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How to Start A Photography Business In 5 Simple Steps

How to start a photography business: simple steps to start a small business as a photographer. Start a photography business easily with these tips.

So you want to use your photography skills to become your own boss, but aren’t sure how to start a photography business?

It’s easier than you think!

Every other photographer working for themselves today began where you are, asking how to start a photography business from scratch.

With a few simple steps and the right gear you can be on your way to working for yourself and making money off of your photos in no time.

How Profitable Is Owning A Photography Business?

Starting a small business will require upfront expenditures if you don’t already have the right materials and connections to potential clients.

You’ll need practical things, like cameras and software to develop prints, as well as money to pay for advertisements or other means of getting the word out about your services.

Still, even with these upfront costs of starting a small business, becoming a photographer can be satisfying both creatively and financially.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, photographers can expect to make on average $38,950 a year, even with only a high school diploma, which breaks down to $18.73 an hour.

This salary falls under the median income of about $55,000, meaning it’s not the most lucrative job available.

However, by running your own business, your income is in your control.

You can choose how often you work, how much you make on each project, and adjust your expenses to work in your favor for a higher yield.

What You’ll Need to Start a Photography Business [& Associated Costs

As mentioned, starting a photography business will require some upfront spending that should be considered before leaping.

Because you will be running your own business, you’ll also have ongoing costs that you will be responsible for paying.

It’s important to take into account – literally and metaphorically – the initial and recurring costs of running your own business to assess whether photography is right for you.


Great photography requires much more than a great camera.

You’ll also need lenses and cameras, lighting equipment, a tripod for standing the camera up, a computer equipped with photo editing software, and possibly extras like backdrops.

You may opt to find all your equipment at a photography store that lets you rent out specific equipment for one-time jobs if you don’t plan to use that equipment often enough to invest in it.


There are no education requirements to call yourself a professional photographer, though many photographers study the field at the college level.

This could mean the cost of a single class or an entire degree.


Some cities require permits to shoot in specific locations and necessitate permission to do so.

Check your local small business association or advocate groups in your local government to find out how to apply for the appropriate paperwork.


From ads on search engines to social media-sponsored posts, getting the word out about your business will cost money.

On top of money to buy ad space, you’ll need ads designed for your business.

Account for the cost of hiring a designer if you are not savvy at graphic design.


Once you start booking jobs, keep your payroll organized to ensure your profits cover the daily costs.

Hire an accountant or pay for accounting software if you plan to keep the books yourself.


On top of it all, you’ll also need a brandable, memorable business name. You can call your business anything you want, but we suggest starting with our list of names for a photography business to brainstorm ideas to start with.

Do I Need a License or Certificates to Start a Photography Business?

In most places, formal certifications aren’t required to be a photographer.

However, you may need a small business license or permits to shoot in some locations.

It’s in your best interest to check with your local government for laws on small businesses and licensing before you start working with clients.

Why You Should Consider Starting a Photography Business As a Side Hustle

If running a full-time photography business seems daunting, you could consider making it your side hustle as a freelance photographer.

A freelance photography career lets you take on the projects you want, when you want, without the pressure of making it your entire income.

Extra income

With a photography business as your side hustle, you can earn extra cash in your free time doing something you love.

While keeping your regular day job, having a photography side hustle can be a great way to make ends meet or save money for your future.

Flexible schedule

You can choose projects and clients that work for you when you want to take photos.

A side hustle works in your spare time and will not require that you give up the hours you would rather spend at home.

Ability to grow

If you are new to photography and do not have a large client base, having a photography business as a side hustle will give you the time and availability to meet new clients and advance your skills and business.

Eventually, you could even transition out from your current career into photography full-time.

Start a Photography Business In 5 Simple Steps

You have decided you want to get the ball rolling and become your own boss.

But now you are wondering: where do I begin if I want to start a photography business?

Here are five simple steps to get you on your way to your new career and owning your own business:

1. Get the equipment

First, shop around to find the right kind of camera and lenses, as well as other props and equipment you might need, like lighting.

Before you take on any job or project, get the appropriate equipment ready-to-go so you can maintain a reputation of professionalism and preparedness.

2. Apply Permits And Licensing If Necessary

Check-in with your local government office or do a quick online search to ensure you are licensed to shoot in your area before accepting customers, and if you need to create an LLC.

If needed, apply for the required certifications and licenses.

3. Set your rates

Take time to create a structure of how much you will charge to have a framework to show clients while booking your services.

Make sure your rates cover expenses of photoshoots to earn more money than you spend.

See what other photography businesses in your area charge, and make your rates competitive.

4. Find clients

It’s time to market your services! Get your name in front of potential clients by advertising online, or in the real world with assets like business cards and flyers.

You can also create a referral program that offers discounts to your clients for referring your services to friends and family.

5. Manage your books

Time to market your services! Get your name in front of potential clients by advertising online or in the real world with assets like business cards and flyers.

You can also create a referral program that offers discounts to your clients for referring your services to friends and family.

Things to Consider When Building a Photography Business

Before you dive in, carefully weigh the probability of your success in owning and running a photography business before spending your hard-earned money and turning your entire career toward this path.

A few key factors to ask yourself:

Can I run a business by myself?

It takes organizational skills, determination, and dedication to run a small business.

Truly consider whether you have enough passion and drive to keep a business running even when times are tough.

Ask yourself: are you reliable enough to maintain all the facets of the business afloat alone?

Will I be satisfied with this career?

If photography is only a hobby that brings you a small amount of joy, it might not be enough to fulfill you as a full-time business owner.

If not, consider other paths.

Are there enough opportunities to make money where I live?

Not all locations are ideal places to own and operate a photography business.

There must be enough clientele and projects within a reasonable distance to offer a steady stream of money.

Make sure your location and surrounding population need your services before starting.

If you are not selling your prints back to the people who hired you, sell photos online or in other places such as art galleries.

Photography Business Ideas

Just as there are many photography styles and subjects, there are just as many photography businesses you could potentially open.

Follow your passion and what you are naturally great at photographing.

Here are a few simple ideas to get you started:

  • Nature Photography: Photographing animals and nature is a great option if you live in a rural area with fascinating wildlife.
  • Portrait Photography: Portraits can include everything from senior yearbook photos to family memories and are viable for any size town or city.
  • Wedding Photography: Many coastal areas are wedding destinations and can offer plenty of business as a wedding photographer.
  • Event Photography: Photos are needed for events like major sports games, fashion shows and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Type of Photography is Most Profitable?

Commercial photographers working for high-end clientele naturally make more, though your earnings depend on what you charge and what it costs to take the photos.

While nature photographers can make serious money for their work, their earnings are offset by the travel expenses to get to exotic locales.

Take into account the amount of money and time you want to invest in each shoot that will offset your potential earnings.

Can Photography Make You Rich?

With an average salary under the median income in the US, running a photography business won’t likely make you rich.

Still, your wealth depends on what type of photography you choose, your skill level, and how much you work.

Photographers taking high-profile clientele and projects, such as commercial level, tend to make more for their work.

Similar Businesses to Consider Starting

If a photography business is not for you, other small business ideas could be a better fit.

For example, consultancy would let you work on different projects and teams, so every day feels different.

Best of all, you can learn how to start a consulting business easily online.

Wrapping Up

If your love of photography is strong enough, and your business and organizational skills are up for it, starting your own photography business could be your new calling!

It will not be easy (as running a business rarely is) but worthwhile if photography is your true love.

Plus, by working for yourself you’ll enjoy the pride of being a business owner.

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