How to Start a Photography Business in 11 Steps

by | Mar 3, 2023

If you’re wondering how to start a photography business, this guide will remove a lot of the guesswork.

Starting a photography business can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Not only do you get to share your creativity with the world, you can also make a living doing something you love. 

If you’re just starting out or you’re looking to expand your current photography business, this page will provide you with essential steps to get your business up and running faster.

From creating a business plan and marketing your services, this page will highlight things to consider as you learn how to start a photography business so you can start on the right path.

1. Choose the Type of Photography You Specialize In

Before you start your photography business, you need to decide the types of photographs you want to specialize in creating. Popular types of photography include family portraits, professional headshots, product photography, and wedding photography. This important decision will guide your business direction, marketing, and equipment investments.

Here are a few ideas to think about when you decide which type of photography to specialize in:

Identify your passion and strengths

Start by considering what type of photography you enjoy and excel at. Are you naturally drawn to capturing people’s beauty in portrait photography? Do you have an eye for details and composition for product photography? Understanding your strengths and interests will help you find your niche and stand out in a competitive market.

Consider your target audience

Think about the type of clients you want to work with and the purpose of your photography. For example, if you love capturing special moments or telling a story with photographs, wedding photography might be a good fit. If you love snapping images of families together, you should consider portrait photography. Product or real estate photography may be a good choice for you if you prefer working with businesses and showcasing details of products,

Understanding your area of focus will help you invest in the right equipment and how to market your services.

2. Create a Business Plan

Creating a solid business plan is crucial for starting a successful business. Revisit the business plan as you continue to navigate through the other steps about how to start a photography business.

Writing a business plan can be difficult if you are not familiar with business writing. The best thing you can do is Invest in yourself by taking a business writing course to help you write an excellent business plan. Additionally, taking a business writing course can only help you write better marketing materials for the photography business you start.

To gain an additional edge, you can also save time and improve your business plan by using an AI writer. The power of AI writing tools can make writing a business plan easier and quicker.

Here are a list of key elements that you should include in your business plan:

Executive Summary

This section is a summary of the key points of your business plan, including your business idea, target market, competition, and financial projections.

Business Description

This section should provide a more detailed overview of your business, including your mission statement, the type of photography you specialize in, and the services you offer.

Market Analysis

This section should analyze your target market, including demographics, competition, and demand for your services.

Look at the local market and online photography communities to see which areas are in high demand and have room for growth. Understanding the market will help you choose a viable business direction and differentiate yourself from competitors.

Marketing and Sales Strategy

This section should outline how you plan to market and promote your photography business, including social media, online advertising, and business networking.

Financial Projections

This section should include financial projections for the first three to five years of your business, including startup costs, ongoing expenses, revenue projections, and profit margins.

Creating a comprehensive business plan can help you identify potential challenges, set realistic goals, and create a specific roadmap to follow. By taking the time to plan your business, you can increase your chances of building a thriving photography business.

3. Form a Business Entity

Forming a business entity is probably the last thing on your mind when you think about how to start a photography business.

Although forming a business entity is not absolutely necessary, there are several benefits to do so. I recommend forming a business entity to protect yourself.

First and foremost, you can protect your personal assets from business liabilities and lawsuits. This is especially important in the photography industry where accidents or mistakes can happen.

There are a few business entities to choose from. The most common entities will be a limited liability company (LLC) or an S-corporation.

Consult with a licensed legal or accounting professional to get guidance about choosing the right entity for your photography business. Make sure you follow all necessary steps to ensure you business will be seen as separate from yourself so the it can shield you from personal liability.

Additionally, establishing a formal legal entity can enhance your professional credibility. Every little detail counts when you are launching a business.

4. Apply for Tax Identification Numbers

Federal Tax Registration

After your business entity is formed, you will need to apply for a Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is also known as a Federal Tax identification number (TIN). This step can be easily completed online at the IRS website

State Tax Registration

If the state where you start your photography business charges corporate taxes, you also need to obtain a tax identification number from the appropriate state government agency.

5. Open a Bank Account

Once you receive a letter from the IRS that assigns an EIN to your photography business, the next step is to open a dedicated bank account for the business entity that you formed. This step is essential for keeping your personal and business finances separate, and for accurately tracking the cash flow of your business.

The bank account will be used to pay for all expenses related to your photography business. Retain all receipts of business expenses and income for accurate bookkeeping.

6. Obtain Necessary Licenses and Permits

Business licenses and permits are other administrative requirements that few people think about when thinking about how to start a photography business.

Obtaining the necessary permits and licenses from your local government are required before you can start taking photos as a business. These requirements vary depending on where your photography business is located and photos are taken.

Local Business License

If your business is located within a city, then you will need to get a business license from that city. If your business is not located in a city, it is in an unincorporated area so you will likely need to get a business license from the county where you business is located. 

Commercial Photography Permits

If you’d like to take photographs on land that isn’t yours, it’s important to obtain permission first. you’ll Get permission from a private property owner if you would like to take photos on their land. If you’re planning to take photos on public property, like beaches and parks, you’ll need to get a permit from the government.

As an example, the United State National Park Service states:

“Federal law requires a permit for all commercial filming, no matter the size of the crew or the type of equipment. This includes individuals or small groups that don’t use much equipment, but generate revenue by posting footage on websites, such as YouTube and TikTok.”

Obtaining the required permits are necessary so you and your clients do not get fined or are prevented from taking photographs.

To be sure you have all necessary permits and licenses to do business, perform research regarding the rules that apply to the federal, state, county, or city property where you will be taking photographs for customers.

7. Buy Insurance

Insurance does not typically come to mind when you think about how to start a photography business. Buying insurance coverage is important since the photography business does come with some risks. 

Accidents, equipment theft or damage, and errors and omissions can happen and could potentially result in costly lawsuits. Insurance coverage can help protect your business from these risks and provide you with peace of mind.

There are several types of insurance coverage that photographers may need, such as general liability insurance, business property insurance, commercial auto liability, and professional liability insurance. 

General Liability Insurance

General liability insurance protects businesses from claims of personal injury, bodily injury, or property damage. There are several risks in taking photography during large events like weddings. Event venues for special events will likely require that you provide an insurance certificate showing that you are carrying a minimum amount of commercial general liability coverage.

Business Property Insurance

Property insurance is meant to cover your photography equipment from damage or theft. Photography equipment is expensive, so you want to adequately protect it in case of a loss.

Commercial Auto Insurance

Commercial auto insurance is an essential coverage that photographers should obtain if they will be driving to locations for their clients. This coverage is necessary even for basic tasks such as picking up photography equipment or scouting for a location to take photographs. It’s important to note that personal automobile insurance may not provide coverage for accidents that occur while driving for business purposes. Therefore, obtaining commercial auto insurance is crucial to protect your business and assets in case of any accidents or damage that may occur while driving for photography-related purposes.

Professional Liability Insurance

Professional liability insurance can cover errors or omissions that occur in your business. For example, professional liability insurance coverage can protect against claims when your camera’s memory card fails, or if you failed to take proper or specific photos at a special event such as a wedding.

It’s important that you work with an insurance broker that is licensed to sell insurance in the state where your photography business is located. It’s important that you get professional advice about proper insurance policies and liability limits for your photography business.

8. Buy Photography Equipment

To launch a successful photography business, you will need to invest in quality photography equipment. This includes both camera hardware and software for post-production editing.

Camera Hardware

When starting a photography business, it is essential to have a few key pieces of camera equipment. These include a camera body, lens, flash, and tripod. These basic tools will allow you to capture high-quality images and ensure that your photography business is off to a strong start.

Camera Body

Canon and Nikon are the most popular brands that manufacture DSLR and mirrorless cameras, and I recommend choosing one of these two brands to ensure the availability of components. 


The type of lens you should purchase depends on the type of photography you intend to take, with focal lengths of 35mm or less being ideal for landscape photos, and longer focal lengths of at least 85mm being more suitable to take flattering portraits. A macro lens is necessary for capturing up-close details in product photography.


A flash is crucial for capturing images without blur in low-light environment. Even in well-lit environments, a flash can be useful for adding depth and dimension to your images, as well as reducing harsh shadows and highlights.


A tripod is essential as it provides stability and allows you to take sharp and clear photos with minimal blur or camera shake. It’s particularly important for photographers who shoot in low-light environments without flash, as it enables them to use slower shutter speeds without introducing blur.

Image Software

When it comes to software, there are two primary types: image enhancement software and image editing software. 

Image Enhancement Software

Image enhancement software, such as Adobe Lightroom, ON1 Photo RAW, and Skylum Luminar Neo, are mainly used to enhance the colors of photographs.

Image Editing Software

Photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop and Afinity Photo 2, are popular for touching up and cropping photographs.

By obtaining the right equipment, you can ensure that the photographs you produce are of high quality, which is essential for building your reputation as a professional photographer.

9. Create a Contract

When learning how to start a photography business, creating a well written contract form is often overlooked. Having a clear and comprehensive contract form that you can use for all customers can help protect your business and ensure that both you and your clients are on the same page. 

Some key elements to include in your contract template include a description of the photography services you will provide, the price of your services, delivery deadlines, payment terms, schedules, and cancellation and rescheduling policies. 

The contact form should also include terms that address copyright ownership, image usage, and liability.  


Copyright law is a critical consideration for any professional photographer. In most cases, photographers own the copyrights to the images they create.

“Copyright in a work protected under this title vests initially in the author or authors of the work…” (17 U.S.C. § 201)

However, there is an exception when photographs are considered “works made for hire.” In this case, the customer who commissions the work is considered the legal author and copyright holder of the images.

It’s important to understand the terms of any contract or agreement between the photographer and the client, especially when it comes to copyright ownership. If you do not want any dispute with customers regarding copyrights, make sure you include a provision in your contact that states the photographs are not considered works made for hire.

To ensure that your contract accurately reflects the terms you wish to establish, it is important to consult a a licensed attorney for guidance.

Photo Releases

Even if you own copyrights to photographs that include identifiable individuals or property, you need to obtain a photo release you want to use those photographs for commercial purposes. There are two types of photo releases: a model release and a property release.

A model release grants permission to use a person’s likeness for commercial purposes. If you want to use a photograph of property featured in a photograph for commercial purposes, you need to obtain a property release from the property owner.

Without a photo release, using photographs of recognizable individuals or property for commercial purposes could result in legal issues or claims of invasion of privacy. It’s always best to obtain a release before using any photographs for commercial purposes to avoid any potential legal issues.

It’s also important to have a lawyer review your contract template to ensure that it is legally sound and covers all necessary elements that you want.

10. Advertise Your Photography Business

Generating business is one of the final steps of learning how to start a photography business. Advertising and marketing your photography business is essential to attract new clients and grow your business. There are several effective ways to market online. 

Create a Photography Portfolio

Creating a portfolio of your best work is a crucial step to get clients for your photography business. The portfolio must showcase your skills and style for the specific type of photography you will specialize in. It can help potential clients decide whether to hire you for their photography needs. 

You can include a variety of images in your portfolio that demonstrate your skills and range as a photographer. This can include different types of photography, such as landscapes, portraits, or food photography. Highlighting your skills in different areas will open up opportunities for other work.

You should also aim to show images that highlight your unique style and creativity. It’s important to curate your portfolio carefully, including only your best work and ensuring that the images are well-organized and presented professionally. 

You can create a digital portfolio on your website or social media platforms. You should also create a physical portfolio that you can bring to client meetings. 

By creating a strong portfolio, you can showcase your skills and attract potential clients to your photography business.

Create a Google Business Profile

The first thing you should do is create a Google Business Profile. With Google being the most widely used search engine in the world, having a strong presence on the platform can help you connect with potential clients and increase your visibility online.

Create a Website

The next step is creating a website to showcase your portfolio to attract potential clients. Your website should be visually appealing, user-friendly, and optimized for search engines. Once you create the website, add a link to the website on your Google business account.

Claim Business Review Pages

Claiming your page on business reviews sites like Yelp, so you can gain more exposure. By claiming your business page, you can ensure that your business information is accurate and up-to-date and post your best work for others to see. 

In addition to claiming your business profile on reviews sites like Yelp, it’s important to actively encourage your clients to leave positive reviews. Positive reviews can help to establish your credibility and expertise in the photography industry, and they can also improve your ranking in search results on the review site.

Connect with Businesses

Another effective strategy is to reach out to businesses such as event spaces or planners, and establish partnerships or referral programs with them. 

Finally, you can also use freelance websites such as Upwork or Fiverr to market your services  and build your portfolio. By utilizing a combination of these marketing strategies, you can attract more clients and grow your photography business.

11. Sell Your Photos on Stock Photo Websites

Selling your photos on stock photo websites is another avenue to promote your business and generate additional income as a photographer. 

Stock photo websites are online marketplaces that connect photographers with businesses and individuals in need of high-quality images for various purposes, including advertising, marketing, and editorial content.

Some of the most popular stock photo websites are iStock by Getty images, Shutterstock, and Adobe Stock.


Starting a photography business can be both exciting and challenging. Now that you read through these steps, you don’t have to figure out how to start a photography business on your own. You can confidently launch your photography faster without a lot of guesswork.

With the right plan in place and a combination of passion, creativity, and business savvy, you can turn your love of photography into a successful business. 

About the Author

Jon Chen
Jon is a lawyer with more than 15 years of experience practicing law. His passion for music began when he was a child, which led him to learn how to play the piano, saxophone, trombone, and guitar. He enjoys analyzing music and helping others succeed and live a better life.