Start a sports photography business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your sports photography business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
STEP 1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a sports photography business?
You will need a website. If used for basic advertising, it is only a few dollars a month. If you are using it as a portal to upload images for review and ordering by customers, that can run a few hundred dollars a month. Your photography equipment is your greatest investment. You should expect to have a high-quality DSL camera with a variety of lenses able to shoot portraits, action, and landscapes. $5,000 will get you decently equipped. You need reliable transportation able to carry all your lights and cameras, too.
What are the ongoing expenses for a sports photography business?
Your regular expenses will be maintaining your equipment, transportation, and computers. You will also need a small budget for promotion. It is truly your time and talent that is of greatest value.
Who is the target market?
Your services will be in demand by schools and community organizations. Parents and local leaders will have the most input into whether you are the right photographer for their children.
How does a sports photography business make money?
You are essentially selling a service, not a product. You should expect to charge a fee up front for the shoot and editing that will compensate you for your time. You will also receive a percentage of any pictures ordered for print or those burned to a DVD or drive.
How much can you charge customers?
You are not just charging for the time it takes to complete the shoot--usually two or three hours. You should also include in your fee the time it will take to review and edit images. Professionals will charge between $500 and $1000 for a team/individual shoot, with prices increasing depending on the difficulty of the shoot and the amount of time spent at the event. Printed photo packages range from $20 to $50.
How much profit can a sports photography business make?
The annual income for a full-time photographer is between $45,000 and $62,000. Small startup photography businesses average between $16 and $20 per hour once all the time and materials are taken into consideration.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Smart scheduling can be your best friend. If you are able to schedule multiple teams for a single-afternoon, you save on transportation and setup time. Large teams and groups offer a better return for your efforts, with more opportunities for sales of prints. Think of offering addition individualized items such as books, albums, coffee mugs and T-shirts to further personalize your business brand.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Sports Photography Business Name Generator
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your sports photography business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
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.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank, credit union, business-loan friendly banks, one with many brick-and-mortar locations, and more.
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.
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.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a sports photography 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:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Sports photography businesses should consider requiring clients to sign a service 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 service agreement.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your sports photography 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.
STEP 7: Get business insurance
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
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.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
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How to promote & market a sports photography business
Parents, teachers, and administrators will return for more once they find a quality photographer. If you target your startup for young children, your business will grow along with the kids, possibly extending into college. Promotion includes sending home flyers with all the players, issuing email newsletters through the entire year, and taking out advertisements for league programs. Sponsoring the concession stand or uniforms are another way to drive awareness of your business. Offer a discount for customers that refer new business your way. Get involved in the league Facebook Group and continually post pictures of sporting events with your name on them. Promotion will be a year-round project.
How to keep customers coming back
While you are busy promoting your business by appearing at local events, your happy customers are showing the latest pics of their kids to their friends. Your crystal clear images are the fastest way to attracting a new client. Ensure your website reflects exactly the types of images you are offering to your clients with clear pricing. Once proud parents receive their beautiful pictures, they will be loyal to you for the next decade as long as you maintain a high quality of artwork and customer service.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Start A Sports Photography Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
A sports photography business owner should find excitement in watching all types of sporting events. An owner should get a thrill from capturing awesome action shots that freeze important moments in sporting history. If you share these passions and would like to share your excitement with all those who see your photos, then starting a sports photography business is perfect for you.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a sports photography business?
When you have a scheduled shoot, you will be:
- Driving to the location with all your needed cameras, lights, and sales flyers
- Setting up lights and equipment to create studio quality shots at the gym or field
- Taking photos of entire teams, individuals, or action shots during a scheduled event, according to customer's wishes
- Providing parents with pricing lists and order formsl
- Touching-up images using digital imagery software
- Submitting orders to be processed by your premium developing facility
- Contacting schools and sports organizations to schedule your services for the next event
- Handling business tasks, such as receiving payments, advertising your services, and maintaining your equipment
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful sports photography business?
While it seems that many people own a DSL camera, not that many know how to use them. Your expertise shows in the clarity and quality of your images. The following skills will help you succeed in the sports photography business:
- 3 to 5 years of experience shooting high volume images with professional-quality results
- Ability to frame shots such that every image requires a minimum of editing for fast turnaround
- Extensive knowledge and expertise in the use of DSL cameras, lenses, and lighting equipment
- Flexibility to include action sequences for greatest variety of images available
- Works well with kids--able to get them to pose without excessive drama
- Ability to establish positive relationship with league officials to extend business opportunities
- Self-motivated to complete processing on time as promised
- Basic business skills for maintaining records and payments
What is the growth potential for a sports photography business?
While capturing the kids on the ball field will be a part time endeavor dependent on sport seasons, if you expand into other event photography it is possible to expand this into a full-time endeavor. You may decide to freelance some shots as well. In general, your success will depend on whether your local parents will recommend your services for other sports leagues or even school events.
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Take the Next Step
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.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a sports photography business?
Start out small by contacting sports leagues with which you have a relationship. In order to build a portfolio, offer to waive your fee for the opportunity to share the images with potential future clients. Make sure to get waivers from any parent who agrees. Once you have developed a sample website and portfolio, attend the sign-ups for Little League, neighborhood BBQs, and community events with a table that offers your business card along with free snacks or sodas to get your name out there.
How and when to build a team
If you are full-time, you might need an assistant to schedule shoots, manage your books, and help with setting up equipment. Otherwise, this business tends to be run as a one-man show.