Photography Business Plan: A Step-by-Step Guide

Do you have to make a photography business plan if you want to start a photography business?

Of course not. All you need to get started are sound photography skills, basic photography equipment and editing software, and the drive to make money.

But a business plan can really help you to get organized, focus your efforts—and ultimately make more money.

The thing is, when you run your own business, you can get so focused on the work itself that you forget to pause and think about the big picture—things like where do I want to go, and how am I actually going to get there?

In this article, I’m going to cover practical advice for creating a business plan for your photography work, with simple charts to help you allocate time to do the work and some different ways to think about what you actually need to include.


Why I Created My First Photography Business Plan

I’ve been doing wedding photography for about 13 years. And I didn’t have a business plan for the first several years of my work. 

But eventually I realized I needed to get more strategic and thoughtful if I was really going to grow my business. So I stepped back and went through the exercise of creating a business plan. 

Then it became something I did periodically, to help me refocus and redefine my goals and plan for achieving them.

Today, I make six figures a year as a wedding photographer. And business planning has been key to my success.

Honestly, I would have benefitted from creating a business plan a lot earlier than I did. Most people—myself included—only take the time to make a plan when they’re at a crisis moment and they realize they really need to step back and do some strategic thinking. For me, it was because we’d just had a baby and needed more income. 

A good photography business plan gives you the structure for this kind of thinking.

Keep reading for guidance on when to create a plan for your photography business, the key parts of a good plan, and an example plan.

Why—and When—to Make a Business Plan for Photography

A photography business plan isn’t just paperwork—it’s your roadmap to success. 

Done well, your plan should help you do things like identify your target market, clearly define or refine your niche, and set realistic financial goals. 

For photographers just starting out, a business plan can be a game-changer. It will guide you through marketing, pricing, and identifying essential gear, saving you some of the headaches of stumbling through trial and error to pin these things down. 

And for those who already have steady income from photography, a business plan can help you make even more.

But when exactly do you need a business plan? 

Here’s a quick rule of thumb.

If you’re:

  • Just starting your business and you’re serious about turning it into your full-time job.
  • Have been doing some photography work on the side but now you want to turn it into a full-time gig.
  • Already have a photography business and want to grow it in terms of clients, revenue, and types of work you offer.
  • Need to tighten your belt and want to get more intentional with how much you make and how much you spend.
  • Looking for funding or partnerships for your photography business.

→ It’s a good time to create a photography business plan

On the other hand, if you’re:

  • Just testing the waters to see what doing photography work might be like.
  • Freelancing here and there with no plans to do more.
  • Slowly building your portfolio while doing a full-time job you like, with no definite plan for turning photography into a serious income stream.

→ You probably don’t need a photography business plan

Remember, it’s yours to make

Even if you don’t want to create a full business plan, you could probably benefit from taking some time to reflect on your business.

Set aside a few hours to think about your budget, how much you want to make, and how you plan to make it. 

Do things like: 

  • Making projections for the next 6-12 months for both income and expenses.
  • Reviewing your marketing efforts to see how well they’re performing.
  • Brainstorming how you’ll get your next 10 clients, or next 50. 

Just pausing to think about any one of these things can be a great exercise to help you feel more focused and grounded in the work you’re doing. 

And these are just a few examples. I’d recommend skimming the business plan sections we cover below and choosing the ones you think will help you most.

You may not need 90% of what’s included in most formal business plans. But that last 10% could have a big impact on how you think about your photography work—and, most importantly, on how much money you make over the next few years. 

Defining Your Photography Business

Before you dive into creating a business plan it’s helpful to define your business model.

Are you planning to work as a freelancer, offering services directly to clients at their locations? Or do you want to open a studio, where customers come to your carefully crafted space? 

It’s important to decide, because the way you work will define the work itself.

  • A freelance model offers flexibility, requiring less initial investment and allowing you to adapt quickly to on-location photography niches like weddings, events, or portraits. 
  • A studio model requires a bigger investment but it also allows you to create a controlled environment, which is ideal for high-end portraits, commercial work, or product photography. 

Along with deciding how you want to work, choose the niche(s) you want to do.

As we’ve already mentioned, the niche you choose will dovetail with the model of how you do the work. 

If you want to shoot weddings and events, you’ll be a freelancer, with no need for a studio. But if you want to shoot portraits for families, graduations, or business headshots, you may want to get a studio.

What Should Be Included in a Photography Business Plan

Here are the key components of any business plan for photography:*

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Market Analysis
  • Organization and Management Structure
  • Services Offered
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy
  • Financial Projections
  • Funding Requirements (if applicable)
  • Risk Management Strategy
  • Appendix (contracts, permits, legal documents)

*Or any other business

The Lean Photography Business Plan

Many photography businesses are one-person shows. 

If this is true for you, and you don’t plan to seek investors or hire employees, then you probably just need a lean version of a business plan.

That looks like this:

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Market Analysis
  • Organization and Management Structure
  • Services Offered
  • Marketing and Sales Strategy
  • Financial Projections
  • Funding Requirements (if applicable)
  • Risk Management Strategy
  • Appendix (contracts, permits, legal documents)

Remember, the plan is just for you, not anyone else.

And since that’s the case, everything you put into it should be tailored for your needs. 

On the other hand, if you were making a business plan to get investors, then you’d want your market analysis to demonstrate opportunities for growth and show a real sense for your market, with data-backed claims and charts, making an argument for why someone should take a gamble on investing in your business. 

But since it’s just for you, your market analysis can focus solely on how you’re going to make money: Identifying gaps in competition in your area, proposing packages or services you could offer that no one else is offering, or detailing other creative ways to make more money. 

And again, because the plan is only for you, maybe you decide you do want to include a risk management strategy even though I crossed it off above in the Lean Plan. Or maybe you’d like an appendix because you want to make sure your ducks are all in a row. 

I dig it. Do whatever you want!

The point is, the plan is yours to make and it should serve you and your goals alone.

Don’t waste time writing out information that won’t help you. If you think a section won’t meet your needs, skip it, and move on to the work that will really help your business flourish.

Business Plan for Photography: Key Components Explained

Above we listed the key components for making a business plan, then showed you a stripped down version for those who work alone.

Now, we’ll take a closer look at each component of the plan, defining it in detail so you can go and make your own.

Executive Summary

Remember, it’s a summary. Keep it short, ideally to no more than a page.

What to include:

  • Who you are. Briefly outline your photography business’s goals, niche(s), and services. Also, make it personal—talk about why you specifically want to do this work and why you’re well suited for it.
  • Why your business should exist. List your unique selling points, including things like your creative style, special client experience, or a gap in the market in your area (for example: When you Google “event photography [MY CITY]“ there’s no results—this is a great opportunity!). 
  • How you plan to sell. Highlight your target market and vision for growth. 
  • Goals for your business. How much do you want to make in month 1? Or year 1? Do you want to rank #1 for “wedding photographer Grand Rapids”? Do you want to be the preferred wedding photographer of the top five wedding planners in your area? Make your goals clear, concise, and actionable.

Business/Company Description

This is a detailed overview of your photography business. Creating this section is a chance for you to clarify what your business is about and its foundational elements. Being clear on these details will help you distinguish yourself in the market in your marketing materials, and when talking to potential clients or others in your industry.

What to include:

  • Business overview. Describe the core aspects of your business, including the type of photography you specialize in (e.g., weddings, portraits, events) and the services you offer. Ideally keep it to 1-2 sentences.
  • Mission statement. Summarize your business’s mission and what drives your passion for photography. This should reflect your values and commitment to your clients.
  • Unique value proposition. Highlight what sets your business apart from competitors, such as your distinctive style, exceptional customer service, or innovative techniques.
  • Business structure. Specify your business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, LLC, partnership) and any key team members or roles.
  • Location. Mention your business’s physical location, even if it’s home-based, and any areas you serve (local, regional, international).
  • Business history. Provide a brief history if you have been in operation for some time. For new businesses, explain the background and experience that led to starting your venture.

Market Analysis

This section should demonstrate a solid understanding of the market landscape and your position in it. The goal of this section is to show how your business fits into the market.

What to include:

  • Define your market. Analyze your target market by identifying your ideal clients and their needs. 
  • Define your competition. Evaluate your competition by identifying key competitors and analyzing their strengths and weaknesses. 
  • How can you win? Highlight opportunities for growth and potential threats. You might win because no one is offering what you plan to offer or you might win because there are a lot of people offering the same thing, but you plan to do it better, or differently, or using channels to reach new clients that no one else has. (For example, if your sister is the most successful wedding planner in town, even though there may be lots of other wedding photographers in your area you might have a guaranteed client base if she’s willing to partner with you.)

Pro tip: Roll up your sleeves and get started.

Don’t be intimidated by this section. Just start Googling and see who comes up in your area. 

Look at their prices and how long they’ve been working. This research could lead you to realize that the niche you chose is oversaturated, and help you decide to either refine your niche to stand out, pick a different niche, or add some other way to make money, like selling photos online, to make sure you’re hedging your bets.

Organization and Management Structure

If it’s just you this will go pretty fast (or you might skip it altogether, as we suggest above in the Lean Plan). But if you have employees, partners, or freelancers you’re managing, it can be really helpful to clearly define everyone’s roles.

What to include:

  • Who does what. Outline your business’s organizational structure, detailing the roles and responsibilities of each team member. Introduce key personnel and highlight their relevant experience and qualifications. 
  • Org chart. Create an organizational chart to visualize the hierarchy. 
  • Explain why it’s structured this way. Explain how your management structure supports your business goals and ensures smooth operations. 
  • Plans for growth. Discuss any plans for future hiring and team expansion.

Services Offered

What do you sell? And how do you package and price it? 

What to include:

  • Clearly list services. Describe each service in detail, including pricing, packages, and any customizable options. 
  • Highlight specialized services. Highlight any specialized services that differentiate your business, such as destination weddings, commercial photography, or drone photography. 
  • Distinguish your services. Make sure to emphasize the quality and value your services bring to clients, supported by testimonials or case studies if available.

Pro tip: Spend time on this. 

How you package and price your services may not seem that important. But spending time being thoughtful here can really help uplevel your business. 

You may decide to beat your competition in pricing. Or you may decide to have an introductory package that beats your competition along with a more expensive package that lets you upsell to those who want more. Or you may decide to have the most expensive offering out there to differentiate yourself as the highest quality photographer in your niche (I’ve done something like this, and it paid off immensely). 

The bottom line is, I highly recommend spending time thinking about what you offer and how you package and price it.

Marketing and Sales Strategy

Marketing = letting people know you exist and sales = getting them to hire you. At bottom, the two work together to keep your photography business making money. This section covers both activities, highlighting your strategies for getting new clients and keeping the ones you have.

What to include:

  • Marketing tactics. Cover how you will market your services in detail, discussing specific marketing tactics, including using online channels like SEO, social media, or digital ads and offline channels like mailers, fliers, or print ads. Don’t forget to include partnerships with local businesses related to your work and tactics for encouraging referrals.
  • Sales process. Outline your sales process from lead generation (i.e., potential clients) to closing deals and follow-up (i.e., actual clients). 
  • Promotional activities. Highlight any promotional activities, partnerships, or events you plan to do. 
  • Brand strategy. Include your branding strategy and how you intend to build and maintain a strong brand presence. 

Pro tip: Don’t do everything. Start by doing just a few things that you know actually work.

You don’t have to be a marketing expert to run a successful photography business. As long as you have a few key ways to attract new clients, you’ll be fine. 

Using wedding photography as an example, this section could be as simple as: 

  • Outreach. Meeting every wedding planner in my area and making sure they’re aware of my services + reaching out to all the wedding venues in my area.
  • Referrals/word-of-mouth. Encourage word of mouth by offering discounts to referred clients and asking happy clients to refer you.
  • Social media. Post to Instagram with relevant tags 3/week.
  • SEO—keywording. Do basic SEO keywording so people searching for my niche in my area can find me (for example, “Boise wedding photographer”)
  • SEO—Google My Business. Ask every happy client for a Google My Business review to improve my presence in local SEO.

Financial Projections

Provide a detailed financial forecast for your photography business, including projected income, expenses, and profitability over the next 1-3 years. 

For those working just for themselves, the goal here is to make realistic projections about how much your business will make in revenue and how much you’ll need to spend to make that amount. Then, see if you’re happy with those numbers. If you’re not, start playing with the projections to see what you’d have to do based on your current expenses and revenue to make more.

(If this is just for you, you can leave out the financial statements portion.)

What to include:

  • Cover assumptions. Discuss assumptions underlying your projections and any anticipated seasonal variations in revenue. Highlight your break-even analysis and expected return on investment.
  • Different projections. Model different scenarios to help you understand what the future could look like depending on how much you invest, both in terms of time and cash. Doing these projections could inspire you to focus on growing your business, since you’ll be able to see what your return could look like if you made a bigger investment.
  • Financial statements. Include key financial statements, such as income statements, cash flow statements, and balance sheets. 

Risk Management Strategy

Identify potential risks that could impact your photography business, such as market competition, economic downturns, or technological changes. 

What to include:

  • Risk mitigation. Outline your strategies for reducing these risks, including contingency plans and insurance coverage. 
  • Address different types of risk. Discuss how you plan to manage financial, operational, and reputational risks. 

Funding Requirements (if applicable)

If you are seeking funding, outline your funding requirements clearly. (This probably won’t apply to most photography business owners, though bringing in an investor is definitely a viable way to grow your business fast.)

What to include:

  • How much you need. Specify the amount of funding needed and how it will be used within your business. 
  • Where your funding comes from. Detail your funding sources, whether it’s through loans, investments, or grants.
  • Repayment plan. If applicable, provide a repayment plan, including projected returns. Also, discuss the ways that funding could help you grow your business.

Appendix

This is the kitchen sink of the business plan. 

It’s where you put any additional documents that provide readers with a deeper understanding of your business and substantiate the claims you make in your plan. 

Think of it as a due diligence section, where you demonstrate that you’re an adult who has considered all the important aspects of running a business. But don’t just dump everything in here.  For the appendix to be useful, make sure the documents it includes are organized, clearly labeled, and easy to sort through.

What to include:

  • Contracts/contract template
  • Permits
  • Licenses
  • Legal documents
  • Business structure documents, such as your LLC’s Operating Agreement and Articles of Organization (if you have one, of course)
  • Resumes of key team members
  • Detailed financial analyses

A Realistic Schedule for Creating Your Photography Business Plan

Even if you go the lean route there’s still a lot of work to do to create your business plan.

But if you already have a photography business you may feel too slammed to create your plan. After all, you’re focused on the actual work: Trying to bring in new clients, shooting for existing clients, and editing photos so you can deliver finished projects.

So how do you find the time to create your business plan?

You don’t have to do it all at once. I recommend breaking the work up and doing it a little at a time. 

I’ve found that doing it this way makes me slow down, and really give attention to each section. Otherwise I find myself rushing through key parts of the work because I get impatient, and just want to finish.

Here are a few example schedules to help you create a plan for your photography business.

Lean Plan Schedule

Week 1

Week 2

Full Plan Schedule

Week 1

photography-business-plan-week-1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Sample Photography Business Plan

Want to see what a real photography business plan looks like?

Here’s an example business plan for a new wedding photography business we made up.

Business Plan: Elegant Moments Wedding Photography

  • Owner: Jane Smith
  • Business name: Elegant Moments Wedding Photography
  • Location: Austin, Texas
  • Profile: Photographer with 2-3 years of experience who plans to go all-in and commit themselves full-time to wedding photography.

Executive Summary

Elegant Moments Wedding Photography specializes in capturing the most cherished moments of a couple’s wedding day with creativity and precision. Founded by Jane Smith, who has three years of experience in wedding photography, our business aims to become the leading wedding photography service in Austin, Texas. Our unique selling points include a personalized client experience, a distinctive artistic style, and a strong local market demand for professional wedding photographers. We plan to target engaged couples in the Austin area and expand our services over the next five years to include destination weddings and videography.

Company Description

  • Business overview. Elegant Moments Wedding Photography offers comprehensive wedding photography services, including engagement sessions, full-day wedding coverage, and custom photo albums. We specialize in a photojournalistic style that captures authentic, candid moments alongside beautifully composed portraits.
  • Mission statement. Our mission is to create timeless, stunning images that tell the unique love story of each couple we work with. We are committed to delivering exceptional quality and a personalized experience for every client.
  • Unique value proposition. We stand out in the market due to our personalized client experience, artistic style, and commitment to capturing both candid and composed moments beautifully.
  • Business structure. Elegant Moments is a Limited Liability Company (LLC), with Jane Smith as the sole owner and operator.
  • Location. Based in Austin, Texas, we serve clients primarily within the greater Austin area, with plans to expand to destination weddings.
  • Business history. Founded in 2024 by Jane Smith, who has three years of experience in wedding photography. Jane’s passion for capturing love stories and her commitment to excellence inspired the creation of Elegant Moments.

Market Analysis

  • Industry overview. The wedding photography industry is competitive yet lucrative, with a steady demand for high-quality photographers. Couples are willing to invest significantly in capturing their special day, and the market is expected to grow as the wedding industry continues to rebound post-pandemic.
  • Target market. Our primary target market includes engaged couples in the Austin, Texas area, aged 25-35, who value high-quality photography and are willing to invest in capturing their wedding day beautifully.
  • Market trends.
    • Increasing demand for photojournalistic and candid photography styles.
    • Growing popularity of engagement photo sessions.
    • Rising interest in photo and video package deals.
  • Competitive analysis.
    • Strengths. Personalized service, distinctive artistic style, and strong local reputation.
    • Weaknesses. Limited market reach initially, as a new business.
    • Opportunities. High local demand for wedding photographers, potential to expand into videography and destination weddings.
    • Threats. High competition from established photographers, economic downturns affecting wedding budgets.

Services Offered

  1. Engagement sessions. Personalized photo sessions capturing the couple’s engagement, offered on-location or in-studio.
  2. Full-day wedding coverage. Comprehensive coverage from pre-ceremony preparations to the reception, ensuring all key moments are captured.
  3. Custom photo albums. High-quality, custom-designed photo albums for preserving wedding memories.
  4. Photo and video packages (Idea for Future Service). Combined photo and video coverage for a seamless experience.
  5. Destination Weddings (Idea for Future Service): Travel to destination weddings to offer our unique photography services.

Marketing and Sales Strategy

  • Branding.
    • Develop a strong, consistent brand image focusing on elegance, romance, and high-quality service.
    • Create a professional website showcasing our portfolio, client testimonials, and service packages.
  • Online presence.
    • Use social media platforms (start with just Instagram, then branch into Pinterest, then Facebook depending on time/success in terms of finding new clients) to showcase our work and engage with potential clients.
    • Implement SEO strategies to improve our website’s visibility on search engines.
  • Client referrals. Encourage satisfied clients to refer friends and family by offering referral discounts.
  • Partnerships. Collaborate with local wedding planners, venues, and vendors to gain referrals and enhance our market reach.
  • Advertising.
    • Invest in targeted online ads (Google Ads, social media ads) to reach engaged couples in the Austin area. Start with a small spend ($200/month) then scale based on results.
    • Participate in local bridal expos and fairs to showcase our services directly to potential clients.
  • Sales strategy.
    • Offer tiered pricing packages to cater to different budgets.
    • Provide a detailed, personalized consultation to understand client needs and build trust.
    • Follow up with potential clients promptly and professionally.

Financial Projections

Year 1 projected net profit: $53,000

Here’s the expense/revenue breakdown:

Revenue Projections (Year 1):

  • Engagement sessions: $10,000 (50 sessions at $200 each)
  • Full-day wedding coverage: $50,000 (20 weddings at $2,500 each)
  • Custom photo albums: $5,000 (20 albums at $250 each)

Total Revenue: $65,000

Expense Projections (Year 1):

  • Marketing and advertising: $6,000
  • Equipment maintenance and upgrades: $2,000*
  • Travel expenses: $1,500
  • Office expenses: $1,000
  • Insurance and legal: $1,500

*Does not include possible startup costs to buy camera(s), lenses, and lighting equipment—assumes this equipment is already owned.

Total Expenses: $12,000

Net Profit Projections (Year 1):

  • Total revenue: $65,000
  • Total expenses: $12,000
  • Net profit: $53,000

Growth Projections

  • Year 2. Increase in wedding coverage and introduction of video services, projecting a 25% revenue increase.
  • Year 3. Expansion into destination weddings, projecting an additional 20% revenue increase.

Now It’s Your Turn

As you can see, your plan doesn’t have to be dozens of pages long.

In a pretty short document you can lay out the key information you need to help you grow your business.

So now it’s your turn. Go ahead and get started planning your photography business!

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