Many times over and over have I seen a lot of people out there “pretending” to be professional photographers without even starting an actual and legal photography business.
The first thing they do is buy a camera, prepare a Facebook Page and then start to shoot friends and family for little to nothing. In this process hoping that they might call photography their new loved career, before actually starting a legal photography business.
They are simply putting themselves at a great financial and legal risk by doing this and it’s not a good idea to test waters to see if they would succeed. Most of them will not. Why would this happen?
This will happen, because these people would think that clients are not going to take their business seriously. You will have to make the decision to take your own business seriously. What do you need and how do you start a photography business the right way? How much does it actually cost to start a photography business? How would you be able to get real paying clients the right way? In this article, I will be discussing these questions…
What Equipment Do You Need To Be A Photographer?
Camera malfunctions do happen. You are going to need a least 2 professional cameras as a professional photographers which will be your backup in case something goes wrong. Both cameras must be professional-level cameras. Non-professional cameras are not okay; remember that we are doing this the right way. There are many different types of photography and your gear must meet the needs of the type of photography you are going to choose as a career. Wedding photographers for instance have to prepare to shoot in conditions that does not require flash and also need equipment to handle those difficult situations better.
I have prepared the following list that I would recommend buying if I was starting out as a professional photographer. (And for full disclosure, since I’m all about doing things right, almost all the links in this article pays me a commission if you use them, so please use my links and thanks for helping support this site by using them to make your purchases!)
My recommendations will be based on Portrait Photography and Wedding Photography.
Portrait Photographers: 2 x Nikon D7100 cameras, the camera body is only ($1200 each) The kit comes with lenses that are not pro-level lenses. Void buying a Kit.
Total cost: $2400
Wedding Photographers: 2 x Nikon D610 cameras, the camera body is only ($2000 each) The kit comes with lenses that are not worth it. Void buying a Kit.
Total cost: $4000
When it comes to lenses, I recommend the following lenses for both professional portrait and wedding photography. These lenses work on all cameras that are full and cropped frame. The reason for these more expensive over the less expensive lenses is that when you upgrade your camera you would not need to buy new lenses:
Nikon 35mm f/2.0 Lens: $360
Nikon 50mm f/1.8 Lens: $299
Nikon 85mm f/1.8 Lens: $499
An all important lens for wedding photographers: Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 Lens: This will help you in very dark situations where I found myself many times over and you aren’t allowed to be close to the couple. An example such as; working under a tent or in a very dark church. From time to time you will not be allowed to go anywhere except to be at the very back of the church. Total Cost: $2400
At least 2 flashes are required for Wedding photographers. I recommend the Nikon SB-700 ($329 each).
Total Cost: $658
For other gear you’ll also need to purchase flash triggers, memory cards, camera bags, reflectors, light stands, etc. Most of these gear vary based on your photography style.
Total Cost: $500-$1500
In this important section I will cover the things that you will need to pay for to get your business legal as a professional photographer and the essentials that you need to do the right way. Costs do vary based on the different locations, business type and marketplace. These cost indicated below is my best attempt to estimate that you can expect to pay.
Incorporating your business: $125
Yearly Accounting Services: For the year-end tax filing and those occasional questions. $300
Easy Client & Money Manager: A spreadsheet system that tracks business finances. $129
Yearly Business Insurance: $600
Product Samples: I recommend product samples so that you can encourage your clients to buy them. Clients will most likely buy what they can see. Invest in samples. $200-$1000
Legal Fees & Photography Contracts
Legal fees vary from attorney to attorney and can cost approximately $400 an hour. If an attorney writes up a contract, it can take 3-4 hours starting from scratch or 1 hour to review an existing drafted contract.
Due to these high rates, I personally feel that it would be better to purchase photography contracts from Tad Crawford. His software contains 34 forms for photographers, each accompanied by step-by-step instructions, advice on standard contractual provisions, and unique negotiation checklists to guide professionals to the best deal. Photography Contracts: $18
Computer & Software
For Design and Photography, iMac is the best in the world.
21″ iMac Computer: $1299
2 x Backup Hard Drives: $85 each: Total cost: $170
Screen Calibrator: $299
Adobe Photoshop & Lightroom 5: $119
Your Very Own Website
As a photographer it is essential to display your work online. If you plan to get clients that don’t know you, buying easy web design software will get you there. Please stay away from those free websites. With WordPress, you can create an unlimited number of sites and pages, design bespoke web graphics and banners and add interactive gadgets, photos and videos – all with simple drag and drop tools. When Hosting your website, HostGator has been a world-leading provider of web hosting services. They offer packages for both beginners and professionals alike. Each Hosting plan includes 24/7/365 support, a 99.9% uptime guarantee, and a 45-day money-back guarantee.
Website yearly hosting & domain name cost: $70
Website Design Software: FREE
Other Business Necessities
I would like to walk the extra mile by saying that many photographers that want to start a business does not have any idea on how to actually run a business. Getting new client might be a challenge, do they know how to attract clients they want, or how to encourage them to buy their products. Most of them have no idea how to set prices or how to deal with client workflow.
Months are spent (even years) trying things that do not work. They will then end up feeling exhausted and frustrated seeing that their business isn’t growing.
To avoid wasting time and money, the following courses and tools should be included in your start-up costs as training. This can be used so that you can actually do things right and get the clients and profit you need.
How 2 Price Photography Workbook: Have confidence that your pricing is actually making you the money you expect it to be making. $97
Modern Photography Course: This school is what you have been looking for. As a photography hobbyist you should be on the lookout for educational information. It delivers fantastic tips. By training with them you will learn how to see the world differently through a lens and take some exceptional photographs. I tell every photographer I know about these courses. There are short videos packed with information but short enough that a busy mom of kids can squeeze in a lesson here and there. You will be excited to practice what was learned.
The information presented by the Modern Photography Course is clear and professional, but is accessible to a wide range of skill levels. You will be very happy to join with them. You will start to see a difference between the photographs you take and the ones other people take. It would be difficult to actually be IN photographs as people ask will ask you to take them more and more. If you want consistently great results, this course is a must! $297 one year plan
The Costs of Starting a Photography Business
Costs may vary. My list of start up costs is absolutely necessary to get your photography business started. There might be many extra things you WANT to buy, such as fancy packets, props and gear, office and studio space. This list was created to indicate the absolute essentials you need to purchase if you were starting out and wanted to do things right from the beginning of your photography career.
Total Costs of starting a Portrait Photography Business: $9,323 – $13,118
Total Costs of starting a Wedding Photography Business: $13,981 – $17,776
So, for less than $10,000 you can start a portrait photography business and for less than $14,000 you can start a wedding photography business.