I was fortunate that when I first started a photography business, it was a partnership.
The advantages being that I could bounce ideas off someone else and we could also half our my costs.
Today, I’m going to list some things that we sorted out early on. Which I believe gave us a a good foundation for the future.
As a result, we gained confidence and the peace of mind knowing that certain things within the business are taken care of.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news but starting a new business is hard. Of course you can just pick up a camera and start charging for your photography. But is it the correct way of doing business?
No, it is definitely not.
What happens if your equipment breaks, someone gets hurt at a photo session?
Do you have the correct insurance?
Have you considered your running costs?
How much are you going to charge to make a profit?
There are plenty of things you might of not thought when you were thinking to charge for your photography.
Here is a list of 18 things I found helped me when I started a new photography business.
Table of Contents
- Starting A New Photography Business The Right Way
- 1. Register your business or company name
- 2. Find a good accountant
- 3. Talk to a lawyer or solicitor for advice on legal business matters
- 4. Get contracts drawn up by a local lawyer or solicitor
- 5. Work out your cost of doing business
- 6. Charging the correct amount for your services
- 7. Multiple streams of income
- 8. Camera insurance
- 9. Backup photography equipment
- 10. Make a professional looking Website
- 11. Computer and photo backup
- 12. Create a portfolio that you want to photograph
- 13. Knowing how to use your camera equipment
- 14. Ask for testimonials
- 15. Blogging every session, and I mean every session
- 16. Create an efficient photography workflow
- 17. Social media
- 18. Work for other people.
- 19. Customer service
Starting A New Photography Business The Right Way
1. Register your business or company name
If you are serious about starting a photography business you should at least register your business name.
It’s the first step in becoming to a legitimate business.
It allows you to pay the correct tax and to take advantage of not paying sales tax when you buy goods to on sell, as your customers will pay the sales tax.
I recommend you speak with an accountant. They will point you in the right direction and and explain the pros and cons of having a company ( LLC) or just registered business.
2. Find a good accountant
A accountant can help you with creating a company or even just a today understanding of how to run a business for profit.
You should be able to ask them advice about tax and general money questions. Getting this advice early on will save you money when it’s time to lodging your tax statement.
In the beginning may not be making a lot of money but it’s good to have the groundwork done early on for the future.
3. Talk to a lawyer or solicitor for advice on legal business matters
If you want to run a professional business, be it a yourself or as a partnership. You should talk to a lawyer or solicitor and get the necessary legal affairs sorted out from day one.
Consult a lawyer or solicitor If you’re serious about running a professional photography business.
Remember every state and country is different, so it’s better to seek local advice.
4. Get contracts drawn up by a local lawyer or solicitor
Contracts are an essential part in doing business , some clients expect you have one. Once a contract is signed, it indicates that your clients understand the services your will be providing and what to expect from you.
An example would be who pays travel costs, image use, cancellations and when products are to be delivered and ordered can be part of your contract. Your contract should be fair for both you and your clients.
The contract should always be a last resort when you come to a dispute with your clients.
You should always explain your terms and services in detail ahead of time. Both verbally and written in form of an email.
Then you would never have to resort to the contract to clear anything up.
5. Work out your cost of doing business
Working out the cost of doing business is essential and will help you work out how much money you need to make before you make a profit.
First step would be to workout all your monthly and yearly subscription fees and any on going costs for things like your website, camera insurance, internet, electricity, accounting fees and other things that you pay on a regular basis like postage.
NPPA have a calculator to help you get started.
All those expenses together will give you your cost of doing business (CODB). Divide your costs by 12 to work out how much you are spending per month.
Next work out how many sessions you can do per month.
Divide your monthly CODB by the amount of sessions you can do in a month. This figure will give you how much it costs you to run one session.
Just like any business, running a photography business can be expensive and get you into debt quickly.
6. Charging the correct amount for your services
Charging what you’re worth and what your customers think your worth can be two different prices. In some cases this price difference is unfortunately worlds apart.
It’s important to find the right customer that values your services and will pay your asking price.
Finding out your cost of goods (COG) is the starting point. Your buy price, postage, packaging and your time to create and edit your photos all go into working out your COG.
Don’t for get to include your cost of doing business (CODB) these two together will cover all your costs.
We want to make a profit? A rough guide is (COG) + (CODB) multiplying by 2.5 , 3 or even 4 to get a starting price.
The price you charge for your services and products. Is subjective, It depends on the quality of your work, how much competition you have and what the customer will pay all play a part.
7. Multiple streams of income
When you first start your new photography business you won’t necessarily be thinking too much into the future in regards to expanding the business.
A lot of your effort will naturally go in to the initial stages of setting up your business, but it’s import to remember that every type of industry has a low and high season.
This means their will be times when no inquires will be coming in and you might think it’s something you did. Especially if you photograph wedding or family portraits, which naturally happen in the warmer months of the year.
To avoid a slump in cash flow you need to diversify your income and have additional steams of income to survive the quiet times.
Here are Some ideas of to get you started:
- Real estate photography
- Commercial photography
- Head shot photography
- Sports Photography
8. Camera insurance
Cameron insurance is the one thing that most people with a photography business don’t think about. Or they try to save money because they think their home contents insurance will cover any damages.
This is wrong.
You need insurance if you are starting a photography business.
Your home contents insurance will only cover up to a dollar value. Past that you’re on your own. It also wont give you a public liability and it WILL NOT cover you as a business.
Your insurance can cover more than your photography gear. Computers and equipment in your studio can be included and overseas coverage as well.
At the very least you should cover your camera equipment and have public liability. Public liability is for when an accident happens during a photo shoot.
Having your equipment insured, plus public liability gives you the peace of mind that if anything goes wrong you’re covered. In some cases it’s required by some events so this is definitely one aspect the business not to forget about.
9. Backup photography equipment
If you’re asking people to pay for your services. You should NEVER turn up to a paying job without backup photography equipment.
You need to have backup equipment with you. Either it’s on your body or in a camera bag at the back back the hall or in the boot of your car.
Don’t go to a session without having backup equipment.
As a bare minimum you need to bring two bodies and two lenses, even if you just use one camera and lens during the day. While the other one is in your bag.
It’s understandable if you’re just starting out you may not have a lot equipment and that’s perfectly fine.
Your options are:
- Buying second hand equipment.
- Asking a friend to borrow some equipment
- Renting the necessary equipment for the job.
- Remember, if you’re going to rent equipment make sure you get the equipment ahead of time, to test it out.
Also when it comes to charging for your services you can bill the customer for the rental cost.
10. Make a professional looking Website
I would look at setting up a website as soon as possible. Using a service such as WordPress.com, which takes care of all the technical aspects of site setup and backups.
The only downside is that you will be limited with what themes or plugins you can use. It’s not a bad thing, in fact it’s good for you to keep you focused, especially when just starting out.
It’s an excellent starting point. Once you become more experienced, you can host your own website and have more control.
Purchasing a domain name will make your presence on the Internet look more professional.
TIP: Google 99c domain. The top result will be for 99c domain from GoDaddy.com
As soon as you have a few photos to show off. Create a website with the following pages and included as much information on each page.
- About page
- Contact page
- Portfolio page
- Pricing page
- Pages for each of your services
11. Computer and photo backup
Just like having the right lens for the job. You need to have the right computer and an efficient backup system to make your post processing fast and photos secure.
It makes a huge difference when you have a computer that can process a large amount of photos quickly.
Currently, anything with at least 16 gigabytes of RAM and i7 processor and ample internal disk space will do the trick.
If you have the option for a solid state hard drive ( SSD ) it makes accessing your photos faster, but comes at a higher cost than a regular hard disk.
Your backup system doesn’t have to be complex and it does not have to be expensive to set up. Try to have three copies of your photos.
Something as simple as having one copy on your internal hard drive.
Another copy on a external hard drive, which is somewhere else within your home office or office.
A third copy somewhere externally to your house or office. Like a friend’s place or an online service. Google or Dropbox both have free and paid plans to backup your photos.
12. Create a portfolio that you want to photograph
Creating a portfolio for your website, filled with they type of photography you want to photograph, is one of the best things you can do for your photography business.
Taking these types of photos is extremely important because it helps establish your style with future or prospective customers.
I recommend you do a hand full of free sessions in the beginning. Styling them or at least photograph in a way that you want to photograph your future clients.
Don’t forget to get model releases so you can use the photos for promoting your business. Which is why it’s important to offer your services for free and in return they will receive the edited photos as a thank you.
13. Knowing how to use your camera equipment
You would think this is a given, right?
Well you just need to read some of the photography groups. How many people are asking for help on how to fix a photo after a photo session?
I photographed a family session, how do i fix the exposure in some of my photos?
I photographed a wedding, how do i make this photo in focus?
If you’re still photographing in the auto mode or you struggle to get the correct exposure. You need more practice and you shouldn’t be charging for your services.
Learning how to use your camera not only in manual mode, but in a variety of conditions, like indoors with a flash , indoors without a flash. Outdoors at midday and again when the sun is low and so until you can comfortable in an condition.
Start with reading your CAMERA MANUAL. It’s amazing the things you pick from the manual. Your camera manual will teach you what all the camera settings do.
Also how the manufacturer intended you to use their camera. My manual also has troubleshooting tips at the back.
YouTube is a good starting point if you are strapped for cash.
- What is shutter speed, ISO and aperture.
- How to use a digital camera in manual.
- How to use an external flash.
- What is rule of thirds
Doing a course on camera basics, which you can attend in person is excellent if you need extra hand holding
At the end of the day, you just need to practice. practice and more practice. After 12 years as a professional photographer, I’m still learning new things about photography.
Learning my camera also helped me with my post processing. I had a lot less post-processing to do, and lot more keepers that I could choose from to deliver to the client.
14. Ask for testimonials
Make it a habit to ask for testimonials or do a quick survey with your clients.
If your customers don’t want to give you a testimonial. Asking simple questions like the ones below will help you understand your customers better.
- Why did you choose me as your photographer?
- What was thing that you liked most about their experience with you?
- What was the thing they didn’t like about their experience with you?
Keep it simple and short. Don’t forget if you are unsuccessful in gaining the client. Ask them why, and how you can better yourself.
15. Blogging every session, and I mean every session
Blogging is a great way to show off your work other than your portfolio on your website.
You should blog every single photo session that you do. This will help you get better at photographing your sessions as will be more critical of your work. As an added bonus it’s good for SEO ( search engine optimisation )
Writing good blog posts is not hard.
Here is an example: Explain how the portraiture portrait session went.
Give a detailed account of what went on during the session. From the moment you meet to till when your client left.
The same can be applied to a wedding. And don’t add too many photos, six to ten photos at most. Your best of the best only.
16. Create an efficient photography workflow
To maximise your profits you need to have an efficient photography workflow. Not just with your editing, but from the first contact with your customer to the end when you deliver their product.
Having procedures in place for all parts of your photography business is important to it’s success. Clear instructions you follow every single time you do a task in your business.
Some of these processes include:
- Creating templates for your emails and correspondence with your clients.
- Proper Backup & organization of your photos.
- Correct camera settings and computer setup.
- Using presets to edit fast and avoiding mistakes.
- Exporting your photos to the web, for printing or to USB on time
- Delivery of products
Start by documenting what your process is from start to finish when dealing with a customer. From there you can improve and refine your processes until they are more efficient
17. Social media
Like it or not, being on social media has become a part of doing business these days.
I recommend that for branding purposes. You register your business name, on all the popular networks like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat. Even if you don’t intend on using the platform.
This is so nobody can use your name on social media in a negative way, pretending it’s you.
You should only put effort into 1 or 2 platforms at a time. This prevents you from spending your time and effort too thin, which will result in poor results.
Platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat are quite popular with photographers. Of course there’s Facebook and Twitter. It comes down to which platform you get the most engagement, with the type of photography that you’re doing.
To get any results you need to interact with your chosen social media platform everyday.
Try posting the same time everyday that way you’ll be able to assess which platform is right for you if you keep everything consistent.
You can also use apps like Buffer or Hootsuite to schedule posts.
On social media you need to be social. So make sure you engage with others and remember to comment, like and follow other people.
18. Work for other people.
Even though you are in business for yourself you should still make an effort to work with other photographers.
I’ve been in business for over 15 years and I still make an effort to hire out my services to other photographers.
It helps me grow as a photographer, experiencing different environments and different types of photography. It helps during thoes slow times in my business and keeps the cash flow coming in.
Make sure that your camera insurance public liability, as some photography businesses won’t cover you if you are a contractor and you need to have your own.
Also keep an open mind on the type of work that you take on. Even if it’s not yours preferred photography, you never know you may learn something new or you may even start a new part of your business because it’s something that you have a new interest in.
19. Customer service
Taking photos is only part of running a successful photography business. Customer service is import to your business surviving.
Unless you have a team member that will handle all customer interactions. You will need to brush up on your customer service skills.
It’s important to set in place procedures for tasks that you do on a regular basis. This consistency will help deliver the same service for all your customers.
Simple things such as returning phone calls or emails emails quickly is a good starting point.
Think about the last time you purchased something from your favorite stores. How were you treated from first interaction to when you left with your goods.
Incorporate the things you like into your business, and take note of the things you didn’t like so you can avoid them .
Try to always under promise , over deliver and your customers will love you.
Starting a new photography business is not easy. The important thing is not to get discouraged. It’s ok to make mistakes as long as you learn from them. Remember it will take a few years before you see a good profit.
Getting the necessary business advice from an accountant and lawyer or solicitor, is essential in starting with a good business foundation.
From there, it’s a matter of working out your costs. Setting your prices, having the right equipment for the job. And efficient processes to run the business on a day-to-day basis. Rounding it out with excellent customer service is mandatory.
Good luck, keep going