Starting a Photography Business

Top 7 Resources for Starting a Portrait Photography Business

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You are at an exciting time in your career as you take your photography hobby to the next level and turn it into a real business. Having a passion for photography is definitely a must but then there’s also all those business concerns to consider before you actually open up shop. In the same manner as you choose the best camera or lens for taking masterful photos, you must make the appropriate choices for operating your startup photography business.

These are the top 7 areas of business that you might be looking for when starting a portait photography business along with our own personal recommendations. If you’ve given any a try, please let us know in the comments below.

1. How to Start a Photography Business

For starters we recommend that you read “How to Start a Photography Business“. This article will help you with topics such as registering your business, taxes, banking, and determining your area of service. It’s quite an in-depth article as it also delves into pricing your photography, tracking your expenses (a subject very critical to the success of your business), and marketing your photography business.

2. Sharpening Your Talents

You may feel that you’re already a pretty gifted portrait photographer but you should always be open to learning from master photographers and about new techniques and equipment on the market. We really like “The Portrait Photography Course” by Mark Jenkinson as it is a must-have resource that you will find yourself referring back to repeatedly. Mark has been a sought after photographer and instructor for more than 25 years and this guide is packed with examples for helping you perfect your craft.

Another book we like for honing your skills is Monte Zucker’s Portrait Photography Handbook. Monte is a master at guiding you through lighting techniques, body positioning, adding digital enhancements, and more to help your create portrait masterpieces.

3. Portrait Photography Business Location

As they say in real estate, location, location, location – and it’s just as true with your portrait photography business. You can start by operating out of your home but will most likely want to expand to having an actual store front one day. It somewhat depends on where you want your business to go and who your potential clients will be.

If you plan to be an on-site photographer hitting the road to take portraits at schools, clubs, churches, businesses, and organizations, then a home-based business may work fine. You can simply take your lighting gear, backdrops, lenses, and camera equipment with you and set up a mock studio on-site.

If you want customers to come to you then you definitely will need a storefront.

Keep in mind the size of your portrait business and how many customers you can truly service when choosing the location of your storefront. Take into consideration:

  • Street visibility for drivers and pedestrians passing by
  • Locating in a major shopping mall but keep in mind that rents may be steep
  • Locating in smaller strip malls near similarly focused businesses. This will lower rent costs while gaining the attention of customers. For example, locating near restaurants, clothing retailers, toy stores, schools, and day care centers may bring in families as customers.
  • Check for competitors in areas you like. If you set up shop too close to other more established portrait photography businesses, you may find it challenging to compete.

For more specific information, read over the tips listed in this article “Finding a Location for Your Photo Studio“.

4. Portrait Photography Business Legalities

While the main reason you’re starting your photography business is because you enjoy taking portraits, it’s ever so important to understand the legal aspects of owning a photography business. There are many laws and regulations regarding copyright, free use, contracts, and liability. We recommend these wonderful resources for tackling these technical aspects:

Attorney Carolyn Wright’s website – Photo Attorney

Tad Crawford’s step-by-step guide for creating contracts – Business and Legal Forms

Your specialty is photography so call upon the expertise of others to stay current on your familiarity of the laws and regulations of your industry.

5. Marketing Your Portrait Photography Business

You may quite possibly find that you will spend more time marketing your startup portrait business than you spend actually taking the portraits. That’s because your business needs to be found by potential customers. While in the early stages of your startup establish a marketing budget and then revise it each subsequent year based on your business needs and anticipated growth.

Fortunately, much of your work can be created by using free or low cost methods. This article from Digital Photography School shares 11 tips for focusing on free marketing resources. Most definitely get the word out through social media and consider starting a blog/website to take advantage of the vast Internet population.

Check out Scott Voelker’s book Step By Step Guide For Finding New Photography Client for down-to-earth practical tips for finding customers and building your repeat clientele.

6. Create Your Portrait Business Portfolio

A major component of marketing your business is to show off your talents and the best way to do that is with your portfolio. Your portfolio is where you want to boast about your best work so it must consist of more than simply an album of portraits.

You should certainly have portrait albums for potential customers to browse through and that you can take with you during interviews. Make them “sell” your abilities by including an assortment of portraits taken in different locations and under a variety of settings to demonstrate your versatility.

Your portfolio should also be digital in the form of photographs on your website or blog. Look at your website as your digital canvas for promoting your talents to an immensely broad audience. You can target particular audiences, events, and occasions through the pages and articles on your site.

Be sure your portrait business portfolio includes large framed portraits on your studio walls. This is the best way to display your gifted work for those who pass by or come on in. A fabulous resource for crafting your book or digital portfolio is Lindsay Adler’s Creative 52: Weekly Projects to Invigorate Your Photography Portfolio. Her inspirational techniques will take your portraits from average to marketing masterpieces that bring in sales.

7. Blending Your Portrait and Business Expertise

Portrait photography can be quite challenging but when you combine your artistic skills with your business know-how, a portrait photography business can definitely be rewarding. We also recommend that you read “Startup Costs to Consider for a Retail Photography Business”, “Portrait Delivery Packaging  Options” for fine tuning your photography business expertise, and visit Dan Heller’s website for an abundance of information about operating a photography business. He shares insights on business, pricing, licensing, copyrights, and more. Then sit back and enjoy the benefits of our recommended DVD training videos.


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11 comments for “Top 7 Resources for Starting a Portrait Photography Business

  1. June 10, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    What a brilliant and useful guide! THanks for posting

  2. June 10, 2014 at 9:02 pm

    Hi Guys. I got here through a recommendation from the great Misty Spears, so kudos to Misty for thinking of you. I just want to give a heads-up and thank you for the information you provide here. Replace the with and you have provided a guideline for anyone to reflect on when starting a business. Thank You, Thank YOU, THANK YOU again. prp

  3. June 10, 2014 at 9:46 pm

    These are great steps for those who want to start their photo business. I know someone who can benefit from this post.

    • June 12, 2014 at 2:04 am

      Thanks for commenting Miriam and definitely feel free to share! We’d love more viewers. :)

  4. June 11, 2014 at 1:44 am

    You don’t necessarily need a store front. In Michigan, there are corporate buildings that rent out their empty rooms for a period. You can rent the room and schedule your shoots during the time that the room is yours.

    Always a different means to an end. :)

    • June 12, 2014 at 2:06 am

      Most definitely. Store fronts are mainly for if you want to take advantage of traffic from the street or walk bys. My first studio was actually in the back of a retail store where nobody could see me from the street…up some stairs. It was tiny and just awful LOL But it worked for my first “retail” space.

  5. June 11, 2014 at 9:22 am

    Bonnie stole my comment! Renting a room – whether in a commercial suite or hotel meeting room is a cost effective way to get started if you already have all your gear portable.
    Whether you are mobile or have a studio – a Google Local listing is a must (ok, I am biased there! But it works!)

    • June 12, 2014 at 2:06 am

      haha biased…but true! Local listings are critical to a photography business, especially with the number of photographers coming on the scene these days.

  6. June 11, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Great points for anyone looking to step up their business in this area.

    I have no clue when it comes to photography. I have a super cheap and super crappy camera. Point and click and hope for the best. lol. :)

  7. June 12, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    I’ve always had an interest in photography but never pursued it fully. If I ever want to start a business than I’ll definitely have to start with number 2 :)

  8. November 21, 2014 at 9:04 pm

    I found this post really helpful, I’m looking to expand into the portrait market and it truly is all about location location location..

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