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How to Start a Photography Business: Picture Success in 2024

Andrés Gánem Andrés GánemFinance Specialist
Illustration of a serene nature scene with a calm lake reflecting majestic mountains in the background. In the foreground, on the lakeshore, a male photographer with medium brown skin is setting up his camera gear on a tripod, getting ready to take a shot. Birds soar in the sky above, creating a sense of movement and life. The entire atmosphere is peaceful and calming. The words 'How To Start a Photography Business' are center-aligned at the top in bold, stylish letters.

There’s never been a better time to start a photography business than today. Every app, person, and business needs high-quality photographs, and you’re bound to find good, fulfilling work regardless of your niche or location. However, you shouldn’t go around running with your camera in hand just yet. Besides a good eye for photography, you need to lay down the foundations to make your business work.

Unlike learning photography, starting a business involves a lot of steps that you really don’t want to “just pick up” as you go along. That’s why I wrote this handy guide to starting your own photography business. I spent months researching business structures, formation services, and more to bring you an exhaustive but easy-to-follow guide.

To start a successful photography business, you need to know how to frame your business plan, frame the right opportunities, and know when it’s time to see things through a different lens. Also, I promise to stop with the stupid photography puns if you continue reading.

Ready to start your business in a flash? (Sorry.) Keep reading to find out everything you need to start a photography business in 2024.

Short on Time? Here’s a Quick Guide to Starting Your Photography Business

  1. Research and write a photography business plan. You’ll have to investigate your niche and competition and start building professional relationships.
  2. Choose a name and register an LLC. You need to pick a memorable, but appropriate, name for your photography business. You’ll also have to make sure that the name you come up with is available for registration. Services like ZenBusiness1 make registering your business name a straightforward and painless process.
  3. Take care of fundamental business requirements. You’ll want to be aware of your planned business structure, update yourself on business taxes, and decide whether you’re going to need external funding to get started.
  4. Acquire any required materials, resources, outsourced services, etc. The material you’ll need to get started will vary depending on your business type, niche, and personal style. That said, most photography businesses won’t need to go all-out right away. A decent camera and good technique will get you far in the beginning.
  5. Launch and market your company. You need to create a digital presence for your business. Luckily, there are fantastic website builders that are easy to use and give you full creative freedom.

1. Research and Write a Photography Business Plan

Is There Enough Work Out There for Photographers?

You’ll need to do a bit of homework before you start the process of creating your business. That doesn’t mean you should stop shooting in the meantime – quite the opposite. I recommend that you keep taking photos and expanding your portfolio throughout the entire process. Creativity is a muscle, so continuing shooting at all stages will not only give you valuable experience and opportunities but will keep your skills sharp.

There’s always going to be work for photographers, especially nowadays when nearly every business and website needs high-quality photos for marketing and PR. You can build your business by filling gaps in the market and targeting specific types of photography.

That said, depending on your niche, you’ll have to consider what your business needs to stay viable. If you want to photograph the music scene, for example, you might have to consider moving close to a metropolitan area where you’ll find a high demand for your services.

Now’s also a great time to make business relationships. Plan on shooting food photography? Get in touch with some local restaurants and start making connections. Are you into portraits? Reaching out to local influencers can do you a lot of good.

Finally, keep an eye on legal and taxing requirements. Consider business taxes, whether you’ll hire more employees in the future, scour potential business locations, and more. For a photography business, a Limited Liability Company (LLC) can be a simple-to-navigate business structure that keeps your personal and business assets secure. Services like ZenBusiness take care of more than just LLC registration1, with tools to help you map out your financials and keep your legal requirements in check.

What Should You Include in Your Photography Business Plan?

To create a solid business plan, define your niche. What do you want to shoot? I know that advice is trite, and there are brilliant photographers who don’t restrict themselves to a single style. However, marketing yourself as a “versatile” photographer will only work once you’re somewhat established.

Then, list your potential clients and competition. Who are you aiming to serve and who’s offering similar services? And in terms of operations, outline how your business functions. Are you flying solo, or do you have partners or a team? Clarify roles and, if you’re outsourcing certain tasks, take that into account.

Lastly, have a strategy for spreading the word and attracting clients. Lay out your financial projections, considering both income and expenses. A photography business can usually get off the ground with little outside investment, but be sure to have a repayment plan if you do end up taking out a loan to help you get started.

2. Choose a Name and Register Your Photography Business

Choosing your business name might be one of the most fun parts of starting a new business. Make sure to pick a name that’s appealing and that appropriately conveys your niche (monster truck derby photography is a horrible name for a wedding photography business).

That said, you’ll have to perform a name search to ensure that your business name is available in your state. Name requirements will not only vary from state to state, but they will also be different depending on your planned business structure.

For most startups and small businesses, an LLC is the ideal business structure, as it’s simple to manage (compared to other company types), separates your personal assets from your business ones, and gives you incredible flexibility for managing your company.

If you decide that an LLC is the ideal company structure for you, there are plenty of high-quality LLC formation services that can help you with every step of the registration process, including performing a search to ensure business name availability. The following are my top three recommended LLC formation services for photography businesses.

Tailor Brands Creative Services
Tailor Brands offers LLC registration as well as professional branding services
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Taking the step to register your photography business as an LLC isn’t just about ticking a box; it’s about establishing a solid foundation you can build on top of. Tailor Brands makes this process smooth sailing, regardless of your state. It offers full LLC registration and a suite of integrated branding tools to give your business a unique identity.

Though Tailor Brands offers a bunch of nice-to-have extras, it also offers free LLC registration (not counting state registration fees)1. And if you travel a lot for your photos, you can appoint Tailor Brands as your Registered Agent for an extra fee so your business can have a fixed physical address in your chosen US state.

Features

  • Logo and web design services. You don’t need me to tell you that a strong visual identity is important for a photography business. Besides LLC registration, Tailor Brands offers professional logo and web design services.
  • Expert design consulting. Even if you already have a website up and running, Tailor Brand offers expert design consulting services to ensure that you’re maximizing your site’s potential.
  • EIN registration services. If you’re planning on taking out a business loan or hiring more employees in the future, Tailor Brands can help you get an Employer Identification Number (EIN).

ZenBusiness Money
ZenBusiness offers everything you need to help you register and manage your LLC
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LLC registration requirements can vary wildly from state to state, and it’s very important that you keep a close eye on your requirements to make the process as pain-free as possible. ZenBusiness provides this compliance service1, allowing you to gain comprehensive oversight without the migraine.

It’s also an outstanding service to keep track of your business finances, thanks to its advanced accounting and finance-tracking tools. As a budding photographer, you need to keep a keen eye on your finances to ensure profitability. ZenBusiness equips you with the tools to monitor your income and expenses, ensuring you always have a clear picture of your financial health.

Features

  • Intuitive user interface. It doesn’t hurt that ZenBusiness offers one of the most user-friendly interfaces among LLC registration services. Thanks to its interactive LLC questionnaire, you’ll always be clear on where you stand and which steps to take next.
  • Free tax-saving consultation. ZenBusiness offers a free 30-minute tax-saving consultation to ensure that you’re making the most out of your business finances.

Swyft Filings: The Fastest Way to Register Your Photography LLC1

Swyft Filings Homepage
Swyft Filings provides everything you need to make the LLC registration process easy
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Getting your photography business up and running is seamless with Swyft Filings’ speedy LLC registration services1. Depending on your package, you could get filing times from 10 days to same-day filing. Swyft Filings also stands out thanks to its incredibly user-friendly process, which ensures that you don’t get bogged down by the details.

As part of that same user-friendly process, Swyft Filings automatically includes all state-required documents at registration. This means that regardless of where you are in the US, you can have confidence that your LLC registration process will be complete and thorough with Swyft Filings.

Features

  • Free Squarespace domain. Thanks to Swyft Filings’ partnership with Squarespace, you can get a free domain for one year with any registration package.
  • A comprehensive learning hub. On Swyft Filings’ site, you’ll find comprehensive documentation about everything you need to know as you set up your LLC.
While we’re on the topic of registration, you might want to secure a domain name for your business early on as well. Your domain name will be at the forefront of your business’s online identity and could become the main avenue through which you get new clients. The best website builders offer free domain registration on their premium plans, ensuring that you get a killer website and a domain address all at the same time.

3. Mind Your Photography Business

Chances are that you’ve already been shooting professionally or semi-professionally for a while and just looking to take the next step into a fully fledged business. So, I won’t go into too much detail on what you need to be a professional photographer. However, as a new business, there are some aspects you should take into account.

First of all, don’t forget about business taxes. Once again, registering your business as an LLC can have some major benefits regarding taxes, even if you’re a one-person operation. However, do take into account that business and personal taxes are handled differently. Though it might be a little more troublesome, registering your business as a separate entity can help you write off important equipment and expenses and ultimately help you save a fair bit of money.

You should also consider applying for an EIN if you plan to hire any additional people for your business. I’m aware most starting photography businesses are solo operations, but an EIN also allows you to open a separate business bank account and apply for business loans.

I’ll be completely honest: I would actually advise most photographers against taking out a business loan, especially as you’re getting started. Don’t go crazy thinking you need to out-equip a Roger Deakins production in your first month.

If you have the fundamentals (a good camera body, one or two lenses, basic lighting equipment, etc.), there’s really no need to indebt yourself while you’re still getting on your feet. You’ll gain a lot more by exploring all you can do with those fundamental tools than by going all out with the latest high-end model on the market.

Still, learning to keep track of your business expenses will be crucial going forward. Luckily, ZenBusiness offers outstanding business finance tools1. If you feel like an EIN would come in handy, ZenBusiness can also help you manage the process of EIN registration with ease.

4. Get Photography Materials, Resources, & Outsourced Services

It’s very unlikely that you’ve stumbled across this article without any prior photography knowledge. That said, being a skilled photographer is only one of the many aspects that come into play when managing a successful photography business.

Depending on your focus, however, the essentials might look different from those of others. You’ll know what you’ll need depending on your work type and niche. Keep in mind, though, that besides having the correct lenses and camera body, you should also budget for any additional equipment. This can include tripods, backdrops, lighting gear, and film.

Other than that, you’ll need good editing software (something that can, at the very least, handle RAW files) and a basic understanding of how to use it. You might want to look into outsourcing your editing. Having a separate person to focus on editing can let you allocate more time for shooting, help you deliver results faster, and increase the overall quality of your product.

Pro Tip: Though I’d recommend hiring a full-time editor eventually, you can get started by contacting a talented freelancer for less than $5 on Fiverr1.
You should also keep in mind that shooting with different equipment than the classic DSLR or mirrorless camera includes add-on costs. If you do smartphone photography, for example, you might need lens extensions, specialized tripods, and high-velocity memory cards. If you’re into analog photography, don’t neglect the month-to-month cost of development, whether you do it yourself or in a film lab.

If your business plan only consists of getting out there and shooting potential clients, have at it! However, freelance photography isn’t the only kind of photography business. You might need a physical business location if you want to run a portrait center or a print shop. The latter would also involve getting your hands on some high-quality paper and printers.

On the other hand, if you have more gear than you know what to do with, consider lending equipment to other photographers as a potential source of revenue.

5. Launch and Promote Your Photography Company

Any business, especially one with a focus on visuals, will be dead in the water if it doesn’t have a strong online presence. A quality website for your business will help you get found and convince potential clients to work with you. Alternatively, a bad or unprofessional website will give off the impression that you’re not one to work with.

The good news is that you don’t need to be a professional web designer to create a high-quality website. Plenty of website builders out there give you the design flexibility to express your style while taking care of the backend so your website is always running smoothly.

These are the website builders I recommend the most for starting photography businesses:

Wix: The Best Builder to Convey Your Photography Style1

Wix Wedding Photography Template
Wix gives you complete creative freedom over your website
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If you’re looking for complete control over the look and feel of your site, then Wix is the ideal choice. Thanks to its catalog of over 800 templates (many of which are specialized for photography) and drag-and-drop editor, Wix allows you to give your site any identity you want, free of restraints.

However, that creative freedom doesn’t compromise its ease of use, as Wix is incredibly user-friendly regardless of your experience with website builders.

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Shopify: The Best Website Builder for Selling Photography Prints and Files1

Shopify is the ideal choice If your business plan includes selling prints, custom designs, or even digital files. As the biggest e-commerce platform in the world, Shopify comes with everything you need to manage online sales. 

Even if e-selling isn’t your cup of tea, Shopify also comes with plenty of high-quality integrations for scheduling, event management, and email marketing. That means that with Shopify, you can keep a close eye on all your business movements from a single, convenient dashboard.

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Squarespace: The Best Builder for a Captivating Photography Portfolio Online1

Squarespace might be infamous for its intense focus on its advertising campaigns. But I can promise you that all that budget didn’t go to empty promises. Squarespace is specifically designed for visually striking and elegant websites. So in other words, it’s the ideal website builder for letting your pictures speak for themselves.

It also doesn’t hurt that Squarespace offers plenty of high-quality marketing integrations that can help you keep in touch with past clients and reach out to potential new ones.

Or Use an LLC Formation Service With a Website Builder Included

As rewarding as creating your own website can be, it’s also not on your job description. Creating your website while taking care of LLC registration and shooting might be too much. The LLC registration services I mentioned above also include professional web-design services that can create a stunning site for you, while saving you the heavy lifting.

To Start a Photography Business, All You Have to Do Is Picture Your Success

You really don’t need too much to get started with your photography business. If you have a camera, the eye, and some patience, that’s about all you’ll need. Though you should get acquainted with basic business principles, keep in mind that it’s better to let professionals worry about things like LLC registration and maintenance or accounting rather than trying to do it all yourself.

Besides, no one does their best creative work when they’re stressed out about mountains of paperwork. If you decide to go with a professional service, you can check out the comparison table below to see how the best LLC formation services for photographers stack up to each other.

Standout feature Free plan (+ state fees)? Does it offer a website builder? Starting price
Tailor Brands Professional branding tools besides LLC registration $0
ZenBusiness Outstanding financial tracking tools $0
Swyft Filings Complete state-by-state compliance registration  (with Squarespace) $0

FAQ

How do I start a photography business with no experience?

To start a photography business, even if you don’t have business experience, you’ll need photography experience. After that, you need to create a business plan, register your business as an LLC, obtain the necessary IDs and licenses, source the required materials and equipment, and promote your business. Even if you lack experience in running a business, there are plenty of fantastic services like Tailor Brands that can help you with the business side of things.

When should I start my photography business?

There’s never a perfect time to start any kind of business. If you already have some photography know-how, I’d suggest that you get started right now. Thanks to social media and the internet, the time is ideal for photography businesses to bloom in any niche. If you need an introduction to the business aspect of photography, check out this helpful guide.

Is a photography business profitable?

Like any other business, a photography business can be wildly successful, barely keep you afloat, or not be profitable at all depending on many factors, not the least of which is luck. However, having a strong business foundation can be crucial in ensuring profitability in the long term. Luckily, you don’t have to take care of the hard part of business management all by yourself, services like ZenBusiness can give you a significant helping hand.

Can I start a photography business with no money?

Provided that you already have a camera, a lens, and a computer, then you can absolutely start a photography business with little money. And you can always get more gear and better equipment as your business grows. You can also ask for a business loan if you want to get started with a bit of advantage. If you’re interested in taking out a business loan, you’ll need to register your business and apply for an EIN.
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