How to Start a Photography Business

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If you love photography, and you want to capture all of the beauty and joy in life, you might be considering how to start a photography business. So many people find the love of photography, beginning with wanting to capture their little bundles of joy, and having that desire grow from there. I receive so many questions on that topic, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the best way to ease into the transition on starting and maintaining a business, and also educating those that hire a photographer will know what they are paying for.

Steps on How to Start a Photography Business

  1. Be business minded
  2. What to Charge Clients
  3. Client checklist
  4. Best Equipment to Buy
  5. Importance of Social Media

Tips on how to start a photography business for the beginner

This post is originally written on October 4, 2012, last updated January 2016.

I think it’s important to share that I’ve changed my camera gear and favorite lenses over the years.

I started with a very basic Canon Rebel (2003), upgraded to a Canon 20D (2005), then a 5D (2009), and currently shoot with a Canon 5D Mark II (2013) as my main camera body. In 2016, I still use that same body. For more tips on how to decide what camera to buy, click on that link for another post.

Photographers are both men and women, but over the years, I’ve seen a trend with moms moms who choose to stay home with their children–seeing an opportunity to make a little money on the side with a photography business. Many people have purchased nice dslr camera kits and think that would be a great way to earn some money. It is true, and it is fun, but there is SO much involved with having a photography business besides just having a good camera. I’ve seen many people who start that way get burned out, and even my own personal journey has been a hair pulling experience at times as I frustratingly charted the course for myself.

How to Start a Photography Business: It’s not just about creativity. Having business sense is important.

First of all, let me just say I am not super business savvy.  My business does not keep our family afloat, and I’m so grateful I don’t need to worry about that.  I can’t imagine the stress of needing a certain amount of clients in order to pay the bills.  So if you are planning on something like that, you need a lot of business sense.  Plus, photography is an elective luxury.  People don’t NEED it like they need food.  I have seen many full time photographers suffer in these hard economic times because people are cutting back and many believe that is a luxury that can wait til later.

I never planned to have a business.  Sometimes I laugh to myself when I stop and think that I started a business all on my own.  I’ve always felt pretty mediocre.  Not down on myself for being so, but recognized that is just the way it was.  School was difficult for me.  I did graduate with my Bachelors, but I really had to work for it.  I never aspired to “work” when I grew up (I still see it as a hobby, not a job).  I wanted to get married and have lots of babies.  But I’ve always had this insatiable craving to take pictures of people.

When I started my biz, I had no clue what to charge people.  I charged a little and was completely happy.  In 2003, I had a film slr and charged $50. I took a roll of film and gave the client everything, and pocketed $20 and was thrilled! We were on a super tight income, and I was able to indulge in a new pair of black shoes for church with that cash. After a year, I got a digital slr and charged $75 for the session and disc (a lot more images). I didn’t know much about editing then, so the images were “as is.”

Really, I wasn’t very good back then, so the pricing and inexperience went well together.  When I realized I wasn’t that good, I spent many hours on the computer trying to figure things out, camera, photoshop, etc.  My husband gently told me it was taking over my time.  I had to re-evaluate (and do so ALL the time) and prioritize my time.   Sometimes I wondered if I should just stop it all…but I’ve decided I love it too much.  Not just taking pictures, but meeting strangers and taking their pictures.  It all brings me so much joy.  So I limit what I take on, and I am mindful of my computer time.  My “work” hours on the computer are preschool time, and after bedtime (sometimes really late). When I go out for a shoot, its just an hour at a time, no more than once a week. When it does trickle over into family time, I become cranky momma, and I don’t like her and neither does my family.

How to Start a photography business: WHAT TO CHARGE

It has been difficult for me to figure out what I want to charge. I am a SUPER thrifty person.  We don’t have cable, rarely eat out, just barely upgrade from having an old school tv, hubby drives a 1996 car, I buy furniture at good will or craigs list and fix it up…I am a “diy” kinda gal.  All that said, I am not the photographer for the thrifty person, and I’ve become ok with that (though I felt guilty for quite a while), taking into account that it takes time away from my family, and I’ve spent a lot of time and money honing my craft.

To make it less awkward on myself, I don’t do business with those in my church congregation, but will do a professional trade or refer them to my other photographer friends. I even had a parent of my sons classmate show interest in my taking their pictures, tell me I was out of her price range, and I referred her to a friend who is just starting out who charges less.  I have no problems doing that–I get it!  I want people to have great pictures, but I just can’t do it all.  I have never charged family members a penny, and many close friends I gift on my own accord, though I know many photographers will charge their family and close friends.  It is my favorite gift to give those I am closest with. Once again, hubby has to remind me that though it is good to be giving, I simply can’t give all that I want to (I used to offer to so many  people to do it for free, but in scaling back, I just can’t do that anymore).

Those of you that are thinking of starting a biz, or have dipped your toe into it, here is a list I go through with each client:

A lot of people don’t realize that a shoot is a lot more than just a shoot. There are so many things and many hours that go into just one session, so here is a breakdown of what each shoot consists of:

How to Start a Photography business: LIST FOR EACH CLIENT

Time Spent…

  1. emailing back and forth to set the date, time, location, clothing suggestions, etc. (this could be 2 or 3 emails….or it could be 20 or more).
  2. driving to and from each session
  3. actually shooting at the session
  4. depositing checks/bookkeeping
  5. editing/prepping images for the sneak peeks on my blog/facebook
  6. weeding out the not so great and editing the rest of the images
  7.  uploading all of the photos to the online gallery
  8. emailing the client the gallery with all of the detailed info
  9. working on any additional edits that the client has requested (blemish removal, hair flyaways, hip slimming)
  10. packaging orders
  11. Setting up a delivery/pick up time
  12. backing up client files to external hard drives and burning backup discs
  13. Posting images to social media for others to see
  14. Incentive based programs to encourage your clients to spread the word to their friends
Click “next” to see the essential equipment and business steps you need to take to have a successful photography business!
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Comments

  1. Deb Kepiro says:

    Thanks Kristen for this amazing post! I’m sure it took alot of time to compile but so helpful! I think you bring up alot of really encouraging and good points! (especially about pricing). I’ve taken some college classes and it just doesn’t seem to be something that gets talked about at class. This is helpful!

  2. Jacqueline says:

    You’d be out of budget for me, but I’m glad for you that there are enough people who are able and willing to pay the prices you charge. I guess part of it is that I’m a diy-er, also in this regard. What you offer is full service, and all I want is someone to take the pictures because I can figure out outfits and locations and edit pictures myself. So it’s good that all ends of the price range are available when it comes to photography!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Some photogs will work deals when it comes to editing and such, and if you are a good enough photographer, I’ve done trades with other photographer at comparable levels, so we both win! There are definitely varying levels of pricing, and I’ve seen some REALLY good photographers who are quite inexpensive, it’s just what works for you!

  3. great simple tips Kristen!

  4. I don’t think this is the right season of my life to think about starting a business, but I’m still curious. Do you have insurance for your business and/or on your equipment?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I actually don’t insure my equipment. I figure we have savings to cover if I really needed a new camera, but I have 2 back ups (old and overused as they are) in case I don’t….Plus, my biz isn’t our bread and butter.

      • Maybe I’m being paranoid, but what if someone tries to sue you/your business or something crazy like that? I don’t even know if insurance is the answer to this concern… I’m totally ignorant about running a business.

        • Kristen Duke says:

          nope, lots of people do think about, and that is where ppa comes in…The main reason someone would sue me is if I ruined pictures that were irreplaceable such as a wedding, which I don’t do. Family pictures in general ARE irreplaceable, but I have reshot if unhappy, and feel I’m pretty flexible to peoples needs. But yes, ppa is helpful in instances as that.

  5. Wow! Impressive detailed information! I may be a little biased but I think you are not only a great photographer but great businesswoman as well. Many in business for years don’t recognize the details/time that go into their business and that you’ve share here. WE are so lucky to have a great photographer in the family willing to keep us in current photos! THANKS!

  6. Hey Kristen as always a great help and always easy to read. I didn’t get bored – which is easy for me. I think you for keeping it simple and on my level. There’s a few things I have missed here and even though I’m not a proper business yet. It gives me thought for when I do do it full time. I will be like you – have kids and do photography on the side. Thanks again – fantastic 😀

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Yay, glad to be helpful, and I don’t always do all of that all the time, but it is my ideal list!!! It’s a great momma side thing to do!

  7. LOVED this!! Thank you for sharing. sometimes I feel like quitting b/c I don’t want to be too busy. When I get busy I get crabby too. Good to know it’s ok to be picky. But I do have to charge more. Kind of hard now b/c I JUST moved so basically I had to start over, clientele wise. But I am going to keep all this in mind as I build!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      It’s hard to say no because it’s nice to be selected, but you have to do the part that you love, or you will get overworked and frustrated…and sometimes bump it up. If you are new in the area, do an “introductory price” maybe for this fall and say, My prices are “xyz” (and bump that to your happy place) but the introductory price is half off, or whatever you feel best. People will know your ultimate pricing, but getting in on a deal b/c you are new to the area. Make sense?

  8. I’m so glad you have a photography business! This is all really helpful information. I bet a lot of people don’t realize all the work and little details that go into a photography business. Thanks for sharing. Also, I loved seeing some pics from our session last year 🙂

  9. Charlotte Hickman says:

    Wow, thanks for taking the time to share and post this. It was very informative and I really enjoyed reading it.

  10. Norman hill says:

    I tink one of your most impressive skills is knowing when to say “no”. There is a market at your price point and sating true to what you are worth/charge is important. Mom did the same thing for her sewing business, another sometimes DIY skill that may be difficult to charge for but lower prices do not make better customers. You are a “brand” and like all brands that are good, people will pay a preium for them because they know they will get a high quality product.

  11. These are great tips and I think it’s great that you are sharing all this info. Do you have favorite professional lab that you like to use?

  12. Thank you so much for posting this! I’ve always loved graphic designing and the past 5 years have took up loving photography as well. It’s good to know how you feel as a not only a photographer but being a mom and able to balance work and family. All of my 4 kids are in school now, so I’m looking for ways to use my gifts that God has given me and put them to use. Thanks again for sharing!

  13. Danielle Meier says:

    This list is LEGIT. I have taken pictures for years, but this past year is when I really dove into photography and have been going, going, going. I can totally relate to the same feelings you had when you started your business. Your blog helped remind me that there are other beautiful moments to be captured in life, and that not ALL of them need to be on film. 🙂 Thank you for putting all of this information out there for others to learn from.

    -danielle meier

  14. Oh my goodness, I love this. Thank you for sharing and I love all of the photos

  15. Paula Greenway says:

    Hi Kristen..lots of great info!! I am building my portfolio and read that it is a good idea to start a blog…I was going to start with FB…but then after reading the blog advice..thought perhaps I would wait to launch FB when I was ready to be “offical” and begin charging…Do you have any advice about where to start a blog? Like you I am mostly self taught via internet and books…I would love to attend workshops, but there are very few that I have found near me.

  16. I am so thankful that I tripped over this post today! I am a self-taught, work-at-home momma/photographer. I am struggling to find the balance of being a housewife and photographer. I, too, started out (due to peer pressure!) wanting to help my pastor-husband with our one income budget. I invested in a nice Nikon D90 and an iMac, and since then it’s turned into a full-time full-blown business with expensive (however excellent) equipment that demands lots of time.
    I worked in a hospital full time for 6 years, then my husband was called to a church several hours away. I sold my new car so that we could afford for me to stay home with our baby and manage on my husband’s salary. I went from a full-time social job to a new town, new church, whole new world of stay-at-home isolation. When our daughter was born and the bills mounted, the debt accumulated. I prayed for a way to be able to help. I didn’t want to take on babysitting, I am selfish with my time for my two! Praise God I was asked to help photograph a wedding with my sister–and it all seemed to click. I stuck my neck out and offered to do family sessions for Christmas, and it took off like crazy because digital photography/owning your disc with print rights is totally new to this area. Getting out of the house for a little bit on Saturdays was a God-send, I have been able to engage with other families in my new town and it’s been so nice to have a little time where I use other skills besides cooking, cleaning, and playing games! I joined several online photog groups and learned so many skills and practiced, practiced, practiced. I never dreamed that my little hobby would turn into such a blessing for our family. It’s proof that with God all things are possible!
    My son is in 1st grade now and my daughter is in pre-school, she is in school for 3 hours a day. We now have dance, children’s choir, Wednesday night kids classes at church and Friday night football….family time is not what it once was. When Saturday rolls around I’m gone all day, I feel like I’m missing out on everything. Being away from home is not what it used to be! In our family, Sunday is far from a day off. So now I’m starting to get very stingy with my Saturdays, because I desperately miss my children during the week and I miss out on my husband’s day off, too!
    Thank you for pouring your heart into this. You’ve helped me to see that this is a demanding, time-consuming business and I cannot allow myself to say yes to every little thing that comes along. I taught a Sunday School lesson a few months ago on the 10 Commandments, which totally convicted me about doing photo sessions on Sunday. I’ve also taken Mondays off, they’re now my Saturdays.
    God bless you in your work and your family. You’ve been a blessing to me today!
    Heather

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Heather, I’m so glad you found this helpful! You’ve had quite the journey, but yes, having this biz is fulfilling a creativity on the side of being a stay at home mom. I LOVE it for that! I don’t do photo shoots on Sundays, either, per the 10 commandments;)

  17. Wonderful tips! I love photography so much just as a hobby! I don’t think I would ever go pro with it or start a business because I feel like it would ruin the fun of it for me!

    But these really are great tips!! Thanks for sharing your knowledge and experience!!

  18. Wow, what a great and informative post!! Thank you for posting all of the well thought out information! I am so glad I found you through pinterest!

  19. I loved all of the info. I am a sahm and am starting my own biz. But sadly enough all I have is a redel.
    I am trying to set up a web page but don’t know where to start. I am on FB though. I am charging $50 a shoot and giving minimally edited jpegs on a disk. ? where do you reccomend I set up a .com and What kind of camera and software do you have.

  20. So what kind of printer do you use?

  21. Thank you Kristen, i’ve just started my biz here in Guatemala City and your compilation and story has inspired me to keep on and I’m so thankfull that you shared this experience and knowledge about how to start and run this kind of biz because I had no idea how to do it. Now, i am more determined to keep on working and learning to become such an excellent photographer like you are! I do have a lot of questions and I will be gratefull if you can help me on my way on. Thanks so much again!

  22. Hi Kristen!

    Great tips and I certainly appreciate your candid perspective. I’ve always loved photography and have been in the business world during my short working career doing sales and marketing. I wanted to combine my business sense, my love of imagery and photography and my marketing experience and education to create a business that would allow me to be an home with my kids (when I have them, my fiance and I just got engaged a few months ago). I know it will be a lot of work to get started, but I also know it will be worth it. You certainly have inspired me to keep going! I just bought my first professional grade camera today after some months of saving and I’m so excited to learn as much as I can.

    No questions really, just wanted to thank you for this post!

    If you have any advice for me, or places where I should go first to “hone my skill” I would love to hear it.

    Jenna

  23. Janelle Knight says:

    Thank you so much for this information. I have just recently started to teach myself online but I have been struggling with creating my logo and how to create it. Do you have and tips on that? Thanks so much:)

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Logo’s are really tough. I am not good at design, and was never happy with anything I tried. Go onto etsy and type in “photography logo” and you’ll see a ton of premade. You can buy the design or at least try to mimick something you like.

    • I used windows publisher to create my logo design, I was very lost when my father suggested it.. turned out great!

  24. How far into your business, when you went out and rented a place to set up your studio?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I’ve never done much studio work. I don’t prefer it. I do have a black and white cloth backdrop and stand that I have used in my home, facing towards window light.

  25. Hi Kristen! Thanks for the tips, I found them very helpful. I do have a couple questions though regarding tax information. How do you obtain a tax id and pay taxes? Sounds simple, but I imagine paying taxes through a personally owned business is different. Also, you recommend insurance.. would this be for example insurance on equipment and liability insurance? I also read on another page you have to obtain a business license also? Any help would be much appreciated! Thank you!!
    (sorry for all the questions!) I’m a googling, pinteresting, research machine right now.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Leah, the laws are different from state to state. I got my tax id from my local Comptrollers office, google that! Insurance, sign up with ppa.com (or .org?). Professional Photographers of America. I don’t have a biz. license. Hope that helps!!

      • Yeah so far I’ve only figured out that I need to file my “doing business as name” with the county (Since I’m not using my name) and run my new business in the paper for 4 weeks, luckily the newspaper takes care of everything here for $70! Apparently in California is ran county, not state wide. I also found out that I can file my income with a Schedule C on my own taxes and not get a tax id, have you heard of this?

  26. Wow, I just stumbled upon your site by chance, and then perused through and found this post…what a worthwhile read! I can relate with a lot that you wrote, and also learned a ton since I am where you were circa 2003! I love the the breakdown lists, and how much you focus on the struggle of juggling family time to computer time…I’m excited that I found your site and this post!

  27. Kimberley Ross says:

    Hi,my name is Kimberley and i have been wanting to start my own Photography business but just scared to take that leap. I got a Nixon D3100. Is that a good one to start with or no? Am scared to start ans spend the money and not succeed. Please give any advice 🙂

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Your camera sounds great to start with. Get a 50mm 1.8 lens if you don’t have one, and learn to shoot in manual settings for the most beautiful images. Start with those basics, and slowly add on items from this list after that.

  28. Precious says:

    Hi, I am starting out in the photography business, and was wondering what the copy right info was that you infrom the clients of?!?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Just that they can’t reproduce images (scan) without written/signed permission from the photographer.

  29. Hi Kristen,

    Thank you so much for your post. By day I am a Sociology Instructor. But my passion has always be drawing and painting, for many years I would paint murals, people’s pets, and other items. I found that when it was on demand, it took away the love and joy I found in my artwork. Recently, I have taken a particular interest,although I have always loved photography. I love to find the beauty in the everyday life; most, if not all, of my photos are of nature. For a while friends and family have urged me to start a business, but I was nervous and wary…. I do find inspiration in photography is different than painting or drawing, because what I like to “shoot” is always there. What made me dive into as business stems from this event – an individual saw my photos (no reason to care) and said, wow, “what type of camera do you have, these are great, not what a photographer wanted to hear.. lol.. but I was very patient and told him.. he then asked if I could show him how to use his, he had bought a professional camera. I like you, am self taught, but I showed him what I knew.. pretty much .. well I just see a perfect shot and a take it like this, with certain lighting you may want it on this setting.. and so forth. He then realized it is not just the camera. Later he came to me and asked if I could do an event for him. So, I started thinking, before my dad passed he begged me not to lose touch with my creativity, my family and friends kept advocating.. .so I have stopped fighting. I just started my business, Mia Bella Expressions. A mix of photography and painting/drawing, I broke down and got photoshop.. I fought this too, because I believe in the photographer more than the software, but I know clients like certain effects. My question is, (I tend to digress, and give more detail than needed) do you have advice for those who are selling photography as artwork and then move into people? I have an Etsy shop, a FB, and a Blog…. again I literally just started this weekend. FB has most of my photos, but uploading and writing, especially during exam time, takes a while.

    Your list was so helpful thank you, and if you have any advice it would be wonderful….even if you thought my photos stunk, at lest this would be an unbiased view. Any helpful marketing, any mistakes you made.. anything that stands out. O – and you learning to say no was very insightful, I need to learn this word!

    Thank you so much for your time, and words of wisdom!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      so sorry for my delay. I haven’t sold my artwork on etsy, so don’t have much advice for this. It’s true, once there is a demand, the joy is taken out…art is a very tough full time business.

  30. Hi Kristen! Thank you for all the very useful information! I have a Question. Can you elaborate about building a website for your business? And what Domain Websites to use? Budget friendly website perhaps? And I was wondering do a lot of Photogs use blog site for their “business website”? I’m mainly into social media a lot right now because I cant really affored to pay top price for an extravagant website because im just starting out. What tips would you give to me?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      A lot of photographers have merged their site and their blogs so they don’t have to maintain 2. I’ll see about making a post on building a website…

  31. Felicia Kochalka says:

    Kristen, What fantastic information!! Thank you! I recently began helping a photographer with her business. I am in charge of client contact information and scheduling. In exchange she is going to take photographs for my family. Is there an efficient and/or productive database, app or any other type of program that would make scheduling and keeping track of client information more manageable? Right now the person I’m helping uses a spiral notebook, YIKES!

  32. Do you have any recommendations for how to photoshop or things that you do? And some good online professional labs you use?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I use whcc.com labs and I recommend joining clickin moms for real life tips. You can access it by the sidebar button I have, it’s a great resource! It’s how I learned my photography through an online forum!

  33. Hi Kristen!

    I wanted to ask what business form you used? A friend of mine recommended starting a S Corporation?

    Jenna H

  34. Great info. As an “ex” business owner myself, my dad always told me to never give family members a break on the price of my service, but to make sure that every job that I do for family is 100% perfection. Since every job is different, one family member might get a larger discount than the other and that could lead to hard feelings. Good idea on giving your services as gifts too.

  35. Kristin Duke says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this info. It really helped a lot!! I’m starting out and I am also self taught.

  36. Thanks for the great advice. I love photography, too and have recently decided that I want to pursue a photography business of my own. This article is extremely helpful!

  37. Thanks for the input.
    My boyfriend decided to start a business that he is passionate about. It is hard work. We have gone to different events and passed out business cards to start with. Right now he doesn’t charge much. For now, He just want to build his portfolio. What you mentioned about taking up your time away from family is so true. I work full time and I come home and see him on the computer editing pictures till late at night.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      It’s so hard to do this business full time! I know a few that do and they bust their tales working many hours!

  38. Thank you for sharing. Long time photography lover. Jusr recently, I have been thinking about staying a small business. Until recently, I’ve taken pictures of just about anything. I love photographing family and family pets, friends and friends of family. This year, I started taking senior pictures for friends of my daughter who couldn’t effort professional photographs. Seniors and Families were happy with the photographs. And they were free.

    I’ve been thinking about this for a while now and decided to serve the net for answers. I really wasn’t sure if I’d find answers but your page/blog gave me plenty to consider. Thank you again.

  39. Do you recommend hiring a PR person or consultant? If so, how do you go about finding the right person to hire?

  40. darla mcconnell says:

    lots of great info how do you get a a business license i would like to start my own small business ive done weddings for friends senior pics, baby pics, christmas, and family pics lots of nature shots and flowers but i would like to make it a business and copywrite my photos. and start a photo website any suggestions on any of this? i know its alot. thanks for everything………..darla mcconnell

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Google how to get a business license in your area, it varies by State. I’d start a blog as a website, and feature images there. Hope this helps!

  41. Thanks for posting this up Kristen! It really helps me a lot. I am considering opening my own video and photography business within a couple of months. I’ve worked on various projects for free (wedding pictorials, baby showers and birthdays) for family and friends and I must say that it does take some time to shoot, edit and more. Thanks again for your post!

  42. Oh my goodness SO helpful! I am just starting out & operating on a high end point and shoot. I hope to get a DSLR someday, but for the moment it isn’t happening. What camera do you recommend for myself when that the comes? You say not a Rebel?

    As far as social media I have been doing a ton of promotional shoots and offers. It seems to get the likes coming in and the messages flowing 🙂

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I think Rebels are great–lenses are more important, but I just say that if you have a Rebel and your client also has a Rebel, it just seems a tad less credible. But if you produce great images, it shouldn’t matter!

  43. Priscilla says:

    Hi. Thanks for all the great info. I’m just curious, do you use any digital copyright software on your pictures? Or do you register your pictures with the US for copyright purposes? How do you address the copyright issue? Especially with an online presence, how do you make sure others are not illegally using your photos?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I don’t stress too much about copyright. All of my images online are low resolution, so wouldn’t print nicely. I put a logo or something on them, that’s about it.

  44. Lauren Scott says:

    Thank you! What a gift you have given me. I actually have a degree in photography that I received 20 years ago! However, I hung up my camera once my amazing kids came into the picture. Now, I want to get back into it, but have lost some confidence along the way. Looking forward to getting back on that saddle.

    Question: All of your outdoor shots seems to be taken in softer settings. Is it really always slightly overcast, or are you using flash fill, defusers, or something else?

    Again, many thanks!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      sounds wonderful, so glad to hear this was helpful! I actually despise overcast days! It gives shadows in and under the eyes! I shoot in 100% natural light outside, I just look around for the prettiest light–open shade (look for the post tomorrow about that).

  45. Lauren Scott says:

    Hey Kristen, It’s me again. I sent you a message about lighting and read your tips… Thanks! When you shoot with back lighting and open shade, do you find that you have to bump up the exposure or do corrections with Photoshop at all? The skin tone of your clients looks great and I wouldn’t expect that. BTW… I love you family group shots at the beach!

    Many thanks,
    Lauren

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I don’t tend to correct in Photoshop, but may every once in a while. I expose for the skin, no matter what the background light. Does that make sense? If the tones are too pink/orange, I will desaturate the color in PS if needed.

  46. Hi– I am new to this photography world but extremely excited to get my business up and running. I have loved taking pictures for years and now that I am finally gaining the expertise, this will be a new endeavor for me. Could you go into more detail about what these items in your list are: Professional lab -Stationary: welcome packet -Packaging prints clear bags -Gift bags to hold print orders -stickers: I put these on prints, envelopes, gift bag. I am confused as to what they are and what you do with them…? Thank you!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi Jessica! I use whcc.com as my professional lab. you have to sign up for an account, but they will help you get started! clearbags.com is where I get bags for my prints. Stickers I order from whcc in their PRES products. I just use the stickers as my brand logo on the packaging when I give clients the gift of their portraits!

  47. Masiel Bellevue says:

    Thank you for this! I am starting my photography business, mother of one lovely son, and a stay at home mom. I am overwhelmed to say the least. So far I’ve had two clients, the first one never paid, so I never gave her the pictures/videos. I have a client now… but I’m lost in the whole making of a contract, trying to cover all the bases, and in that attempt not covering anything at all. How long have you had your business for?
    I really want to follow through because this is one of my passions.
    Right now I’m very emotional, overwhelmed, there are a lot of things I need to learn, from Photoshop to business. Should I tackle the business side first? Learn how to make a proper contract and such first?
    Thank you for taking the time to read my comment.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi Masiel! Ugh, it’s so hard to decide where to start, isn’t it? I was impatient and wanted to jump in with both feet, and looking back, I wish I would have slowed down and figured things out first. But that’s not my personality, so I don’t know that I would have done it any different! I’d be happy to chat more if you want to do a mentoring session, or you can click on my sidebar on the Clickin’ Moms icon and sign up there and dig around on the discussions there.

  48. Thank you for all of the great info! I was wondering what you did to get your name “out there”. I’m just starting my business and am really struggling with new customers and hw to gt them. Thanks,

  49. Nina Davis says:

    Hello! My name is Nina, and I’m in the process of building a website for photography. I live right next to college and want to mainly focus on senior/grad photos and couple photos for now. I’ve had many opportunities to shoot individuals for graduation, just for self pleasure, and couples but I know I have much improvement ahead of me in my skills. I’m currently looking at taking more photography classes so I can be sure to fully satisfy my clients.

    I have a few questions if you don’t mind me asking:

    What do you recommend in terms of pricing for students, and what websites are the best in your opinion for getting open feedback to photos you take? Also, what do you feel is the best way to create and price packages for people? How do you incorporate distance to you travel into pricing? Clearly, I know I have much work to do in starting a business as well as as much more understanding in the business level. Thank you for you blog, your long check list has made me see how much more work I have to do, but has helped me visually have something to refer to if I get confused. Thank you!

    -Nina

  50. Misty Brown says:

    Great info!! I have a few questions. Who do you use to process your photos? And, would you mind sharing your price list??

  51. Thank you so much for the info. I have been wanting to start my own photography business for a couple months now. I find that I am much like yourself when you first started. I am not quite sure where to start and I have little photography experience under my belt but I think that I take pretty good pics to have just started a few months ago. I have a ton of creative ideas and I am slowly teaching myself how to capture them on film. Like yourself, I have not had any photography classes and I use the Internet to teach me different skills and techniques when it comes to photography. I would like to meet more photographers who would be willing to critique some of my photographs and who I can learn from as well. Do you happen to know of any websites or blogs where I can share my work and get advice or pointers?

  52. Hi Kristen, I’ve had a rebel for a couple years and would like one day to start a professional photography biz. If you don’t recommend the rebel for professional photography, what cameras do you recommend?

  53. patrice cranford says:

    Hello! I have a question. I just wanted to know what type of camera should I start of with as well as flashes and lens?

  54. Hi! Thank you so much for this information, I as well as many others have been thinking of dipping in the photography business. I seen you mention having an account. Do you have a particular accountant software you use or do you recommend using an accountant to handle your taxes and money aspect of it? Also I seem you mentioned insurance. Is this insurance to protect you from being sued and what company would you recommend? Thanks again for your help.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      The insurance is against being sued as well as equipment (From what I understand, I’ve never used it). My accounting program is so old, goolge photography software and see what comes up, I know there are a few on the market out there.

  55. Thank you for writing such a great article! I was wondering how/where you got your model release. I’m just starting and would like to find one so that I can start shooting and use the images to build my portfolio. Thanks!

  56. Hello, I am currently looking to purchase a camera to begin my photography business. I wanted to know which camera do you reccomend?

  57. What online gallery source do you use for your clients to view their pictures?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      For a long time, I used Photocart. I purchased the software and linked it to my site. Now I use a very un sophisticated Google Album, it’s just easier and I give mostly images now, photocart was great for ordering.

  58. Hello Kristen

    i have been practising taking photos my self but dont have a portfolio or anything like that i have been practising on family members and im intermediate at using photoshop and a beginner at light room but my main question is do i need a licence or diploma to start a business or is okay to just take photos and be paid for it just really need a starting point.

    Thanks

    p.s great article

    • Kristen Duke says:

      It actually depends on the state that you live in. In Texas I don’t need a license, just have a tax ID. Google the laws for your state. Glad this was helpful to you!

  59. I think a Rebel is great for the task. I got that camera for the purpose.

  60. I LOVE LOVE LOVE taking pictures too, always have, always will. I really enjoyed your post. I am thinking of finally starting my own business in photography and you have some great tips. thank you. One question, what kind of camera would work well for a starter camera? and you mentioned the fees when you first started, what is the going rate now? thank you, Jessie M.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      OH, the going rate is tough! Google photographers in your area and see what they charge, it is SO different from area to area. Also look at those that appear to be your skill level, too. I’d say look at a Canon 50D to start.

  61. ohh and your family is adorable and Great photos you have.

  62. Great tips, thank you! I was wondering what are the best times of day to shoot. I am always concerned about clients getting the sun in their eyes and I am just starting out.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Best times of day are first light and last light. Full sun is touch with the squints, but you can also turn people so they aren’t squinting.

  63. Can you tell me what image size you use for images that can get put onto canvas and posters… Also do you use NEF/JPEG, NEF raw, or Jpeg for file size

  64. I am so happy I stumbled upon this post this morning, and to read Heather’s comment above about her business taking up a lot of family time… There was a lot of detail in your writing, and honesty. Thank you.

  65. How profitable have you calculated your business to be? Approximately, how much an hour do you earn (including prep, shoot, edit, etc time?)

  66. I think you can start a business with a rebel. I know lots of people who are professional photographers who have rebels.It’s not so much the camera but it’s the lens.

  67. Great post, I’ve just recently started my photography business, and this is very helpful. Thank you!

  68. Thank you for this blog!!! I am just starting out in photography and I am doing exactly like you when you first started. I have no idea how much to charge and I dont have a lot of confidence yet because I am just starting out. I really want to start my own business but i dont even know where to start. i want to start doing Newborn shoots but am not really sure how to go about it. For example should i buy all the props and just do them for free to get the feel of it? What about lighting? I had a baby 5 months ago and i am really regretting not practicing on him. I guess i was so busy and tired i just didnt get around to it. I also feel bad charging because i am not a “real photographer”

  69. Hi,
    I appreciated the time you had taken to create this website, I am new to photography and I want to start a business don’t not sure were to begin. I know you are a busy person but if you find some time can you please email me, I would like to ask you some questions.
    Thank you
    Gaby

  70. Would we also need a llc if we rent studio space?

  71. Hi! This is the first time i visit your site. I want to start my photog business and I am doing research on what would the best camera be. Also, what lighting is extreamly necessary to get before I start. Thank you so muc in advance.

    Rocio

  72. Michelle Short says:

    I thought this was VERY helpful, thank you for posting. I am going this direction. Do you recommend a particular camera?

  73. Hi Kristen

    It’s great to find another photographer willing to be so helpful, and go into so much detail on this topic. So many people look at professional photography from the outside and get lulled into thinking it must be a great and easy living, yet the reality of it is quite different, as you demonstrate here in this article.

    As you mentioned, knowing what to charge can be one of the most difficult things to deal with, and I hope that your readers here (especially anyone new to the business) understand how very important this part is. There are so many pitfalls awaiting the unsuspecting photographer in pricing, and it’s critical to remember that this is now a business and no longer a hobby.

    Great post with some solid information here – thanks for sharing your experience and know-how.

  74. Thank you for posting this! I am in the beginning stages of starting my own photography business and I am so happy I found this post. I was wondering where you found info to give to the clients like print releases and how you preset them with it. Do you meet with the client before a shoot and receive a deposit? Thanks so much!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I don’t meet with clients before, I have them choose between mailing a check, or I send a paypal invoice.

  75. Nikki Theiss says:

    Great post! I haven’t made the jump yet, still shooting whoever will let me for free to gain experience and build a portfolio. Thank for sharing your journey, it gave me so much insight! My God bless you and your family!

  76. Just purchased your ebook, was wondering what lense you recommend for family protraits?

  77. John Fagan says:

    Yes your family is adorable. I stumbled on your site while looking for something else, now I forgot what I was looking for after reading your page. I have considered trying to make a bit of profit from photography. Friends have had me shoot a few special shots and print them. I covered my expenses with a bit left over. I’ve tossed around a few ideas relating to photography for business and organizations instead of individuals. But as you put so well in your article, family time needs to be top priority and I do tend to stay up into the night editing and organizing pictures. Your advice is good and the best I’ve seen all on one page. I shoot with a Nikon D3000, I believe it’s similar to a Rebel. After 2 years I still haven’t mastered all of it’s functions, so I’m not motivated to move up to a camera that is more complicated. I also have PS Elements that I have only played with a few times. I use Picasa for everything. I was able to get good with Picasa in a few weeks, it’s so much more intuitive than PS. I have so many unprocessed pics and projects I’m working on that I never make the time to learn how to use the PS. Maybe someday.

    I’ll be following your blogs. You’ve posted on a number of topics that I want to learn more about..Thanks for sharing your knowledge and your passion for both your family and Photography.

  78. I enjoyed reading this! It was so helpful and encouraging.

    I’ve loved taking pictures since I was a teenager, and have had the dream of having a small photography business from home in the back of my heart for years! I’m just now seriously thinking/praying about looking into starting one. I’m just completely starting at square 1! Ugh, that’s where your blog here is super encouraging. I’m sort of discouraged because I don’t have the finances right now to buy a fancy pants camera. I have an old Cannon from the 70s, and a cheapo digital Cannon. I can start saving up for a nice camera, but I need to pay off my debt first. I wonder if it would be smart to try and find a used camera somewhere? Also, do you suggest having a super fancy camera before starting a business? Or, could I possibly use what I have now, and just charge very little. I think that’s what you did, right?

    Anyways. If you have any tips or encouragement for my not being able to buy a nice camera right now lament, I’m all ears.

    Thanks for this blog!

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I know you can get great deals on used on ebay or crags list. I’m not opposed to that. But probably $200 minimum. I’m not sure what camera you have from the 70’s, but it’d be film (I assume) which would be a big cost for film and developing. So I’d say that yes, a lower end slr digital camera is probably a good idea. It’s up to you!

  79. Hey Kristen! I loved this list and wondered if I could pick your brain a little more… I’m considering starting to charge for photos. I am a SAHM and could shoot on Saturdays. I’ve taken 2 photography classes, and I am making progress in photoshop. I’ve had people ask me already to do their photos, but I really just need to score some serious practice time. So would it be a good idea to throw it out there that I’m just starting out and would only charge $50 for 5 or 10 images on a disk or flash drive with print rights? Then if I get more practice and more clients, raise prices? Also, I’ve been shooting raw and converting to tiff in photoshop. If I’m going to upload photos to fb or blog, what’s the best type of file to upload? My photoshop doesn’t have jpeg option…

    • Ok, I actually think I finally figured out the JPEG thing lol.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Sorry, I don’t catch everything so quickly sometimes. I just heard someone do a morning of pictures and told all her neighbors/friends and did 10 minutes apart. I t hink that’s a good bet. She didn’t charge though, just to make sure people came, but you can do a small fee, too. ANd yes, jpg. you can convert it when you save the image.

  80. Hi, I just wanted to know what photo editing software you use?

  81. I really appreciate you writing on this topic. I know many people are curious about starting a photography business. However, I found it very discouraging that you stated that rebel cameras are not recommended. I personally do not own one, yet I know people that do and they take excellent pictures. Who really cares if you client has a better DSLR? If you know how to put together a shot and all that it entails (lighting, posing, editing, etc) and have an excellent eye it why should it matter? I have seen MANY people with amazing camera bodies, that take awful pictures. I would highly encourage anyone that is looking to upgrade their camera to look at upgrading lenses instead (unless you’re talking about an upgrade to a full frame camera, but many photographers own businesses without one of those). Lenses are a much better investment and make such a great difference in photography. Okay, I’ve written a book, but I feel that your readers should not be misled in that area. It can be discouraging. Sorry for the rant–but it’s such a huge pet peeve of mine!

  82. Hi!!
    I am currently offering a 30min mini session deal where I send all of the (unedited) images to clients and ask them to pick 5 for editing, in the mean time clients are putting unedited photos up on facebook etc.. I feel like the unedited shots are not cohesive to my message as a photographer and am worried they will hurt business,, any ideas on how to prevent this from happening or advice on a better business approach?

  83. Daniel Bosse says:

    Hello Kristen, I’m a new photographer on the block. I know next to nothing when setting up a business. I use picmonkey.com. I have an artillery of photography experience, but I don’t have the camera of a professional quality. What would you recommend that is cheap but closer to professional grade?

  84. Hello I really enjoyed reading this and was wondering if you did any type of mentoring for upcoming new photographers. I would really love to hear back so please feel free to email me. Thank you so much

    Leesa

  85. Tianna Brooks says:

    Hey !! I have a canon eos rebel t3 with a 18-55mm lens is that good to start with ?

  86. Was wondering, what do you include in your questionnaires? Thanks so much for this info, very helpful!

  87. Could you share your questionnaire or tips to include in questionnaires? Always thought it was a great idea but don’t know what key questions to include.

    thanks!

  88. Hello. I want to start a website to sell my photography. I am currently unemployed, and need a new camera pretty bad, so until I get a new camera, I cannot “go out in the field” to shoot clients, just yet. The only thing I am able to offer at this time are my photos on my website, not yet published. Someone told me something to the effect that if someone purchased a photo from my site, that whatever program I use would get the photo they purchased ready for shipment, and then shit it. If someone purchased my photo, and wanted it framed or matted, that when they customize the photo the way they want, someone else takes care of all that and I wouldn’t have to worry about doing that myself. Do you happen to know what this person is talking about and how I can go about this?

    Also, I do not have a printer that works and all I have are discs to burn all my photos on. I would like to shoot for clients who wouldn’t mind getting all their photos I take put on a disc, all for a reasonable price. And this is all just until I start getting some money in so that I can work my way up, getting a better camera. getting business cards and thank you cards, getting more clients, etc. Are there any other tips you can give me that might help me get started with what very little I have to work with?

    One more thing before I forget. How do I go about owning my business name, so nobody else can take it? Are there any websites that will give me ownership of my name as long as I keep the website up, until I have the money to copyright my business name?

    Thank you,
    Susan

  89. Hello kristen, I went through your note and all I can say now is ‘iam encouraged’ I also have love for taking pictures, I do take them for fun, but all the people around me keep telling me to go into proffessional photography, now iv made up my mind to do so, that’s why iv been searching for help and tips.

  90. john karanja says:

    great piece of insight. inspired already and i will be one informed guy when i am starting my photography business 2014. thank you very much Kristen.

  91. Hi Kirsten! Thank you so much for the tips and tricks! I currently only take pictures of family and friends, but have recently been encouraged to expand into an “actual business”. Currently, I use a Cannon Rebel or EOS. What type/model of camera would you recommend to someone who is just starting out. Thanks again for the info! 🙂

  92. Great site, enjoyed reading the articles and the information presented is useful to companies that need to advertise on the Internet.|

  93. i appreciate your knowledge on the subject of photography. however, it doesn’t matter if you have a rebel or a nikon full framed professional camera, if you cant shoot you cant shoot. a good photographer uses what they have, then later purchase what they need.

    ps. nice blog, full of great ideas.

  94. Hi kristen,
    My name is Amber, I have been interested in photography since I was young. 13 – 14 yrs. old. I am now 21 and I want to pursue my career in becoming a professional photographer, I know its a big move, its a lot of work and its challenging. I am prepared to make that step, I am very determined, and i dont give up, I know what i want and i go for it. I love a challenge. I am ready for any obstacle that comes with the process of pursuing my dream. I want to be self taught as you were. i am confident I can do it. I have been learning any little thing about this. I study everything on youtube websites, i look a all types of photography from many different people. I am so prepared and ready for it meantally and physicaly. This is my goal and my dream. I have read that if you are independent and want to self teach yourself its better to have a mentor and I want you to be my mentor I will do anything i can, you seem like the most realest person and down to earth adn dedicated to this then anyone else and you seem to be honest and seeing how you started off is how i have been trying but i am not offical yet so i want to learn more before i can push forth with this. My fiance is a graphic designer and i want to work hand and hand with him eventually and we plan to start our own buisness. Please get back to me on this. whene ever you can. my email is shortielove69@gmail.com my cell phone number is 203 360 6901

  95. I am stay home mom needing to make a little extra money and love taking pictures. Looking to start a small photography biz to help but not take too much time away from my little one. I would love more info on things like what kind of insurance you need, what questionnaire would work for me( thinking of starting just shoot portraits in home some editing and give cd), is their a site needed to license photos, how do you get copy right, I already have a sole proprietorship is that good enough, and any other suggestions???
    I appreciate any help!!!

  96. Great write up! I am an “Advanced” amateur photographer. I actually just started learning how to shoot manual on my DSLR about 10 months ago. I mostly do lascapes shots as a hobby, and “The official family photographer”. There are times I do portrait shoots for friends and events with no pay, but recently I am getting more in demand for portrait shoots as I get better on post processing and results are much better. I think it’s time I need to start the biz.

    My question though, after getting the tax and insurance — don’t you also need a license? Like, getting a license to each city you receive payment from?

    Thank you
    Jay – Los Angeles, CA

    • daralynn+gilliam says:

      Honestly never heard of anyone getting a license for very city you receive payment from. I’ve been an entrepreneur for 15 years and never ever heard of that. I really don’t think you do.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      No, you don’t need a license for each city!

  97. Hi there! I read your post and found it truly aspiring and beautiful. I am an amateur photographer living in New York City. I have experience in taking pictures as I would sometimes shoot my friends and family as well as photographing landscapes. I am currently seeking to establish a business or at least start accumulating some clients and people who are willing to pay to have their picture taken. I would love, love some insight from your experience in the field and any advise you can give to a person who has some experience in taking pictures but would like to learn more about the ropes of the trade. Thank you, and I look forward to your response!

    Chad Smith

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi Chad! I’m working on more posts in the next few weeks just for those starting a photog business. Keep posted!!

  98. This was SO helpful! Thank you!! What kind of photoshop do you use and do you edit every single photo or are there some that you leave as they are?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi Morgan! I shoot in RAW, so it is SOOOO easy to edit a bunch of images all at the same time. I generally do a “partial” edit, and then pick my top favorites or have the client pick theirs, to “fully edit” with a color pop, blemish removal, etc.

  99. Thank You. I don’t know how else to say how helpful this was.

  100. I just stumbled across this post! Thank you SO much for sharing this wonderful information. It was very informative.

  101. Well darn, I just bought a rebel lol I really want great photos of family and friends, but would possibly like to try my hand in some business of my own. Maybe I should have opted for the t3i….poo

    • I have a t3i and yes it’s a rebel. But it accepts the EF lens that her 5d does. The rebel has a cropped sensor, so that means no huge prints. I think it’s a little arrogant to tell someone they can’t do something because they didn’t pony up for the overkill model.

      I’ve used rebels for years and they produce the same quality image, as the higher end models.

      I used to take pictures with a rebel 35mm and they were fantastic images. So PLEASE don’t tell someone they should spend more money on something they don’t need to. If someone is just starting out the rebels are a good starting point. Once you make some money from your jobs go and upgrade your gear.

      I would change your suggestion to using a SLR camera.

  102. How do I go about creating a logo and putting it on the client’s photos? Is that done through Photoshop?

  103. I am just breaking into my photography business (like what all I legally have to set up) and can use all the help I can get. I’m tryin’ to figure up the props to purchase and how to get babies to sleep during shoot and how to do a cheap back drop and how to use my editing program, AND, AND, AND lol! Is there anyway you can post your items/ attachments that you give your clients and price lists? So I have an idea of how to set mine up.
    THANK YOU SO MUCH!
    Sandy

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I’m writing up a post all about pricing tomorrow!! Yes, there are SOOO many things to think about and items to check off, it’s quite a feat!

  104. I stumbled across your blog on Pinterest and feel like God sent it to me. I started a photography business 4 months ago as a supplement to our income / way to keep my sanity while I stay at home with my then 9 month old. I have been charging nothing since my start up and stressing myself out trying to figure out how to balance being a mom/finding them a sitter, running a business, online photography class, all while my husband works out of town. I wasnt sure what my next step was going to be and Ill admit that a few day ago I ven thought about quitting. I simply feel like I dont have the time needed to dedicate to it even though I love it so much. I recently pulled my price list off my site. I knew I had to increase them but wasnt sure how to go about it. I felt guilt/am I worthy?
    I am so glad I read this blog. It was exactly the advice I needed. Ive been selling myself short, especially now that I learned PS, and now I know I dont necessarily need to be an “affordable photographer”. I can be a competitive photographer worthy of the extra money should one so choose to spend it on the art I can provide.

  105. SO happy I ran across this on Pinterst! I have been toying with the idea for years and think I am now ready to go for it! I feel we are kindred spirits. So many of the things you stated about yourself be scribe me too! I did not care for school and am self taught as well. I have read over many of your other tips and I so appreciate your posts. I will be referring to your page often! And hey, I’m not too far from you either… I am stationed in San Antonio. Woot woot.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi Samantha! SO happy to hear that our brains think alike! Photography is so technical, and it took me a while to grasp some concepts. I’m working on more photog biz posts, one going live tomorrow, so stay tuned!

  106. So is an EIN enough for a tax ID? Or do I need a Sales Tax Permit and other things? I am so confused!

  107. How to drive traffic to your site, I am trying to start a business, but can get any clients to come to my site

  108. Kristen,

    What you have put together on here is amazing. This is really good information that I wish me and my wife would’ve had starting out. We really struggled with pricing too. One thing we did was call other similar photographers in our area and ask about their pricing, that helped a lot. My wife can relate to the whole work/life balance thing too. Great site! Keep up the awesome work!

    Kyle

  109. Hi all, I recently found your site by means of Yahoo and google if you are an identical issue, your website came up, it seems like to get good. We have combined with our favourites|combined with our favorites.

  110. daralynn gilliam says:

    Where do you park your online galleries? What lab do you use to process your images? I use Snapfish at the moment because it’s so cheap and know one is paying me at the moment. once i get paying clients I’ll choose another lab.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Black River Imaging lab, online I used photo cart for a long time to host my galleries, but don’t show galleries online now.

  111. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!

  112. It really doesn’t matter what kind of camera it is, the Rebel series is just fine for doing photography. You actually get more value from it since you get more bang for your buck on lenses for portrait work. What really matters is the photographer them self. If they really know how to shoot. In the end no one can tell what kind of camera you used anyways. The client doesn’t really care one way or the other what kind of camera you are using just as long as they get what they are looking for which is quality photographs. I’ve seen photographers use simple point and shoots at graduation parties for crying out loud and still get business. Its all in how you market yourself as a business in the end game.

    • Couldnt agree more! I absolutely love this blog but that is the only thing I completely disagreed on. Ive seen “photographers” with $5000 cameras and didnt have a clue on how to use them. I have a Rebel T3i and my mentor uses a Rebel T3i and I know 2 other very successful photographers in the area that use the same……I truly think its more on learning the camera itself….dont go out and buy thousands of dollars in a camera you have no clue how to use….get one you can learn on and then invest in top of the line lenses once you know what you are looking for……

      • Kristen Duke says:

        True, you don’t have to have an expensive camera to produce good pictures, but there are instances where the higher end cameras will give more quality than the cheaper cameras. It is best to start small and build up to quality after you know how to use.

  113. Hi love your blog… really helpful.. I have a few questions.. Where can I get copyrights from? And what lab do u recommend I use to print my work?

  114. Theresia Theobald says:

    thanks for it I’m feel for now I get guide to start it

  115. Brittany says:

    How does it all work with taxes??? And do I HAVE to get a business license?

  116. How do you find locations to shoot, do you ger permission and how do you go about that?

  117. Andrea Moore says:

    This was really helpful! However, I don’t really agree with the statement “a Rebel won’t do”. The camera itself isn’t the only factor is getting great pictures, but the photographer themselves. I have been through many courses, and hours of photography classes (I was a graphic design major), and when I compare my photos I take with my Rebel to other “photographers” with $1000+ camera, mine seem to be better (not always, of course). I understand that a point and shoot won’t cut it, but with a decent DSLR and knowledge on the camera, lighting, and other equipment, you can have fantastic pictures!

  118. Hello, I loved this article, it has been very helpful. Just one question: how do I go about wth the copyright info? Is this something that I need to have a lawyer do? I am stuck with this part! I don’t know how to go about it.
    Thank you!

  119. Hi!!!
    I stumbled across your website just searching for information. I have been shooting for 2.5 years now and I use one of the rebels you talked about. LOL. Well, I am a beginner. I use a canon rebel xs, in your opinion what would be an upgrade from that? Also, since I am just starting out, should I be charging people? I already do alot for free anyways. LOL. another question, what is your take on contracts? Thanks so much, all the post I have been reading have been super helpful.

  120. Hi Kristen,

    Loved the blog, thank you so much for being willing to share your tips and experience. I have a question, did you register your home based business? How was that process like and were you prepared for any unexpected fees? I am looking at starting an actual small photography business since my clientele is slowly but surely growing

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Sorry for my delayed response, I just got a business license, I don’t think I registered besides that. Hope that helps, and glad you’ve found my tips helpful!

  121. Ishea Wardy says:

    How do you get your photos in packages for your customers. Do you send the to another company and they print them.

  122. Jaela McKinney says:

    Hello!
    Love the information you have provided. I am currently looking to upgrade my camera gear and go for it…Photog business here I come! I am having a difficult time with some of my research. When you offer prints to your clients how do you find out who to partner with to make these prints? or to make canvas prints, albums and so forth? I live in a small town and can not figure out how to get those things done. Most photographers around here just offer a fully edited Disk to their clients with full rights? Is that the way to go in your opinion? I would like to do something different for my clientele. What do you think?

  123. Jaime Lynne says:

    Thank you for giving back to the budding photography community, sans judgement!! I’m starting out, and yea I make mistakes, but I learn as I go. (Been shooting since a teen; been shooting lil gigs here and there for the past 3 or so years,
    Still learning LR… And the logistics! Phew!! It can become overwhelming quickly!!

    Grateful for generous advice like this!!!
    ~ JLM ^_^

  124. Agustin Mojica says:

    Hello Kristen,
    Thanks for sharing the well put together Photography information. I am retired from the military and seriously thinking in getting back in to photography. I was in Korea when I started shooting as a hobby. Learning how to develop my own film with a free program the military had set up to occupy the somewhat free time that we had. I had got really good learning the aperture, ISO and Shutter speeds. When I got home my wife was really impressed with the photos. She was showing them to friends, next thing that came up, one of her friends asked if I could shoot her wedding, I was nervous to say yes, I actually turn it down. Then she said she saw my photos and knows that I will do a good job She gave me $400.00. Well it was kind of hard to turn that down considering the military pay we were getting. I really enjoyed reading your article and seeing your wonderful family. May God bless you all and thanks for the Photography info. I am currently in Afghanistan as a contractor and already purchase my photo equipment. I will be learning the digital photography world before I get started. Thanks once again

  125. Agustin Mojica says:

    Owe! the wedding pictures came out great. I made an extra $200.00 for more prints than I gave her the negatives since they were deploying to another Base.

  126. which camera accessories are essential for a beginner?

  127. MASOOD MUSIC says:

    Awesome blog. This is what I was searching. Read your article. One question that concerns me is INSURANCE ??. What kind of insurance i need. Also Need some advice on contracts and agreements with clients.

    Thanks Kristine.

  128. Hi Kristen – I came across this post yesterday while doing some research and I don’t know how I didn’t find it sooner!

    Your advice is spot on, and I know a lot of folks will get some great inspiration from it. As a marketing coach for photographers, my focus is clearly on business and marketing and the importance of investing time to learn those skills. I was thrilled to see that you also recommend people do the same thing.

    As most photographers find out, sooner or later, being a professional photographer is about 80% business and marketing, and 20% (or even less) actual photography!

    Thanks for taking the time to put this out there for people, and supporting our wonderful industry,

    Nigel

  129. Hi, Thanks for putting the time in this blog/post. I wanted to reach out to you on a subject matter that might help you grow in your faith. You wrote( To make it less awkward on myself, I don’t do business with those in my church congregation. ) God blesses us with gifts… And wants us to use our gifts to help others. If you give to your church as God gave his Son for us. Not only will God bless you but, He will do amazing things in your life. Maybe you will get a awesome tip from a client who was just so happy about your work. Life is about time and how you use your time to reach out to others. God is love and wants us to share his love with others. I’m not saying to do free work for your church… But, if you take on a client from church for free or at a lower cost. You will be so blessed. In all things we do, we should do it as if we are doing it for Jesus with love in your heart. I hope this letter finds you well. God Bless

  130. Hola, Yo también estoy intentando empezar un negocio como fotografa.
    Me dedico a esto desde hace mas de 8 años y es mi pasión y mi vida, me encanta pero en Mexico que es el pais donde vivo es muy dificil hacer entender que la gente se tome fotos maravillosas para recuerdos de esos momentos maravillosos que si no es por la foto son momentos que se olvidan.
    YO no tengo fotos de mi infancia y es algo que lamento mucho.
    Kirsten Thanks for your comments and your book, It is very useful!!!
    Gracias
    Elia

  131. Do you perhaps know a website that allows you to start a business or sell things for free?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I’m not sure, what are you trying to sell? You can sell from a blog like mine, it’s a website that I pay for hosting, or etsy or ebay. For any platform you use, you’ll likely have to pay something unless it’s a blogspot blog.

  132. What camera do you recommend for a person starting to do professional photography? I am a rebel (which I love), but am looking for a full frame.

  133. This was very helpful seeing how I am trying to teach myself what I need to know. I have been thinking about starting my own business for a while now and it’s something I really want to do. My question is (I hope not too silly) I am a 41 year old single father and just wondering if I’m too old to start my own photography business. I have been photographing for a while (for myself) and have shot two weddings (for family). I am trying to write a business plan and get all the info I can & need. Please help with any advice.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      I don’t think you can ever be too old to try something new! It’s definitely a slow growth business. Start by asking friends to photograph them as favors, with the exchange of helping you spread the word! I’m co-authoring a book about a business plan and such, it will be out soon, so watch for it!

  134. Nico Profitt says:

    Hello! I’m a 14 year old young lady trying to find a great starter set up for the start of a future buisness. I love takin picures of my close family and friends, but I sadly just use my Iphone of step mothers camera. My mother has finally given me the oppurtunity to find a camera to start me off in my hopefully long carrer in photography. So if you could give me advise on an easy set up that’d be AMAZING!

    Thank you so much,
    Nico Profitt(:

  135. Nico Profitt says:

    Hello! I’m a 14 year old young lady trying to find a great starter set up for the start of a future buisness. I love takin picures of my close family and friends, but I sadly just use my Iphone of step mothers camera. My mother has finally given me the oppurtunity to find a camera to start me off in my hopefully long carrer in photography. So if you could give me advise on an easy set up that’d be AMAZING!

    Thank you so much,
    Nico Profitt(:
    [P.S. if you could please contact me through my email : nicoprofitt@gmail.com . Thank You!]

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi Nicole!! How fun that you’ve found a passion at 14! I’ve got lots of great tips for beginning photographers on my site on the photography tab under photo tips, I’ve also got a book called Say NO to Auto for beginners. If you have specific questions, let me know!

  136. Hello,

    Loved reading everything you posted! If you don’t mind me asking, where did you get your certification from? Do you think local workshops or online classes are helpful? Also, how long did it take you to get your business started? Thank you.

  137. I am starting a photography business in this last year after divorce. I was a make-up artist before I had kids for movies, print etc… I have an eye for taking pictures and lighting. I have been studying for the last year, have taken quite a few nice pictures and have a website. Have a very expensive camera and lenses.
    Now What???? How do I start getting myself out there to make money? I haven’t a clue of how to start selling myself as a photographer.
    Can you please give me some suggestions.
    Thank you
    Nina

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi Nina. The best thing to do is start with friends. Take theirs for free with the expectation that if they love them, they help promote you to their friends. Word of mouth is truly the best way to get business. Good luck on your journey!

  138. I’m a sophomore in high school and I’ve been really interested in photography since I was in elementary school. I highly doubt I would be able to find a photography job where I live and kind of want to start my own business after school and all. This really helped to push me to be pretty committed to doing this after I graduate and take some business classes and figure out all of the major details and what not. Thank you so much for this information!

  139. Hi,
    I have a question about choosing what camera i want to get next, right now i have a nikon D40 6.1 mp digital SLR. And i want something better than that im thinking about switching to Canon’s. Im actually liking how your camera takes the picture. If you can message me by my email so that we can talk more about this i would love to because i have a 15 photo session for this girl next month.

  140. what do you think about the Canon rebel t5i?

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  146. hi! Wonderful post, I really enjoyed it. I am a starting photographer and was just curious about your permission paper they have to sign as well as the copyright informing. Did you get the forms from a template, would you be willing to share an example? Thank you so much!! 🙂

  147. Did u teach your self? Your did you go to school for photography?

  148. this is a silly question, but i was wondering how photographers put signatures on the photos!?

  149. I am planning to start a photography business myself. I, like you, love being home with my family but I feel my passion for photography is unsatisfied and I want to take it to the next level. I recently took a “mastering manual” class through a local photographer. It was amazing and she was very complimentary of my work. I have few questions regarding the business aspect:

    1) how did you obtain a tax ID?
    2) what type of insurance do you have? did you always have insurance, even when starting out?
    3) did you need anything when opening a business bank account?
    4) do you have any samples or suggestions for model releases and copyright releases?

  150. stephanie c says:

    This was a great post! My question is when you were starting out, did you get your tax things together and then start or did you practice and then get a tax id? I want to take pictures of people but I don’t want to get too involved and not really go anywhere with it. I know doing your taxes is important but it seems like if you didn’t think you were going to start this as a income type business that you wouldn’t need a tax id. It’s so confusing lol

  151. hey there, I have been doing research on photography editing programs to use, and I have heard of a few good ones, but they weren’t compatible with my computer. Do you know a good system thats worth the money and won’t make me wanna rip my hair out and is compatible with a macbook pro? Thank you for all your help in advance!

    • Hey- I’ve been doing some photography work for the last couple of years and editing is my favorite part! I have been using Adobe Lightroom. I didn’t do a whole lot of reading on how to use i and it was very easy to learn. I use it on my PCs and Macs and they all seem to work great with it!

  152. mavi escobar says:

    i was wondering what you do to prepare your images for print. What specific guidelines do you recommend for giving your customers quality prints without missing limbs and such when they take their cd or usb for print at their choice of printing shop? I Love your ideas and tips!

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  154. I love your information posted on starting a photography business. I have been shooting photos as a hobby for over 40 years. I’ve been told I have many great shots from Europe to Rodeos. My wife and I are retired and on fixed income so we feel it’s time to start trying to do something we love and make some extra cash at the same time.
    Thanks Ever So Much Kristen!
    Tony & Mona Davis

  155. Excellent site. Plenty of practical facts the following. I’m just transmitting this to several friends ans also sharing inside tasty. And lastly, thank you on the energy!

  156. i would like to become a photographer to become my own boss

  157. Katlyn Wilkerson says:

    I really enjoyed reading all about how you started your photography business. It was really helpful to me. I am really considering starting a small business on the side. I won’t do it for my only income unless I somehow get really good at it and my future husband (boyfriend now) gets a really good paying job and can support us both. I am currently in college right now part time and working part time. I have plenty of extra time to work on editing pictures. I love it. I just need help figuring out photoshop. But anyways, thanks a lot for the helpful information!

    Sincerely,
    Katlyn

  158. Thank you for this article. I really liked the list you provided of all the things I will need to start a business. There were quite a few things that I hadn’t though about. Thanks again!

  159. Antoinette says:

    This was so helpful and what I needed. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  161. How do I do the whole tax ID? I am new to this all as well.

  162. I was wondering how you make a logo for your business?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Logo’s are tough! there are etsy shops that make them, some custom. I’m not a great designer, so I hire out.

  163. D. Lindemann says:

    I’m just about ready to build a website for my photos. To protect myself legally is it necessary to form an LLC? I’m more concerned about nuisance suits more than anything else. My business will be strictly online. I have in my long ago past done work on commission but I don’t do that now. Thanks, your shots are terrific.

  164. You just need the skills and the inspiration for photography. There’s no need to get any training or classes to become a professional photographer. Its just your attitude towards photography that will make you a professional. Just don’t wait and think for the right time to get started.

  165. Thank you for your advice on starting out a career in photography. Would you say that you do more work out in the field or in the studio? I am considering starting my own studio, but maybe while I start I should just shoot exteriors as it is free.

  166. Well I just stared my website this morning. Looking at yours I have a long way to go! Nice work. You are the first person to know about it.

  167. Morgan Schwarz says:

    I am wanting to start a photography business with my future sister in law. I have a couple questions…
    1. How do you get a tax ID?
    2. How do you begin making us a business? Like… name, book keeping, all the stuff you need for government purposes.
    3. How do you make up a logo?
    4. When it comes to naming your business, how do you go about that?

  168. Tasha Herrell says:

    I found your article so helpful on starting a photography business and I agree with everything you wrote especially as it relates to timing and scheduling of time. You wrote about online galleries to share pictures with your clients. Where can these be found?

  169. Hello,
    I just wanted say thank you! I am turning my hobby into a business. If you have some time please check out my facebook page. I would love feedback from you. https://m.facebook.com/sunshinephoto4u

  170. what type of printer do you use for your prints?

  171. You don’t have to go through that much. You could always do your photography as an “under the table thing”.

  172. LOVE this! I have been searching on tips on how to run a photography business and this is the only article that has really helped.
    I was wondering if you had any examples of the permission paper they have to sign as well as the copyright informing.
    Also what are the best cds to get to give to your clients with their images on them?
    When you put the pictures online for them to choose did you put your logo on those?

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Great questions! I’m working on more posts and sharing the file with ideas for a release. Sign up for my free newsletter so you can see when they are published! I don’t do CD’s anymore, I do thumb drives with my logo on it. I aim to put images online 2 weeks after the shoot.

  173. Where do you send your photos to have them printed?

  174. where do you get yur photos developed?

  175. I just wanted to tell you how helpful all your tips, tricks, and hints have been to me! You are very talented, and I LOVE your style. I appreciate your straightforwardness on subjects. I have found that not many ‘pro’ photographers want to share their insights for fear of losing business.
    Thanks again!

  176. Question, do you use external flashes? If so, what would be some good brands to look into purchasing?

  177. I love your post so far as I just now discovered it!!! I am a new photographer and I am starting out my own business for a hobby and side job as I’ve always had a passion for photography and traveling!!!

  178. Laura Harvey says:

    I am working on to start up photography business – portrait on location and studio, also event photography. I am working on business plan – financial part. It is very hard. I am trying to set up the rate. My problem, how do I assume how many clients per month at first year then rest of 12 months, then 2nd and 3rd year. How can I figure out on that? How many clients on first month of first year? 2 – 4 clients a month or maybe 0 – 2?. I can’t move on my financial part because I am clueless how many clients a month. Smile!

  179. This is probably a silly question but how did you go about getting a tax ID? I’m in the very early stages of wanting to start something and know that I need to get things like a Tax ID or business license out of the way. I also know I need to build a website to help me along.

    I loved your post btw. Very helpful!

  180. Hey Kristen,

    Nice post!!

    All the pictures are just amazing. My brother was thinking to start a photography business. I will surely recommend this site to him. I am sure he will find it very beneficial.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

  181. Great ,, Thanks for sharing this informative article

  182. Nice article.. I think you put things clear and that you are really realistic!
    I have realised that of course I am not ready now to run my own business but as I want it absolutely, I will manage in a future. Thanks a lot for your help and nice continuation

  183. I majored in photography in college from 2010-2014, but they never taught us the business side of photography. So, at this point, my student loan debt is pretty much not being paid because I cannot make a paid living from photography. At this point, it has just become a hobby, sad to say.

  184. Great things to know starting a photography business and also nice to remember when you already are running one. Thanks for this detailed article. I’d just point out that today many of these very important tasks can be automated or dealt with some high-tech solution. Keep an eye on cloud platforms for photographers – they are huge!

  185. Samantha Hanlon says:

    Hi! I am just starting out as a photographer and have a handful of questions I haven’t been able to get answered if you could help me out! 🙂

    Did you type up your own model release? I need to make one but don’t know where to start.
    How do you send out your images? I was using a CD and shipping it out on town but need something simpler if there is
    What Online gallery do you use?
    I currently use a Nikon D3200 that I’ve had for 2.5 years and have just the two lenses that came with it but hoping to upgrade to something a little better, what do you recommend?
    What editing software do you use? I don’t currently use much editing and therefore do not charge much because I don’t think its worth too much yet! I’m looking to get Photoshop & Lightroom.

    • Kristen Duke says:

      Hi there! You’ve got lots of questions! You should join the Capturing Joy Photo Club on Facebook (search it) we talk a lot of photo talk there. Quickly: yes, made my own model release. I use a thumb drive or online gallery (google). I write about lenses here on my site, search: my camera gear at the top. I love photoshop, but in my webinar that I’m teaching on THursday, I’m sharing about the Camera Academy course I created via the free webinar. See the post on my home page for details.

  186. John Jacobson says:

    Something extremely cool I saw the other day was running a mobile 3D photography business. Saw it at http://web.twindom.com – seems decently inexpensive to get started and is a very unique product.

  187. Maryesther White Brink says:

    Hello,
    Just came across your information. I have found it very helpful! I’m just starting my own business. My biggest worry is, do I charge tax and do I need a tax number or anything like that? How professional as in legal document does my contract have to be?

    Thank You!
    Maryesther

  188. Tips are helpful Ms. Kristen, thank you for sharing it. Glad to hear more and hopefully soon it will have the strategies and techniques. Congrats!

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