Photography is not just a hobby anymore. Millions of budding photographers around the world are thinking of how to start a photography business. Starting your own photography business is an excellent way to earn income. Even though the photography industry is immense, many photographers have managed to carve a niche for themselves and become successful photographers.
To make it easier for amateur photographers to know how to start a photography business step by step, we have detailed important information that is essential to know before learning how to set up a photography business. In this article, we have detailed the estimated cost of starting a photography business, how to take care of branding and image, the prospective prices you can charge, expectations of customers, where to find a contract for professional photography and how to legalize your photography business.
1. Initial Investment
Having the right equipment is the first step towards learning how to start a photography business. Photography equipment is notorious for being expensive. As you are just about to start your business it’s advisable not to invest a large amount of money into buying top-end photography equipment. Experts suggest that a budget of US $10,000 is sufficient to start a small photography business and enter the industry. Successful photographers will tell you that the theory of “building slow and smart” is the most effective answer to the question of how to grow your photography business. Let your earnings from the business pay for upgrading your equipment in the future as this will also help you to avoid getting into debt.
Here’s a list of essential photography equipment and their prospective costs:
- Two cameras – US$ 1,500 to US$ 2,000 each
- Multiple lenses – Over US$ 1,000 each
- Two flashes – US$ 700
- Two external drives – US$ 120 each (one required for back-up)
- Multiple memory cards – Over US$ 50 each
- Computer / Laptop (with sufficient memory) – US$ 2,000
- Website (inexpensive) – Over US$ 60
- Photoshop and Lightroom subscription – US$ 120 per year
- Business licenses – Around US$ 150
- Insurance – Around US$ 600 per year
- Accounting – Around US$ 300 per year
- Business cards – Around US$ 20
Additionally, you should also consider optional expenses, including:
- Photography classes and workshops
- Business training
- High-quality camera bags and straps
- Second computer / laptop
- Printed marketing paraphernalia
- Office / Studio space cost
2. Branding & Promotion
According to expert photographers, there are several ways that a budding photographer can do branding and promotion. These include:
- Your Personality – As a professional photographer, you will be interacting with customers and other photographers frequently. Your appearance will decide the first impression, which is of utmost importance for word-of-mouth publicity. When you are dressed in presentable clothes for photoshoots and come equipped with everything that is required, your efficiency and professionalism are reflected on the customers.
- Punctuality – Being on time is important for photographers, as most events, such as weddings and corporate events, tend to start on time. Apart from arriving before time, you also need to ensure that you always deliver the photograph album or video before the deadline. If you are driving to a venue that is not familiar, ask the customer for explicit directions so you don’t get lost or late. Make sure to let the customer know your production schedule so that they know when to expect the end product from you.
- Online Presence – The internet has penetrated almost every aspect of our daily lives. The increasing number of customers today look for photography services online. Hence, it is highly advised to have a significant online presence, in the form of a good-quality website, social media handles and regular digital marketing promotions. Professional photographers are expected to display their LinkedIn and portfolio links on their website.
Setting the right price for their talent is the most common problem faced by amateur and even some professional photographers. It is obvious that the charges for your photography services should be well over the minimum wage limit in your state. One of the best ways to decide on your pricing when looking for tips on how to start a photography business is to take a look at your competitors’ charges. This way, you will have a better idea about the normal price range of photography services in your area.
To set a price for your photography services, you should consider at least 3 hours of editing for every 1 hour of video. Normally, professional photographers charge around US$ 50 per hour to cover standard costs. Make sure to add in the cost of travel and preparation time, as well as on-going costs, insurance for equipment, accounting services, website maintenance, etc. Adding the average cost of these factors will help you to determine the best pricing for your photography business. Inexpensive and affordable pricing is one of the stepping stones of how to grow your photography business. It is highly advised to seek upfront payment or deposit for high-value events and request the payment in the form of cash, cashier’s check or a direct bank transfer.
4. Contracts with Customers
Managing client’s expectations is extremely important when you want to know how to build a photography business successfully. Make your client aware of what you expect from them and what they can expect from your photography services. For planned events, such as corporate meets, seminars, workshops and weddings, make sure to organize group photographs in advance. For baby photographs, make sure that the client knows the kind of clothes and accessories to bring for the photoshoot. For portrait photography, make sure the subject knows what to wear so that you can bring out their best aspect.
Managing contracts is another essential part of being a professional photographer. Ensure that the client is aware of the total cost of photography services, including upfront payments, deposits and remaining balance. Make sure that the contract is written as simple as possible so that the client does not feel overwhelmed by it and ensure that the client understands the finer points of the contract before signing it. In the case of copyright images, the client should be made aware of the extent of the use of such photographs. For starters, we recommend using freely available contracts that you can find online, including contracts for photo licensing, model release, wedding and other commonly required photography contracts.
Professional photographers tend to be experts at a particular niche, such as baby photographs or wedding photography. This allows them to focus on specific skill sets and also offers an opportunity to find networking prospects in the specific photography genre. It is always advisable to seek a smaller niche as the competition is less and the prices are higher due to lack of talent.
5. Finding Gigs
Job prospects for photographers depend on the particular type of photography they are experts at. Let’s take a brief look at how to grow your photography business according to different niches:
5.1 Wedding Photography
Wedding photography is the most common. For wedding photographs, you need to ensure that you come completely prepared because malfunctioning equipment or being generally unprepared tends to mar your reputation in the industry. Wedding photographs need to be clicked perfectly on the first instance as there are second chances. Additionally, wedding photography also entails intense management of clients. For beginners, it is advised to start wedding photography as a second shooter with an expert wedding photographer. However, it is important to remember that the wedding photography market is seasonal and your business will likely see a dip during the off-season. Hence, you should consider adding two or more types of photography services to your portfolio to ensure that your business runs smoothly throughout the year.
5.2 Stock Photography
It is easy to start your own stock photography business, sign up as a contributor on stock image websites or launch your own website for stock photography. Shutterstock, iStock or Pixabay are excellent platforms to click and contribute stock photographs and earn significant money by selling them. Initially, the payment might seem low and as the license is managed by the website, you can start earning significantly by selling photos in large volume.
5.3 Commercial Photography
Every business today requires web images. Commercial photography entails clicking pictures of products or services, facilities, headshots of board members and management team. It is one of the most lucrative and expansive niches in photography which provides a constant source of income to numerous professional photographers from around the world.
5.4 Contract Photography
Contract photography requires the photographer to be on call for any event and is paid a monthly retainer for their services. The local tourism center or business development department may offer a contract to cover their events on a monthly basis. Contract photography is one of the best ways for amateur photographers to grow their business effectively.
5.5 Real Estate Photography
Many times, real estate agents contract professional photographers to capture stunning images of land, properties, buildings and houses for sale. Real estate photography today involves highly interactive techniques, such as interactive video footage or 360-degree view images for maximum impact.
5.6 Pet Photography
This is yet another intensely growing photography niche today. Increasing numbers of pet owners wish to have professional portraits done of their furry companions. Pet photography is not just an efficient way to grow your photography business, it is also one of the most interesting niches if you are an animal lover.
5.7 Sports Photography
Numerous publications and sports organizations today seek professional quality images and videos of sporting events. You can find contract-based work for a month, a season or an annual contract for local events, such as marathons, bike races, etc. Sports photography needs expensive zoom lenses and is mostly the second phase in training for amateur photographers.
5.8 News Photography
News photography should not be confused with photojournalism. Many times, the local TV, print or online news media will want contract-based or part-time photographers to capture newsworthy events and happenings without having to bear the cost of a full-time photographer. This niche requires the photographer to be prepared to go out to far-off locations on short notice but the variety of news makes the niche extremely interesting.
5.9 Food Photography
This is one of the latest and most trending photography niches today. Food photographers are in high demand among restaurateurs who are active online.
Food photography may be required for creating menus or for promotional images.
Now that you know the specific points to keep in mind when learning how to grow your photography business, it’s time to take a look at how to start a photography business legally.
Like any reputed company, you will first need to decide on the perfect business name as it will also become your brand’s name. Make sure to keep the business’ name unique and catchy and choose the one which is not registered to anyone else. A simple web search with the prospective business name will let you know if the name is available or not. Make sure to visit the US Patent and Trademark Office’s search page to ensure that your chosen business name is unique and can be registered successfully.
Once you decide on your business’ name, you will need to book a domain for your website under the same name. Next, you need to create social media accounts under your business name. The last step in how to start a photography business legally is to register your photography business as a legal entity. Once you have started the brand name registration process, you can begin to set up a business account in a bank, check and get any other licenses your business may require and get business insurance, contracts and agreements legally.
The way to start a photography business is like starting any other business. You first need to decide the specific industrial niche by determining your skillset. Next, make sure you have a budget big enough to buy the expensive but essential photography equipment and then focus on creating a brand name and awareness through freely available online resources. Professional photography is one of the coolest, most hip and interesting professions out there. So, if you have the passion to capture breath-taking images, then you should take the first step and start your photography business now.