Starting a photography business isn’t that different from starting any other company and it is quite profitable. On average, a photographer’s annual income in the U.S. is $45,125, with a salary of about $21.69 an hour, $867 weekly, and $3,760 monthly. There are some procedures you’ll have to follow to ensure the success of your business. It’s not a complicated procedure, but you must try your best to pull it through.
To ensure that your photography business gets off to the right start, you’ll want to make sure you complete all of the following steps listed below. So, if you’re looking to convert your passion for photography into a successful business, here’s a detailed guide on how to do so:
Set up a Business Entity
Choose whether you want to form your photography business as a sole proprietorship or LLC taxed as an S Corp.
If you plan on being the only person running your photography business, you can start by forming a sole proprietorship or LLC. This option is ideal if you are just starting out and aren’t planning on hiring employees in the near future.
As the owner of a sole proprietorship, you will be classified as self-employed by the IRS and are required to pay taxes on all company profits at the end of the year.
LLC Taxed as an S-Corp
If you do plan on hiring employees such as photographers, editors, PR professionals, and more, you will want to form your business as an LLC and have it taxed as an S-corp.
LLCs are taxed as sole proprietorships by default, however, if you elect to have your LLC taxed as an S-corp, you can take a salary from the company, and avoid paying taxes on any company profits that go over your annual salary.
Form Business Through Bizee or ZenBusiness
The process can be exhausting for a first-time business owner, especially if you’re doing everything yourself. You can form an L.L.C. online without going through all the manual processes to make it easier. Start your photography L.L.C. business through an online service provider like Bizee or ZenBusiness. They help you with the formation process, and you even get a free agent during the first year of your business.
Create a business account
Separate your personal expenses from business expenses by opening a business account. It’s essential when opening a photography business because it’ll help you keep track of your income, expenses, profits, and losses. You can then make a decision depending on your income and expenditures and cut down on unnecessary spending if any.
FREE State LLC Guides
The process involved in forming an L.L.C. may differ depending on the state you live in.
8 Steps to Forming a Photography Business
1. Identity your photography niche
The first step when starting a photography business is identifying your niche, after which you create a detailed business plan. Here, you decide the type of photos to take, and you’d want to consider something you’re passionate about.
Selecting your photography niche is vital. After all, it’ll determine whether your business will succeed because it helps you build a solid customer base. Also, you may want to focus on one niche even if you shoot in many genres. You’re likely to run a successful business if you focus on one area.
There are many niches to consider. They include:
It’s one of the niches in photography and involves freezing memories of people, places, culture, history, and customs of sites they visit by taking photos. These pictures tell a story about the places people visit, unlike the everyday snapshots they take at home. For a travel photography business, you must be prepared to wake up early and stay out late because of the long distances you might have to cover.
If you’re passionate about different food types, you could focus on this niche. It requires patience and expertise because it’s more than just a picture of your favorite dish. You must have an eye for design and composition to pull this through, just like in any other photography niche. You may have to incorporate cooking materials like dishware and napkins and capture ingredients used to prepare the food.
It involves capturing sporting activities like exercises, swimming, yoga, games, and others. It may require expensive equipment, and you must be quick on your feet because, unlike in food or portrait photography, you can’t recreate a moment.
If you’re a social individual and you know to relate with people of all personalities, consider settling for event photography. It’s like creating your documentary. It involves snapping and documenting activities in events like weddings, galas, birthday parties, baby showers, and other ceremonies.
It’s about bringing out a person’s personality, attitude, and identity with a face photo. You can take portraits of families, celebrities, actors, models, and even businesses.
It’s the best photography niche for animal lovers. You take photos of animals in their natural habitat, ensuring each image is unique. This type of photography requires a lot of traveling, and you may want to consider covering the travel and wildlife photography niches simultaneously.
It’s not that different from portrait photography, only that you focus on your subject’s face. Headshots are primarily used as profile pictures on social media platforms or as the faces of businesses dealing with beauty products.
A street photographer captures the daily activities and details on the streets or public places. Unlike in other photography, you can take pictures of strangers walking down the streets without asking for permission.
You can see the beauty of nature and various locations through landscape photography. These photos define a particular place’s mood, setting, and feeling. It may be the perfect niche if you love exploring and going for expeditions.
2. Create a business plan
A business plan outlines your objectives, lays out your goals, and provides a roadmap for achieving them. It’s the second step in the formation process of a photography business. An effective business plan should outline the following in detail:
Your business plan must define your target population. It should specify your audience’s characteristics, demand patterns, income, lifestyle, and age. Check the type of photography they like and see how you can make that happen.
You must include the total capital needed to get your business off the ground. Outline the sources of finance and how you’ll repay in case of loans.
Discuss the various marketing strategies you’ll use to market your services. A good business plan outlines the marketing mix you’ll use to beat the competition.
Overall Business Strategy
Outline your overall business strategy on your business plan. A business strategy is a set of methods, goals, and actions that indicates how your business will operate in the market.
3. Price your services
After forming your L.L.C. and opening a business account, you need to decide on the price of your services. Determine your prices based on time, effort, labor, market value, and the average cost of running a photography business.
Here are some things to consider when pricing your services.
The cost of photography equipment
You’ll need good quality equipment to run a successful photography business. The cost of acquiring this equipment will affect your services’ pricing because the cash you generate should repay the capital outlay and leave you with decent profits. This equipment includes:
- Carrying gear
- Editing software
- Color checker
The cost of labor
You must consider the pre-production and post-production work time when determining your pricing. Calculate the total time it takes to deliver the photos and answer emails before setting the price.
Average overhead costs
These are operating expenses. What you earn from your business should cover all business expenses and make profits. These expenses include:
- Cost of your camera and lenses
- Other equipment costs
- Price of renting studio space
- Advertising costs
- Cost of maintaining equipment
- Travel fees
- Electricity and Internet bills
Your profit margin
A profit margin measures the performance of your business in terms of money. You must determine the profit margin you’re aiming for before settling on the price to charge for your services.
Many people are operating in various photography niches. You could analyze their pricing strategies and settle for the same price, lower your fee, or charge a higher cost.
Remember that the prices you set for your services will determine your worth. Therefore, take your time to research all factors influencing your fees and profits. Also, to gain more profits, you should avoid:
- Working for free
- Spending more money than what you earn
- Frequently accepting small gigs that eat up time with a small profit
How To Price Clients
As a starting photography business, you should have a strategy for pricing clients. Start by charging lower prices to attract volume so you can build a significant client base. If your fees are lower than your competitors, you’re likely to attract large numbers of customers and have a better client reach.
An example of a good strategy is offering 30 shoots at $150 or 15 shoots at $300 each. Here’s a table showing the average photography rate you could implement.
|$100 – $250
|$300 – $3,000
|$150 – $500
|$100 – $175
|$25 – $250
4. Market To Get Clients
By now, you’ve completed all the formation processes, have a business account, and decided on the amount to charge, but all this will be futile if you have no clients. You must market your services to get clients. There are many marketing strategies to use. Some include:
Social media marketing
Most people spend more time searching for updates and new trends on social media channels. You could take advantage of this and advertise your services on social platforms like Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, and others. Add an engaging caption to your photos to talk to your audience. You don’t want them to just look with no idea who’s taking those amazing photos and the location of your business.
Build a flawless online portfolio or website to market your brand. An online website is a page where clients can learn more about your business and the services you offer. They can also book services through the site and see reviews and ratings of your business.
Blogs are web pages found on websites that give details of a particular topic. You can write and post blogs on your website to drive brand awareness to attract more traffic. Focus on properly using keywords and creating highly S.E.O.-optimized content.
This marketing strategy uses word of mouth to market your services and grow your business. In this, your existing clients refer you to their contacts. Customers acquired through referrals spend twice as much as others and make double referrals. Referrals drive 16% more lifetime worth and have 30% more leads than those from other marketing strategies.
You can create online directories to create awareness and attract more clients. Guides will help you reach customers searching for services in the same market domain. Also, you can improve your search engine ranking through online directories.
5. Take Amazing Photos And Go Beyond Clients
Once you have your clients, go out of your way to exceed their expectations. Take amazing photos and offer top-notch customer care. Here are ten tips on how to take breathtaking photos:
- Use a colored backdrop
- Request your clients to have a change of clothes
- Use props like sash, flowers, balloons, food, champagne, sunglasses, and others
- Take many photos from the best angles and be efficient
- Consider reflections
- Assist your client with their pose
- Choose the best location for the photoshoot
- Keep it simple
- Don’t over-edit the photos
- Practice with stock images
Customers can be very demanding, and you must keep up with their needs if you want to retain them. To go above and beyond top-notch customer service, you should:
- Engage with customers constantly through different platforms
- Give quick responses to emails and online requests
- Be transparent
- Consider the opinions of your customers
- Research customer expectations
6. Use Online Platforms To Deliver Photos
You could use many online platforms like SmugMug to deliver or sell your photos to make money. They include:
SmugMug is one of the best online platforms you can use to sell your photography. All you need to do is create and share various galleries on this platform. It offers many options for selling. For instance, you can create multiple photo packages instead of single photos.
Click here to start your FREE two-week trial with SmugMug today.
It’s a stock photography site where clients purchase the rights to use images before downloading. You can sell photos and portraits through this platform, but first, you must be one of the Getty contributors. To join, download the Getty app and use the invitation code WELCOME2IS. You must be 18 or older, upload 3-6 photos and wait for Getty to let you know whether or not they have accepted you.
It’s one of the most popular stock photography sites. As one of its contributors, you can earn about 75% on extended or premium licenses and 50% royalty on standard permits. However, the photos you upload on this site are 100 exclusives, and you can’t use them on other sites.
Adobe Stock images
You can sell your pictures online on adobe stock for free to reach millions of buyers worldwide. It offers a 33% commission on photos you sell using this site.
It’s one of the mainly used platforms by many photographers. It offers frames, books, prints, calendars, and other products that could be useful in your venture. Also, you can upload your images or create attractive images using their templates.
This is a worldwide market forum where people sell their products and brands. You could become one of these businesses and connect with potential clients via this platform.
7. Upgrade Your Skills To Compete With The Market
The photography industry is highly competitive. You’ll have to practice improving your skills and the images’ quality. Here are ways to upgrade your artistic and technical skills to compete with the market:
- Look for short online courses on photography
- Watch photography tutorial videos on YouTube
- Read blogs and magazines on photography
- Look for inspiration from other photographers
- Practice regularly
- Use the latest photography technology
- Take as many photos as you can
- Make every subject unique and different
- Try different gears
- Read online forums like Photography On The Net (POTN)
You must also upgrade your marketing skills to gain more clients and earn better profits. You may want to consider:
- Learning the latest trends in social media
- Getting to know your competitors and their marketing strategies
- Learning to be charismatic and selling your idea of you (personal branding)
8. Upgrade Your Gear
Equipment is necessary to the success of your photography business. Upgrade to the latest gear with better features to improve the quality of photos you produce. Remember, clients always prefer quality, so invest in updated equipment.
One of the essential gear to upgrade is the lens. You can use whatever camera you want, be it Canon, PENTAX, Sony, Olympus, Nikon, Ricoh, or others, as long as you have the best lens, preferably one with a larger aperture.
However, avoid spending on expensive gear when you’re just starting out and on a budget. Consider purchasing used or secondhand lenses that are still in good condition. You can get them online from various platforms such as eBay, Craigslist, or Facebook.
Pros And Cons Of Starting A Photography Business
Starting a photography business has its advantages and disadvantages, just like in any other company. Ensure you weigh the benefits you’ll drive from it against the losses you may incur before making a decision.
The pros of starting a photography business include:
- Earning from your passion
- A chance to network and meet new people
- You have control over the business
- Share in the experience of others
- You get to travel and visit different places
- It’s flexible, and you can choose to do it full-time or part-time
The cons of starting a photography business include:
- Photography gears are costly
- You may have to deal with stubborn clients
- The income may not be stable during the formative months or years
- Exploitation from friends and family who want you to offer free services because of your acquaintance
- You may have to work late nights or early mornings
Starting a photography business is not very different from forming any other company, but you must master the unique requirements in the field to come out right. The formation requirements differ from state to state, and you may have to consult with the local authority to know the details. However, you could hire third-party services like Bizee to help with the formation.
You’ll also have to go the extra mile to be in a position to compete in your market niche. The above discussion details everything you need to know when starting a photography business.