Starting a Photography Business | Actionable Steps on the Road to Success

The idea of being an entrepreneur is attractive, and it seems everyone is eager to start some business. These days, startup trends are constantly buzzing, and the photography industry is no exception. However, just like any other business, starting a photography business is hard, but the rewards are sure. 

Luckily, you don't need huge startup experience to get started. Just do some legwork and research for your photography-based business, and you're ready to go. Also, you can start small and grow your business with time.

In this article, you'll learn some essential things to consider when starting up a photography business. So let's jump in right away. 

Your Go-To Checklist for Starting a Photography Business 

Here's a list of some factors to consider as you get ready to start your own photography business.

Find Your Area

Firstly, it's essential to know what kind of photography you want to focus on. 

Do you want to photograph families? Will your main subject be wedding photography? Or are you interested in shooting landscapes? 

After deciding what interests you, choose one specific type of client or style of photography. Ideally, you should specialize in one area, but do not let that discourage you from trying different techniques. However, it does require more effort on your part.

two girls with camera in the room

Draw a Plan

Once you have decided on your area of photography, you need to create a business plan. Determine how much time and money you're willing to invest in becoming a self-employed photographer. Be realistic with your planning because starting any business takes a ton of hard work, time, and money. 

However, the good news is that you can rent professional-level camera equipment for a fraction of the cost. Also, your editing software needs don't have to stress you– some software companies offer low-cost monthly subscription rates to their products. 

Luckily, online planning tools can help you with this crucial process. A proper plan keeps you on track and identifies potential problems before they become serious.

Get the Appropriate Tools

At this point, it's time to get down to business. You'll need an appropriate camera body, lenses, photo editing software, and other equipment before you can begin taking photos. 

At this point, having the support of other pros comes in handy. In addition to renting out equipment from local dealers or companies, ask around for feedback on the gear they use to help you find the best options.

closeup of the photo camera around person's neck

Create an Online Presence

After getting the right tools, branding your business should be your next priority. Having a company website with original images is almost mandatory these days. Clients will want to see other work from you. 

You can also start a photography blog to share tips that other photographers in your industry might find helpful. A blog is a great place to demonstrate your abilities, interests, and insight into the life of a photographer. 

If you have friends or colleagues who are visual artists, don't be afraid to ask for help with graphics and website design, so the final product has a more cohesive look.

Build Your Portfolio

As an artist, your portfolio is your chance to show potential clients the work you're capable of producing. 

However, if you're just starting, consider joining a stock agency that will allow you to use their images until you get the opportunity to create your own. More experienced photographers can set up their own website with original work and paysites like 500px or Flickr for hosting images.

Attract Clients

Now you just need somewhere for those clients to find you. Start by getting listed on as many online directories as possible like The Black List and Photoshelter

These sites also allow you to feature past work and provide helpful information about the services you offer. You can also use search engine optimization (SEO) to help clients find you by having your website adequately titled and tagged with keywords and sharing links on social media platforms to bring in more business.

In addition, you can walk into hotels, convention centers, and wedding venues to market your business. Facebook groups, also, are great places for meeting photography enthusiasts and promoting your services.

a person working on his photography

Grow Your Business

You should always be looking for new opportunities to expand your client base. Investing in additional equipment, marketing, and attending workshops helps you grow your art. 

Use social media for networking with other professionals in your industry. Look for platforms to share your photos.

Learn and Implement Massively

The most crucial part of building a successful photography business is constant learning and adapting to the ever-changing industry. 

You should always be striving to improve your skills or business somehow. Attend seminars at photo conferences, visit workshops at professional photographers' studios, network with other artists, read books written by industry pros, and check online forums for recent trends in your field.

Also, consider using CreativeLive, Lynda, or Skillshare. Learn from many photography business owners to compete in today's photo-savvy culture. Learn new things and implement them with maximum leverage, and your business will grow at an unprecedented rate.

Challenges of Building a Photography Business

Like any other venture, setting up your photography business isn't easy. It comes with certain challenges, and it helps to be well prepared. If you are thinking of venturing into this business, here are some of the challenges you can expect.

a person taking photos with camera

Choosing the Right Structure 

The biggest challenge in building a business is to stay afloat. There seem to be so many tutorials offering ways to make your business skyrocket if only you would follow their plans. 

That's all fine, but none of it will work if you don't have a good foundation for your business. Whether you're selling one-offs or doing contract work for someone else, the only way to build a strong business is to start small and work your way up. No matter what anyone tells you, no company begins as a multi-million dollar powerhouse right from the go. So, there are important steps you need to take, starting with finding the right formations services and registered agents services that can help you with starting up and running your photography business from a legal standpoint.

Niche Selection for Your Photography Business

There are so many different niches to choose from that it is hard to find the perfect fit. You can specialize in sports, portraits, glamor, pet photography, or become a professional wedding photographer. What's more, each niche has its own sub-niche, so it is easy to become overwhelmed. 

The hard work starts once you've figured out your niche. Most importantly, you have to find customers willing to spend money on what you're offering. Getting customers to buy your photography is just as crucial as taking photos. 

Right Customers for Your Photography Business

Finding customers is a challenge for many businesses. In particular, it's a significant one for small business owners. If you're just working out of your home and don't have any employees, stepping out and asking someone if they'd like to employ you can be daunting. 

People may not even think to hire a professional photographer for any job; they are unaware that someone like you exists. Therefore, it's crucial to market yourself as much as possible. Joining groups and making connections with others in the same field will help your business grow.

Doing the Actual Work for Your Photography Business

Getting from point A to point B is another challenge for starting a business. First, you have to develop a reputation for good photography services. If you're new, people aren't going to trust you with anything valuable just yet. You need to earn your way into their hearts by providing quality services and the best customer service possible.

Managing Your Time as a Photographer for Hire

Managing your time is a significant hurdle for many people who work in the creative field. You need to juggle so many tasks at once for your business to work. It's not just about picking up jobs and doing them but, more importantly, marketing your services. 

You need to spend just as much time on your business as you do with your craft, and that can be hard for some people who are used to having a lot of 'free' time when they're not working. To succeed, you need to prioritize and manage everything well to stay afloat and meet deadlines.

monitor with photo editing program on the screen


How do I start a photography business?

The best advice is to read everything you can on how to run a photography business and then just take action! The hardest part about starting your own business (see 'Food Truck Business Plan') is just getting started. Creating a limited liability company (LLC) protects your personal assets should you run into legal problems.

How much does it cost to start a photography business?

There are two parts to this question. The costs associated with your business' official launch include registration fees, business name, business license, permits. The second part consists of the costs to start running your photography business (equipment, startup expenses). However, you can rent equipment to bring your startup costs down. On a related note, if you want to start a small business with minimal startup fees, a courier service or small-scale delivery service might be your best bet.

Is the photography business profitable?

Yes, owning a photography business can be very profitable, but not always. Like any other small business, the more work you put into it and the more value you add to your clients, the better your chance of success.

How much does a photography business make a year?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median income for self-employed photographers is $41,280 per year. The median hourly wage for photographers was $19.85 in 2020.

How can I get clients for my photography business?

You can get clients in three ways: getting referrals from happy clients, marketing yourself to potential clients (via advertisements, networking, etc.), and applying for photography jobs.

How do I get more portfolio-building experience?

The short answer is - shoot, shoot and shoot some more.

A Photography Start-up Closing Thoughts

Finally, remember that this is your photography business. You should never be afraid to follow the path that feels the most natural to you when you are looking to start a photography business, whether you're trying to make some extra money or make it your career. Keep in mind that running a business isn’t always easy (see gym business guide) and you will have to stick it out so it can be successful.

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