A question has come in from one of our readers –

I am looking at an investment of 5-10k into starting a photography business. I would start by just working weekends. What are some ways I can improve my skills and also what computer programs would benefit me?

Before you start you venture, you need to do research. Do you know what does it take to legally run a business in your city and province/state? Do you need licenses? Insurance? Bonds?

What type of photography are you going to offer, and is there a demand for it? What is your competition? What is your advantage going to be over them? Price? Quality?

Second, you’re going to want some good reading. John Harrington’s Best Business Practices for Photographers is a book you must read if you plan on making any money from photography. The book is for pros making their entire living off of photography, but the lessons apply to those using a photography business to supplement their income as well. John Harrington also has a blog at http://photobusinessforum.blogspot.com that is worth reading as well.

Do you know anything about photography? Exposure? If not, pick up a book like Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure. Heck, even if you do know about exposure, pick it up anyway and read it. I bet you’ll learn something.

Are you computer savvy? You’re going to spend a lot of time in front of a computer using Adobe Photoshop. If you’re serious about this endeavor, don’t mess with any other software; Photoshop is the king of the hill for a reason: it works, and works well. Learn about actions and scripts, and make your own to help reduce the time you’re spending doing post-processing (editing).

Remember this: For every hour you’re spending in post-processing, you’re not spending it shooting. And shooting is where the money comes from.

If you’re looking at the “holy grail” of photography– (aka Wedding Photography)–do yourself and your brides a big favor and find a pro to shoot under (aka “second shoot”) to learn things. You might not find any local pro willing to help train you, who will be a direct competitor; as such, you may have to drive a distance to find someone to shoot for.

Oh, and don’t be upset if they ask you to “assist” first. Assisting is carrying cameras, lights, clipboards; charging batteries and supplying the main photographer with CF cards and/or film; helping set-up shots; crowd control; getting the main photographer some water; being a gopher. Some photographers want to make sure you are dedicated before they’ll let you pick up a camera, that is, unless you already have a decent portfolio to wow them with, first.