How to Start a Photography Business From Scratch

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A person holds their camera to the sun, almost triumphantly, as if they know how to start a photography business successfully.
Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Friday January 12, 2024

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You may have dabbled in photography as a hobby for a while, and now you’re ready to step out to the next level. You want to make money off of your photos. Whether you work by commission or sell prints of photos you’ve already taken, you’ll need to learn how to start a photography business from scratch. It won’t always be easy, but if you’re determined to make a living off your photos, you’ll notice that it’ll be worth every difficult step of the journey.

1. Ask Yourself Why

The most important question you’ll ask yourself is why. Why do you want to start a photography business? Is it something you’ve wanted to do for a while, or are you just doing it to appease the family member who said you should start charging for your skills? How you answer this question determines if you’ll be able to follow through on your business.

Many people who follow their passion into starting a business end up disliking or even hating what they do, sometimes because they do it too much, and other times because they don’t have the freedom of creative expression they thought they would. You have to make ends meet, which may entail choosing some projects you don’t want to work on just for the money.

Furthermore, this question is just as important: Are you confident you can learn the ins and outs of business? If not, you’ll never truly learn how to start a photography business. Your venture should allow you to express your creativity, but if you want it to turn into a legitimate business, you have to be willing to learn the business education that comes with starting a reputable small business from the ground up.

2. Get Your Gear

The most important aspect of a photography business is, of course, your equipment. Make sure you’re using more than just your smartphone camera to get the best, highest-quality shots for your future clients. When you’re just starting out, you might use beginner equipment. You’ll be able to purchase higher-quality tech as your business grows and becomes more profitable.

Keep your chin up if you don’t have the gear you want when starting your business. You can start out with what you have and make fancier equipment, such as a DSLR camera or a better laptop, a stretch goal when you earn enough money from your new business. You can also gradually add other equipment to your setup, like lighting options.

3. Get Creative

Now, the creativity begins. The first part of setting up your business is coming up with a name. You can choose something as simple as your own name, or you can create a business name that has a nice ring to it. Choose something that fits you and that you’ll be proud of using.

You may have recently taken up art as a fulfilling hobby, and as your skills improve, you may find that you can draw your own logo in a crisp, clean way. If you’re not as confident in your skills, you can always commission an artist to make something for you. For free options, you can use tools like Canva to make a logo that will help your business stand out — and you can always upgrade later.

4. Make an LLC

A Limited Liability Corporation (LLC) is what you should brand yourself as to keep your personal assets away from your business ones. That way, if someone holds you liable for something, your personal effects won’t be wrapped up in the dispute. Making an LLC is easier than it sounds. You may have to do some paperwork, but some states may allow you to apply online for an LLC.

5. Craft Contracts and Other Legally Binding Materials

Next, you’ll want to outline specifically what you’ll do in your contracts with your clients. You may charge by the session if you like doing photoshoots, but if you’re a wedding photographer, you might charge by the hour and outline how much each extra hour costs. In your contracts, you should also state what your turnaround time typically is. 

Outline your anchor prices with a few different options. You shouldn’t undersell yourself, even if you’re just getting started in the business. Know your worth, and offer different price points so your clients can choose which package they prefer. Don’t sell yourself short. After all, you’re talented enough to pursue photography for a living! 

You’ll also want to get tax documents in order. Once you start making money, you’ll realize that you need to pay taxes on it — it’s not already taken out of your “paycheck.” Focus on getting the legalities out of the way, but strive to complete them correctly. Once you finish with them, you get to move on to the fun stuff you’re passionate about.

6. Build Your Portfolio

Learning how to start a photography business wouldn’t be complete without building your portfolio. Since you’ll be using these photos everywhere, you can offer photoshoots to a few models for free or at a discounted rate. That way, they get professional-quality pictures, and you can use them to show future potential clients what you’re capable of. Put together a professional-looking website so you can showcase your photos.

Try to get a variety of photographs in different lighting with different angles. Work with a diverse set of models, which will mirror your clientele later on. Shoot in different locations. Try new editing styles until something sticks. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Your business is bound to thank you for it.

7. Put Your Name Out There

Next, you need to work on building your social media presence, as it’ll be the best way for people to find your work and for you to answer questions on your posts. Having these conversations on social media can teach people more about your brand and get more eyes on your content. You want to establish yourself as an authority, even if you may not know it all yet. Social media helps you understand what your audience wants to see and shows them that you’re a trustworthy business. Remember to optimize your online profiles to be SEO-friendly, and remember to link your website.

How to Start a Photography Business Easily

Spoiler alert: There may be no easy way to start the photography business of your dreams. If it started out as a hobby, you likely have the passion to make it into something great. Though it’s a creative venture, it’ll be just like any other business, and that means that you need to put in the work to make it happen. Learning how to start a photography business might be draining, but it’ll be worth it in the end when you’re making money off of the hobby you love most. Remember to look toward your bright future always, even when it seems tough. Your grit will get you through it.

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