How to Become a Freelance Photographer in 8 Steps

Working as a successful freelance photographer or starting your own photography business has so many different opportunities and can be an exciting career path with many channels. Almost every industry out there needs quality images, especially with everything being online. Whether establishing a photography career, or even a side hustle freelance photography, it can be a lucrative choice. 

However, to become a professional photographer you will need to surpass certain hurdles, which may feel like an overwhelming task. So take a deep breath and follow our 8 simple steps if this is a path you want to follow.

1. Pick Your Photography Niche

A niche is a segment of a larger market that has its own unique needs, pain points, and identity. Since each niche has its own distinct characteristics, they will each require different skill sets. This means it is better to focus on one niche and master it. Once you’ve mastered that one, then maybe you can apply those skills to a different niche. 

From a business perspective, it also works better to focus on one particular niche because potential clients will usually look up photography that is specific to their needs. So if you specialize in one particular area, they will trust you more. For example, if someone needs a wildlife photographer, they will more likely trust someone who specializes in wildlife. 

Examples of the different types of professional photography niches are as follows: 

  • Wedding photography 
  • Portrait 
  • Events
  • Photojournalism
  • Food
  • Travel
  • Wildlife 
  • Sports
  • Fashion
  • Real estate 

2. Cover the Cost of Photography Equipment

Choosing the most expensive and elaborate photography gear will not be a substitute for experience or skill. That being said, if you can afford it, splurging on the more expensive equipment could end up paying off depending on what your needs are. 

For cameras, the minimum price you can expect to spend is around $1,000- $3,000. 

Of course, you can always choose to spend more, but you can get a great camera body in any price range you choose.

When it comes to taking beautiful pictures, quality lenses are one of the most important pieces of gear. Some even say that the lens matters more than the camera body. The focal length you’ll choose depends on the camera sensor you’re working with. First, identify the category of lens you need, then see what’s available for your camera body. For a decent lens you can expect to spend around $950 +.

You can never be certain about where your photography clients will ask you to take pictures. Even if you stick within your niche, there are always surprises. This means you will always want to be prepared with proper lighting. For decent lighting units you can expect to spend around $200+. 

Learn more about deducting business expenses for your small business tax returns here

3. Create a Freelance Photography Business Website

It’s not enough to just have a social media account. Of course, social media is great for many reasons, but it does not have the same structure as a website so you can not organize your work in the same way. Having a website adds a more professional look to your photography business. You can use standard website building tools like SquareSpace or Wix, or dedicated portfolio websites for photographers, like Pixpa, to create your business site. Whatever tool you choose, check out techniques on how to design your site

When creating your website you want to think about the user who will be navigating through your site. Make sure the layout makes sense and is easy to follow. If a user finds your site complicated or unorganized, this might be a red flag for them and they will start considering other professional photographers. 

Your professional website is a showcase of your work- whether it’s commercial photography, portraits, or panoramas, you’ll want to create a polished product. So everything from the colour scheme, typography, and overall graphic design needs to be cohesive and resonate with your target. When laying out your content, consider organizing it based on categories (like pictures of foxes, pictures of bears, pictures of squirrels, etc), timeline, or even colour – whatever makes sense for your specific niche and style. 

Besides the actual work, you might want to add in personal details like ways to contact you and an “about me” section to make yourself more relatable. Also, be sure to add the link to your site in your LinkedIn profile as well as other social media accounts. 

4. Decide Rates as a Professional Photographer

According to, the starting salary for a photographer is $29,250.00, while a more experienced photographer makes closer to $54,860.00 annually. So when you are deciding how much to charge for your services, take into consideration how much experience you bring to the table.

However, this is some leeway. Let’s say you are just starting out, so you don’t want to charge the same as someone with years of experience. But your paying client wants special lighting that you don’t currently have – so you will need to purchase it. Or if they want to work under difficult conditions, like going out to the forest in the winter, or documenting a long event as a wedding photographer. These are all things that even a junior could charge more for. 

5. Develop your Portfolio

A professional portfolio is the work that will get you hired, so show off your best. If there is a special technique that you’ve learned or certain pieces that you are especially proud of, showcase those at the top of the portfolio so they are seen first. Anything that you feel distinguishes you from other professional photographers should be placed here. 

People who are hiring you are busy, so there is no need to put 100 photographs in your portfolio, the magic number is around 8–12. This way the client/employer can get a sense of your style quickly. Therefore, pick your best work of the different subjects you snap, mixing up your landscape photography with street photography.

If you are very keen on showcasing a lot of work (more than the 8–12 recommended pieces), that is when you can start an online portfolio and start adding them to your professional website.

6. Market your Services

To secure freelance photography jobs you will need to do some marketing of your business. The first step in marketing your service is to determine who your target audience is. This will establish how you should tackle your approach. 

There are a few different marketing methods you can choose from: 

  • Social Media makes sense for photography because people go there for the sole purpose of looking at pictures. Social media marketing is also great for engagement, so starting a contest or a fun trend would bring new eyes to your page and work! 
  • Google Business Pages will improve your chances that people will find you on Google when searching for a photographer. You might want to include a place as one of your keywords to improve SEO. For example “Toronto Events Photography” 
  • Referral Program is a great way to get new customers as well. You can create a referral program in a variety of ways, including giving your clients a discount on their next session if they write a review about you.

7. Develop Your Photography Skills

Stay up to date with the latest news surrounding photography. Look at other professional freelance photographers to see what their portfolios look like so you can get inspiration, and make sure to follow them on social media. You should also be following current industry trends to help you stay on top of ever-changing demands and fads. 

You could also take photography courses in school or even on sites like LinkedIn Learning to keep your skills fresh. There are many free and decently priced boot camps and online photography courses that can help you develop your skills. You may even try taking a class covering a technique or subject matter you’ve never tried before to help you expand your knowledge. 

8. Handle your Finances

Whether you’re a freelance photographer or have a photography business, you will need to invoice your existing clients. Here is a free photography invoice template with all the information you need to make sure you get paid properly. Part of being a successful photographer is not just about skills and experience, but managing clients and your revenue stream. 

As a professional freelance photographer, being your own accountant might not be your forte, so let QuickBooks take care of your financial needs, allowing you to save time and money. QuickBooks Self-Employed customers find an average of $3,906 in tax savings per year. Try this financial software free today to help you handle your revenue from incoming photography contracts.

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