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How to start a successful photography business

How to start a successful photography business | Nextdoor
March 28, 2022
Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team
March 28, 2022 | Written by Nextdoor Editorial Team

For a professional photographer, starting a successful photography business can be quite an undertaking. 

Not only must you consider new business logistics such as writing a photography business plan, you’ll also have to think about who your target audience is, how you’ll market to them, and what tactics will be essential to lead generation.

This step-by-step guide is designed to make starting a successful photography business as simple as pressing a shutter button. Read on for everything you need to know about getting photography clients and starting a successful business. 

Step 1: Craft a great business plan

The foundation of most successful businesses is a business plan. When launching your brand, your photography business plan should be among the first things you think about.

Your business plan is where you’ll outline every aspect of your endeavor—from the type of photography you want to specialize in, to the total costs of your photography equipment. To ensure your small business’s success, you’ll need to craft a plan that is well thought out and covers all of the essential bases. 

Let’s break down the business plan further by focusing on two of the most important components.

#1 Business description

The business description section details the company’s objectives and structure by answering the following two questions:

What type of photography do I want to specialize in?

The photography world encompasses many different styles and techniques. Knowing which type of photography you’ll specialize in will help you structure the rest of your photography service.

Here are a few of the most common photography types:

  • Event Photography – Event photographers are dedicated to capturing occasions such as weddings, sports competitions, and community affairs. As such, event photographers must be skilled at navigating occasionally-large crowds to capture an event’s most important moments.

  • Portrait photography – Unlike event photographers who aim their lenses at groups of people, portrait photographers focus their attention on individuals and families. These photographers are skilled at using props, lighting, and different camera angles to accentuate their subjects’ natural beauty. While event photographers typically travel for their work, portrait photographers tend to make magic happen from the comfort of a  studio.

  • Landscape photography – Landscape photographers are part of marketing photography that usually work for magazines and travel companies, capturing landscapes ranging from mountains to beaches. They are skilled at using wide lenses and manipulating light to showcase the beauties of the natural world. Some landscape photographers even work in urban environments, turning cityscapes into works of art.

  • Real estate photography – Real estate photographers are experts at presenting residential and commercial properties in the best light. They partner with realtors who use their photographs to sell properties. These photographs are often hosted on the real estate company’s website.

Whichever photography niche you choose to pursue, it’s important to state this in your business plan. You should also state this focus on your website, marketing materials, and across all the digital platforms you intend to use. 

REAL BUSINESS EXAMPLE: Based in Asheville, NC, Forge Mountain Photography is a photography business set amongst the splendor of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Their website clearly states their specialty—commercial real estate photography—and lists their services: real estate and apartment photography. Be sure to use your website or social media pages in a similar way so that a potential client is clear about what you do and who you serve. 

What’s my business structure?

Knowing the type of photographer you want to be will allow you to focus on your business plan’s second major detail: your business structure.

Viable business plans typically include the following structural information:

  • Business type (sole proprietorship, LLC, etc.)
  • Business location
  • Number of employees
  • Operating hours
  • Management structure

While a business’s structure does occasionally change over time, including as much information as you can upfront will help you to have a clear vision of where you’re going. Plus, you’ll be able to come back to this information to evaluate what has worked well and how you might choose to adopt it in the future. 

#2 Startup costs

The second major component of a sound business plan is a section outlining your startup costs. When considering these costs, it’s crucial to think about two primary factors: new business fees and equipment costs.

New business fees

Starting a new business means paying your fair share of new business fees. Not only will you have to pay license and permit fees, but you’ll also likely have to pay for your insurance and registration.

In addition, be prepared to pay for a photography studio space (if you’re a portrait photographer) and any associated utilities that come along with owning, renting, or leasing it out. 

When considering new business fees, it’s helpful to think of the following expenses:

  • Licenses and permits
  • Registration
  • Utilities
  • Property 
  • Branding
  • Marketing
  • Web domain

Calculating as many expenses as possible in your business plan can help you set up a detailed budget, giving you more time to focus on your subjects and easing stress when it comes to financial planning.

Equipment costs

For most people, photography can be an expensive hobby—and an even pricier occupation. That’s because the best cameras on the market can sometimes cost as much as $10,000

What’s more, you’ll likely need other equipment such as tripods, lenses, carrying cases, film, editing software, and more. While your specific equipment needs will change based on your photography type, you’ll likely need to invest in the following:

  • Camera body – Whether you choose to shoot film or digital, you’ll need a professional camera to handle the demands of professional photography. As stated earlier, these professional cameras can be quite expensive, but they can also provide a high return on investment. A professional camera will give you the freedom to shoot in most types of light, as well as the ability to frame your subjects in unique, eye-catching ways.

  • Lenses – As a professional photographer, you’ll likely need a variety of lenses. Of course, these lenses will differ based on your photography type. For example, landscape photographers may need several wide-angle lenses, while portrait photographers may benefit from investing in a few, high-quality zoom lenses. 

Now that you know what to include in your business plan, let’s take a look at the second major step in how to start a photography business: building your website.

Step 2: Set the standard with a professional website

With a business plan in place and new equipment in your hands, it’s time to consider how to reach potential clients. 

Your website may be the first place new clients engage with your business. Make this first impression as eye-catching as possible by building an attractive, easy-to-navigate online space.

While the specifics of your website will differ based on your location, photography type, and services, it’s generally best to include the following:

  • Services – It’s important to clearly state what type of photography services you offer. Include your services in a heading at the top of your homepage. This allows potential clients to quickly find what they’re looking for. Then, include a clear call to action that directs users to a “Services” page containing more detailed information about your offerings and rates. 

  • Sample work – If a picture says a thousand words, an online photography portfolio of your work will speak volumes. Let potential clients know what to expect from your business by putting your best work on display. 

  • Contact information – If clients don’t have easy access to your contact information, it may be more difficult for them to book a session.? Including your address, email, or a contact form in a clear location on your website will not only facilitate communication between you and your prospective clients but also increase the chances of booking a contract.

REAL BUSINESS EXAMPLE: Golden, Colorado’s Jeff Warner Photographic is an example of a photography business that knows the value of a well-constructed website. Aesthetically pleasing, navigable, and informative, Jeff Warner Photographic’s website lists its services, sample work, and contact information in plain sight, allowing clients to find what they need without getting bogged down by unnecessary information.


Step 3: Market yourself

To grow your photography business in a number of innovative ways, consider tapping into some of the following marketing strategies:

  • Promoting your work on social media – Social media is an effective way to build up a business following since many platforms are centered around posting pictures. Make sure your account is amongst those that are trending by posting regularly, leveraging a variety of unique hashtags to reach a wider audience, and running promotional giveaways, such as package discounts, to increase engagement.

  • Showing your work in galleries – One of the best things about photography as an art form is its ability to attract attention in nearly any setting. Grow your client list by displaying some of your best work in a gallery or community setting. For example, consider partnering with other local businesses to display your art. This will not only boost your exposure, but it’ll also help get your business involved in your community.

  • Growing your local audience with Nextdoor -  Nextdoor is where neighbors can connect with other neighbors and everything nearby - including your photography business. . When you claim your Business Page, you’ll be able to share your business information, post updates, connect with nearby potential clients, and start advertising your business at a hyper-local level.

Success starts with Nextdoor

Whether you are navigating how to start a photography business with no experience or have finally decided to turn your passion into your profession, the steps we’ve outlined above will help you get your business started on the right foot. 

As your business takes off,  turn to Nextdoor to help you get the word out. Claim your Business Page and start establishing yourself as the neighborhood’s go-to photography business today. 


Claim Your free business page


Facebook. Rachel Good Photography Homepage.

Forge Mountain Photography. Homepage.

Improve Photography. How Much Does a Professional Camera Cost?

Jeff Warner Photographic. Homepage.

Survival Freedom. How Much Does a Professional Camera Cost? (With Examples).

The Hartford. Main Components of a Business Plan.

The Phoblogger. Starting a Photography Business and Why Most Fail.

Zen Business. Why Small Businesses Fail: Top 8 Reasons for Startup Failure.

Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting business, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook

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