Business Overview

A photo booth business gives passersby the ability to take photos during gatherings and local events. Typically, photo booths are situated at parties, weddings, movie theaters and similar locations. Modern photo booth businesses give customers a variety of photo-taking options. While some photo booths have background props, others have digital amenities and social media sharing options. Generally, the photos are digital. They can also be printed once they’ve been taken. Photo booths are normally situated outside large event spaces. They’re used at concerts, movie theaters, at parties, during weddings, on the beach and in a variety of other places.

Who is this business right for?

The photo booth business is perfect for any person who likes photography. Whether you’re a photographer, a framer, a painter or simply love taking pictures of others, you can establish a photo booth business to give customers the chance to take their own pictures. Operating a photo booth does take some familiarity with camera settings like ISO, aperture, and shutter speed. The ideal photo booth business owner will also have a solid software foundation. It takes time to hook everything up, but it’s certainly worth the effort when customers are satisfied.

What happens during a typical day at a photo booth business?

A photo booth business owner needs to select an effective, attractive, and engaging photo booth style. They’re responsible for moving the photo booth from location to location. Depending on the event, a booth’s interior may need to be changed. A photo booth business must also maintain professional equipment. Light modifiers, camera peripherals, backdrops and studio strokes must be maintained. If you’re using studio-style booths, it can get expensive. For this reason, a photo booth business operator needs to print post-event advertisements.

From a financial standpoint, a photo booth operator needs to budget effectively. It pays off to have a firm grasp on expenses. When a photo booth business owner isn’t doing direct business, they’re often finding new events, new venues and new photo booth opportunities.

What is the target market?

Look for patrons at any special event. The more exclusive the event, the better business it will be. Weddings, V.I.P areas, grand openings, and special guest visits are ideal. Event-goers will use a photo booth if there’s a reason to document the event. Check out your area’s local events, and talk to event coordinators.

How does a photo booth business make money?

A photo booth business makes money on a per-shot basis. You can charge event-goers for digital or printed versions. Additionally, you can offer photo packages to entice additional purchases. Rarely do photo booth businesses make money elsewhere. Because social media is free, charging extra money for social-media-related posts or services is generally a bad idea.

What is the growth potential for a photo booth business?

A successful photo booth can become a preferred provider in its area. Because photo booth business owners have incredible flexibility, it isn’t hard to target an area’s most popular areas. That said, a smart photo booth business operator is one who targets opportunities without driving up expenses.

Getting Started

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful photo booth business?

Having a good eye for photography is a must. If you can, talk to another photo booth business owner. Because photo booths are particular, lighting and angle-wise, you’ll need plenty advice about capturing photogenic angles. Having a knack for online marketing and cold calling, too, is important. Because photo booth businesses typically seek out venues and events, understanding the basics behind seasonal events, party hours, and nightlife can certainly help.

What are the costs involved in opening a photo booth business?

Fortunately, a photo booth business isn’t expensive to start. In fact, you can build one for about $5,000 if you’re economical and handy. While the booth, camera, and equipment aren’t too expensive, you’ll need to invest in powerful hardware and software. A solid booth will be about $2,500 and can be disassembled. A basic camera, meanwhile, is about $500. As you upgrade, however, consider purchasing better lenses—or a better camera. A laptop can be purchased for $360, and basic software like DSLR Remote Pro is purchasable for $175. Other supplies, like a printer, props, and other supplies tend to be rather cheap.

What are the steps to start a photo booth business?

Once you're ready to start your photo booth business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are:

  • What are the initial costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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STEP 2. Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your security guard company is sued.

STEP 3. Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

STEP 4. Open a business bank account

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 5. Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6. Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

STEP 7. Get Business Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

STEP 8. Define your brand.

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

STEP 9. Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Where can I find a business mentor?

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a photo booth business?

Build slowly. Too many photo booth business owners invest in overpowered cameras, over-hyped equipment, and luxurious backdrops. Keep the expenses low, and practice shooting. Also, drive to nearby events before traveling across the state. As a solo operator, you’ll need to pack in as many events as possible. Give your event-goers plenty of photo options, and make sure your booth is paid off relatively early.

Growing Your Business

How to promote & market a photo booth business

Photo booth promotion isn’t hard, but it’s certainly particular. You’ll need to promote to hotels, venues, and wedding organizers. If you can partner with individual providers, you can advertise through them. Create a Facebook page, and use video marketing on Youtube. Having a Flickr account doesn’t hurt, nor does having a Wedding Wire and Yelp account. A lot of your advertisements will be online.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

Attract customers by setting up your booth in a high-traffic area. If you’re visiting a wedding, set up shop near the refreshment area. It’s a good idea to be noninvasive while also being in an attractive, much-traveled area. Offer great discounts with Groupon, and don’t forget about Google Adwords Paid Advertising to create a pay-per-click campaign.

How and when to build a team

Fortunately, you can operate a photo booth single handedly. You’ll need to invest in a partner eventually, however. Photo booth operation isn’t difficult, but it can take time to process taken photos. As a provider, you’ll make more money by servicing more guests. If you can increase the traffic speed by having a partner—or several—you should expand immediately.

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

In most states, it is necessary to obtain a business license. Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a photo booth business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

For information about local licenses and permits:

Maintain Personal Asset Protection

Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.

  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
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To learn more about maintaining your LLC's corporate veil, read our guide and protect your personal assets.

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

You can charge customers about $20 per photo. If your booth is extravagant, consider increasing the price. Some photo booths charge up to $50 per photo, if the event is unforgettable enough to warrant it. If you’re working for a venue, expect to make between $30 and $100 for your services.

What are the ongoing expenses for a photo booth business?

Your expenses won’t be much. Maintenance and camera upkeep are cheap, sometimes being as little as $50 per month. You will also have to pay for the gas you use to travel to events. Drive a fuel efficient car and make sure you’re planning your trips close to one another.

How much profit can a photo booth business make?

Photo booths typically make about $35,000 per year. This depends on the area, however, as high-traffic locations are often more popular. Thus, high-traffic locations are more profitable.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Work on weekends. Don’t be afraid to reach out to local venues, either. Once you get a photo booth up and running, you can pay off the bills quickly. Don’t be afraid to expand out of your market, either, and focus on turning a profit as much as possible.

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Next Steps

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