Setting up a Photography Business


Several times over the past few weeks I have either been asked various questions related to starting up a photography business OR have heard the infamous “I have a nice camera, how hard can it be to run my own business?” This has prompted me to put together a series of blog posts illustrating some things you should consider before starting out; some food for thought; and some things you probably haven’t even thought of .

Please note this is not an exhaustive list so I apologies if I miss anything out during this series.

So you want to start a photography business?

Part 1:

First I’d like to dispel the myth that having a nice camera and taking good images will instantly create a fantastic and profitable business – WRONG. It might be eventually but success won’t happen overnight.

If you are starting and running your own photography business you will need to be more than just a photographer. You’ll also need to be a customer services expert, a book-keeper, the marketing director, a social media whiz-kid, a branding expert, a website design guru, the secretary, a treasurer, a CEO, a SEO bod and pretty much any other title you can think of … oh, I forgot chief tea/coffee maker!

So in reality its about 5% photographer and 95% everything else.

For this post I will concentrate on the essentials of starting up a photography business but much of this first blog will apply to any business.

What you need to think about:

I suppose the first thing to think about is the photography itself and the genre you want to pursue as this determines the requirements of most of what will follow. For the purpose of this post I will focus on portrait and wedding photography as these are the most popular photography businesses.

BUSINESS SPACE: It goes without saying that you will need space of some description but how much will depend on your business idea.

If you are shooting studio portraits you will need studio shooting space; this can be within a business unit, or a converted garage – its also worth looking at other studio’s and see if they are for hire (although the cost will need to be worked into your business plan). An alternative option is to shoot in the clients home, assuming you can drive; the pro’s of this are less overheads for you but the downside is constantly lugging your equipment about and also not knowing the state of the home in comparison to a tidy studio that you have total control over and where everything is to hand.

Additional requirements would be lighting, backgrounds, props, access to a toilet etc.

Weddings are slightly different in that a studio is not required. However, you will need to think about where you will hold the initial client meetings before the wedding and where you will carry out the viewings after the wedding. Many photographers conduct the meetings in their front room but it’s not always practical or possible for those with families. A dedicated viewing room is much simpler.

Additional requirements would be seating, viewing equipment i.e. TV or overhead projector, table for samples etc

Both types of business will need office space of some description, preferably one where you won’t get distracted by the TV or the kids.

OFFICE EQUIPMENT: Standard office equipment of a table, chair, computer of your choice and a printer; even if you don’t intend to print the images you’ll still need a printer for office admin like invoicing etc. and of course stationery.

Important things you need to do:

ACCOUNTANT: Talk to a good accountant, they will set you on the right path for setting up your business i.e. sole trader, partnership or Limited Co. They will also advise you on what you can claim as expenses and equipment. Unless you have experience with accounting, they will also be able to do your end of year accounts for you and file them with HMRC, there is usually a small fee attached (approx £100 +VAT) but it is well worth it and can often result in them saving your money.

HMRC: It is important to register your business with HMRC for tax and National Insurance purposes, all relative details can be found on the HMRC website. Many are tempted not to bother registering and use the business as a source of additional “free” income and whilst the temptation may be great it simply isn’t worth it. HMRC employees are known to trawl the wedding fayres collecting business cards or book family shoots only to return at a later date as an Inspector – it really isn’t worth the risk or the fines!

BANK ACCOUNT: Opening a separate business account is common sense really. But it is really important that you to keep your household income and receipts away from the business funds. A simple spreadsheet can be used for your day-to-day book-keeping – contact me if you want a copy of the one we use.

TELEPHONE: I would advise getting a new phone and number for the business purely to have it for business purposes only. After all it could be a little embarrassing answering the business phone at an inappropriate moment 😉

INSURANCE: Insurance is essential for your peace of mind and that of the client. There are two main types of insurance you need to consider.

Public Liability Insurance or PL Ins: PL Ins is essential if a company has any interaction with members of the public. This would apply to both portrait and wedding photographers as both sets of clients would be coming to your studio or home. The insurance covers your business if someone is injured or damage has been caused when carrying out work.

Professional Indemnity Insurance: PI Ins is designed to protect you against costs rising from any legal disputes between you and a client.

Should you employ anyone in any way shape or form then you’ll also need employers liability insurance.

Anything else:

I am assuming you already have a nice camera and a lens or two but if you’re going into business its a good idea to have a backup camera in case your’s fails at the wrong moment. You’ll also need a good supply of memory cards, more than one battery and charger as well as something to carry it all in.

And finally, for this blog, lots of PATIENCE. It will take time to get good at marketing, to get good at customer service, to get good at business and all the other things you need to get good at.

If you’re still serious about running a photography business then stick with it, keep improving and you will get there.

Future posts will include:

Branding and marketing, your website, products and pricing, the importance of good training, and the final one will be on anything I’ve missed.

The next blog post covers first impressions and the importance of branding your business.

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