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Shutter Up and Get Started: 10 Steps for Launching or Refreshing Your Photography Business.

When I started my photography business a decade ago, there wasn’t a lot available online to learn from. The photographers I looked up to in the industry were guarding their secrets, and unwilling to share. I learnt almost everything I know by bumping my head – repeatedly. It was a painful, slow and often unpleasant experience.

BUT – it doesn’t have to be. You can empower yourself and equip yourself better than I did! And I’m certainly not guarding my secrets. I know that information is power, and there’s more than enough to go around! I feel that we all grow and learn when we share and empower the industries and communities that we are in.

So let’s grow, let’s learn, let’s strive to be better humans and better photographers - together!

These are the steps that we’re going to cover in this post:

1. Start small.

2. Build a portfolio.

3. Start learning (and never stop!)

4. Figure out your pricing.

5. Figure out your branding.

6. Build your online presence.

7. Build your systems.

8. Stop waiting.

9. Learn to say no.

10. Organic growth.

This isn't just for the newbies! Even if you're a seasoned professional, it's great to do a refresh on your business and brand, and shake out the cobwebs! Read on to find out how.

Let’s go!

1. Start small

Even if it’s just taking photos with your phone, make sure you have an eye for composition and light; a passion for creating; a longing to be the best you can be.

If you feel like you're in a rut, find some inspiration to help you along.

It might be a bit of an inside joke amongst photographers, but Pinterest is actually a really good resource!

Put together a mood board with a ton of inspiration images related to your niche, or even a type of photography you'd like to improve on - like portraits, weddings, food, or products (to name but a few).

Keep your mood board on hand and try recreating those images (for your own practice - remember not to steal ideas when it comes to paid work!). Get ideas for posing, composition, different types of lighting, etc.

You'll see how much of a difference it makes!

2. Start building a portfolio (or revamping it!)

Doing a few free shoots here and there to create some portfolio work can be a great idea (as long as it's not cutting into your bottom line).

As you go, decide what exactly it is that you want to shoot. It helps having a set path that you’d like to follow. You could collaborate with other creatives on some passion projects, if they're open to a trade exchange (their services for some kick-ass content for their own portfolios as well!) - think makeup artists, hair stylists, small restaurants, venues, or even videographers to film background content while you work. It all depends on the niche you're trying to tap into, or a specialty you'd like to improve. It's great for networking, too!

3. Start learning

There are so many free online resources, as well as amazing paid courses and workshops that you can take.

Don’t just focus on photography – because you’ll be running your own business so will need to know about finances, marketing, client management, team management and so much more.

Explore our online courses here:

4. Figure out your pricing

(I know this is one of the most intimidating steps, but guess what? I've just launched a FULL COURSE on how to handle all this!)

Clients tend to take you, and your services more seriously when you're pricing accordingly.

Make sure your packaging and pricing is crystal clear - so a client knows exactly what they're getting in the shoot. Include in your T&Cs that anything above and beyond will be charged accordingly.

Be professional but friendly throughout. Know your boundaries, and clearly and politely let clients know when they're over-stepping. Something like: "Oh nope, that's not included, but I'm more than happy to invoice for this extraneous service at xx price."

5. Figure out your branding.

Starting with a strong branding presence can set you up for success – being recognisable helps build a trustworthy reputation.

Think brand image - recognisable colours, typography, and finding ways to get your business' 'vibe' across. If you're stuck, I also have ANOTHER sneaky little course on creating your branding! It's super informative, insightful, and gives you a really good idea of where to start. Check it out!

6. Build your online presence

Attract followers to your gorgeous brand by creating engaging posts and stories. Think of a couple ways to do this - for example, run a competition, or think of boosting a top-performing post as an Instagram or Facebook ad.

It's also important to think about tone. When writing your captions and other forms of copy, how do you want to talk to your clients? Do you want to be fun and witty, or more serious and down-to-business?

The tone you set for your brand is directly linked to the clients you attract. (We do a DEEP dive on this in our branding course, linked here.)

7. Build your systems.

Think workflows, email comms, and client management.

How are you engaging with and booking in clients? How are you ensuring client requests don’t fall through the cracks? What turnaround times are you offering? How will you be delivering images to clients? How will you deal with upset clients?

If that all sounds pretty intimidating to you (and let's be honest, it is!) I have a full client management course available here! Get serious. Only reply to emails during business hours. Have set email workflows, including T&Cs on all comms. When clients see that you're running your business like a BUSINESS they are more likely to treat you with respect.

Follow your gut. We simply don't book in anyone who demands a super urgent last-minute shoot, or doesn't use manners in their messaging. An example of how we deal with this is: "We can see we're not the right fit for this project, all the best." (And DON'T refer a nasty client on to another photographer, as this will reflect poorly back on you!)

If you do end up in hot water, kill them with kindness - just do what you can to resolve and end the situation so it doesn't drag out and cause excessive, endless stress. Wipe your hands, accept that you've learnt a lesson, and move on to happier and better clients.

8. Start.

Don’t wait until everything is perfect. Start small. Start even while you still have another job. Don't be afraid to take that leap. Keep your costs low as you begin. Be prepared to make mistakes, to mess up – this is where we learn the most. I’ve seen so many creatives just...waiting. Waiting for the moment to be right. Waiting for their work to be perfect. Waiting for the ideal moment to launch.

Stop waiting. Get off your ass. Do one little thing today that builds the life you want. Do another thing tomorrow, and another the day after that, and after that, and after that.

It’s the starting, the doing, the creating, the process, the failing, the trying again - that’s what gets you closer to succeeding.

9. Learn to say no.

Are you one of those creatives who feels an overwhelming need to say YES to every opportunity, to every photo shoot, to every client, to every single thing that comes along?

Yes? Yes!

Well, let me tell ya, I used to be one of those too, until I realised just how much damage I was doing to myself, to my brand and to my quality of life.

When I first started out on this photographic journey, I truly thought saying yes to every client enquiry that came in was the right way of doing things - I needed to build my portfolio and client base, and had bills to pay - and there’s no such as too much work, right?


I very quickly came to see that I was actually damaging my brand and reputation by taking on shoot types and styles that were waaaaaay out of my comfort zone, and weren’t even necessarily the types of photography I wanted to offer.

I also realised that, by taking on every possible client ever, I was running myself dry - almost to the verge of burnout! I had to accept that there were only so many shoots that I could realistically shoot, edit and complete in a week without feeling utterly exhausted and having my quality of work drop.

As soon as I learnt to say NO - no to work that wasn’t true to my brand, no to too many shoots in a week, and no to insane levels of stress and fatigue, that’s when my business and brand truly began to thrive!

Now I know I can say YES to the styles of photography that I LOVE and THRIVE off of. I can say YES to a balanced week and a healthier lifestyle, and I can say YES to other great opportunities that come along.

My company now has fifteen all-female PHENOMENAL team members, and multiple sources of revenue.

10. Organic growth.

Organic growth can take a while, but it's the best way to do things (trust me). Don't always be in a rush to catch up to your competitors. Remember that we're all in different chapters of our lives; different stages of our journeys. We all have different circumstances, and what works for one person won't necessarily work for another.

You might feel like you're lagging behind; that you're not growing as quickly or being as successful as another one of your competitors - and that's okay!

Growth isn't linear. Just because it feels like someone else is far ahead of you, doesn't mean you won't catch up. It doesn't mean that you won't be successful in other ways, in your own time. Be patient and have some trust in yourself. You'll get to where you need to be before you know it.

If you focus on putting in the work and dedicating your time and energy into growing your business in a way that's right for YOU, you never know what heights you might soar to!


At the end of the day, cut yourself some slack. Getting it wrong means that next time, you can get it right. Making mistakes is a natural part of life, and gives us the chance to grow, to change, to heal, and to come back better and stronger.

No two people ever follow the same path in life. We're all bound to hit the same milestones, but at different times and different stages. Setting up and building your own business is HARD. Don't hold yourself to someone else's standards - finding your own way is just fine! As they say, all good things come in due time.

Allow yourself to rest. Allow yourself grace. Allow yourself to breathe, to recuperate, and to be imperfect.

"Success is not a one trick pony and you can't reach it with a get rich quick scheme. Success is a slow journey that starts with putting one foot in

front of the other and doing the dang work.

Success is following through on your promises. It's being a kind person.

It's going above and beyond what people expect of you. It's failing soooo many times before getting it right. And yes, it's being strategic, crafty, and smart and those are not bad things. When your heart is aligned right, and you are doing hard work with intentionality, you will be successful.

But that success NEVER happens overnight."

- words of wisdom by another amazing photographer, Lindsey Roman.


Robyn Davie is the CEO of the Robyn Davie Creative Studio brand, based in Johannesburg. Her all-female team offers lifestyle photography, photo book design, and studio rental through Fynn Studio. In 2023 the brand will start offering guides and workbooks to empower other photographers and creatives.

She has Psychology and Corporate Communication degrees, and is constantly pushing herself to learn more on a daily basis. She has more than 15 years combined experience, managing her company; working as an art director and wardrobe stylist; running her own jewellery line in Los Angeles; and working in events in New York and Johannesburg.

The brand has proudly partnered with the iStore from 2020-2023, and won multiple awards through Admired in Africa. Innovation is at the forefront of what they do - always adapting their product offerings, and aiming to stand out from the crowd with fresh, bold and bright photography.




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