Starting a Photography Business in Wisconsin | Picture Your Business

Steve Bennett
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Wisconsin Photography Business

Photography is an art form that captures life’s moments, allowing people to cherish and relive important memories. Its timeless appeal has made it a popular Limited Liability Company for many aspiring entrepreneurs in Wisconsin. Whether you have a passion for photography or are simply seeking a lucrative business opportunity, starting a photography business in Wisconsin can be fulfilling and financially rewarding. This article will provide a comprehensive guide to help you successfully Start a Photography Business in Wisconsin.

Webinarcare Editorial Team will help you gain knowledge through thorough research and market study. Before starting your Wisconsin photography business, all the steps in this article must guide you.

What is a Photography Business?

The photography business in Wisconsin encompasses the professional capturing, editing, and selling of images to clients. These businesses might specialize in various areas, including but not limited to event photography, portraits, commercial photos, and nature imagery. These businesses offer a unique blend of creativity, technical photographic knowledge, and customer service skills to deliver a product that meets clients’ needs.

To start an LLC in Wisconsin, you must file the necessary paperwork with the Wisconsin Secretary of State. This legal status will provide important protections and benefits to your photography business. Hiring the Best LLC Services in Wisconsin is beneficial. We reviewed some of the LLC Services, including the top features and prices for you to check out.

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How to Start a Photography Business in Wisconsin

Forming a photography business in Wisconsin involves several steps, from identifying your niche to managing your finances. Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you successfully launch your Wisconsin photography business:

Step 1: Identify Your Niche and Target Market

The first step in starting your Wisconsin photography business is identifying your niche and target market. This will help you focus your efforts and develop a unique selling proposition that differentiates you from competitors. Some popular photography niches include:

  • Wedding and engagement photography
  • Portrait photography (families, newborns, seniors, etc.)
  • Event photography (corporate events, parties, etc.)
  • Commercial photography (product, real estate, etc.)
  • Fine art photography
  • Sports photography

Research the demand for each niche in your area and consider your skill set, interests, and growth potential. Once you have chosen your niche, determine your target market – the specific group of clients you want to serve. This may include individuals, families, businesses, or organizations within Wisconsin.

Step 2: Develop a Business Plan

A well-crafted business plan is essential for any new business, especially a photography business in Wisconsin. It will serve as a roadmap for your venture, outlining your goals, strategies, and financial projections. When creating your business plan, consider the following components:

  • Executive Summary: Provide an overview of your photography business, including your mission statement, objectives, and unique selling points.
  • Company Description: Detail the structure and ownership of your Wisconsin business and its legal considerations.
  • Market Analysis: Research the photography industry in Wisconsin, including market trends, competitors, and your target market.
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy: Outline your plans for attracting clients and generating sales.
  • Services and Pricing: List the photography services you will offer and your pricing structure.
  • Financial Projections: Estimate your startup costs, ongoing expenses, and revenue projections for the first few years of operation.

Step 3: Register Your Business

Before launching your photography business in Wisconsin, you must fulfill all legal requirements, including registering your business name, obtaining necessary licenses and permits, and setting up a tax structure. Here are the important things to consider in registering a photography business:

Choose a Business Name

Select a name that reflects your brand and appeals to your target market. Conduct a name search with the Wisconsin Secretary of State’s office to ensure the name is available and not already used by another business. There is a complete Wisconsin Business Name Search guide for a proper Wisconsin photography business name. 

You can register your business under a different legal name if your preferred name isn’t available. Once you have chosen a name, you can submit an application for the Wisconsin DBA (doing business as). However, before filing a DBA, you should know that you need to renew your DBA every ten years, which costs $15.

You can check the availability of your desired business name by searching the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions‘s website.

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Look for a Registered Agent

Having a Registered Agent for your photography business in Wisconsin is crucial for the following reasons:

  • Legal Compliance: Appointing a Registered Agent requires incorporating or forming an LLC in most states, including Wisconsin. Failure to maintain a Registered Agent can lead to penalties, fines, or even the dissolution of your business.
  • Reliable Communication: The Registered Agent ensures that important legal and tax documents are received and handled promptly. This includes service of process (such as lawsuits), Annual Report notifications, and other government correspondence. Having a registered agent lets you focus on your Wisconsin photography business without worrying about missing crucial deadlines or legal notices.
  • Privacy: Using a Registered Agent helps protect your privacy, as their address will be listed on public records instead of your home or business address. This can be particularly beneficial for photographers who work from home and may not want their personal information available to the public.
  • Availability: The Registered Agent must be available during regular business hours to accept documents and correspondence. This may be challenging for photographers who often work on location or have irregular schedules. By designating a Registered Agent, you can ensure that someone is always available to receive and forward important documents to you.

In Wisconsin, the cost of having a Registered Agent ranges from $50 – $150. However, suppose you are still wondering how to hire a Registered Agent. In that case, you can also serve as your {{state_ra}], appoint a friend or family member, or hire the Best Wisconsin Registered Agent Services.

File For Articles of Organization or Articles of Incorporation

If you form an LLC for your Wisconsin photography business, you must file the Articles of Organization, which costs $130. However, you must file the Articles of Incorporation if you form a corporation for your Wisconsin photography business. The Articles of Incorporation filing fee costs $100 for online and by mail filing.

It is important to provide accurate and complete information on this document, as errors or omissions may result in delays or rejection of your filing. You can file it directly to the Wisconsin Secretary of State.

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Create an Operating Agreement

An operating agreement is an agreement that covers all of the organizational specifics of your company. Most states do not need the creation of an operating agreement. However, having one as an internal document in Wisconsin is strongly recommended. 

Check out the LLC Operating Agreement in Wisconsin to learn more about this important document.

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Obtain an Employer Identification Number

You must first obtain an Employer identification number (EIN) in Wisconsin from the IRS if you will open a bank account or hire an employee for your Wisconsin consulting business. 

The application of an EIN in Wisconsin can be through the following:

  • Apply Online- The online EIN application is the preferred method for customers to apply for and obtain an EIN.
  • Apply by Fax- Taxpayers can fax the completed Form SS-4 application to the appropriate fax number), after ensuring that the Form SS-4 contains all of the required information.
  • Apply by Mail- The EIN application Form SS-4 can be filed via mail. The processing time frame to receive the mail is four weeks.
  • Apply by Telephone-International Applicants – International applicants may call 267-941-1099 (not a toll-free number) from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. (Eastern Time) Monday through Friday to obtain their EIN.

Recommended: Professional services have the EIN included in their LLC formation package. We recommend using –

LegalZoom – ($0 + State Fee for LLC formation)

Get the Necessary License and Permits

Starting a photography business in Wisconsin involves honing your skills, investing in equipment, and complying with legal requirements. One crucial aspect of establishing your photography business is obtaining the necessary licenses and permits. Some of the most common licenses and permits you’ll need include the following:

  • Business License: Wisconsin may require a business license, ranging from $50 – $300.
  • Professional Licenses or Certifications: While not typically required for a photography business, certain niches may necessitate additional professional licenses or certifications. For example, if you plan to offer drone photography services, you may need to obtain a Remote Pilot Certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Research your niche to determine if additional licenses or certifications are necessary.
  • Sales Tax Permit: As a photography business, you may need to collect sales tax on your services, depending on the tax laws in Wisconsin. You must obtain a sales tax permit from the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
  • Home-Based Business Regulations: If you plan to operate your photography business from home in Wisconsin, you may need a home-based business or occupation permit. This permit ensures your business complies with zoning regulations and other local ordinances. Check with your local zoning department to determine what requirements apply to a Home-Based Business in Wisconsin.
  • Special Event Permits (if applicable): As a photographer, you may occasionally need to obtain special event permits or photography permits when shooting at specific locations, such as public parks, historical sites, or other protected areas in Wisconsin. These permits ensure that you have permission to conduct business in these locations and comply with any rules and regulations. It’s essential to research the specific requirements for each location and obtain the necessary permits before your scheduled shoot.

Step 4: Purchase Equipment and Set Up Your Workspace

As a professional photographer in Wisconsin, you must invest in high-quality equipment to produce excellent client results. Some necessary equipment for your photography business may include:

  • Camera(s) and lenses
  • Lighting equipment
  • Tripods and stabilizers
  • Backdrops and props
  • Editing software
  • Storage and backup

In addition to your equipment, set up a workspace to meet with clients, edit photos, and store your gear. This can be a home office, a rented studio, or a shared workspace. You can apply for Wisconsin Small Business Loans to purchase some of this equipment.

Step 5: Create a Portfolio and Website

Your portfolio is a crucial marketing tool showcasing your photography skills and expertise. Begin by selecting your best work that represents your niche and target market. Make sure the images are high-resolution and edited to perfection. If you’re starting, consider offering free or discounted shoots to friends, family, or local businesses to build your portfolio.

Create a professional website to display your portfolio, provide information about your services and pricing, and allow potential clients to contact you. Use high-quality images, clear navigation, and compelling copy to make a strong impression on visitors. Optimize your website for search engines to increase visibility and drive traffic.

Step 6: Market Your Photography Business

To attract clients and grow your photography business, develop a comprehensive marketing strategy, including online and offline tactics. Some ideas to consider include the following:

  • Social Media: Create profiles on popular platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to showcase your work, engage with potential clients, and drive traffic to your website.
  • Networking: Attend local events, join professional organizations, and connect with other photographers and industry professionals to build relationships and gain referrals.
  • Online Directories: List your photography business on popular online directories, such as Google My Business and Yelp, to increase visibility and credibility.
  • Advertising: Consider paid advertising options, such as Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, or local print publications, to reach a larger audience.
  • Partnerships: Collaborate with complementary businesses, such as wedding planners, event venues, and local retailers, to cross-promote each other’s services.

Step 7: Manage Your Finances and Workflow

As a business owner, managing your finances and workflow effectively ensures your Wisconsin photography business remains profitable and organized. To do this, consider tracking income and expenses, setting up a billing system, creating a workflow, and monitoring your financial performance. Consider hiring an accountant for your Wisconsin photography business. 

Best Business Structure For a Photography Business

The best business structure for your Wisconsin photography business depends on several factors, such as your personal liability concerns, tax preferences, and future growth plans. A sole proprietorship or Wisconsin General Partnership may suit smaller photography businesses with minimal risks.

In contrast, an LLC or corporation might be better for those seeking liability protection and potential growth opportunities. It’s essential to carefully weigh the pros and cons of each business structure and consult with a legal or financial professional to determine the best option for your specific circumstances. 


How do I register my photography business in Wisconsin?
You can register your photography business in Wisconsin by filling out the necessary forms at the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions website.
What kind of licenses and permits do I need to start a photography business in Wisconsin?
Depending on the location and type of photography you plan to do, you may need a business license and permits for things like commercial photography in a public park.
Do I need to form a LLC to start my photography business in Wisconsin?
It’s not required, but it’s a good idea to form an LLC to protect your personal assets and limit your liability.
How do I market my photography business in Wisconsin?
Advertise online and attend networking events to get your business out there.
What should I include in my contract when working on a photography job in Wisconsin?
As with any contract for hired work, include the job description, payment offerings, and details of the final product.
What kind of pricing should I use for my Wisconsin photography services?
Depending on what your specialty is, you may want to check if your pricing averages match up with local businesses or competitors in the state.
What are some of the best locations for photoshoots in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin has many beautiful natural backdrops for nature photography, including state parks like Devil’s Lake and Pattison State Park.
What are some of the most successful Wisconsin-based photography businesses?
Some notable ones include Sun Prairie Photography, Bethany Rochelle Photography located in Appleton, and Armstrong Pitts Studios in Milwaukee.
What kinds of photography jobs am I legally allowed to do in Wisconsin?
Generally, as a photographer doing business in difficult environments and, in some cases, commercial work, an actual photography business in the state should require licensing.
Can I operate a studio out of my home in Wisconsin?
While there aren’t structured laws against studios within a residence in Wisconsin, there are zoning bylaw provisions for your city or township that you need to research.
Are there any opportunities to work with celebrities in Wisconsin?
Opportunity doesn’t stop for recognizing individuals no matter their celebrity status, although unless photoshoots are events related and covered by media, handling a personal shoot might not often come up.
Should I invest in real estate for my Wisconsin-based photography business?
Beginning a photo business associated with property requires that you stay regularly updated with regulations on permits and pricing for wedding photography and location photography in the area.
Are drone photographs legal in Wisconsin?
Yes, Wisconsin allows drone photography.
What kind of equipment do I need for my photography business in Wisconsin?
It all comes down to your photography specialty – work with the right suits after establishing services offered like portraits or sports.
Should I offer photo editing services as well as photography in Wisconsin?
Offering image editing services as an add-on will cater to aspiring or senior photographers in addition to your services, it is a wise decision to balance retouching accents and the original image.
How can I reach out to companies that need product photography in Wisconsin?
Create a portfolio to support the services and marketing on websites and social media to get eCommerce or brand services to connect with your work.
Is there a market for antique camera sales in Wisconsin?
Yes, if you’re into film cameras trading and reselling, the rich background for cultural and historical preservations contributes to regular urban and tourism art scene interests.
Are there any nonprofit organizations in Wisconsin that help support photographers?
The Gallery Night Event is a way to connect with other professional independent vendors and non-profit celebration plans in Milwaukee.
Can I apply for grants to help fund my Wisconsin-based photography business?
Like other small businesses in different industries, it involves gathering stats or support your research with mentorship programs and creative organizations available.
What sort of workshops and resources are available to photographers in Wisconsin?
Many local libraries and community centers offer photography classes workshop and Groupon listing.
Can I store my photographs digitally instead of physically in Wisconsin?
Yes, along with backing up on more than one device, you can create a structure or work with a third-party cloud storage providers to secure your work.
Should I hire an assistant for my Wisconsin photography business?
Assistants would cater to eliminating excessive demands on your hard work and time as you try to perfect your professional services.
Are there any particular legal contracts for drone photography in Wisconsin?
FAA follows and normally works within most of the local laws of photography operation stand points over the state.
Is it necessary to carry out background checks on clients before working with a Wisconsin photography firm?
Enhancing communication and discussions mainly remain key approaches., however security theft risk instances arise from elaborate job sets requiring sets of ID, objective trusts / verifications, background screens, and working contracts now and then.
Is it legal to use an image captured without names or property release forms for commercial use in Wisconsin?
Subjective and discreet agreements should be communicated avoiding distinctive controversies.
Can a Wisconsin-based photographer book accommodation via Airbnb to work in different states or countries?
Acquire appropriate permits for too many traveling destinations, and ensure both federal and state regulation observance.
Do I write specific conditions for capturing photographs for a couple’s wedding day as a standard?
Clarifying sensitive contracts well as an understanding between bride, groom, and photographer usually focus on unpredictable events or unconsidered factors.
Is there a requirement for photography firms in Wisconsin to obtain Worker’s Compensation insurance policies?
Any photography worker dealing with nominal damage or a guest could result in unavoidable dilemma.
What are the legal formation options for a photography business in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin offers LLC, sole proprietorship, and corporation formations for a photography business.
What is required to register a photography business in Wisconsin?
Photography businesses in Wisconsin need to register with the State of Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions and acquire any additional licenses or permits required for their specific type of photography.
Is there a tax on photography services in Wisconsin?
Photography services in Wisconsin are subject to a 5% sales tax.
Are there any restrictions on photography in Wisconsin state parks?
Wisconsin state parks only allow commercial photography with permission from the state, as some locations may have restrictions or be closed to protect natural or cultural resources.
What are the state park photography permit fees in Wisconsin?
State park photography permit fees in Wisconsin vary based on the location, duration, number of people, and type of photography.
What are the popular photography destinations in Wisconsin?
Some of the popular photography destinations in Wisconsin include Door County, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin Dells, and Lake Geneva.
Can aerial photography be conducted without a permit in Wisconsin?
Aerial photography can be conducted without a permit in Wisconsin, as long as it does not interfere with any other aircraft or violate any FAA regulations.
What are the best settings for photography in Wisconsin during winter?
Best camera settings for winter photography in Wisconsin can include using manual mode, dark blue filters, and adjusting the exposure compensation to +1.0 or higher.
Can photographers compete in the Wisconsin State Fair competitions?
Photographers are not eligible to compete in other categories during the Wisconsin State Fair, but they can compete in the photography category.
Are wedding photography vendors required to be licensed in Wisconsin?
There is no license requirement for wedding photography vendors in Wisconsin, but they should follow certain state and local laws for permits, insurance, and contracts.
Are there any famous photographers from Wisconsin?
Yes, Florence Schroeder and Chris Klein are two famous photographers who hail from Wisconsin.
How often should photographers renew their photography business registrations in Wisconsin?
Photography business registration needs to be renewed every two years in Wisconsin, and any changes in your business need to be reported at the time of renewal.
What is the most common type of photography business in Wisconsin?
Portrait photography is the most common type of photography business in Wisconsin, followed by commercial and event photography.
How to obtain a sales tax exemption certificate for photography businesses in Wisconsin?
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue website provides the forms and instructions to obtain sales tax exemption certificates for photographers based on their business type and purchases.
What is the median income for photographers in Wisconsin?
The median income for photographers in Wisconsin is $38,872 per year.
How to incorporate green photography practices in a photography business in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin photography businesses can incorporate green photography practices by using eco-friendly equipment and products, embracing natural light, and reducing their carbon footprint during transportation.
Can photographers trademark their photography businesses in Wisconsin?
Yes, photography businesses in Wisconsin can trademark their business names and logos through the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
What is the process to become a state-licensed photographer in Wisconsin?
Currently, there is no state licensing requirement for photographers in Wisconsin.
What are the copyright laws for photographers in Wisconsin?
Federal copyright laws apply to photographers in Wisconsin, and they can protect their photography and its use by others.
Are in-studio photography sessions allowed during the COVID-19 pandemic in Wisconsin?
Currently, as of May 2021, in-studio photography sessions are allowed in Wisconsin, but with social distancing and face mask guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Can school photographers operate in Wisconsin?
School photographers can operate in Wisconsin by following certain policies from individual schools and the Department of Public Instruction.
What are the contract requirements for photography businesses in Wisconsin?
A clear and comprehensive contract that specifies services, fees, delivery schedules, and cancellation policies is recommended for Wisconsin photographers’ and their clients’ protection.
How to start a photography apprenticeship program in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin photography businesses can start or participate in photography apprenticeship programs certified through the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development to train aspiring photographers and build local talent.
Can non-resident photographers operate their business in Wisconsin?
Non-resident photographers can operate their business in Wisconsin if they have a valid business registration, tax ID, and comply with state and local regulations.
What grants and opportunities are available for Wisconsin photography businesses?
The Wisconsin Arts Board provides several funding opportunities for Wisconsin photographers, including general operating support and project support.
What is the creative economy impact of photography businesses in Wisconsin?
Photography businesses provide a significant contribution to the $9.7 billion creative economy industry in Wisconsin, with an increased need during the pandemic era of virtual and online events.
What are the popular outdoor photography festivals in Wisconsin?
There are several outdoor photography festivals in Wisconsin, including the Focal Flame Photography Bridge Run, Milwaukee Film Festival, and the Luminary Arts Night Festival.
Are drone/drone photography businesses required to permit before operating in Wisconsin?
Drone photography businesses are required to obtain FAA certification, need to follow registration and licensing rules, and need additional authorization from WisDOT before conducting operation around highways.
Are photographers required to obtain a business certificate in Wisconsin before starting photography for trade?
Yes, your photography must be declared as a business under your name or as an entity in Wisconsin through ‘Department of Trade and Consumer Services’.

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Starting a photography business in Wisconsin requires careful planning, dedication, and hard work, but the rewards can be well worth the effort. By identifying your niche and target market, developing a solid business plan, fulfilling legal requirements, investing in quality equipment, and implementing effective marketing strategies, you can set the foundation for a successful and fulfilling photography career in Wisconsin.

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