Things I Wish I’d Known before Starting a Photography Business

Starting a photography business can be a difficult task because the majority of newbies face constant problems: whether to create a portfolio, how to organize it, what to include in your contract, what equipment to buy at first.

Camera gears are pricey most of the time. For your business, you’ll need more than one camera, some lenses, light equipment, and other accessories. Spending all your money at the very beginning is not a good idea. You can also make contact with a camera rental business. You can rent a high-end camera or a very pricey lens like a 200 to 400mm lens which is not affordable all the time.

If you experience the same challenges, trying to figure out how to become a professional photographer, and maintain a successful business, check these 7 effective tips.

1. Always Work in Manual Mode

The first step to take before starting your own photography business is to learn to work in a camera’s manual mode. You have to forget about the auto mode and work only with manual settings.

starting a photography business

You must learn everything about your camera and lens, what the light is, and how to work with it, why you need exposure, and how to use it correctly.

For example, when taking a portrait in a room with windows that provide good natural lighting, you need to open the aperture wide (for a standard, kit lens it will be f3.5-5.6, for a fast lens – f1.4-2.8).

Then, you can determine the shutter speed. Depending on the lighting and lens, the shutter speed will range from 1/30 to 1/100. The ISO value in natural daylight it’s better to leave minimal – 100-200 units. In this way, a picture will keep the maximum quality.

In cloudy weather, there are typically problems with the exposure of the frame. If you get dark photos, increase the shutter speed to 1/8 – 1/3 and ISO to 300-400 units.

2. Spend Time in Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop

Starting a photography business image 44Another thing to take care of when starting up a photography business is to master Lightroom and Photoshop.  Before you begin editing your clients’ pictures, improve a couple of your old albums.

It is important to practice with complex photos, the ones that require not only white balance adjustment but also color correction in separate areas, skin retouching, removal of unnecessary objects, stray hair, and many more.

starting a photography business 4433223Basic skills are not enough for a prosperous photography business. Unless you are going to address photography retouching service every time, it’s important to understand how each tool in the image editor works, why you need it, and how to use it.

Tip: Learn the most popular techniques in Photoshop: Touch-Up layer, Frequency Separation or Dodge & Burn.

If you prefer to perform only color correction in Lightroom, first of all, learn to work with a histogram. This is a great way to check the range of tones in your pictures. Use lens corrections to fix distortions that aren’t visible at first glance.

Don’t forget about the presets. This doesn’t necessarily mean global settings. After each photo session, you can choose a couple of the best pictures and apply the same white balance and noise reduction settings to them.

3. Create a Website/Portfolio

Seth Resnik photography image 6666Put yourself in your client’s shoes. If you type “Wedding photographer London” in Google, the first thing your attention to is separate websites with an interesting portfolio but not platforms with thousands of photographers on it.

That’s why it’s important to create your own website when starting a photography business. Moreover, you need to run a small blog to report about your works so that clients can immediately see your pictures and know what they can order.

It is also important to define your rates in a clear way and these price list templates for photographers can help with this task.

Tip: Don’t use free services from a third-party domain even when you just start a photography business, because when you get a certain number of regular clients, it will be difficult for you to transfer them to another website.

Watch a couple of tutorials and you will be able to create a website manually or with the help of professionals on WordPress. Buy a paid domain and you are done.

4. You Need a License

While starting your own photography business, you need to take care of its legal side, namely, the procedure of getting a photography license.

Among multiple reasons why you need a license to take images, there are actually three main: first of all, it will help your company be in a good financial state.

Also, a business license guarantees that your business is absolutely legal and you can be trusted. Moreover, your business will be under legal protection and control.

Getting a photography license, you will see that each state or city has its own requirements but the steps you need to follow are the same everywhere:

  1. How to Select a Good Business Structure:

Sole Proprietorship, Limited Liability Corporation, S Corporation, C Corporation.

  1. Select a Memorable Name for Your Company:

Most photographers choose their name adding the word “Photography” before or after it. However, you should be more creative.

  1. Learn Where to Get a License For Your Photography Business:

You have to get a license in a city where you are going to run your business. A valid address is a compulsory condition to get the license.

  1. Check What Type of License is Valid in Your Region:

Go to and open the “Search for licenses and permits” section. Then type the name of your city or state. Click “Search” to check all types of licenses and permissions available.

  1. Find Special Forms to Fill Out Data:

You can do it online or take them from your city hall.

  1. Pay the Registration Fee and Get a License:

As a rule, you have to pay from 50 to 400 US dollars. The fee depends on the type of photography business. After paying and sending all the necessary documents, you will get the license within 2-3 days.

5. Invest the First Income in Advertising

starting a photography business 777One of the main aspects of the photography business, especially in the beginning, is a qualitative and smart photography marketing strategy. It is typically done in a form of advertising.

You can order it from Google to have your website listed first on the page or ask professional photographers to mention your name. Also, you can do it using paid and free photography business cards.

You need to work hard to get references so that the name of your website is mentioned as often as possible.

Remember – the first year you will have almost no income as all the earned money must work.

6. Create a Team

It is very difficult to work on your own when you decide to start a photography business. Though it seems cheaper, you’d better find like-minded people and create a team.

The thing is that you are a professional photographer, not a customer service expert, accountant, marketing specialist, secretary, etc.

Remember that there is an expert in every field, so don’t do all the work yourself. At first, get a small team of 2-3 people, a marketing specialist, and a client manager.

You can place the want ads on popular websites such as Monster, Craigslist, or Indeed.

Rent a Small Office Building

It is more difficult when every member of a team works from his/her own home than when you are all together in one place. It becomes even harder if you are just starting up a photography business and don’t know each other well.

If you followed my advice and formed a team of 2-3 people, a small room of about 20-25 square meters will be enough for you. You can find a suitable place, looking through advertisements on popular websites, e.g. 42floors.

Interesting related article: “Starting a business? Make sure you get the best of these things.”