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Improve Your Photography Business Finances in 6 Steps

12 min read

Does the finance side of your photography business stress you out? Do you wish you could just ignore it? You’re not alone!

As creatives, the “numbers side of things” isn’t always appealing. You got into this work to take great photos and share your artistic side, after all. But you know you have to do more than “be a great photographer” to keep the lights on in your photography business.

If you want to continue to grow — or even maintain your current income — you have to know your photography business finances. Don’t worry, though. We’re making this whole “numbers thing” easier for you by sharing six ways you can improve your photography business finances.

Get clients. Get paid. Get happy.

Review your photography business pricing

Photography pricing is a sticking point for every studio owner. Are you charging too much? Too little? Will your pricing drive clients away? Or will you end up overworked and underpaid?

The truth is, there isn’t a “market rate” for photography services or products. But you can do some research to find your “pricing sweet spot” that works for you and your ideal clients.

photography business finances

Project fees vs hourly rates

Project fees are great options for shoots with well-defined scopes. Mini sessions, headshots, or boudoir photo shoots, for example, can have very defined hours and services.

Hourly rates may be the way to go to make sure you’re well-paid for events where time commitment can vary. Who knows how long you may need to stay at a wedding or a corporate event? Charging by the hour ensures you’ll be well-compensated for the time you’re there.

You can have both options as a photographer; it just boils down to the type of work you want to do and how you want to be compensated for it.

Photography packages

Photography packages can take the guesswork out of the post-session buying process. For example, you could create a package for your clients that includes a limited number of items, such as five prints, 20 digital downloads, and a photo product. Bundling popular items together can make it easy for clients to say yes to a package deal.

You could even treat clients with irresistible offers like Buy One, Get One (BOGO) or other promos, which help sweeten the deal on any pricing option.

business finances

A note on “charging what you’re worth”

Whether you decide to keep your pricing as is, change your fee model, or start to offer packages, it’s important to think about the price in terms of value.

As a photographer, you’ve probably heard “Charge what you’re worth” 8745 times. But how can you put a price on your value? You can’t. Instead, it’s about the value of your work.

Think about it – you’re using years of experience to skillfully capture images that will be cherished for a lifetime. Your photos might even be used to generate revenue if you work with corporate or branding clients.

Once you uncover how your work impacts your clients, you’ll learn the value they place on it and how much they’re willing to pay. With a value-based pricing strategy, you can get paid for the true value of your work — without all the confusing suggestions about “charging what you’re worth.”

Whatever that means.

Want a clearer idea of what you should charge for your photography? Check out our 2023 photography pricing guide.

Diversify your business income

You’ve probably heard that you “shouldn’t put all of your eggs in one basket.” Aside from preventing the destruction of a perfectly delicious omelet, this advice applies to your photography business, too.

As a photographer, you might think linearly about your work: “I take photos for a living.” But you can offer so much more than sessions and prints!

Why not share (and sell) your expertise by offering workshops, online courses, or tutorials to other photographers or even DIY-ers? What if you leveraged stock photo sites to sell licensed images? Or what if you created a themed planner or calendar using your copyrighted images?

Demand for different products and services will always change. By diversifying your income, you can ensure you have another revenue source if one of them dries up. (We all remember 2020, right?)

photography finances

Create a strong photography business budget

Solid budgeting is key to running a profitable, efficient photography business. To create a budget, though, you have to know how much you’re spending and making.

Review your business costs and expenses

How much does it cost you to run your business? Knowing your expenses will tell you how much you need to make. You can also figure out where you could be wasting money.

Start by reviewing expenses like:

  • Operational costs – travel, equipment upgrades, software programs, time spent delivering services, etc.
  • Professional costs – memberships, annual conferences, legal and tax services, etc.
  • Marketing costs – ads, flyers, social media, contractors, etc.

Calculate your monthly expenses and consider where to cut costs. Some non-negotiables might include investing in new equipment and improving your skill set. Areas you might want to cut are software/subscriptions that aren’t getting you a good return on investment (ROI). You could save money by replacing multiple programs with a more efficient, all-in-one photography solution. Just sayin’.

Trimming unnecessary expenses puts more money in your pocket, so really look at what you’re spending with an objective eye.

Review your photography business income

Next up, it’s time to review your income, aka what you’re getting paid from invoices. Start by reviewing these types of income sources:

  • Services – Which services are most in demand and give you the most ROI?
  • Products – What packages or photo products are bringing in money?
  • Clients – Who are your best clients? Couples, families, entrepreneurs, corporate clients, etc.?

Calculate your income sources by type and the average per month. Also, look at the expenses associated with each income type. Pay close attention to income streams where it costs less to deliver those services. For example, do you have to pay a second shooter for weddings but don’t need them for smaller events?

finances for photographers

This type of income “audit” will help you assess which of your offers is the most profitable and most enjoyable. If you find that you’ve got a lot of services that cost you a lot of time, money, and energy to provide, it might be time to look at diversifying your offers. Pop back to the top of this article to brainstorm some new income stream ideas for your photography business!

See how to earn money with ShootProof

Combine income + expenses to create your photography business budget

With your expenses and income in hand, it’s time to prepare your budget.

Look for gaps in your existing numbers. Are you consistently covering your expenses and maintaining your bank account balances? If not, where do you need to make adjustments? The fix could be increasing your pricing, marketing your best-selling offers, or getting rid of packages that don’t pay well.

Calculate how much of each type of offer you need to sell to cover expenses. For example, how many wedding packages do you want to sell (and can manage to deliver) for the year? How many self-paced courses or workshops? Be realistic about it, too – both in terms of the market and your own abilities.

Also, don’t forget to account for savings! It’s not an expense, but it is something your income should cover. Your savings can be used to help you meet a specific financial goal, like getting a certification or an optional piece of equipment.

If you want to protect the long-term success of your business, also plan on investing in insurance and building an emergency fund that covers at least three months of your business income. Both insurance coverage and an emergency fund help you stay afloat during challenging times.

finance tips for photographers

Manage your photography business cash flow

Late invoices, decreasing demand, and fears about empty accounts – that’s every photographer’s worst nightmare. Planning for how you’ll spend your money (budgeting) is one thing. But navigating when the money comes in? That’s a whole different beast.

This is why understanding cash flow is so important.

How can you maintain your photography business cash flow (and make sure you’re paying yourself!) even as your revenue and income fluctuate? Here are a few tips to better manage cash flow in your photography business:

  • Make it easy to get paid. Make it easy for clients to pay you by streamlining your photography invoicing process. Allow clients to book and pre-pay for your photography products and services in one step through your website. Provide all clients with a detailed invoice that includes hours worked, photography products included in your packages, and more.
  • Clarify your payment terms. Your payment terms should be clear and repeated throughout the process — and clients should sign a contract with those terms inside. How much do they need to pay upfront? When are additional invoices due? What is your return or refund policy?
  • Efficiently manage and follow up with invoices. Instead of manually tracking down payments, use a software program with invoicing features to automate those reminders. With ShootProof invoicing for photographers, you can create a detailed, customized invoice with automated reminders and even autopay features to help you get paid fast.

Improving contract transparency, reducing payment friction, and automating invoicing processes can go a long way in helping you better manage your photography business cash flow.

Prepare for taxes (all year round)

Nothing hurts more than owing 25 percent (or more, if you’re in the U.S.!) of your photography business income to taxes — and not having that money set aside. You can’t get by without paying taxes in any country, but you can do a better job preparing for tax payments.

Here’s a quick checklist on how to get a handle on your photography business taxes:

  • Understand your tax obligations. While the April 15 filing deadline applies for many U.S. businesses, some may have earlier deadlines (like S Corps). Also, many businesses need to pay estimated taxes throughout the year. You need to know how much money you’re probably going to owe on taxes and how often you need to pay taxes. If you’re in another country outside the U.S., you’ll also need to do research to find out your tax payments and deadlines!
  • Set aside tax money frequently. When an invoice gets paid, it helps to set aside 25 percent of that invoice for taxes. In the worst case, you have 25 percent of your income set aside and don’t owe that much! Best case, you have all the money you need to pay the government when the tax bill comes due.
  • Keep accurate records. Keep records that track all of your income and expenses, including digital and physical receipts. Mileage tracking, prop expenses, and marketing expenses are all important things to track so you can reduce your taxable income!
  • Work with a tax or financial professional. Feel overwhelmed or unclear about any part of the tax process? Working with a tax professional or accountant who understands your creative business. They will help bring you peace of mind – and keep you in Uncle Sam’s good graces.
finance tips for photography business

Regularly review your photography business finances

The thing about business finances? They change all the time. That’s why you need to review your finances regularly. And by regularly, we mean more than once a year.

Set aside time each month to check up on your photography business finances. Ask yourself questions like:

  • Is your budget still working for you?
  • Is your pricing strategy working, or do you need to diversify your income some more?
  • What services are selling like hotcakes, and how can you sell more of them?
  • Are invoices getting paid on time, or do you need to adjust contracts and payment terms?
  • Are your expenses still necessary, or can something be cut?
  • How is your emergency fund coming along? Do you have enough in tax savings?

This is also a great time to update transactions (expenses and income) in your bookkeeping software or spreadsheet if you use one.

Regularly reviewing your numbers like this can help you make informed decisions when setting financial goals and taking action to grow your business. Focus on doing more of what’s going great, seize new opportunities, and quickly troubleshoot the things that are taking you off track.

tips for photographers

Set your photography business up for success — and more revenue —with ShootProof

If your goal is to grow your photography business and reduce the amount of time you spend manually managing everything, ShootProof is here to help.

With our photography business suite of tools, you can showcase your portfolio website, streamline bookings and photo delivery, and sell prints and products directly from your client galleries. Plus, with automated invoice reminders and autopay features, you can get paid faster while having complete creative control of your work.

At ShootProof, we’re not only here to make doing your best work as a photographer easier. We’re also here to make sure your business thrives as well.

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PHOTOS BY Brianna Parks Photography