Self Employed

Do You Drive as a Photographer?

Linzi Martin

Did you know a photographer can qualify for the mileage deduction? Between wedding season, charity events, corporate parties and baby announcements, a photographer typically logs thousands of miles on their odometer each year.

Here at MileIQ, we are always looking for ways to help freelancers, independent contractors and self-employed individuals make the most of their tax savings. With our #1 rated app, photographers who travel outside of their tax home can document those business miles for a tax reimbursement.

Read on to learn all about the tax deductions for photographers and how MileIQ can help improve your annual tax filing.

What can I write off on my taxes as a photographer?

As independent contractors, photographers are eligible for major tax write-offs, similar to sales professionals, real estate agents, and licensed contractors. While running your own business comes with a list of headaches and responsibilities, tax deductions should never be one of them. Thanks to the IRS’ generous number of write-offs, self-employed photographers and videographers have a huge opportunity to save. Here’s how:

Startup costs & equipment

Before kicking off your career in the photography industry, most individuals have to invest in a sizable amount of upfront expenses and equipment, which include cameras, lenses, props, stands, lighting, tripods, and protective cases. Essentially, these items play a crucial part in how well you perform your job. And fortunately, these startup costs are totally tax deductible!

The IRS states that any equipment that can be used for more than a year counts as a qualifying write-off. When the time comes to deduct these expenses, you have two options to calculate your savings. First, you may opt to deduct depreciation each year, which accounts for a portion of the expenses over the life of their use. Second, you may deduct the total costs all at once using the Section 179 deduction during your first year of business.

Other deductible business expenses include:

  • Online advertising costs
  • Business cards and brochures
  • Print adverts
  • Hired assistance (i.e. video editors)

Rent or venue costs

A photography business often requires a designated studio space where you can bring clients. In the event that you don’t need to travel, a studio is a great place to conduct a portion of your business. With the available tax deductions, a photographer can easily subtract costs associated with the studio, consisting of rent, electricity, internet, and insurance.

Memberships, education, and licensing

If you’re interested in expanding your portfolio or looking for ways to advance your education, you may be eligible to deduct these types of business expenses as well. For instance, let’s say you partake in a week-long conference on how to master professional photography. A photographer, in this case, can claim these education fees on their yearly tax return.

In addition, any dues involving a business association or yearly software program to aid the operation of your business may be deducted when filing your taxes.

Mileage and other travel expenses

As a professional photographer, it's unlikely you’ll stay in one place for long. As demand grows and your client base expands, you’ll typically spend a majority of your time driving to and from photo shoots to satisfy your clients’ needs. As a result, you could end up racking a ton of mileage on your car. Luckily, the IRS gives a tax break for any miles that are contemporaneously logged throughout the year!

Aside from mileage, qualifying tax deductions for photographers include auto insurance, repairs and maintenance, airfare, and additional transportation costs that are directly related to any professional obligation.

Home office tax deduction

While some licensed professionals enjoy the advantages of a business studio, others complete the bulk of their managerial work or photo shoots from home. If you have a home office that is used for editing photos or storing prop equipment, you may be eligible for the home office deduction.

With that said, the IRS does limit the amount of space you can claim for business purposes. However, most often, photographers who use their tax home as the principal place of business are able to deduct rent, renters or homeowners insurance, utilities, and even interest.

Download MileIQ to start tracking your drives

Automatic, accurate mileage reports.

Can a photographer write off a car?

The tax professionals at MileIQ often get asked this question and the answer might come as a surprise! In short, yes you can write off a portion of a new car purchase if you take photos for a living. Should the investment in a new vehicle be deemed a necessary expense, the IRS will generally allow qualified taxpayers to deduct this expense.

Can you write off clothing for a photoshoot?

Sure! As long as a photographer is considered self-employed and not hired by a company, you may write off any expenses directly related to a photography or videography session. In many instances, photographers will purchase or rent clothing or additional props to fulfill the creative direction of a shoot. Although these business expenses are tax deductible, it’s important to keep records in the event of an IRS audit.

How do I write off my camera as a business expense?

We understand that navigating taxes as a freelancer is often complicated. For photographers who wish to deduct expensive equipment like a high-end Canon or wide angle lens, it’s important to mention that you can only deduct the business use of these items. In other words, if you use your Canon for both personal and business use, only the business percentage will apply to your tax savings.

Here’s an example:

Jenny is a professional wedding photographer with a Nikon D850 camera. She purchased the camera a few months ago for $2,800 to support her growing business. So far, she uses the camera 75% of the time for business purposes and 25% for personal use. Considering the self-employed tax restrictions, Jenny may deduct 75% of the cost of the camera. This means she’ll claim $2,100 on her tax return in spring.

Ready to use MileIQ to your benefit? The mileage deduction remains one of the top tax deductions for photographers in 2022. Visit our website today to learn more about automatic mileage tracking and how you can maximize your savings this year.

Download MileIQ to start tracking your drives

Automatic, accurate mileage reports.

Are you tracking your miles yet?

Use MileIQ to keep a full, IRS friendly mileage log.
Sign Up