This article will help you turn your passion into a full-time wedding photography business that’ll thrive and rake in clients.
Learn how to make your business a legal entity officially and why you need to focus on the business side.
Wedding photography goes beyond just taking photos of couples. It is about capturing precious moments that two people might be too busy to enjoy much until later and making these candid moments last throughout time. These wedding photos become a lasting reminder that transports them to that special day. And these photos have to be incredible and professional. This is to tell you that professional wedding photographers are in high demand, and this article will help you become one.
Read on to learn step-by-step instructions on how to start a wedding photography business.
How Much Does It Cost To Start a Wedding Photography Business?
You may need anything from $10,000 to $14,000 to start a wedding photography business. This amount will cover the cost of wedding photography equipment, business registration, attorney fees (optional), a professional website, etc.
Interestingly, equipment will take about 70-80% of that total cost. So, your startup cost significantly drops if you’re already a professional photographer with the necessary equipment. You’ll then have to spend on business registration and marketing.
Whatever the case, after the startup cost, the ongoing expenses for running your wedding photography business are a walk in the park.
Create a Business Plan.
The first step to starting a wedding photography business is to create a business plan. This plan will spell out how you’re going to:
- Run the business
- Fund it
- Market it
- Price your services
- Generate revenue.
Your business plan will serve as your roadmap, influencing virtually every business decision you’ll make from here on out. From the plan, you’ll see if your wedding photography business has the potential to earn you a living.
To create a good wedding photography business plan, you need to do the following:
Choose a wedding photography niche
Even as a wedding photographer, you can further niche down. While some wedding photographers do event photography, you can focus on videography, engagement shoots, etc. You may also decide to niche down only when you’ve become a highly experienced photographer.
Define your target audience.
Are you targeting luxury weddings or engaged couples looking to save costs? Defining your target audience will allow you to tailor your marketing message and photography style accordingly. It will also influence your pricing, package, etc.
This might also influence whether you need a photography studio with backdrops and a tripod (if your audience includes engaged couples looking for a pre-wedding shoot) or whether all you need is to travel with your gear to the venue on the wedding day.
Do a market research.
To start a successful wedding photography business, you must conduct market research to understand your target market and what other local wedding photographers are doing. What’s their pricing structure like? If one charges a higher rate than other photographers, what special package do they offer that attracts customers despite the higher price?
The purpose of local market research isn’t just to discover what other wedding photographers are doing and copy it; it’s also about offering more. To make yourself stand out. Potential clients want to know why they should hire you.
The market research will also tell you where your target audience is hanging out so you can position yourself accordingly.
Decide on a pricing plan.
You can charge by the hour or per session as a wedding photographer.
Many wedding photographers offer a package that includes a specific number of hours, then charge per hour for every additional hour. While starting, you can charge a few hundred bucks to build a client base and positive testimonials.
Most wedding photographers charge anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000, depending on their experience and pricing package.
Form a Legal Business Entity.
One of the most essential steps in starting a wedding photography business is registering the business as a legal entity. This is crucial because, until you register your photography business, it won’t be legally recognized in your state. So, when someone sues your photography business, it is you they’re suing, and you could lose your assets.
Also, if you do not register your business, someone else can come to claim your business name, and there would be nothing you can do about it.
Here’s how to make your wedding photography business a legal entity:
Name your business
Ideally, your business name should reflect what your company stands for. For example, Precious Moments Photography is a more suitable name for your wedding photography business than Just Right and Perfect. The latter doesn’t give a hint of what service you provide.
Conduct a business name search on your Secretary of State’s website to ensure your chosen name isn’t already used. Also, do a trademark search to avoid using a trademarked name and incurring lawsuits from another business owner.
Check if the web domain is available once you have a good name. If yes, buy it quickly before someone else does.
Form a business entity
There are three major types of business structures to choose from:
Sole proprietorship: This is the easiest way to register your wedding photography business as it is the least formal option but doesn’t offer liability protection. In a sole proprietorship, the company takes your own name, meaning you’d be personally liable for tax, debts, and lawsuits against the company. You could lose your personal assets when things go downhill in your business. If you’re forming a sole proprietorship, assign it a DBA name (Doing Business As), which will be an alias since the company officially takes your name.
LLC: Limited Liability Company (LLC) is the preferred option for most professional wedding photographers. With an LLC, the photography business becomes a distinct legal entity from the business owner. Hence, it can have its own name, bank account, tax, debt, and liabilities. Forming an LLC protects you from personal liability when your own business is sued or becomes indebted.
Corporation: Offers you the same personal protection as an LLC. However, corp isn’t recommended for a wedding photographer because it’s too complex and requires excessive paperwork. But if you wish to raise capital from investors who will own shares in the company, a corp may be a great idea.
Since you don’t need more than $10k-15k to start a wedding photography business or wish to have shareholders, it is better to form an LLC. But if your situation is unique, we recommend seeking professional advice from a lawyer or accountant when choosing a business structure.
Register your business
The exact requirements for registering a wedding photography business may vary across states. Check with your secretary of state to know what’s specifically required.
That said, here are the general guidelines:
- Provide your business name
- Choose a registered agent. This person or company will be in charge of receiving legal notices and other official documents on behalf of your business entity.
- File articles of organization (for LLC) or articles of incorporation (for corp)
- Provide your business address.
- Create an operating agreement outlining how you’ll run your wedding photography business and how responsibilities and profits will be shared among partners, staff, etc. This document isn’t required but can be a must.
- Register for state and federal taxes.
All of this can be stressful. If you’re not up for it, online business formation services can help you register your wedding photography business within 1-2 weeks for a small fee. They can also serve as your registered agent. Our top recommendations include Northwest Registered Agent, Incfile, LegalZoom, and Zenbusiness.
When starting your wedding photography business, you don’t necessarily need a traditional office space like other business owners. You can do your photo editing at home. But it’s often better to provide a business address than your home address during registration.
Aside from making you look more professional, a business address helps keep your home address away from public records.
You can purchase a virtual business address rather than spending a fortune leasing an office space in the city.
Secure an EIN
To officially start your wedding photography business, you must obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) for tax purposes; you’ll also need this 10-digit number to open a business bank account. This helps keep your personal tax and business tax separate.
Your EIN will also be required if you wish to employ staff in your business.
Get an EIN from the IRS website for free.
Buy domain name
You want your website domain name to be the same as your own wedding photography business name. Therefore, securing that domain name quickly is wise to prevent another business owner from acquiring it while you’re busy forming your legal entity. Do this even though you’re not yet ready to fully build the wedding photography business website.
Get a Business Bank Account and Business Credit Card
The next step in starting a wedding photography business is to open a bank account in the company’s name. This account will handle all income, expenses, and debt associated with your photography work. This further reinforces that you’re keeping your personal finances separate from your business finances.
Additionally, get a business credit card to make business purchases. You may also use the card to obtain credit if you need funding.
Setting Up Your Wedding Photography Studio
If you’re offering indoor pre-wedding photo shoots, you need a studio with all your wedding photography equipment, lighting, and backdrops.
Get the right photography equipment and tools.
You need professional-grade equipment as a professional wedding photographer looking to provide clients with sensational shots. Here is a checklist of what you need in your wedding photography studio:
- Two professional-grade cameras (one serving as a backup): $2000+ each
- Two or three lenses and flashes: ~$1000 each
- Drone for aerial shots: $3000
- Memory cards: ~$50 each
- Tripod: ~$200
- Lighting accessories (reflectors, diffusers, etc.): $500+
- High-performance laptop: $1000+
- Backdrops: $500
- Equipment travel cases: ~$500
- Props: $300 total
- Photo editing software subscription: $60 monthly
- Business cards and other marketing materials.
Create Client Contracts
Wedding photography contracts lay out everything you and your potential client should expect from each other. This includes payment terms, the range of services you’ll cover, timeline, etc.
While you may like to have a lawyer create a client contract for you, there are free templates online. Even with a free template, having a lawyer review it is still advisable to ensure the terms are clear and legally binding in your state. But if the lawyer only reviews and doesn’t prepare the contract from scratch, they’ll usually charge you less.
Get Business Insurance
You can seek insurance from the PPA (Professional Photographers of America) if you’re a member. So, when you incur equipment theft or damage or some other financial predicament in your business, you won’t have to settle things out of pocket.
Moreover, some clients will only hire insured businesses as they’ll not want to be financially involved when you suffer losses while shooting their wedding event.
Set Up Business Accounting
Take the financial aspect of your new wedding photography business seriously if you wish to avoid running into money problems. Once you have calculated your startup cost, budget accordingly, track expenses, and monitor cash flow as soon as you start earning. You can use accounting software to do all of that.
Get Business Licenses and Permits
Most US states do not require wedding photographers to have licenses and permits. That said, confirming how things are run within your service area is still good. You can ask other photographers near you for insights.
Promoting Your Wedding Photography Business
Photography skills aren’t all you need if you want to be a successful wedding photographer. You need a good marketing strategy. But how do you get the word out there to make potential clients see what you can do? Here are low-budget marketing ideas to try:
Create your wedding photography portfolio website
One of the most crucial steps to starting a wedding photography business is to have a portfolio website. It is non-negotiable. Your business is a visual one—people want to see what you can do and proof of your past works, and that’s only achievable by showing them your portfolio.
Blow their minds with your best past works, and you can be sure they’ll hire you because you have triggered an emotional response in them.
Ensure you implement local SEO so your website comes up on Google when potential clients search for a local wedding photographer.
Start a wedding photography blog.
One way to get more traffic to your wedding photography website is to begin blogging about weddings. Write on topics engaged couples would be asking about. Then, subtly promote your services in the content so they can hire you.
Although you may not see results immediately, consider it a long-term investment. Encourage readers to subscribe to your newsletter so you can send email marketing messages to them. Also, try to write guest posts on wedding websites like The Knot.
Social media marketing
You can build your wedding photography business brand and land clients right on social media. The secret is to avoid spamming your audience with promotional content and to engage them using captivating content.
It’s worth adding paid ads to your digital marketing plan if you have a few dollars to spare. With paid ads, you get seen more quickly, bolstering your chances of potential clients contacting you. Use paid ads on Google and social media.
Word-of-mouth and referrals
Tell family and friends about what you do. Have them recommend you to their acquaintances in need of your services. Work with wedding vendors and seek recommendations from past clients. Word-of-mouth is among the most effective marketing strategies, as people trust their friends’ recommendations.
List your wedding photography business in local directories, Yelp, Four Square, KeepSnap, and Yellow Pages.
Local advertising and print ads
Don’t underestimate the power of traditional marketing methods like billboards, business cards, and brochures.
Pros of Starting a Wedding Photography Business
- Wedding photography lets you capture beautiful moments on one of the most important days in people’s lives, making you feel important.
- As a wedding photographer, you witness and capture the love, joy, and emotions that unfold among couples.
- Delivering photos that evoke strong emotions can be incredibly gratifying.
- Flexibility in terms of working hours and schedule.
Cons of Starting a Wedding Photography Business
- Due to the over-saturation of the wedding photography industry, it can be challenging to stand out and attract potential clients when starting.
- Peak demand typically occurs during the spring and summer months. Other times, you might struggle with cash flow.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you start a wedding photography business without any experience?
If you wish to start a wedding photography business without experience, consider working as a second shooter alongside an experienced wedding photographer. This will allow you to gain experience shooting weddings, plus the exposure. Then, start small with engagement sessions. Take advantage of each engagement session to learn posing skills.
Take wedding photos. And then some more. The more weddings you shoot, the better you’ll get at it. You learn best by doing.
There are also free resources online like CreativeLive to learn from.
How does a wedding photographer make money?
Your wedding photography business will make money from each service. You can offer a wedding photography package (including meetings, photo shoots, creating the photo album, and printing) or charge per hour or service.
How profitable is a wedding photography business?
Wedding photographers charge between $1,000-3,000, depending on what the package includes. Experienced wedding photographers make above $100,000 on average per year. Your profitability also depends on how many weddings you can attend in a year.
How do you get your first clients as a wedding photographer?
Ask family and friends to hire you for their weddings to get your first wedding photography clients. You’re on the right track if they give you good feedback and recommend you to their friends. Use those reviews and photos on your portfolio website; you should be on your way to a successful wedding photography career.
One secret to starting your photography business is to start with a low-end camera. This will significantly reduce your startup cost. As your business grows, you can switch to more advanced gear.
Finally, as a business owner, you must take your business seriously. Enhance your skills and market aggressively as your life depends on it because it does. Even though you have the best gear in the world, you need the skill and business IQ to make your skill known and make a living.
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