The best tax deductible expenses for photographers can save you a ton of money when it comes time to pay the government their due. As photographers in business ourselves, our goal every year is to pay as little taxes as possible, so we can maximize the money we get to keep for supporting ourselves and our families.
Every photography business owner can benefit from optimizing their tax deductions to make sure they are paying as little tax as possible.
By knowing all of the best things you can claim as deductions on your taxes as a photographer, you’ll be able to save thousands of dollars every year.
What are tax deductible expenses anyways?
Tax deductions reduce your tax liability for a particular year.
Put in really simple terms:
If you make $80,000 with your photography business and have $20,000 in tax deductible business expenses, you will only have to pay taxes on $60,000 of your earnings.
Tax Deductions vs. Tax Credits – What’s the Difference?
Another area that can be a little confusing for photography business owners is understanding the difference between tax deductions and tax credits.
Tax deductions – reduce your tax liability for a particular year by a percentage. This means, you will pay taxes on a smaller portion of your revenue, offsetting costs for certain purchases you make through your business.
Tax credits – are cash incentives that reduce how much you need to pay in your total tax bill. One common tax credit is the child cash credit – where eligible families can receive up to $4,000 off of their tax bill just for having a kid.
Tax credits are less common and typically are used by the government to incentivize certain purchases (like transitions to solar energy panels or electric powered vehicles) or to support people in lower economic classes.
In this article, we’re going to be talking about tax deductions that are available for photographers to take advantage of.
The Essential Photography Business Deductions You Can Claim Today
At its core, anything you buy for your business can be deducted from your taxes.
While there are rules surrounding certain categories of purchases, all of these purchases will benefit you as a business owner and taxpayer.
1). Photography Equipment
The biggest photography business start up costs come in the form of upgrading to professional camera gear. Fortunately, all of these purchases are tax deductible. For a new wedding photographer, they’ll typically be spending between $10k – $20k on pro camera bodies, lenses, flashes, and other equipment – and will save thousands of dollars on taxes in the process.
2). Photo Editing Software
As you will be using photo culling and editing software to process your images, all of those software costs are tax deductible for photographers.
Examples of photo editing software you can write off your taxes:
- Adobe Lightroom
- Adobe Photoshop
- Photo Mechanic
3). Website Design & Hosting Fees
As a professional photographer, your website is one of the main components of your brand and marketing strategy. Every dollar you spend to design your website (whether you pay someone or buy a template and do it yourself) is tax deductible – along with the fees associated with hosting it.
Examples of web design & hosting fees you can write off include:
- All website building platforms like Showit, Squarespace, WordPress, Wix, etc.
- Domain hosting platforms like Bluehost, Google, Go Daddy, etc.
- Professional web design companies who create websites from the ground up
4). Professional Services
At some point, all businesses will need to consult with other professionals to get help running their businesses as efficiently as possible. Common professionals you’ll end up meeting with include accountants, tax filing firms, business coaches and lawyers.
While the costs for many of these services can be high, you are fortunately able to deduct their fees from your taxes.
5). Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) Subscriptions
We recommend every photography business owner to get a CRM – it’ll make your life easier when it comes to managing your clients (and so much more). CRM’s common are used to send contracts and invoices, get booked, communicate with clients, send questionnaires, and more.
The average CRM comes in around $400 a year in costs, and the government will basically “pay you” to have one by reducing your tax bill.
Great CRMs for creatives like you:
6). Car Mileage
Did you know that whenever you drive somewhere for a photo shoot or to pick up supplies for your business, you get a tax deduction?
Every year, the federal government updates their mileage deduction rate – which is how much money they will deduct from your taxes per mile you drive. In 2022, the milage rate was 58.5 cents per mile.
To give you a sense of how valuable this can be for photographers (especially photographers who travel a lot like for weddings and events), last year we were able to deduct $7,641 from our taxes.
The best way to track your mileage is by using a tracking app like MileIQ, which runs in the background and logs every time you drive.
For photographers who need to travel for their work, you’ll be able to deduct all travel related costs including:
- Cost of lodging (like hotel or AirBNB)
- Airplane tickets
- Rental cars
This is a great thing to know, especially for destination wedding photographers who will absolutely be able to maximize these types of deductions.
8). Home Office Deduction
The home office deduction is one of the more nuanced ones on this list. If you are going to claim home office deductions, we highly recommend working with a certified accountant to ensure you are in good standing, as this deduction can standout as a red flag and lead to IRS audits if you’re not careful.
The home office deduction allows you to…
- Deduct the cost of supplies for your office including furniture, printers, stationary, pens, and more
- To claim a percentage of ALL of your home utilities as business expenses based on the square footage of space your office takes up relative to your whole home.
9). Retirement Savings
A part of your business strategy should be saving for retirement…right?
While talking about retirement isn’t exactly fun, and definitely not in photographer circles, it’s incredibly important for your long term game plan.
The good news is, even if retirement isn’t something you care about strongly right now, saving for it now can still save you money this year on your taxes.
All contributions to a Traditional IRA, SEP IRA, or comparable retirement vehicle are tax deductible in the current year. These are especially good ideas for investments to lower your tax liabilities if you are operating with a high profit margin, as you can put $6,000 into these accounts per year.
10). Health Insurance Premiums
One of the worst parts about being a photography business owner, at least in the United States, is having to shell money out of pocket for health insurance.
The only saving grace is that all health insurance premium payments are tax deductible when you purchase a plan through the state or federal government healthcare marketplace.
In addition to health insurance premiums, contributions to an HSA (healthcare savings account) are also tax deductible.
11). Business Insurance
If you are charging clients for photography services, you need business insurance.
Yes, that’s true whether you’re a sole proprietor, LLC, or corporation!
Business insurance will cover your equipment if it’s stolen or damaged and save you in the event of a lawsuit. Having proof of insurance is often necessary to work at some locations (like specific wedding venues).
A few reputable business insurance companies photographers swear by include:
- All State
Want to learn more? Read our post on good business insurance options for photographers.
12). Contractors and employees
Whenever you hire someone to do work on behalf of your business, you can write off your payments to them on your own taxes.
In the photography industry, it’s common to outsource work to contractors. Things like 2nd shooting weddings, editing photos, VA services – all would fall into this camp.
For businesses who actually hire employees, you can write off their salary on your business’ taxes, too.
13). Studio Rentals
For photographers who decide to rent a studio, which is common for portraits and headshots, you can write off your rent payments.
Now, if you happen to not have a studio, but rent on out from time to time for sessions – that fee can also be deducted.
14). Business startup costs with the state
When you want to get your business legally registered and set up, there are some fees associating with filing for your business. It varies from state to state, but is typically around $70 to a couple hundred dollars.
All of these fees are made a little easier knowing that they are tax deductions for photographers to take advantage of from the very start.
While you can’t deduct your day-to-day meals (now that would be an incentive to eat properly, huh!), you can expense meals when you are meeting with clients or other business partners.
One common example of this might be to purchase coffee for everyone when meeting with a new client at a local shop.
Another example that hits closer to home – we recently went out to a steakhouse to discuss our business Shoot & Thrive, and expensed our meals while we were there.
Just note – this is another area where the IRS looks for red flags, since it’s easy to get carried away with this type of expense.
16). Credit Card Processing Fees
When you accept payment online through debit or credit cards, you are almost always going to be charged a small fee (usually between 1% – 3% of the total transaction).
Because of this fee, it’s particularly important to know your cost of doing business and account for it (but that’s a separate conversation).
These transaction fees are all tax deductible for photographers.
17). Sales Tax
If you operate in a state that requires you to collect sales tax, this is fully tax deductible.
18). Parking & Tolls
Fees for parking and tolls will often come up for photographers who have to travel into cities in particular for their sessions. Keeping track of all of these little expenses can add up into big savings by the end of the tax year.
19). Advertising & Marketing Budget
One of the best freelance photographer tax write offs will be your marketing budget. This is the money you spend on ads and other services to get in front of your potential clients, so you can make money and stay in business.
Examples of advertising & marketing spend for photographers:
- Google Ads
- Facebook Ads
- Instagram Ads
- The Knot / Wedding Wire listings
- Paid SEO services for better website rankings like blog writing subscriptions
20). Data Storage Solutions
Every photographer needs to make backups of their images, right? Right! The government has you covered with tax savings for all of this fun storage you’ll need to invest in.
Examples of data storage solutions for photographers:
- SD Cards
- External Hard Drives
- Cloud storage like Backblaze
We believe that the best storage strategies involve at least 3 backed up copies of your clients images in separate locations. To learn more about how we store our clients’ images, read this post here.
21). Business Cards and Marketing Materials
As you look to expand your business, you may want to purchase business cards and other printed materials to get the word out. All of these costs are tax deductible.
22). Office Supplies
Everything you purchase for your office – furniture, a desk, computers, hard drives, lamps, decorations, etc. are all able to be written off on your taxes.
23). Ongoing Education
Any purchases you make to further your education in business or photography will be tax deductible. This is great news for photographers, as it can make things like premium business coaching and online photography business courses that much more affordable, since you’ll save some money on your taxes in the process.
Do tax deductions really save you a lot of money as a photographer?
The simple answer is – yes!
As photography business owners ourselves, we typically write off around $20,000 – $30,000 in business expenses every year. This is money we are investing to run our businesses efficiently. As a result, we save thousands every year on taxes just by buying the things we need and want to run our businesses.
Chris is a SEO professional with a passion for helping photography businesses succeed online. With years of experience in the industry, he has a proven track record of increasing website traffic, improving search rankings, and driving revenue growth for his clients.