Guide How to Start a Successful Photography Business

The decision to make your hobby a major source of income seems very good. But is it really so? Before you start your photography business you should take time to analyze everything, prepare for it and calculate its profitability and possible risks.

In other words you want to come up with a detailed plan for the important steps for starting a business. Working without a plan can be unprofitable or completely unpromising. Someone can say that the main thing is to start, but we will try to prepare a little. So, let’s get started.

Direction of work

Most likely you already have an idea of what genre and direction you want to work in. But it is worth mentioning that conventionally photography business can be divided into two directions:

  • Photo sessions – advertising, weddings, portraits, maternity and newborn photos and other genres.
  • Stock photography – photos taken for further sale on the photo-bank sites, such as Depositphotos, Shatterstock and others.

Business plan

This is the first thing to start a business with. Without a well-thought-out business plan the risks of losing time and money grow many times, so do not be lazy and do it, you can even look on the Internet for the most suitable business plan for you.

It would be perfect if you can make a plan by yourself. It is important not to forget to take into account:

  • Specificity of your region – number of inhabitants, an average income, availability of tourist flow
  • The target audience
  • The average cost of the same services from other photographers
  • Time management – time spent on negotiations, photo session time and subsequent retouching of photos
  • If you are going to have your own photo studio, then include in your planned expenditures the rent price, brokerage services, furniture and other equipment

Necessary equipment

In addition to a professional or semi-professional camera with lenses, many other things are needed, which are not so expensive. We have compiled a list so that you understand the total costs that will be required for the equipment:

  • Professional camera – from $ 4000
  • Two lenses – one should be more than 150 mm and the other one – 40 mm – from $ 2,000 for two lenses
  • External flash – at least 1 piece – from $ 500
  • If you have the studio, then also studio flashes and light are needed – from $ 500
  • Spare camera, lens – from $ 1500
  • Light filters, flash drives, batteries – $ 500
  • External hard drive – from $ 150
  • Backpack or bag – from $ 200
  • Software – from $ 30 per month. (When using Adobe subscription)

Legal Aspects

This must be done before the first clients make their order; there are two important points in which you will need the help of a lawyer:
To register a legitimate business to be able to work with large companies.

Create several templates of the contracts for shooting – in some cases, photographers use FTP (when the model does not receive payment, but has the ability to use the pictures for personal purposes, and all rights remain to the photographer with the possibility of commercial use)
You also need to:

Pay for medical insurance, since you are already started self-employment.
Insure your equipment –this is not an obligatory, but highly recommended. There are cases when photographers loose or forget a backpack or some equipment, for example, in a taxi; get water on expensive equipment and other not the most pleasant cases.


It is better to make a small portfolio (30 great photos are enough) than a big portfolio with a lot of not the most successful shots. If you do not have even 30 photos yet, when launching a business you can offer a contest for a free photo shoot or a 50% discount to your first clients or friends.

Photo retouching

Not many people want to see not edited photos as a result, so be sure to take into account the time spent on processing photos; it is probably more profitable to use photo retouching services or another services. Before starting a photography business this issue should be resolved so that the client does not have to wait for 2 months until he receives his photos and you receive your first negative feedback due to the long post processing time.

For a better understanding of the profitability of outsource retouching try it on your own, given that it is included or not included in the cost of the photo session itself. Perhaps the best option will be the basic processing of the selected images by yourself and 10-15 pictures retouched by professional studios.

Advice: you can discuss with the managers of photo retouching studios the possibility of a discount in condition of constant cooperation or conclude a partnership agreement and recommend the studio to your clients. In this case, you will receive an additional income.
Creating your own brand

In the conditions of great competition, it is better to establish yourself as a professional, who people talk about and advise each other. Your happy clients will be your main advertising channel, the source of new customers. For this it is worth to:

  • Start a profile in all the social networks for the photographers: 500px, Flicker, Behance and others
  • Get your brand page on Facebook and Instagram
  • Try to communicate with your potential customers through social networks
  • Tag your clients in photos when uploading the portfolio to social media – their friends will see your photos and this can be an additional advertising
  • Create a website with your portfolio and blog. Your name or brand name should be known.

Brand Promotion

Do not be afraid to invest in advertising on the Internet – it’s a great way to get a target audience

Use Google AdWords (contextual advertising) and local ads Google My Business. It is better to hire a specialist for the most effective work of it.
Advertising on Facebook is more expensive than AdWords, but you should also use it. You should understand that unlike AdWords, where a customer is looking for a service right now, users from Facebook may not need the services of a photographer right now, but when they need such service, they will remember about you and use a brand already known to them.

For maximum effectiveness from advertising, consider the cost of each customer involved. When you get a sufficient amount of information, you will be able to know the most profitable for you service price.

What is next?

Be sure to follow all the events that occur in your country and try to take part in them. Such things can greatly improve your image.

Keep in touch with other photographers; it is optimal to find a professional who can help you with advice at first. It is enough to communicate 1-2 times a month by Skype – this will help you a lot.

Look for constructive criticism – a person who is not interested in sees the situation objectively and helps point you out the mistakes that you may not notice.

Do not be afraid to experiment – shoot projects for yourself, try new techniques and equipment. You will be surprised, but when a person improves its skills only in one direction or just stands still – this is a regression, so you should be in trend, watch the novelties and try something new.

Back up all important data. To rent a server for data storage or buy an additional hard drive costs a penny compared to the possible losses from the lost or damaged photos. Therefore, there are two types of people: those who make backups and those who do not.


Additional services are additional profits without investments. Offer your customers printing of their photos, retouching, renting equipment or (if you have) rent your studio – this will help to increase the income from the business. This is how car dealers do, they earn on selling additional equipment to cars; cinemas sell popcorn and soft drinks, etc.

At first it is worthwhile to have some savings or an additional work to be able to earn some money and not be disappointed by the fact that the business does not bring tens of thousands of dollars from the first month, be patience and you will succeed!

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