ensuring that her online presence was optimized for search engines. Once she established a solid foundation, Jama expanded her marketing efforts to social media and paid advertisements. However, she recognizes that the most valuable clients often come through word-of-mouth referrals from satisfied past clients. Jama’s approach is simple yet profound: treat your clients like gold, and they will reciprocate that love and appreciation.

By providing exceptional service,  and going the extra mile,  photographers can create a lasting impression that prompts positive word of mouth. This organic form of marketing, driven by genuine client satisfaction, can lead to a steady stream of ideal clients who align with one’s artistic vision. Jama’s wisdom reminds us that while SEO, social media, and paid ads have their place, the foundation of a thriving client base lies in the exceptional experiences we deliver and the relationships we cultivate

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is Marc’s primary source of business. Instagram and Facebook are for visibility, not generating leads.  Marc prioritize going above and beyond for clients without giving everything away. I aim for clients to say they can’t imagine the project without me. I want to be the go-to photographer, the “easy button” for clients. Some projects come directly to Marc, no bidding or quoting required. Building a reputation is key. Don’t be ashamed to start as a photographer; anyone can succeed with hard work and asking to be paid.

Email Marketing

Using Iris Works Email Marketing can be a powerful tool for growing a photography business. With Iris, photographers can efficiently manage their client database and send targeted, personalized emails to engage with their audience. By utilizing email marketing campaigns, photographers can keep their clients informed about special offers, promotions, and upcoming events.  Fostering a sense of exclusivity and loyalty. Iris automation features enable photographers to streamline their email workflows, saving time and effort. 

By leveraging Iris Works Email Marketing, photographers can effectively nurture relationships with their clients, expand their reach, and ultimately grow their photography business.  Want to learn more about this professional photography tip? Check out our guide to grow your business with email marketing.

Thank you!

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to our panel of professionals for generously sharing their invaluable professional photography tips. Their wealth of knowledge and expertise are truly invaluable to aspiring photographers and enthusiasts alike. Through their insights, experiences, and advice, they have illuminated the path toward success in the photography industry. We are grateful for their willingness to impart their wisdom, helping us navigate the challenges. These professionals embody the spirit of generosity and camaraderie within the photography community. Together, let us embrace their professional photography tips, apply them in our own work, and continue to grow as photographers. Our deepest appreciation goes out to each of our Pros for their contributions and for being an inspiration to us all.


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