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How To Start A Photo Editing Business

How To Start A Photo Editing Business

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How To Start A Photo Editing Business

How To Start A Photo Editing Business

If you’re looking for a great way to turn your passion for photography into a profitable business, starting a photo editing business might be a way to make a living doing what you know and love.

Launching a successful business requires more than just being able to use Photoshop, and in this guide, we will walk you through the steps for launching a successful photo editing business.

Business Overview

A photo editing business provides editing services for individuals, advertising agencies, or businesses by removing blemishes, color correction, photo retouching, adjusting lighting, or doing more extensive using the image editing software.  Your clients can range from photographers seeking professional editing services to individuals who want their personal photos to look their best. This versatile field allows you to explore various niches, such as portrait retouching, wedding photography, e-commerce photo editing, and more.

A photo editing service is a popular business as it requires minimal investment and can be a full-time operation or be run as a side business after work.

Industry Summary

The photo editing industry is projected to grow 4.9% annually by 2031, reaching $1.5 billion in sales. This growth is expected to be fueled by the demand for visually appealing images in marketing and social media. Businesses are increasingly outsourcing photo editing services to save time and tap into advanced skills.

Some key industry trends include AI-powered editing tools, expanded smartphone photo editing apps, and a demand for quick turnarounds and budget-friendly packages. Overall, there are abundant opportunities for skilled photo editors to build scalable, sustainable businesses.

The photo editing industry has low barriers to entry. You can get started with just a computer, photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom, or Gimp, and artistic skills. Many freelancers initially work from home before considering expanding into a studio space.

Steps To Start A Photo Editing Business

Step 1: Market Research

If you’re considering starting a photo editing business, it’s important to assess the market to determine if there is an opportunity for your services. Understanding your target market, analyzing competitors, and gathering insights from local photographers and businesses are valuable to starting a successful business.

To start, define your ideal customer by considering factors like demographics, photography niches, and industries that could benefit from photo editing services. Tailoring your offerings to meet specific customer needs is more profitable and easier to market than providing general photo editing services. For example, you could specialize in wedding photography, product photography, or social media content editing. By finding your niche and understanding your target market, you can position yourself as a go-to source for that market.

Next, research existing photo editing businesses in your area and niche. Analyze their strengths, weaknesses, and unique selling points. This analysis will provide insight into the competition and reveal any gaps in the market that you could potentially fill. Utilize online directories like Yelp or Google Maps to learn more about the competition and what customers have to say about them.

Also, consider talking with local photographers, creative agencies, and e-commerce companies to gain valuable insights about their pain points, preferences, and challenges regarding photo editing. Understand if they currently outsource photo editing work and if they would be open to using a new provider. By gathering information directly from potential customers, you can develop services that directly address their needs and position yourself as a valuable solution.

Another way to assess the market is by looking at job postings for photo editors or retouchers in your area. If there are many openings, it suggests a high demand for these services and a market that could support another photo editing business.

Step 2: Write a Business Plan

Once you’ve done your market research and gained a better understanding of the potential for your photo editing business, it’s time to turn your attention to writing a business plan. While many people associate a business plan with securing funding, it actually offers a range of benefits, even if you’re starting the business with your own savings.

Starting a business is exciting, but a business plan serves as a reality check by helping you take a step back to fully evaluate your idea and consider potential challenges or obstacles that may arise along the way. This helps you to approach your business venture with a more well-rounded and realistic perspective.

Another important area of a business plan is the financial projections, where you project your income and expenses to estimate whether the business is financially feasible. This allows you to assess whether you can generate enough revenue to cover your expenses and provide a sustainable income. By conducting this analysis during the planning stage, you can identify any potential gaps or risks in your financial model and make informed decisions before investing time and resources into launching your business.

Related: How to write a business plan

Step 3: Register the Business

Before you get started, it’s important to register your business and make it legal. Every state has different rules and requirements, but here is a general overview to help you get started.

Business structure: The first task is to decide which business structure is best for you. There are four different types of structures: sole proprietorship, general partnership, corporation, and Limited Liability Company (LLC). Each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

  • Sole proprietorships are the most straightforward and common type of business structure for new entrepreneurs. It’s easy to set up, and it doesn’t require any formal registration or paperwork. The downside is that you’ll be personally responsible for all business debts and liabilities.
  • General partnerships are similar to a sole proprietorship but with two or more people. Partnerships are easy to form and offer flexibility for businesses, but each partner is also personally liable for the debts and obligations of the business.
  • Corporations are more complex business structures that offer liability protection for owners and shareholders. The downside is that they are more expensive to set up and require additional administrative duties.
  • LLCs (Limited Liability Companies) are a popular option for small businesses. They offer limited liability protection and flexibility in tax reporting, as well as a relatively straightforward setup process. However, a Limited Liability Company can be more expensive to set up than a sole proprietorship or general partnership.

Related: Comparison of business structures

Forming an LLC sounds complicated and expensive, but using an entity formation service guides you through the process so you know it was done right.


Some popular LLC formation services include:


IncFile - $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

ZenBusiness - Best for beginners. $0 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

Northwest - Best privacy protection. $39 plus state fees & free registered agent for 1 year!

Business name registration: After deciding on the business structure, you may need to register your business name. This process will vary depending on what business structure you pick. Sole proprietors and partnerships will often be required to register a “Doing Business As” (DBA), while corporations and LLCs register with the state during the formation process.

During this time, it’s also a good idea to check if the name you want is available as a web domain, even if you’re not ready to set up a website yet.

Related: Finding a domain name for your business

Obtain business licenses and permits: Depending on your location, you may need to obtain certain licenses and permits to legally operate your photo editing business. Some common registrations include a business license, seller’s permit, and Employer Identification Number (EIN).

Related: What licenses does a photo editing business need?

Step 4: Set Up Operations

You’ve done the planning and research, and now it’s time to start turning your idea into reality. Setting up your operations is an exciting next step that makes your vision tangible.

First, think about where you’re going to work. Do you need a separate office space, or can you work from home? If you’re planning to work from home, check that your home meets any local zoning requirements for businesses. A home office can be a cost-effective solution, especially if you’re just starting out. Just make sure you have a dedicated space where you can concentrate and stay organized.

With your space figured out, it’s time to focus on the equipment. Quality photo editing demands powerful computers with high-resolution displays, professional editing software, and reliable storage solutions with backups. Investing in the right tools from the start can save you time and enhance the quality of your work. Take inventory of what you already have and purchase what you still need.

Now, it’s time to get clear on what services you’re offering and pricing. Are you specializing in retouching portraits, real estate photos, e-commerce product images, or content for social media influencers? Decide on your service packages, turnaround times, and policies for revisions. Once you’ve outlined your services, set your rates. Pricing can be based on the complexity of the edits and your operating costs. Some photo editors charge by the hour, while others prefer to charge per project. Look at what other photo editing businesses are charging to get an idea of what’s competitive, but also ensure you’re covering your costs and paying yourself a fair wage.

Step 5: Plan Your Marketing Strategy

When starting a new photo editing business, you need a strategy for how you will let people know about your services. Here are some items to consider to help market your business:

Create a website: Develop a professional website that showcases your photo editing services, displays your portfolio, and captures your brand identity. Make sure the website is visually appealing, easy to navigate, and provides clear information about the services you offer.

Utilize social media and directories: Once your website is live, leverage social media to promote your photo editing business. Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest are particularly visual, making them ideal for displaying before-and-after editing examples. Additionally, make use of online directories relevant to your industry to boost your visibility and attract potential clients.

Networking: Networking can play an important role in spreading the word about your new business. Attend industry events, join photography or creative associations, and engage with professionals in your field. By building relationships and making connections, you can increase your business exposure and generate potential leads.

Outreach: Research businesses or individuals who could benefit from your photo editing services and craft emails and/or direct mail that highlight the value you can provide.

Step 6: Prepare to Launch!

As you near the launch of your photo editing business, there will be a few remaining steps. These will vary based on individual business needs, but here are some common areas that need attention.

Business insurance: Business insurance can safeguard you against potential liabilities, damage to equipment, or any unforeseen circumstances that may arise during your operations.

Setting up bookkeeping: Set up accounting software and systems to handle your day-to-day transactions, taxes, and the preparation of accurate financial statements. You might consider using accounting software such as Wave Accounting (FREE) or Quickbooks, or hire an accountant.

Contracts: Having clear contracts to provide clarity on expectations, project scope, payment terms, and copyright ownership helps define the relationship between your business and your clients. These could include client agreements, confidentiality agreements, and licensing agreements. RocketLawyer and Law Depot have free and inexpensive templates that may be helpful.

Opening a business bank account: Separate your personal and business finances by opening a dedicated business bank account. This ensures better organization and simplifies the tracking of income and expenses.

Preparing for the grand opening: As you get ready to launch your business, consider how you’ll announce your grand opening. This may involve organizing a launch event, creating a buzz on social media, and ensuring that all necessary equipment and systems are in place to deliver your services seamlessly.

Greg’s Tip: Protect yourself from scope creep and payment issues by always using a contract with clients. It sets clear expectations and ensures everyone is on the same page.

Greg's Business Tip

Common Questions When Starting A Photo Editing Business

How much does it cost to start a photo editing business?

Starting a photo editing business can be relatively cost-effective, especially if you already have some of the equipment and software.

These expenses vary depending on your location, business type, and services offered. but on average, you might expect initial costs to be between $3,000 to $9,000.

Equipment: The bulk of your startup cost will likely go towards high-quality editing equipment. This includes a computer with sufficient specs ($1,500 – $3,000), a monitor that provides accurate color representation ($300 – $1,000), and peripherals like a graphics tablet ($100 – $300). Total for equipment can range from $1,900 to $4,300.

Software: The need for photo editing software subscriptions can vary. Adobe Creative Cloud, for instance, ranges from $20 to $53 per month, but annual pricing will save a bit. The yearly cost can be around $240 to $636.

Marketing: You may be able to do this yourself, but if not, budget $500-$1,000 for logo design, business cards, website, and other marketing initiatives.

Office supplies: $100-$300 for basic supplies like a printer, paper, pens, folders, postage, and small accessories.

Business registration: Registering your business, including fees for forming an LLC or other business structure, can vary by state but typically ranges from $50 to $800.

Location: If not working from home, the cost for a small office space can include initial deposits equivalent to one month’s rent, which can range from $500 to $2,000, depending on the location.

Insurance: Initial insurance costs for basic liability coverage might range from $300 to $800 annually, depending on your coverage needs.

How profitable is a photo editing business?

The profitability of a photo editing business can vary widely based on several factors, such as the business model, client base, and pricing.

For instance, if a photo editor charges an average of $50 per hour and works on projects for 20 hours a week, the gross revenue would be $1,000 weekly or approximately $52,000 annually.

From the revenue, we need to subtract expenses. If the business operates from home, avoiding the cost of renting a space, the primary expenses would include software subscriptions, equipment depreciation, marketing, and insurance. If we assume:

– Software subscriptions at $50/month ($600 annually),
– Marketing at $100/month ($1,200 annually),
– Insurance at $600 annually,
– Miscellaneous expenses at $100/month ($1,200 annually).

This results in total annual expenses of approximately $3,600.

Subtracting these expenses from the gross revenue ($52,000 – $3,600), the net profit before taxes would be approximately $48,400 annually.

What are some keys to success for photo editing businesses?

Succeeding as a photo editor takes more than just technical proficiency. Here are some tips for setting your freelance business apart:

Communicate professionally: Be responsive to prospective clients and provide timely delivery.

Understand client needs: Ask questions upfront to clarify the client’s vision and expectations.

Develop a consistent style: Showcase your unique editing aesthetic and skills.

Specialize your services: Become an expert in real estate, portrait, or product editing ,for example.

Invest in yourself: Continuously learn new software, skills, and industry best practices.

Build your reputation: Focus on referral marketing and word-of-mouth to grow your clientele.

Manage your finances: Track income and expenses to safeguard profitability.

Automate when possible: Use tools to speed up repetitive tasks and streamline your workflow.

What is the NAICS code for a photo editing business?

The NAICS code for a photo editing business is 541922 under the Commercial Photography category. Other activities under this NAICS code include medical photography services, aerial photography, videotaping services for legal depositions, and more.

The NAICS code (North American Industry Classification System) is a federal system to classify different types of businesses for the collection and reporting of statistical data.

Related: What is a NAICS code and how to find yours

How To Start A Photo Editing Business

How To Start A Photo Editing Business

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