Disposable incomes of both individuals and businesses are growing, freeing up both household and commercial budgets for creative, art and photography products and services. This is especially true in the advertising and marketing space.
From traditional wedding photography to photojournalism, family sessions, portraits, advertising, product shots, fashion or food, the photography industry has plenty of opportunities for you to carve out a niche. Great photographers can quickly build a reputation too, meaning that once you have a good portfolio together, you’ll likely find yourself in demand.
Although photography is an artform, running a successful business requires plenty of practical skills. You will need to use your creative drive to create a sustainable freelance photography business, and we’re here to help. In this guide we’ll cover:
- How you can understand the world of photography
- How to hire employees, market, and administer your business
- The best legal structure for your new organization
- Resources for your photography business
- Some rules and regulations you will need to follow
- Information on taxes and finances for your photography business
- Questions you should ask to see if you’re ready to start a photography business
- And much more
By the time you’ve read through our complete photography business guide, you will have all the information you need to set up and manage a thriving photography business. Let’s get into it.
Understanding the World of the Photography Business
Photography is a very specialized skill; it requires people with both a keen eye and an understanding of composition, editing, framing and more to create stunning images. Add to that the need to manage others well plus a solid understanding of business principles...you'll see that freelance photographers need to be well-rounded individuals.
There are dozens of different niches you can choose to pursue as a photographer.
If you can make your name in one of them, your reputation will carry you a long way. Here are some areas to consider when choosing the type of photographer you want to be.
When you’re deciding which route to follow, look at local competition, your skillset, demand for these services in your area and any other local factors likely to impact the amount of photography business you can win
The most popular types of photography in descending order are: portrait, fine arts, events, wedding, advertising, photojournalism, nature, marketing, products and architecture.
Key Photography Business and Background Data and Statistics
The photography business is growing, albeit slowly at around 1.7 percent a year. It’s still a lucrative field though, with photographers and photography businesses pulling in a combined $10 billion a year and employing over 230,000 people.
This growth is being driven by several strong areas:
Over half of all photographers are self-employed freelancers, which is a significantly higher percentage than among similar professions. Competition among photographers tends to be fierce, as there are often more photographers than there are jobs to go around.
A strong portfolio that demonstrates flair and creativity is one of a photographer’s most powerful marketing tools. As they continue to showcase a unique approach, they can attract eclectic clients.
Photographers who can provide additional services like Photoshop editing, post-production support, website publishing and more are demanding extra business due to these value-add services.
Questions to Ask Before You Start a Photography Business
Is Photography Entrepreneurship For You?
Running your own photography business could be a great choice as long as you are aware of a few different areas.
If you can tick all these boxes, the chances are you would be both a great photographer and run a successful photography business. You’ll get to impress people with amazing visuals and capture memories that clients will always treasure.
What Are the Main Skills, Expertise and Experience to be a Successful Photography Entrepreneur?
If you want to be a successful photographer, the main skills and experience you will need are:
Branding, local advertising, local search-engine optimization, understanding of local businesses and freelance photography job market.
Business management skills
Accounting, financial management, administration and client relationship management.
Secondary photography skills
Photo editing and manipulation (like Photoshop), post-production skills, etc.
Specialized photography skills
You will want extensive training and certification in your chosen area.
What Are the Main Challenges for a Photography Entrepreneur?
The main challenge for a photographer is not the photography itself. If you have the right skills and training, good equipment, strong methods and techniques and an eye for detail, you can produce some beautiful images.
Most photographers fail because they are not good business people. They don’t know how to market themselves, manage their cashflows or drum up new business. Being a successful photographer is about balancing the creative with the critical and the art with the administration.
If you want to be a success, here are the key areas you’ll need to add you your skillset:
What Does a Day in the Life of a Photography Entrepreneur Look Like?
A typical day for a photographer depends on the type of photography you do. For photographers who work in studio environments (e.g. portrait, pets, food, advertising) you will spend time setting up your studio and lighting. You will then work with clients to get an exact understanding of their needs, shoot until you get it right, then complete any post-production tasks.
For photographers who work in live environments (weddings, events etc.) you will likely spend time traveling, setting up your equipment and keeping a constant eye open for the perfect picture.
Once you have completed the photography shoot, you will then spend time reviewing the thousands of images you have taken and send the best ones to your clients for approval. You will likely touch-up certain photos, then handle all of your business administration and perhaps seek out new work.
Choose the Right Business Structure and Register Your Photography Business
Now that you have all the background information for your photography business, it’s time to make it into a reality. That starts by choosing the right structure or “legal entity” for your business. In the U.S., there are four main business structures. They are:
For more information on the advantages and disadvantages of different types of businesses, please see our in-depth guide. If you’ve still got questions, we’ve answered them to help you choose the right business structure for your photography business.
In most cases our recommendation would be to create an LLC - they are quick to create, easy to manage and relatively inexpensive to run. They also provide you with liability protection and help you get taken more seriously by photography clients.
We’ve got a complete guide to everything you need to do, and we can even start setting up an LLC for your photography business today. LLC formation does vary from state to state, but we’ve got you covered, wherever you are.