Starting a business specializing in portraiture

Started Jan 24, 2014 | Discussions thread
Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Veteran Member • Posts: 7,939
Re: Starting a business specializing in portraiture

spytrek007 wrote:


The end goal is money but by giving clients value.

If your end goal is to make money, your business skills will be far more important than your photographic skills.

Your suggestion that you will do TFP until you are "good enough" suggests that you don't understand the above. A bad photographer with good business skills can easily become rich. A great photographer with poor business skills can easily starve.

If you want to make money with photography, you need to learn business skills, not photographic skills.

Before you get too far along, I suggest you make a "back of the envelope" rough calculation to see if your business plan makes sense.

How much would you like to make in salary each year? For the sake of argument, let's call it $50,000 per year.

What are your expenses going to be? You'll likely need to replace your camera at least every other year. You will need memory cards, computers, hard drives for storage, etc. Of course there will be consumables; batteries, camera bags that wear out, repairs, more repairs, etc. let's budget about $10,000/year for this.

You will need somewhere to work to edit your images. Probably a room (or part of a room) in your house or apartment. This means you will need slightly more room than you otherwise would. Possibly $300/month of your monthly housing expenses are going towards providing space for your business. That's another $3,600 per year.

Generally insurance is a good thing. There are liability issues if someone gets hurt. You may want to replace your gear should it get lost or damaged. You may have liability should someone hire you and you are unable to perform as contracted. Many times your existing personal homeowners/liability insurance will not cover any property used for business, or any camera gear used for business. Expect to pay a couple thousand a year for insurance. The laws, requirements and pricing vary by country. Talk to your local insurance agent.

If you actually want clients, you will need to spend money to attract them. As a new business you won't have much of a reputation. Expect to spend at least $1,000/month to attract new customers.

So now we are up to about $77,000 a year you need to gross in order to pay yourself $50,000. Assuming you take a 2 week vacation, that means you need to gross about $1,500 per week.

You should do some research and find out the going rate in your area for your intended portrait work. let's suppose it's $300 a session.

That means you need to average 1 session per day. As these are location sessions, assume 1/2 hour on pre-shoot sales negotiations, an hour of travel time, 2 hours of shooting time, and 2 hours of post shoot editing. That leaves 3 1/2 hours a day for running your business. This includes paperwork, equipment maintenance, advertising, accounting, etc.

I suspect there will be additional expenses not listed here, and I doubt you will be able to schedule 5 shoots a week.

Say you schedule 3 shoots a week, that's $45,000 a year gross. Your expenses are the same, which leaves $18,000 a year (before taxes) for salary.

These are only rough ballpark estimates. If the going rate in your area is over $1,000 a session, you will do much better.  If it's only $200 a session, you will do much worse.

I strongly urge, that before starting a business, you investigate and learn about the business aspects of the operation.  Generally, successful photographers are the ones who focus on the business, not the photography.

If you don't like business, but want to make money with photography, then you should consider getting a job working for someone else (or perhaps as a second shooter).

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