How to Start a Photography Business on a Budget: The Ultimate Guide

November 21, 2019 8 min read

How to Start a Photography Business on a Budget - Movo

Starting your own photography business can be a very rewarding venture as it allows you both creativity and flexibility. You can work in a field that you actually enjoy while also being able to make your own schedule. However, making the decision to start your own business comes with a lot of responsibility. You need to constantly be seeking out new avenues of income to ensure that you can support yourself. Most people who are just starting out in the world of photography will do this work on a freelance basis while working a second job until they have built up their clientele list. Although there are many hurdles to jump over before creating a thriving photography business, it is possible if you have the right motivation and invest in high-quality camera equipment. Here are some tips you need to keep in mind before you get started.

Tips for Starting a Photography Business

Create a Business Plan

For any entrepreneur looking to start their own business, a well-thought-out plan is necessary. If you’re thinking about getting a bank loan to help you out financially, the bank will definitely want to see a copy of your business plan. But even if you aren’t required to write a business plan, it’s still a very useful way to organize your business and keep yourself on track.

Conduct some research on how to write a business plan and then dive right in. You’ll probably need to write more than one draft, especially if you’re planning to share it with potential investors. You’ll need to prove that you know how the industry (in which your business exists) works, how your business will make money, a marketing plan and an outline of your target demographic.

llc business agreement paperwork

Consider Other Legal Aspects of Your Business

There are a lot of logistics to work out when you’re starting your own business. You’ll have to determine which types of business permits or licenses you need to acquire, how to file your taxes and whether to register as a sole proprietorship or limited liability company (LLC). As a sole proprietor, there is no legal distinction between you as a person and as a business. It may be a bit less complicated to file as a sole proprietor, but your personal finances are not protected should your business fall into debt or get sued. With an LLC, some of this liability is shifted away from your own finances. An LLC can prevent you from running into legal trouble in the future–but before deciding, do some research on your own and determine which business setup will work best for you.

Invest in High-Quality Photography Equipment

No professional photographer can create great work without the help of the right equipment. Even if you’re just starting out and you don’t have a very large budget, investing in good photography equipment is one of the best things you can do for your business. If you make the mistake of buying low-quality camera accessories, you’re going to create low-quality photographs that don’t sell. Also, you risk the chance of your equipment frequently breaking or needing replacement parts, which may end up costing more money in the long run. A reliable DSLR camera is all you need to get started. Then, you can begin adding useful accessories as they become necessary.

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Work on Gaining Experience

Starting your own business can be very rewarding as you’re only working for yourself and your customers. However, in order to gain customers, you must have earned some credibility in your field. Without your customers’ trust, you’ll have a difficult time making money. Before your business can really take off, you’ll need to gain some photography experience (if you don’t already have some). And, thanks to modern technology, there are so many ways to learn the art of photography. Sign up for an online class to get tips from professionals, subscribe to a few YouTube tutorial channels or look for a local mentor to teach you. The great thing about photography and videography is that so many great artists have taught the art to themselves. Practice is the best way to learn, so find a subject you enjoy and then get out and start taking photos.

Learn How to Set Rates

As a photographer, you’ll need to set rates for when people are interested in booking your services. This can be tough for new photographers who are unfamiliar with standard rates. Reach out to some other photographers and research online to learn more about rates. These will also vary based on your level of experience, so as you gain more respect in your field, you can start adjusting your rate accordingly.

Determine Your Business Budget

Creating a budget is vital to ensuring that your business will make money. It’s easy to overspend and undercharge, which will greatly hinder your new company’s ability to thrive. After you’ve determined how much you’ll charge for particular services, you can determine what accessories, props and other items you’ll need to invest in for your business. From here, you can establish a reasonable budget. Focus on only the most important items and try to find free or cheap second-hand items when possible. If your photography business requires models, you can get your friends involved to save money–rather than hiring experienced models–until you start bringing in more money.

Create a Marketing Strategy

Without a solid marketing strategy, it will be very difficult to attract new business. And, of course, without business, you won’t be making any money. There are so many ways to market, especially with the widespread use of the internet. Before diving into any other types of marketing strategies, you should create a website so that potential customers have a place to go to view your work and get a sense of how you do business. On your website, you can use SEO and other internet marketing strategies to help your site rank on the first page of Google, exposing your company to more people.

woman taking video via social media app

Social media is another top avenue for online marketing these days. For photographers, Instagram is probably the most important platform as this social media outlet is entirely focused on visual photography. Start a business account to help you track your users’ analytics and understand which of your photographs seem to resonate the most with your followers. This is also a great place to find customers as you can encourage people to direct message (DM) you if they’re interested in having their photo taken. To help increase your follower base, interact with other photography accounts (following their account, liking and commenting on photos, etc.). You can form a partnership to help each of your followers to discover the other person’s page.

Pull Together a Portfolio

Your website should act like a portfolio to showcase your work to the world. Without a portfolio, it will be difficult to convince people to pay for your services because they won’t be able to get a sense of your shooting style and overall talents. Use your favorite videos and photographs that you’ve taken while gaining more experience in the field. If you’re planning to work as a freelance photographer, your website is the perfect place to store all of your work as it will be easy to send one link to a publication that you’re interested in working for. For magazines and websites, having these examples upfront allows them to determine right away whether or not they’re willing to give you a chance at being published under their brand.

photographer shooting married couple

Start Shooting!

Obviously, the business aspect of your company is extremely important because without an organized plan, you won’t be making money and photography will become more of a hobby than a career. However, once you feel as though you’ve covered all the necessary bases in regards to legal and financial matters, you need to get out there and start creating beautiful pieces of work. As we’ve mentioned, experience and a clean portfolio are two vital aspects to gaining customer loyalty—whether your customers are individuals or publications. Set aside some time to experiment with your style and skill until you’ve got your own unique way of photographing. Then, use these examples to market yourself and start bringing in the business.

Tips for Sticking to Your Budget

Splurge on Good Equipment

Unfortunately, you have to spend money to make money. But, to stay on track with your budget, it’s essential that you prioritize which things you’re going to spend money on. When it comes to buying high-quality camera equipment, it’s usually worth spending the extra money. These items are things that you will be using on an everyday basis as a professional photographer, so you want to make sure that they are in good working condition and not liable to break easily and often. This doesn’t mean that you need to purchase all the top-line products and accessories. Start off with a reliable camera and a few good accessories like a tripod and maybe some lighting or an interesting filter. After you begin bringing in money and feeling more confident in your photography skills, you can gradually add more accessories.

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Only Buy Necessary Items

When you walk into a store with dozens of high-tech electronics or interesting prop items, it can be tough to narrow down your list of things to buy, but sticking to your budget is essential. Make a list of things you absolutely cannot work without and then stick to only purchasing these items. As your business grows and becomes more successful, you can spend the extra money to splurge on fun props or camera accessories.

Get Your Friends Involved in Your Projects

As a beginner photographer, your friends can be your best resources for support. When you’re building your portfolio, ask your friends to be a part of the project–whether that means setting up lighting or being a part of the shoot itself. Not only is this a great way to find models, but it’s also a way to market yourself. If your friends love the photos that you took, they’ll probably share them on social media. You can ask that they tag you to help others find your photography account and potentially seek out your services as well.

Essential Photography Accessories

It goes without saying that every photographer needs a camera. Otherwise, you have no way of taking photographs. DSLR cameras are probably the most popular types to use right now. These devices offer plenty of ways to manually change your settings and create the exact type of effect you’re looking for in your photos. Once you’ve got your camera, you should invest in a tripod as this is an important accessory to stabilize your shots. Tripod heads can be added to your device for additional control over your shots and help move the camera in different directions while attached to the tripod. If you’re planning to also use your camera for videos, a tripod head is even more useful as trying to record a steady shot without a stabilizer is nearly impossible.

photographer studio set up

Outside of these two important components, there are some accessories you may want to add to your collection of photography gear. Different types of camera lenses can create vastly different effects on your photographs. For anyone looking to get into travel or landscape photography, a wide-angle lens is a must-have. This will help you capture the entire scene and paint a more realistic picture of how the landscape actually looks in real life. For other effects, you can look into different lenses that might be essential to your project. If you’re planning to do a lot of indoor shoots, you will need to invest in at least one good light and some accessories to help you direct the light.

Invest in the Top Photography Equipment from Movo

Movo provides customers with everything they need to start working on their photography and videography projects. Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been doing this for years and you’re looking to start your own business, we have the equipment for you. Invest in essential camera accessories or shop our collection of photography equipment.