Start a photography business in 5 steps

From creating an eye-catching portfolio to setting up your online storefront, learn how to start selling your photos like a pro.

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, we’ve broken down the steps to starting your own photography business.

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 the 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.

Make a plan and make it official

Consider your specialty and what that would entail: What’s your niche? What kind of lifestyle will it give you?  Wedding photography is a popular choice for most full-time photographers. There are many potential clients but it does require photo shoots on nights and weekends. Meanwhile real estate photography typically offers more regular business hours.

A photography 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 for a business license, buy your domain name, and create any social media accounts. Now you can create a logo, marketing plan, and marketing materials such as business cards, social media posts, and a website. 

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

Ready to start selling photos? You can launch an online storefront for free with Dropbox Shop in just a few clicks. Simply add your photos from Dropbox, set a price, and share your listings on social media or your website to reach new customers. Getting paid is a breeze and super secure with processing done by Stripe and PayPal. 

Invest in your photography equipment

If you specialize in sports photography, a high-quality 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 type of photography, 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 editing software. This can include Photoshop or Lightroom for photo editing and accounting software for record keeping 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.

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.

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 

Referrals can be a great way to grow, but don’t be afraid to explore different revenue streams. One of the most popular for professional 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.