How to Start a Home-Based Photography Business

8 Steps to Making Your Photography Pay

Illustration shows the pros and cons of starting a photography business including that you can make money using a skill you enjoy, flexible schedule that goes full- or part-time, meeting new people and attending events, expensive equipment required to get started, work engagements often on weekends during prime family time, and income can be inconsistent.

Image by Emily Roberts © The Balance 2020

Do you have your camera with you wherever you go? Are you constantly snapping pictures to add to your Instagram feed? Are you the go-to photographer at family functions?

If you love taking pictures, 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. Here's a snapshot of some pros and cons to consider as you investigate starting your own photography business.

  • Make money using a skill you already enjoy

  • Take advantage of the flexible schedule and work full- or part-time

  • Enjoy meeting new people and attending events

  • Choose to book clients in locations you'd like to visit

  • Help capture peoples' special moments on film

  • Expensive photography equipment is required for startup

  • Stressful events such as weddings can bring out the negative side of customers

  • Work engagements often take place on weekends during prime family time

  • Income can be inconsistent and it can take time to build up a solid clientele list

  • Doing your hobby as a business can take the fun out of it and turn it into boring or tedious work

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 may also need to check with the U. S. Patent and Trademark office to ensure 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 to obtain a business license or permit 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: