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how to start a photography buisness

Starting a photography business can be scary but I learned that starting is the scariest part and that courage is more important than confidence. Have the courage to take the first step forward and with each success, you will become more confident in your work. But in addition to those nice mantras, here are the hard facts about starting a photography business that I wish someone had told me. If you have any questions, comment them below!

The practical but not as fun:

1. Create a way for clients to find you. This might be creating a social media presence on Instagram or Facebook and then creating a website. I know some photographers who don’t have websites but I think it gives you a level of credibility if you have a website. Everyone is googling now and having a presence there will make you look legit.

2. Get your business license and tax certificate. It is super confusing trying to figure out what license and forms and applications you need to run your business. My local website has a “guide for small businesses” and I still had no idea what to do. I tried looking at it again so I could give you good guidance but apparently, I’ve blocked all that out and just got confused all over again. Essentially, you’ll need to register in your county so you can pay business taxes. These are the taxes you have to pay to be allowed to run a business. You’ll get a bill every 6 months asking how much you made (easy to know if you have bookkeeping software) and then you look at their formula to know how much you owe them in taxes. You’ll probably also need a permit for your business location even if your photography is all outside on location. And there’s probably something else out there that you’ll need. Just call and ask. Everyone was very nice and tried to explain it as best they could.

3. Set up a separate bank account for your business. Creating a completely separate checking/business account helps so much with bookkeeping and with staying on track with my business finances. All of my subscriptions come out of that checking account and all of my income goes through Stripe and gets deposited into it. I prefer to use Stripe (similar to Paypal but without all the annoyingness) since it connects with my client management system (17hats) and my client gallery system (pic-time referral code: PSJ8G2). So at the end of the year for taxes, everything has come through one system and makes my life a lot easier. I transfer 25% of my monthly income into savings to pay for taxes and transfer 30% into my family account to pay myself. The rest stays in my business checking account to cover subscriptions and costs of running my business.

4. Bookkeeping software will make taxes so much easier. I have QuickBooks. It tracks my mileage, lets me upload business receipts, and tells me how much I owe in taxes.

5. Get business insurance. I used to have renters insurance through State Farm and just created business insurance through my agent too. It covers my gear if it gets broken or stolen and it covers me if someone decides to sue me.

Now onto the fun stuff!:

1. Get a camera. You don’t need top of the line, but the more you take photos, the more limiting you’ll find a basic starter camera. I got frustrated quickly with 1. Having a crop sensor (means you have to pull back further to get the same shot) and 2. The frustratingly low range of “good” ISO (if you’re in low light, like inside or cloudy day and your ISO accidentally jumps up, you’ll notice a lot of grain in your images which isn’t fun). I would recommend leveling up to a full-frame camera as soon as finances are able as you’ll notice a solid change in the quality of your images.

2. Take photography courses. Find a photographer who has a style that you love. See if they have any courses. Taking courses will do 1 of 2 things. It will teach you new tips and tricks for lighting, posing, editing, etc. OR it will confirm that you’re on the right track and give you a good confidence boost. Both of those are very good reasons for investing in a course.

3. Invest in presets. Presets will help make your life much easier. Cheap presets are cheap presets, so watch out for that. Good presets take a long time to develop and are worth every penny. Presets make editing faster and give you a basis for the look you want in your images. I primarily use Mastin Labs and Jess Kettle Presets.

4. Take business-related courses. Whether that’s for Instagram marketing, understanding Google Analytics, website SEO, Pinterest marketing, or how to write good copy. Take a few courses to help you understand what, how, and why you are reaching out to your clients. My favorite courses have been from Get Found with Fuze and Kylee Ann 90 days of marketing course.

5. Free things that will make running your business easier. 

Planoly free option– for uploading your Instagram posts. Sit down and write a bunch of posts at once and relax during the week!

Google forms– get client information more easily and send questionnaires before a session.

Adobe bridge– comes free with your Lightroom subscription. Makes it faster to cull a session. You can learn how to use it here in this blog post.

I hope this list helps give you some ideas and direction as to how to start a photography business! Leave a comment below if you have any questions!

how to start a photography business

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  1. Thanks for this post! I am hobbyist hoping to go pro in the next year or two so this was very helpful. Do you have any suggestions for photography courses for newbies?

  2. aneta says:

    Such a great tips for a starting photographers, especially about the legal side of the industry. I wish I read this post before I started my journey years ago 🙂

    • Madison Thomson says:

      haha right?? I wish I’d had someone to help point me in the right direction for the business logistics.

  3. Joelle says:

    These are wonderful tips for photographers just starting out! It is not an easy task to get going as a legit business but it is so important to do it right from the beginning! You covered so many important sides of the business and it also shows that there is a lot more to a photography business than clicking a shutter button!

  4. Agnes says:

    Amazing tips for new in Business, I love that you show different perspective of photography business not only how to take a pictures…

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