This article was updated on December 2, 2022
Starting a successful photography business involves more than having a camera and a keen eye for beauty. As a business owner, you must also have a solid business plan.
Without one, your professional photography business may have no legs (or tripods) to stand on.
Creating a photography business plan is simple. This complete guide will cover all you need to know about writing a comprehensive business plan—from executive summaries to competitive analyses.
What to include in a photography business plan:
- Write an executive summary
- Describe your photography business
- Outline your products and services
- Analyze your finances and list out business expenses
- Understand your competition and the photography industry
- Devise a sales and marketing strategy
- Set operations logistics and management structure
- Perform customer and market analysis
- Establish a timeline and exit strategy
- Round out your business plan with Nextdoor
1. Write an executive summary
Perhaps you’ve been dreaming of running your own photography business since the day you picked up your first disposable camera, or maybe you just started outlining your vision in recent months. Whatever the case may be, you’ll need to match those dreams with quantifiable business goals and a clear course of action.
Defining your mission is one of the most important aspects of a strong business plan and almost always comprises the first section. In the executive summary, you will explain your business details such as your business name, and a summary of your business plan in a few sentences.
When defining your business as a professional photographer, it’s crucial to cover two key components: the executive summary and the business description.
2. Describe your photography business
Following the executive summary, the business description section is the place where you'll describe the ins and outs of your business.
Effective photography business descriptions usually contain the following information:
- A history of your business
- An overview of your business structure
Let's break down these two essential components further.
As a professional photographer, your business's history is more than just a summary of facts. It's your unique story . Your passion for what you do should come through in every line.
Include life and color into your business plan by detailing the following:
- Your personal relationship with photography
- Your professional work experience
- The origins of your business and the values you intend to uphold
Describing your history with photography not only gives potential stakeholders an inside look at your motivations but also gives you an outline for an "About" section on your future website.
REAL BUSINESS EXAMPLE: Johnson City, Tennessee's Hunter Kittrell Photography is a business that knows the power of storytelling. Their website's "About" section mentions how the business's founder, Hunter Kittrell, got his start in photography after college and how his love of adventure inspires his work. Look to this small business as a model for your own and add in all of your business's unique details to compel potential clients to work with you.
Few business descriptions are complete without an outline of the business structure. To define your business structure, consider the following:
- Type - Is your business a sole proprietorship or an LLC? A partnership or corporation? If you're just starting out, there's a good chance your photography business will be a sole proprietorship. However, if you're thinking of future growth (and outside funding), it may be wise to consider an LLC. Whichever business type you choose, providing this information in your business plan will help you think through the management and other logistical structures.
- Management and business operations - Most U.S. photography businesses have less than two employees . However, if you're planning on employing more people and/or having a detailed managerial structure, it may be wise to include this in your business description. Furthermore, it may be helpful to include details about business hours and studio location(s).
While businesses, especially startups, can experience a number of operational changes during the first couple of years, outlining your initial business structure is a smart way to set up your photography business for continued success.
3. Outline your products and services
The best business plans clearly specify the business's products and photography services. As you draft your plan include the following details:
- Photography type - Will your business specialize in commercial photography, marketing photography, landscape photography, portrait photography, pet photography, or wedding photography? Will you mainly shoot individual portraits or family portraits? Identifying your niche in the photography industry in your business plan will allow you to structure other elements of your business model around that particular focus.
- Pricing model - When it comes to the financial aspects of your business, few details are more important than your business's pricing model. Will you charge by the hour or by the photoshoot (regardless of time)? Is photo editing included in the package or is there an additional cost? Look at other photographers for example pricing; likely event photography pricing is structured differently than landscape photography. You would also need to consider your business expenses and budget when setting your rates. Being as specific as possible about your pricing model will help you estimate your income and also provide a clear outline of your rates for potential clients.
REAL BUSINESS EXAMPLE: Based in Manchester, New Hampshire, Image of Home Real Estate Photography is a small business with a big-time, three-tier pricing model. Their website states that they charge by the square foot and offer the additional benefit of same-day image delivery. This pricing model was, more than likely, hashed out in the business plan. Settle on the pricing specifics for your business and be sure to share them on your online platforms so that they are clearly visible to the public.
4. Analyze your finances
When it comes to financial planning, the more you can foresee, the better. This will keep you from overextending your budget in terms of expenses or overestimating your revenue in your first year.
To adequately plan for finances, detail the following in your business plan:
- Expenses – Expenses include everything from ordering business cards to the cost of equipment to your studio space. Make a list of everything you’ll need to pay for to get your business up and running. Doing so will also help you budget for the unknown, such as buying an extra lens in case one breaks or hiring an assistant to lend a hand on a particular photo shoot.
- Projected revenue – To stay afloat in the long run, you’ll need to bring in more revenue than you’re spending. As a result, it’s wise to calculate your projected revenue alongside your expenses in your business plan—especially in the first year. These calculations will allow you to budget properly and change your strategy should your financial situation change.
- Set up bank accounts and EIN - Most professional photographers tend to work independently or work by case. Therefore, it is better to separate your work bank accounts and credit cards from your personal accounts to manage your finances. Further, even if this is a small business, you still need to apply for an EIN (employee identification number) from the IRS for legal purposes.
In addition, figuring out where you stand financially will enable you to find room in your budget for marketing strategies and competitive analysis metrics.
5. Understand your competition
An often overlooked, yet highly important, section of most business plans is the competitive analysis section.
Researching your competition is beneficial for many reasons. Not only will you better understand your competition’s pricing models and services, but you’ll also learn how you can set yourself apart from competitors. Given the fact that there are more than 40,000 professional photographers in the U.S., knowing how to stand out in the industry will make sure your one-of-a-kind business doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
When writing your competitive analysis section, it’s helpful to answer the following questions:
- How many photographers are located in my area?
- Am I fulfilling a specific niche (i.e. landscape, portrait, etc.)?
- What are my competitor’s pricing models?
- What are their marketing strategies?
- What are my competitors doing well? What could they improve upon?
- Who are my potential client pods and are they overlapping other existing photography businesses?
- How will I provide a necessary and unique photography service?
Of course, there are many more questions you could ask when thinking about your competition, but these should help you get started.
6. Devise a sales and marketing strategy
Good business plans almost always focus on business growth. But to grow your business and attract new clientele, you need to market yourself.
Detailing your marketing strategy is, therefore, a crucial component of a strong business plan. If you’re wondering how to get photography clients, you’ll want to employ a number of different marketing tactics.
When writing the marketing section, it’s helpful to think of the following strategies:
- Social media marketing – Given that social media is a major conduit of ideas and information, it’s important to develop a social media strategy for your photography business. As a photographer, your portfolio and past works are the best marketing materials. Image-sharing platforms make the most sense, but you’ll want to consider the potential of other platforms, too. For example, if you want to attract local clientele, the best way to connect with your neighborhood is on Nextdoor. This community-minded platform allows you to set up custom business ads or create a Business Page where you can showcase important aspects of your business—from operating hours to services.
- Email marketing – In your business plan, detail how you intend to use email to market yourself. Will you send around a quarterly email discussing new trends in the photography world? Will you deliver special holiday emails urging your target audience to take advantage of discounted holiday shoots? Generating an email list is an effective way to keep clients in the loop about what’s happening with your business.
- SEO marketing – SEO, or search engine optimization, is a critical strategy that will help drive potential customers to your website. To improve the quality of your site, you’ll want to decide which type of keywords are important to your business and build content around them to make your website more discoverable by Google and other search engines. You can do this by adding informational content to different pages on your website, as well as creating a photography blog with helpful tips and information for users. For example, if you are a portrait photographer, you can add keywords such as family pictures or graduation portfolio photos.
7. Set operation logistics and management structure
This section gives you the opportunity to first think through the details of your business workflow then define how you will manage the logistics of your day to day operations. A major part of your photography business will likely be post processing and photo editing before final delivery. Spend time defining how long editing will take after a shoot. How many days after a shoot will you promise delivery to your customers? What methods of payment are you planning to accept? Other topics to address in this section may include:
- Primary and backup suppliers
- Equipment inventory
- Transportation expenses
- Management and staff structure if applicable
8. Perform customer and market analysis
Customer and market analysis is a critical part of your photography business plan; it helps define the size of the market needing your service as well as your ideal client. Here you will justify your target market and specify niche segments within that market. To do this answer the following:
- What is your dream client - age range, gender, location, demographics, and style of photo shoot. Will you specialize in high end weddings, aerial photography, sports photography, or something else?
- What are the needs of these customers
- how your services address these needs.
- What is the growth potential of your market segment? Including considerations such as the number of potential customers, their annual income, frequency of photography style needs
9. Establish a timeline and exit strategy
This later section describes your timeline for the goals and objectives outlined earlier in the business plan. Describe how soon you plan to become profitable, within what timeframe do you plan to meet your revenue objectives, or even when you might plan to hire employees to help grow your business. While it may seem far off, planning how you may want to exit your business years down the road may open up questions and considerations that can have a big impact near term. For some, selling their business to a larger investor is the end goal, for others, keeping photography as a small side gig to pass to their children is the exit strategy - no matter your desired path, document it here.
10. Round out your business plan with Nextdoor
Developing a strong photography business plan is often the first step in running a successful business. Now that you’re equipped with all the tools to execute it like a pro, you’ll be well-prepared for a promising future ahead.
But no plan is truly complete without Nextdoor — the neighborhood hub that connects you with your local community so that your photography business can flourish.
Claim a Nextdoor Business Page today to simplify the process of building your brand. That way, you can get back to what truly matters—working your magic behind the camera.