Starting a Photography Business

Starting a Photography Business

A photography business allows you to capture and preserve memories for your clients while also expressing your own creativity through the art of photography. The low cost of business entry, potentially high hourly pay, and the rise of social media and online marketing have provided opportunities to grow your business and reach a wider audience like no other.

Unfortunately, most hobbyist photographers just want to search for the perfect shot and take pictures. But if you don’t plan for the business side of photography, you may not have the success you desire or a viable, sustainable business. 

If you want to succeed at your new photography business, then read this guide for some helpful ideas to get started.

Key Takeaways:

  • Photography business offers the opportunity to be creative, flexible and work on your own terms. It also allows you to capture memories for clients and make a living doing something you love. 
  • In terms of revenue, the photography market will be worth $12.9 billion in 2023.
  • The rise of social media platforms and the increasing demand for visual content has contributed to the growth of the photography market. Additionally, advancements in technology have made photography more accessible and affordable for individuals and businesses. 

It’s time to get the lighting just right, put on our favorite portrait-worthy sweater, and say “cheese” as we take our own snapshot of the world of running a professional photography business today.

Starting a Photography Business

To be successful as a new photography business, you’ll have to focus on building a strong portfolio, establishing a brand identity, and networking with potential clients. A website is a must along with an inviting social media presence, which is also a great place to showcase your previous clients’ shoots. Additionally, offering competitive pricing and exceptional customer service can help you stand out in a crowded market. 

How Much Photographers Make 

Photographers can make anywhere from $200 – 500 per hour. On average, they make about $34,000 per year, but this can vary greatly depending on their level of experience, location, and type of photography they specialize in. Some photographers may earn upwards of $100,000 per year if they have a strong reputation and work with high-profile clients.

One of the biggest aspects of a successful photography business is the fact that it’s a business. Too many artists think they can focus solely on the creative side of things, but if no one knows about your offer through marketing and visibility, it will be very difficult to achieve a regular intake of clients.

Photography Business Startup Costs

photography business startup costs

The average cost to start a photography business varies depending on several factors, such as the equipment needed, location, and marketing expenses. However, a rough estimate for starting a photography business can range from $10,000 to $50,000. 

Budding photography business owners can save money when starting out by investing in used or refurbished equipment and by offering discounted rates to their first clients to build their portfolio and gain experience. To get new clients, it’s also important to put marketing efforts like social media and networking at the top of the list.

Fortunately, you can often rent a lot of what you’ll need when you’re starting a photography business. You can save money on gear and studio space by renting a studio for the day of a shoot in a coworking-type space and booking by the hour. This way, you may be able to use their cameras, lighting, stands, backdrops, and other supplementary equipment.

What’s a good pro camera setup to get started with?

For photographers just starting out in their business, a good camera to get is the Canon EOS Rebel T7 DSLR Camera. It offers high-quality images, easy-to-use controls, and is affordable for those on a budget. Additionally, it has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity for easy sharing of photos.

According to a satisfied user with the most upvotes for the question of a good starter camera on,

“The Canon EOS Rebel T7 is a budget-friendly entry-level camera. This Canon DSLR would be a great choice for you if you are just starting out in photography and don’t care about any extra features. T7 creates beautiful images, but proper lighting is still necessary. The best Canon EOS Rebel T7 lenses can significantly boost the overall performance, turning a mid-range camera into a potent tool.”

Good Used Camera to Start a Photography Business

He went on to say,

“Canon’s EOS Rebel produces extremely high-quality images with minimal graininess, even at high ISO settings. Its range of shutter speeds offers a variety of new features, including long exposure photos and still images of rapidly changing scenes. Additionally, professional-level photo quality can be achieved with the right lenses.”

A new Canon Rebel T7 will cost you $380 – 550 dollars while a used one may cost around $300.

Marketing Your Photography Business

Marketing your photography business is essential to attract potential clients and stand out in a competitive market. Utilizing social media, creating a professional website, and networking with other professionals in the industry are effective ways to promote your business. 

Designing a Photography Business Website

Photography Services You Can Provide (and What You Can Charge)

You can offer several types of photography services, including: portrait photography, event photography, commercial photography, product photography, and wedding photography. Each type of service requires a unique set of skills and equipment to deliver high-quality results that meet the clients’ expectations. 

You may want to come up with pricing for packages like weddings and events, and at other times you can price by the hour for occasions such as family portraits, which often include rambunctious kids who resist posing for pictures and extend the session through no fault of your own.

If you can dream it, you can shoot it, and if they can buy it, you can price it. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Professional and executive headshots – Professional and executive headshots are essential for individuals who want to establish a strong personal brand and make a positive first impression. These types of photos are commonly used for business cards, LinkedIn profiles, company websites, and other professional marketing materials. 

Most headshot photographers charge anywhere from $150 to $450.

  • Wedding and special event photography – Wedding and special event photography is a specialized field that requires not only technical skills but also an artistic eye. A good photographer should be able to capture the emotions and atmosphere of the event in a way that tells a story and creates lasting memories. Networking with wedding planners in your area is always a good idea, since the average cost of a wedding is $20,000 and people know they’ll need good pictures. Being able to offer referrals to a wedding planner will also expand your network and provide additional value to your clients.

The average cost of a wedding photographer is $2500.

  • Corporate and product photography – Companies need high-quality images for their products and services for websites, social media, marketing materials, and other business purposes. The average cost of corporate photographers varies depending on factors such as experience, location, and the scope of the project. 

On average, corporate photo rates can range from $100 to $500 per hour or more. 

  • Family and portrait photography – This one’s self-explanatory. Photographers can charge anywhere from $100 to $500 per session depending on their experience, location, and the number of photos provided. You can compare your rates to your local competition to find a good price entry point.

The typical hourly rate for portrait photographers is $150–350.

  • Sell stock photos on popular online sites – Online sites like Shutterstock, Alamy, and Getty Images and Shutterstock provide a platform for photographers to showcase their work and reach a wider audience, while also allowing businesses and individuals to easily purchase high-quality images for their projects. Additionally, selling stock photos can be a great way for photographers to earn passive income. However, competition is fierce. 

Stock photographers typically earn $0.02 per image per month from their work, compared to professionals who make $0.05 to $0.25 per image per month. Revenue from royalty-free sales ranges from $0.10 to $99.50, while that from extended licenses can reach $500.

The good news is that all those practice shots you’ve taken for a lifetime now have a marketplace. I personally use Canva’s selection of stock photos as a service, and I can say that licensable photos will always be in demand. And, not just for your photography business, but for any business, having passive income is always nice as well.

More Networking Tips for Photography Businesses – Expanding Your B2B Client Base

It’s often a good idea to partner with and network with website developers, internet marketers, and website builders since the impact of a well-coded website and visually appealing images is both immeasurable and evident in your bottom line as the sales come in. Along with the local SEO and web guys, you can supplement each other’s services when building client sites or packages, leveraging each other’s expertise and opportunity.

You can also visit your local chamber of commerce and offer to take some photos of all present members and visitors for free as a way to show your skills and create a list of businesses that you can tout as clients.

Photography Clients to Avoid

Not all clients are going to be the best deal for you, considering the time, stress, and financial strain that a worst-case scenario could cost your business and your sanity. Here’s how to save time and headaches when qualifying your leads into paying clients:

  • Free Consultation – Have an initial consultation and discuss the client’s vision, then determine if you think that you can work together. It’s also a great way of getting a client to understand the value of what you provide in terms of price.
  • Don’t let them make it all about price – You wouldn’t go to a fine dining restaurant and complain the entire time that the meal was too expensive, constantly trying to get them to take 10 0r 20% here or there. If a client complains about price, don’t take it personally. People are cheap. But the best clients aren’t. You have a choice with whom to work.
  • Look for red flags – You’ll be spending several hours working with the client, then time after for editing and organizing files, communicating the whole time in person, by phone, and email. If a client talks down to you, shows anger, or just seems like a bad character, it might be best to turn them down nicely.
  • Reputation exists for a reason – If a company needs corporate photography but you look into their background and find they have bad reviews, unresolved customer or staff complaints, or see other vendors expressing a bad experience with them in the past, there’s a good chance they could be just as problematic for you.

Dealing with unnecessary issues and unprofessionalism on the part of clients will cost you time, money, and zap you of the energy and zest that you need in order to wow your other clients. Cut your losses early and let your winners shape your core business. No one works for themselves, so they can be miserable at work. That means picking the right people. 

Contract Clauses Every Photography Business Needs

They say the devil is in the details. One thing’s for sure: if you don’t expressly state the details in writing, the devil certainly will try to take advantage. Here are some clauses to include in your formal photography shoot contract and invoice:

Detailed Summary of Work: It’s important to reiterate that the scope of work is in your contract, even though you have already discussed it by phone and/or email. Don’t be afraid to get specific in this situation so that nothing is missed and nobody forgets what they agreed to. Here, you can note the precise number of photos that were agreed upon as well as a list of the requested pictures. This will shield you from clients who might want to change the shot list or add extra scenes on the day of the shoot, making your schedule chaotic or rushed.

Licensing and Copyright: This clause in a commercial photography agreement is crucial because it specifies who owns the images, who can use them, and how. You own your images unless you’ve given the client the copyright to them. Consider listening to a band on Spotify as a wonderful illustration. You don’t own their songs; you just pay for a license to listen to their music. Although they pay for a license to use your images, the client does not actually own them. Make sure to specify in your contract how, where, for how long, and on what platforms the client may use the images. Generally speaking, these details will be more specific the bigger the client. In the future, if you discover one of your photos being used in a manner for which it was not authorized, you can use the contract you signed to help you get compensated fairly.

Payment Contract and Schedule Details: There shouldn’t be any surprises because you gave the client a quote before sending a contract, but it’s still crucial to lay out the entire cost of the shoot to ensure that everyone is on the same page. In addition to your creative fee, the client should know about any other costs they should plan for, such as a prop or food stylist, a shoot assistant, location and equipment rental fees, and even travel costs. Don’t forget to include your payment schedule so the client is aware of how much they will need to pay up front and when the balance is due. Explain the late fees the client will face if they don’t make their payment on time. 

Rescheduling and Cancellation Policy: As a self-employed business owner, it’s important to have a cancellation policy in case a client cancels at the last minute. You can decide how specific this policy will be for your company, but be sure to make it clear when you will charge a cancellation fee. Consider including a scheduling policy in line with this. Even though both parties may have wanted the photo shoot to happen, sometimes life happens and unexpected things like illness or freak weather incidents occur. Specify in your contract how much advance notice you must give to reschedule a shoot.

Rendering of Services: The performance of services clause protects you from clients asking for a refund or a reshoot as long as you do the work to the standard shown in your portfolio and exactly follow the client’s brief. If a client politely requests small changes or minor edits with a good reason, the majority of photographers are happy to oblige. Including this clause will keep you from having to do a whole new shoot if the client changes their mind after signing the contract or takes the view of a stakeholder who wasn’t involved in making the original brief.

Photography Permits and Commercial Use Licenses You’ll Need

In general, it is okay to snap and publish photos in and from a public area without seeking permission, but it is illegal to do so in a private area. The subjects of a photograph typically need to give their permission before it can be sold. It’s always wise to research the regulations if you’re unsure or going somewhere new. 

Consider the scenario where you’ve been hired to shoot a wedding reception on camera. If you’re an outsider in a private setting at a private event, you can assume that photographing the guests is okay unless they specifically request that you not do so because consent in these circumstances is frequently implied. 

But this implied consent does not cover publication on your website or anywhere else, so you must get the photographed person’s express permission before putting the photos anywhere.

If the legal requirements are met, a photographer who takes pictures of copyrighted artwork without permission may have violated the copyright and may be held accountable to the owner of the artwork. 

Do freelancers and photographers need a permit to shoot still photos in a National Park? 

Still photography typically doesn’t need a permit except for the following conditions: 

  • The action uses a model, set, or prop. 
  • Photography takes place in an area that is off-limits to the general public
  • It would cost the National Park Service more money to oversee. 

A “model” is any person or thing that is the focus of still photography taken to advertise the purchase or use of a good or service. Models can be people, pets, or inanimate objects like cars, boats, clothes, food, and beverages. They can also be inanimate objects like people or animals. Wedding parties and high school graduates are examples of portrait subjects that are not considered models if the photograph will not be used to advertise or sell a good or service.

How do you avoid using images that have a copyright? 

Even if you edit an image that wasn’t your creation, copyright regulations still apply. If you want to avoid copyright violations when using images, you can make your own work, buy a license to use an image, or find a free image.

And when planning your shoot, make sure to account for logos, copyrights, trademarks, and anything else that someone else might want to be paid for once your photos become public for sale or use. You don’t want to have to digitally alter it later, which can lead to quality issues.

Legal Documents and Business Insurance That Every Commercial Photographer Needs

When forming your photography business, you may consider forming a 1-person LLC business entity for tax and liability purposes. Additionally, because you may be billing on an hourly basis, using some basic accounting software like Freshbooks that tracks time automatically and itemizes it into a client invoice can help establish your professionalism as well as gain brand trust.

In order to capture the best images for their clients, photographers rely on costly technology. However, using these expensive tools can put you at even greater risk. Every small business faces risks, which is why it’s crucial to have the appropriate business insurance. It can aid in defending you, your company, its assets, and its personnel.

A Business Owner’s Policy – is typically in place for photographers (BOP). Three crucial coverages for small businesses are combined in a BOP. This can protect your photography business while saving your company money on insurance premiums. 

GLI (general liability insurance) – provides defense against bodily injury and property damage claims for your company. This insurance can help if you accidentally damage a client’s house while taking family photos, or if a wedding guest trips over one of your flash stands and gets hurt. 

Business property insurance – If you own or rent a location or equipment for your business and something is damaged or destroyed, business property insurance can help defray the costs. This insurance can safeguard:

  • Cameras
  • Flash drives
  • Memory Sticks 
  • Hard drives external to computers 
  • Backgrounds, lighting and stands 

Business Income – When you can’t operate because of covered property damage, such as fire or wind damage, business income insurance replaces a portion of your lost revenue.

Conclusion: Starting Your Own Photography Business

A photography business is not a bad idea. In this digital age, people want more and more visual content, so starting a photography business can be a good idea. To be successful in this competitive industry, you need a mix of technical skills, creativity, and business sense.

Frequently Asked Questions – Starting a Photography Business

How much money do you need to start a photography business?

Although you don’t have to purchase every piece of gear and sign up for every service at once, many seasoned photographers advise setting aside between $10,000 and $15,000 to start a photography business.Starting a Photography Business

What’s a great affordable pro camera for starting out in your photography business?

The Canon Rebel T7 is a great starter camera for photographers because it offers a user-friendly interface and produces high-quality images with its 24.1-megapixel sensor. Additionally, it has built-in Wi-Fi and NFC connectivity for easy sharing of photos and remote shooting capabilities.

Moreover, the reason more expensive cameras cost more is often due to their components, many of which are made for adventurous and rugged locations with severe weather and battles with the elements to get a shot. Adding or switching out lenses can result in exceptional, professional quality without spending a lot of money.
Good Used Camera to Start a Photography Business

Do freelancers and photographers need a permit to shoot still photos in a U.S. National Park?

If you are using a model or prop, then you’ll likely need a permit to shoot photos at a National Park. Also, if you require privacy or it takes the National Park System money to oversee your shoot, then you’ll need authorization as well.


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