5 steps to start a photography business

Here’s our advice for how to start your business and become a professional photographer.

man in photography studio leans over laptop while holding camera

If you’re looking to take your passion for photography from hobbyist to professional, you don’t have to tackle everything at once. To make the transition less overwhelming and complicated, we’ve broken down the steps on how to start your photography business.

1. Review the foundation: your portfolio

It’s the first thing potential clients want to see and it defines your style. Ask yourself if it’s the best representation of your current skills and specialties with an indication of work you want to pursue in the future. This may mean you dig into your archive, re-edit, or reshoot. Revisit your portfolio on a consistent basis.

2. Make a plan and make it official

A business plan isn’t a requirement, but it will give you momentum and a better chance at success. On the most basic level, it should contain your business structure, target market, pricing, and goals. 

Next you should decide on a business name. Ensure it is available at the required level of government, as a url, and in social media accounts. Then legally register, buy your domain name, and create any social media accounts. Now you can create a logo and any marketing collateral such as business cards, social media posts, and a website.

You also need to protect yourself and your business with insurance and a bank account. If you need major equipment upgrades, income, or other startup costs, you may need to secure a business loan. 

3. Invest in your photography equipment

If you specialize in sports photography, a zoom lens with stabilization in key. Portrait photography requires a mirrorless camera with a large aperture. A lightbox is a necessity for product photography. Needs can shift based on your specialty and growth, but if you have a camera and access to a computer you’re in business. You can also rent to scale with your growth.

Equipment doesn’t just mean cameras and lenses. You also need to consider peripheral things like software. This can include Photoshop or Lightroom for photo editing and accounting software for recordkeeping and invoicing. 

If you don’t have your photos digitally archived, it’s time to get or upgrade cloud storage. It’s the industry standard to house large files like all of your RAW photos. Uploading to the cloud keeps your physical storage like your computer and memory cards ready for the next shoot. It also ensures that they’re safe and up to date.

4. Sign clients, shoot, deliver

Before you even talk about a job, you need a contract outlining the basic expectations and requirements for both you and your client. This should always include pricing, deposits, cancellation policy, timeline, delivery, and use. You can even collect legally binding signatures online.

To prepare for the day-of shoot, get a fact-sheet together. List any equipment you need to bring, location, schedule, timeline, shot list, and any incidentals. Stay organized and access it on the go by storing it in a folder dedicated to the job. Your RAW photos can also live here with the final edits. 

Then it’s time time deliver the final photos in a way that protects your work. You can set a link expiration date, a password, or add a watermark. It should also be a secure and easy handoff for you and your client. If you use Dropbox Transfer, the recipient doesn’t need a Dropbox account and it doesn’t take any of your account storage quota. It also sends a copy to protect your originals.

5. Grow and maintain your photography business

When you have achieved some cash flow and can articulate more about your business, then start updating your website and social media accounts. Here are a few pages to add or upgrade:

  • FAQs
  • Pricing
  • Online booking
  • Bio/About Me
  • Ratings/Reviews
  • Your portfolio 

You can also explore different revenue streams. One of the most popular for photographers is stock photography. What was once a throw away photo can now be a passive source of income.

Starting your own photography business is different from learning the art of photography. Photography skills are just as important as how you organize, market, and deliver your photography services. If you combine both, success means you can get paid to be creative.