How to Start a Home-Based Photography Business

8 Steps to Making Your Photography Pay

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Photography is one of the top hobbies that can be a home business. Aliyev Alexei Sergeevich / Blend Images / Getty Images

Do you have your camera with you where ever you go? Are the go-to photographer at family functions? You can turn your interest and talent 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. Here are the steps for starting a home-based photography business:

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. You can even be like Tom Clarke, who offers a variety of photography services.

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’ll 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.