Running a wedding photography business in Canada

Starting a business is hard work and running one is even more difficult. If you love weddings and you have a knack for photography, then there's a few key things you need to know about running a wedding photography business. At the very minimum, you're going to need the essentials and things we recommend in this article.

1) A Business Plan

I cannot stress how important it is for any business to have a business plan. You need to know where you want your company to be, you need a roadmap of what your company's going to be and how it's going to be profitable. Without this, you're already doomed for failure. Mark down all of your expenses, your competition, your cash flow and your target audience.

How do you plan on advertising yourself? Social media, wedding forums, the newspaper, Craigslist, etc.? You need to figure out some areas to advertise yourself and come up with a plan of action to get your name out there.

2) Financial Startup

Starting any kind of business isn't cheap. A professional grade camera and all the equipment you'll need could easily cost you $10,000. That's just the equipment. You also need to look at licensing costs, insurance, your website, accounting software, employee costs if you have more than one photographer and so forth. How do you plan on obtaining this money and do you have accessible means to this money? Are you comfortable with putting up some of your assets so that you can borrow money from a bank? You need to have your financial situation started out before you go into business. You can apply for different credit cards to get a headstart. See here or here.

3) Office VS Freelancing

An office is great but it's rather expensive. Freelancing or running a business from your home is great as well but people are going to think you're just someone working out of their garage. Do you plan on meeting perspective clients at a location of their choice? Can you afford the gas to do that? Work through a process to determine whether or not you can afford the office or if you even really need one? If you ever expand your operation to more than just photography and start hiring employees, then you'll need a professional place for work. Drive by traffic may also help you pick up some business.

4) Obtaining Camera Gear

Obviously to run a business focused on photography, you're going to need a camera and some equipment to take high resolution pictures. You're going to need at least two different cameras and two high quality lenses for those cameras. You'll also need software such as Adobe Photoshop to edit the images after they're taken. New equipment can and does break. This is why you want to make sure you have two of everything physical just in case you're doing a wedding and a camera breaks on you. I don't think the bride will be too happy with the excuse that you only had one camera for operation.

The cost of digital photography editing software such as Photoshop bounces up and down consistently so that's something you'll have to check on. The price of physical hardware such as high quality cameras though can cost up to thousands of dollars. You don't want to break the bank but you don't want to be cheap either and take low quality pictures.

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Starting a Stock Photography Business

Traditionally, if a person wanted a certain kind of photograph, they would either have to take the photo themselves, or hire a professional photographer. Taking a photo personally can be a challenge if the photographer is inexperienced or if the location for the shoot is far away. Hiring a professional photographer is very costly when services rendered are combined with other fees such as accommodation.

Stock photography thus emerged as a solution for lay people to acquire high-quality photographs. In the digital age, stock photography databases mainly exist online, and service niches like travel, food or space. With the rise of online consumers, stock photography sites have seen a boom in business. Stock photography is largely seen as a stable industry, compared to others like paper printmaking that are losing out to digital media.

Most stock photography companies are based internationally. The North American market is dominated by U.S.-based companies. Therefore, starting a stock photography business in Canada is a promising venture to capitalize on a niche, local market.

The Stock Photography Business Model

There are three main types of stock photography business models: microstock, midstock, and macrostock. Microstock companies sell large numbers of photographs at low prices and are very accessible to the general public. Macrostock companies, in contrast, sell exclusive photographs at very high prices in the traditional style. Midstock companies come somewhere in between. Microstock and midstock companies may also provide low resolution photographs for free to the public for non-commercial purposes. This is a tactic that serves to attract users and increase brand awareness.

Stock photo companies obtain photographs directly from professional photographers, mostly on a contractual basis. Commissions are based on the duration and the terms of the contract. The stock photo company may partially own the photograph if the shoot is funded by the company. In certain instances, a stock photo company may purchase all rights to a photograph. The revenue of a stock photograph company is based mainly on licensing terms. Photos in the public domain are offered completely free. Royalty free (RF) photos can be obtained with a onetime fee for a limited number of uses. Rights managed (RM) photos charge a fee per each use. Pricing is determined by the usage, exclusivity, size and demand for the photograph. The business model of many stock photo companies is based on a combination of RF, RM and public domain photos offered.

Big Names in the Industry

The stock photography industry is dominated by a handful of big names that purchase and distribute photographs worldwide. Here is a list of the top ranking stock photography agencies to sell photos to:

  • Getty Images—One of the earliest stock photo companies and a leader in the industry.
  • Shutterstock—Massively popular library with low royalties but high number of downloads.
  • Alamy—Has over a 45 million photographs and is known for their philanthropy.
  • Fotolia—Offers high-quality photos, mainly food and travel.
  • Adobe Stock—From the famous PDF maker, they feature stock photographs in software like Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.
  • Stock.XCHNG—Popularly used site, but has complicated licensing terms.
  • Flickr—Largest online photo management site where photographers can upload and offer photos for commercial use for a fee.
  • Dreamstime—Massive microstock company that offers lucrative commissions.
  • FreeDigitalPhotos—Huge library that purchases small photographs with 70 percent commissions.
  • Photofolio—Allows photographers to name a price up to 250 sterling pounds and takes 10 to 15 percent cut.

Business Plan

As with starting any business, stock photography start-ups need a business plan first. Aspiring entrepreneurs should first thoroughly research the industry in general and in Canada. Collect data on demand locally as well as internationally, and write up a good business plan that can attract investors. The Canada Business Network ( provides useful information on how to create a business plan.

The stock photo industry is dominated by a number of widely popular agencies; therefore, a new, small company will need to find a niche market to succeed. For example, it makes sense for a Canadian stock photo company to focus on buying and selling photographs of Canada that international agencies might not have access to. Entrepreneurs who enter the stock photo market must be keenly aware of intellectual property laws to determine licensing terms. These can get quite complicated for agencies, therefore, stock photo start-ups should be prepared to invest significant amounts of money on legal counsel.

Also, new businesses must be aware of rules and regulations for starting a business. The Canadian government requires all businesses to register and receive a business number. Permits should be obtained from provincial and federal levels. Go to for detailed information.

Financing a Stock Photography Business

In Canada, there are two main ways to finance any business: private sector and government. The Canadian government awards grants or contributions that do not have to be paid back. However, these are only available to certain segments of the population, such as a first time entrepreneur from a rural community, and certain industries, like farming, that are mostly overlooked by conventional financing agencies. If you do not meet the requirements for a grant, you can obtain a loan or a loan guarantee from the government. You can view a list of available options on the official government website.

Entrepreneurs can obtain commercial loans and debt financing services from banks and institutions registered with the Canadian Bankers Association and the Canadian Finance and Leasing Association. For more affordable options, consider the Credit Union Central of Canada and financial cooperatives like the Desjardins Group. If all of the above options fail, you can seek private investors or crowdsource the capital you need online from a site like KickStarter.

How Credit Card Scam Targeting Wedding Photographers Work and How to Protect Yourself

Unfortunately, there are credit card scams that specifically target wedding photographers but there are also ways to protect yourself. The most obvious one is to know how they work and what the red flags are. See examples.

How It Works

If you receive an email related to wedding photography, and the client proposes to send a cashier check through a third party, this looks like a classic credit card scam. The "customer" will also ask you to deduct your fees and send the remainder to someone else. In another version, the customer demands to pay by credit card and uses stolen card information. Once they've made a payment, the scammers request for a refund and ask you to use Western Union. The original cardholder will eventually find out what is going on and will dispute the charges.

Warning Signs and Red Flags

There are plenty of warning signs to watch for, including weddings on a short notice, bookings made on behalf of someone else, and phone codes from a region that is far away from your location. Other red flags and warning signs include poor written and spoken English, grammar mistakes and odd capitalization, and emails from customers who are recovering from a serious illness (like cancer). Some customers even claim that they are in intensive care at the moment. Another red flag to watch for is the fact that the customer refuses to discuss his wedding plans in a video chat, over the phone, or in person.

Emails about short notice weddings are also a source of concern. Scammers usually contact photographers to ask whether they are available on any day during the next month. The use of fake addresses and generic locations is also common. Real clients are more specific than that. You would hardly receive a request for a wedding in Winnipeg, for example. Bookings made on behalf of someone else are usually scam. This is the case when your client asks whether you available on a specific date for his daughter's wedding, for example. Not only this, but the customer is usually "out of the state" or "out of data service" and this is why they are sending texts. Some scammers explain that their hearing is impaired as an excuse for texting. Finally, watch out for customers who claim that they are perfectly OK with the cost of the service but will ask you for a little favor. You have to send a certain amount of money to the florist or some other vendor (this is actually the con artist himself).


Some scammers are based in Nigeria and other third-world countries. If you receive a text message that looks like a scam, you can use some sort of an email tracker but that doesn't always work. Emails that looks and sound super fishy are usually credit card scam.

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