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You’re passionate about your photography hobby and it’s now overtaking every waking minute. “I’m turning professional!” you proclaim to your friends and family. “I’ll get paid to do what I love.” First, be sure you understand that it is a business and with that comes with the typical issues any business faces. Find out whether you’ve got the chops to be an entrepreneur and visit the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) website to do a little research.(1)

Create a Business Plan

If you’ve decided your own photo business is still a good idea you’ll need to create a business plan. In additional to the SBA’s website visit American Express’ Open Forum which offers practical tips.


Do some reconnaissance missions. Identify your three biggest competitors and visit their businesses as a potential customer. Find out how they’re marketing themselves.

Business and Legal Forms

Make sure you have all the appropriate business licenses, forms and documents such as contracts, copyright, model releases and more. Check out Business and Legal Forms for Photographers from Allworth Books. 

business woman passing papers

Budget & Funding

One of the biggest mistakes any new business owner makes is neglecting to calculate how much everything is going to cost to get up and running. Visit Entrepreneur.com to learn about creating a budget. You’ll also want to explore where to get funding for your business in addition to using your own savings and credit cards. Make sure your credit is up to par to qualify for a small business loan. If not, try other sources such as crowd funding sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter which cater to the creative crowd.

Choosing Equipment


You’ve most certainly got a camera but is it worth upgrading or adding an additional camera? Look closely at purchasing vs. leasing and read up on the new camera models for 2013.


Now’s the time to get serious and make the investment in professional lighting equipment that’s going to last.(2) Here’s a breakdown of the other basics you’ll need:

model posing on orange backdropPhoto by Ryan Walsh, Featuring Tangelo Seamless Paper

Purchase white, medium grey and black seamless paper for starters. As you grow, continue to add additional colors and other items such as muslin backdrops and floor drops to expand your creative offerings. A backdrop stand that holds multiple rolls keeps shoots moving smoothly.

  • Stands & Boards

You’ll need extra light stands to hold umbrellas, reflector boards and more. 

Home Studio or Commercial Space?

If you’ve got the room at home to set up a workable space with your new photo equipment, go for it. Saving on overhead the first year you are in business is a good idea until you become established.

In the meantime, explore what’s available commercially and figure out the bottom line on what a professional space will cost. Try industrial areas of your town where space may be cheaper. Consider parking needs, security and storage space during your search.

Where to Sell Your Photos

There’s much more to just the commercial and portrait aspect of photography. Making your own photo-related products can generate additional monthly revenue for your photo business.(3) Greeting cards, fine art prints and even surface designs are just a few avenues available. Where will you sell are your amazing work? 

Art Fairs

Mounting fine art photos to sell at art fairs is a main source of income for many photographers. 

photo mat

Mall Kiosks 

Compare rental prices and traffic stats at local malls. Have your business plan ready to pitch the leasing officer.


Many categories are saturated so you’ll need to analyze what buyers are seeking. World-renowned stock photographer Yuri Arcurs writes excellent articles on the stock photography biz.


Although it’s a bit expensive to rent a booth, the exposure you’ll get from a national tradeshow such as Photo Expo or Surtex is tremendous.

Now you’ve got the tools and knowledge on what it takes to start your own photo business. Be sure to make yourself a schedule to follow and itemize daily to-do’s on a business card size piece of paper. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll be up and running.


Cheryl Woods

Cheryl Woods is an accomplished photographer, designer and branding consultant with a career spanning 20+ years. Her photographic work includes editorial, fashion, portraiture and product photography for major companies in the consumer products field including QVC and Hanover Direct. She received a B.F.A. in Photography from the University of the Arts and an M.F.A. in Media Design from Full Sail University. Cheryl's work has been exhibited at the Lowes Museum of Art in Coral Gables, FL, The New York Independent Film Festival and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. Check out her website here!


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