Setting up a photography business

Setting up a photography business isn't as complicated as it sounds. This guide shows you the crucial steps.

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If you have a talent and a passion for photography, it’s possible to turn this into a business. It’s not as complicated as you may think it is, but there are specific steps to take to do it properly.

This guide illustrates the steps you need to take to get your photography business off the ground.

What qualifications do you need to start a photography business?

You don’t need to have any educational qualifications, permits or licences to start a photography business. The proof of your expertise is in the pudding.

If you have a talent for taking great photos and an inkling about how to market them, you’re ready to go. Of course, you may choose to take a photography course in order to learn your trade.

To be successful as a professional photographer, you will need to invest in top-of-the-range camera equipment and lighting.

How to register your photography business in the UK

You’ll need to register your business with HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) for tax purposes and also with Companies House in some scenarios. This depends on what type of business you want to register.

Here are your main options:

  • Sole proprietorship. Here, you’ll continue to pay income tax and national insurance as an individual.
  • Partnership. This is the same as a sole proprietorship if you have a business partner or partners.
  • Limited company. Here, your business is a separate entity from you for tax and legal purposes. It has its own bank accounts that are separate from yours. You’ll pay business taxes and income tax on the wage you pay yourself from your business profits.

It is more expensive and complicated to register a business as a limited company. You’ll have to file reports with Companies House as well as HMRC. But, there are advantages. For example, you cannot be held personally liable for business debts.

How to write a business plan for a photography business

It’s not compulsory to write a business plan unless you’re seeking third-party investment, such as money from a bank. However, it’s still a good idea to do this no matter what industry you’re launching a business in.

A business plan can help you create a solid idea of how to succeed with your business. Plus it can help you work through any issues that might hinder you or that might be so big you decide to drop the idea.

At the bare minimum, a photography business plan should include the following:

  • A company overview. This will include your business name, the names of all business owners, your business address and your business type.
  • A mission statement. This is a short explanation of why your business exists and what you hope to achieve in the future.
  • Your target market. You will need to include what type of photography you’ll specialise in and who your customers are likely to be. For both answers, explain why you have chosen this market.
  • Products and services. This is a full list of what products and services your business offers and how much you will sell each of them for.
  • Competitors. Are there lots of similar businesses in the area? Who are your main competitors? What will make customers choose your business instead of them? What is the unique selling point of your business?
  • Marketing plan. How will you tap into the lucrative wedding market? Where will you market your business? What is your monthly budget for each marketing platform you choose?
  • Financial plan. Here, you’ll estimate your monthly running costs plus your estimated monthly sales forecasts and profits. This should include the cost of launching your business. It’s recommended to run the numbers for your minimum viable sales target, average sales target and stretch sales target.

Things change quickly in the world of business, so it’s recommended to review and amend your business plan at least once every quarter.

Setting up your photography business

This is likely to involve purchasing a lot of top-of-the-range photography equipment. Depending on what type of photography you’re specialising in, you may need to build or rent a studio too. You’ll need to add up these costs and figure out the best way to finance this.

In 2020, it’s essential for photographers to have a strong online presence too. That means investing in a professional website and social media accounts – especially those that focus on the visual such as Instagram.

All of your offline and online spaces should be kitted out with your company’s personal branding. A professional image is particularly important in this field since your product is so visual, so don’t cheap out when hiring a graphic designer for your branding.

Opening a business bank account

A business bank account basically works like a personal one – the main difference is that it’s dedicated to your business’s finances. You should therefore expect the same features, such as a debit card, the ability to make and receive payments, an overdraft option, a banking app and so on.

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Do professional photographers need insurance?

Here is a selection of small business insurance products you may need when setting up a photography business.

  • Public liability insurance (PLI). This protects your business against paying for legal costs or damages if a customer or employee hurts or injures themselves due to the activity of your business. If someone hurts themselves on a photoshoot, your business could be held liable even if you or your staff weren’t to blame.
  • Professional indemnity insurance (PII). This protects your business against paying for legal costs or damages if someone is harmed by professional negligence within your business. Perhaps a client sues you because the photography delivered didn’t match the standards set out in the business contract.
  • Employers liability insurance (ELI). This protects your business against legal claims or damages when an employee suffers a job-related illness or injury.
  • Business contents insurance. This protects you from covering the cost of stolen or damaged contents.

There are some insurance companies out there offering photographers insurance, which will cover you in all of these potential scenarios.

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How much should you charge?

This will ultimately depend on the quality of your work and demand for your services.

If you’re regarded as one of the best photographers in your niche, you can charge through the nose and probably still attract customers. If you haven’t built that sort of reputation yet, it may be necessary to lower your prices in order to stand out from your competitors.

It’s a great idea to research what your competitors charge and then price your services appropriately.

How to market your photography business

The best way to market your photography business is to get your photos in front of as many potential customers as possible (while making it clear who was responsible for them).

Here are some ideas for doing that.

  • Leverage social media. The more people see your work on social media, the more likely you’ll find someone who loves it enough to hire you. The best strategies for building a social media audience appear to be changing all the time. Honestly, it may well be worth hiring a dedicated social media manager to take care of this side of your business.
  • Start a blog. Your website should showcase your photography and all the key details of your business, but your business blog doesn’t necessarily need to be just about photography. It could also cover other topics that your target audience will want to read about. If you’re a sports photographer, write blog posts about sports. If you’re a nature photographer, write about wildlife. Include your best photos in the blog posts and do everything you can to help them get shared.
  • Have a referral scheme. Photographers can secure a lot of business from customer referrals, especially if they make it worth their while. Consider launching some sort of bonus scheme for customers who refer friends.
  • Cross-promotion. It’s worth setting up cross-promotion deals with other professionals that you could share clients with. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, you should be looking to collaborate with other companies that work at weddings (venues, DJs, florists, etc).

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