10 Things Every Photographer (In Business) Needs

Posted on November 21, 2014

As business professionals in the photography industry, we love it when a plan comes together. We want you to not merely survive; we want you to thrive. “Where to begin?” you ask. Here, with our ten essentials for ultimate studio preparation for success. These items can mean the difference between business success and failure. So, pay attention, friends….we’ve got you.

1. A Business Plan
Where will you be in 6, 12, 18 months? No idea? You need to set goals if you want to experience success. Having a solid business plan in place not only keeps your business on track, it ensures your goals are both relevant and attainable. Your plan must be more than goals, though; it should share the necessary steps for implementation, your mission statement, branding words and timelines for success. Since reading up on business planning is important (and because reading is fundamental), we highly recommend this book. Resources like this makes this potentially daunting task much more fun and creative, but still with a solid outcome: a roadmap to success vis a vis your business plan.

2. Back up equipment
Picture this: you’re shooting a wedding ceremony when, all of a sudden, your camera completely conks out. You don't have time to troubleshoot, and you don't have a spare camera. Can you say panic attack? Worse yet, lawsuit? Avoid gear gaffes by preparing for disasters with back up equipment. We like to keep extras of the last version of camera bodies as back up when we upgrade to the new ones, but If you don’t have the funds to get two of each, buy a lesser (or used) version of your camera, lenses, flash, etc. Pack along an extra camera body, lenses, spare batteries and extra memory cards. It’s also a good idea that your main camera body have two card slots for memory card fails. Trust us…they will.

3. Insurance
Reliable insurance is incredibly important when you own a business. To protect your finances, invest in quality business insurance which covers your livelihood as well as your equipment. A stolen bag filled with $5,000+ in camera gear could mean the end of your business in less than sixty seconds. Don’t know where to begin? Talk to your homeowners insurance agent, ask your local photography guild, or see if any of your industry affiliations offer insurance benefits. Here’s a good resource for understanding the various types of insurance for photographers.

4. A Solid Legal Contract
Help yourself help your clients by providing the most complete legal contract possible. Difficult situations, nightmare clients and communication issues invariably crop up (ask any photographer who’s been in business at least a year). These days, you need to be ready for anything at any time. Save yourself time, money, and hassle by providing clients with a bulletproof legal contract which includes easy-to-understand timelines, prices and "what to expect" policies. For maximum efficiency and safeguarding, Design Aglow offers different contracts for portrait and wedding photographers here and here.

5. The Elevator Pitch
An elevator pitch is an engaging 30-60 second summary which tells what you do and why you’re the right person for your client’s needs. It sounds simple, but condensing years of experience into a few, high impact sentences can be a challenge for even the most eloquent person. Start by writing down the best way to describe your field, sharing your relevant skills, work experiences and accomplishments with your ideal client. Most importantly, practice ensures your pitch will sound natural and not like an infomercial. “The purpose of the pitch isn’t necessarily to move others to adopt your idea, it’s to offer something so compelling it begins a conversation,” according to New York Times bestselling author, Daniel Pink.

6. Organizational Systems
Because keeping track of every client in your system is critical, a studio workflow system should be the foundation of your daily business. Having a set series of intentional steps for inquiries, session consultations and processing is the smart way to work less, and it ensures you’re productive, streamlined and 100% efficient. See how a smart studio workflow system and studio planner helps the most successful photographers plan and stay on track. (It feels great!)

7. A Point of Differentiation
What happens when you Google: Your Town Name + Photographer? It's no secret the photography industry is over-saturated. Still, it doesn’t pay to worry about the competition, so why not stand out instead? Providing something special means crafting your brand, marketing, and point of differentiation with care and intention. Offer a high-end, custom boutique experience which shows off your studio’s signature, high quality products clients can't find anywhere else. Finally, consider how companies like Neiman Marcus, Mercedes or Ritz Carlton position themselves as tops in their fields. They aren’t competing on price, are they?

8. Sample Products
Offer clients something that brings digital files to life in a physical way. Irresistible albums, wall galleries and museum canvas showpieces are items to enjoy and treasure for years to come, and selling is easy when you offer in-person ordering sessions (and customized recommendations) with samples of your most coveted products. Not sure where to get started? Get support every step of the way with Selling Without A Studio or a Studio Look Book. Remember: Anyone can give away the digital disk; not everyone can create valuable, memorable products.

9. Professional Website
Your website is often the first (or the last) impression potential clients get of you and your work. Ensure success by presenting a professional, easy-to-navigate website which shows off your portfolio, blog, client galleries and highlights why clients want you. We recommend the gorgeous, SEO ready and user-friendly photographer website templates by Prophoto, who set the industry standard in online presentation. Fully customizable and created just for photographers, Prophoto is an affordable solution to a professional, polished presence. See our favorite ProPhoto templates here.

Starting out and need a super simple, affordable and polished first site? Check out Squarespace and have your sleek and intuitive site up and running in just a few hours.

10. An experienced CPA
Want to squander your entire year's profit? Mess up your taxes. If we had a dollar for every time we’ve heard “I didn’t know I was supposed to budget more for April 15th,” we’d be even further ahead on next year’s tax payments. Sleep easier at night putting the right experts on your team. Garner a relationship with a knowledgeable and experienced Certified Public Accountant (CPA) who can save you money and time. Good CPAs can also show you where to reinvest your profits and where you can budget for the future. Ask the most successful business people you know for their recommendations, ask your local photography guild, or ask if any of your industry affiliations offer CPA services.

Feeling a little overwhelmed by information? First, take a deep breath. The good news is these easy, actionable items can be phased in if you’re already up and running. If you can only employ one action item at a time, and start prioritize according to what makes sense for you and your business model. Need more support? Subscribe to the Design Aglow VIP Newsletter to keep you up to date and motivated each week!

What tips have made all the difference in your business? We love to hear from you, and we might even feature you!

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The BEST studio planner just got even better

Posted on November 18, 2014


2015 is your year to organize and achieve! Turn your ideas and goals into actionable accomplishments with our simple and effective system for getting things done.

Other planners on the market just don’t take into account the specific needs of photographers and their businesses. Our expanded Big Picture’s gorgeous aesthetic and practical approach will change your life.

Let Design Aglow set you up for success in workflow, planning, marketing and your unique “big picture” goals every single day! Use this planner in 2015, and set yourself up for success for many years to come.

With a 100% customizable format, start planning with The Big Picture right away, for a fresh design that allows you to fill in your own dates for any year. What’s more, we’ve even added new features for 2015, including all new covers and daily pages, successful marketing resources, blog and social trackers, and a bucket list for everything from daring travel to tiramisu.

Then, once you’ve personalized The Big Picture with your choice of cover and other customizable components, keep yourself accountable by joining our exclusive 2015 Big Picture Facebook community, included with your purchase!

The Big Picture at a glance:

  • 40+ printable and fully customizable PDF pages (binder not included)
  • 16 page how-to tutorial, Setting Yourself Up for Success, guides you through our proven method of transforming your goals into achievements
  • Dozens of smart tips for living more productively
  • 8 brilliantly designed sections tailored for today’s professional photographer: Daily & Weekly Planner, Monthly Planner, Contacts, Workflow, Marketing, Financial, Resources, Inspiration, and Notes
  • 3 unique, brandable cover options
  • 6 smart worksheets for strategic planning: plot your Big Picture goals, goal actions, annual marketing goals, current and future marketing campaigns, social media tracking, and website & blog analytics
  • And so much more...

New for 2015:

  • All new cover pages with quotes and images
  • Updated Blog & Social trackers
  • 2016 Year At A Glance
  • Expanded 2-Page Week-At-A-Glance
  • My Bucket List Page
  • Extra Daily Page option (with To-Do & Personal sections)

BONUS: Access to the exclusive 2014 Design Aglow Big Picture private Facebook community to keep you on track, motivated and supported 24/7

Click here to get your own Big Picture Planner and get organized today!

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Win a Seat to the Develop Retreat!

Posted on November 14, 2014


A unique three-day photography retreat for women hosted by Kat Theis of Mustard Seed Photography and Katie Lamb Photography, designed for photographers who are looking to transform their business, develop meaningful client experiences, and strengthen their brand - all while creating a strong sense of community among their fellow creatives. 

January’s workshop has a new and unique focus, diving heavily into the business side of our industry. Our retreat will uncover all of the hidden challenges we face when we are not behind the camera. From profit to pricing to taxes and savings, this exclusive retreat is perfect for any photographer looking to transform their business into a profitable profession.  With group activities, breakout sessions, games, brainstorming, lots of informative speakers and so much more – no stone will be left unturned during these exciting three days!

WORKSHOP DATES: January 10th through 12th, 2015

LOCATION: Hardy Bottom Ranch in New Waverly, Texas

Nestled between acres of Texas countryside and a picturesque tree farm, the New Waverly Ranch House offers some of the most breathtaking views of the Texas landscape. With plenty of rolling plains and rustic scenery to make any photographers heart flutter – it is the perfect home for 2015′s Develop Retreat – Business Edition.

GIVEAWAY: One lucky winner will gain free entry to attend this incredible workshop - A $1500 value, including all meals and sleeping accommodations. (Transportation costs to the retreat not included.)

TO ENTER: Contest is now closed.

CONGRATULATIONS to Lynzy Coughlin of Sparkling Footsteps Photography for winning the free seat to the Develop Retreat! Enjoy!

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Follow Design Aglow on Instagram and be inspired!

Posted on November 12, 2014

For almost a decade, Design Aglow is staying deliciously and delightfully ahead of the times. And while our methods and products are still setting the standard for smart business and design, we’re continually driven to providing the quality, service and value we’ve been celebrated for as an industry leader for years.

Thanks to overwhelming feedback, we’re even sharing the 411 from the 503 (our Portland headquarters!) with your very own backstage pass to what we’re up to behind the scenes. Whether we’re setting up photo shoots, peeking in on industry events or discovering new inspiration (and culinary adventures), join us on Instagram and let us inspire you toward a few of your own!

Our Instagram feed aims to put a smile on your face and the love of the photo business in your heart. #smile #wevegotthis #instagram #designaglow

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Congratulations to our Baby Week 2014 Image Contest winners!

Posted on November 10, 2014

Design Aglow's Baby Week 2014 has come to a close and we are thrilled to have received over a thousand entries in our inspiring image contest!

Design Aglow chose the final winners based on originality, composition and technique, while also taking number of votes into account.

See our top 3 winners below, as well as some of our favorite images that deserve an honorable mention for making us smile big.

Grand Prize: Brianna Shortreed ($300)
2nd Place: Andrea Martin Photography ($200)
3rd Place: Kim Hildebrand ($100)

If you are one of our three lucky winners, please contact us at contact@designaglow.com to claim your Design Aglow gift certificate!

Honorable Mentions:
Image Credit (left column, top to bottom): Jamie Nourallah, Angie Menos, Melanie Ludlow, Jeanni Dunagan, Linda Otterstedt, Jennifer Lee Heap, Natalie Adams, Jody Crane, Robyn Kilponen, Beth Carter Photography, Rya Duncklee, (right column, top to bottom): Peta Nikel Photography, Kristen Beinke, E Schmidt Photography, Lora Moy, Keren Vered, Elizabeth Reeves, Johanna Mcshan, Melanie Carlo, Aubrie-Legault

In case you missed all of our featured interviews, studio tour and new Baby Plan, Baby Announcements and more, simply scroll back in our blog, or come over to our Facebook page or Instagram feed! Big thanks to all who made #BabyWeek2014 a big success~ let’s do it again next year!

Looking for more inspiration? Sign up for the Design Aglow Newsletter to receive an instant download of our Success Guide, Flawless Client Communications: Best Practices for When Things Go South. 
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