February 11, 2020 By SnapSentry

Are you ready to turn your photography hobby into a business? Before you transition, just what is a business?

Best-selling author of the Personal MBA, Josh Kaufman, breaks every business from freelancers to those in the Fortune 500 into five processes:

  1. Value-Creation: Figure out what people want and give it to them.
  2. Marketing: Attract attention to grow demand for what you created.
  3. Sales: Turn prospects into paying customers through transactions.
  4. Value-Delivery: Satisfy customers by doing or giving what you have promised.
  5. Finance: Make enough money that the whole venture is worthwhile.

Your first resource should be your business plan. That one’s on the house. Here are 16 resources organized by the five parts of every business:

(Please note any companies and links are samples-we don’t receive commissions for suggestions.)

Value Creation

1. Equipment

It’s the stuff that makes it possible to create value for your clients.

Nikon vs. Canon. That’s the old debate. You want to research models based on your niche. Once you’ve picked a winner, you may want to rent a camera for a few weeks to test drive before you buy it.

You can buy these or create these for portrait or studio photographs.

Camera Bag
It’s one way to protect your investment from shoot to shoot.

Yes, you already dropped a pretty penny for the camera, but the right lenses can improve your photo quality.

Sunlight isn’t always sufficient. You can save the day when natural light doesn’t cut it.

Props are niche dependent. You would expect to purchase different items if you specialized in cosplay, pets, or weddings.

Reliable Transportation
Will you travel to clients? Then you’ll need a ride that can carry your equipment.

Studio Space
Will you start in your home, rent a space, or shoot on location?

A steady camera is necessary for accurate and precise shots.

2. Computer

It’s technically equipment, but it’s a resource in itself. You’ll need a decent computer to store and edit photos. A laptop would be best if you plan to travel to clients.

Editing Software
Photoshop and Lightroom are industry standards and great investments for your new business.

External Hard Drive
Photos take up lots of memory. Free up your computer space with storage that travels with you.

File Management and Storage
Dropbox, Google Drive, WeTransfer, and a host of other cloud services will let you store, manage, and send files to clients.


Email Marketing
Email is still one of the best ways to keep in contact and promote your business with prospects, past clients, and partners (for example, a catering business may be a vendor a wedding photographer teams up with.)

Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (protect your photos). Get your handles on these three and any other platforms relevant to your niche, so your stunning shots can go viral.

Your iPhone or Android will never be your primary tool, but you’ll need a smart phone with a good camera for behind-the-scenes footage, sharing photos, and social media posts.

Business Cards
It’s old school, but giving someone a tangible way to get in touch might lead to your next client.

Every reputable business has a website, and yours is no different. You can go to GoDaddy, Squarespace, Format, Wix or many other providers to get your set up. You can even hire a freelancer on Upwork, or 99 Designs create one for you. But no matter what, make sure it’s professional.

Domain Name
Get the .com if you can and focus on a unique benefit. Or you can do your-name-photography.com.

Online portfolios let you showcase past work, and some even allow you to sell prints. One more way to monetize the print income stream.

Web and Email Hosting
You can go with the same place that sold you the domain name or somewhere else. But make sure your email is something like first-name@your-domain.com and not a Gmail or other free service. That screams amateur.


Client Contracts and Forms
You might save the trip to the lawyer and choose online contract warehouses like The Contract Shop.

A Customer Relationship Manager keeps all your contacts in one place. You can walk through every step of the buying cycle from lead to prospect to client to referral generator. HubSpot, Salesforce, and Zoho are popular options amongst dozens more.

PPA Membership
There’s never a transaction without trust. Joining the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) gives you credibility to prospects and peers. You’ll also receive industry stats, forms, and even up to $15,000 of PhotoCare Equipment Insurance.

Value Delivery

File Delivery
Dropbox or WeTransfer mentioned above can do this job, or you can choose a photography specific site like Photoshelter.

You may need to print marketing materials or proofs, so you’ll need a high-quality printer.


Accounting Software
Make sure you’re invoicing, paying bills, and making a profit. QuickBooks, Xero, FreshBooks, or even Excel can do the job.

Business License
A good attorney can walk you through the process in your state, or you can reference the PPA once you have a membership.

You’ll need business insurance, and once again, the PPA can point you in the right direction.

Payment Platform
Some accounting programs double as payment platforms, but you can also choose Square or PayPal.

A Bonus Resource for Starting a Photography Business

Now you should have some photography business ideas on what you need to start your photography business. Here’s a bonus resource to help you protect your photos. Try our quick and easy free watermark software, SnapSentry, today.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is a watermark?
    A watermark is a superimposed, transparent message on a picture or image (usually a signature, stamp, or logo).

  2. What do I need to start a photography business?
    Start with a photography business plan, and then these 16 resources will point you in the right direction.

  3. How to start a photography business on the side?
    Photography can be a great side hustle that can turn into a career. Start with a business plan and then check out these 16 resources.

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