[Members Tips] Starting a Photography or Videography Business in Ireland

We’ve asked IPPVA’s award-winning photographers and videographers to share their 3 top tips to start a photography business or a videography business in Ireland.

Commercial Photograph by Michael Hayes
Michael Hayes — Gold Award in Commercial

Michael Hayes – Irish Photographer of the Year, Fine Art Photographer of the Year and Commercial Photographer of the Year 2021

  1. Mentoring
  2. Mentoring and
  3. Mentoring
Still of a Bride and Groom from a Wedding Video by Gavin Gallagher
Award-Winning Wedding Video from Gavin Gallagher

Gavin Gallagher – Irish Videographer of the Year 2021

  1. If you’ve already got a strong portfolio and your work is solid then I feel the two most important elements are your brand image and your network. You need to decide who your ideal client is and how to tap into that market whether that’s hipster elopements, smaller city weddings or big budget castle weddings. Your brand will attract what you show and every good job leads to at least three more.
  2. I feel it took me way longer to get to the level I’m at now than a lot of the new younger guys I see out there in Ireland. Granted the technology has improved so much and that has elevated the standard of work hugely. Also, the standard of YouTube tutorials has basically given anyone with a camera and laptop the ability to learn incredible videography and editing skills. Starting out you may experience frustration as to why you’re not getting the weddings and clients you want or perhaps even booking enough weddings to make a full-time career out of it. Use this time to refine your skills, especially as an editor, storyteller and colour grader.
  3. I made so many mistakes starting my own business in 2005 and that’s all part of the process but one of the biggest mistakes I made was taking every job. When you start out in the wedding industry, you do have to take almost every job and you do learn so much from shooting volume. But in time it’s better to be selective and focus on the craft rather than the volume. That’s where the really beautiful work can be created and clients really will respect what you do. They’re investing in you and your vision to produce something they will cherish for years.
Black horse posed laterally in front of a dark background
Sinead Ní Riain — Gold Award, Portrait Category

Sinéad Ní Riain – Portrait Photographer of the Year 2021

  1. I would recommend joining the IPPVA as I have made great friends and learnt a lot from them. The various courses run by the IPPVA over the years are both inspiring and informative.
  2. Visit galleries and study lighting and composition from the Masters.
  3. Mentors in different areas of photography and business are worth investing in to improve all the skills that are needed to be successful both in photography, marketing, and the business aspect of a successful career.
Lake Baikal - Landscape Photograph from Daragh Muldowney
Daragh Muldowney – Silver Award in Landscape Photography

Daragh Muldowney – Landscape Photographer of the Year 2021

  1. Have a good web presence.
  2. Develop a strong mailing list through positive communication.
  3. Try to develop your own unique style.
black and white image of a freestanding bathtub. Two children are inside wearing goggles, talking/laughing with the third child, a naked toddler who's standing outside the tub with their back to the camera.
Rashida Keenan — Silver Award in Open Creative

Rashida Keenan – Open Creative Photographer of the Year 2021

  1. Have confidence and believe in yourself: Starting out in any new business is daunting. Stay focused and work hard. Create your social media accounts. Post the personal images and the client work will follow.
  2. Find your own style: Create images that you feel passionate about and that move you. It’s great to be inspired by other photographers but try to avoid copying another photographer’s work. Being original is the key this will help your work to stand out.
  3. Make friends in the industry: Join professional organisations. Some of my best friends now are colleagues and I speak with them daily. Working as a solo photographer can, at times, be very lonely. Having the support of an organisation and friendships with like-minded individuals is invaluable. Finally, take up any mentoring opportunities that come available.
black and white image of a small baby's feet embraced by the hands of an older woman
Lidi Lima-Conlan — Silver Award, Newborn Photographer

Lidi Lima-Conlon – Newborn Photographer of the Year 2021

  1. Be confident you can get there. We all started from somewhere.
  2. Keep developing your craft and don’t forget the business side of being a photographer.
  3. Get help! Look for business training and how to get set up.
bride and groom with guests and sparklers
Gareth Lima-Conlon — Silver Award, Documentary Wedding

Gareth Lima-Conlon — Wedding Photographer of the Year 2021

  1. Take a few free gigs first to get some professional images under your belt. Find a mentor who can help you curate these images to show on your website and social media. Don’t be afraid to approach other photographers in Ireland. If you can do this it will help you enter the market at a more sustainable price point.
  2. Invest in yourself. Attend workshops and online courses, get a strong website and consistent branding across all platforms. Try to set yourself apart early on. 
  3. Don’t dilute your brand with other genres of photography that you might also do. Create a separate place for them. For example, couples looking for a quality wedding photographer will be more drawn to a website that just focuses just on wedding photography. Show them that this is your specialty!
bride and groom getting showered with confetti outside of a church
Shane Prunty — Award Winning IPPVA Videographer

Shane Prunty – Award-Winning IPPVA Videographer

  1. Throw yourself in at the deep end! It can be daunting at first but you will learn so much on the job. Don’t get too caught up with books or courses — the best lessons you’ll learn are the real-life ones.
  2. Don’t compare yourself to others and find your own style — this will take some time. 
  3. Get an accountant!
woman in black sitting on a small rock at the edge of a lake with rocky hills in the background
Brendan Lyon — Bronze Award in Open Category

Brendan Lyon — Award-Winning IPPVA Photographer

  1. Know how to price properly — value your time. Job-related time — travel, shoot, post-production, delivery, client management — is only about 50% of your work time. The rest is admin, marketing, sales, etc. — all the stuff you hate, and far too many don’t account for when pricing their fees.
  2. If you want to be commercially viable as a photographer, learn how to run a business. Related to the point above, you must learn how to market and sell. And don’t lie to yourself about the hours you put into the job. If you’re editing at 10 p.m. while watching the TV, you’re working and someone should be paying you. You are not a charity.
  3. Never, ever, ever stop learning.
bride and groom kissing in front of amber fireworks
John Gillooley — Silver Award in Creative Wedding

John Gillooley — First Place in Creative Wedding 2021

  1. This is a service industry. If you ace the customer service element you’ll go far. Go above and beyond for your clients, as much as possible. Don’t let your ego get in the way of the fact that you are creating these images for them. 
  2. Don’t think for a second there’s any shot or style you’re not capable of. Experiment, study, and fail. Then do it all again. 
  3. Make friends. Your fellow photographers will lift you on your journey. This can be a lonely job so surround yourself with people who are fighting the same fights and putting out the same fires. Never turn down the opportunity for a good piss-up. 
Still from Wedding Elopement Video by Ronan Quinn
Award-Winning Wedding Elopement Video by Ronan Quinn

Award-Winning IPPVA Videographer Ronan Quinn

  1. Define where you want to be in 3 years, define your target audience, build a brand that can make that a reality.
  2. It took me 10 years of trial and error to get anywhere so I would also say… just start! Then tweak and improve. It’s just another journey in life, and you need to put in your hours.
  3. One thing to fast-track success would be to ask others for help. “Hey how did you do that”, “Do you offer mentoring”, “What is it like shooting there”… all these things are questions people are usually happy to answer.  
product photography of three designer watches
Neil Lennon — Silver Award, Commercial Category

Neil Lennon — Runner-Up, Commercial Photographer of the Year 2021

  1. Well, the best way to Carnegie Hall is “practice, practice, practice”!
    Seriously though, in the digital age of the proliferation of phone-cameras and smart fridges (I guess we’ll finally find out who finished the milk), one really has to stand out from the crowd more than ever. Individual, unique style is however the pillar of success in photography.
  2. I assume style would be apparent from a strong portfolio but I’ve come to the realisation that the actual science of business skills should not be overlooked. One tip I learned from the various start-your-own-business courses I took which really stands out in my mind is that “people buy from people”. In the photo market that means showing the personality behind the visual style. Producing top-notch pictures as efficiently as possible having seduced magazine editors and art directors through extensive networking and hob-nobbing just isn’t enough!
  3. One of my masters told me each shoot was more like showbiz than just nailing 15 shots in 10 hours. His studios were bedecked with scented candles, bouquets of flowers, and cocktails at 4… Who the heck wants to be cooped up in a dimly lit studio for 14 hours with a grump with awful taste in music – even if the resulting photos shine?