Smartphones have democratized photography with cameras aided by software and artificial intelligence (AI) powered tools to deliver exceptional results. As a result, many people have become interested in amateur photography, and inevitably want to turn their hobby into a photography business.
Starting a photography business can be a rewarding and lucrative endeavor, but as with every business, it requires research, thoughtful planning, and a lot of hard work. So before you purchase that professional camera, here’s everything you must do to ensure that your photography business is on the path to success from day one. Let’s go over these critical steps for how to start a photography business.
1. Identify Your Photography Niche
It’s best to keep your photography business focused on a niche you can effectively target so clients know your style of work. If you’re exploring your skills, these are some of the lucrative photography niches you should target:
Publishers, media companies, and others pay well for stock photos of everything from natural landscapes to mundane objects like coffee mugs.
People will always get married and pay top dollar for a wedding photographer to take great pictures that immortalize their happiest moments.
Every business, be it a furniture company or a restaurant, needs to advertise through photos that present its products in the best possible way.
Great pictures are an absolute necessity for fashion brands, and they pay handsomely for photographers who excel at fashion photography.
Real estate photography
Real estate companies need pictures of listings that can capture the attention of potential buyers and are always willing to pay high rates to photographers who can manage that.
It’s a specialized niche that requires the photographer to be skilled at capturing moving subjects and is consequently quite lucrative.
From birthdays and galas to awards shows, event photography requires skillful photographers that can capture the essence of the occasion effectively.
While certainly a rarity among photographers, wildlife photography can be a rewarding niche.
Taking professional photos of newborn babies has become a social media trend, and that can bring in a lot of new business for photographers.
This niche requires the photographer to tell a story through their pictures, and those who are skilled at it can make lucrative careers out of photojournalism.
2. Conduct Market Research
As you create your photography business plan, the search for a potential client begins in your community. Researching the market in your area will let you know if there is a demand for the photography niche you excel in. For example, there won’t be much need for wildlife photography in Midtown Manhattan, but photojournalists will find plenty of stories to cover.
It’s best to talk to established photographers in your area to get a sense of the services they provide and the prices they charge. You should also talk to potential customers to figure out the services they’ve been missing and how much they would be willing to pay for them.
3. Invest in the Necessary Equipment
No matter how good the camera on your smartphone is, you can’t take true professional photographs without professional-grade equipment, and that doesn’t always come cheap. Before investing in high-end equipment, consider borrowing from fellow photographers or renting equipment as you play around to fine-tune your signature style. Once you have that locked in, you will have a better idea of the type of high-quality camera, lenses, lighting, and other gear you will need for the niche you want to operate in.
4. Create a Portfolio
A portfolio is your most important marketing tool. It exhibits your skills to potential clients and lets them know what to expect when they work with you. Make sure that your portfolio is focused on the type of photography you excel in and showcases your best work. A potential client should be able to understand at a glance the quality that you can deliver for them. Branch out on visual social media networks like Instagram to highlight your best photos and open new avenues for clients to discover your work.
5. Launch Your Online Presence
Most photographers don’t have a brick-and-mortar anymore due to clients searching for what they need online. So investing in a high-quality website is imperative to not only showcases your best work but also makes it easier for clients to get in touch with you. The website should be intuitive, easy to use, and include contact information. Don’t forget to focus on social media networks like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest so that your work gets the maximum possible reach.
6. Start Networking
Building a solid network is key to running a successful photography business. Attend seminars, events, and conferences where you can network with industry professionals, equipment manufacturers, and other photographers. Make sure to attend local events and workshops for maximum exposure in your community. The more you elevate your profile, the more work will come your way. For example, a photographer in another niche might refer clients to you if their needs fit your skill set. As you network, use every opportunity to highlight your website and social media profiles to reach as many people as possible.
7. Establish a Pricing Strategy
Your photography business plan needs to include a pricing strategy. This will require some market research. Find out the market rate for similar services in your area, and set your prices accordingly. For example, if an established wedding photographer in your area charges $1,000 per event, you may need to price a bit below that to be competitive. You may need to price your services more competitively initially or provide other incentives so clients choose you. Once you’re a bit more established, you can bring pricing in line with market rates.
8. Manage Your Bookings
Clients entrusting you with capturing their important moments would expect diligence on your part. It’s your responsibility to provide them with exceptional service. Once your workload starts to pick up, careful planning will be required to snowball success and further grow the business.
Missing a client’s wedding shoot simply because you mixed up the dates will be fatal for your business. Invest in a customer relationship management or other lead management systems to effectively manage client bookings, communication, and billing for seamlessly managing business operations.
9. Select a Business Structure
Selecting the right business structure is important when you’re setting up your photography business. The structure you choose has a direct impact on legal obligations and the taxes you must pay as well as the paperwork requirements you must meet. These are the most common types of business structures:
A sole proprietorship is an unincorporated business. The owner and the business are not legally separate. It’s the fastest and cheapest way to start a business because of the limited paperwork required.
A for-profit business association of two or more individuals is called a partnership. It’s the simplest form of a business entity that includes multiple partners that share in the profits and the responsibilities. There are no formal startup costs for partnerships.
Limited liability company (LLC)
An LLC is a popular business structure as it provides the simplicity of a sole proprietorship while offering liability protection to the owners. LLCs are also taxed differently compared to other structures. There are nominal startup costs and few regulatory requirements for registering an LLC.
Corporations exist as separate legal entities so they provide the highest personal liability protection to owners, managers, and executives. Corporations have more stringent requirements and higher startup costs but often have more advantageous tax structures. It’s also easier for corporations to raise capital from outside investors.
10. Register Your Business
Businesses are required to complete local and state registration requirements before they can begin operating. To ensure you don’t run into problems once you start taking on clients, complete all registration formalities first. You may also need to register your business with the federal government to comply with tax obligations. This will require you to obtain an EIN from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and register with the U.S. Department of Labor.
11. Open a Business Bank Account
It’s important to separate your business and personal finances so that incoming and outgoing payments can be managed efficiently. Once your company has been formed, open a business bank account to start accepting payments. Doola offers a U.S. business bank account service that can be used to pay and accept payments in U.S. dollars. It’s a great way for new businesses to bank and build credit.
12. Monitor Your Growth
Diligently monitoring growth is the key to sustained success. Invest in your business by marketing to new audiences for growth. Keep an eye on business performance and make any necessary changes to keep it growing. This may require you to adjust prices or figure out new ways to provide additional value to clients. Keep finding new ways to stand out from the competition, and never become complacent once you start getting successful.
Get Started and Shoot for the Stars
A photography business can be both fulfilling and lucrative — you just need to get started and shoot for the stars. Make the most of your photography skills and do what you love, and it won’t even feel like work to you.
To make sure you get the right start, be certain about the photography niche you want to target and do the research to see what the market potential is. Once you understand that, borrow or rent equipment until you can invest in high-end equipment. Create a standout portfolio, a visually appealing and easy-to-navigate website, and network relentlessly to get more business.
As you focus on putting the creative part together, leave the business formation to doola. Get your business, EIN, and bank account within days. Ongoing support is also available for bookkeeping, taxes, and regulatory compliance, making every step easy for you. doola is the one-stop U.S. business-formation service that does everything for founders so the only thing they have to focus on is expanding their business.
How much does it cost to start a photography business?
In addition to business startup costs that may cost several hundred dollars, you should also figure out equipment purchase or rental costs when calculating how much it costs to start a photography business.
What type of photography is most profitable?
While most photography niches can be quite profitable if the photographer has a great portfolio, generally weddings, wildlife, and fashion are the types of photography that tend to be the most profitable.
Is a photography business profitable?
A photography business can be profitable if you have the right skills and are able to effectively market your business to potential clients. Make sure your portfolio showcases your best work and you have a great website where clients can find your contact information.