Professional Contexts Blog

Business Skills and Business Plan (lecture 6)

The content of this lecture was taken from the following books;

How to Show Your Work by Creative Hub, What They Didn't Teach You in Photo School

by Demetrius Fordham and Setting up a Successful Photography Business

by Lisa Pritchard. I have bought my own physical copies of these books as I feel that they will be good to have. At the moment, I think that it will be best to read these after the final major project hand-in else I will feel very overwhelmed otherwise. Some points made in this lecture felt as though they won’t be relevant until quite far down the line, so having copies of these books would be useful to refer to.

This blog post is by far the longest, but for my future intentions, so much of the lecture was relevant to me so I did want to note all of it down



Most photographers work freelance, however staff jobs do still exist. The changing in demand and unpredictability may not be for everyone as it isn’t a 9-5 job with holidays and a secure salary. This uncertainty is why I would rather work freelance but also have a job alongside being a photographer, for financial security, but ideally this job would be one where I wouldn’t need to think about anything beyond clocking off for the day.


I have decided to put into order the list of things that James said you need to be a freelance photographer in order of what I feel I am the closest and furthest away from having at the moment to highlight what I need to work on in terms of self-development. At the moment, 9. and onwards are areas which do concern me.

  1. Drive and passion

  2. A photographic style

  3. Patience and a strong work ethic

  4. A professional attitude

  5. To be likeable

  6. Talent

  7. Confidence in your ability (though this fluctuates)

  8. To be entrepreneurial and have a mind for business

  9. To be realistic

  10. Communication skills

  11. Thick skin



Covering who actually buys photography was really useful for more clarity on who I want my clients to be, so who I need to be reaching out to and also so that I can read up on the industry, know who key figures are and the kind of work they are interested in. For me, this is the charity sector and newspapers with high-quality photography, possibly some brands, depending on their niche.


Some small businesses will purchase photography directly instead of going through an agency. Some companies may even have their own art directors, so it’s definitely a good idea to find these contacts to reference and get in touch with them.


Magazines and newspapers use photographers to shoot newsworthy events and for photographs to illustrate articles. There are around 8,000 magazines in publication in the UK so all kinds of niches and subject matter are needed to be photographed. This kind of photgraphy is known as editorial and picture editors/ art directors are your best way of entry. European and American clients pay significantly more than over here. They sometimes commission for a brief, but smaller magazines allow photographers to pitch an idea though it’s quite rare.


Other buyers are:

Catalogues; though this area is being replaced with cgi

Public relations companies to promote their clients’ products/ services

Record companies commission portrait and music photographers, often for PR purposes

Real-life experience is seen just as important as a qualification in this industry. Taking on jobs for free is a difficult area as sometimes, the experiences you have nay be worth not getting payed, but I suppose it is something you should weigh up yourself.

It’s surprising how many opportunities you can get from assisting a well-known photographer, even beyond then doing paid assisting. It would be useful assisting other areas of the industry to see a wider picture. The Telegraphs internship seems like a really good example of one where you get to experience a wide range of outputs. Websites like the AOP list companies who are offering internships. Make sure that when applying, you personalise ah cover letter, mention something specific to them.

I don’t want to work as a commercial photographer, so I am unsure if assisting would be that relevant to me and it is something that doesn’t really appeal to me at all, yet I know that it is what graduates often go onto doing and it can open more doors. When starting out you would be 3rd/4th assistant, then make your way up. Your job there is to assist, no one is interested in noosing your career and try to guess what the photographer needs without being asked. If you don’t know how to do something then ask but at the right moment and if you make a mistake, tell someone as soon as possible. Don’t share any photos or information about the shoot afterwards until the work has been published since it can get you in trouble. Try to not get offended if the photographer shouts at you as it can be a stressful environment.

I have written out a business plan as if I am already at the beginning of working as a freelancer, possibly around the point of my 6 month plan.


The mission statement (A summary of your photography business)

I am a freelance photographer working as a sole trader, based in the midlands but am willing to travel. Specialising in documentary as well as portraiture and shooting digitally to decrease fees, but images that have a film-like quality to them.


The product (Your photography niche and the services you offer)

I offer ambient photographs that document a story or situation, placing strong importance on the narrative and working around the natural light.


The market (Who will buy your photography)

I will promote my work to picture editors and such of newspapers and magazines who place an importance on having good quality photographs to go alongside stories, as well as to charities and any relevant business that have their own in-house art directors.


The financial plan (How will you afford to set yourself up to survive as a photographer in the first few yards what are your short and long term profit and loss forecasts?)

I have a part-time job alongside my photography work which has flexible hours. This enables me to cover my own costs of living. I used the deposit from my student house to get me started and the costs initially were low as I already had some equipment and was able to make the most of the universities facilities.


Operations management (consider the structure of your business and other business requirements)

It is unlikely that I will ever need to hire other members of staff, but at some point, an accountant may be useful to have to ensure that all taxes are paid properly and any incomes and outcomes are documented. I have insurance with Williamson and Carson and am a member of the AOP.


Sales and marketing (How do you propose to market yourself and get clients? prepare a marketing plan)

I have a website and Instagram which I update regularly and am easy to contact from them. Working within the editorial sector, my images are regularly seen as prints, so showing clients a printed portfolio is important to me, reaching out to clients asking them to meet me over a coffee to take a look at my prints. In the future, I will have a newsletter to send out to existing clients to update them with any major projects I have been working on. I also carry business cards around with me to networking events and having them to-hand in case I am ever approached as they are much easier than having to write out websites and contact information.

You need to think about how you will make being a photographer work financially- how you can afford to get up and running and stay that way when it is rare that you will have a guaranteed professional photographer. being a full time photographer will be a gradual process, so you can purchase equipment, studio spaces etc over time and will likely have some of these before your official day one.


A start-up checklist would be; a phone, office equipment inc a computer and printer (for contracts)m photographic equipment, basic marketing tools (a website), insurance, legal and other professional fees, enough money set aside or an alternative form may also be necessary as you start-up.


The best way of starting up is using your own money or borrowing from family and friends if you can avoid paying interest. When financial planning, think about how much your business will cost to run, what amount you need to survive on and how much income you have coming in.



The business structure most relevant for me would be a sole trader, also known as being self employed. Even though you may hire staff, ultimately it is you who is responsible for the business and liable for all of the debts. A partnership is a similar structure, but there are 2 or more of you trading together and both/ all liable, suitable for if you are working in a team as a joint venture.

The taxes you will be expected to pay are; income tax which has to be payed if you’re a sole trader on the money you earn, corporation tax if you’re a limited company, national insurance if you have full-time employees from their wages and VAT if you turnover a certain threshold. This threshold changes, so check with your local revenue office. In addition to reporting your income, you can also take every deduction you are legally entitled. Your VAT payments are made every quarter and you need to make sure to notify HM Revenue and Customs as you will be responsible for paying your taxes.

It may be better to get an accountant for about £400 a year for HMRC to go directly to. Keep a folder of your invoices going out and in and a copy of your bank statements. Keep these well-organised and send these to your accountant. You can use software like Google money or Sage to track whether you are at a profit or loss with each month or year. Keep receipts of your spending in case you are asked why you claimed tax back on something.

Williamson and Carson have been the appointed brokers for the Association of Photographers for the last 20 years. You can get insurance policies with them from anywhere from £5 to £15 a month or join a professional body like the AOP.

Employer’s liability insurance is necessary if you have any employees in the instance that anything happens to them on the job that causes injury.

Public liability insurance is not compulsory but covers you if your proven negligence causes damage to property or injury to a person, the insurance company will pay out even if you are found guilty.

Professional indemnity insurance covers any error by you or your employers such as infringement of property or contract rights. It should also cover your expenses from the incident of what the client should’ve paid to you ad additional costs incurred when trying to rectify a mistake.

Equipment insurance seems worth it in case you break your camera or lenses for example. Use a professional insurance broker for this. You can insure your physical insurance, the costs of re-shooting for example.

Make sure that if you go abroad, your insurance still applies when working in a different country.

It’s important to have a set of your own business terms and conditions which will act as a contract between you and your clients. They include legally enforceable obligations which protect your rights and limit your liabilities to avoid as many disputes possible. This is more relevant when working with private client rather than a commissioner.

Copyright- Your terms should always state that the copyright should always remain with the photographer

Usage- Clarify how the images can be used, any restrictions

Indemnity- You won’t do anything that you weren’t asked to do beforehand, you will stick to the agreed job

Payment terms- A request for full payment within 30 days is the norm and expenses should be paid by the client. Payment by received invoice and if not paid within the 30 days you can say that you will charge interest. Make it clear that the images can’t be used without full payment of the invoice.

Cancellation/ postponement- A clause saying that if the client cancels within 24hrs of the shoot, they still owe you 100%, 1 week 50%, 2 weeks 25%. However if it’s a long standing client with a good excuse fo cancelling and you haven’t had to turn down other work, you may reconsider

Rejection-In the case that the client rejects your images because they don’t like them, you can say something like ‘if the client isn’t present on the shoot, the photographers interpretation of the brief is deemed acceptable, unless stated in writing on the day of the shoot there is no right to reset on the bases of style or composition unless otherwise agreed’.

Liability- protect yourself by stating that you won’t be liable for any loss of profit by your client or any other claims resulting from the shoot. e.g if an advertising campaign is the same as a competitors and they want to sue, you are not liable

Always check that your own terms are in line with the clients and don’t be afraid to discuss money and clauses because it’s business.

Pricing photography seems quite difficult, especially since clients aren’t always upfront about budgets. The main indicator of pricing is how the image will be used. The photographer should always retain ownership of their photography, instead grant a temporary license aka a usage liscence or license fee. The more usage is required and the more commercial exposure an image might have, the higher the price.

You should never assign your copyright as this means that you no longer have control of where and how your images are used, they could be used for something you are against . You expose yourself to liability if your images are used in a wrong manner and someone wants to sue. If you sign over your copyright to someone, they can resell your images to third parties and benefit financially. The image can be altered but still be assumed to be your creation which could tarnish your own reputation.

When selling photography, we are granting a temporary usage licence which permit the buyer to reproduce the photograph in a specific and restricted way for a cost that reflects the extent of the usage. The license fee will depend in how the image is used- on what, where and how long for, what the photography will be used for and how the buyer will benefit or profit from it. The more commercial exposure an image gets, the more exposure it should be. Granting the listen is not a complicated legal process, you simply need to agree on a fee to cover the usage in writing. This is usually an estimate to begin with and then an invoice is sent , stating the usage licence is granted. Once it’s expired the buyer should no longer use the image unless an additional fee is paid. If they are still using the image without agreeing to and paying the fee, they will be in breech of copyright.


There is a tool on the AOP that tells you how much you should be charging once you have entered all of the relevant information. The three main markets are commercial, editorial and consumer. The market you choose to work within affects your pricing, for editorial, the license will probably last about 30 days.



The commercial market is what will earn you the most money, but it is an area that currently I don’t think would be enjoyable for me, unless the images were to document such as charities.

The editorial market makes work for print. When granting licences, if not careful you can loose control of where your images are going. How much you charge depends on the publication, for example you would charge more for images for time magazine than you would do a local newspaper. The time in which you work on an editorial project can vary greatly as it could be a day or two or for several years on a book.

Commisioned photography is shot to a brief and created for a specific purpose.



I was quite suprised when James said that where we are at the moment we should be charging at least £300 a day, £150 for half a day as I expected it to be around half of that .

The usage fee is the rate for shooting the images which includes usage fees.

Travel fee covers the time it takes to get to the location, you would only charge this if the shoot isn’t local. About 40p a mile if you’re driving or the cost of your train ticket

Recce fee- sometimes it’s necessary for you to do a recce of a location to make sure the light, the size and so on is suitable if it’s a bigger project/

Casting fee- For the time it takes you to find models, equipment, props

Pre-light fee- If you’re assisting on a big shoot and having to set everything up the day before

Pre-production fee- Anything else you’re expected to do beforehand eg. talking with clients or models

Post-production fee- the cost of sorting out all of the files, James usually charges an additional half-rate for this alongside the full day rate.

A day rate is 8 hours, a half-day is 4 hours and should include the time it takes to do everything like travel, setting up, styling etc.

You can also look up the industry ‘going rate’ to see what clients are generally used to paying, these should be on photography associations websites.

You can charge more if you have more experience or are in a specialist area.

If you’re in London, you can charge more if there is an economic boom in a few years you can charge more and can also base it on the client and what their budget will be because of what they’re used to paying.

There will be some maths involved to work out what you need to be charging to cover your costs. Business overheads- you need to work out how much it costs to run your business on an annual basis.

Personal survival income- the salary you need to earn to pay your personal expenses


To work out your minimum day rate, you could add your business overheads to your personal survival income, then divide by the amount of days you expect to work per year.


Alternatively, to work out the minimum number of days you need to work at the fees you want to achieve, divide the sum of your business overheads and survival income by your desired fee.