The How & How Much: Starting a Photography Business

by Guest Author on November 10, 2010

in Guest Posts, Photography

As the economy continues to crawl ever so slowly out of the recent recession, more and more people are starting their own businesses out of their homes to make a living. One of those start-up businesses can be a photography company. So many people out there claim to enjoy taking pictures, and some people are even good at it.

If you’re one of them, why not turn it into a profit out of your own home?

Initial cash flow

Anyone wishing to start a photography business will need to have enough money in their account to purchase new cameras, digital cards, a computer and so other equipment necessary to get started. If the business person does not have enough money in their account they could apply for an emergency credit account to help them run their upstart business or else look for small business loans for startups.

Starting a photography business relies on a major choice from the very beginning: which industry should the company focus on?

The industries include one or more of the following:

  • Wedding photography
  • Portraits
  • Underwater photography
  • Photojournalism
  • Fashion
  • Product photography

After you decide what industry of photography you wish to work in, it’s time to write a business plan.

What should your business plan include?

The business plan should outline how you will obtain clients, how you will finance your business, offer a working timetable, plan marketing strategies and lay out prices. Also included in the business plan should be your ultimate goals for the business. As the business grows, you can reference the business plan to determine how successful it has been or if the business is failing.

Legal issues to be aware of

The next step is to take care of all the legal issues surrounding the creation of your photography business. If you are going to work as a sole proprietorship you will only need to pay a small fee to the town or county hall and file a DBA (Doing Business As) form if you are not operating using your own name.

In some areas, you may also need a business license.

Setting up a company account to make purchases

Photo by alanant @ flickr.com

Use the DBA or license to open a business checking account at your bank. This will help you keep track of your business funds, instead of having them in your personal account. Your first deposit should be the start-up capital for the company and then use this account to pay for all of your business expenses.

After your bank account has been set up you can purchase the equipment. The amount of equipment you will need depends on what type of photography business you’re operating, how many pictures you’ll be taking, and how large your budget is at the beginning of the operation. Once your equipment has been purchased you can start marketing your business.

Make sure you create a portfolio to showcase your best work to potential clients and look to join online photography networks so potential clients around the world can see what you’re capable of.

Starting your own photography business is ideal for those who have taken photography courses, either at the high school or college level, and who know how to properly use a camera. Art can be interpreted in different ways, but using good equipment properly can help more people appreciate what you do.

A photography business, although difficult to get off the ground, can be successful if done properly.

Guest post by: Selena Narayanasamy prety much lives in social media, technology and the blogosphere. She’s always studying new trends in each and loves to let others know about what she finds. You can find her on her blog, Esvienne.com, or follow her rambling on Twitter- @selenavidya.

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Comments & Leave a Comment

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

James Taylor November 10, 2010 at 23:20

An appropriate amount of forethought and preparation is healthy, but I respectfully disagree that so much should go into getting your photography business off the ground.

I would argue this advice is generic and unrealistic for real amateur photographers trying to make the transition to paid professionals. Nobody’s going to get startup capital or write a business plan so they can fall bass ackwards into fashion photography.

I don’t advocate going into debt to start a photography business – if you’re thinking about getting paid for your photography, odds are you already own a camera, computer, and if you’re reading this, an internet connection. That’s all you need to start making money – then you use that money to pay yourself for your time and invest back into books, workshops, equipment, marketing, etc.

This is the kind of half-misinformation spoken with an attitude of full-authority that puts newbie photogs on the wrong track – I’d love to see something more robust from the Tech Patio community.

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selena narayanasamy November 11, 2010 at 03:57

You have to remember that not everybody has the capacity to full on start a photography business from scratch with talent.

I know plenty of photographers who want to invest in digital SLR cameras that are $1000+, not to mention they plan on integrating backgrounds that may not be available in the location that they are shooting (ie: having to green screen and having somebody work and key out different shades so it looks natural and you don’t have the green wash off in the images).

People have to start somewhere, and while some photographers have the notion that they can build up business themselves, others feel they can establish a business plan and go further. Yes, you can take the safe way and not go into debt with a photography business, but that’s why EVERYONE does it.

The question is, do you want to differentiate yourself from other startups by having financial backing and the ability to go further? Or do you want to be like everybody else taking pictures of “models” or “scenery” without actual training?

You can call this post “generic” if you want to, but giving advice to somebody who wants to venture into photography is, of course, going to be generic. Great ideas and business have a process- making ideas happen is the ultimate goal, and a process goes HAS to go into that.

Thanks for the comment.

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James Taylor November 12, 2010 at 07:57

Thank you for your response Selena. :-)

I agree completely with your statement, “Making ideas happen is the ultimate goal” – that’s the kind of perspective I would like to see in an article like this.

Again, with respect, I don’t think the process you describe here addresses the reality of what most amateur photographers are facing as they make the transition to paid professionals.

Let me try a different angle – I don’t know who this article is written for.

If it’s for folks who are completely inexperienced with photography, I seriously doubt the best advice is to take out a loan, buy thousands of dollars in equipment, then throw a dart and pick a niche in the industry.

If it’s for amateur photographers, odds are they already own a camera, computer, processing software – bigger and better equipment can come when it’s been earned.

If my best friend said she wanted to become a chef, my best advice wouldn’t be to tell her to take out a loan, buy a bunch of high-quality kitchen equipment and ingredients, write a business plan, and set up a business checking account.

I’d tell her to learn how to cook.

I’d tell her to learn how to put her cooking in people’s hands, and get them to pay her for it.

Because of advice like what’s found in this article, which is painfully common across the Internet, there are a plethora of photographers walking around with thousands of dollars in equipment and no idea what to do with it – either artistically or in how to market their services.

Generic regurgitation doesn’t cut it – replace “photography” in this article with “welding” and it’s the same superficial advice.

“If you want to be welder, you need to buy new equipment, take out a loan to do so if you need to, pick a niche of welding, write a business plan, file a DBA, set up a business checking account, and to sum, ‘A welding business, although difficult to get off the ground, can be successful if done properly.’”

If you’re going to write an article on starting a photography business, why not write something truly beneficial and insightful for your intended audience? Why just rehash the same tired ‘small business start-up’ advice that’s been shared to inconsequence?

Again, I respectfully disagree with the advice you present – I mean no personal affront. You obviously have a passion for the topic and for helping people – it would just be great to see that passion better exercised in the advice you share.

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Sourish November 11, 2010 at 08:04

i agree with James. one needs talent and experience before starting a business like that
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Klaus November 11, 2010 at 11:14

Thanks for your comment, James. Please note that this was a guest post by Selena, so it doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of TechPatio.com :)

I see from your blog that you’re also into this whole “photography business” so surely you also know a bit about it. But as you also might know, people have different approaches on how to accomplish certain things and for some it’s just not an option to save up money for years before they can buy good enough equipment to be able to actually make a living out of photography (which I imagine is pretty hard on its own).

Depending on your photography niche, you could easily be looking at $1000 for a camera body, $2000 for a couple of lenses, $500 (or more) for a couple of speedlights/lites, $250 for a tripod. Software ain’t free or cheap either, unless you go for GIMP or similar, but I imagine most would use software that is able to do photo management as well, Lightroom which is probably the most-used application for photo management and editiing is $300 I believe.

Obviously if you’re already considering shooting for money, you might already have some of the equipment/software, so you don’t have to pay up THAT much in the beginning.

Anyway, thanks again for your comment and views :)

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James Taylor November 11, 2010 at 12:40

Thank you for the response Klaus. :-)

I agree entirely that most folks wouldn’t save up money for years before buying thousands of dollars in tools to get the professional photography job done.

But it’s my perspective that you don’t need all of that equipment when starting out to get paid well for your photography.

Your brief comment here, and Selena’s article, both acknowledge only a slice of the whole pie that is the professional photography industry. There is a robust and profitable startup / budget / value end of the market where new-to-the-fold photographers can begin doing real work, earning real clients, making real money, and developing their art and business.

In the real world, the vast majority of professional photographers coming up in the industry today don’t do their first paid job with thousands of dollars in equipment – they do it with the point and shoot digital camera they’ve long used for their hobby.

And they sure as heck don’t do it with a comprehensive business plan in hand or a small business loan (which you almost always have to already have an established business presence for years to attain). That’s the same regurgitated “small business startup” advice that’s been around for decades – it’s not reflexive of today’s reality in nearly any market, much less photography.

My competition down the road is taking great photos with her “little” $200 point and shoot camera, using Picasa to edit her photos, Flickr to proof them with clients, and Facebook to market herself. She’s doing very salable work with almost non-existent overhead.

She isn’t asking your or my or anyone else’s permission – she’s hustling work and making money, which is the exact attitude I promote to folks who read my blog. There is a morass of generic and unwelcoming photography business advice like what’s given in this article all over the Internet – and it’s unhealthy for the startup end of the industry. It attempts to set the barrier for entry into this industry so high that aspiring (and potentially wonderful) professional photographers have little hope of getting past it.

To get to the point, this article doesn’t help – it is woefully superficial, and if anything, it miseducates the very audience it is written for.

Which was the purpose of my comment – to respectfully debate that there is another side to the coin.

Thank you for offering such a forum as this for the discussion. :-)

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Rob McCance November 11, 2010 at 03:20

Boy that’s one heck of a generic blog article.
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Paul/ Entertainment tonight November 11, 2010 at 03:54

My mother is convincing me to open up a photography business but I don’t have any interest on it. I think that I will no earn from a business that I am not interested in.
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Sourish November 11, 2010 at 08:06

well you may not succeed while doing what you love , but you will always succeed if you love what you do …. thats my guiding priciple

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Ron November 11, 2010 at 06:14

Photography as a business and as a hobby really requires a lot of money. The camera to be use alone is quite expensive. But, if you really wanted to start photography business, then I can say that the wedding photography niche is the best to be in. Pretty good return of investment at that category.
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