How to Start a Travel Photography Business
A travel photographer uses their camera to provide high quality images to a variety of clients that may include websites, travel blogs, print magazines, television ads, and framed prints for sale. You will need to travel extensively to a variety of locations to deliver the landscapes, hotel rooms, and recreational shots that your clients are looking for. You'll work hard to develop a variety of clients who work with you to determine where your next shoot should be while your self-promotion and marketing will reach out to new clients.
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Learn how to start your own Travel Photography Business and whether it is the right fit for you.
Start a travel photography business by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Travel Photography Business
- Form your Travel Photography Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Travel Photography Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Travel Photography Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Travel Photography Business
- Get Travel Photography Business Insurance
- Define your Travel Photography Business Brand
- Create your Travel Photography Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your travel photography business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
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 travel photography business?
Most travel photographers work out of their home or on the road. Your start-up costs will include investing in several professional cameras and needed accessories, a laptop or computer able to display your images in the highest definition possible, and the associated software for editing. Of course, you are going to need to pay for your travel as well. $20,000 should buy your basic equipment and get you to your first few destinations.
What are the ongoing expenses for a travel photography business?
You'll be buying new camera equipment from time to time, but the travel is likely to be the biggest expense that you will face. Don't expect to be staying in four-star hotels with concierge service, but anticipate using hostels or sharing small rooms on a regular basis while you get established.
Who is the target market?
You will have made it big time when established photo-journals and travel guides are contacting you to shoot a spread for their next issue. As a beginner you'll want to establish yourself through selling on stock photography sites, freelancing to newspapers and websites, and perhaps doing studio work for weddings, graduations, and families.
How does a travel photography business make money?
You will earn the majority of your income by selling individual photos to websites and print magazines. Should you build a positive reputation, it may be possible to have your travel paid for by a client who wants your photography for their business, but this is not common.
How much can you charge customers?
Popular stock photography sites can pay as little a ten cents for each upload of a single image. Some sites do offer professional rates, but you will have to submit a portfolio and resume in order to become one of their select photographers. A local newspaper may offer between $20 and $100 for a picture. When your image is selected by a popular travel journal or magazine, it is possible to earn $1000 for a single image.
How much profit can a travel photography business make?
The average income for a professional photographer is about $60,000 a year. That average represents both new and established businesses. You will start out slow and should expect to earn half the average for the first few years.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Watch your travel budget. Just because you are on the road does not mean that steak dinners are affordable. Treat your travel expenses like daily living expenses, rather than as vacation expenses, and you'll see more income in the bank.
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 Travel Photography Business Name Generator
If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.
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
The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your travel photography business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.
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?.
Learn how to get an EIN in our What is an EIN guide or find your existing EIN using our EIN lookup guide.
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:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
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
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
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.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
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 travel 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.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply.
- 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.
Trademark & Copyright Protection
If you are developing a unique product, concept, brand, or design, it is prudent to protect your rights by registering for the appropriate trademarks and copyrights. Learn more here about trademark and copyright protection.
The nature of legal requirements in distance education is ever changing, especially in regards to copyright laws. Here is a frequently updated resource, which can help keep you aware of the legal requirements.
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.
Recommended: Learn what business insurance for your Travel Photography Business will cost.
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.
Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
How to promote & market a travel photography business
The internet is going to be key in getting your name and images recognized by the paying public. While sharing your work on social media can get you noticed, it doesn't necessarily translate into a source of income. Upload samples of your work to photography websites and mention you have other work available. Send personal emails to potential travel businesses that may need your kind of work. Pitch photography ideas to travel journals and local news stations. Use any and all channels to reach out to the public.
How to keep customers coming back
You will need a catalog of traditional images mixed with unique angles and composition to attract new clients. They need to see that you can deliver a high-quality image when they order a specific assignment. Your artistic interpretations of typical destinations will let them know you are more than somebody walking around with a good camera. You can build repeat clients when you deliver on their expectations quickly while surpassing their requirements.
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
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.
Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.
Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Start a Travel Photography Business in your State
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Is this Business Right For You?
A successful travel photographer will have extensive knowledge of how to use their camera to get the highest definition images containing dramatic landscapes. They will need to enjoy living on the road, hiking, and exploring distant locales to get the perfect shot. They should be sociable and able to toot their own horn in order to develop new clients and customers.
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Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a travel photography business?
If you are running your own travel photography business, on any given day you might:
- Travel to a new destination, this can include driving, flying, hiking, boating, or a number of other forms of transportation
- Take a large number of photos using your personal camera equipment
- Sort and curate your images using professional image software, fix lighting, and crop and focus errors to produce a professional image suitable for sale
- Upload select images for sale on stock photography websites or submit them to clients who have placed orders
- Work your social media, blogs, and other marketing channels to increase your business’ reach
- Study current travel magazines and journals for trends to help you plan your next photography destination
- Collect payment from clients who bought individual shots or hired you for a shoot
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful travel photography business?
You are going to need to know how to:
- Operate a professional-level digital single-lens reflex camera and be able to manipulate all the settings to generate the best, high-definition images
- Manipulate images using professional photo imaging software such as Adobe Photoshop or ACDsee
- Use a personal computer
- Navigate stock photography sites to upload your work
- Complete basic accounting tasks
- Utilize social media to promote your personal brand
- Travel the world on a budget
- Use a marketing strategy to get your work in front of paying customers
What is the growth potential for a travel photography business?
It takes time and effort to establish yourself as a full-time freelance photographer. You will need to continuously market your work and yourself in order to generate regular orders from returning clients. The growth potential is in making this job your only source of income when your photo sales are able to cover your living and business expenses.
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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.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
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 travel photography business?
Your creativity and determination to find a new and unusual angle of a location will get you noticed. It's not enough to take a shot of a local statue that everybody has on their phone. Visit familiar landmarks at times when nobody else is around, look for unique lighting or interesting backgrounds to add an interest edge to your work. Stay local to save money on traveling until you are beginning to earn real income for your images.
How and when to build a team
Someday, when your clients are paying you to explore the wilds of the African plains or the jungles of the Far East with all expenses included, you may want to hire an editor to polish and curate your images for you. Until that time, this will be a one-man job.
Get more ideas with our Business Ideas Generator.
Check out our How to Start a Business page.
Sign up at the Business Center to access useful tools for your business.
- Travel Photographer Society
- Travel Photographer Magazine (includes lots of travel photography association links)
- Society of International Travel and Tourism Photographers