Now come on, I know you have seen those types of photographers before. The glorified house wife or college student with a new DSLR camera claiming to be a “professional photographer”. Fact of the matter is they are claiming to be a pro and probably don’t even know how to start a photography business at all. Yes they have a camera, a Facebook page, and tons of portfolio of images, that are more than likely friends and family if you do a little bit of research on social media, but they haven’t done the due diligence to learn “How to start a photography business.”
Not only is this a risk for you and your family, this is a substantial risk for the photographer. I mean what happens if you want to get a copy of your pictures a couple years after they were taken, if they aren’t a true photography business will you be able to get your pictures then?
We are saying all this because it takes a serious financial investment to start any business, even a photography business. Fact of the matter is, your customers and potential clients aren’t going to take you seriously, until you think long and hard about taking your business seriously.
So with that in mind, you are probably have a few questions.
- How much is it going to cost to start a photography business?
- What do I need to know before jumping into a Photography Business?
- How much do I charge for a session?
- How do I price my services?
In this post I am going to cover What it really costs to start a Photography business, the right way and get paying customers through your doors. See the links at the end of the article for the answers to the rest of the questions.
Lets start with your photography gear. You are going to need four basic elements here.
- Camera Bodies
When it comes to cameras you usually fall into one of the two major brands when you start shooting seriously. We will cover both here just to be safe. Don’t worry about picking up the kit lenses as they are no where near pro quality.
For our Canon Shooters we recommend getting two Canon EOS 5D Mark II 22.3 MP DSLR Camera Bodies ($1900)
For the Nikon Shooters, we recommend the Nikon D610 Full Frame 24.3 MP DSLR Camera bodies ($1500)
Now you may ask why two camera bodies? Quite simply put, for one you never know when a camera is going to fail and you don’t want to be stuck in the middle of a shoot with no camera. That would be horrible. Two, it is always nice to have one camera with a zoom lens 70-200 for those shots from the back of the church, and one camera with a 35 f/2.0 for those wonderful close-ups handy at all times. Saves you time and help you capture those awesome impromptu shots.
This is where it can get expensive as good glass is pricey, but well worth it when you start shooting professionally. The images are much more crisp and clearer.
- Nikon 35mm f/2.0: $350
- Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Lens: $299
- Nikon 85mm f/1.8 Lens: $499
- Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 $2400
- Canon 50mm f/1.4 $350
- Canon 40mm EF f/2.8 $150
- Canon 85mm EF f/1.8 $399
- Canon 100mm EF f/2.0 $500
- Canon 70-200 f/4L $600
As far as tripods go we recommend having one good sturdy studio quality tripod and a lightweight travel style tripod that you can take with you on your photo shoots. Both recommended tripods work on both Nikon and Canon.
Studio Tripod – Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 055 Carbon Fiber 3-Section Tripod ($480)
Lightweight tripod – Manfrotto BeFree Compact Travel Carbon Fiber Tripod ($350)
You’ll also need to pickup a camera bag, reflectors, several high speed memory cards, flash triggers, a few light stands, etc. The cost of these items depend on what you want to spend and your style. ($500-$2000) Check our our blog for several different reviews on the camera gear you need.
Basic Business Needs
This part of the post is dedicated to the business items you need to get taken care of in order to be considered a legal business entity. The prices listed are estimated as the actual cost will vary on your specific location, business type, and associated fees.
- Incorporating your business or LLC: $125
- Annual Accounting Services: Year-end tax filing and a couple of consultations throughout the year. $300
- Financal Tracker: Spread sheet system or Quick books $150
- Insurance for your Business: $600 per year
- Product Samples: $200-$1000 It always helps to have photos or samples up for your customers to see. Especially a variety of them, a lot of times it helps solidify you as a professional photographer and also gives them an idea of what they can purchase.
Legal Fees & Photography Contracts – This is the most widely priced service based on geography. Attorney fees can range anywhere from $150 an hour to over $1000 an hour. If you are having them create contracts for you, you can expect to pay between 4-5hours per contract if they are starting with a blank slate. If you have an existing contract and would like them to edit it, time frames should drop down to around an hour.
- Because of the complexity, I personally would purchase photography contracts through Rachel Brenke, a lawyer who is also a photographer. She has a lot of different contracts available here at this link on the lawtog.com. By purchasing these contracts you would just then need an attorney to review them for you.
- Photography Contracts from Rachel Brenke: $60-$450
- Attorney Fees: $400-$2000
Computer & Software
Now onto the Techy side of photography, I personally recommend getting a iMac or Macbook Air with an external monitor. The iMac is a great computer, but I have found time when I owned one that I wish I had the capability to take it with me. That is why I have personally switched to a Macbook Air with an external dock and monitor setup. This allows me to have the benefits of a large external monitor and a laptop at the same time. When you compare the two, the extra cost is totally worth it.
- 21″ iMac Computer: $1299
- 13” Macbook Air – $1199
- 27” External Monitor – $199
- 1TB Backup Hard Drives: $59 each. Total cost: $120
- Screen Calibrator: $149
- Photoshop: $120 per year
Having a well laid out and professional looking website is a must have for sure. You don’t want to skimp here by getting a free website or free wordpress theme to put on your site. Invest some money into getting a professional website developed for you. There are several affordable website designers out there that provide you with a high quality website for a reasonable price.
- Domain & Hosting: $72 per year
- Website Design: $500-$2500
Photography Hacks: Saved the Best for Last
Now this next section isn’t what most of us would call needs, but it definitely will give you an advantage on getting your photography business up and running quickly.
Many people especially new photographers start a business with out a business plan or any idea of how a business actually runs. There is a lot more to it than just taking great pictures.
How are you going to get new clients?
How are you going to attract the type of clients you want to work with?
Once you have booked a shooting, how are you going to get them to buy your products? Do you have upsells and advantages for them to buy more easily?
How are you going to price your services?
How are you going to process payments? Etc
Most times potential photographer entrepreneurs or solopreneurs do one of two things. They either one, spin their wheels for weeks or months, trying everything to see what sticks or two, they give up because they never get enough steam to keep the business a float.
That is why I have put together a list of courses, ebooks, and trainings below that can help you cut through all the fluff and get down to making money today!
- Photographer’s Pricing Guide Workbook: Have confidence that your pricing is actually making you the money you expect it to be making. $149 (or get it bundled with the Easy Client & Money Manager for $229).
- Marketog: Looking to find a way to lure clients in with very little money at all? Then this is the course for you. Marketog covers everything you need to know about today’s style of marketing and why it works so well. Don’t waste your time with other programs or courses grab this one NOW. $799
- Matt + Katie In-Person Sales Guide: Matt & Katies Gudie teaches you how to maximize your sales after you have booked a new client. They go over step-by-step how to increase your sales without feeling like a crummy used car salesman or too pushy. $249
Drum roll please! We have reached the end of this post and it is time to tally up the total costs of Starting a Photography Business. Now I know some of these components can vary from city to city but I feel like this is a good representation. Granted there probably several things on your list you may feel like you need, but I tried to keep this list as simple as possible.
Total Costs of starting a Photography Business – $14,000 – $20,0000
So for less than $15,000 you can start a photography business that will make you money everyday and get one more step closer to the flexibility entrepreneurship provides you.