How to Start Up a Photography Business
The invention of smartphones with sophisticated cameras has made many people want to try their hands at photography.
Even with the interested masses taking different avenues to learn the skill, not all have what it takes to earn from it after starting a business.
Taking a perfect selfie is different from capturing the perfect moment.
Most pros at selfie-taking often think they are professional photographers; that’s fine, but the actual work and results are what will determine if they are.
There is more to starting up a photography business than pointing your camera and slapping the best filter (if you have tried and failed, you understand this well).
Like any professional endeavor, you need a significant input of money and time to secure all the necessary resources before starting your photography business.
A rough look at what you need for a photography business startup: high-quality equipment, business registration and a solid portfolio, among other important things.
Luckily, startup costs in the photography industry are slightly lower than in most industries (at least in most places).
Your current equipment, needs and focus will determine if you are ready to learn how to start a photography business as soon as now.
I will put this in steps to make it easier for you to tick your checklist and see if you are nearer to achieving your investment goal.
Prepare a Business Plan
Any business owner needs a business plan, and you aren’t exempted – even the solo photography business you see does.
A business plan is vital to help you outline your services, understand your target audience and market, and set your rates.
Thinking about all these details prior will help you begin on a steady note and scale your photography business to greater heights.
It shouldn’t be a tedious or lengthy process, as you can check out a few guides on creating business plans to get started.
Register your Photography Business
Business registration is vital as it means you are running a legally established business.
Ensure to select the correct business entity and a great business name.
Most photography businesses are registered as sole proprietorships or limited liability companies (LLC).
There are certain benefits for both legal structures.
You are free to form if you choose sole proprietorship; however, the structure doesn’t safeguard you from personal liability.
For LLC, you enjoy extra benefits like choosing how to be taxed and reduced liability.
The LLC option also boosts the professional appearance of your business.
The structure you choose has a massive impact on your photography business, including liability and taxes, among other crucial things.
You can consult a tax professional or an attorney if you doubt what to select.
Think about an appropriate business name as it is the first contact your potential clients have with your business.
The most important thing is striking an excellent first impression.
Once decided, run a secretary of state search for the business name for availability and uniqueness.
File a DBA if you choose sole proprietorship registration; your business name will default to your legal name, and the requirements vary depending on the state.
Obtain Business Permits, Licenses and Insurance
Now that your business legally exists, the continuous legal operation is crucial.
Get proper business permits, licenses and insurance.
Check with your state licensing board and local city hall to ensure you comply with all the necessary regulations.
Most starters often ignore or underestimate the importance of insurance for their photography business.
Insurance adds an extra protection level from expensive liability disputes.
Remember, regardless of how talented and professional you are; you will at some point encounter disgruntled customers.
More research on business insurance policies will help, and you are shielded from general and personal liability as you get one.
Set up a Bank Account, Credit Card and EIN
NEVER MIX personal and business money!
Business money should live in a different place, hence the need for credit cards, bank accounts and EINs.
Even if you are a one-man photography business, applying for an employer identification number is crucial.
You need this when filing all your business taxes and when opening business bank accounts and applying for business loans if need be.
A business checking account helps you to distinguish your business from personal finances.
You can deposit invoice payments or cash from your photography gigs in the account.
A business credit card allows you to have separate credit scores, and if you use it regularly, you can boost your photography business’s financial help enabling you to secure business loans in future quickly.
Buy or Upgrade your Photography Equipment
Professional photographers have invested in high-quality and high-end equipment.
The best cameras aren’t cheap, but as a startup, you don’t need costly equipment; you can invest in them as you gain experience or increase your income.
Below are a few startup costs of recommended accessories and tools with approximate prices, though the figures are bound to change.
- Camera: $1,000 to $1500
- Camera lens: $980
- SSD cards: $40
- External hard drives: $80
- Laptop: $2,000
- Website hosting: $50
- Backdrops and lighting: $480
- Editing programs: $21 monthly for Photoshop
- Tripod: $80
- Camera bag: $120
- Accounting software: $10 to $25 monthly for a basic plan
If you have been in the photography industry for a while but have never started your own business, you might have most of the things in the above list, like a laptop and camera that incredibly reduce the initial costs.
Build Solid Relationships with Suppliers
Regardless of how cheap, expensive, small or big the equipment you need, you will first look for an equipment supplier for your photography needs.
Amazon can be the cheapest option, but this is not always the solution most times.
Establish relationships with local shops to be on track with prices and purchases.
Being a frequent and loyal customer opens avenues for affordable deals and referrals to clients; also, you will be supporting another business owner.
Price your Photography Services
Your pricing formulae must include labour, time and a fee for your resources.
Choose a niche as this influences your value as a photography service.
For instance, professional wedding photographers can charge $2000+ while a family photographer will charge $400 for one photoshoot session.
Research photography niches, choose the best place to focus, and collect fantastic samples.
Showcase your abilities, and as your portfolio grows, you can increase your rates.
Check out your competition
Avoid raising prices for the sake of a raise.
Once you work longer with a preferred clientele, stick to a comfortable price, but while at it, stay firm on your charges.
Another thing that will affect pricing is the duration of each job.
Count in time after the shoot, like processing, edits, uploads and distribution; these are labour and time-intensive.
So, factoring them in your price will be crucial to avoid being underpaid.
Events can end up with hundreds of photos while portraits will have 60 t0 100 photos; the two will be differently priced.
Market your Photography Business
Find clients to start earning.
Referrals are proving to be one of the most effective marketing forms and cost nothing, unlike other methods.
As you begin your business, learn how to develop positive referrals.
I have an article on promoting your photography business on the website, which should help you even if you are just starting.
Here are a few tips for finding the first client:
You can do free photoshoots for your colleagues, friends and family and ask them to share your work with their friends on social media platforms.
I know that you are giving your resources for free, but it is necessary for starters.
Free gigs build your experience and help you prep samples you can market to clients in future.
Sell your Photography Work Online
Avoid limiting your income only to photography gigs.
Most sites need stock images to enhance their branding and content.
Go for sites that pay to add your photography work to their databases.
Below are some stock photo marketplaces:
It is not only a popular hobby; photography is a legit business as long as you are passionate about capturing timeless times and memories.
Starting a photography venture needs as much commitment as the rest of the businesses you know.
The bonus is that your projects can be affecting and visceral.
Photography businesses are easy to start small, grow and build them.
If you know little about the skill and feel intrigued to learn, improve and earn from it, start with some helpful courses as you practice.
I have reviewed some awesome ones by fantastic and pro photographers on the website; check and enrol in those you feel are good to start with.
They range from beginner to advanced courses, so depending on your experience, choose the most relevant.
If you are skilled and have been waiting for helpful information on how to start earning from photography by starting a legitimate business, I hope you can do it now.
I agree that having a smartphone with even a good quality camera, doesn’t set you up for starting a photography business. As with starting any business, a certain amount of money will be needed to invest in the right equipment. Having a business plan will help you to stay focussed, and is often required if you need funding to start your business.
The guidelines shared here will certainly help anybody that wants to start a photography business, as well as being a great guide to starting any other business as well.