The Foundations of Starting a Photography Business


Starting a photography business can be a very exciting yet scary thing. It’s exciting to share your talents with others, yet the business can be overwhelming!

Sebastien Wiertz

By Sebastien Wiertz

If you’re at all like me when I started a photography business, you are worried that you won’t make any money. Taking pictures was so much fun, but would anyone pay for my work? With a lot of blind faith I jumped in and began working towards my dream. For me that meant many late nights and long weekends, shooting as much as I could and learning as I went along. Through years of growth, mistakes, and many successes, I learned so many things to share with you and help you to start your own business successfully.

Every business needs a solid foundation, so start there. Once you’ve got your feet off the ground, the business triangle will help you build a strong company.

Setting your foundation

Depending on where you live, you will need to be legally set up for business. Check with your city, town, state or province to find out what steps you need to take to be an official business. Learn if you need to pay sales tax. Work with a professional that can help you, like an accountant or attorney.

Once you are set up legally, you can also work through this checklist to get you started:

The business triangle

After you’ve set up your company, the business triangle is your next step. This business triangle was designed to help you get organized as you start and maintain a photography business. Each of the points represents a different area of your business. If you are weaker in one area, then your business (and the triangle) is in jeopardy of failing. Evaluate yourself with each point to see where your business needs to improve to be stronger. You can use a rating system of one through 10.

Image 1


The first part of the business triangle is the center or the core. Like the core of the human body is important for wellness and function, the core of the business triangle (confidence) is important to your business.

Having confidence will help propel you forward on your journey. It can help you turn your stumbling blocks into stepping stones, and take you from one level to the next. If you feel that you’re confidence could use a boost, try a few of these tips.

  1. Recognize all of your wins, big or small.
  2. Focus on your end result.
  3. Always work on your camera skills.
  4. Don’t compare yourself to others.

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The next part of the business triangle is products. This includes any business products such as your images and the items you sell to your clients, like prints or canvases.

Your images are your number one form of marketing. The better they are, the more clients will want them. This might mean taking classes or workshops and participating in forums to continually get better. Never stop improving your skills.

In addition to improving your photography skills, you also need to provide great products for your clients. Many clients want the digital files which are easy to provide and less hassle. However, there are some benefits to selling prints. One is that you have an opportunity to increase your overall sales. Also, having the actual prints in your client’s home can be great word of mouth marketing. Many photographers today are offering both prints and digital files.

Working in the products category of the business triangle also includes figuring out how to price your work. You want to take into consideration the following:

  • Your time involved
  • Your expenses
  • Your desired income
  • Your local market
  • Your skill level

Carefully analyze each of these categories to come up with a solid pricing structure that will work for you.

Image 2a


Next on the business triangle is marketing. Even if you live in a saturated market, if you get your name and your work out there, you will find there is still a need for your photography.

There are three areas of marketing that you will want to focus on with your business; word of mouth, online and local marketing.

The best form of marketing is word of mouth. Because getting photographs taken is so personal, clients will not likely hire just anyone. Instead, they will hire someone who has been recommended by a friend, or someone with an established reputation. These recommendations are earned by creating experiences for your customers that are above and beyond what other photographers are doing.

The next form of marketing is online. In today’s world you need to have a strong online presence. Your clients will be looking for you through a website, blog, and social media. Make sure you are there so they can find you.

Getting into your local community is the last form of marketing. This can be one of the most rewarding ways to build your business. Look for companies in your area that you can partner with to help build both of your businesses. You can partner with any type of business; from dairy farms, to clothing boutiques, or real estate offices. Almost every company needs pictures for their marketing and they have clients that need you.

Customer service

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The last part of the business triangle is customer service. Creating excellent customer service is the best way to keep your clients around year after year.

The most important thing to remember when building and growing a business is to make your customers feel special. How your clients feel when they leave you will determine how much they will tell their friends and family about you. Those family and friends are tomorrow’s clients!

Use the following ideas to create a memorable experience for your clients that will keep them coming back for years to come:

  • Good communication
  • Honest and sincere compliments
  • Provide excellent products
  • Amazing packaging
  • Bring water bottles to the session
  • Treat them like they are your best friends
  • Give a thank you gift

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One of my favorite sayings is: “luck favors the prepared”. Although it may seem scary to start a photography business, break down your tasks of getting set up legally, then follow the business triangle to continue to build a strong a solid business.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Amy Fraughton is a family photographer in Arizona and the founder of Photo Business Tools. She loves helping photographers learn the business side of photography. She is co-author of the e-book, How to Start a Photography Business. To get free business tips, visit her website here.

  • Michael Owens

    Invaluable article. So indepth too. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and guidance.

  • Mario

    Nice article! But the business triangle figure makes no sense from a “graph” point of view. I guess you got inspired by the exposure triangle but in this business triangle the 3 outer “parts” are not connected in any way, so apart from looking nice it doesn’t convey any additional information which is the main goal of a graphic IMO.

    Best regards,

  • Tim

    You mention “get insurance” as a single dot point with no further explanation – what insurance are you referring to?

  • There are a few different insurance that you would need depending on the type of business that you set up.
    Public Liability will cover you for things like someone trips on your gear bag.
    If you have a studio then you will need to protect the building.
    You should insure your gear, your home insurance wont usually cover tools of trade so get your gear covered. Look for what they cover, some cover water damage etc other don’t. Are you travelling over seas etc.

    Thanks some basics to get started.

  • Jane L Adams

    Thank You Amy! I am a single Mum of two lovely boys here in England, planning a portrait business for the past two plus years around some tragic life changers (I lost both my Dad and dear Cousin both to cancer among other things). Finally after a couple of photography evening courses and business workshops I took the plunge feet first and launched Jane Adams Portraits ( last September, I have completed about 8 sessions and all with nice reviews, January is going to be quiet I know but its a chance to really market myself, I am incredibly excited and totally terrified (for the same reasons as you) but I know its the right road…the structure of your business triangle, by the way, means little to me as your chosen terminology and concepts are spot on – thank you again! Jane

  • Photo manipulation service

    All of that’s are important tips.Thanks 🙂

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