Learn how to start your own fashion photography business and if it’s right for you.
Start a fashion photography business by following these 7 steps:
You’ve found the perfect business idea and now you’re ready to take the next step. Starting a business involves more than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your
. These steps will ensure that your new business is well-planned, properly registered, and compliant with the law.
1: Plan your business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the details of your business and uncover some unknowns. Some important issues to consider are:
- What are the initial and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
- How will you name your business?
Fortunately, we’ve done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a fashion photography business?
While there are several items you’ll need to get started, your most valuable business tool is your talent and experience.
Industry leaders recommend budgeting a minimum of $10,000 for camera and studio equipment. This must include:
- Camera and various lenses
- Mods: Giant Umbrella, Octabank, Scrims, and Beauty Plates
- Studio equipment: lighting, stands, backgrounds, modifiers, props, floors, backgrounds, and remote triggers
- Computer and editing software
- Backup storage devices
- Professional scrapbooking software
Your initial needs are not limited to just photography equipment. The following business tools will help ensure you stay organized and on track with your marketing strategy:
- Accounting program
- Portfolio – This should include some of your best work and show potential clients that you can work in a variety of settings
What are the running costs of a fashion photography business?
Your ongoing expenses will be defined by your vision for the company. Many photo shoots will take place away from home, freeing you from the need to invest in a physical space. Your biggest expense will be time spent on networking, marketing, and travel. Between fashion events, client meetings, and photo shoots, you’ll spend much of your time away from home, where you’ll incur the typical expenses associated with jet-setting across the country (or the world). You’ll also need to invest in the upkeep of your equipment, photo-editing software, and equipment replacement when necessary.
Who is the target market?
Ultimately, your target market is defined by your creative vision, personally and professionally. Designers require photographers to capture images of their latest lines, which are displayed in lookbooks. There is at least one magazine that caters to every demographic, and each one requires a photographer to inspire readers. Think Vogue, Rolling Stone, and L’Officiel. Fashion bloggers also need professional photographers and photo editors. Consider your creative goals, and then research who has a direct need for those services.
How does a fashion photography company make money?
Fashion photographers are paid a fixed fee per shoot, which varies greatly depending on the reputation of both the client and the photographer.
How much can you charge customers?
How much you can charge will largely depend on your experience, skill level, and the clients you work with. Many fashion photographers require a minimum of $1,000 per day, with many averaging between $2,500 and $10,000. A wide range, but precise. The more established you are in the community, the more you can charge; between $10,000 and $150,000 per session, depending on the client.
How much profit can a fashion photography company make?
Again, this varies, depending on your region and the type of customers you choose to target. The median earning for fashion photographers is between $52,000 and $69,000. If you choose to open a business that includes multiple photographers or offers clients additional services, your profits will increase exponentially.
How can you make your business more profitable?
As a photographer, you are only limited by your imagination and the types of projects you decide to undertake. Consider expanding your customer base to include customers who require product photography for their online stores. Companies like Neiman Marcus have thousands of products displayed on their websites; each item should be photographed from multiple angles. A photo agency, made up of several photographers of different levels of skill and innovation, could prove profitable. If photo editing is your forte, market your talents. You’d be surprised how many businesses require such a skill.
How will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is important and challenging. If you don’t have a name in mind yet, visit our Try it free guide
2: Form a legal entity
Types of What is an EIN? Or look up your existing EIN using our EIN lookup guide.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on the business structure you choose, you may have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietor vs LLC
- LLC vs. Corporation
- LLC vs. S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
There are specific state taxes that may apply to your business. Learn more about state sales and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
4: Open a business bank account and credit card
The use of dedicated business banks and credit accounts is essential for the protection of personal assets.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed up, your assets—your home, car, and other valuables—are at risk if your business is sued. In business law, this is known as piercing your corporate veil.
Plus, learn how to create a professional service agreement for your fashion photography business when you sign up for your premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on-call attorneys for free legal advice.
Trademark and copyright protection
If you are developing a unique product, concept, brand, or design, it is prudent to protect your rights by registering for the appropriate trademarks and copyrights.
5: Get Business Insurance
Just like licenses and permits, your business needs insurance to operate safely and legally. Business insurance protects the financial well-being of your business in the event of a covered loss.
There are various types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re not sure about the types of risks your business may face, start with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage needed by small businesses, making it a great place to start your business.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is workers’ compensation insurance. If your business will have employees, your state will most likely require you to have workers’ compensation coverage.
6: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how the public perceives your business. A strong brand will help your business stand out from the competition.
How to Promote and Market a Fashion Photography Business
Many of today’s most successful fashion photographers spend up to 75% of their time marketing. Technology offers several ways to showcase your work. Social media should be an integral part of your day, allowing you to reach potential customers around the world. This free business tool, combined with your website, is a wonderful way to showcase your best work and target potential clients.
Photographers are part of the artist community. Often a tight-knit group. Therefore, word of mouth will be your strongest marketing tool. Integrating within this population should be an essential part of your marketing strategy.
Entrepreneurs just starting in this industry are encouraged to take “free” jobs whenever possible. This should be seen as skill development; a way to develop your photography skills and build a certain level of leadership and professional experience while making connections within the community. This practice will also give you a greater level of creative control, allowing you to create a portfolio that reflects your style and vision. During this time, focus on collaborating with photographers, stylists, and makeup artists who have proven their talents.
Also, spend as much time as you can on fashion events. Always carry business cards with you and produce Z cards to distribute while networking. The Society of International Fashion and Glamor Photographers offers its members guidance and support for fashion photographers of all levels.
How to keep customers coming back
As mentioned, spend your first few years in this industry surrounding yourself with the best in the business. The relationships you build and the quality of your work will help you achieve your goals. Maintain a level of professionalism and always strive to think outside the box, delivering unique photos from each shoot.
7: Establish your web presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your business and the products or services you offer. Press releases and social media are among the most effective ways to establish your presence on the web.
Is this business right for you?
Those who enter this specialized field often do so because of their passion and eye for both fashion and photography. The combination of these two art forms serves as a creative outlet. Successful photographers are often able to travel the world while earning an income that supports them as they work to fulfill their dreams.
What happens during a typical day at a fashion photography company?
Most fashion photographers work as freelancers, especially when they are just starting. Administrative and marketing tasks are just as important as photo shoots and should be treated as such. While no two days are the same, most days are split between building the business and expressing yourself artistically.
On the photography side, fashion photographers are required to attend photo shoots, register their copyrighted works, edit photos, and update their portfolios. Much time is spent perusing magazines and photos online, noting fashion trends and ideas for future shoots.
In the commercial arena, business owners must schedule sessions, book travel, manage finances, file invoices, and implement marketing strategies. Traveling and networking with others in the industry is also critical to the success of a fashion photographer. Many artists hire assistants to help them manage the business side, allowing them time to focus on the creative side of the business.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful fashion photography business?
While the rules of photographic composition can be learned, those looking for long-term success must have a natural eye for both fashion and photography. Basic knowledge of photography and fashion is essential. To ensure your best work from the start, spend some time studying fashion: history, period-specific fashion, terminology, designers and image makers, makeup, hairstyling, and current industry news.
Photography is about capturing a moment in time; a moment that can never be recreated. Therefore, it is also essential that you be one with your camera. Learn about the different concepts of setting, lighting, and digital photography. Even the best photographers need to edit their photos, so image editing should also be part of your skill set.
Industry leaders recommend working as an assistant, both in fashion and other fields of photography. First-hand experience is the best teacher and will better equip you to predict and resolve any issues that may arise. This will also serve as your first introduction to fashion photography, offering an opportunity to network with pioneers in the industry.
What is the growth potential of a fashion photography business?
As mentioned, most fashion photographers start out working alone or with a small team of assistants. As connections are made and industry experience is built, many choose to move into other aspects of the business. Business growth opportunities include opening a commercial and fashion photography agency or fashion marketing company.