Category Archives: Running a Photography Business

Running a Photography Business, Business Models

business plan triangle

Following on from the previous two posts about starting up a photography business, post one and post two, we now cover adding the detail to your business model. The three choices, highlighted above, together, create a configuration that is permanent. The individual business model components may undergo constant incremental change. Wholesale, radical change of any one element (e.g., serving an entirely new customer group) will be inhibited by the other two model elements.

While each element is a necessary (but not sufficient) component of a business model, the three are not equally important.

  • Business models are built around customers. They’re the most important element.
  • Without a compelling value proposition, there are neither revenues nor profits.
  • Resources and capabilities are strategic only to the extent that they fulfill the promises (explicit and implied) made to the customer through the value proposition.

1. Customer – who will the business serve? – for instance families, teenagers, maybe schools, businesses via product shots or covering events. Think about how frequently customers come to buy from you and the value as a proportion of sales that each contributes. A good mix of high frequency, lower value and low frequency, higher value is something we aim for.

2. Value proposition – “offer” that will be made to the customer. Marry experience, with a physical product at the end of it. Barrier to entry lays in the expertise and relatively med/ high capital costs of getting such a business started.

3. Resources and capabilities – will create/deliver the value propositionIncludes:

  •  Suppliers
  • Staff
  • Equipment
  • Expertise
  • Pricing / Cost structure

some examples include Photographer skill and expertise (which is still the key ingredient) and equipment, Studio facilities, Graphic designers and equipment, Framers and framing equipment, Stylists and hairdressers providing services providing support services, Clothing suppliers – ball gowns, evening dresses, wedding dresses.

All these points need to be considered when looking to start your own photography business. Doing your own research is critical, preparation, preparation, preparation is as important as location, location, location.

Running a Photography Business, Revenue and Cost model


Understanding your businesses financial profile is key to establishing pricing strategies that will ensure you are charging enough to make a profit and stay in business. So many photographers look to undercut competition to gain market share without understanding how this pricing strategy is going to affect their goal of turning a profit. Above is a model of how costs and revenues can be categorised to understand this alittle better. All of this information can be found in the profit and loss account of any businesses financials statements.

Costs are made up of :

COGS (cost of goods sold) which refers to the inventory costs of those goods a business has sold during a particular period. Costs are associated with particular goods using one of several formulas, including specific identification, first-in first-out (FIFO), or average cost. Costs include all costs of purchase, costs of conversion and other costs incurred in bringing the inventories to their present location and condition. Costs of goods made by the business include :

  • Raw Material costs
  • Direct Labour costs
  • allocted overhead costs
  • Direct sales costs

The costs of those goods not yet sold are deferred as costs of inventory until the inventory is sold or written down in value.which are direct costs of producing the goods and services that the business produces/provides.

Variable Costs include things that vary with the volume of output, these can often include many of the same things listed under COGS, items such as electricity and gas useage that cannot be directly allocated to COGS may also be added. When we were looking at our businesses financial model we found that most of our variable costs were also our COGS.

Fixed Costs – Are made up of costs that don’t change with variations in a businesses output. Things such as Rents, Rates, insurances, administration labour costs etc

Gross Profit – is calculated by taking away the COGS from the Total Revenue (Turnover). Gross profit can be converted to gross margin which is the same figure represented as a percentage. Gross Margin Percentage = (Revenue-Cost of goods sold)/Revenue. Your Gross margin will tell you what contribution your sales will make to your fixed costs.

Gross margin is an important figure to know when you are trying to establish what level of sales you would need to achieve to cover your total costs.  Lets assume your fixed costs are £1000 per month. Your Gross margin is 60% of your sales. 1000/.60(60%) = £1666.66. You would need to achieve £1666.66 of sales to cover your COGS and fixed costs.  This is also known as the breakeven point. So lets have a quick look how this might actually be used in practice. Lets assume you decide to rent a larger shop unit than the one you are currently renting now and you want to work out how much more business you need to bring in to pay the extra cost. Lets assume you are currently paying rent of £600 per month and the new shop is going to cost £800 per month, an extra £200. How much extra business do you need to bring in pay for the extra rent, £200? Wrong! Lets assume your gross margin is 60% You would need to bring in not £200 but £333,33. Why? Well because the extra £200 is a fixed cost (your rent), but as you sell extra products to cover the additional rent, you are also incurring extra COGS to produce those products. So for every additional £1 of sales, you are incurring £040 cost of goods sold (COGS). Which means that only £0.6o (gross profit) is actually going towards your extra rent costs. So when you have sold the extra £333.33 of products you will have covered your rent £200 and the additional COGS £133.33. The calculation is fixed cost (£200)/GM .6 (60%) = £333.33

Net Profit is calculated by taking away Total Costs from Total Revenue. Also known as the “bottom line” due to the fact that it can be found at the bottom of the profit and loss account. This is what is left after all costs have been accounted for. Of course a negative figure means that  the business is loss making.

Deciding which costs fall under which category can vary considerably from business to business, In our business, some parts of our advertising costs are allocated under COGS, while others are categorised as a fixed cost due to the fact that they are contracted on a yearly basis and don’t alter depending on output. Same with our labour costs. We put photographer payments as a COGS but administration labour costs under fixed costs. It is best to consult your accountant for further advise if you are still unsure how to categorise each of your costs.

Disclaimer, release and acknowledgment
Mike Turner, is not a financial planner, adviser, registered accountant or financial professional. The information presented in this blog is based on his personal experiences as business owner, researcher, and others he has modelled in detail. You may have to modify them, do further research on them or adapt them to suit your personal financial situation. Any information presented on this blog, or any support materials, are given purely as illustrations and should not be construed as specific investment recommendations. The laws relating to investment, taxation, benefits, and the handling of money are constantly changing and are often subject to changes in government policy, and whilst every care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the material contained herein at the time of publication and presentation, Mike Turner will not bear any responsibility or liability for any action taken by any person, persons or organisations on the purported basis of information contained in this blog, or any supporting material.
Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, no person, persons or organisations should invest monies or take other action on reliance of the material contained in this blog, or any support material, but instead should satisfy themselves independently (whether by expert advice or otherwise) or the appropriateness of any such action.

Running a Photography Business, Getting Started

The 5 P's slide
In our previous blog we briefly talked about what this blog would be aiming to cover, today we continue to discuss the construction of a business model when you first start off your photography business.

Knowing which aspect of photography you are going to do professionally is key to the way you develop your business model. Are you going to be a social photographer? Undertaking weddings, and possibly portraits or are you going to be a wedding photographer only. Would you prefer to undertake commercial photography? Capture products for use in catalogues or on the web. Will you require a studio or can you get away from being home based? All these questions need to be answered before you can begin to formulate you business plan.

In my case I decided that my area of expertise was in Weddings, Portraits and Makeovers. I knew that I would need a studio in order to make a living from portraiture and makeovers, because you can never depend on the weather here in UK, to schedule five or six portrait sessions in one day. Any sign of rain and a full days program goes out the window. The same problem exists for weddings but the key difference is you have an option to use the wedding venue if the weather takes a turn for the worst.

These are all issues that need to be considered. Once you have established these key points you can then start to put together your business plan.
Again going back to my particular circumstances. I had decided that I needed a studio to work from. I looked around at a number of locations and ultimately decided to go for my studio in Lowton. I have had to go through this process a number of times previously so had a bit of experience in knowing what locations would best suit my business. These included:
• Good prominent main road position,
• Good parking facilities,
• Residential area close by,
• Easy access from motorway network

I avoided a town centre location mainly because of the parking issue. I personally avoid visiting town centres mainly because of the difficulty in finding parking spaces close to where I want to shop, that is partly why supermarkets have done so well, free easy to access parking spaces. My studio in Lowton is possibly the best location I have had a studio because the studio has its own ample parking facilities, it is easy to access from all locations, from Bolton, Liverpool, Manchester, Widnes, St. Helens as it is just off the East Lancs Road and close to Junction 22 and 23 of the M6.

When I met the landlord I thought he seemed a genuinely nice, accommodating person who was easy to talk to and seemed concerned about his tenants. As it as turns out, whenever there is any issue he is quick to put things right. I also spoke to other people that knew him and they all spoke very highly of him. This was a big plus for me. When I was looking at other studios some where owned by big faceless organisations with headquarters in city centre Manchester that seemed very impersonal and this really put me off at the time. Some had be left empty for a long time and were suffering from dampness and had a big pile of mail behind the door, as if they had not been visited by the landlords for months if not years. This I view as a warning and I decided not to progress with these properties.

When you are starting off in business for the first time it is vital that you tread carefully when looking for a location, often leases can be 10 years plus and if you get it wrong you could end up stuck in a place that is completely wrong for your business. Paying off a 10 year lease is not a consideration for most people so you are stuck with it. As they say location, location, location.

So now you have your business model partially established.

Next time we will be exploring more about adding detail to the business model, using the diagram below

business plan triangle

Running a Photography Business

Mike Turner Photography failing to plan is planning to fail
Mike Turner Photography: failing to plan is planning to fail

Having run a number of businesses over the past 10 years, and working in Production management before that, has given me a good grounding in all aspect of running both small and large businesses. I enjoy working in my own business, because of the variety of things I can get involved with, finances, sales and marketing, and the creative aspects of creating something to sell. Many of the aspect of running a photography business, translate into skills that apply to any type of business. In its simplest form a business, whether photography related or otherwise has three main components.

1. Having something to sell (product or service),
2. And someone to sell to (customer).
3. Having some form of business process that links the two together (business model). This is the how-to part of the equation. How do you generate revenue from your product or service? How do your customers interact with your business model? Indeed what kinds of business models exist?

Over the course of the next few months I will be posting content that will endeavour to answer these questions in greater detail. We will be covering all aspects of running a photography business.

  • Sales and marketing
  • Market research
  • Psychology – which applies to all aspects of business
  • Financial control
  • Wealth building
  • Debt management
  • Investing for the future

My goal is to share the wealth of information, gathered from years of research, and trial and error. I love to read and gather all things business related, very geeky I admit, but something I love to do in my spare time, to keep the grey matter active. All of the information I will be presenting is out there, on the internet, in books, and blogs (albeit not photography related), but making all this information into something practical and ultimately useful is another thing, I guess that is where the line between success and failure lays.


Flash diffuser available to buy

buy a flash diffuser at Mike Turner Photography
buy a flash diffuser at Mike Turner Photography

Take photos like the pros. We have been using this Diffuser for all our wedding and portrait photo-shoots on location. Ideal for indoor and outdoor photography, now available to buy. Having used our original version for over 4 years, we have further modified and strengthened the design and machine sewn to further strengthen. We use it on and off camera and prefer it to any other diffuser we have used. Doesn’t waste as much power as bouncing off ceilings or walls, and provides a large bounce area that provides a nice soft light particularly close up. Strong and very lightweight it provides the ideal mobile diffuser solution and at a price that won’t break the bank.