How to Start a Photography Business with No Experience

photographer operating a business.

Would you like to know how to start a photography business with no experience? For many being your own boss while doing something you love sounds pretty amazing! There are definitely a lot of perks to running a photography business.

This article will explore all the ways in which you can run a successful photography business, including how to find potential customers, build a photography portfolio, and get on the fast track to being your very own business owner. So let’s get started!

photographer looking at image prints.

The Pros of Starting a Photography Business

Every successful business knows there are many pros to running a small photography business. Here are some reasons why you may love a photography career.

  • Creative Job-Many aspiring photographers love their job because they get to put their own unique style and personality on every shoot
  • Independence-Many people love photography and want to put their name on their business without having to answer to another boss.
  • Income-There is a lot of money to be made in the photography business, and if you work hard to generate sales, you can provide yourself with even more than a steady income. It doesn’t matter whether you love wedding photography or a pet photographer. The key is having a proper business plan from the start.
  • Travel the World-Many successful photographers get to travel the world using their photography skills and a stable internet connection.
  • Changing Environments– As a small business working in the photography world, a successful photographer is sure to see a change of environment on a regular basis, shooting in different places and oftentimes with different people.
fashion photographer taking photos of a model in a studio.

The Cons of Starting a Photography Business

Now that we have explored the good parts of running a photography business, let’s have a look at some of the cons or downsides of being self-employed as an independent photographer.

  • Insecurity-Even if you are a good photographer, many photographers struggle their first years in business and have to figure out how to invest in customers and marketing.
  • Expensive gear– When starting a photography business you may find the startup costs of cameras and other camera gear to carry a heavy price tag in the beginning before you are making real income.
  • You have to wear many hats-successful businesses know how to wear many hats. You can’t just show up with your camera bag and call it a day. You have to learn accounting, marketing strategy, search engines, pricing, budget, and be constantly learning as the industry evolves.
wedding photographer taking photos of the bride and groom outdoor.

Types of Photography Businesses

With so many different types of photography business options, it may feel hard to choose which photography niche is best for you. Here is a list of some of the top photography businesses out there when it comes to niches.

Take a look and see if any of the genres seem like something you would love working in on a daily basis. Any of these would make for a booming industry, and you can set yourself apart from other photographers by implanting your personality on your own business.

  • Wedding photography business
  • Fashion photography business
  • Landscape photography business
  • Pet photography business
  • Stock photography business
  • Portrait photography business
  • Headshot photography business
  • Real Estate photography business
  • Travel photography business
  • Food photography business
  • Product photography business
  • Sports photography business
  • Fine Art photography business
product photographer doing business work.

The Must Haves to Get Started

These are the top things you will need to get started today. The rest of this article will go into deeper detail on how to start a photography business with no experience.

But see if you can get past these first steps before investing too much time and money into your new business.

  • Gaining Experience: Make sure you feel comfortable enough in your photography skills and services to start charging money for it. If you have to offer free photoshoots to get started, there is no shame in that. It’s all part of the learning experience.
  • Camera: Your camera will become your new best friend. I recommend heading over to B&H Photo online to talk to a representative online or going to your local camera store to ask for advice on a good camera.
  • Lens: Many professional photographers believe your lens is more important than your camera, and with good reason. Your lenses will last forever if you take good care of them, and a nice piece of glass will complement your photography.
  • Computer: You will need a computer to edit your photos and connect with potential clients. Most photographers work with Apple computers. But you can choose what works best for your budget and skills.
  • Photo Editing Software: Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop are extremely user-friendly and pro when it comes to editing your photography. No matter what equipment you are using, it’s easy to make your photos prettier with a photo editing tool.
legal steps for how to start a photography business.

It doesn’t matter if you are shooting wedding photography or offering other photography services. There are a few essential steps that many photography business owners forget to take when setting up their business “legally”. Having a business is so much more than simply taking pictures.

learning photography business.

As a small business owner, these are some valuable tools for your business education. Don’t forget to include these in your personal finances and accounting software when crunching the numbers for your business.

1. Business Name

You need to come up with a brand name for your services. Oftentimes photographers choose their own name or something easy to spell and remember when searching for your services. Be picky when it comes to a business name, as it will go on all your marketing materials and social media platforms. Also, use this website to see if your business name is already taken by a competitor.

2. Register Your Business

If you want to have a legal business that pays taxes, you need to register your business with the state and the IRS. As long as they get their tax money, they are happy to allow you to run your business. While registering, you will need to decide on which of the following you want to be. You can also check out legalzoom.com for more business advice if this feels confusing.

Sole Proprietor: This is the quickest and easiest way to register your photography services. It goes on your personal tax return. The only issue with this choice is you are fully liable when things go wrong in your company. That means you could be sued and lose all your personal assets, studio space, photography equipment, and much more. If someone decides to sue you, they can go after your personal belongings, including your home.

LLC: An LLC protects your assets and can still have your taxes go through your personal tax return. If you have multiple members, you will be taxed as a partnership. The paperwork is a little different than a sole proprietor but not that difficult.

S-Corps and C-Corps: This is the most complicated tier of registering and includes ongoing costs. Most single-person photography businesses don’t need to be a corporation.

But you should speak to an accountant to find out if this is a way for you to gain more money and save on startup costs like editing software, camera body, and office space. Finally, you should attend trade shows in photography to learn more about all of these and your options.

3. Obtain a Business Permit

So you take amazing photos, you have people skills and a marketing budget, but do you have a business permit? Well, this varies state by state. Some types of photography, such as a free shoot do not require a license.

The best way to find out what you need for your photography business is to call the state licensing board and then the local city hall. Within a few minutes, someone can tell you exactly what you need and how much it costs.

4. Secure an EIN

An EIN or employer identification number is a very important part of setting up your professional photography business. It’s free to get one, and you need to set this up so you can pay your taxes and operate as a legit business. You only need this number if you are an LLC or S-Corp. It helps banks identify you when setting up your business accounts.

5. Create Client Contracts

As you become the go-to photographer for your target market, you must have client contracts in place to protect you and the clients. It doesn’t matter if you shoot family portraits or pets. You always want something in writing stating your services, what you provide, and what you don’t.

Also, you may consider signing up for Professional Photographers of America for this very reason. They offer lawyers and contracts for free within your membership. It’s the perfect way to look professional to prospective clients and an easy way to create contracts without having to think much.

6. Get Insured

No matter what niche of photography you decide to work in, it’s important to get insurance to protect yourself and your customers from unexpected accidents. Professional Photographers of America offers affordable insurance made for photographers. They can also help you with a business license.

business tips for success.

Tips on Running and Growing your Photography Business

Now that we have had a look at some of the niches of photography and why you should get started, let’s take a closer look at the details of how to start a photography business!

If you want a more in-depth look at any of the tips below, we recommend you to check out our course on getting started with a photography business. This online video course is designed by our very own Krystal Kenney. Also, it’s specifically designed with you in mind to start your own photography business.

business course for photographers.

1. Write a Business Plan and Define Business Strategy

Writing a business plan is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to starting a photography business. A photography business plan provides a road map for every step your business needs to succeed and establish a brand identity.

Start a photography business plan by defending your “whys”. Why do you want to become a photographer? From there, you will be inspired to write out every other step of your business, including sales tax projections, business income, expenses, and much more.

2. Conduct Market Research

Look at what your closest competitors are doing and find ways you can do it better. It’s also a good idea to read the good and bad reviews from your competition to see what customers are saying about them and use this info to better your own work.

Define your Target Audience

If you want to make money as a photographer, you have to decide who your dream customers are. What pricing are they willing to pay for your services? What are the names? What are their income levels? Jobs? Interests?

I like to give my dream client a name and write down everything I can think about them. From there, you can use all this info to decide where your marketing money should go and your photography price.

Evaluate your Competition

Head over to Google and type your niche and location in a search. Look at the top 10 companies that pop up and check out their websites and services. Do you see things you like or dislike? Ideas to add to your business?

Things that are missing from their business? Find ways to fill these gaps and better your own work by evaluating the people who are already succeeding in big ways at what you want to do.

3. Decide on a Pricing Plan

Whether you have a studio or work in the streets of Paris, you need to come up with a cost for your services.

When you start a photography business, this can oftentimes be the hardest part. But to make it easier, take a look at your dream client’s income levels and also include factors such as your years of experience, personality, and what is feasible to cover your business expenses.

4. Create a Marketing Plan

The next step to start your own photography business is to come up with a marketing plan. These can be fun when you start using social media, networking, and word of mouth. Write down all the ways you can connect with local vendors and your community.

Think of volunteer opportunities and what websites your dream customers often visit. This way, your marketing is more likely to get in front of the right people.

photographer using social media to promote the business.

Social Media

Social media is an important part of your photography business roadmap. You should be on platforms that your dream clients use most and also places that other potential customers may find you.

The top sites small business owners use are Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook. But you should further research which social networks work best for your business to reach your target market and fit customer expectations.

Find New Clients

You can’t expect to sit in your studio, and clients just magically appear at no cost or energy from you. It’s important to constantly reinvest in your business and reach clients in new ways. You can do this by offering better services than your competition.

A great example of this is shooting some of your sessions in film and some digital. This has become extremely trendy recently. Start a photography business with a plan to constantly evolve and find clients.

5. Branding

Branding should be at the top of your list. Many professional photographers miss these important details when they first start building their business. Branding includes a lot more than just your photo services.

It is everything from your fonts, colors, and portfolio. Branding is your company identity, and you need to create a common theme across your social media and website so people can identify you from your brand alone. Don’t be like other photography business owners, and make this a priority from the start of your business planning.

photographer working to create a portfolio.

6. Design an Online Portfolio

When you start your photo editing and taking on more shoots, it’s important that you begin to define your own style and create a portfolio for showcasing your work. Never overshare your work. You should only post your very best photos and think about what you are conveying to your audience.

Are your photos speaking to your dream clients? Ask yourself this question when choosing which photos to share on your website and social media pages.

Website Design

Your website should be beautiful to look at, clear, concise, and easy to navigate. You want to display your photos as the main attraction on the site but also don’t forget to add lots of information, reviews, and personal details that will help your dream clients connect with your brand and your personality.

Also, don’t forget what we said above about being picky about which photos you share. If you need help designing a website that works well for a computer browser and on the phone, try one of these sites. They offer easy-to-design templates and affordable costs.

Search Engine Optimization

If you want to run a business with no experience, then start learning search engine optimization as soon as possible. By using keywords on your website, social media pages, and blog, your business will be found by more potential customers.

If you aren’t sure how to use SEO, consider outsourcing this type of business work to someone on Fiverr.com for a price that won’t break the bank, but will help potential customers find your website through search engines.

gear and equipment required for running a business.

7. Decide on Equipment

Which camera lens are you dreaming of owning? Which camera is best for your niche of photography? What camera bag is the best for your equipment?

These are all questions you should ask yourself when deciding on the best equipment for your business. There are many wonderful sites that help you compare equipment. Here are some of our favorites:

8. Client Management Systems

As your photography business grows, you will need a workspace that grows with you. It’s important to have a system that tracks clients’ inquiries as well as invoicing.

There are an array of websites that help you track all of this and more but are specifically designed with photographers in mind. Have a look at these top systems to help you get your photography business off the ground today.

9. Hosting and Sharing Photos with Clients

As you start earning more shoots, you need to learn the best ways to share your photos with clients. There are a variety of ways to share photos with past and new clients but what’s most important is that you make it easy for clients to download and find their photos.

We love these sites because they also act as a backup source of all your photography. They are stored online for easy access by you and your clients. Let’s have a look at some of the best sites for sharing your photos with clients.

real estate photographer taking interior photos.

10. Offer Other Services

Once your photography business begins growing, you need to find ways to diversify your services to attract new customers. Diversifying your services will not only help you find new clients but will also help you put a fresh look at your work and business. You need to constantly evolve and change to stay alive as a business owner.

A great way to learn how to diversify your services is by heading to photography workshops and meetups to see what the industry leaders are doing. Here are some great conferences you may want to consider joining next year to learn how.

11. Selling Your Photos on Stock Photography Websites

Have you ever considered building off-season income through stock photography sites? As a budding entrepreneur, this is a great way to fill your bank account with cash flow during the off-seasons of your photography business.

You have complete control over which sites you list your photos under, and it’s a great way to create cash flow and off-season income. Check out Shutterstock, Canva, Adobe, and Alamy, to name a few.

portrait photographer editing photos.

Conclusion

We hope this article helped you gather some of the best ways for starting a photography business with no experience! It’s a big adventure quitting your day job and pursuing something you love, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

With a little bit of inspiration and hard work, you can be on the fast track to running your business. Follow these simple steps above to get started and feel more confident in creating a business you love showing up to every day!

Meet Krystal Kenney – Photography Business Coach

Our very own professional photographer Krystal Kenney has designed an online course all about how to start a photography business with no experience! Here is a short video introduction of the course.

With over 50 videos, bonus materials, and fun engaging content, you will learn how to quickly start and successfully run a photography business.

Krystal Kenney started her own photography business fifteen years ago in Washington D.C. She now travels the world, shooting in Paris, Mexico, America, and much more.

Her work has helped her to experience unbelievable events and meet fascinating people. She takes everything she has learned from running a successful photography business and puts it into this online course.

learn to start a successful photography business.

You can take the course at your speed because all the videos are prerecorded. You can also rewatch as much or as little as you need. She starts from the beginning of running a business breaking down a business plan, and then moves into more advanced marketing techniques with great depth and insights.

The Photography Business Course is currently on sale for only $99, so sign up today to gain access to the easiest way to build your business today from someone who has done it successfully and profitably for over a decade!

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