Start your photography business: an interview with two Stay-at-Work Moms

suzanne mcneil photography

picture by Suzanne McNeil of Suzanne McNeil Photography

Photography is a growing trend for mothers. It’s a flexible job, you often make your own hours, and can make a good amount of money in a short period of time- that is not including the editing. If you’ve just started, have an interest, or need more motivation to pursue photography this Q & A might be the inspiration you need.

We continue our series on flexible jobs that are generally easy for mothers with photography. Meet two mothers who own photography businesses, how they got started and tips on how you might get started too.

Suzanne McNeil, 40, of Knoxville, Tenn, has enjoyed photography for many years but started taking her hobby into her part-time profession. McNeil, who has three boys- twins who are 8 and a 4 year old, started Suzanne McNeil Photography in June 2011.

Q:  How did you get into photography? 

McNeil: One of my former 3rd grade students who had seen the pictures I had taken on my blog and Facebook, sent me a note, saying that she wished I could  take her senior pictures.  Just before that, my husband and I had been discussing the possibility of me starting my business slowly, and taking my student’s pictures seemed like a great place to start.

Q: Did you always enjoy taking photos or was this a venture you pursued to help financially solely?

McNeil: I have always loved photography.  From the day I receive my own Kodak Disc camera, I was hooked.

Q:  Did you have any formal training? 

McNeil: I took a couple of evening classes at the University of Tennessee.

Q: Is formal training needed? If not, what is? 

McNeil: I don’t think formal training is necessary, but I do think that if someone loves taking pictures they will have the desire to learn more about operating a camera.  No more shooting on Auto. Many local universities and community colleges offer evening classes in photography.

Q: If someone was looking to set up a business what would they need to do or what do you recommend? 

McNeil: To start, get a business license with your city/county…start paying taxes.  If you want to take pictures for people, then do it!  All the time.  Be THAT person who always has their camera with them. Practice, study, grow, improve!  I did a 365 Project last year where I took a picture every single day of the year.  It changed my photography.  I’m considering doing it again.

Q: What do you shoot mostly and what is your favorite thing to shoot?

McNeil: I shoot lots of families and children.  I have recently jumped into the wedding market head first.  I love shooting older babies who aren’t crawling yet.  They are usually very happy and can’t move!  However, after shooting my first wedding last summer, I was hooked!    I have three weddings coming up in the next couple of months!  I can’t wait!

Q: What are your rates?

McNeil: Family session are $100 for 1.5hr session.  Weddings packages start at $750.

Q:  How would someone wanting to get started determine what is appropriate to charge? 

McNeil: The bulk of time spent doing a photo session is not in the session itself.  It is in editing. Many, many hours are spent on the computer. So if you don’t like working on the computer, this job is not for you!  Before starting out, you would need to know enough about Photoshop, Lightroom, Elements or an equivalent software to be able to process the pictures you are taking.  After you feel that they can consistently take good images and process them, then you need to think about how much time it will take from start to finish – pre-consultation (via phone, email, Facebook, in person, etc), prep time getting ready for session, drive-time, the session itself, uploading images, processing images, making disks, delivery of images….it’s not just about taking pictures. Add all that time up, and decide how much you feel you want per hour and go from there.

Q: Many just getting started might ask their friends to sit for shoots. How would you encourage a mom to charge, to quote and bill with faith?

McNeil: Any photo shoot is an opportunity to improve my skills, build my portfolio and learn more about running a shoot.  It’s very important to know what you are doing and be willing to grow in your skills. A stagnant photographer isn’t a good photographer!  I am constantly evaluating my images to see what I could change.

Enjoy a glimpse of McNeil’s photography work. To see it all visit her site at

For more photography tips from photographer Michelle Hamstra continue reading HERE!

Continue reading about photography HERE….


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