Do I Need an LLC for a Photography Business?
LLCs are a simple and inexpensive way to protect your personal assets and save money on taxes.
You should form an LLC when there's any risk involved in your business and/or when your business could benefit from tax options and increased credibility.
LLC Benefits for a Professional Photography Business
By starting an LLC for your professional photography business, you can:
- Protect your savings, car, and house with limited liability protection
- Have more tax benefits and options
- Increase your business’s credibility
Limited Liability Protection
LLCs provide limited liability protection. This means your personal assets (e.g., car, house, bank account) are protected in the event your business is sued or if it defaults on a debt.
Professional photography businesses will benefit from liability protection because of the risks associated with inviting clients into their studios and visiting the various venues they’re hired to photograph.
Example: After photographing a client’s wedding the client is unhappy with how the venue looks and does not wish to purchase the photo package anymore. You inform the client that you have already attended the event and cannot offer a full refund. They take the issue to court.
An LLC will also protect your personal assets in the event of commercial bankruptcy or loan default.
To maintain your LLC's limited liability protection, you must maintain your LLC's corporate veil.
LLC Tax Benefits and Options for a Professional Photography Business
The business’s net income is then subject to income taxes (based on the owner's tax bracket) and self-employment taxes.
Sole proprietorships and partnerships are taxed in a similar way to LLCs, but they do not offer limited liability protection or other tax options.
S Corp Option for LLCs
An S corporation (S corp) is an IRS tax status that an LLC can elect. S corp status allows business owners to be treated as employees of the business (for tax purposes).
S corp tax status can reduce self-employment taxes and will allow business owners to contribute pre-tax dollars to 401k or health insurance premiums.
The S corp status requires that the business pay the employee-owner(s) a reasonable salary for the work they perform.
In addition, the business might need to spend more on accounting, bookkeeping, and payroll services. To offset these costs, you'd need to be saving about $2,000 a year on taxes.
We estimate that if a professional photography business owner can pay themselves a reasonable salary and at least $10,000 in distributions each year, they could benefit from S corp status.
You can start an S corp when you form your LLC. Our How to Start an S Corp guide will lead you through the process.
Credibility and Consumer Trust
Professional photography businesses rely on consumer trust. Credibility plays a key role in creating and maintaining any business.
Businesses gain consumer trust simply by forming an LLC.
What is an LLC?
Limited liability legally protects a business owner’s personal assets in the event that a business is sued or defaults on a debt.
Most small businesses will benefit most from forming an LLC versus other business structure types. This is because LLCs are inexpensive, simple to form and run, and LLCs can protect a business owner’s personal assets from lawsuits and creditors.
Some business owners choose to form an LLC themselves, which can be done by following our step-by-step Form an LLC guides.
We generally recommend hiring an LLC formation service so that business owners can focus on generating income and growing their business.
How to Form an LLC
Forming an LLC is easy. There are two options for forming your LLC:
- You can hire a professional LLC formation service to set up your LLC for a small fee
- Or, you can choose your state from the list below to start an LLC yourself
Step 1: Select Your State
- Alabama LLC
- Alaska LLC
- Arizona LLC
- Arkansas LLC
- California LLC
- Colorado LLC
- Connecticut LLC
- Delaware LLC
- Florida LLC
- Georgia LLC
- Hawaii LLC
- Idaho LLC
- Illinois LLC
- Indiana LLC
- Iowa LLC
- Kansas LLC
- Kentucky LLC
- Louisiana LLC
- Maine LLC
- Maryland LLC
- Massachusetts LLC
- Michigan LLC
- Minnesota LLC
- Mississippi LLC
- Missouri LLC
- Montana LLC
- Nebraska LLC
- Nevada LLC
- New Hampshire LLC
- New Jersey LLC
- New Mexico LLC
- New York LLC
- North Carolina LLC
- North Dakota LLC
- Ohio LLC
- Oklahoma LLC
- Oregon LLC
- Pennsylvania LLC
- Rhode Island LLC
- South Carolina LLC
- South Dakota LLC
- Tennessee LLC
- Texas LLC
- Utah LLC
- Vermont LLC
- Virginia LLC
- Washington LLC
- Washington D.C. LLC
- West Virginia LLC
- Wisconsin LLC
- Wyoming LLC
For most new business owners, the best state to form an LLC in is the state where you live and where you plan to conduct your business.
Step 2: Name Your LLC
When you file your LLC's formation documents, you'll need to give your professional photography business a unique name.
Once you find a business name, check if your name is available as a web domain with GoDaddy.
Find a Domain Now
Step 3: Choose an LLC Registered Agent
Your LLC registered agent will accept legal documents and tax notices on your LLC's behalf. You will list your registered agent when you file your LLC's Articles of Organization.
Hiring a registered agent service offers a number of benefits, including privacy and peace of mind.
Many of these Best LLC Services offer a free year of registered agent service when you hire them to form an LLC.
Step 4: File Your LLC's Articles of Organization
The Articles of Organization, also known as a Certificate of Formation or a Certificate of Organization in some states, is the document you will file to officially register your LLC with the state.
Step 6: Get an EIN
An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a number that is used by the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to identify and tax businesses. It is essentially a Social Security number for a business.
EINs are free when you apply directly with the IRS. Visit our What Is an EIN guide for instructions for getting your free EIN.
Should I Start an LLC FAQ
Which is better for my professional photography business — an LLC or sole proprietorship?
Choosing the right business structure depends on your business’s unique circumstances and needs. However, unless your business is very low risk (like a hobby), an LLC is likely the better option.
Visit our LLC vs. Sole Proprietorship guide to learn more.
How much does an LLC cost for a professional photography business?
The cost of an LLC depends on which state you form your LLC in. The primary cost of forming an LLC for your professional photography business is the state filing fee. This fee ranges from $40 to $500 depending on your state.
You can read more details in our How Much Does It Cost to Start an LLC guide.
How do I pay myself from my professional photography business LLC?
How LLC owners pay themselves depends on how the LLC is taxed, the number of members, and any agreements regarding profit sharing and sweat equity.
Visit our How Do I Pay Myself From My LLC to learn more.
What is limited liability protection?
Limited liability protection is one of the benefits of an LLC. It means that the owner’s personal assets are protected if the company is sued or goes into debt.
Visit our corporate veil guide to learn more about maintaining your LLC's limited liability protection.
Is an LLC good for a professional photography business?
Yes. An LLC will give you personal liability protection against potential business risks as well as give your professional photography business more tax options and credibility. It is relatively inexpensive and simple to form and maintain an LLC.
Learn more about professional photography LLC benefits.
When would I start a corporation vs. LLC for my professional photography business?
Corporations are complex to manage and they are subject to double taxation. For this reason, most small businesses won’t benefit from starting a corporation.
When you know your professional photography business will need to rely on outside investors, then a corporation might be the right choice.
Learn more in our LLC vs. Corporation guide.
What is a corporate veil?
The corporate veil describes the limited liability protection (sometimes referred to as personal asset protection) provided by corporations and LLCs. If the corporate veil isn’t properly maintained, the corporation or LLC might lose its limited liability protection.
What are the benefits of starting an LLC for my professional photography business?
Some advantages of an LLC include personal asset protection, reduced paperwork when compared to corporations, tax flexibility, and increased credibility with customers and creditors.
Is a single-member LLC the same as a sole proprietorship?
No. A single-member LLC is a type of limited liability company, which is different from a sole proprietorship. Unlike sole proprietorships, a single-member LLC is formed by filing organization documents with your state government office.
Single-member LLCs are legal business structures that offer liability protection, branding, credibility, and privacy that a sole proprietorship doesn’t.
Do I need to open a business bank account for my LLC?
Using a dedicated business banking account for your professional photography business is essential for personal asset protection.
When you mix your personal and business accounts, your personal assets (e.g., 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.
Can I transfer my professional photography business's DBA name to my LLC?
The rules regarding DBAs can vary from state to state. Read our How to File a DBA guide for more information.
What are the costs to start and maintain a professional photography business?
Visit our How to Start a Professional Photography Business guide to learn more about the costs of starting and maintaining this business.
What are the ongoing expenses of running a professional photography business?
The main ongoing expenses include costs associated with updating and maintaining equipment, licensing photo-editing software, and traveling to photo shoots.
Learn more about running a professional photography business.
How do professional photography businesses make money?
Professional photographers make money by charging clients an hourly, event, or special package rate for their services.
Learn more about starting a professional photography business.
What is a professional photography business and is it profitable?
Professional photographers provide photography services for a wide variety of markets, from weddings and special events to magazine freelance work.
Your profitability as a professional photographer will largely depend on the number of photo shoots you can conduct in a day and how often clients hire you.
Learn more about starting a professional photography business.