Before I was a maternity, newborn and family photographer I jumped around from job to job, miserable at all of them.

Dreaming of the day I could kiss the 9-5 lifestyle goodbye and become my own boss doing something I loved instead of doing something that I dreaded.

Woman sitting at desk next to laptop.

When you think about everything you need to do to open up a photography business it’s easy to become overwhelmed. And when overwhelm kicks in, it’s easy to shut down and walk away.

I’m here to tell you that just taking it step by step and day by day will get you so much further ahead in the long run than trying to do too much at once. 

It took me 18 months from the time I took my first “practice shots” to quitting my 9-5 and going out on my own.

There were a lot of micro steps I took in those 18 months. Some big jumps for sure, but mostly small steps every day that got me out of the 9-5 grind.

As I enter my 11th year in business now, here’s what I would tell anyone who is thinking, “I want to become a photographer. Where do I start?”

Step #1: Start Practicing

If you are serious about starting a photography business my first piece of advice is to start practicing. 

Learn how to use your camera by practicing on people you know and are willing to be your models. 

Do you have kids? Nieces and nephews? How about friends that have families? 

Ask your sister to practice taking headshots…heck it really doesn’t matter who or what you take photos of, just start practicing.

I want to become a photographer

With practice you learn how to use your camera.

With practice you become more confident posing people. 

With practice you figure out “your style”. 

With practice you learn what you love to photograph and what you don’t like to photograph. 

So before you quit your job and open up an LLC, give yourself time to actually learn photography. 

It’s not as simple as just getting a camera and opening yourself up for business. It’s ok to give yourself time, it’s essential actually. 

With all this practicing, you are actually portfolio building so one day you have a bank of photos to use for your website, your marketing materials, your social media, etc. 

These images should be your best work that showcase your style and what clients can expect of your work.

Step #2:  Must Have Essentials 

If you want to start a photography business the first thing you need is PASSION. Yes passion for the art of photography. 

Running a photography business is so much more than just taking pretty photos for clients. 

There’s a lot of business you need to handle in between photo sessions that aren’t always fun. The great part is, passion is free!! 

So if you are going to have to push through the nitty gritty business “stuff” it’s going to be your passion for photography that gets you through it all. 

If photography ever became a drag for me, there’s no way I’d be able to keep up the business side of things.

Passion. You have to have it.

I know it’s easy to think you need aaaalllll the things to start a photography business, but if you are truly starting from scratch here, let’s just start with three essential things you need while you are portfolio building.

1. A Camera. Either a DSLR or a mirrorless if you budget can afford it. Mirrorless is the wave of the future in my opinion and my Canon R6 mirrorless was such an upgrade from my Canon DSLR 6D Mark ii, although my 6D was a horse for years and did serve me well. I actually didn’t even get a mirrorless until my 10th year in business.

Photography equipment isn’t cheap but if you truly think this is the path for you, I’d recommend investing in the right gear from the get go. 

2. Photo editing software. After you take the photos you’re going to have to edit them. I recommend the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription. 

Editing Day Mug

Lightroom, Photoshop and Bridge would be where I’d start. I personally just use Bridge and Photoshop but I know lots of photographers who love the ease of Lightroom, so maybe start there. 

3. A computer/laptop to edit the photos on. I personally love all things Apple so the iMac desktop is my go to for editing photos. 

But use what you have. I know photographers who edit with the mobile version of Lightroom.

Step #3: Pulling it all together

As I teased before, building a photography business does not happen overnight. It’s a journey. Eleven years in business later and it’s still journey for me, trust me. 

While you are portfolio building I’d suggest, and again, not all at once, step by step. Little action items each day add up to a lot over time:

  • Keep working your full time job and save as much as you can as a cushion for when you are ready to leave your soul sucking job behind. 

    Having some financial security makes the leap a little less scary. If you already left your job because you had kids you wanted to stay home with, you can skip this step 🙂 
  • Devour every piece of education and information you can about all things photography. There are tons of free resources out there on YouTube and Creative Live. Listen to podcasts while you are driving or working out. There is so much great info out there, capitalize on it.
  • Learn your camera. Get good at working in manual mode. This will set your photos apart from a “snapshot” to a “photograph”.
  • Figure out your editing style. Are there certain presets you like to use that set yourself apart? Light and bright? Dark and moody?
  • Build a social media presence. I recommend picking one or two platforms to start with.
  • Build a website/blog so you can start showcasing your work and get SEO working for you

So what’s an appropriate amount of time to ditch the 9-5 and start up your own business? Well that depends on the individual. 

For me, it was 18 months. 

That’s how long it took me to feel confident in my abilities and enough money saved up as my cushion. 

I also got pregnant and refused to put my baby in daycare to go to a job I hated, so really, he was the reason I got brave enough to finally go for it. 

We all will have our “why”, our motivation to push through and start living a life we dream of. Think about why you really want this.

Do you hate your job?

Do you want to be your own boss?

Do you just love photography and the creative outlet it brings you?

Do you want to be home with your kids while providing income for your family? 

Honestly all these reasons are my “why”.  

Find your “why” and go out and start. Just start small and congratulate yourself for each small step you take. For that small step is bringing you closer to your dream of becoming a photographer. 

Good luck, I’m rooting for you! 

Hi, I’m Katie. A maternity, newborn, family and personal brand photographer for over a decade now.

I’m passionate about helping other moms start and grow a photography business so they can be home with their babies and create a business that fills up their cup!

In addition to photography, I love creating easy to customize, affordable templates for time-stretched moms building their business during nap times.

You can fine me over on instagram at @Katie_Pugliese and

Learning Photography

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I Want To Become A Photographer: Where do I Start?

FILED IN: For Photographers, Helpful Tips

February 7, 2024

Learning Photography