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Photography License

Photography License

If you are serious about providing photography services in you area, you have already asked yourself about a photography license. Majority of the US authorities don’t require the professional license in order to run or operate a photography business, but there are cities that need this document. Make two phone calls to your state licensing board and local city hall to find it out and start getting a photography license.

Do I Need a Business License for Photography?

As a rule, the local governments require a license for photography of a certain type. Even if a photographer is going to open a photography studio, he/she needs to get a special permit. You don’t need to spend a lot of money and time to obtain such a license in most states/cities. In other cases, the photographer may spend some money to pay for permission.

Of course, the laws in all cities are different. You need to make two calls to get information about business licenses for photography and their types. So first, you need to call the state licensing board, and then address the local city hall. You will spend only a couple of minutes on both calls and will get the necessary information. Please note that only photographers, who are going to make a living in such a way, need these documents.

Why Do You Need a Photography Business License

There are 3 reasons to get a license for photography:

  • To pay taxes and control your finances
  • To protect public health and safety
  • To determine your business goals

First of all, you need to get a photography license agreement to ensure a good financial condition of your company. Providers, employees, state/local governments, and customers should know that your business is completely legal. The business license for photography ensures that your business is absolutely legitimate and you can be trusted. In addition, it allows the photographer to apply for an annual tax return confirming the legitimacy of the business.

To be legally protected (the business will be under legal control) is the second reason why you need to have a photography license. Unfortunately, most photographers neglect this rule. In addition, if you have no license, you can be fined by any form of the government.

How to Get a Photography License: Steps

As we have said, the photography license requirements are different in all cities and states, so you need to be careful and attentive. Negligence at this stage won’t allow you to start a profitable and successful business. As a rule, the procedure of obtaining a license includes such steps as:

Step 1. Identify your business structure.

First of all, you need to determine the structure of your future company.

How to Choose the Right Business Structure: 

"LLC" is an excellent designation for all the companies that work in the field of digital photography. Having "LLC" you will be treated as the only owner for tax purposes in all documents and may get the financial support if your business gets sued. Still, you should have business insurance.

Step 2. Choose a catchy company name.

Sometimes, the choice of name is one of the main problems for photographers. As the statistics show, most photographers choose their name and add the word “Photography”. This is the fastest and easiest way, but you be creative and invent the name, which will attract the attention of customers. Make sure that there are no other companies with the same name.

How To Pick A Name For Your Photography Business:

Step 3. Find out where you can get a business license for photography.

This is a very important step because you need to get a license in a city where you’re planning to run your business. The license will be given only for your real business address.

Step 4. Check which license type you need.

Follow these easy steps to find out what types of licenses are valid in your country:

  • The U.S. Small Business Administration offers a tool that enables you to search for the licenses you need in your city or state via the Business.gov website.
  • Next, you need to open the "Search for licenses and permits" section and enter the name of the state/city.
  • Click “Search” to see all types of licenses and permissions for your business.

Step 5. Find special forms to fill out.

You can do this online. You can download these forms or take them at your City Hall. If you choose the first option, make sure you took the appropriate form for your city/state.

Step 6. Fill out all the forms correctly.

photography licence

You can print these forms, fill them in and scan or fill in the online version. Some states make provisions for performing these functions directly online (but first, you’ll have to create an account). You will need to specify the following information:

  • The business sphere
  • Address of the studio
  • The name of the company founder
  • Your phone and ID numbers
  • The number of employees

Step 7. File your forms

Any businessman can fill in the forms on the official website of his/her city. As a rule, such sites usually have all the necessary data.

Step 8. Remember to pay the filing fee

photography licence

Starting a business you need to pay a registration fee (the sum varies in different cities). In general, you will pay from $50 to 400. This charge varies according to your business type. You may also pay $25 for additional processing.

Step 9. Get your photography business license.

photography licence

As you understand, no one knows how long your request will be processed. As a rule, experts review the online application within 2-3 days. After that, the photographer will receive an email that contains a nine-digit UBI number with the printed Business License.

Business Photography Insurance

The insurance isn’t a pressing issue to do a legal business and I doubt that some states request photographers to be insured. Actually, it could be rather a wise business decision. There are 4 insurance policies to cover the majority of photographers’ potential issues. Perhaps, you may want to ignore the following photography license, but you shouldn’t. No one knows what may occur (your photography gear can be damaged or you may face photography copyright http://fixthephoto.com/business/photography-copyright.html infringements).

It is a common thing that you are obliged to have any type of commercial photography license agreement to shoot in particular places. Having got the insurance, you are aware of what is covered and what is not. You may find out that some insurance policies aren’t supposed to meet international photographer’s requirements.

Main Photography Insurance Types

  • Equipment insurance;
  • General Liability insurance;
  • Property insurance;
  • Professional Liability/Errors & Omissions Insurance.

Equipment Insurance

Let’s imagine that you have spent all your money on the camera stuff but, eventually, the purchased camera body, the lens or the laptop is damaged or has been stolen. So your business may suffer greatly. The photography insurance is the tool you may apply to cover your expenses as well as to get your camera or its accessories repaired.

photography licence

General Liability Insurance

Being a photographer means that you may experience different unexpected situations while shootings:

  • The equipment may fall down and hurt somebody
  • The gear may get damaged
  • Other kinds of injuries will take place

Having got the Liability Insurance you are protected against third parties claims. As an example, your tripod may fall and hurt somebody. This is the evident reason to file a lawsuit against you, although it doesn’t work if you have previously arranged the business license for photography.

photography licence

Property Insurance

In case you rent a photo studio, you will need the property insurance. Indeed, the better idea is to discuss everything with an insurance agent, who knows how to do everything according to the law. The property insurance is supposed to cover such expenses that are connected with furniture purchasing or its repairing. As a photographer, you need this kind of photography license most of all, because of the risk to have your property damaged or destroyed. There are also the insurances that cover such particular cases like vandalism or natural disasters. You need to look through the insurance carefully, to know what exactly it covers. With the signed agreement you can get your studio restored.

photography licence

Professional Liability/Errors & Omissions Insurance

Everybody makes mistakes. It may happen that you have spoiled all the wedding pictures accidentally. Or your customers do not like the finished images and refuse to take them, demanding the prepayment back. Even a professional photographer can find himself/herself in such a situation. The above-mentioned photography business insurance covers the conditions when the mistake was on the part of a photographer and resulted in financial losses. But with the insurance, you are legally protected.

photography licence

Business Photography Taxes

If you decide to get the photography license, you shouldn’t forget about the taxes, which you will have to pay according to the legal standards.

Start a Photography Business:

According to your location and state legislation, as well as your business peculiarities, you may have quite different taxes. Learning how to get a photography license, you may discover that there is a number of various legal taxes applicable to the specified area of a photography business. The taxes differ in accordance with the government level. Mainly there are sales taxes and income taxes. It’s really difficult sometimes to differentiate them but you need to understand that they are completely different.

Sales taxes are imposed on the sale of the private property or particular services provided. You must have heard lots about this type of taxes, though don’t mix them up with the use taxes, which appear if we have not paid the sales tax on a taxable product or service.

You have to pay an income tax on the income you get as a photographer. The federal and state administrative institutions regulate it. We strongly encourage you to distinguish these two types of taxes, as it is easy to get confused. To be a successful entrepreneur, you need to become acquainted with the actual local and state taxes. We advise consulting with an accountant about your license to shoot photography.

You must be very excited to start your photo business, though you shouldn’t forget to learn legislation laws more accurate before you advertise your services and take orders.


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Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a photographer, photo retoucher and of course, journalist. Here on FixThePhoto blog you can find all of my reviews, photography and photo editing tips, pricing guides, and photography experiments.

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