How to Start a Home-Based Photography Business

8 Steps to Making Your Photography Pay

Photography Home Business
•••  Credit:Tanya Constantine | Getty Images

Do you have your camera with you wherever you go? Are you constantly snapping pictures to add to your Instagram feed? Are the go-to photographer at family functions? You can turn your photo-taking interest, talent, and hobby into a home-based photography business.

While you may be good at photography, before you jump in and start charging for picture taking services, research and plan your business strategy for greater success.

Pros of Starting a Photography Business

There are several great reasons to consider turning your interest in photography into a business, including:

  • Get paid to do something you enjoy
  • Flexible schedule that allows you start around a job, and build into a part-time or full-time business
  • Meet new people
  • Travel
  • Help other capture important events in their lives

Cons of Starting a Photography Business

There are always a few downsides you should consider in any home business. Here's a few you could encounter in a photography business:

  • Can be expensive to start if you don't already own your equipment
  • Customers can be extremely picky or difficult to work with, especially at high stress events such as weddings
  • Many events take place on the weekends, so you'd be working when the rest of your family would be off
  • Inconsistent income
  • Can take time to build up to a steady stream of income
  • Turning a hobby into a business can take the joy out of the activity

Steps to Starting a Home Based Photography Business

If you're ready to start getting paid to take pictures, here are the steps to get started.

1. Decide what types of photography services you’ll offer. Businesses and individuals need photographers for many reasons. Businesses need pictures of their products for brochures. Realtors need images of the homes they’re selling. Magazines need photos related to the articles they’re publishing. Or you can stick with non-business photography and take portraits or photograph weddings.

2. Develop your business plan. The business plan outlines the details of your business, including the services you offer, how you’ll differ from the competition, financial projections, and marketing strategies. This is a good time to determine your pricing structure. For example, if you want to make $50,000 per year and believe you can book 26 weddings a year, you’d need to charge nearly $2,000 per wedding. Your pricing needs to take into account the cost of equipment, supplies, and travel, as well as your time.

3. Decide your business structure. The easiest and lowest cost option is sole proprietor; however, creating a limited liability company (LLC) will offer greater protection of your personal assets should you run into legal problems.

4. Create a business name. What you name your business will become the brand image, so choose a name that fits the type of photography you want to do. If you want to take kid portraits you can have a whimsical name, but if you want to do business photography or weddings, you’ll want something that sounds professional or elegant. If you don’t use your given name in your business name, you’ll likely need to file a fictitious name statement with your county clerk’s office. You also need to check with the U. S. Patent and Trademark office to insure the name isn’t protected by trademark.

5. Officially establish your business. Once you have a business name and set up your business structure, you need obtain business license or permits as required by your city or county. Although you may take photos using a digital camera, since you’ll be giving people prints, you may need to collect sales tax if you live in a state that charges sales tax. Your state’s comptroller or tax office will have the necessary forms and information on how to collect and pay sales tax. Once you have your business license, you can open a business bank account.

6. Gather needed equipment and supplies. If photography is your hobby, you may already have much of the equipment you need; however, you’ll have to assess if the quality is high enough to charge for services. Along with a camera, you’ll also need lenses, flashes, batteries, photo editing software, quality photo paper and packaging used to deliver the photos to clients. You may also need lights and screens to control lighting.

7. Create marketing materials. Along with business cards and brochures, build a website. Get permission from your subjects before posting their photos online. Also, set up social media accounts on networks your target market can be found. For example, if you’re doing wedding photos, you should have a Pinterest page.

8) Market, market, market. The key to success in a photography business is marketing. You can’t take and get paid for photos if no one hires you. Along with business cards, brochures and a website, use your personal and professional networks to spread the word about your business. Attend trade shows and events geared toward your market. For example, if you want to do wedding photography, attend wedding shows. If you want to take pet portraits, attend dog shows. 

Bonus Income Option: Sell Your Photos Online

Along with getting paid to take professional photos, you can also sell the photos you take yourself (not those you're paid to take). Many stock photo sites will buy or allow you to sell your photos.

Here are a few places you can check about selling your photos for stock images:

Here are resources that involve selling your photos for Instagram