Starting a photography business is very achievable for anyone. In addition to the cost of your camera and equipment, you may need a website, props, and a backup camera.
At the same time, there’s an opportunity for you to bring in extra cash with your hobby.
If you’re passionate about photography (or want to be), but not sure where to start, we’ve got your back.
Here are five tips for starting a photography business:
1. Define what type of photographer you want to be.
2. Start building a portfolio.
3. Price your services.
4. Build up your professional network.
5. Put together the technical pieces of your business.
How To Start a Photography Business
What Is A photography business?
A photography business is a company that provides photographic services for its clients. There are two main types of photography businesses: commercial and fine art.
Commercial photography businesses produce images for clients who need high-quality images for their products or services.
Photographers in commercial photography businesses may specialize in a certain kind of product, such as automotive parts, food or clothing.
Starting a photography business is a great way to share your skills with like-minded individuals. There are many ways to make your mark in the industry, including event photo booths and wedding photography.
Photography businesses exist in many different industries.
For example, medical industries employ photographers to take pictures of patients and surgeries for diagnostic purposes, while portrait studios photograph people’s faces and bodies to put on their Web sites or use in brochures promoting services.
Some photographers specialize in weddings. These photographers not only take pictures of the bride and groom but also handle all the planning for the wedding day, from finding a suitable venue to taking care of all the details.
Understanding The “Small Business Owner” Mindset
Here’s what you need to know before launching your photography business:
- Get clear on your vision. What kind of photography do you want to do?
- Are you interested in weddings and portraits, or would you rather shoot landscapes
- Where do you want your photography business to take you?
It may not happen right away, but consider how far down the road you want this business venture to go.
There are many different types of entrepreneurs that you’re likely to run into, particularly as you meet people at conferences, trade shows and other networking events.
As a small business owner yourself, you may have your own ideas about what it means to be an entrepreneur, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re all on the same page.
Leaving the traditional employment model behind can mean different things to different people.
Some entrepreneurs see it as a way out of cubicles and into a workspace they chose; others are happy with their 9-5 jobs but want more control over their paychecks and schedules.
Some have been running their own businesses for years, while others are just getting started.
How you handle your own business isn’t exactly how you should handle someone else’s business.
Understanding the “small business owner mindset” is one of the keys to succeeding in any sales situation, whether it be selling a product, service or even an idea.
Here is a key trait that you should keep in mind when dealing with fellow entrepreneurs:
They expect to work long hours – Something most people don’t know about small business owners is that they work longer than their employees do.
The Cost To Start A Photography Business
Starting your own photography business can be a lucrative and fulfilling career, but it does require some investment. Learning about the costs involved in starting a photography business can help you choose which type of business to start and what to expect during the startup process.
Here are the estimated costs of starting a photography business:
Camera Equipment: $2,000 to $10,000
You need to buy a camera before taking any photos. Newer point and shoot digital cameras can cost as little as $100, but more sophisticated equipment will run anywhere between $500 and $3000, and DSLR cameras typically range from $1000 to $2000.
(If you’re buying used equipment, expect to pay less.) Keep in mind that less expensive cameras often have fewer features than their more advanced counterparts. It’s also important to invest in lenses, tripods and lighting equipment if you plan on selling professional photography services.
Camera Rental: $300 to $1000 per month
Photographers often rent camera equipment for weddings or events when they don’t want to carry around their heavy gear all day.
This option may be cheaper than purchasing your own camera initially, but it could get quite expensive with repeated use. The price varies depending on the event and the quality of equipment needed.
How To Start A Photography Business “Legally”
Are you passionate about taking pictures and earning money from it? If you are, I’m sure there are lots of ideas racing through your head on how to make money with photography.
However, if you’re serious about working in the photography industry, you should know that there are legal issues involved.
That’s why today we’re going to talk about how to start a photography business “legally.”
What is a Legal Business Structure for Photography?
When you decide to make a career out of your photography hobby, the first thing that you should be aware of is the type of business structure that will make your business legitimate.
If you have no formal training in setting up a corporation or partnership, I highly recommend that you consult a lawyer before making any decisions.
You will be given two options for setting up a legal entity for your photography business: sole proprietorship and partnership or corporation.
Each has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it might take time for you to decide what is best for your circumstances.
A Sole Proprietor is a single owner who manages the entire operation himself or herself. The good thing about this type of business structure is that there are less administrative duties involved, which means less paperwork.
Your Photography Business Needs Structure To Function
I’ve worked with many photographers over the years, and I can tell you from experience that a messy business can translate into a messy mind pretty quickly. But structure is essential for your photography business to function properly, so what’s the best way to go about structuring it?
Organize Your Work Space
The first thing you need to do is organize your work space. If you’re working at home, the dining room table might be fine for now.
If you have an office, then use that. But make sure everything has a place and that place is clearly marked.
Outsource Non-essential Tasks
If you have a large volume of work coming in, then you might be tempted to take on tasks that are not necessarily needed right away such as editing or retouching.
While it may seem like a good idea at first, it can end up taking time away from your most important role as a photographer. This can cause delays in getting work done and ultimately lead to missed deadlines.
Once you have your studio space all set up, getting organized is key. For example, if you create an email folder for each client and include their name in the title (e.g., Smith Wedding)
Biggest Mistakes People Make When Starting Their Photography Business
The biggest mistakes people make when starting their photography business are usually related to pricing, marketing and product selection.
Trying to do too many things at once is one of the most common mistakes that I see people make when they start their business.
Many people want to be able to create the perfect website, write a whole bunch of blogs, post on Facebook and Twitter, AND send out newsletters in addition to doing the photography work itself.
If you try and do all of this and more, you will probably find yourself making little to no money as a photographer. You have to focus on doing one or two things really well, not everything half-assed!
The second biggest mistake I see is around product selection. People seem to think that they need to offer every service under the sun in order to make any real money in their photography business.
This is simply not true! You can be very profitable by offering just a few select services that your clients will pay you a premium price for.
If you offer too many services, you will dilute your brand, confuse prospective clients about what exactly it is that you do, and end up being average at everything instead of great at a few select things. One of my favorite quotes from Seth Godin is “Do one thing better” .
The Photography Business Roadmap
The Photography Business Roadmap is an easy-to-follow, step-by-step formula to help you create a profitable photography business in record time.
The guide will show you how to pick the right niche and target audience, build your brand, design an effective marketing strategy, generate leads, and get paid for doing what you love.
Everything is explained in plain English and backed up by examples of real photographers who have followed this exact plan.
It will help you get started as a business owner or even as a freelancer. It’s also great for people that have been in the industry for years and who want to grow their businesses or want to know how to get more out of it.
Let’s face it, You can probably take better pictures than most photographers out there, but if you can’t run your business properly then all the skills in the world won’t make you a success.
The Minimum Viable Business (MVB)
Here’s a question we hear all the time:
“I have this great idea. How much money do I need to get started?”
The answer is always the same:
But that’s not very helpful, so we’ve created a simple 3-step process to help you figure out how much you need to start a business.
Step 1: Take an honest look at your finances.
First, take an inventory of your current financials and assess your current situation. What does your bank account look like?
What about credit cards? What cash do you have available to you, and from where?
How much can you afford to spend on your dream business? What are your debts? How much are they going to cost you? Are there any assets that could be sold off to raise funds?
Step 2: Decide on the financial resources required.
Next, determine what financial resources are necessary for the endeavor. Some businesses require substantial assets to get started – real estate and machinery, for example – while others can be launched for less than $1,000.
Your personal situation will dictate how much capital you’re able to allocate toward starting a business.
Step 3: Create a “minimum viable business.”
Don’t Stress About Getting Photography Gear
I’m a big believer that anyone at any level can take great photos. You don’t need expensive equipment. All you really need is a good eye and the willingness to learn. And I really mean anyone.
I’ve seen kids use their phones to take amazing photos and I’ve seen people with no camera experience come up with some incredible shots. That being said, there are some tools that can make the process of taking photos easier.
There is a misconception that you need thousands of dollars worth of photography equipment to create good photos, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. This is where targeted marketing comes in.
If you have an established brand or business then it won’t be as easy to get started since you might already have competition in your niche.
If you want to stand out from the competition, then you will have to do something different than what they are doing, which means creating better content and having better photos than they do.
The best way to stand out, though is not by providing more content or offering more features, but by providing content that isn’t offered elsewhere.
The Tech Stuff For Your Photography Business
If you’re a photographer, you know how important technology is. Without it, you can’t take pictures and share them with the world.
That’s why you need to learn about digital cameras, computer hardware and software, as well as how your images are stored on a computer.
The digital age has made it easy for everyone to own a camera of some kind. You can pick up compact digital cameras for under $100 and DSLRs for less than $500. But that doesn’t mean they’re all created equal.
The better the camera, the better the image quality you can expect to get. If you shoot professionally or want to start your own photography business, you’ll definitely need a good DSLR (35mm film equivalent).
Software is just as important as hardware. Not only do you need software to download images from your camera onto your computer, but there are also numerous software applications that make it easier for photographers to work with their images.
Photoshop is probably the best-known program of its kind, but there are also others such as Gimp and Paint Shop Pro Photo X2 . These programs allow photographers to edit photos in different ways, from cropping and resizing images to adding special effects.
Growing a Photography Business
There are many different business structures that you can setup when it comes to photography. One of the most common is a LLC which stands for Limited Liability Company.
A LLC is a structure that offers limited liability protection to the owners.
Another common way to structure your business is as a sole proprietorship or as an S-Corp. Sole Proprietorship is any business that does not have any other business as its owner, but instead has a single owner.
S-Corp’s are a corporation that elects to be treated as a regular corporation for tax purposes. The advantage of having your business structured this way is that the income and losses flow through to your personal tax return in the form of Self Employed Income (Schedule C).
It is very important that you set up your books and records correctly so that you do not run into any trouble with the IRS down the road.
The best thing you can do before starting your business is consult with an accountant or lawyer who specializes in small businesses, who can help you set up the structure of your business correctly from the beginning and make sure everything stays on track.
There are many things you should consider when setting up your pricing strategy including how much time, effort and expense have gone into each project, what type of client
Choose A Business Entity
You have a couple of options when you start a business. You can go it alone as an individual proprietor, or you can team up with one or more people and form a partnership or corporation.
Trying out business ownership on your own can be done easily as an individual proprietorship. You don’t need any special authorization to work for yourself, although you do want to make sure you’re complying with the laws that apply to businesses in your state.
You’ll also want to establish some sort of business structure. Fortunately, there are many types of businesses that require little or no paperwork and you only need to register with your state if you’re making sales taxable.
However, there are advantages to registering as a formal business entity that offer important protections in case things go wrong.
A general partnership is easiest and involves working with just one other person. This is not the ideal way to run a business because it’s not really any different from working as an individual proprietor, except that you have a partner to help shoulder the risk if things go bad.
Partnerships are best left to people who know each other well and have been in business together for a while before they decide to start a new venture.
Choose A Business Name
When you’re starting a business, the first thing you need is a name. Find out what types of names are protected by trademark law, and how to get a domain name for your business.
It’s important to choose your business name carefully. Your company name can give customers an idea of what kind of products and services you offer, and how your company will be different from others in the same industry.
It’s also the first part of your brand identity, so it should be something that is unique and memorable.
In most states, your business name is protected by trademark law. This means that no one else can use that exact name in the same business category (for example, another company can’t register a business name that is the same as yours if its product or service is essentially the same).
However, there may still be some variation on your registered name that someone else can use (for example: “Your Company Name” instead of just “Company Name”).
Check with your local government office to determine whether another company can use a similar name to yours. It’s also important to understand how important it is to have a registered name with the state.
Business License And Permits For a Photography Business
A business license is a legal requirement for any person or company conducting business within the state. If you are planning to sell your photography services, then you will need a business license.
This article explains how to obtain a business license and what other permits you may also need.
Obtaining a business license is as simple as filling out an application and paying the required fee in most areas. The exact steps for obtaining a license vary from place to place, but the general process is similar across the country.
The first thing you should do when starting a photography business is check with your local city or county office to find out whether or not you need a license and how much it will cost. You’ll usually have to fill out an application form, which asks basic questions such as the name of your business, its address and contact information, and its officers (if any).
You’ll probably also have to pay a small fee, typically under $100. In some cases, your application may be rejected if you’ve failed to disclose something that could cause trouble for your business later on.
For example, if your application doesn’t disclose that you’re operating from home, it may be rejected at a later date if neighbors complain about noise or traffic.
Scaling Your Photography Company
“How do I get more clients?” This is the question I hear most often from photographers. It’s a really important question to ask, and it deserves an equally important answer. The answer is: work smarter, not harder.
Scaling your business means more than adding new team members or hiring an assistant. It means creating systems that allow you to “sell time” instead of spending it on busy work. But first, let’s define some terms:
Time blocking: scheduling time for projects and activities in advance
Time theft: spending time on things that don’t directly contribute to revenue generation
Time banking: converting time spent on non-billable activities into billable ones
Being intentional about how you spend your time will make scaling your photography company much easier. Here are some tips for doing this effectively:
Pick a revenue stream. For example, if you’re shooting weddings, then you want to sell hours of wedding coverage. You can either charge by the hour or by the wedding (the latter makes scaling easier).
The key is to pick something that increases with volume. This may be tricky at first, but don’t worry; we’ll talk about ways to boost volume later in this post.
Have a clear pricing structure. Your prices should communicate value clearly.
How To Start A Photography Business – Wrapping Up
If you are an aspiring photography business owner, you’ve probably spent a lot of time thinking about your passion for the medium.
But before you start trying to turn your passion into your business, there’s another thing you need to think about: money.
Turning a passion for photography into a profitable business takes more than talent; it takes planning, determination, and a good dose of business savvy. Here’s how to do it.
1. Do the math.
2. Find your niche.
3. Create a portfolio.
4. Get noticed online.
5. Protect your work.
6. Set up shop.
7. Price yourself right.
8. Promote yourself.
9. Connect with other photographers.
10. Take care of yourself.