How to Start a Photography Business in India

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In order to start a successful photography it is essential to have certain basic skills like the ability to find out original images, the proper film and related equipment, and other technical knowledge and capabilities.

But only superb photography skills do not ensure the success of such a company in the long run – the owner needs to have some really good business acumen as well. There are certain financial, management, legal, and marketing aspects that the owner has to be aware of to run the firm smoothly.

Steps to start a photography Business

Type of Photography Business

This is the first step of this business and the photographer/owner needs to figure this out as the market is fairly competitive in this domain. They can operate as part time freelancers or in local or regional publications to start with. There are plenty of subjects to choose from as well:
  • Portraits
  • Weddings
  • Underwater photography
  • Product photography
Nowadays, professional photography can be broadly categorized into stock photography and assignment photography. Assignment photography is work provided by clients and can include the following and more:
  • Product advertising
  • Marriages
  • Portraits
  • School functions
This is a preferred choice for most professional photographers as the financial stability is normally higher. In this form, there is the assurance that the photographer will get paid either before or after the completion of assignment.

Stock photography, on the other hand, is done with the expectation that the photos will be sold in the immediate future. Hundreds of shots could be taken of a single subject and sold for general purposes at fair prices to any of the following entities or others:
  • Newspaper articles
  • Calendars
  • Brochures
  • Websites
It has been seen that educational and commercial set-ups often purchase these stock photos at comparatively lower prices instead of employing a photographer to click them.

If a photographer decides to focus on a field, they have to be the very best in it or they can find the going pretty tough. In case they want to explore different areas they need to be fairly competent in each of those.

They can also choose to become only stock or assignment photographers. However, a safe bet will be to combine both elements like for instance taking additional photos of the wedding hall or the kitchen while covering a marriage as an assignment photographer.

Create a business plan

A properly written business plan helps a photographer to start, grow, and manage the business well. It also assists him or her find out how viable the business really is. With a business plan they can determine the goals and lay down the strategies needed to achieve the same. The business plan is also helpful in the following ways:
  • Understanding financial necessities
  • Setting up a justifiable work schedule
  • Resource evaluation
  • Determining prices or fees
  • Setting the parameters for judging business success
  • Planning marketing strategies
  • Identifying prospective clients
  • Performance evaluation

Legality procedure regarding the photography business

Before opening the business, it is imperative to check with relevant authorities and get complete details regarding the legal procedures that have to be followed in such cases. The owners need to find out what paperwork needs to be done before setting up the organization as that can take a lot of time.

Getting the right equipment

Normally, the equipment bought by a photographer is dependent on the budget as well as other factors such as the type of shooting done and the space available. The following equipments are normally needed at the initial stages:
  • Cameras
  • Electronic flash units
  • Lenses
  • Studio lights
  • Tripods
  • Studio stands
  • Filters
  • Various types of background like seamless paper
The photographer needs to be reasonable while buying the equipment and not go for expensive items that can be used rarely. The core equipment needs to be of the best quality and the back-up equipment needs to be good enough. It is better to rent equipment that will not be used more than once.

The following equipment also needs to be bought for carrying out the business processes of a studio:
  • Computer
  • Scanner
  • Telephone
  • Office furniture
  • Fax
Owners can use the equipment they already have – this will help in reducing the initial expenses significantly.

Photography Business Insurance

The first step in making sure a business is safe is going for a proper insurance policy. Majority of the photographers can avail liability insurance policies that are fairly beneficial for them. This is especially applicable for businessmen who have frequent visits from their customers. This insurance will be really helpful if the client suffers some sort of mishap at the studio.

The studio owners can also explore the option of equipment indemnity if it is not covered by the renters or homeowner’s insurance. Disability and health insurance can also be availed – these plans become beneficial whenever the owner is unable to work owing to ill health or old age.

Become part of a professional organizations

As a business owner it is important to seek the membership of local photography organizations, chambers of commerce, and related professional associations. These provide good opportunities to do networking and get in touch with potential customers. They can also collaborate with other photographers and compare notes with them. Such connections also help in finding funding sources.

Establish Good Relations with Suppliers

It is very important, for the long run, to have a good relation with the equipment suppliers like film, camera, and processing equipment providers. If a photographer/owner is not developing the photos, he or she should connect with a trustworthy photo lab. A photo lab is especially important in this business as it plays an important role in the studio’s success.

Important areas like work quality and the capability to satisfy deadlines depends on how good a lab is. The quality of lab also determines if a studio owner is able to take on tough, and potentially lucrative, projects. It is better to check out the labs before starting the organization and select the most suitable one.

Determining space

It is essential to determine if the available space is sufficient enough for operating a studio because such set-ups need a lot of space. It is important to design the studio space properly as well. The design normally depends on the space available and the way an owner wants to operate.

The following spaces have to be created for a studio:
  • Office
  • Storage area for equipment and chemicals
  • Darkroom
  • Waiting area for clients
In case of product photography, smaller areas are deemed sufficient but in case of tougher projects like family photos or portraits more area is needed for holding backgrounds, light equipment, and camera. If it is a home based business the owner can use the washroom as the darkroom.

The business documents like correspondences and books can be maintained at the kitchen, dining table, or an additional room in the house. In his book “How to Start a Home Based Photography Business” Ken Oberrecht has stated that the owners need to think long and hard about the storage issue. He thinks that the business planning should also be done accordingly.

Marketing the Studio

The marketing aspect comes in once the initial framework has been completed. The first step in this regard is building a good and consistent reputation, which is followed by identifying and contacting prospective clients. It is very important to have authentic information about them. The owners need to allot a certain part in the day to market themselves – in the initial stages generating awareness takes up the maximum time.

The following areas need to be included while doing the preliminary market research:
  • Size of the market
  • Pricing information
  • Potential for sales
  • Practices of the market
  • Analyzing the competitors
In case a photographer wants to focus on wildlife and nature photography he or she will need to focus on advertising and editorials. The major buyers in these cases are picture editors and art directors of the following publications:
  • Nature magazines
  • Calendars
  • Travel magazines
  • Textbooks
  • Wildlife picture books
  • Reference books
To start with, the photographers should have a portfolio that has their finest work – pictures that show versatile and skillful he or she is. The quality of portfolio often determines whether a photographer finds work or not.

It is also crucial to have good public relations skills to be able to market oneself properly. It is advisable to issue press releases that highlight the photographers’ achievements especially in the context of local events.

They can also do the any or all of the following things to set up a good rapport with the prospective buyers:
  • Covering a local charity event
  • Offering photography workshops
  • Covering a not for profit organization’s event
All these steps will help a photographer become famous in the immediate community. They can also send their photos to local museums or galleries in order to get noticed or contact business organizations to display their photos at the waiting rooms or lobbies. This is sure to help attract lots of advertisers or buyers.

If the owner has sufficient financial resources they can avail the following forms of advertisement:
  • Yellow Pages
  • Brochures
  • Mails to clients
Word of mouth publicity is however the best – if a photographer is capable, people will talk about his or her work and this will attract more customers.

Determining the Price

Prices are the most important part of a business – the price cannot be so high that customers are unable to avail the service and it cannot be so low that the organization is unable to sustain itself.

It is always better to verify with the official organization that looks after the particular branch where a photographer is focusing. Reference works that have standard figures can also be consulted in these cases.

The fee structure for photographers may be broken down and explained as below:

Basic fee – the minimum charges that ensure overhead expenses are met and also generate some profit
Creative fee – the amount that is deemed sufficient for the skills and dedication put in by the photographer. This is in addition to the basic fee
Usage fee – this enables the photographer to quote even better prices depending on the way the photographs are to be used
Expenses and margin – this covers the expenditure personally done by the photographer for the shoot. The margin helps in covering the expenses for specialized equipment like the following:
  • Film
  • Services of models or hair stylists
  • Props

Creating a Business Account in a Bank

It is always advisable to have a separate banking account for the company as the money from this can be used to keep the business running and pay the various expenses. However, the owners might need to put in the initial deposits by themselves. In case the owner wants to use a credit card to kickstart operations it is advisable to have a separate business credit card.

Look out for Zoning Prohibitions

It has often been seen that neighbors are not always appreciative if clients keep coming constantly at any time in a day. So it is better, if the photographers have some idea of such restrictions – in case they are opening the studio at an unknown location they can get in touch with the authorities and find out about the necessary restrictions. This comes in handy while dealing with the customers and also helps to keep the neighbors happy.

Leading Photography Companies in India

Following are the leading photo studios in India:
  • Dipak Studios
  • Hill Modeling Studio
  • Meri Yaadein Family Portrait Studio
  • Jai Vora Photography
  • Studio K
  • Photo Ink
  • Villart Photography
  • Amit Mehra Photography
  • Vikas Dutt Photography
  • Artech Computer Graphics – Photography
  • Nature MAX
  • Darren Centofanti Photography
  • Colo Color Pvt. Ltd
  • Famous Group

Last Updated on May 12, 2015