How to Start a Photography Business in Ontario: Step-by-Step Guide + Funding Options

With the rise of social media and the demand for visual content, the photography industry is thriving. According to IBISWorld the market size, measured by revenue, of the Photography industry in Canada is $1.7bn in 2023.

This demonstrates the immense potential for entrepreneurs to carve out their niche in this market.

However, as with any business, there are both advantages and challenges to starting a photography business. One of the primary advantages is the high demand for photography services, which provides a large customer base for businesses.

Additionally, Ontario offers a diverse range of locations for photography, from bustling cities to natural landscapes, providing ample opportunities for photographers to showcase their skills.

On the other hand, there are several challenges that aspiring photographers must navigate, such as fierce competition, rising equipment costs, and changing consumer trends.

Additionally, legal requirements, such as obtaining permits or licenses, and complying with copyright laws, can add to the complexity of starting a photography business.

Despite these challenges, with proper planning and execution, starting a photography business in Ontario can be a lucrative and fulfilling career choice.

In this article, we will explore the essential steps to launch a successful photography business.

Step 1: Choose a Business Structure

Choosing a business structure is an important step when starting a new photography business.

The business structure you choose will determine the legal and tax implications of your business and how it is organized.

Here are the steps you can take to choose a business structure:

  • Understand the different business structures: The main business structures in Ontario are sole proprietorship, partnership, and corporation. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, such as tax implications, liability, and control.
  • Determine your business goals: Consider your business goals and objectives. Are you planning to operate the business alone, or with a partner? Do you plan to expand the business in the future? This will help you determine which structure is best for you.
  • Consult with a lawyer or accountant: It is recommended that you consult with a lawyer or an accountant who can provide advice and guidance on the best business structure for your specific needs and circumstances.
  • Consider liability and taxation: Liability is a critical factor to consider when choosing a business structure. If you choose to operate as a sole proprietorship, you will be personally liable for any debts or legal issues that arise in your business. Consider if a corporation or a partnership may be a better option for limiting your personal liability. Taxation is another important factor to consider. Each business structure has its own tax implications, so be sure to consider this when making your decision.

Step 2: Register Your Business

Registering your photography business in Ontario is important to establish it as a legal entity and protect your personal assets. By registering your business, you can protect your personal assets from liability.

If your business is sued or incurs debts, your personal assets such as your home and car may be at risk.

However, registering as a corporation can help protect your personal assets from business liabilities.

To register your business:

  • Choose a business name: Choose a unique and memorable name for your business. Make sure that the name is not already in use by checking the Ontario Business Name Search database.
  • Register your business name: Register your business name through ServiceOntario either online or in-person at a ServiceOntario Centre. There is a fee for registering a business name.
  • Obtain necessary licenses and permits: Depending on your business structure and location, you may need to obtain additional licenses and permits. Contact the appropriate regulatory bodies to find out which ones you need.
  • Register for a business number: You will need to register for a business number with the Canada Revenue Agency. This number is used for tax purposes, and you can register online or by phone.
  • Register for the Harmonized Sales Tax: If your business is going to have a gross annual revenue of $30,000 or more, you will need to register for an HST account with the CRA. This can be done online or by phone.
  • Open a business bank account: Open a separate bank account for your business to keep your personal and business finances separate.
  • Register for workers’ compensation: If you plan to have employees, you will need to register for workers’ compensation with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.
  • File annual tax returns: As a business owner, you are required to file annual tax returns with the CRA.

Step 3: Obtain Necessary Licenses and Permits

It is important to obtain the necessary licenses and permits for a new photography business in Ontario.

Depending on the type of photography you plan to do and where you plan to do it, there may be different requirements and regulations that you need to comply with.


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    By obtaining the necessary licenses and permits, you can ensure that your photography business operates legally and avoid potential fines or legal issues.

    To obtain licenses and permits, you must:

    • Research the requirements: The first step is to research the requirements for your specific type of photography business. The Ontario government website and local business support organizations can be good resources to find out which licenses and permits are required.
    • Determine which permits and licenses you need: Based on the research, determine which permits and licenses you need. Some examples of permits and licenses for photography businesses include:
    • Business license: A general license to operate a business within a certain jurisdiction.
    • Photography license: Some municipalities require a specific photography license to operate a photography business.
    • Special event permit: If you plan to photograph events on public property, you may need a special event permit.
    • Health and safety permits: If you plan to offer photography services in a public space, you may need health and safety permits.
    • Film permit: If you plan to film on public property, you may need a film permit.
    • Apply for the permits and licenses: Once you have determined which permits and licenses you need, you can apply for them. Some permits can be obtained online, while others may require an in-person application.
    • Pay the necessary fees: There are fees associated with obtaining permits and licenses. Make sure to budget for these costs when starting your photography business.
    • Display the permits and licenses: Once you have obtained the necessary permits and licenses, make sure to display them prominently at your place of business or on your website.

    Step 4: Obtain Insurance

    While insurance can be an additional expense for your photography business, it’s important to view it as an investment in your business’s longevity and reputation.

    By protecting yourself and your clients, you can mitigate risks and focus on creating great photos and growing your business.

    Here are the steps you can take to choose the right insurance:

    • Identify the types of insurance needed: Consider the types of insurance needed for your photography business. This could include general liability insurance, professional liability insurance, property insurance, and equipment insurance.
    • Research insurance providers: Research insurance providers that offer coverage for photography businesses in Ontario. Consider their reputation, coverage options, and pricing.
    • Get quotes: Contact insurance providers and request quotes for the coverage you need. Make sure to ask any questions you may have about the coverage, deductibles, and premiums.
    • Compare quotes: Compare the quotes from different insurance providers and evaluate which one offers the best coverage and pricing for your needs.
    • Purchase insurance: Once you have chosen an insurance provider, purchase the insurance coverage that you need. Make sure to carefully review the policy and understand what is covered and what is not.
    • Renew and update insurance regularly: Make sure to renew your insurance coverage before it expires and update it as your business grows or changes.

    Step 5: Purchase Equipment

    Having the right equipment is important for any photography business.

    While you don’t necessarily need to purchase the most expensive or high-end gear, you should invest in equipment that meets your needs and allows you to capture high-quality photos.

    Here’s how you can purchase the right equipment:

    • Make a list of equipment: Create a list of the equipment you need based on your business needs and photography style. This could include cameras, lenses, tripods, lighting equipment, memory cards, and storage devices.
    • Research equipment: Research different brands and models of equipment and compare features, prices, and reviews to determine which ones meet your business needs and budget.
    • Determine your budget: Determine how much you can afford to spend on equipment based on your business plan and financial projections.
    • Purchase equipment: Purchase the equipment you need based on your budget and research. Consider buying used or refurbished equipment to save money, but make sure it is in good working condition.
    • Insure your equipment: Once you have purchased your equipment, insure it to protect against loss or damage. Consider purchasing equipment insurance or adding it to your business insurance policy.
    • Test and practice with equipment: Test and practice with your equipment to become familiar with its features and capabilities. This will help you deliver high-quality photographs and ensure that your equipment is in good working condition.
    • Maintain and upgrade equipment: Regularly maintain your equipment to ensure it is in good working condition and consider upgrading it as your business grows or new technology becomes available.

    Step 6: Build a Portfolio

    Building a portfolio is an essential step for any photographer looking to establish or grow their photography business.

    Your portfolio showcases your skills and style as a photographer, and it allows potential clients to see what you can offer them.

    A well-crafted portfolio can help you stand out from the competition, attract new clients, and potentially land new business opportunities.

    • Determine your photography style: Determine your photography style based on your interests, skills, and business goals. This could include portrait, wedding, landscape, or commercial photography, among others.
    • Plan your portfolio: Plan your portfolio by selecting your best work that showcases your style and skills. Aim to create a cohesive and visually appealing portfolio that tells a story.
    • Choose your subjects: Choose your subjects carefully based on your photography style and the services you want to offer. Consider photographing friends and family, collaborating with models or other photographers, or volunteering to photograph events or charities.
    • Create a website: Create a website to showcase your portfolio and make it easily accessible to potential clients. Make sure your website is visually appealing and easy to navigate and includes information about your services and pricing.
    • Use social media: Use social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to promote your work and reach potential clients. Share your best work regularly and engage with your followers to build a community around your brand.
    • Attend networking events: Attend networking events such as trade shows, conferences, or photography meetups to connect with other photographers and potential clients. Bring a printed portfolio to showcase your work.
    • Ask for feedback: Ask for feedback from other photographers or mentors to improve your portfolio and skills. This will help you grow as a photographer and build a strong portfolio.

    Step 7: Market Your Business

    Marketing can help you differentiate yourself from other photographers. By highlighting your unique selling points, such as your style, personality, or niche, you can attract clients who are looking for a specific type of photography. 

    By investing time and effort into marketing, you can attract new clients, build your brand, and grow your business.

    To create an effective marketing plan:

    • Define your target audience: Determine the demographics of your ideal clients, such as age range, gender, location, interests, and needs.
    • Create a business plan: Develop a comprehensive business plan that outlines your marketing strategy, budget, pricing, services, and competition analysis.
    • Build a brand: Establish a brand identity that reflects your business values, personality, and style. Create a logo, website, and social media profiles that are visually appealing, consistent, and memorable.
    • Offer promotions: Offer special promotions, discounts, or referral incentives to attract new clients and generate buzz.
    • Network with other professionals: Attend industry events, join photography groups, and collaborate with other professionals, such as wedding planners, event coordinators, or influencers.
    • Advertise your business: Use paid advertising channels, such as Google Ads or Facebook Ads, to reach your target audience. Consider local publications, online directories, and classified ads to increase your visibility.
    • Leverage social media: Use social media platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest, to showcase your work, engage with your followers, and reach new clients.
    • Ask for reviews: Encourage satisfied clients to leave positive reviews on your websites, social media, or review sites, such as Yelp or Google My Business.
    • Monitor and adjust your strategy: Regularly review your marketing efforts, track your results, and adjust your strategy accordingly to improve your ROI and achieve your business goals.

    Step 8: Set Your Pricing

    Pricing is a crucial aspect of running a successful business as it determines your revenue and profitability.

    Setting the right prices for your photography services can help you attract clients and grow your business.

    Here are some tips to help you get started with pricing:

    • Determine your costs: Calculate your fixed and variable costs, including equipment, supplies, insurance, website fees, rent, utilities, and taxes. This will help you understand the minimum amount you need to charge to cover your expenses.
    • Research your competition: Analyze the prices and services of other photography businesses in your area that target the same audience as you. Consider their reputation, quality of work, and value proposition to determine how your pricing compares.
    • Define your value proposition: Establish your unique selling proposition (USP) by identifying what sets you apart from your competition. This could include your experience, expertise, quality of work, or additional services you provide.
    • Determine your target profit margin: Decide on the profit margin you want to achieve. This could be a percentage of your costs or a fixed amount you want to earn for each photoshoot.
    • Decide on your pricing model: Choose a pricing model that aligns with your value proposition and target audience. Some common pricing models for photography businesses include hourly rates, package deals, and a la carte options.
    • Set your prices: Calculate your prices based on your costs, target profit margin, and chosen pricing model. Make sure to test different price points and adjust accordingly based on feedback from clients and changes in the market.
    • Communicate your pricing: Clearly communicate your pricing on your website, social media, and marketing materials to ensure potential clients understand the value they will receive and the costs associated with your services.
    • Reevaluate your pricing: Regularly reevaluate your pricing to ensure it aligns with your business goals, market trends, and the needs of your target audience. Make adjustments as needed to maximize profitability and client satisfaction.

    Step 9: Develop a Contract

    Developing a contract for your photography business can help you establish a professional and legally binding agreement with your clients, protect your interests, and reduce the risk of disputes.

    To develop a contract:

    • Define the scope of work: Clearly define the scope of work, including the type of photography, location, date, and duration of the shoot. This will help both you and your client understand the expectations for the project.
    • Set the price and payment terms: Outline the price for your services, including any additional fees, such as travel expenses, editing fees, or print costs. Specify the payment terms, such as the deposit amount, payment schedule, and payment methods accepted.
    • Establish copyright and usage rights: Define who owns the copyright of the photos and specify how the photos can be used, such as for personal or commercial purposes. Include any restrictions or limitations on the usage of the photos.
    • Clarify cancellation and rescheduling policies: Specify the conditions for canceling or rescheduling the shoot, including any fees or penalties that may apply.
    • Include liability and indemnification clauses: Clarify the liability of both parties in case of any damages or injuries that occur during the shoot. Specify the insurance coverage required and include an indemnification clause to protect both parties from legal action.
    • Include a model release: If you plan to use the photos for promotional purposes, include a model release that allows you to use the client’s image for marketing and advertising purposes.
    • Add any additional clauses: Include any additional clauses that are relevant to your business and the project, such as a confidentiality clause or a force majeure clause.
    • Review and revise: Review the contract carefully to ensure it covers all the necessary details and is legally binding. Revise the contract as needed to clarify any ambiguities or address any concerns raised by the client.
    • Sign and store the contract: Have both you and the client sign the contract and keep a copy of the signed contract on file for future reference.


    Starting a new photography business requires a combination of creativity, dedication, and business acumen. By developing a solid business plan, building a strong brand, and providing exceptional services to clients, entrepreneurs can establish themselves in this thriving industry.

    While there are challenges to starting a photography business, such as competition and changing market trends, there are also many advantages, such as high demand for photography services and a diverse range of locations for photography.

    With the right strategy and execution, entrepreneurs can overcome these challenges and build a successful photography business.

    By continuously learning and adapting to changes in the market, photographers can ensure their businesses remain relevant and profitable for years to come.

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