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What Qualifications Do You Need to Become a Photographer

Qualifications to become a photographer include having a great eye for photos, like this woman holding a camera.

There’s no denying that you’ve always had a knack for taking beautiful photographs. From landscapes to portfolios, your unique talent and eye for details make your photographs stand out from the crowd.

In fact, your photographs are so good that you’ve had friends and family tell you that you should start your own photography business.

So should you?

Do you need any special qualifications to start your photography business? And how much money do you need to get the business up and running?

We’ll answer those questions, and more, right now.

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The Essential Things You Need to Become a Photographer

  1. A business name and structure.

    Picking out your business name can seem daunting, as it sets the tone for how you should market your business. Plus, if your business name doesn’t resonate with your customers, you may end up making it difficult to get customers.

    Fortunately, we have some great content that can help you pick out the perfect business name, so definitely check it out if you don’t have a strong idea of what your business’s name should be.

    Once you’ve chosen your business name, you’ll need to determine what you want your business structure to be. There are a few questions you should ask yourself before you start looking into which business structure you should choose, including:

    • Are you starting a full-time business, or are you doing this as a side business or money-making hobby?

    • Do you want to be personally liable for any business debts, or do you want to protect your personal assets?

    • Are you starting this business by yourself, or working with someone else?

    • Are you willing to learn more about any corporate obligations you might have?

    Don’t worry if you’re not sure of the answers to all of these questions. The main goal here is to figure out how much time you’re going to devote to your photography business and how much you want to protect your personal assets. If you’re starting a business with someone else, that could affect the type of tax structure you should choose.

    In general, you’ll be asked to structure your business as one of the following:

    • Sole Proprietorship: This is an unincorporated business structure with one person running the company.

    • General Partnership: This is an unincorporated business structure with two or more people running the company together.

    • Corporation: A corporation is an incorporated business structure that limits a business owner’s personal liability, as the corporation is its own legal entity.

    • Limited Liability Company (LLC): A limited liability company (LLC) combines the benefits of a corporation with those of an unincorporated business. In other words, business owners have limited liability for debts and aren’t required to pay separate corporation taxes.

    For the best guidance on how to structure your photography business, check out this handy article from the IRS — it can help streamline your decision process.

  2. A business plan.

    Whether you want to create an official plan to get funding or just want to create a document that can help you track your goals, a business plan can play a crucial role in setting you up for success.

    Here’s why: A business plan can provide guidance and feedback regarding whether you’re on track for achieving your own personal goals. For example, if you want to grow your clientele list or be named one of The Knot’s Top Wedding Photographers by 2022, your plan can suggest milestones you should be accomplishing along the way.

    In a more traditional sense, the business plan is absolutely crucial for nabbing any funding you may need. Even if you’re planning on raising money from family and friends, a business plan can show you what success looks like, and if you have a solid plan for getting there.

    Creating the actual business plan can be a pain, but we’ve cut down on the learning curve so you won’t waste time with formatting or plan research. Just download our FREE business plan template and follow the step-by-step instructions to create the type of plan you need.

  3. Photography equipment.

    Here’s where things get a little tricky, because photographers are so different; you may have more equipment, or you may have only a camera because you’re just starting your business.

    There’s no one right answer for the exact photography equipment you’ll need before you consider yourself “a business”; in fact, a lot of photographers say that all you need to start your biz is a good eye for photography and a camera.

    Take a look at what equipment photographers recommend purchasing if you want to establish your own studio. If you’re looking to go into the field as a wedding photographer or sports photographer, check out our next section, which has more detail on which equipment you should have, as well as how much you can expect to spend.

  4. A sense of humor and tenacity!

    Most of the photographers we interviewed for this guidebook didn’t have proper training before starting their business. Instead, these were the qualifications that they said helped them set up for success:

    • The willingness to shadow other photographers and learn from them directly
    • The tenacity to teach yourself how to shoot
    • The will to nurture the “eye” you have for the job
    • The ability to work well with people — especially customers
    • An eye for detail
    • Kindness and compassion

    Notice how having the best camera or specific training from an elite school didn’t come up?

    That’s because, according to these photographers, having both people and business skills is crucial for starting and growing your business. It makes sense: If you’re not necessarily great with people or you tend to ignore admin work, it might be tough building a business over the long term.

    This photographer sums it up best:

    “I think the most important thing is having a drive/passion for it. You’ll learn to develop your eye for things and your own style with time, but it takes time and lots of shooting.”

    Roxy Moure

Lindsay Connors, owner and photographer of Lindsay Connors Photography shares her journey to becoming a full-time photographer.

Mariah Bliss

Written By

Mariah Bliss
I love writing about the small business experience because I happen to be a small business owner - I've had a freelance copywriting business for over 10 years. In addition to that, I also head up the content strategy here at Simply Business. Reach out if you have a great idea for an article or just want to say hi!

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