How do I start a photography business from home?

By Andrew Hudson Published: September 27, 2011 Updated: February 10, 2016

Yeh! Home! Cameras!! Money!!! $$$ Let’s start your home photography business now and have fun making money (or at least paying off the cameras). Here are some tips.

How to make money

The easiest way to cash in with photography is microstock. You can sign-up online with one or more microstock agencies and upload your photos. Then wait for people to license your work and watch the funds get deposited into your bank account. Ooh, that sounds nice.

You can also sell your photos on your own photography website, and on products such as postcards, greeting cards and posters.

Additionally you can be a freelance photographer and sell your photos to photography magazines and postcard publishers. Me, I self-published 14 photography books.

Learn more with PhotoSecrets Sell Photos Online.


By law, your photos automatically get copyright protection when you take them. But, for extra coverage, you can register your copyright online. You can submit a group of photos (any number, as long as they are copyrighted by the same person in the same year) for one fee of $35 (subject to change).

Learn more with PhotoSecrets Register.

Business License

Legally, you probably need a business license. This may cost around $50 per year and can often be applied for online. You may also need a seller’s permit for the “privilege” of selling in your state.

Learn more with Do I need a business license?.

Business Name

If you’re naming your business with your own name — such as Jane Smith Photography — then you probably do not need to do anything. For a name which isn’t your own name — such as Creative Style Photos — you will probably need to file a “Doing Business As” (DBA, also known as Fictitious Business Name). This is a local law to confirm that no one else locally is using the same name, and can often be done online for a nominal fee.

With a fictitious business name certificate, you can open a business bank account and get paid under your business name.


Keep a record of all business-related income and expenses. Having a separate business bank account helps. Come tax time, you can file (in the U.S.) as an individual (or married couple) running a ”sole proprietorship” by listing your business figures on a separate sheet, the “Schedule C.”

You can make a loss (to offset against other earnings) and write off reasonable business expenses.

For more information see business tax forms.


Reply by Reza

August 10, 2013


I just want to start a new business and selling photos online in CA. My customer can get the link for download of photos after buying it. My questions are:

1. Do I need a permit for selling my photos online? And if I need where can I get that in CA?

2. Should I pay tax for my selling in State? How about federal Tax?

Best regards,


Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

September 23, 2013

Hi Reza:

Two good questions.


The city where you live may require you to get a business license before conducting regular business from your house. In San Diego, for example, this is a fairly straightforward process which can be done online for, I think, under $100. Here is a link for San Diego County: link.

The State of California requires you to have (I believe) a seller’s permit if you’re selling anything, so that the state can collect sales tax. Again this can be done online. Here is a link for the California State Board of Equalization.


In California, the seller is responsible for collecting sales tax. However, I believe that it was at least once the case that sales tax was not required on digital downloads where no tangible property was changing hands. But then again I have been charged sales tax on downloads before now so maybe that is a requirement.

There is no federal sales tax. I believe that the only federal requirement is that you disclose any personal revenue on your personal income tax return.

Best wishes,


Reply by Brenda Stone

May 27, 2013

I would like to see this when you do write it.

Reply by Caitlin

January 31, 2012

I am trying to learn what it takes to be a traveling photojournalist. It is my dream job and I would love to know how to pursue it. I am only a Sophmore in High School, but I am keeping my options open. I have a knack for photography and could work a camera in my sleep. I am so interested and eager to learn more because it is simply my passion. Thanks-Caitlin Mcadam

Reply by Atanu Mondal

December 18, 2011

I am a freelance photographer i want to sell my photos at national geography magazine.

Reply by Alex Usov

November 6, 2011

Would love to give it a try

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