Setting Up A Photography Business
What is involved in setting up a photography business? That is such a great question, and one that I will answer right here.
The 7 things you need to start a photography business are
- A properly set up company
- Customers who are willing to pay you to take photos
- A website and other means of earning an income
- The equipment and capability to take professional standard photos day in, day out.
- Self-motivation, belief, drive, determination and accepting that this can be a lonely existence.
- The acceptance that being a photographer is 10% taking photos, 90% not taking photos.
- A plan and focus.
OK – has that scared you off? I hope not.
This is the reality based on my many years of experience in this profession.
There is no point dressing this up – you need to know the reality. If you think that when you start a photography business you spend all your time out and about taking lovely photos that people rush to buy then this is just not the case.
Sure, this might have happened to one person somewhere but this is not the norm believe me.
So, let’s start with an all-important question – why!
Why start up a business as a photographer?
I love photography. That is why I do what I do. And this love of photography has been with me all my life.
Working as a photographer has not spoiled this lifetime passion – far from it. I have taken thing I love doing in many directions and to many great places and situations that I would not have experienced had I not gone down this path.
What I am going to write about in this blog post?
Everything apart from taking photos. This is about the business end of things only. I will cover
- Setting up a company – LLC/ Limited Company or not
- Naming your business
- Getting customers
Which leads nicely into the section which is all about business websites for photographers. This is so important I will spend a lot of time on this and tell you exactly what products and services I use on my websites.
A word about my affiliate links
You will find affiliate links to products and services that I use. This is another part of running a photography business – having a range of income streams that help support the overall business. If you click on one of these links you don’t pay any more but I get a commission – the companies just earn a little bit less which is fine with me. I am sure the likes of Amazon can afford to drop me a small commission every now and then.
The products and services I write about are ones that I use, trust and can recommend myself.
Ok let’s get to business.
1 – A properly set up company
First thing you need to do is set up a company to trade. You can do this formally or informally. Informally you just say hey – I’m Rick McEvoy Photography and I can take some great photos of your building. Or you can go down a more formal route.
Does a photography business need to be an LLC/ limited company?
What is an LLC? An LLC is a limited liability company. This is the US term. In the UK we use the term limited company.
What is an LLC?
A limited liability company is a US business structure that is tax efficient and limits personal liability if a business is sued. The LLC structure is ideal for small businesses such as photography businesses.
And in the UK?
The UK equivalent is the private limited company. For the purposes of this post they can be viewed as being the same but with local variations.
Does a photography business have to be an LLC? No, it does not, but you might want to consider this.
Setting up an LLC/ Limited Company costs money and places formal obligations on you as the owner of the company which you do not have if you do not go down this road.
Is my photography business a limited company?
No it is not. I have had my own limited company but the burdens this comes with have put me off making my photography business a limited company. I am just a sole trader with minimum overheads.
I am not a legal adviser, so please take appropriate legal advice that is specific to where you are considering starting your photography business.
And beyond the US and the UK there are no doubt similar structures in the rest of the world but the same advice applies – get proper legal advice and set up the business structure that is right for you.
And get an accountant/ CPA
At some point you will make money so getting an accountant on board will help make your business as tax efficient as possible. But let’s not worry about this right now.
CPA (Certified Public Accountant) is the US term, in the UK we use the term accountant.
Hopefully though it will not be too long until you are making lots of money and this becomes an issue that you have to deal with.
Phew that was a tough start!!!
How long does it take to start and build a photography business?
Well that is a tough question to answer. But the headline to this question is that you need to view building up a business as a long-term thing. This applies to any business to be honest.
You don’t just set up a business and get work instantly. Well if you do let me know how you did it!
But you can set up a business pretty quick. It is the building bit that takes the time.
Setting up an LLC/ Limited company
You can set up an LLC/ limited company in a couple of weeks. That is the easy bit, just a case of filling out and submitting forms and payments. If you need legal advice then this will add to the time, but you should be able to set up an LLC/ limited company on a month no problem.
And if you do not go down this route you can just call yourself a sole trader and get cracking (in theory).
That is the nuts and bolts of your photography business, the thing itself.
What else do you need to start a photography business?
- A website
I will come back to these in much more detail.
Does a photography business need insurance?
Yes, yes, yes. In the UK we have Public Liability Insurance and Professional Indemnity Insurance.
What is Public Liability Insurance?
I am going to quote from the ABI website (The Association of British Insurers) as they have put this so well – much better than I ever could. And they should know!!
“Public liability insurance covers the cost of claims made by members of the public for incidents that occur in connection with your business activities. Public liability insurance covers the cost of compensation for: personal injuries. loss of or damage to property.”
What is Professional Indemnity Insurance
Again I am extracting the definition from the ABI.
“Professional indemnity insurance protects you against claims for loss or damage made by clients or third parties as a result of the impact of negligent services you provided or negligent advice you offered. Compensation claims can be brought against you even if you provided a service or offered advice for free.”
Again, check the local variations wherever your business is.
What does insurance cover for a photography business?
The insurance cover protects you whilst you are working. As a photographer you will invariably be out and about in the public areas so you will be in the vicinity of members of the public. If someone tripped over a bit of gear and injured themselves and they sued you this would be One instance the insurance would help you.
And you can also insure your expensive photography gear against accidental damage or if it is stolen.
I once dropped my Canon 6D and my insurance covered it getting fixed nice and quickly.
What does insurance not cover for a photography business?
- Rubbish photos.
- Negligent acts
- Criminal acts.
Naming Your Photography Business
Should you use your own name as a photography business?
Well I did. And was that a good idea? I think so. After all my photography business is just me, so it makes sense of me to use my own name.
Rick McEvoy Photography is me.
In theory anyone can take photos. Taking photos is not my brand. The way I take photos is my brand.
I am my brand.
Future proofing your business
If I had called my business “Dorset Photography Services” then I would have excluded other areas pretty much. And if I moved to a new area what then?
And if I called my company “Architectural Photography” I would be restricting myself again to those two words. Now I do focus on architectural photography but I also do construction photography.
Yes, I think that it is sensible and appropriate to name your photography business after your name.
Do you need to trademark a photography business name?
Now this is an interesting one. Yes, is the strict answer, to protect your company business name and stop someone else using it.
Then again, my company name is Rick McEvoy Photography – why would anyone else want to use my name for their business. Unless it was a photographer with the same name.
I had not thought about this until writing this post and have not done this so far.
What does a trademark give you?
In the UK once you have registered a trademark it stops others from using your brand without your permission. You can add the ®symbol and sell and license your brand.
Is a trademark global?
No – this is one of the problems. A UK trademark covers the UK only, so you would have to do this in other regions and countries separately.
I am going to hold this thought and revisit next year.
So, the answer is strictly (as to say no would be wrong) yes but lots of people do not do this.
I have not done this!
Costs Of A Photography Business
How much does it cost to start a photography business?
Well you need gear which is the biggest expense. And if you already have gear then that is great
Apart from that you have the other business costs that will vary massively – here are things that you will have to budget for
- Limited company/ LLC set-up
- Website setup costs – my websites cost me £500-750 to set up. And lots of time!
- New gear – my camera gear if bought new now could cost circa £15,000
- Spare gear – another £2,500
How must does it cost to run a photography business?
Once you have got up and running there will be costs that you will have to fund ideally from income earned by the business
- Website fees – I pay about £500 a year
- Insurance payments – I pay about £300 a year
- Phone payments – my phone costs me £60 per month
- Software subscriptions – £10 per month for Adobe Creative Cloud
- Repairing/ maintaining gear – I spend circa £100 on repairs, maintenance and cleaning stuff
- Upgrading gear – this is funded by work
- Marketing – I do my own. So, the cost is my time.
Can you run a photography business from home?
Yes of course. My photography work is all location based, with me editing images in my home office, along with all the other business stuff that I do.
I probably spend 75% of my time in my office and not out taking photos.
If you thought that being a photographer is all about taking photos, I am afraid that is far from the case.
2 – Customers who are willing to pay you to take photos
Getting Customers For A Photography Business
You need customers if you are running a business. But where do you get them from?
Where can you advertise your photography business?
On your own website. Do this as soon as you decide that you want to set up a photography business.
Then get a Google Business page for your company and populate that with everything you can that is relevant and helpful to the people you want to serve.
There are endless directories that you can get listed on, but to be completely honest I rarely get any enquiries from any of them, even though they often promise you the world now.
Advertising costs money. Get your own online presence and grow it organically.
Get a website and Google Business Listing. Start locally too.
How to get your first customer in a photography business
Tricky one this. I was approached by a celebrity chef who found my website locally.
Get an online presence and start working on a portfolio of professional images that you can show to clients and place on your website.
I now only have architectural and construciton photography images on my website. Sure there are plenty of travel photos on my blog, but my website is focussed very much around my core business.
I have not mentioned this yet. But the next point is a bit of a fundamental point!
Who do you want to work for?
What do you want to make a living taking photos os? I tried photographing anything and everything and did not get far.
Finally I settled on my thing.
Once I have done this it helped me to identify who I wanted to work for. And that was when things started to come together.
So find your thing and go for that thing. I want to be known as the guy who photographs buildings. I want to be the go to person in my ara for this.
Find you thing and do your thing.
This is the best place to start.
Start a blog
This is the core of my website, my blog. I write about carefully considered subjects, answering questions that people are typing into Google.
My blog is focussed on architectural and construction photography, with broader photography related posts always having architectural and construction photography context added.
If you can write one long form post a week consistently then you will get traffic. Long form means more than 1000 words.
This target gives you a focus and regular new relevant content which Google will love you for!
3 – A website and other means of earning an income
This is very important, and I want to spend some time on setting up a website and ways of making your website an integral part of your photography business. I am going to get very specific here and tell you about products and services that I pay for use in my photography business.
I only recommend things that I use myself that I think will help you if you are looking to start or grow a photography business.
I have been doing all of these things for too long so please make good use of the lessons I have learned.
Let’s start with the tools you need to create a website for a succesful photography business.
You really need a website of your own if you want a legitimate photography business. I think we all know that but I wanted to be clear here. Get a website.
Buying a web domain – GoDaddy
I use GoDaddy for this. Very slick, good pricing, regular offers and telephone support make them my go to for web domains. Nice and simple which is how this should be.
Website platform – WordPress
WordPress is a free open source website platform. And a bit of a pain to start with I will not lie to you. But worth persisting with. A website is a long-term project, and I have made the switch from a paid template service to WordPress which will be good for me long term.
Before I used WordPress, I had a template website provided through Squarespace which was a great place for me to start and might be for you too.
You have to pay for it though but if you don’t have a clue about WordPress it will get you going.
Website hosting – Bluehost
You need someone to host your website. A host makes your website visible to the world.
I use Bluehost for my hosting.
Bluehost have the best customer support that I have ever come across.
They have saved me from disasters on numerous occasions and have guided me through the transition from Squarespace to WordPress.
And I can hop on the chat with them once a month and they backup all my websites.
This is my affiliate link for Bluehost who I cannot recommend enough.
Website adverts – Ezoic
Get enough traffic to your website and you can make money through adverts. Any additional income you can earn other than taking photos will help your business grow, and if you need a website anyway it just makes sense.
I use Ezoic. Ezoic have an arrangement with Income School, who I will get on to next.
Ezoic use AI to maximise the earning capacity of websites. I am new to this but like getting my monthly payment from Ezoic, even if it is modest at the moment.
Business Development – Income School
Not a photography thing, but relevant to growing an online business, which is pretty much what a photography business is.
Income School run a course called Project 24, where if you follow their processes you could earn a full-time income in 24 months. This is a passive income from a website and a blog.
But you can apply the same principles to a business website which will help people find you and also provide a passive income.
Income School is full of fantastic resources, including the Income School Community who have helped me out endless times and have also provided trustworthy, knowledgeable people who I pay to do things I am not able to do that saves me bags of time.
If you want to earn money from your website then Income School Project 24 is well worth a go – sign up using my affiliate link.
Business Development – Convertkit
I am new to this to be honest.
If you want to grow an online business, you need an email list. Trust me I have this on good authority. I will write more about this as I spend time on it and hopefully grow my own email list.
And Convertkit is free to start with which is good. And their support is also excellent.
And they have helped me do things that I really do not have a clue about, like create my first landing page.
I have just signed up as an affiliate – sign up using my affiliate link and I get a commission and you get a great product. And my gratitude.
Business Advice – Smart Passive Income
I have listened to advice from everyone and anyone. I now confine my advice to Pat Flynn and the Smart Passive Income website and fantastic Smart Passive Income Podcast, hosted by Pat.
Business essentials – Insurance – Photoshield
This is who I use for my Public Liability and Professional Indemnity Insurance. Dead easy to set-up and they were really helpful when I had to make my one and only claim.
If you are in business, you need insurance. I have already mentioned this.
To run a photography business you need to be able to edit photos. This is the editing software that I use.
I have used Lightroom since release the beginning, release 1.0. I subscribe to the Creative Cloud Photography Plan which costs me £9.98 per month. And I am more than happy to pay for that. It is a bargain. And I also get Photoshop – see below.
If you subscribe to the Creative Cloud Photography Plan using my Affiliate Link I will get a commission and you will get my eternal gratitude.
I use Photoshop to remove things from images edited in Lightroom. That is it. I do not understand Photoshop to be honest and am happy to stay in Lightroom. But I need this capability.
Photoshop is a wonderful thing, I am just not clever enough to use it.
I use Luminar 4 to replace skies using the completely awesome AI Sky Replacement Tool. This is one less thing I have to battle to do in Photoshop which is good. This tool is really so good I can do architectural and construction shoots on cloudy days and transform the images super quick afterwards.
I am a Skylum Affiliate. You can buy any of their software using my affiliate link here– even better enter my own discount code MCEVOY and you will get £10 off your purchase.
Excire Search Pro
Excire Search Pro is a super-clever Lightroom plug-in that helps you find photos quickly in Lightroom. I have over 80,000 images in my Lightroom Catalogue.
I am an Excire affiliate, and if you click on my affiliate link here and buy Excire Search I get a commission. I have written about Excire Search Pro on my photography blog.
A great way to get people to know you is to start a podcast. I am doing this at the time of writing so this is new to me. I have taken the advice of Pat Flynn and signed up to Buzzsprout. If you want to try out Buzzsprout you can sign up for 90 days free using my affiliate link.
I have learned so much from listening to Podcasts, making time spent driving productive learning time. And this is why I decided to start my own podcast.
We all need a holiday. I am a TUI Affiliate – book a holiday using my TUI Affiliate link and you should save some money and get a nice break somewhere nice!
4 – The equipment and capability to take professional standard photos day in, day out.
This is a given. You have to be able to produce the goods. There are lots of posts on my website about this, and I give you my unique insight into working as an architectural photographer – check out these pages or search my website
And the gear is another subject in its own right. I won’t go into this in too much detail here, I will write a separate post about this.
All I want to say here is that you need gear that enables you to take professional images, and you also need editing software to finish off these images.
And you need backup gear in case something goes wrong. I have a spare camera, lenses, tripod, everything basically. If I lost my camera bag I could continue working with my backup gear, and my clients would never know that there had been a problem.
I actually used my backup gear on a commercial shoot and no one noticed which was interesting!
Don’t forget to check out my gear page for all that good stuff that I use.
5 – Self-motivation, belief, drive, determination and accepting that this can be a lonely existence.
You made the decision to go down this route, so it is down to you. I get up at stupid’o’clock every morning writing on my blog and growing my business – no I do not want your sympathy as this is my choice. I am working for a reason.
And I often get up and photograph the sunrise, which is a true joy to me.
But I have to make all these things happen, no one will do this for me.
So, you need to have this mindset, and keep working on your goals.
What are my goals?
Financial and time freedom.
This is what this is all about for me. I want to be in control of my own destiny, in control of my life. I want to decide when I work and who for. And I want my website to make money for me.
Not fortunes, just another piece in my financially independent jigsaw.
6 – The acceptance that being a photographer is 10% taking photos, 90% not taking photos.
This is the reality. The harsh reality. The more photography work I do the less photos I seem to take, and the more other stuff I have to do.
Like writing this blog post.
See part of my income is from my website, and to make money with a website you need good stuff that people want to read.
So, no it is not all about taking photos. That is a small part.
But like I said before you still have to be very good at this. Very good.
You have to be technically excellent in image capture and processing.
This was the thing I worked on so hard and continue to practise to maintain my very high standards.
And when I go on holiday, I still wake up a few times stupidly early and head off to photograph the sunrise, which I still love doing.
7 – A plan and focus.
Come up with a plan and work to that plan. I have spent years trying shiny new things, coming up with bright new ideas not finishing the last thing. And listening to endless people and getting more and more new things to do.
I have a plan and a very specific area of work and that is what I am sticking to. No deviations, just my plan that I work on every day.
And find people whose advice fits with your views and beliefs and follow that advice. I used to listen to everyone and anyone, moving from one piece of advice to the next. Again no more – I have a small core of people who I listen to when I am driving around.
My primary sources of information are
Jim Harmer – Income School
That’s all folks – thanks for reading and I hope you found this helpful
#startaphotographybusiness #photographybusiness #photography #business