How to Start a Photography Business

Although a business plan isn’t mandatory when starting a photography business, it can help you crystallize your ideas.

A business plan is a document that outlines the financial and operational goals of your business. The business plan defines your company’s objectives and then provides specific information that shows how your company will reach those goals.

Your photography business plan doesn’t need to be 100 pages long. Numerous excellent templates can help you create a one-page business plan. Ultimately, keep your business plan short and concise and focus on the essential details. Think of your one-page business plan as a way to concisely summarize your business education about photography businesses.

Today I’m going to walk you through the step-by-step process. Let’s have a look!

The planning stages

Before you buy a camera and create a website, you’ll want to do a little prep work.

1. Write a photography business plan:

For starters, wedding and event photographer Peggy Farren says you need a business plan. Any serious entrepreneur will tell you that you need to organize your thoughts on paper. This detailed document serves as your roadmap, describing what your business is and how it will be profitable. It breaks down things like cash flow, expenses, ownership, and competition.

“Photography is one of the most competitive businesses out there,” Farren says. “You need to be a very good business person to make a decent living. You’ll get there much more quickly if you start outright.”

Creating a business plan may seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be if you have the right tools. Check out this free, downloadable sample photography business plan.

2. Assess your photography business startup costs:

As part of your business planning process, you’ll need to assess your startup costs. What are the essentials that you’ll need before you can really launch your business?

Camera equipment alone can cost upwards of $10,000, Farren says. You’ll also need business licenses, insurance, a website, and accounting software like QuickBooks or Xero.

What about a studio?

Do you plan to start with a dedicated studio space or work out of your home? If you need office space, you’ll need to investigate commercial rental properties and figure that monthly cost, along with the cost of utilities, into your financial plan.

3. Secure startup funds:

If you have enough money in your bank account to start your business you may not need to borrow money, but many entrepreneurs need assistance. Many people who are starting a business for the first time end up asking family or friends for help or keeping their day job until their business is self-sustaining.

Whether you ask friends and family for financial assistance or apply for a bank loan, you’ll need a business plan in place that lays out how you’ll spend the funds and when or how you’ll pay your lenders back.

4. Figure out your personal finances:

If you’re just starting out, realize that your business probably isn’t going to be profitable overnight. It took 18 months for Farren’s business to break even and make enough money to pay the bills. Like Farren, you might have to work another job to make ends meet until your business is generating enough money.

5. Get professional experience:

You’ll need to show your prospective clients what you can do, and working alongside a professional photographer is a great way to get some experience and start to build a portfolio. Farren worked as a photographer’s assistant while starting her own business.

Equally important is using that experience to put together a photography portfolio that demonstrates your skill. Consider your audience and build the portfolio around what they want to see. Keep it updated, so new potential clients can see current and relevant work.

6. Buy camera gear:

When it comes to camera gear, Farren says you’ll need two cameras, two high-quality lenses, two flashes, and Photoshop and Lightroom to edit the images. Why two cameras? You need backup equipment. Even new equipment breaks, Farren says.

If you buy used gear, you can get everything for about $5,000, but Farren says $10,000 is more realistic. Of course, you can always upgrade gear as you go.

7. Come up with a pricing plan:

How much will you charge for your services? It’s a tough question for every photographer, especially when you’re just starting out. Figure out what one hour of your time is worth. Let’s say your time is worth $50/hour.

For every hour you spend shooting, you’ll spend about three hours editing. You need to factor that into your pricing. So, in this equation, you would charge $200 for a one-hour photo session. Of course, your pricing structure is your own, this is just a way to come up with a starting point.

8. Invest in a killer website:

Once you’ve come up with a name for your photography business, you’ll need a website. There are free website templates out there, but your website is like your storefront. You want it to be impressive, so think about whether it’s better to have your website professionally created.
Your website should, of course, showcase your work. That’s what your clients will want to see. Keep your site organized by breaking your galleries up by category. Include a picture of yourself and a page that describes your background and experience.

Contact information is also a must. It’s a good idea to list at least some of your prices. This helps manage customer expectations and keeps people from trying to negotiate for a lower price.

9. Create your own brand:

Jason and JoAnne Marino have a unique brand for their photography business.

You need to set yourself apart from others, according to husband and wife photography duo Jason and Joanne Marino. The pair own Imagine Photography, a company that attracts couples who are interested in unique wedding pictures, not conventional altar photos.

“You can’t be everything to everybody or you’ll fail miserably,” Jason Marino says. “To attract customers you must carve out a brand and style.”

Start by identifying your target market. Do you prefer to do maternity shots? Newborns? Senior portraits for high schoolers?

Figure out what makes you unique as a photographer and use it to brand your business.

10. Make time to network:

As a photographer and a new business owner, you need to network your heart out, Marino says.

“You can be the greatest photographer in the world, but unless people know about you, it won’t do you any good,” he says. “Join groups, forums, clubs, collectives, whatever you can. Make sure these people know about you and respect you, and you’ll get referrals.”

To Sum Up:

Starting your own photography business is a great way to add a second income or a main income if you work hard. While the photography market is competitive, many photography business owners have been able to find their niche and build a sustainable career. Like most creative endeavors, you need to balance your passion for photography with real business skills in order to be successful.

To build and grow your business, you need both raw talent and a knack for marketing.


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