Become a self employed photographer

Update: January 2, 2024

By: Tom Macken

How to become a self employed photographer

The self-employed photography sector presents lucrative opportunities for financial prosperity and artistic exploration, fueled by the strong demand for visual content in the digital age, in fields like advertising, marketing, and social media. If you have a desire to establish your own photography business, you can explore detailed info and guidance on the steps to take.


What does a self employed photographer do?
8 tips for opening a self employed photography business
Training needed to open a self employed photography business?
Regulations for opening a photography business

What does a self employed photographer do?

A self-employed photographer refers to an individual who independently operates their own photography business. They handle various aspects of the business, including marketing, sales, photography sessions, post-processing, and customer service. Their specialization can range from wedding photography and fashion photography to product photography and event photography.

The day-to-day tasks of a self-employed photographer can vary based on their chosen field. For instance, a wedding photographer may engage in client meetings, location scouting, capturing wedding moments, and editing photos. On the other hand, a product photographer would focus on producing high-quality images for advertising or e-commerce purposes.

Being a self-employed photographer requires not only exceptional photography skills but also business expertise. It involves setting competitive prices, managing finances, and establishing client relationships to foster repeat business. Keeping up with the latest photography trends and techniques is also beneficial to maintain a competitive edge in the industry.

8 tips for starting a self employed photography business

1. Form your Legal Business

When setting up a self employed photography business, you’ll need to think about what business structure will work best, including registering your company with the appropriate authorities, both locally and nationally. 

Many would-be company owners struggle to make sense of the differences among an LLC, a sole proprietorship, a partnership, and other business structures, much alone settling on one. 

A company incorporation service can help you determine the best business structure for your  photography company based on factors like the level of liability protection you require, the laws of the state in which your company will operate, tax filings requirements and the type of license you will need to legally sell your service and products. 

In the case of self employed photography businesses, we advise you to choose one of these legal forms:

  • An LLC might have a single owner or several owners.
  • If your company is not incorporated, you are considered a sole owner.

In the U.S, limited liability companies (LLCs) are favored over sole proprietorships because their owners are shielded from personal liability for corporate debts and obligations.

Naming your photography business

The process of naming your photography enterprise may be a lot of fun. Create a list of terms that best describe your company’s values and goals. Then, put those words to use in creating new, meaningful two-word and three-word combinations. 

Try mixing and matching words that signify the same thing to hear what you come up with. Last but not least, check online to see whether the company name you want to use has already been taken.

2. Setup your Business Bank Account 

Depending on your needs and the amount of money you want to deposit, there are different kinds of business accounts you can setup for your self employed photography business including:

  • Checking Accounts: The most typical form of business bank account. Opening a company checking account is simple and provides a number of advantages. Having a bank account means you may quickly and simply add or remove funds as your needs change. You may use your checking account to pay bills and vendors by writing checks.
  • Savings account: With the return you may receive on your savings, it’s a terrific way to build up a rainy-day fund for your self-employed photography company. Savings accounts, on the other hand, may have withdrawal restrictions and provide lower interest rates than checking accounts.

Before deciding on a bank account, it’s a good idea to do a comparison of different business banks for features and fees, including FinTech banks with very competitive benefits of no monthly fees, no minimum balances and an unlimited number of transactions compared to traditional high street bank offerings. 

3. Organize Your Accounting, Taxes & Credit Card reader

Accounting & Taxes

Setting up a reliable accounting system will allow self employed photography business owners to keep tabs on all kinds of financial transactions from sales (income & invoicing), purchases (expenditure), liabilities (bank loan funding) to taxes due to the IRS or similar. 

The books for your self employed photography business can be organized in a few ways:

If you choose to handle things on your own, pick a system that is intuitive and simple to use. When your accounting system is ready, you can begin recording your earnings and spending. If you want to save money, you can now see exactly where it’s being spent meaning future budgeting is simplified as a result.

Self employed photography business owners should be careful to maintain a consistent schedule of accounting maintenance. This calls for putting time in your calendar on a regular basis to check your books and make any necessary changes. While this may appear to be a lot of extra effort, it will ultimately save you time and energy.

Credit card readers

Photographers will of course need to take payment for the services and products they provide. Having access to a low-cost credit card machine is essential to ensure your business can take payment from your customers in a quick and easy manner. 

A card reader such as the Payanywhere Smart Terminal offers a simple pricing model, next day funds in your bank account, integrates with your Quickbooks accounting software and can also provide valuable data insights into sales trends, inventory management and customer behavior.

4. Launch your photography website & social media

A stunning site for your fresh photography company can be created very easily via:

  • DIY building the business website yourself using a Page Builder or
  • Hiring a qualified web designer to build effective landing pages that can drive new leads for your business using high-quality photos, videos, and other visual components that are in keeping with your brand’s aesthetic.

Having a slick, mobile-optimized website has numerous benefits for any business including: 

  • Attracting new customers 24/7, showcasing your services and products at any time 
  • Credibility, making it easier to attract and retain customers 
  • Online presence for Google searches actively looking for self employed photography services in your area
  • Customer engagement by helping to engage with customers regarding business info, photos, videos, feedback forms as well as contact forms
  • Branding A website can help businesses establish and reinforce their brand identity, by incorporating their logo, color scheme, and other branding elements into the design.

Marketing & Social Media

Social media including Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and Twitter are powerful tools for a self employed photography business as they can increase your business visibility, ability to engage with customers, establish and reinforce brand identity, and gather valuable data insights to improve marketing strategies.

Platforms such as Instagram and Facebook alone have billions of active users, providing a self employed photography business with an opportunity to increase its visibility and reach a wider audience.

Direct Marketing can also be used in the form of Facebook and Google online ads on these platforms to market services and products to potential customers. Photography businesses can use targeted ads to reach specific demographics and interests and use the campaign data to make informed decisions about your next marketing campaigns to drive more leads.

5. Create a Brand Identity for your photography business 

To differentiate your company from your competitors, you’ll need to take some time to prepare and concentrate on how you want your consumers to feel & develop a unique personality for your photography business. From the logo’s design to the brand’s color scheme, there is a lot to think about. 

A unique and memorable logo for your business can be professionally created by a talented Graphic Designer from a Logo Design service. 

Hiring a logo design service can save a business time and money by eliminating the need to spend hours researching and creating a logo and a high-quality logo can be designed quickly and efficiently.

The steps to think about include: 

  • 1). Establish the vision and values that guide your photography company. What are you hoping to accomplish with your company? When people consider your photography brand, what do you want them to feel? 
  • 2). Go with a color palette that conveys who you are as a business. Colors say a lot regarding a product or service. If you’re stuck for inspiration, research competing products in your field to discover what colors they’re using.
  • 3). Create a distinctive logo for your photography line. This is the first thing that customers will associate with your brand, therefore it has to be striking. Get in touch with an expert designer to develop a logo that captures the essence of your company while also looking great.
  • 4). Make sure your branding is the same across all platforms. This should include your website banners to your business cards, your logo and color palette are always consistent with your brand. As a result, your brand’s identity will be strengthened and your company’s name recognition will increase.

Making a name for your photography company is unlikely to be as difficult as you would think. Creating a brand that sticks with consumers requires zeroing down on the company’s raison d’etre and core principles. A distinct identity for your photography business may be developed with some forethought and imagination. 

6. Develop a Business Plan

A well-developed business plan is a crucial tool for any entrepreneur looking to start a successful business. The plan should include your photography company’s mission and vision, target audience, product offerings, marketing and sales strategies, and financial projections. The business plan should be regularly reviewed and updated to ensure that the business is on track to meet its goals.

A business strategy should cover the following:

  • Market Analysis: An in-depth look at how the market for bricklayers is doing now and how it could grow.
  • Business Summary: A description of your new self employed photography business, including its purpose, goods or services, and target market.
  • Business Strategy: A thorough plan that explains how the business is going to reach its goals.
  • Financial Strategy: How much money you expect to make, spend, and need for cash.
  • Marketing Plan: How the business will sell itself and what strategies and methods will be used.
  • Operations: This is an account of the business’s working methods and practices.

7. Get Financing for your photography business

For your photography business, you can use personal savings or decide to use financing solutions for your new venture and you’ll have different options to consider which may work best: A bank loan, crowdfunding, investors or something different. 

A clear, detailed, and comprehensive business and financial strategy is usually expected by banks or other partners from whom you seek for funding. To launch a firm, you could require funding from a bank, credit union, or the Small firm Administration (SBA). 

In general, starting a self-employed photography business can require a significant upfront investment. However, many photographers start small and gradually build their business as they acquire more clients and generate revenue. It’s important to carefully consider your budget and business goals when deciding how much to invest in your photography business.

As an estimate, the basic equipment required to start a photography business can cost several thousand dollars. For example, a professional DSLR camera can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the make and model. Lenses can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand, depending on their quality and focal length. Lighting equipment can also add several hundred to several thousand dollars to the cost.

Additional costs such as website development and hosting, marketing and advertising expenses, insurance coverage, and business registration and licensing fees can add to the total investment required.

8. Business setup essentials

There are a number of different considerations which self employed photography businesses should keep in mind when setting up including: 


Securing appropriate insurance is crucial for a self-employed photographer to safeguard against potential legal or financial liabilities stemming from their work. As a photographer, you carry the responsibility for your actions and the outcomes they produce. Liability insurance offers protection in the event of accidents, injuries, or property damage that may occur during your work.

For instance, if you accidentally damage a wedding dress while capturing photos as a wedding photographer, you could be held accountable for the cost of repairing or replacing the dress. Similarly, if a client or a member of the public sustains an injury while you’re on the job, you could be liable for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages.

Liability insurance offers coverage for such incidents, easing the financial burden of legal fees, settlements, or judgments. The policy typically covers the cost of legal defense, settlements, or judgments, up to the specified policy limit.

Liability insurance policies can be tailored to meet the specific needs of your photography business, including the desired coverage types and amounts. For instance, a policy may encompass general liability coverage, protecting against claims of bodily injury, property damage, or personal injury.

Additionally, it may be worth considering professional liability coverage, which offers protection against claims of errors or omissions in your work.

Photography equipment

Investing in appropriate equipment and software is essential for a self-employed photographer to deliver high-quality work and establish a reputable presence in the industry. The specific equipment and software required will depend on your photography specialization, budget, and personal preferences.

A high-quality camera and a variety of lenses are fundamental for capturing exceptional images across different photography genres. Many photographers opt for professional-grade DSLR cameras with interchangeable lenses. Depending on your area of focus, you may require specific lenses, such as wide-angle lenses for landscape photography or telephoto lenses for wildlife or sports photography.

Lighting equipment plays a crucial role in achieving desired lighting effects. Depending on your specialization, you may need flashguns, continuous lights, or studio lighting setups.

Alongside hardware, investing in photo editing software like Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop is vital for post-production work, including color correction, retouching, and cropping. Developing your post-production skills is essential to deliver high-quality images that meet client expectations.

Other equipment to consider includes tripods, camera bags, memory cards, and backup storage devices. Investing in top-notch equipment and software enables you to produce stunning images and stand out in a competitive market. However, it’s important to weigh your budget and business goals when making purchasing decisions.

Marketing and branding

Effective marketing and branding are pivotal for a self-employed photographer to establish a strong industry presence and attract new clients. Here are some tips to develop a successful marketing strategy:

  1. Create a portfolio: Compile a portfolio showcasing your work to potential clients. Curate a selection of images that highlight your skills and style, focusing on your area of expertise, be it wedding photography or product photography.

Ensure your portfolio is well-organized, visually appealing, and easy to navigate. You can create an online portfolio using website builders or leverage social media platforms like Instagram or Flickr. Physical portfolios can also be useful for in-person client meetings.

  1. Utilize social media: Establish social media profiles on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook to showcase your work and engage with potential clients. Create a consistent visual identity that reflects your style and personality.

Leverage social media to share behind-the-scenes glimpses of your work, promote your services, and interact with your audience. Consistency is key in social media marketing, so aim to post regularly and at optimal times to reach your target audience. Employing hashtags can enhance visibility and attract new followers. Social media advertising can also be utilized to target potential clients and expand your reach.

Pricing and packages

Determining appropriate pricing and packages is crucial for a self-employed photography business to ensure success. Consider the following tips:

  • Research competition: Before setting your prices, conduct thorough research on your competitors. Understand the services they offer and their corresponding prices. This analysis will help you determine a competitive price that aligns with industry standards.
  • Consider expenses: When pricing your services, take into account your business expenses. This includes equipment costs, insurance, travel expenses, and post-production software. By factoring in these expenses, you can set a pricing structure that covers your costs and allows for a profitable margin.
  • Offer package options: Providing a variety of packages allows you to cater to a wider range of clients. For example, you can offer a basic package that includes a set number of edited photos, and a premium package that includes additional services like an engagement shoot or an album. This flexibility helps attract clients with different budgets and needs.
  • Transparency is key: Be transparent about what is included in each package and what is not. Clearly communicate with clients to avoid any misunderstandings or disputes. Establishing trust through transparent pricing builds strong client relationships.
  • Regular evaluation and adjustment: Regularly assess your pricing strategy and make adjustments when necessary. Stay updated on market changes, inflation, and shifts in your business expenses. Adapting your prices ensures you remain competitive and maintain a sustainable income.

Training needed to open a freelance photography business?

To establish a photography business, formal training is not a strict requirement, although having a solid understanding of photography can provide an advantage. Here are some methods to acquire the necessary skills and knowledge for launching a thriving self-employed photography venture:

Enroll in photography classes or workshops

Participating in classes or workshops enables you to cultivate a strong foundation in photography, covering aspects like composition, lighting techniques, and post-processing. Various options are available, both online and in-person, catering to different skill levels and areas of specialization.

Attend photography conferences

Attending photography conferences offers valuable opportunities to learn from industry experts and connect with fellow photographers. These events often feature workshops, seminars, and hands-on demonstrations that facilitate skill development and help you stay updated on the latest trends and technologies.

Practice and experiment

One of the most effective ways to enhance your photography skills is through regular practice and experimentation. Capture a multitude of photos, explore diverse techniques and styles, and analyze the outcomes to learn from both your mistakes and successes.

Acquire business skills

In addition to photography expertise, running a successful photography business necessitates proficiency in various business aspects, such as marketing, bookkeeping, and customer service. Consider enrolling in classes or workshops specifically focused on these areas, or seek guidance and mentorship from experienced entrepreneurs or small business owners.

Regulations for opening a self employed photography business?

Requirements and considerations for establishing a self-employed photography business can differ based on your location and chosen business structure. Here are some general points to bear in mind:

  • Business registration and licenses: Every jurisdiction may have specific rules regarding business registration and licenses. Familiarize yourself with the requirements applicable in your area and ensure compliance with all regulations.
  • Tax obligations: As a self-employed photographer, you’ll have the responsibility of handling your own taxes. This encompasses income tax, self-employment tax, and any relevant state and local taxes. Seeking assistance from an accountant or tax professional can help ensure adherence to tax obligations and the utilization of available deductions.
  • Intellectual property (IP) laws: Photography involves the creation and use of intellectual property, including images, trademarks, and copyrights. It’s vital to have a grasp of the intellectual property laws relevant to your work and take appropriate measures to safeguard your own creations, such as copyright registration.
  • Safety regulations: If you utilize equipment like lighting or backdrops, adhering to safety regulations and guidelines is crucial to ensure the well-being of both yourself and your clients. Consider participating in safety training programs or consulting with professionals to guarantee the proper and secure setup of your equipment.
  • Data privacy laws: As a photographer, you may gather personal information from clients, such as names, contact details, and photographs. Familiarize yourself with data privacy laws and take necessary steps to safeguard your clients’ information.


Can anyone be a freelance photographer?

Yes, anybody possessing the required skills and equipment can embark on a freelance photography career. Nevertheless, establishing a thriving and lucrative business necessitates a blend of photography expertise, business acumen, and marketing proficiency.

How do I start as a freelance photographer?

To begin your journey, steps include acquiring a proper camera and equipment, crafting an impressive portfolio, establishing a suitable business structure, determining pricing and packages, and implementing effective marketing strategies encompassing social media utilization, networking, and advertising.

How do self-employed photographers make money?

Freelance photographers earn income by offering their services, which may include photo shoots and event coverage. Additionally, they generate revenue by selling prints, digital images, and other photography-related products.

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