TL;DR: Ready to turn your love for photography into a career this year? Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to start a photography business—from affordable gear setups to choosing your niche and finding your feet online. 

If you have a passion for photography, you’ve likely thought about turning that passion into a thriving line of work. But starting a photography business entails more than just capturing stunning images; you need to transform your creative passion into a sustainable venture.

From selecting the right camera and lenses to mastering editing software, a photographer must invest in quality tools. Then there’s mastering the technical aspects of photography, like composition, lighting, and framing. 

And don’t forget the business side of things. You need to figure out pricing strategies and learn to manage your finances and promote your services to attract clients. 

Whether you kickstart your photography journey as a side hustle or plunge into full-time entrepreneurship, building a budding venture demands dedication, continuous learning, and a keen eye for the market.

If you’re wondering how to start a photography business, this article breaks it down into manageable steps you can follow. 

From the necessary equipment to capture those perfect moments to strategically finding your target audience and establishing a compelling online presence, we’ll guide you through the key components of building a successful photography business.

Step 1: Choose your niche wisely

Portrait of a cute young woman holding a white flower over her eye and laughing

Picking your photography niche is like choosing the right tools for the job—essential for a solid foundation. It isn’t just a label; your niche shapes your equipment requirements, market approach, and online presence. 

If you’re drawn to portraits, you’ll focus on lenses and lighting. Wildlife photography will demand a different setup, like a camera with a faster frame rate and a telephoto lens. Similarly, your niche will impact where you find and target your ideal audience. A wedding photographer can build an online presence via social media and wedding directory websites, while stock photography requires investigating the best stock websites to target.

Opt for a niche that genuinely captivates you. Your passion will typically translate into better work. Whether it’s events, landscapes, or close-ups of your favorite delectable dishes, go for what interests you. It impacts not only your gear but the quality of your images.

Struggling to find an audience for your main niche? Consider commercial photography

Commercial photography can be incredibly profitable for photographers—and you can do it while pursuing the niche you love at the same time. It’s not just a profitable gig—it can give you the revenue and resources to chase your passion while raking in the rewards. 

Commercial photography is a specialized field focused on creating images for commercial use, primarily for businesses, brands, and marketing purposes. 

Unlike other genres that may be more personal or artistic, commercial photography aims to meet the specific needs of clients to promote and sell products or services. These images can be used in marketing materials such as advertisements, brochures, websites, social media, and more.

Commercial photography requires a blend of technical skills, creativity, and a deep understanding of branding and marketing principles.

Step 2: Get the right photography equipment

Photography equipment

Selecting the right gear is essential for any new photography business owner. The type of gear you invest in will significantly impact the quality of your work. Whether focusing on portrait photography, events, or commercial projects, tailoring your equipment to your niche is key. 

Take wedding photographers, for example. They’ll need to invest in a high-quality DSLR or mirrorless camera with superb low-light performance to navigate various lighting conditions. They’ll also need a selection of lenses—including a versatile zoom lens for group shots and a prime lens for intimate portraits, extra camera batteries, ample memory cards, and a reliable tripod for steady shots during those magical ceremonies.

While owning your most-used equipment is beneficial, don’t forget about gear rental. For special projects requiring unique equipment, renting rather than buying is best. It’s like trying out a new toy without the commitment.

Here’s a detailed list of the most common photography equipment to invest in for your business:

  • Camera gear: Digital camera (DSLR or mirrorless), lenses (wide-angle, standard, telephoto), lens filters (UV, polarizer, ND), tripod, camera bag
  • Lighting equipment: External flash, studio lights (strobe or continuous), light stands, softboxes, reflectors, diffusers, portable LED lights (for on-the-go setups)
  • Accessories: Lens hood, lens pouch or case, lens cleaning kit, remote shutter release, camera straps, memory cards, camera batteries and charger
  • Editing and post-production: Computer (desktop or laptop), high-quality monitor, photo editing software (like Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop), and an external hard drive for backup
  • Business management: Business cards, a website or portfolio, contracts and legal documents, business licensing, accounting software, client management systems, and professional document templates
  • Transportation and storage: Camera case, equipment bags, and carrying cases for fragile items
  • Printing and presentation: Photo printer, professional photo paper, and mounting and framing materials (only for photography businesses offering a printing service—many only provide photos in digital format)
  • Studio setup: Backdrops, backdrop stand, studio background support system, and light meters (this is only necessary for studio-based professional photographers like family and portrait photographers)  
  • Miscellaneous: Lens pen or brush for cleaning, rain cover for your camera (mainly for photographers working outdoors), tripod dolly or slider, and cable ties and velcro straps for cable management

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Step 3: Do your market research

You need to conduct market research to ensure your photography business is both fulfilling and commercially successful. This is for two reasons:

  1. To find out whether there’s a market for the photography services you want to offer
  2. To better understand this market, including who your ideal customers are, what they need and want, and where you can find them

Here are three important steps to include in your market research when investigating how to start a photography business.

Define your target audience

Start by identifying the demographics and psychographics of your potential clients. This is a fancy way of saying, “Who are they, and what makes them tick?” You’re looking to identify their basic details, like age, gender, and location, then diver deeper, and gain in-depth and specific insights into their needs, preferences, interests, values, and lifestyle choices.

To ensure your photography business resonates, determine the size and characteristics of your target market. This helps you develop a marketing strategy to get them excited and ready to book their next shoot. 

Scope out the competition

Identify existing photography businesses in your area, focusing on the professional photographers within your niche. Evaluate their services, pricing, and positioning. 

Next, identify any market gaps that your business could potentially fill. For example, is there a need for more real estate photography businesses in your area? Or is there a lack of wedding photographers with your particular style? Others might focus on ticking off the group photo checklist, while your knack for capturing emotions could steal the show.

It’s all about finding that sweet spot where your skills shine brightest while also understanding what lessons you can learn from your competitors.

Consider your pricing strategy

Pricing is often the trickiest part of starting your own photography business. You must strike the right balance between setting prices your clients can afford and ensuring you run a profitable venture.  

Start by researching the pricing models of your competitors. For example, do they charge an hourly or daily rate, or do they have set packages? Commercial photographers could charge commission-based or royalty-based fees or have set licensing fees. A wedding photography business will likely have a completely different strategy, often including added fees for travel, specialized rental equipment (like drones or specific lenses), or overtime charges.

Make sure to determine a pricing strategy that aligns with your business goals and the perceived value of your services. Consider bundling or packaging your services to create attractive offerings for your clients.

While researching pricing models, look for the terms and conditions other photographers include, like cancellation, rush processing, additional editing, and special request fees. 

When setting your prices, remember to factor in all the monthly costs of running a photography business—from business insurance to marketing and software subscriptions. Be sure to set aside the relevant percentage of your income for tax purposes.

You can also consider other ways to diversify your income to keep your business bank account flowing even when you’re not physically behind the lens. Beyond your core photography services, consider incorporating these additional sources of revenue into your small business:

  • Collaborations or partnerships
  • Freelance photography writing
  • Online courses and workshops
  • Photography ebooks or guides
  • Photo presets
  • Photo licensing
  • Print sales
  • Social media and content creation
  • Stock photography

Read next: Email marketing for photographers. Learn how to use this channel to promote your additional services and products.

Step 4: Establish an online presence

Establish an online presence

Building an online presence for your photography business helps you put your best foot forward. Showcase your amazing work to prospective clients with a striking website or online portfolio. 

Being online lets you engage with your audience, share cool behind-the-scenes stuff, and feel part of a photography-loving community. Don’t forget to collect client reviews to add to your portfolio—they’ll help you build trust and stand out.

Here are a few places to establish an online presence as a professional photographer:

Your portfolio

This is where you should curate and showcase your best work, allowing potential customers to glimpse at your unique style and expertise. 

Ensure your portfolio is well-organized, easy to navigate, and includes a diverse selection of your photography projects. High-quality images, a compelling about-me section, and clear contact information are essential components of a strong portfolio.


Use your blog to narrate the stories behind your photos, discuss your creative process, and share tips or personal insights about the photography world. This adds depth to your online presence and establishes you as a skilled photographer and a relatable storyteller. 

Regular blog posts can also improve your website’s SEO, attracting more visitors and future clients.

Social media

Choose platforms that align with your target audience. Instagram is excellent for visual content, while platforms like Facebook and TikTok offer broader opportunities for engagement. 

Consistency is critical on all platforms. Post regularly, interact with comments and messages, and use hashtags strategically to increase your discoverability.

Anne Marie Hamant Instagram Account

At Flodesk, we’ve seen many photographers use our Link in bio tool on their social media profiles to drive traffic to their offers. With a Link in bio, you can send potential clients to a carefully curated landing page that highlights your business name, about section, top services, and any promotions you have. Plus, it helps you collect precious data to convert interested followers into engaged subscribers.

“I created a Flodesk Link in bio to start a new segment of my mailing list focused on serving other photographers to grow their business and refine their craft. I shared the Link in bio on Instagram stories, and it has connected me to a new audience, helping me learn more about their needs and desires as I develop my coaching and mentorship program.”—AnneMarie Hamant, AnneMarie Hamant Photography

Email newsletter

At the heart of every small business email marketing strategy is its newsletter. Encourage website visitors and social media followers to subscribe to your newsletter, where they can access exclusive content, updates, and special offers. 

Use your newsletter to share new photography projects, announce promotions, and provide valuable content. Plus, building a list allows you to nurture relationships with your audience, turning one-time clients into loyal supporters of your photography journey. 

With the right tools, it’s easy to grow your email list. Flodesk’s opt-in forms allow you to create a beautiful on-brand Link in bio, as well as Full Page Forms, Popup Forms, and embedded Inline Forms, so you can collect subscribers from your social media, website, and online portfolio.

Lead magnets

Lead magnets, or opt-in freebies, are valuable resources or incentives offered to prospective clients in exchange for their contact information. By creating compelling lead magnets for photographers, you can help build a strong list and nurture relationships with potential customers. 

Lead magnet ideas include a free photography guide or ebook, Lightroom presets or filters, exclusive behind-the-scenes content, a photography cheat sheet or checklist, printable wall art, or an online workshop. You can also create a photography challenge or contest to encourage more social media engagement. 

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Kickstart your photography business with Flodesk

Starting your own photography business can be incredibly rewarding. You’ll have the opportunity to hone both your artistic and business skills while pursuing your passion for photography.

Start by finding your niche in the market. Then, get your hands on the photography equipment and business tools you’ll need to work. 

Grow your business with Flodesk’s brilliant email marketing and digital sales tools—from an intuitive email builder, gorgeous forms to snag customer interest, and a strategic Link in bio that drives email subscriptions. Start free and discover all that you can do with Flodesk.   

How to start a photography business: FAQs

Here are the answers to some common questions entrepreneurs have about the photography industry and launching their professional careers.

How much does it cost to start a photography business?

The cost of starting a photography business depends on your budget. For the budget-conscious, a modest beginning might involve using equipment you already have, like an entry-level camera, and leveraging free online platforms for your portfolio. This initial phase could cost as little as a few hundred dollars for website hosting and minimal gear upgrades. 

For a more comprehensive setup with professional-grade cameras, lenses, studio lighting, and marketing expenses, the average cost can range between $10,000 and $15,000. This investment reflects a commitment to quality equipment and a robust business foundation for aspiring photographers.

How do you start a photography side hustle?

Starting a photography side gig is a fun way to express your creativity. Begin by getting basic equipment, like an affordable camera, and borrowing lenses. Pick a niche that you love and will appeal to a specific group of people. Then, check out what others are doing in your space to see what works. 

A fantastic photography niche for part-time enthusiasts is family and portrait photography. This niche lets you capture precious moments for families, couples, or individuals without requiring a significant time commitment. You can schedule sessions part-time, during weekends or evenings. It also often involves outdoor shoots or studio setups, providing flexibility in location.

Once you’ve settled on a niche, make yourself known online. Share your photos on social media and create a simple website to display your work.  

How much do professional photographers make?

Professional photographers’ earnings vary based on factors like niche, location, and experience. Common hourly rates for portrait photography range from $150 to $350. Corporate event photographers may charge around $220 per hour. To explore specific figures and factors influencing rates, refer to resources like Indeed’s salary guide. 

Increasing your photography earnings involves expanding your services, honing your skills, and building a strong online presence. Offering additional services like photo editing or specialized packages, participating in workshops to enhance your expertise, and leveraging social media for marketing are effective strategies to boost income.