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Five Things You Must Know Before Opening Your Photography Business

Making a living as a creative skill may seem like a dream come true, especially when that talent is photography. But having a nice camera and an artistic eye isn’t enough to propel your career to success. In fact, many aspiring photographers fail in the first year because they don’t understand or don’t practice the business end of things. Here are five things to know before launching your photography business.

1. Business License

Legally, you cannot charge a single session fee without being licensed to practice business in your city.

Before you attach fees to your services, take the time to ensure that your business operates within the law. Without a license, you don’t have a business; you have a hobby.

While you’re developing your style, learning your camera, and building your portfolio, don’t charge for your services. Instead, consider offering a trade: give the client the print rights in exchange for the ability to showcase their images on your website, Facebook page, or portfolio.

2. Insurance for Your Photography Business

Many aspiring photographers don’t realize how important insurance is to their business.

On the one hand, there’s equipment to protect. You can get insurance for your camera, lights, and other necessities against loss, theft, or damage. You already know cameras and lenses don’t come cheap, so why not protect them with insurance?

On the other hand, liability insurance is a must. It may not seem like it, but there are a lot of risks to clients and their companions during every photo shoot. One false step could cost you your entire business.

Protect yourself, your equipment, and your clients by obtaining quality insurance.

3. Certification

You don’t need certification to be a professional photographer. In fact, there are a wide variety of groups and organizations that each offer different certification processes – all for a fee.

Certifications may be recognized and respected within the organization that established them but may not hold merit elsewhere. That’s not to suggest that certification is wrong, and some artists need that type of validation. But certification is not required.

However, it is important that you be aware of your camera’s settings. Know the basics of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. Even if you choose to shoot on auto for simplicity and ease, you should be able to use the camera’s manual settings.

4. Develop a Niche

People used to view the photography industry as a craft conducted by trained professionals. However, with the advancement of technology, anyone can purchase a high-end camera, set it on auto, and call themselves a photographer.

Furthermore, mobile phones have incredible cameras, so it’s super simple to take and edit pictures.

Before you hang your “open” sign virtually or on a studio door, know what your specialties are and how you plan to market your services.

Develop a niche and cater to that audience. Examples of niches include:
 Maternity and newborn
 Engagement and wedding
 Children
 High school seniors

Be careful not to slip into the adage “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Decide what you do well; then, master and market it like nobody else’s business.

That doesn’t mean you can’t provide other services, but it does suggest that you set yourself apart as a master of a particular style of photography – an expert in a particular genre.

5. Money matters

Here’s where a lot of photographers miss the business boat.

First and foremost, plan for your taxes. Prepare to file taxes quarterly, and set aside around 25 percent of all income (check with your tax professional for best practices). When you don’t save as you go, you may find yourself getting smacked with a big fat tax debt.

Second, know what you’re charging and why. Understand what your services and time are worth. If you’re selling prints or print products, be aware of the best practices for determining the cost of sale. If you have the overhead of a brick-and-mortar photography studio, know before you sign the lease how many sessions you must conduct each month to pay your expenses. In short, know your numbers!


You may be a top-notch photographer with off-the-hook talent. But if you don’t wrap your mind around the business end of things, your company may flounder and flop before ever getting off the ground. However, by preparing and operating your affairs professionally, you set yourself up for long-term success as a professional photographer. Obtain a business license. Check into insurance. Develop a niche. Manage funds accordingly to accommodate taxes, overhead, expenses, and profit.