How to Start a Photography Business

While taking photos may have started as a pastime, you might wonder how you could turn it into a full-time gig. This guide explains how to start a photography business – from choosing a specialism to taking payments.

Table of contents

Selecting a Photography Specialty
How Much Money Does it Take to Start a Photography Business?
How to Make Money as a Photographer
How to Take Payments from Clients
Creating an All-Star Portfolio
Use Social Media to Attract Customers
Planning Your Success

Intro

Setting up a photography business might seem like a breeze. After all, it’s easy to get your hands on fancy equipment and there’s an array of professional classes readily available. But there’s a lot more to think about when it comes to creating a successful business – particularly in a crowded market like photography.

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Deep Dive

So what are the essential ingredients to start a photography business? First and foremost, you need to take breathtaking images. But you also need some business acumen. This means you need to think about your target customer, budget and marketing as much as you ponder composition, light and exposure.

Develop a Photography Business Plan

If you’re serious about setting up a photography business of your own, there’s one thing you’ll need before everything else: a business plan.

A business plan is a written roadmap describing the goals you want your company to achieve – and how you intend to reach them. But what should be included in it?

  • An executive summary, offering a succinct overview of your business.
  • A company description, so clients and potential backers can get a flavour of what you offer.
  • Market analysis, outlining your target customers and any competing photography businesses.
  • Details of your photography services, including equipment, facilities and experience of different niches.
  • A marketing plan, detailing how you intend to promote your services to customers.
  • Your financial plan, focusing on start-up costs and any funding you’ll need.

Select a Photography Specialism

Because photographers face a lot of competition, one of the savviest decisions you can make when setting up a photography business is to specialise in a particular area. This makes it easier to find an audience for your work – and target it with promotions and marketing.

There are many types of photography to specialise in, from broad topics to niche disciplines. Here are a few directions you could take with your photography business.

Wedding photography

As a wedding photographer, you’re expected to compose intimate, unique shots throughout the festivities. These photographers thrive in fast-paced environments and find satisfaction in capturing the anticipation and happiness of others. While shooting images of love and joy sounds ideal, weddings are a rarity for clients of these photography businesses, so they must be able to handle high-pressure situations.

Event photography

Similar to wedding photographers, those who specialise in events are responsible for capturing noteworthy moments at a particular gathering. Whether they’re birthday parties, graduation events or retirement celebrations, it is important to capture both still and moving images with superb clarity.

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Fashion photography

With an eye for detail and a fascination with fashion, a fashion photographer is responsible for capturing images that flatter designer trends and show clothing in a unique way. In most cases, fashion photography is used in advertisements, fashion magazines and other outlets that display upcoming trends.

Landscape photography

A landscape photography business captures images of environments across the world, from remote natural spaces to more developed ones. Landscape photographers usually travel extensively to depict the beauty of far-flung places.

Portrait photography

If capturing the personality and characteristics of other people interests you, consider setting up a photography business that focuses on portrait photos. These photographers are responsible for highlighting facial features and expressions of a person or group of people. If you’re patient and like kids, you might think of specialising in children’s portraits, which are often in high demand.

Sports photography

A sports photographer attends games, matches and championships to take photos and videos of players in action and the environment surrounding them. In most cases, sports photographers work for publications dedicated to sports or to a local area.

Food photography

Do you have an eye for all things food related? Those who invest their expertise in food photography are responsible for highlighting new, funky foods for different magazines, restaurants or other establishments in the food industry.

Of course, you aren’t limited to these specialities, but it’s important to establish yourself as an expert in an area in order to build your brand.

And just because you label yourself as a specialist in one type of photography, it doesn’t mean you can’t take on other projects. For example, many wedding photographers also work other events because of their similarities. Some wedding photographers also do portraits (particularly engagements or family portraits) since they’ve built relationships through the events they photograph.

Branching out with your photography business

Of course, you aren’t limited to these specialities, but it’s important to establish yourself as an expert in one area to build your brand.

Just because you label yourself as a specialist in one type of photography, it doesn’t mean you can’t take on other projects though. For example, many wedding photographers also work on other events because of their similarities. Some wedding photographers also do portraits (particularly engagements or family portraits) since they’ve built up client relationships.

How Much Does It Cost to Start a Photography Business?

The costs involved in setting up a photography business may seem straightforward. You just need some equipment and then you’re good to go, right? But equipment is just one of four big costs your photography business will face. The others are legal costs, insurance and studio space.

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Equipment costs

Perhaps you have an awesome camera and a few lenses, but is that enough to start a photography business? Buying the right photography equipment – and not breaking the bank – can be a daunting task.

Aside from the basics, there’s a lot of additional equipment that might sound fantastic but will increase your expenses. Finding the right kind of equipment for your business depends on the work you do and your specialism.

Here are five tips for buying the right equipment when setting up a photography business.

  • Start simple: Before you dive into the abyss of camera gadgets and fancy photo enhancers, go back to the basics. Think about the essential components you need for a photoshoot or event. Luxurious, eye-catching equipment might be a great touch, but you can purchase high-end gadgets down the line, as your photography business begins to make a profit.

  • Focus on reliability: Take the time to read reviews about products and get a solid understanding of what equipment is worth investing in. You ideally want equipment that’s durable and has a long lifespan.

  • Think about hidden costs: Take maintenance and repair costs into consideration when you’re looking at photography equipment. Network with other professionals to get a realistic idea of the ongoing costs for certain equipment. Use this to determine what to buy initially.

  • Prioritise your equipment: After you assess the reliability and overall cost of each piece of equipment, write up a prioritised list of what you need. Buy the first few items that are essential to setting up your photography business and save other purchases for later.

  • Look into renting: If these costs seem overwhelming, you always have the option of renting equipment for your photography business. Check out local businesses that rent out camera gear in your area. Be sure to compare prices and read reviews thoroughly, so you’re always selecting the best equipment for your particular event or gig.

There may be licensing and legal requirements for your start-up photography business to consider. In general, there isn’t a specific photography licence to obtain, but there are a few legal issues to consider, which usually come with a cost.

Of course, this guide is meant for educational purposes only, so make sure you consult a legal expert to suit your specific needs. This will be extra helpful for when you are you’re required to register your new photography business.

If you’re considering freelancing for a newspaper or magazine, you may need to look into getting a press pass (this is usually provided by a publication). Many freelancers need access to events, and organisers often grant credentials allowing an individual to photograph a gathering. But acquiring one of these isn’t always easy and may cause considerable admin in the run-up to an event.

Another big legal consideration to take into account when setting up a photography business is copyright law. To use photos in your portfolio or promotional campaigns, you may want to consult with a lawyer to create contracts that address copyright issues with each of your clients.

Insurance fees

You should consider general liability coverage to protect you from unforeseen accidents during a photoshoot or at an event. Additionally, many photographers insure their equipment, which is another expense to take into consideration.

Studio space

It’s important to have your own studio space when you first start a photography business. It’ll put your clients at ease, give you somewhere to store your equipment and help you build a professional reputation.

The trouble is, studios can be expensive. Take the time to shop around for the studio space that matches your company’s size and specialism – but doesn’t break the bank.

How Your Photography Business Can Make Money

With the above costs in mind, you’ll want to plan how your photography business will make money (and become profitable). And the key to that is learning how to appropriately price your services. Working out how much to charge for your photography is both an art and a science, and it takes careful planning to find that sweet spot.

First, you need to decide the pricing structure. Should you charge by the hour or by the photo? Your answer likely depends on the specific service you’re providing. For example, businesses who specialise in event photography usually charge by the hour while portrait photographers might charge by the picture.

Other key factors that go into pricing your services might include:

  • The number of locations during a photo shoot
  • Outfit changes
  • Printing packages

You should look at all of these factors, as well as the cost of your time (on the physical shoot and editing), when developing a pricing plan. You might also look at the pricing structures of competitors in your area to see what customers are willing to pay. The goal is to make sure your pricing appeals to potential customers and gives you a profit.

Select a Payments System

So far, you’ve determined the cost to start your photography business and created a pricing plan that will make you profitable. Now it’s time to think about taking payments from customers.

Photographers by their nature are portable workers. Even if you have a permanent shop and studio space, your work will likely take you to different events and locations. That’s why mobility needs to be at the heart of your payments system.

photography-business-taking-payments

Moveable hardware like the Square Terminal and Square Reader allows you to accept payments when you’re out and about on the job, promoting your work at a fair, or even at your shop. It means you can accept chip and PIN, contactless and NFC payments like Apple Pay wherever you and your customers are.

In our increasingly digital world, you’ll also need to think about building an online presence to keep pace with your rivals. Services like Square allow photography businesses to quickly set up a free online store and ship their prints out to customers either electronically or through the post. If you’re not quite ready for a full-scale online store, Square Checkout can help you sell prints of your photos through Instagram with the assistance of some handy links.

With an integrated Point of Sale (POS) or EPOS system, you can easily manage your payments as well as other processing functions for your photography business. Look for a POS system that stores customer information so you can access contact data to create invoices or email marketing campaigns

Many professional photographers use invoices to bill customers for their services. You’ll want to invest in a reliable invoicing service that makes it easy to create invoices and send them in seconds.

Craft a Photography Portfolio

With your business plan in order, it’s time to turn your attention to finding clients. Marketing your photography business is crucial and your portfolio is the best tool for selling your photos.

A photographic portfolio is a simple collection of your work with a unifying theme or style. Think about what message you want to evoke and make sure you’re displaying a variety of techniques that support that message.

You’ll also want to think about how customers are seeing your portfolio. Do you need a physical portfolio? Or is a digital medium more appropriate? Including a portfolio when you create a photography website, for example, allows potential customers to quickly find your work and refer back to it at any time. You might also experiment with creating a portfolio and building an audience on Instagram

Use Social Media to Attract Customers

Photography is an attention-grabbing visual medium, making it a perfect fit for social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. But how should you go about harnessing the power of social media to promote your photography business?

Offer high-quality content

Post eye-catching images and informative guides and blogs to your social media channels – piquing the interest of potential customers and really showing off your work. As long as you have permission from your clients, include examples from your portfolio and write about the human backstories that go with them. Don’t just pitch your products – give people something to genuinely engage with.

Talk directly to your customers

Social media can quickly raise a brand’s profile online. It also allows you to engage directly with existing and potential customers. Encourage people to get in touch with you – and respond quickly to any comments you get, even if they’re negative.

Make the most of videos

Short, snappy videos are a major trend on social media right now. From behind-the-scenes footage of your studio to how-to guides on the best ways of capturing certain shots, think creatively about any useful videos you could offer to your followers.

Plan for Business Success

Anyone who starts a photography business will experience that unnerving fear of failure. But don’t stress out (easier said than done, we know).

It’s completely normal to think about the future of your photography business and what you need to do to guarantee success. Here are some great tips you can apply when you first start your photography business.

  • Know your competitors: When setting up a photography business, you need to have extensive knowledge of your market and competition. Find out which photographers in your area have a similar style. Brainstorm ways to get ahead of your competition so your photography business is first in mind for clients in the area.

  • Start a customer feedback programme: One of the best ways to continuously improve your photography business is to seek feedback directly from your customers. That way, you can receive insight on what they loved – as well as any issues you might need to address.

  • Invest in the community: It’s important to build your brand in the community when you’re first setting up a photography business. Whether it’s taking photos at local farmers’ markets or volunteering your services at charity events, do your bit in your community.

Taking your first steps

When researching how to start a photography business, you may feel daunted by the list of things to consider. You’ll need to choose a specialism, create a plan of action and promote your brand on social media.

By following the tips in this guide and working through everything in a logical way, you’ll soon be taking your first steps towards business success.

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