Business Overview


A photo editing business specializes in editing or retouching existing photos for clients. These services may range from simply cleaning up blemishes or lighting issues all the way to complex Photoshop work. Such a business is a major part of any community because of the constant need to have good-looking photos for publications, seasonal cards, social media profiles, and more.

Who is this business right for?

This business is good for photographers, as they will already know a lot about improving an image via specific editing. It can also be good for those with extensive skills in editing software such as Photoshop. Finally, it's good for those who use social media extensively, as such a person will be able to offer creative editing services to help customers build their online brand through unique visuals.

What happens during a typical day at a Photo Editing Business?

Most of a typical day involves receiving photos from clients, editing them, and then completing the sales transaction. Downtime may be spent advertising the business and networking with relevant local businesses (such as photographers).

What is the target market?

While younger demographers may desire your services for things like social media profiles and yearbook photo edits, your primary demographic remains young families: they are likeliest to have the most professional photos taken and to therefore require editing services most often.

How does a Photo Editing Business make money?

At the most basic level, a photo editing business makes money by selling edited photos. Your business may choose to charge by the photo, by the album, or to offer a mixture of the two.

What is the growth potential for a Photo Editing Business?

The growth potential for such a business is modest: the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the field of photography will grow by three percent between 2014 and 2024, and photo editing business is typically commensurate with the photography industry. However, many communities lack a dedicated photo editing business, so it is possible to carve out a very successful niche business within your area.

Getting Started


What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful Photo Editing Business?

Any prior experience working in photography can be helpful for starting this business. Similarly, any experience with photo editing (commercially or personally) may be beneficial. For both photography and editing, any formal education in these matters is an asset. Finally, any existing relationships you have with local photographers and businesses that may require your services can help you jump start your venture.

What are the costs involved in opening a Photo Editing Business?

The cost of opening your photo editing business is directly commensurate with its scale and location. The most efficient way to start the business is as a photo editing business that you run from your own home. This drastically reduces overhead and ensures you can open your business for $5,000 or less. Of that money, $2,500 should go towards buying a computer to help edit photos, and $500 should go towards buying any additional photo editing software that you don't already have. The remaining $2,000 should go towards advertising, with $500 going towards a professional-looking website and the rest going towards a mixture of traditional advertising (radio, newspaper, etc.) and social media advertising.

What are the steps to start a Photo Editing Business?

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

  1. Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
  2. Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your Photo Editing Business is sued.
  3. Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
  4. Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your Photo Editing Business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  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.
  9. Establish a 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.

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.

Recommended: Fizzle.co offers video courses and a supportive online community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Try one month membership for for free.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a Photo Editing Business?

Try to network with local photographers to help promote each other's businesses. Consider charging lower prices on editing multiple photos as a way of encouraging customers to buy more. Don't be afraid to consider sideline business opportunities such as editing the images for the images local businesses use on their websites.

Growing Your Business


How to promote & market a Photo Editing Business

As mentioned before, you should do some traditional advertising in order to raise awareness of your business within your local community. However, online advertising should ultimately be your primary way of advertising your business. Your website is a truly cost efficient way of providing your contact information and prices, and both social media and your website provide an easy way to use things like “before and after” photos to highlight what a difference your editing can make.

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

How to keep customers coming back

In addition to the advertising methods above, consider using “free samples.” It's possible to bring a laptop with photo editing software to a local event, coffeeshop, or even local park and have interested parties send you a single photo to edit. This builds great publicity and word of mouth and costs you nothing but time. To retain customers, make sure you offer seasonal specials and capitalize on events where people may want photo edits (yearbook photos, school photos, holiday photos, etc.), so your business appears to have value year-round.

How and when to build a team

As long as you are working from home, you are likely to work alone in order to maximize profits. If your business becomes successful enough, you may consider opening a physical location, which will necessitate hiring additional staff for different shifts throughout the week.

Legal Considerations


State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a photo editing 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, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

For information about local licenses and permits:

Services Contract

Photo editing businesses should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. Here is an example services agreement.

Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your photo editing business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.

Reduce Personal Liability

Structuring your business as a limited liability company (LLC) ensures your personal assets are protected in the event your business is sued.

What is an LLC?

Form an LLC in 5 easy steps

Earning Potential


How much can you charge customers?

How much you charge is usually dependent on your level of experience, how extensive the edit is, your local economy, and whether they are purchasing multiple photos or not. For single-photo edits, you may charge anywhere between five and fifty dollars. One good pricing trick is to offer lower prices for simple edits (such as removing a single blemish) and higher prices for more extensive editing.

What are the ongoing expenses for a Photo Editing Business?

If you are running your business from home, then your ongoing expenses are truly minimal. You will pay less than $100 a year to maintain your website, and you may pay postage to email CDs or DVDs of photos to customers that prefer using some form of physical media. Likewise, you may periodically pay more to run more advertisements. However, you should not have to pay any additional upkeep for hardware, software, or anything else related to your business.

How much profit can a Photo Editing Business make?

Gauging how much profit your business will make can be difficult. There are photo editing startups that are worth millions, and there are major corporations offering online editing that dominate much of the industry. However, almost all of the money you make is profit due to the low upkeep, so developing a steady stream of diverse clients can eventually turn this into a high five-figure or low six-figure job.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Make sure you are intimately familiar with any editing software you'll use before you start. Also, try to use software like Skype to personally communicate with clients. This gives the appearance of a personal touch and makes sure that you are both on the same page regarding any edits. Be sure to network with local photography groups in order to pick up business and further build your brand and reputation. Finally, as your business grows, don't be afraid to raise prices and/or expand your service area to attain greater profits!

Next Steps

Get more ideas with our Business Ideas Tool.

Check out our How to Start a Business page.

Sign up at the Business Center to access useful tools for your business.

Related Business Ideas