√  Put it in writing this is essential.  What are my goals, financial independence, and what information do I need?
√  Financial requirements of your business
√  Assets and resources
√  Establish a clientele, how and who
√  Workable timetable

√  Comparisons in your area for pricing

√  How you will market yourself.



√  Secure a legal business identity with tax- and local licensing applicable to your location. Rules differ by state and parishes, counties and cities.  And check the rules that apply to a home based photography business they may be different.

√  Also decide if you are going to be a corporation, a LLC, a sole proprietorship, a partnership or sole owner.

√  You will need a “DBA” if you call yourself a name other that you own. Tax rules state that you can only claim business deductions from your home office if the space where you work is used exclusively and regularly for that business. Kitchen tables and screened in porches don't count. this is where it pays to have a good accountant to help you establish the business.

√   Open a business banking account. Don't mix business with pleasure. Separate your business from any personal finances. Most banks require your licenses and corporate papers if applicable to establish an account. Use it to pay all your business bills and expenses.       Starting on a credit card? Have a separate card for your business expenses. 



√  Some neighborhoods and neighbors like the guy next door “ ho your dog greeted with a message in a pile" may resent you having company over to your house for commercial purposes.

√  Note: Where I live requires a board of seven to handle all the squabbles that arise from neighbors being neighborly. 

√  You should really be well equipped at this point because you will need all you finance to live on and promote the business. Large expenditures in a new company is paramount to going under unless you are well endowed in banking.


√  Protect yourself with liability insurance, clients going to your in-home studio, or they might wind up owning your house.

√  Equipment indemnity, (If your gear is stolen, if your home is broken into, fire-bombed, flooded) Some homeowner's or renter's insurance do not cover these items. But they might have a rider, ask your agent, be forthcoming, a few bucks in the right place can get you back up again.

√  Health and disability insurance if you cannot continue working in your business and you quit your day job. Wait till you see what that costs. 



√  It's important to join the local Chamber of Commerce
 and the better, photography associations, not gimmick forums. Also work with professional organizations like Rotary, Moose Lodge, etc.

√  Today they call it networking, in the past it was a place to get a few beers and look for business, compare notes, swap a few lies, brag about your golf game and collaborate with other photographers in your area.  It seems the most important function it serves today is to add a few initials after the name of your business or icons on your business cards.

√  Business Associates: Having a good backup in equipment is important, having a good shooter as a backup if you get double booked or sick is essential in avoiding things like lawsuits. etc. 

√  Also,  you must know thy labs and printers.  You'll need a working relationship with your providers, the internet has made the industry very cold.  About as cold as being on the internet.  You’ll need two good labs.   Some of the Sam’s clubs, and Costco hired former printers from the KODAK club and with very modern Fuji Dry printers are sufficient for the low budget arena.  But you also need one of the specialists who do the Metallics and Table books, large mounted prints etc.

√  A lab you can make or break you. You are looking for quality, timely delivery, and get first strike or right the first time.  



Winston Churchill, the great cigar chomping Brit is believed to have said: “I would never join a club that would have me as a member”!    He said it but did not create it.   It was an American, Will Rogers who said it first and it was also used by Groucho Marx and Woody Allen.  Regardless of what they are called, basically organizations are clubs.  

We all want to be part of something. It all goes back to our primal days when we shared the same cave. It's "belongs-manship”.  And someone is making MONEY on it. That’s just fact, Jack! It’s the dues, it's a business.

The simple act of "checking the box for automatic checking or credit card deductions" for dues payment brings accolades of thank you notes and emails plus pats on the back.  

If this sounds like the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP), not exactly, close enough, advertising pays the bills but generally their content is balanced, that's how you stay in business.  It’s WAS an excellent magazine, well written and really did open the mind to creativity.  I had twelve years sitting on my shelf. They had several good tips per month worth the price of admission.  It was 99.00 per year but by using the discounts at vendors they offer, really cost me nothing.  

That's not quite true today, Kelby has doubled plus the fee, no magazine, and opened Pandora's box to deals and other vendors and so forth. You have been mailing listed.  I will not renew my membership when due.

Some organizations allow special privileges for "lifetime achievement". You paid your lifetime dues up front. Some even have names mentioned at lavish yearly gatherings of the lemmings called conventions. Conventions are like vitamins to club membership. You have peers, bonding, booze, demonstrations and vendors. Lots of vendors. And great speakers. 



One prominent speaker with decades of recognized personal achievement in HOLLYWOOD turned in a horrifically dumb act of bravado playing the crowd.  Actors do that, they steal the moment.  

Charlton Heston, claimed he'll give up his flintlock when they pry it from his "cold dead hands".  That’s cool, great advice...join the crowd, go get shot.   But in 2016-2017, released statistics indicated  224 people died from gunshots and 732 were severely wounded enough for medical treatment.  He did a better job as Moses than just another voice for the NRA who cared less about how many children have died.
Heston was the president (a largely ceremonial position) and spokesman of the NRA from 1998 until he resigned in 2003. At the 2000 NRA convention, he raised a rifle over his head and declared that a potential Al Gore administration would take away his Second Amendment rights "from my cold, dead hands". 


√  Some organizations have stronger rules for joining, they make it tougher to join because they realize so many have the wrong reasons for joining. Free press passes.

√  The require a voucher and letterhead system from the group sponsoring you and they do verify 

√  Some of the better Wedding groups jury your work and don't just give things away. Few fail most of those tests at the lower levels, you must work to get to the top, and that’s good.  

√  For thirty years we belonged to the PMAi, which the association of the retail camera business worldwide, and the show was so big it took a week to cover.  No internet,  35,000 members ( US and worldwide)  a year attended in Vegas and now there are none because there is no retail camera business, no PMAi, and no interest.   Cameras are electronics now  with competition from cell-phones and the web has replaced the wet lab and prints.  It’s almost all big-box- stores,  the Internet and China.



√  To join a group, just to get insurance for theft makes no sense. You'll do better with a combined plan for theft and liability. Theft only tells me you are gear related; your toys are the circle of your thoughts.

√  A better mantra is "I'm building a business, related with the proper total coverage’s" is part of a good business plan. A wedding photographer who thinks "if he fails to get image and the Bride gets nothing. He just smiles and say I'm sorry, here's your money back and thinks that’s the end of it is foolish". We live in a "sue-er" world and if you don't watch Bridezilla, you are naive.  

√  Even those who thought they covered their butts found out, in Florida the judge thought differently. With written contracts and all signed very nicely, thank you. They lost.  

√  One was in Broward County, one in Tampa which is Hillsboro County. Large payouts.  In both cases a little tear shedding, and it was all over. Off course the drunken/high/medicated (pick one) photographer was neatly captured on video and cameras by the guests.  A mere $25,000-dollar judgment had a sobering effect on his life. There are associations you must join.



√  Many states, counties, parishes, planets and galaxies require a business permit to conduct a business. They call it a License. Even if you launch it from your home. Now you have zoning restrictions. To check into.

√  The other club, called the IRS requires additional income being reported when it exceeds a certain amount like 600 dollars. Certain sales tax organizations require a small form to be filled out and if you don't charge sales tax, they will ask WHY NOT?  but they ask with the Alfred E. Neumann look on their face.

√  Damned if you do charge damned if you don't report it. In some areas, the sales tax people are more feared than the IRS people.   One enterprising individual aka sales tax trooper took all the cards at a Bridal Fair and ran the names across the county tax records to see who a legitimate business was.

√  Surprise! In Florida again, few, they went after everyone who filled out a tax-exempt card on film and was not paying sales tax. Hundreds got fines ten times the charged amounts.  A Canon D5III for 6,000 dollars almost cost the man his house.

√  Are you a member of any photo associations be it... wedding specific or just a photographer association?   Like the PPA or WPJA?  Do you find it helpful or useful in any way and do you think your clients even care?  

√  Or is it just to stay in the loop?  A few I know have  been tinkering about joining some for a few years now. Just wondered if anyone feels like they get their money's worth for joining…You will get out of it WHAT you put into it, so, what will you gain if you join an organization do for you? Look at your own situation. 

√  Are you averaging two profitable Weddings a month, and is this your primary source of income?

√  Do I attend on-going seminars or training?  Do I have all the proper licenses, permits and does the IRS know me as a business?   And Club membership might even be a deduction, dues paid to an association for business practices.   Would it benefit me to show I belong to the Better Business Bureau?

√  You need clients to impress. Someone who has not contracted with you is not a client. He is a referral or prospect. He becomes a client when he pays you and you perform services.   For some of the newbies in the game, working with a PRO will make you a PRO quicker and pay close attention to the business side of the business. Generally, that’s where most of the failures in this game take place. 

√  Taking the best shooter in town to a good lunch might teach you more in one hour than years of magazine reading. Bottom line, you'll get out of it what you put in....



√  You need to tell your wife, spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, or significant other and get them committed to your photography business or just get them committed (Baker Act).

√  And then make sure when she throws you out, your new one room apartment can handle all the gear and that there is ample space to get to the restroom. 

√  In this design to the right, it could easily be saved and made into a two-seat Chateau Eau de Toilette.  Actually,  it's a dark process and/or print exhibit room from an outhouse design. Best part is if you have work to produce just making dry ink prints on that 21 inch Epson in this seclusion, you will get more work done and you can claim the building as domain and office for the IRS.



Plan, design and then partially set it up making nothing permanent as this will change 100 times and most important ..

What space do you really need:

Studios:   Do you need a studio for starters if your work is all on the outside. Journalistic and site work.  

You will need:  

Office Space
Storage for props
Suitable waiting area for customers
A changing area,
And legally
 you might need a restroom, which doubles as changing area
Parking Spaces
Table top for small product photography
What space do you really need for PORTRAITS A studio, room with North light 
Most backdrops are about seven feet wide, so you need about 8 feet wide and 10-12 feet depth to shoot in to get full length about 10 foot at least, and eight feet on the ceiling. 
Many just close in their garage, finish the wood studs and joists with drywall, paint the whole thing white as snow, put in a wall air conditioner.  If you can, make a good wind machine. Hang the lights from the rafters and eliminate light stands so you don’t trip. 

Be sure to get the proper PERMITS to change a garage. In our area one fellow took a five thousand dollar fine for 500 dollars' worth of work because of no permit. (10 times the amount in some states is the rule) then they got him for no business permits. 



√  Everyone in this business who has survived (It has a large failure rate) had something in common. The winners were good business people. To make a living in photography you need a little more than a good eye or talent you need business savvy.

√  You need to know about financial, legal, management and marketing aspects of running a photography business. But first you must get it off the ground and we'll start with pencil and paper. 

√  Ask yourself What kind of photography do you want to do? This is the first question: Write it down and grab your local phone books and see how many in your area do that and is there a market for it.

√  Photography really has no borders, it's limitless but in some areas very specialized and some type of photography may be non-productive work. A gamut of players frequents certain areas of photography, some good, some horrible and some outright frauds. 

√ The constituents consist of part-timers working the wedding circuits or freelancing for the local paper to a few heavy hitters commanding big dollars. The photographer starting out operating as a home-based business can work on a broad range of subject area, from portraits, weddings, product photography, freelancing or stringing as a photojournalist or a publication photographer.

√  Professional photography can be broadly divided into two categories: I call it Working on Commission photography and the fill work called “stock photography”. 



√   Products, Advertising, Fashion, Portraits, Weddings, School functions
, Events, Promotions, Grand OpeningsPublications (In-house) and other images shot on assignment.  Most photographers spend their entire career shooting on either commission (asked to do the work) or for a set fee arrangement (retainer or quote fee agreed upon).

√   They also do Weddings and PR work, that puts the food on the table. Knowing you will get paid for performing after the contract has been satisfactorily completed is a nice feeling if you dealt with a reputable firm. See Lawsuits: 



√  For one thing if no one knows what you do, how will they know to come to you. So, you should market or sell yourself to the public; there is no business without marketing even if it is simply “Word of mouth". 
"Word of mouth" is when someone is marketing for you. 

√  Marketing is a business and there's more to it.  It is not just about placing an ad.  It's an understanding of where you are, where you want to be and what to do to make it happen.  You are building a reputation and following up with clients builds bonds

√  Locating potential clients and potential competitors

√  Getting the word out about your business in your area

√  Sourcing your target market. 

√  Who is your market, do I have the capacity, logistics, talent, potential, pricing and marketing practices to go heads up with the competition?



√   You'll need a portfolio of your work. Less good is better than lots of mediocre. It should demonstrate your skills and versatility. Your portfolio will be shown to prospective clients.

√   Toot your horn if needed: Announce any significant achievement such as courses or seminars attended.

√   Volunteerism is good. A topical subject like environmental, school, charity.

√   Teach classes on a workshop basis for beginners. Even at your local camera store.Get your work out of the house or studio 

√   Exhibit if you can in local galleries, museums, business establishments, bank lobby's.A OB/GYN waiting room is an excellent pace for Mom and child portraits. 

√   Phone Books and the yellow Pages gets mixed reviews but like anything you can't be without them

√   Direct mailing campaign; client lists may be bought off the web by different demographics

√   Brochures: Make one about yourself



Social Internet Networking, (notice it spells SIN). It's the trend and it’s exciting or is it.  I have mixed emotions for the new guy on the block if you don’t have the credentials.  Go slow, be humble, do section on your professional training and accomplishments.   You’ll be surprised how many people want to know what you are doing.  

Or are they just curious, looking for friends and contacts, or have other agendas.  Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others can be good for you and has really ruined quite a  few. Bloviation sometimes leads to extermination.


INVENTORY - ( Photographer’s Checklist

  • Cameras and Lenses
  • Tripods, Portable and Studio Electronic flash units, studio lights and stands 
  • Seamless paper and Stands
  • Flash Cards and ancillary gear
  • Office Equipment such as a desk, chairs, lighting
  • Computers and PRINTERS, both for business (laser) and prints (Ink jet)
  • Telephone system with outside call in capability for recordings
  • Faxes and Scanner
  • Storage Areas and lockable are for equipment and privacy
  • File cabinets for client files
  • Stationary and business cards
  • Flyers about yourself and business
  • Contracts and forms with Logo


There's an expression in business, set you're pricing too high and you might price yourself out of the market.  Set you're pricing too low and make an enemy of all your competitors.  Neither is good for business.  The WPPI and the PPA have long forums on the subject and then you should determine what you are worth.  

First:   Determine how you wish to charge.

Daily Fee
Hourly Fee 
Package fees  
Event Fees
Expenses plus fees for props rentals, locations hair and makeup stylists.
Models, wardrobe, optional transportation such as camels and donkeys.
Hotels, motels and tents and the blessing of the local Witch Doctor.  This is also known as “cost plus billing".
Travel Fees
Assistant Fees

The key in determining your pricing strategy is to make sure that your prices meet your minimum profitability objectives. Here’s the catch “But still competitive in your local area".   It's a balance and many things enter into this arena including but not limited to yourself, it's worth and your ego.  


Buying something makes people feel good.  Hence, to make a sale, the professional sales person must discover the specific needs of his customer and then show him how the product or service will fulfill those needs ... be they real or imagined. 

A sales approach which emphasizes an UNDERSTANDING of the specific needs, desires and goals of the customer, then, is referred to as the customer-oriented sales approach and the person is more confident in his ability to deal with people. What's more, he is genuinely interested in learning as much as he can about the, customer's needs, wants and desires. Selling for him is SHARING IDEAS which he skillfully directs toward a goal which is beneficial to both him and the customer. 

 A successful sales person is always aware of the following:  He wants to feel he is an active participant in the selling process, and wants to feel his opinions are respected ... that he is important.  He wants to be satisfied in his own mind, regardless of what the sales person thinks and the decision to act is his own with his best interests at heart.


Conversely, when the sales person arbitrarily chooses what HE feels are the basic needs of the customer without regard for the customer’s desires ... then proceeds to sell the customer based on these ASSUMED NEEDS, this approach is called the SALES ORIENTATED APPROACH.  Most commonly used by losers.