How to Start a Photography Side Business

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Every photographer starts somewhere, and when it comes to becoming a full time professional and having folks pay for your creative services. Many get their start by creating a side business and more and more putting increasing amounts of effort into it until they can work off of it alone. It’s not at all simple and requires a focused and steady plan as well as commitment.

At the end of the day, you’re going to become a business owner–and that means that you’ve got a whole load of other responsibilities. So here is how you navigate them.

Choosing a Genre

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More than anything else, you’ll need to figure out how to market the content that you can deliver. And with that, you first need to figure out what type of photography you’re going to specialize in. Yes, you NEED to specialize. No one in the fashion industry wants to see your wedding work and no one that needs headshots done wants to see what kind of landscapes you take. They want to see what you can do for them.

Specializing also comes in handy later on when you build your network of people that you want to market and sell to.

Building a Specific and Specialized Portfolio

Once you have a body of work that you feel can help you market the types of images you’re capable of creating and services to others, you need to build a website and a portfolio. In order to do this, you have to be very selective of your own work–which is very tough to do. Typically, you only want to showcase one image from each shoot lest people become easily able to tell the difference.

To start, try looking at all of your images and think about which ones elicit emotions in someone. Those are the ones with the most impact.

Don’t have a lot of those? Well, you’ve got quite a bit of building to do.

Determining Packages and Pricing

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The absolute toughest thing to do is to determine pricing of your work. You’ll have to consider your costs and also figure out what competitive rates are. However, remember that you should always be very down to earth and reasonable about your work. If you can truly justify why you’d charge someone more, then you also have to be able to sell that rate to your clients.

Just make sure that you do everything in way that you still end up making a profit.


While you don’t necessarily need to do this immediately when you start, you’ll want to actually let the government know that you’re legitimately trying to run a business. So to do this, you’ll want to set up something like an LLC in addition to a business bank account for that business. We’re specifically saying an LLC because it offers a nice layer of legal protection in case someone comes back and tries to get you for every penny that you have.

Networking at Night

When you’re not editing, shooting, or doing various other tasks you’ll need to be networking with other folks that can help to bring you business. This varies depending on the type of photographer that you are and what your goals are.

Want to shoot weddings? There are venue halls, bridal planners, catering services, and DJs that can all be of use to you and your business in the future. You should seek out local meetups or offer to buy folks drinks, dinners or lunch.

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In fact, you’ll be spending lots and lots of time doing this as you build your business. Make sure that you have things like business cards.

Putting Away Income for Taxes

Most of all, what you absolutely need to note is that every business owner and photographer pays taxes to both the country and their state. As a business owner, it’s a wonderful idea to pay what are called quarterly income estimates. This ensures that you don’t get hit with a massive tax bill once a year that has you stressing really hard.

Chris Gampat

Chris Gampat is the Editor in Chief, Founder, and Publisher of the Phoblographer. He also likes pizza.