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Even with the widespread use of smartphones and the growth of photography apps, the demand for professional photographers continues to grow. So, if you’re contemplating turning your passion into a full-time career, then this guide to setting up a photography business will cover everything you need to know to get off to a successful start.
How to start a photography business
Photography plays a pivotal role for businesses, serving as a powerful tool in building brand identity and enhancing marketing and communication efforts. On a personal level, it holds significant importance in capturing and preserving special moments, milestones, and memories.
Despite the increasing competition in the photography market, having a strong vision and a clear niche can still make it a highly lucrative and rewarding business venture.
So, let’s delve into seven steps you’ll need to take to get set up as a photographer.
1. Decide on your niche
While you can offer general photography, rather than specialising in a specific style or type of photography, having a niche will help you stand out in what is becoming an increasingly crowded market.
Whether it’s weddings, portraits, fashion, commercial work, sports, wildlife, travel, or food; having a specialism not only sets you apart, but also improves your chances of attracting clients who are looking for a certain skill set.
Defining your niche goes beyond just focusing on a particular type of photography. It feeds into all aspects of your business. For example, if you decide to specialise in wedding photography, you can tailor your portfolio, your equipment, and marketing materials more effectively, to connect with a relevant audience who are eager to engage in your unique expertise. This enables a more focused approach to your work, resulting in a stronger brand identity.
2. Establish an online portfolio
Anyone looking for a photography service will first turn to your portfolio, to look through your work and determine if it aligns with their vision.
So, with that in mind, you must have evidence of your best work where people are most likely to search for it – online. You can use a portfolio website builder such as Wix, Squarespace, or GoDaddy to easily display snippets of your work that showcase your technical proficiency and your chosen specialism. Make sure to include details of your contact information, to invite people to get in touch.
3. Build a social media presence
In today’s interconnected world, having a social media presence is essential in amplifying your reach and engaging with potential clients.
Platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest are perfect for supporting the promotion of your portfolio, whilst offering the opportunity to share behind-the-scenes glimpses into your creative processes.
But social media isn’t just a showcase, it’s a highly effective tool for building relationships; collaborating with influencers, participating in photography challenges, and exploring partnerships that align with your brand. This active engagement not only boosts your visibility, but also positions you as a reputable and approachable professional within your chosen niche.
4. Officially register your business
Once you’ve determined your focus, you’ll need to officially register your business.
There are various options to choose from but it’s important to note that the legal structure you choose will impact your operations so it’s crucial to consider factors such as taxation, liability, and regulatory requirements.
When first starting out, many photographers will choose to set up as a sole trader. This is the simplest structure with the least administrative responsibility; however, the drawback is that owners are personally liable for any debts or legal action that may arise from the business. This means that personal assets, such as your home and car, could be at risk if your business accrues any financial obligations or faces legal action.
Alternatively, you may want to consider forming a limited company. Setting up as a limited company provides you with a distinct legal entity and limited liability, meaning that your assets and personal finances are protected beyond what you agree to invest or guarantee to the business.
Not only this, but setting up as a company can enhance your professional credibility, making your services more appealing to potential clients, as well as lenders and investors, should you seek to raise capital in the future.
5. Equip your business
The equipment you choose plays a significant role in delivering high-quality results and establishing your professional reputation.
Consider whether you’ll need a physical studio, or if you can operate remotely. While having a studio provides a dedicated space for shoots, it also comes with additional expenses. Many photographers today opt for a more flexible approach, using outdoor locations or renting studio space as and when it’s needed.
Invest in technical equipment that aligns with your chosen niche. For instance, portrait photographers may prioritise high-quality cameras and lighting setups, while wildlife photographers may need specialised lenses and outdoor gear. Research the latest tools and technology in your field, and make informed decisions to stay ahead in the competitive landscape.
If certain equipment is only needed occasionally, you may want to explore the option to rent rather than buy. This can be cost-effective when you’re first starting out, especially for specialised gear that can be costly. Many photography equipment rental services, such as Wedio and Fat Llama, offer a wide range of options, allowing you to access the tools you need without a significant upfront investment.
6. Set out contracts and terms
Contracts are crucial as a photographer. They help to provide protection, set expectations, and establish a relationship of professionalism and trust between you as a business and the client.
You can find several free templates online to help you draft your photography contract, or seek the assistance of a legal professional to ensure your contract is comprehensive. Your contract will vary depending on the specifics of each project, but some of the typical details to include are:
- Contact information: Full names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of both the photographer and the client.
- Project description: A detailed description of the photography services to be provided, including the type of session, location, and any specific requirements.
- Cancellation policy: Clearly state the terms regarding cancellations and rescheduling, including any applicable fees or refunds.
- Payment terms: Specify the total cost, payment schedule, and any additional fees (e.g. travel expenses, rush fees, etc.). Outline the accepted payment methods and due dates, along with any details on late payment fees.
- Copyright and usage rights: Specify how the client can use the images, and whether the photographer can use them for promotional purposes.
- Model releases and permissions: If applicable, include a model release clause, outlining the use of images featuring people, and obtaining necessary permissions.
- Liability limitations: Clearly state the photographer’s liability and any indemnification clauses. Specify how disputes will be resolved.
7. Take out insurance
Last but by no means least is to secure adequate insurance for your photography business. There are various types of policies to consider, and whilst they can add up, a lack of appropriate cover could prove detrimental to your business.
Professional indemnity insurance is highly recommended for photographers. This type of business insurance will protect you if a client brings a compensation claim against you for negligence, unsatisfactory work or financial loss.
If you will be regularly interacting with members of the public as part of your photography service, then you should also consider public liability insurance. This will cover you for claims brought against your company by any member of the public, in addition to the cost of legal representation and related expenses.
Additionally, equipment insurance is also vital when relying on expensive tools as a key part of your everyday operations. This will cover any accidental equipment breakage, damage, or loss, so that your business won’t have to take a financial hit if something goes wrong.
Thanks for reading
So, there you have it – the Rapid guide to setting up a photography business. We hope this guide has provided you with enough information to get started on your journey.
If you’d like some assistance in getting your photography business up and running, then we’re here to help. Contact our team of experts today.