If you have an eye for photography and love working with people, starting a photography business might be your calling.
Whether you’re starting or have dabbled in photography for years, the world is ripe with demand for skilled photographers like yourself.
We’ve interviewed professional photographers and created this guide to help answer your questions on how to start a photography business successfully.
Ready to make your dreams a reality? Let’s dive in!
Step One: Choose a niche for your photography business
Choosing a niche helps you focus on a specific target market as you grow your photography business. Pick a niche you enjoy and have a potential customer base with, and master that one before branching out.
Here are the most profitable photography niches for you to consider:
Niche example: Event photography
Event photography is a lucrative niche since the demand for documenting life’s milestones will always be high and steady.
This niche is versatile, with options ranging from weddings and engagements to birthdays and festivals. You’ll never be short on an opportunity as you lean on your community to grow.
Niche example: Social media photography
Social media is an attention game, and businesses are realizing that unoriginal content isn’t getting them ahead. Fortunately – this has resulted in a thriving business opportunity for photographers like you!
With product photography, you can help companies nail their brand identity, and build a client base from all over the world.
Niche example: Product photography
eCommerce is showing no signs of slowing down as businesses adapt to a new age of online shopping. As competition rises, businesses need to stand out from the rest in both product and branding.
Taking product photos is an in-demand skill, and it continues to grow as more businesses go digital. Although it requires a home setup, you’ll get free products and work with international clients!
Other photography niches include Landscape, travel, and wildlife photography to name a few.
Step Two: Sort out business and equipment costs
The not-so-fun part of starting a business is ironing out the details of how much you need to invest.
To help you start, here’s a list of general expenses:
- Photo editing software
- Cloud storage
- Accounting software
Assuming you won’t need a studio for your business, factor in monthly travel expenses for reaching your clients.
Find the right camera
What kind of camera do you need to start a photography business? Most professional photographers agree that you should invest in a camera with a detachable lens. Spend more money on various lens types rather than the camera system!
Here are some professional tips for you:
“I would buy the best mirrorless camera you can afford with detachable lenses so that you don’t outgrow the system too quickly. Brands like Fujifilm, Sony and Canon have incredible offerings from beginners to prosumers.” – Jeremie Dupont
If you’re working with a smaller budget, there’s no need to get new gear with all the bells and whistles.
J.C Strange, a professional nature photographer says he only buys used gear, “Doing so allows me to either spend less money or get more for what I spend. On top of that, it’s good for the environment so I recommend that route to everybody.”
Set your investment level
Wondering how much money does it take to start a photography business? On average you can expect to spend $5000 on equipment and extra costs for branding, travel, business software, and secure cloud storage.
“The biggest cost was equipment — cameras and lenses aren’t cheap. Start with only what’s needed for this: one camera and one lens. Monthlies are also a big chunk of a photographer’s cost of doing business. Adobe CC, your website host, professional email address, etc.” – Alicia Yarrish
Tip: To keep costs low, keep an eye on reselling marketplaces and refurbished electronics stores for photography gear. The faster you can get started the sooner you can cover your costs!
Photography businesses are profitable due to low initial investment, and consistent demand. The growth of online shopping alone has created a new genre of photography for online stores.
To be profitable, you need work ethic, passion, and grit to secure clients and build your reputation.
Step Three: Build a portfolio of your work
An important step in building your photography business is a portfolio that showcases your style and experience. You wouldn’t hire a photographer without a portfolio, so why would anyone else?
Your portfolio is your website, which acts as your storefront to potential customers. Make your website speak for you, and curate your photos in a visually appealing way.
“We shot for friends for free to build up our portfolio on our website. Once we had that, we started putting up profiles on various online platforms that connect photographers with clients. That’s where we landed our first paying client and we were stoked!” – FinallyRE
Above all, never stop learning and experimenting as you refine your style. Investing in yourself is the best investment you can make!
Step Four: Set up your pricing plan
Pricing for your services can be daunting when starting your business. Setting the right price depends on your competitors along with what people are willing to pay for your experience level.
“I kept my rates very low for the first few shoots as I gained experience and gently increased them. My rates have always been fair and reasonable. Remember to factor in time speaking with clients, traveling, taking the shots. Then add on the same number of hours you shot for editing.” – Jeremie Dupont
Offering low prices can help get your foot in the door, gain experience and establish yourself in your field.
Here are some ballpark photography prices for various niches:
- General event photography: Hourly rates from $150 to $500
- Wedding photography: Hourly rates from $150 to $250 or Packages from $2,000 to $5,000
- Product photography: Per photo from $30 to $50 or packages from $300 to $5000
- Portrait photography: Hourly from $150 to $300 or packages from $250 to $1,500
Step Five: Brand your photography business
Since you’re most likely a one-person show, your personal brand is what markets your business. Your personal brand should be a reflection of who you are, what it’s like to work with you, and what values you have. Here are a few things you can do to establish your photography brand.
Name your photography business
This will depend on what photography niche you chose, but most photographers choose their own name.
To simplify things, follow our guide on how to come up with a business name and keep your target market in mind as you generate ideas.
Your business name should be:
- Available (in some form)
Try using our free Business Name Generator to find a spot-on brand name in minutes. Instantly check domain availability and generate logo designs for your new business.
Make a logo for your photography business
Your logo is an important part of how people view your business. Choose colors, shapes, and typography that best communicates your services and value proposition.
You can hire a designer to do this, however, it will increase your startup costs. Another option is to simply take your creativity to Looka’s logo maker and create something unique of your own.
If it feels a bit overwhelming, check out our guide on how to design a logo. We promise it’s easier than you think!
Here are some photography logos to get you going. For more inspiration, check out our photography logo ideas!
Build a brand identity
Your brand identity embodies your values, your unique style, and your value proposition.
Maintain a consistent brand to help you build trust and reputation as a business. Use the same color palette, typography, and imagery to convey a consistent message on your website and social channels.
Keep these brand identity items consistent:
- A color palette
- Shapes and imagery
- Brand guidelines
Check out these professional photographer’s websites for inspiration:
For landscape or nature photography niches, check out the example below:
Step Six: Start marketing your photography business
Now that your photography business is branded, it’s time to let the world know you’re here. Take advantage of social media channels and connect with your community through word of mouth and referrals.
Build a presence on social media
Since your work is largely visual, publish all of your portfolio photos on Pinterest and Instagram. Make sure to use relevant copy and hashtags for your niche.
For example #engagementphotography or #travelphotography is a great way to get people’s attention.
Add in a location if you want to increase local awareness. If you don’t know where to start, here are some things to post on Instagram to help you.
“Posting on social media has helped me meet new people in all corners of the world. I’ve been able to offer help and share my expertise on a wider platform.” – MikiFoto
Pinterest is a great place to publish and distribute your portfolio. With 85% of people on Pinterest planning a project, you can use your creativity to inspire others to reach out!
Use the correct terms and hashtags to increase your visibility, and post new photos consistently for maximum exposure!
Step Seven: Be a people person and network!
Most professional photographers will tell you the same thing about how they got their first clients: word of mouth.
You’ll need a solid photography portfolio and great people skills to start building your client base. Start with your immediate circle and expand from there.
“My first clients were mainly my close friends and family. They helped spread the word and share my images. I’ve found the most effective strategy has been my online presence through social media sites. I’m able to reach others that I normally wouldn’t. In addition, I’ve partnered up with a few other photography companies throughout my time. This helped market me and my business.” – Kohala Life
Get involved in your online and offline community, reach out to friends and family to let them know what you’re offering!
Best places to sell photos online
Looking to start small? Doing freelance photography is a great way to sharpen your skills and make money while you’re at it.
Sell or license your photos on these platforms to make some side money while you build your business:
- Getty Images
- Adobe Stock
- iStock Photo
Turn your photography passion into a business!
Starting a photography business can seem daunting at first, especially if it’s also your creative outlet. As a professional photographer, you can set your own hours, travel the world, and meet new people.
Keep in mind that this field is competitive and there can be income fluctuations (especially if you work on seasonal events). But making money while doing something you love is too good a deal to pass up!