Over the past 20+ years, we have helped over 10,000 entrepreneurs and business owners create business plans to start and grow their photography businesses. On this page, we will first give you some background information with regards to the importance of business planning. We will then go through a photography business plan template step-by-step so you can create your plan today.
What Is a Business Plan?
A business plan provides a snapshot of your photography business as it stands today, and lays out your growth plan for the next five years. It explains your business goals and your strategy for reaching them. It also includes market research to support your plans.
Why You Need a Business Plan
If you’re looking to start a photography business or grow your existing photography business you need a business plan. A business plan will help you raise funding, if needed, and plan out the growth of your photography business in order to improve your chances of success. Your photography business plan is a living document that should be updated annually as your company grows and changes.
Source of Funding for Photography Businesses
With regards to funding, the main sources of funding for a photography business are personal savings, credit cards, bank loans and angel investors. With regards to bank loans, banks will want to review your business plan and gain confidence that you will be able to repay your loan and interest. To acquire this confidence, the loan officer will not only want to confirm that your financials are reasonable. But they will want to see a professional plan. Such a plan will give them the confidence that you can successfully and professionally operate a business.
The second most common form of funding for a photography business is angel investors. Angel investors are wealthy individuals who will write you a check. They will either take equity in return for their funding, or, like a bank, they will give you a loan.
Photography Business Plan Template
Your photography business plan should include 10 sections as follows:
Your executive summary provides an introduction to your business plan, but it is normally the last section you write since it provides a summary of each key section of your plan.
The goal of your Executive Summary is to quickly engage the reader. Explain to them the type of photography business you are operating and the status; for example, are you a startup or do you have a photography business that you would like to grow.
Next, provide an overview of each of the subsequent sections of your plan. For example, give a brief overview of the photography industry. Discuss the type of photography business you are operating. Detail your direct competitors. Give an overview of your target customers. Provide a snapshot of your marketing plan. Identify the key members of your team. And offer an overview of your financial plan.
In your company analysis, you will detail the type of photography business you are operating.
For example, you might operate one of the following types:
- Portrait photography: this type of photography business photographs people ranging from models to famous personalities on red carpets or at magazine shoots to graduation pictures, family portraits, and professional headshots for business people, aspiring models and actors.
- Product photography: this type of photography business typically requires both artistic and technical expertise to adequately showcase consumer products.
- Wedding and event photography: this type of photography business usually involves photographing everything from posed portraits to people and their candid moments to the venue and the food at weddings and other events.
- Commercial photography: this type of photography business creates images for commercial purposes, such as advertising, marketing or instructional brochures or publications.
In addition to explaining the type of photography business you operate, the Company Analysis section of your business plan needs to provide background on the business.
Include answers to question such as:
- When and why did you start the business?
- What milestones have you achieved to date? Milestones could include sales goals you’ve reached, prestigious clients, etc.
- Your legal structure. Are you incorporated as an S-Corp? An LLC? A sole proprietorship? Explain your legal structure here.
In your industry analysis, you need to provide an overview of the photography business.
While this may seem unnecessary, it serves multiple purposes.
First, researching the photography industry educates you. It helps you understand the market in which you are operating.
Secondly, market research can improve your strategy particularly if your research identifies market trends. For example, if there was a trend towards documentary-style event photography, it would be helpful to ensure your plan calls for instant cameras for guest contributions, or a drone, etc.
The third reason for market research is to prove to readers that you are an expert in your industry. By conducting the research and presenting it in your plan, you achieve just that.
The following questions should be answered in the industry analysis section of your photography business plan:
- How big is the photography business (in dollars)?
- Is the market declining or increasing?
- Who are the key competitors in the market?
- Who are the key suppliers in the market?
- What trends are affecting the industry?
- What is the industry’s growth forecast over the next 5 – 10 years?
- What is the relevant market size? That is, how big is the potential market for your photography business. You can extrapolate such a figure by assessing the size of the market in the entire country and then applying that figure to your local population.
The customer analysis section of your photography business plan must detail the customers you serve and/or expect to serve.
The following are examples of customer segments: celebrities, expectant and/or new moms, engaged couples, schools, online retailers, etc.
As you can imagine, the customer segment(s) you choose will have a great impact on the type of photography business you operate. Clearly schools would want different backdrops, pricing and product options, and would respond to different marketing promotions than engaged couples.
Try to break out your target customers in terms of their demographic and psychographic profiles. With regards to demographics, include a discussion of the ages, genders, locations and income levels of the customers you seek to serve. Because most photography businesses primarily serve customers living in their same city or town, such demographic information is easy to find on government websites.
Psychographic profiles explain the wants and needs of your target customers. The more you can understand and define these needs, the better you will do in attracting and retaining your customers.
Your competitive analysis should identify the indirect and direct competitors your business faces and then focus on the latter.
Direct competitors are other photography businesses.
Indirect competitors are other options that customers have to purchase from you that aren’t direct competitors. This includes amateur photographers and DIY-ers with smartphones. You need to mention such competition to show you understand that not everyone who needs photography uses a professional photographer.
With regards to direct competition, you want to detail the other photography businesses with which you compete. Most likely, your direct competitors will be photography businesses offering similar services in a nearby location.
For each such competitor, provide an overview of their businesses and document their strengths and weaknesses. Unless you once worked at your competitors’ businesses, it will be impossible to know everything about them. But you should be able to find out key things about them such as:
- What types of customers do they serve?
- What services do they offer?
- What is their pricing (premium, low, etc.)?
- What are they good at?
- What are their weaknesses?
With regards to the last two questions, think about your answers from the customers’ perspective.
The final part of your competitive analysis section is to document your areas of competitive advantage. For example:
- Will you provide superior photography services?
- Will you provide products or services that your competitors don’t offer?
- Will you make it easier or faster for customers to book your services?
- Will you provide better customer service?
- Will you offer better pricing?
Think about ways you will outperform your competition and document them in this section of your plan.
Traditionally, a marketing plan includes the four P’s: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. For a photography business plan, your marketing plan should include the following:
Product: in the product section you should reiterate the type of photography business that you documented in your Company Analysis. Then, detail the specific products and services you will be offering. For example, in addition to portraits, will you offer a documentary video of the shoot?
Price: Document the prices you will offer and how they compare to your competitors. Essentially in the product and price sub-sections of your marketing plan, you are presenting the menu services and packages you offer and their prices.
Place: Place refers to the location of your photography business. Document your location and mention how the location will impact your success. For example, is your photography studio located next to a high-traffic retail development, or inside a mall, etc. Discuss how your location might provide a steady stream of customers.
Promotions: the final part of your photography business marketing plan is the promotions section. Here you will document how you will drive customers to your location(s). The following are some promotional methods you might consider:
- Making your photography studio’s storefront (if applicable) extra appealing to attract passing customers
- Advertising in local papers and magazines
- Social media marketing
- Reaching out to local bloggers and websites
- Partnerships with local organizations (e.g., package discount when booked through partner wedding planner)
- Local radio advertising
- Banner ads at local venues
While the earlier sections of your business plan explained your goals, your operations plan describes how you will meet them. Your operations plan should have two distinct sections as follows.
Everyday short-term processes include all of the tasks involved in running your photography business such as serving customers, procuring supplies, scouting new photoshoot locations, etc.
Long-term goals are the milestones you hope to achieve. These could include the dates when you expect to serve your 100th customer, or when you hope to reach $X in sales. It could also be when you expect to hire your Xth employee or launch a new location.
To demonstrate your photography business’s ability to succeed as a business, a strong management team is essential. Highlight your key players’ backgrounds, emphasizing those skills and experiences that prove their ability to grow a company.
Ideally you and/or your team members have direct experience in the photography business. If so, highlight this experience and expertise. But also highlight any experience that you think will help your business succeed.
Your financial plan should include your 5-year financial statement broken out both monthly or quarterly for the first year and then annually. Your financial statements include your income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statements.
Income Statement: an income statement is more commonly called a Profit and Loss statement or P&L. It shows your revenues and then subtracts your costs to show whether you turned a profit or not.
In developing your income statement, you need to devise assumptions. For example, will you serve 10 customers per month or 50? And will sales grow by 2% or 10% per year? As you can imagine, your choice of assumptions will greatly impact the financial forecasts for your business. As much as possible, conduct research to try to root your assumptions in reality.
Balance Sheets: While balance sheets include much information, to simplify them to the key items you need to know about, balance sheets show your assets and liabilities. For instance, if you spend $100,000 on building out your photography business, that will not give you immediate profits. Rather it is an asset that will hopefully help you generate profits for years to come. Likewise, if a bank writes you a check for $100.000, you don’t need to pay it back immediately. Rather, that is a liability you will pay back over time.
Cash Flow Statement: Your cash flow statement will help determine how much money you need to start or grow your business, and make sure you never run out of money. What most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t realize is that you can turn a profit but run out of money and go bankrupt. For example, let’s say a company approached you with a massive $100,000 product photography contract, that would cost you $50,000 to fulfill. Well, in most cases, you would have to pay that $50,000 now for supplies, equipment rentals, employee salaries, etc. But let’s say the company didn’t pay you for 180 days. During that 180 day period, you could run out of money.
In developing your Income Statement and Balance Sheets be sure to include several of the key costs needed in starting or growing a photography business:
- Location build-out including design fees, construction, etc.
- Cost of equipment like cameras, lights, film, backdrops and props, software, etc.
- Cost of ingredients and maintaining an adequate amount of supplies
- Payroll or salaries paid to staff
- Business insurance
- Taxes and permits
- Legal expenses
Attach your full financial projections in the appendix of your plan along with any supporting documents that make your plan more compelling. For example, you might include your studio design blueprint or location lease.
Photography Business Plan Summary
Putting together a business plan for your photography business is a worthwhile endeavor. If you follow the template above, by the time you are done, you will truly be an expert. You will really understand the photography business, your competition and your customers. You will have developed a marketing plan and will really understand what it takes to launch and grow a successful photography business.
Want more tips? Read our guide on How to Start a Photography Business.
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