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December 4, 2017

How to Start a Photography Business

A ton goes into photographing weddings and starting a photography business. Most people think it’s just a person showing up with camera equipment on the wedding day or portrait session. It’s actually much more than that. After all, it IS a business.

It’s difficult to understand the all of the processes that photographers need to have in place, especially in the beginning. We have to admit, even we did not know what all was involved when we first got started.

Now we have a huge business process in place to help streamline and run our company.

 

Setting up your business

First things first, before you begin taking photos,  you need to setup your business. Check with your State AND your City and County on the process. You will need either a Business License, Doing Business As, or some soft of form filled out saying you running a business or offering a product and/service under a different name other than your own name.

You’ll need to talk with an advisor on how you will establish your business. Whether it is a sole proprietorship, an LLC, or SCorp, talk with them on the differences and what suits you best. You’ll need different specifications on how to file with taxes based on each. Having an accountant in place will also help.

Make sure the business name you are choosing isn’t already taken. You can check trademarked names by doing a quick Google search.

Planning for taxes

More than likely, your State and Locality will have different requirements for taxes. They are NOT the same so be sure to check both.
Sales tax will depend on your gross income, there are different standards between each City and County. Some may require a tax if you make $1,000 or more or some may require a tax at $750,000 or more. Each states has a sales tax that you will be required to pay on top of the County or City you live in.

There are may also be additional taxes such as equipment or businesses taxes in your locality. Check with your government offices and State websites to check current tax rates.

Setting up processes

Once the proper paperwork is completed through your locality and state, you’ll need to talk with a lawyer to setup contracts and protection. Find a lawyer that’s familiar with photography contracts to ensure you are protected completely.

It’s a good idea to do some research and preparation to set up a website and domain name. Whether you hire a designer or do your own, check the different platforms to see what they offer. Your hosting will either become a monthly or yearly cost so take your time looking for the best option for you.

Investing in a good CRM software will save you in the long run from delays in your business or from losing documents. This will also become a yearly or monthly cost. Most programs will have a free trial run. Take advantage of these to find the best layout and program for you to easily navigate through.

Becoming insured will also be a next step. Find an insurance company that ensures photography companies rather than an insurance company that offers a blanket policy. A wedding includes you, your bride, groom and all their wedding guests. That can be over 300 guests with your equipment and gear. Make sure that your insurance covers this all.

Your equipment and gear may take sometime to build as each piece can be hundreds or even over a thousand to purchase. Take your time to find the right gear.

Once you’ve got these main items underway, you’ll need to maintain your business yearly from than on out. Here are just a few things to keep in mind as you move forward in running your business.

Yearly and Monthly Business Upkeep

Calibrating and Cleaning Equipment

This is probably one the most important things for any photographer to do and must include in their process.
When the year ends, weddings and sessions start to slow. This offers the best time to calibrate and clean all equipment.
It is recommended to calibrate your equipment at least once a year.
Calibration ensures that the moving parts inside each piece of equipment is working properly and prevents failures from occurring.
Keeping gear clean essentially extends your equipment’s life.
Cleanings should take place more often than calibrations as dust and outside elements are constantly exposed to gear.
It can help with a lot of common frustrations, such as spots on images, lack of clarity, or even slower moving parts.

You would be amazed at how many problems can be fixed with calibration or a simple cleaning.
Working these into your process regularly allows you to photograph efficiently.

As photographers, we want to do everything we can to prevent camera malfunctions during weddings and sessions. Cameras are just like machines and need maintenance, much like our cars, to keep them running smoothly.

Tax Preparation

Hopefully you did not wait until the end of the year to track expenses. It is best to keep track of expenses and travel on a weekly basis.
Ideally, keeping track daily would help you from tracking important details.
This is an essential part of large corporations and they even have departments heading the entire process.
As photographers,  even though we may not have our own departments, we are still required to track these.

Having an excel sheet or an accountant to help with taxes is crucial. Some items may not be taxed the same as others, such as meals.
Each year the laws change and the tracking process has to be adjusted accordingly. With every State having different tax requirements, it’s best to work with a good accountant every year.
Having tax preparations process prepared and done ahead of time prevents less stress and headache when you are filling on tax day.
Even as a photographer you are required to stay compliant just like any other business.

Backing up Galleries

A back up and gallery process needs to be in place and kept up with regularly. Galleries should be backed up every time you photograph a session or wedding.
Take an extra step and backup all galleries on an external hard drive AND online to make sure you have the images in case of any failures or malfunctions. It takes quite of bit of time and can add on additional business costs but it is better to be safe than sorry.

Always aim for an online storage service and a hard drive source.

Updating Websites and Blogs

The website is essentially every photographers storefront. It’s what clients land on to view work, so keeping it up to date with images is important. Just like a store, having a process in place to adding, restocking, and rearranging inventory is crucial to keeping your business running.
While you may not have inventory, you do have a website and images.
In today’s world, Google’s changes affect how our storefront is seen to clients and how our images show up.
Take the time to regularly check algorithm changes, your rankings, and curating content.
New images need to replace old ones, blogs should be checked at least yearly for relevant content, and any changes that Google makes needs to be included in your processes.

While you are updating images, it is also a good time to look through the sections of your website, like the “About” section. Add and update changes to it as necessary. If you’re working with a web designer, this may mean incurring additional cost.
With Showit5, it is incredibly easy for us to make text, image, and even design changes.
It’s saved us from having to hire a designer or developer every time a change needs to be made to our site.

Submitting Work

If you are photographing weddings, you should be submitting them for features and publications regularly.
This is quite a time consuming process to undertake as each submission is different.
Having your work featured not only boosts your SEO, but it can help you get in front of a bigger audience.

You may receive bookings simply from being featured on blogs and magazines. The submitting process is tedious, but it is well worth the effort.

Networking

During the busy season, it can be difficult to get out to networking events. Networking is a part of photography just like it is a part of any business. Ask other photographer friends about events happening nearby or if the know of any. Or even start your own networking event and invite other wedding vendors, business owners, or networks that you know of.
Facebook events makes it so easy to connect and meet up with local vendors. Networking not only helps get your business name out there, it also allows you to build a list for you and your potential clients to use. You could meet a talented florist, wedding planner, or stumble across a new wedding venue that can help others.

You never know what a coffee or lunch date could lead to.

Tracking Equipment Inventory

It sounds weird to have this as part of a process but it’s necessary. If you’re a photographer, you need to be insured.
With insurance, you’re required to list out gear to be under the insurance policy.
Over time, gear breaks or has to be replaced. Batteries and SD cards are an item that should be replaced regularly.
You don’t want out of date equipment to be covered unnecessarily.
Having an influx of too much equipment is also not a good idea.

Keeping track of cleanings and calibrations is also a good idea. That way when you got to resell or get rid of equipment, you’ll have that information readily available.

Tracking inventory also allows you to see what you do need as you grow. Deals will usually take place around the Holidays. If you’re tracking regularly, you’ll know what you have and don’t have or what to replace.

Bridal Portrait with bouquet at The Mill At Fine Creek in Richmond

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