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A Guide to Starting a Business for Photographers

8 Simple Steps to Setting Up a Business For Photographers


Are you thinking of setting up a new business for photographers?

If so, then you will need to take some key steps in order to get your fledgling business for photographers off the ground. In this article, we will discuss eight of the most important steps that you need to think about before starting a new business for photographers, and to ensure that you have set up your photography business properly.

You may be asking – how to start a photography business with no experience? Well, most photography businesses all started the same way, but if you follow the steps outlined here, you will be well on your way.

Treat this as a “guide to starting a new business for photographers checklist” – so whether you are starting a home-based photography business or are planning a nationwide chain of photography studios, these 8 key steps are crucial!  As the majority of our readers are based in the United States and the United Kingdom, we will also provide specific instructions where relevant to those countries.

Let’s get started!

Step 1 – Write a Business Plan

The first step that you need to do before setting up a business for photographers is to write a business plan. This document will outline your photography business goals, the photography niche or types of photography businesses you will be operating in, as well as your marketing and financial strategies.

Your business plan will be essential in helping you focus your business ideas and (if necessary) secure any funding you may require for your photography business.

Start a business for photographers step 1 – What is a Business Plan?

A business plan is a document that outlines the goals, resources, and strategies of a business. It can be used to secure funding, attract investors, and guide business operations. It is one of the most important things to do when launching a business for photographers and will also be helpful when brainstorming photography business ideas.  All of the most successful photography businesses do this, so it is an important first step.

Ideas for Brainstorming your Business Ideas before starting to write your business plan

  • What kind of businesses need photographers?
  • Is a photography business profitable?
  • How do I start a photography business?
  • Which type of photography business is best?
  • Will I need any capital investment – if so, how much?
  • Will I need any formal training or qualification?
  • Will I need additional staff?

How is a Photography Business Plan Structured?

There are many different types of business plans, but they all share some common structural elements. These include: an executive summary; company overview; market analysis; product or service offerings; competitive landscape; marketing and sales strategy; financial projections; and an appendix.

  • The executive summary of a photography business plan is a brief overview of the business plan that highlights the key points.
  • The company overview provides an overview of the business, including its history, mission statement, and structure.
  • The market analysis assesses the current state of the industry and what opportunities and threats exist.
  • The product or service offerings section outlines what the business has to offer and how it will be delivered.
  • The competitive landscape looks at the competition and what they are doing well or poorly.
  • The marketing and sales strategy outlines the plan for acquiring and retaining customers.
  • The financial projections show what the business expects to earn in revenue and profit over time.
  • The appendix includes any additional information that is not essential to the main body of the business plan but may be helpful for reference when setting up a successful business for photographers.

A Guide to Starting a Business for Photographers - The Business Plan

If you’re not sure where to start, there are plenty of business plan templates and samples available online.

Step 2  – Creating a Photography Brand

Now that you have an idea of what type of photography business you want to run and have created your business plan, it’s time to start creating a brand.

A big part of setting up a business for photographers is making sure that people can easily identify your company and what it stands for. Your brand is how people will remember and recognize your business, so it’s important to take the time to create a strong one.


Here are some tips for creating a brand for your new photography business:

  • Choose a business name that is easy to remember and pronounce. Avoid using puns or jokes that might not be understood by everyone or may weaken your credibility.
  • Create a logo that is simple and easy to read. It should be recognizable even when it is small.
  • Use the same colors and fonts throughout all of your marketing materials. This will help create a cohesive look for your brand.
  • Be sure to register your domain name and social media accounts using your chosen brand name.
  • If your business is based in the USA we recommend registering a .com domain
  • If your photography business is based in the UK we recommend registering a .co.uk domain name
  • Create a style guide that outlines the elements of your brand (logo, colors, fonts, etc.) This will be a useful reference for yourself and any future employees or contractors.

A Guide to Starting a Business for Photographers - The Brand

By taking the time to create a strong brand for your new photography business, you will be setting yourself up for success. Potential clients will be able to easily recognize and remember your company, which can help you attract new customers and grow your business.

Step 3 – Find an Accountant

How to find an accountant for your photography business?

When it comes to any small business, one of the most important things you can do is to find a good accountant (or CPA- Certified Public Accountant as they are known in the USA). This is especially true for photography businesses, as there can be a lot of expenses that need to be tracked. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go about finding an accountant in the UK or finding an account in the USA.

First, you can ask around to see if any of your friends or family have a personal recommendation. This is often the best way to find someone, as you can get a personal recommendation from someone you trust.

Another option is to look online. There are a number of websites that allow you to search for accountants in your area. This can be a great way to find someone who is qualified and who you feel comfortable working with.

Finally, you can always contact a professional organization such as the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) or the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).  Or if you are based in the USA you can check the CPA Directory or The American Institute of CPA’s (AICPA).  These organizations can provide you with a list of qualified accountants in your area.

Once you have a few options, it’s important to sit down and interview each one. This will allow you to get a better sense of their qualifications and what they can do for your business. It’s also a good opportunity to ask any questions you may have about accounting or taxes.

Choosing an accountant is an important decision for any photography business. By taking the time to find a qualified and experienced accountant, you can ensure that your photography business is in good hands. With the right accountant on your team, you can focus on what you do best – taking amazing photos!

What should you expect from an accountant?

An accountant should be able to provide you with a full range of services, from bookkeeping and preparing your annual accounts, to tax planning and advice. They also can provide great business advice for photographers based on their experiences with other small businesses.

They will be up-to-date with the latest changes in legislation and will be able to advise you on how these changes could impact your business.

As a small business owner, you may not have the time or resources to keep on top of your finances. This is where an accountant can really add value, by taking care of all the financial admin so that you can focus on running and growing your business.

A good accountant will also be proactive in identifying opportunities to save you money and improve your bottom line.

Step 4 – Decide on your business structure

Should you set up a Limited Company (LTD)/Limited Liability Corporation(LLC) or Sole Trader/Sole Proprietorship?

When setting up your business for photographers, you might be wondering whether to set it up as a limited company (UK Terms) / limited liability corporation (US Term) or as a sole trader (UK) or sole proprietorship (USA). Both have their pros and cons, so it’s important to weigh up your options before making a decision.

As a sole trader/sole proprietorship, you’ll be the only owner of your business. This means you can make all the decisions about how your business is run, and you’ll keep all the profits after tax. However, it also means that you’re liable for any debts or losses incurred by your business.

You will declare your income and profits as part of your annual self-assessment form which will need to be completed by the 31st of January each year.

This is the simplest form of business setup, however, it may not be the most tax-efficient.

Should my business for photographers be an LLC or LTD?

As a limited company/limited liability corporation, your business will be legally separate from you as an individual. This means that you won’t be personally liable for any debts or losses incurred by your business. However, you will have to pay corporation tax on your profits, and there are more regulations to comply with.

This might sound like a downside of running a limited company, when actually it isn’t as Corporation Tax is paid at a lower rate generally than personal taxation, so by employing a decent accountant, you may find that running your business through a limited company/limited liability corporation is much more tax efficient.

So, which is best for you?

It depends on a number of factors, including how much liability you’re willing to take on and how much red tape you’re willing to deal with. If you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to speak to an accountant or business advisor who can help you make the right decision for your business.

One other very important point for photographers in the USA – does your local Country or State require a photography business license? Fortunately, most DO NOT, however always check this with your local authority website as it may indeed be required.

Step 5 – Opening a Business Bank Account

A business bank account is a financial account that is held in the name of a business, rather than an individual. This type of account is subject to different rules and regulations than a personal bank account and offers different features and services.

Opening a Business Bank Account in the UK

Opening a business bank account in the UK is relatively simple, but there are a few requirements that must be met.

You will need to provide proof of your business identity and your personal identity. For a sole trader, proving the business side of things can be a little difficult, so bring along your business plan and details of your brand, etc.


A Guide to Starting a Business for Photographers - Opening a Bank Account

For a limited company, this is much easier (and the Bank will likely take you more seriously). Take along your company registration certificate, proof of your own ID, and your company records provided with your company setup (Articles of Incorporation, etc).

For the personal side of things, bring photo ID (passport or driving license) and usually a couple of utility bills to prove your address.

Each Bank may have slightly different requirements, so always check their application documentation so that you are fully prepared.

Once you have met these requirements, you can open a business bank account with any major UK bank. The process is similar to opening a personal account but can take a bit longer whilst the bank verifies the information provided. Once your account is open, you can start using it to manage your finances and grow your business.

We use and recommend Starling Bank

Opening a Business Bank Account in the USA

In the USA the banking system is more regionalized than it is in the UK – therefore the choice of Bank is likely to be influenced by your location/State.

Generally, most US Banks will ask for the following before opening an account:-

  • Photo Identification for the business owner/director opening the account
  • Proof of your home address
  • Articles of incorporation/organization if you have an LLC (Limited Liability Corporation)
  • An EIN (Federal Employer Identification Number) confirmation letter is required for tax purposes (this may vary from State to State).
  • Proof of your business address.

Step 6 – How to Register a New business for photographers with the Tax Authorities

Registering a UK-based business for photographers with the Inland Revenue

Once you are ready to start your business for photographers, one of the first things you need to do is register it with the Inland Revenue. The Inland Revenue is the government department responsible for collecting taxes and administering social security benefits.

When you are setting up a business for photographers in the UK, you need to register your business with the Inland Revenue. You’ll then be given a tax number that you’ll use when filing your taxes.

This can be done online, and you’ll need to provide some basic information about your business and its owners.

Once you’ve registered your business, you’ll be able to apply for a tax number and start paying taxes on your reported earnings.

Registering a USA-based business for photographers with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

In the USA, the tax system is split between Federal and State entities. Some states have different rules, so please always check with your local State Tax authority.

When setting up a business for photographers in the US you should initially register your business at the Federal level so that you can receive your Federal TAX ID Number – you will need this before you can open a bank account.

If it is applicable, the process for applying for a state tax ID number is very similar to getting a federal tax ID number, but it will vary by state. Please check with your own state government’s website for the tax rules relating to your business.

Step 7 – Do I need to register my business for photographers for VAT (UK) or Sales Tax (USA)?

An Explanation of the UK VAT System

In the United Kingdom when setting up a business for photographers, you may also need to register for VAT if your expected income is above the UK VAT Threshold. At the time of writing the UK VAT Threshold is £85,000 turnover in any one year.

UK VAT is currently set at 20% for standard rate items, however, Photographers can initially take advantage of the Flat Rate Scheme which sets your VAT at a flat rate.

When enrolled on the flat rate scheme:-

  • your turnover must be £150,000
  • you pay a fixed rate of VAT to HMRC
  • you keep the difference between what you charge your customers and pay to HMRC
  • you cannot reclaim the VAT on your purchases – except for certain capital assets over £2,000

Photographers joining the flat rate scheme pay a flat rate of 11%. However, if you are in the first year of your VAT registration, you will also qualify for a 1% discount, taking your rate to just 10%

Depending on how much VAT you might expect to reclaim against your business purchases, it CAN be advantageous to be on the flat rate scheme – however, once again it is best to consult with a qualified accountant who understands the profile of your business income and outgoings.

An Explanation of the US Sales Tax System

The USA does not have a national sales tax like the UK has – however it does have individual Sales Taxes which are set and payable at State Level

Sales Tax is levied in 45 US States based on the exchange of “tangible personal property” – this is where it can gt complicated for photography businesses in the US.

Take frames or prints for example – these are clearly tangible items, so sales tax would be due on these.  However a sitting fee, where no goods are exchanged wouldn’t be. (We did tell you it was complicated).

Therefore we do recommend contacting your local State Tax authority and your own accountant for proper Sales Tax advice.

This is why services like TaxJar have thrived in the US, and are a great way of keeping on the right side of your tax liabilities.

Step 8 – Keep proper accounting records

How to choose an accountancy package?

As a small business owner, it is important to choose the right accountancy software package in order to keep proper accounting records.

There are many different software packages available on the market, so it is important to do your research in order to find the one that best suits your needs when setting up a business for photographers.


A Guide to Starting a Business for Photographers - Choosing an Accounts Package

Some of the most popular accounting software packages used by small businesses in the UK and the US include Xero, QuickBooks, and FreeAgent. All of these software packages offer different features and pricing plans, so it is important to compare them in order to find the one that best meets your needs.

When choosing an accountancy package for your business for photographers, it is important to consider your specific business needs. Setting up a photography business is quite involved so, make sure your chosen package isn’t over-complicated.

Comparing different Accounting packages

If you are a small business owner who is just thinking about setting up a business for photographers, you may want to consider a software package that offers a free trial period. This will allow you to try out the software before committing to a paid subscription.

Once you have considered your specific business needs, you can start comparing the different accounting software packages available on the market.

When comparing the different packages, it is important to look at the features that are included in each one. Once you have found a software package that meets your needs, you can start using it to keep track of your small business finances.

By following these steps, you can ensure that you choose the right accountancy package for setting up a photography business. By keeping proper accounting records at the beginning of your business, you can avoid any potential financial problems in the future.

We also recommend photographers consider using studio management software such as Light Blue – getting your client records in order at the start of your business can make a huge difference down the line!

Now market your photography business!

So you’ve done the 8 key steps, now it is time to start marketing your photography business, which is where we come in!

What are the cons of starting a business for photographers?

Of course with any business there are always pros and cons that need to be weighed up – we are biased however and believe that running a photography business is hugely rewarding and can be tailored to match the lifestyle and expectations of someone just looking to make a small business on the side as a part-time venture, right up to a future studio franchise.

Summary of Starting a Business for Photographers

There are many things to consider when starting a business for photographers in the UK and setting up a photography business in the US. However, by following these 8 Key Steps to Setting Up a Photography Business, you can ensure that you are well on your way to running a successful photography business.

So, what are you waiting for? Get started setting up a photography business today and become a successful photographer in the UK and USA!

About the Author

About the Author

Alan Hutchison runs a very successful Photography studio alongside his wife Morag in Scotland. As a former IT Director, Alan is also an accomplished SEO specialist and Marketeer. For Alan's latest training and speaking engagements, please visit www.alanhutchison.co.uk

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