Are you wondering how to start a food photography business? You know how to take beautiful food images, but how can you turn your talent into a business? I wondered the same thing before I left my day job, so this post is dedicated to sharing how to start your food photography business the right way.
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Tips for Starting a Business in Food Photography
As food photographers, we’re creative people. We love what we do and we’re passionate about creating images that make people stop and stare. But, when it comes to starting a business in food photography, we have to put down our cameras for a minute and learn how to start thinking like a business person.
Get An Accountant
The very first tip I recommend is to get an accountant. If you want to start making money as a business, hiring an accountant will help you get started on the right foot. And, as we discuss the first few tips, you’ll start to understand why.
Accountants know all the steps involved when it comes to naming your business, choosing an LLC or S-Corp, planning for quarterly taxes, what classifies as a “business expense” and all the other “money” questions that come with running your own business.
When I was first starting out, a good friend of mine referred me to his accountant. He was a super nice guy, but I had NO IDEA what he was talking about when we had our initial consultation call. He was very good at accounting, but not very good at translating his knowledge to a “non-accountant.” I felt overwhelmed and knew I needed to work with someone who could translate their accounting language to me.
When I started reaching out to my food blogger friends, they referred me to Helena at Sweeter CPA. She works with a lot of creative people, so she knows how to explain things in a way that makes sense. It’s incredibly important that you understand your business finances, so working with someone who makes that easy for you is going to be a breath of fresh air. I’ve worked with Helena for over six years and highly recommend her if you’re on the prowl for an accountant.
Name Your Business
Figuring out the name of your photography business is a fun step. My business name is Regan Baroni Photography, LLC. I wanted my name in my business, because I think it’s easier to remember a photographer by their name. I also added “photography” because figured adding “photography” makes it pretty clear what I do. 😉 But, feel free to get as creative as you want with your business name.
Sole Proprietor, LLC or S-Corp
As a photographer, you’ll need to decide if you’ll be a sole proprietor or a single-member LLC. S-Corp is also an option, but isn’t as common when you’re first starting out. Your accountant can help you figure out the best option for you.
A sole proprietor is the default business structure for anyone who is earning money on their own. The drawback is that there’s no separation between your personal assets and your business assets, which makes everything you have fair game if someone decided to sue you.
A single-member LLC means Limited Liability Company and separates your personal assets from your business assets in case there are ever any liabilities. This means if anyone were to come after you, they can’t touch your personal assets. It’s just a safe way to protect yourself and keep your business life and personal life separate.
Single-member means that you are the owner of your business and don’t have a partner. Most photographers own their business themselves. LLC’s are regulated by the State, not the federal government, so the fees to establish your LLC will vary depending on what a state you live.
Register Your Business
Registration varies depending on your business name, whether or not you’re a sole proprietor vs. an LLC and where you live. You’ll need to get an EIN (employer identification number) for tax purposes. This helps separate your business from your personal social security number.
If you’re a sole proprietor operating under your legal name, you might need to get a business license depending on your local jurisdiction. If you’re a sole proprietor operating under a different business name, you might need a DBA or a “doing business as” license. If you’re an LLC, this is regulated by the State, so the fees will vary by state.
Have I lost you yet? 😉
See what I mean about hiring an accountant? I’m just scratching the surface on these first few tips and an accountant will make all of this much easier to understand so you can make the best decisions for your photography business right out of the gate.
Get Business Insurance
As a photographer, you’re going to be putting a lot of work into your business to help it grow and thrive. Protecting everything that you are building should be a priority. You never know what could happen to cause potential harm to you and your business.
There are a variety of insurance options, but I think equipment and liability insurance are the most important to look into as a photographer when you are first starting a food photography business. Equipment insurance protects your expensive equipment (hey, you might drop your camera or crack a lens) and liability insurance protects you if someone trips over one of your cables on set and breaks their wrist. If you ever need to rent a studio space, a lot of studios will request proof of insurance too, so that’s something to keep in mind. I currently work with AllState for my small business insurance.
Get A Legal Contract
I really don’t like to admit this, but in the beginning, I didn’t have a photography contract for my projects. And, I’ve learned the hard way about how important contracts are for protecting me and my business. Contracts help outline the expectations and deliverables for your photo shoots, protect the use of your images and ensure that you will be paid for your work.
Set Up A Business Checking & Savings Account
We all have a personal checking and savings account, but I highly recommend setting up a separate checking and savings account for your business. This will help you track your business finances separately from your personal finances and it will make tax time much easier as well.
In the beginning, I was tracking my business finances through a google excel sheet. This was way too time consuming and it was easy to make mistakes. I highly recommend getting bookkeeping software to help you organize and keep track of your business’s profits and losses.
I use Quickbooks Online for my bookkeeping. It allows you to connect your business checking, savings and credit card account so you can easily track your business expenses and evaluate how your business is doing. You can upload images of your receipts (less paper to hang on to) and categorize your expenses. Reviewing your business numbers often will help you figure out where to make adjustments as your business ebbs and flows and the platform is incredibly easy to use. Quickbooks online also makes it super easy for you to send a profit and loss report to your accountant for quarterly taxes. There is a monthly fee to use the software, but it’s worth it to keep your finances so organized.
Figure Out Your Business Expenses
Ok, now it’s time to start evaluating your numbers and estimating what your business expenses are going to be each month. Your business expenses may fluctuate, but getting a general idea of how much you have going out will help you figure out how to price yourself for the money that you’ll be bringing in.
Your business expenses can be written off, which is why it’s so important to keep track of them. For example, if you earn $50,000, but have $15,000 of eligible business expenses, you will only be taxed on $35,000.
Think of your business expenses as everything you need to run your business. Some examples of business expenses are:
- Camera Gear & Equipment
- Editing Software
- Utilities (internet, cell phone, etc)
- Business insurance
- Website Hosting
- Bookkeeping Software
If you’re ever not sure about what counts as a business expense, definitely discuss this with your accountant.
Figure Out Your Pricing
Figuring out your pricing is a very tricky topic for photographers. I remember how tough it was for me when I was first starting out. There isn’t a one-price-fits all approach with food photography and I kept trying to figure out that “universal number.”
So, how do you figure out your pricing when all photography projects are so different?
The good news is, pricing your work doesn’t need to be as hard as it seems. The only reason pricing feels so hard is because people can get stuck in an emotional mindset about it. There’s confusion, second guessing ourselves, “exposure” opportunities, worrying about pricing our work too high (or too low) and being overly curious about what other people are charging.
Set all that emotional stuff aside and start focusing on your own numbers. In order to figure out a general pricing model that makes sense for starting your food photography business, you need to think about the following things:
- Business expenses – What does your business cost you each month?
- Personal expenses – What do you need to pay yourself each month?
- What is your “desired” annual income after taxes?
- How often do you want to be working?
- What should you roughly charge per photography project to support numbers 1 – 4?
These questions are all about you – not what someone else is charging. But, being new to the business side of food photography, it can still be confusing. I wrote another post that talks about the expenses of food photography, so be sure to give it a read to help you navigate your pricing model.
READ MORE ABOUT: WHY FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY IS SO DAMN EXPENSIVE
Launch A Good Website
Having a website is very important for your photography business. Everyone is online and no matter what marketing efforts you try, potential clients will always come to your website to check out your work.
The problem is, a lot of photographers think that their work is all they need to highlight on their website. It’s a common misconception, because yes, your work is what will make you a good fit for the project or not.
But, are people able to find your website? Does it say how your different from your competitors? Is Google even ranking your website?
The truth is, launching a good website isn’t just about adding your food images. You also need to include copy to help clients learn more about what you offer and how you’re different. And, speaking of copy, it’s important to include SEO-friendly keywords so Google can rank your website when people are searching for your business.
I currently use Tonic Site Shop for my website and my blog and it has been the best marketing decision I’ve made for my business. Not only is my website beautiful, but I was able to implement copy and SEO strategies super easily that has helped my website show up in searches and get me more leads than ever before.
Check out the templates and see what you think. If you’re ready to make some changes to your website and love their templates as much as I do, use my code: REGANSENTME for 15% off your template purchase.
READ MORE ABOUT: HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY WEBSITE
Figure Out Your Marketing Plan
Getting clients is obviously an important part of being a photographer and how you decide to market yourself is going to help you get them.
How do you plan to connect with the clients that will be the right fit for you?
The main tools I use to market my photography business are my website, Pinterest, LinkedIn and email subscribers. I don’t invest my time or money in printed materials, cold calls or hustle to networking events or portfolio reviews. I like to keep it simple, budget-friendly and less exhausting so I can save my time and energy for the studio.
READ MORE ABOUT: PHOTOGRAPHY MARKETING TIPS
If you’ve made it this far in the post, congrats!! I know this was a lot of information to take in about starting a business in photography. It can be a really exciting time, but it can also be an overwhelming process to start thinking like a business person, not just a creative person. I hope this post helped outline important photography business tips to help you get started. Reach out with questions anytime!
Cheers to entrepreneurs!