The Adventure Journal

Is your photographer legal?

Is your photographer legal? 
Are you the photographer? Are you legal?
Like, why is that a question or better yet why is it important?
And, how do you find out?

If you are a photographer and you are charging for your services


(And no, having a Facebook page doesn’t make you legal.)

WHY? Because it’s the law. And it’s protects YOU and YOUR CLIENTS. 

So what makes a photography business legal?

thelawtog is a legal photography God.
She has an amazing detailed article I just linked you to on this topic but I’ll summarize the points for you as well. She has so many legal resources to utilize in your business.

  • Choosing a Legal Business name
    A name that is not already trademarked, one that is available AKA not one someone else is already using.
    • You can search the USPTO office, Your local States business database, GOOGLE! Hello! We already use Google for everything else. Search Social Media, or hire someone to search for you.
  • Set up your legal entity
    • You need to decide if you’ll be a Sole Proprietor, LLC, C Corp, S Corp, or Partnership. Sure you can take clients before doing this, it’s not smart. Imagine losing everything if something happened legally. All your personal assets, monies from every source, etc are all fair game if someone sues you.
      • You are protecting your personal things by declaring an entity
      • Its responsible and professional
      • Varied tax benefits
  • Make the appropriate tax elections with the IRS
    • Who doesn’t love tax breaks?
  • Getting your sales tax permit
    • Setting up your account with your city and/or state to know what you need to charge sales tax on and set up your schedule for paying those after collection from your sales. 
    • Know your local city and state tax laws/rules
  • Obtain your business license
    • The license gives you the ability to operate within your state and specific cities. 
    • Additional licenses may be required for working in specific areas/properties/etc.
    • A business license is essentially a permission slip to work in certain areas. 
So how do you find out if your photographer is a legal business?

Search your local city or states business directory.
Ask to see their business license.
Research them.
Number one way to tell if they are legal or not without asking them..


Photographers who charge $50 for all images on a disc are more than likely not a registered business. The basic cost of doing business isn’t even covered by that! 
Each photographer has a different cost of doing business but they ALL have to pay for a business license, pay an insurance premium, and collect taxes. $50 doesn’t cover that I promise you. Aside from covering all those expenses the photographer also needs to make a living too. For example: a client just paid $850 for a family session and product.
A illegal business would be cool! I just got $850! While a LEGAL business is pocketing at most 40% of that. Even 40% is being generous. The 60% they don’t pocket is going to pay taxes, self-employment taxes, insurance premiums, studio rent, equipment maintenance, business license, etc. The list could literally go on forever and very for every photographer.

You don’t have to tell me that running an illegal business sounds more profitable and enticing but the risk of getting sued, caught, fined, etc Is. Not. Worth. It.

Pay your taxes. Obtain a business license. Carry liability insurance. 

Just be legal. Please.

Clients!! I know this part of the business is boring and uninteresting but trust me, knowing your photographer is legal and insured is the most important thing. 
So so important. IF anything were to happen during your photo session such as a broken arm or something. A insured photographer has the coverage to pay the medical bills. 

Photographers!! If a client, god forbid, sues you for whatever reason, claiming an entity type and being insured will keep you from losing everything you have – car, house, assets, etc. 

So if you want to be a business that makes money. Be a legal one.

If you don’t want to be a legal business, you’re a hobbyists and you have a completely different set of rules and guidelines you have to abide by, one of which is not earning any money for what you do.


Head on over to Barbara Larabee Photography and learn about what your investment with a professional photographer gets you! Four of us photographers teamed up to bring awareness to the photography’s community on the not-as-much-fun side of our amazing jobs. Be sure to click on through each until you come back here! 


Enjoy these gorgeous Cherry Blossoms from this past April at the Utah State Capitol. ❤️

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Located in Utah & loves to travel!

Wave + Wonder is your one-stop-shop for families, couples, maternity, and newborn photography.

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