If you have professional photography experience and a passion for the natural world, you might want to consider starting your own nature photography business 

But it’s not as simple as setting out into the wilderness with a camera and a backpack (though that is part of it). First, there are a few crucial bases you need to cover. 

In this guide, we’ll explain all the steps needed to start a nature photography business. Specifically, we’ll cover:

  • Making a business plan.
  • Choosing a business structure.
  • Registering your business.
  • Equipment.
  • Insurance.
  • Marketing.
  • Bookkeeping.
  • Opening a business current account. 

Making a business plan

A solid business plan is the best way to give yourself the best start. Most business plans are made up of seven parts.

  1. Executive summary

An executive summary is a broad overview of your business idea. It should include:

  • A basic definition of your business.
  • A list of business goals.
  • A list of products and services. 
  • Your target customers
  • Where and how you intend to sell your services.
  • Your financial strategy.
  1. Business overview

Similar to an executive summary but more about the big picture stuff. A business overview should include: 

  • Your official business name. 
  • A rundown of your brand identity. 
  • Your business structure. 
  • A mission statement.
  1. Market analysis

In this section, describe the industry as a whole, including your competitors, recent trends, and how you plan to fit in. Write about your target audience and explain why they’ll choose your photography business over your competitors. 

  1. Products and services snapshot

Go into more detail about the product list from your executive summary. Give an in-depth explanation of each product and service, plus your reasons for pricing it in a particular way. 

  1. Marketing plan

Your marketing plan should outline how you plan to attract customers to your nature photography business. It should include your total marketing budget and where exactly that money will go. 

  1. Operations plan

Your operations plan should describe all the practical parts of your business operations. It should include equipment, location, supplies, shipping options, funding, and other resources.

  1. Financial plan

You might need an initial investment from a bank loan or private investor. If this applies to you, you’ll have to prove you can handle the repayments with a financial plan. 

Most financial plans include:

  • An income statement: How much money your business will earn per week, month, quarter, or year (minus your business-related expenses).
  • A balance sheet: A list of your business assets and liabilities.
  • A cash flow statement: A list of when your income and liabilities come in and go out every month. 

Choose a business structure

When it comes to setting up your natural photography business, you need to choose a business structure. Most businesses register as either a sole trader or limited company. There are specific advantages and disadvantages to both structures, so it really comes down to your specific needs. 

Sole trader

As a sole trader, you’ll have complete control over your financial decisions, but you’ll also be personally responsible for any debts your business has. 

For this reason, it can be a riskier business structure. If your business goes bankrupt, then you (and any partners you have) will have to repay debts using your personal money. 

Limited Company

On the other hand, setting up a limited company means you are a legally separate entity from your business, giving you limited liability for debts. Limited liability means you’re protected against any debts your company has, so your personal finances are safe. 

Register your business 

If you choose to set up as a sole trader, you’ll need to register as self-employed with HMRC so you can manage your taxes. Sole traders pay income tax that increases as your earn more taxable income. 

  • Personal Allowance: Up to £12,570 (0%)
  • Basic rate: £12,571 to £50,270 (20%)
  • Higher rate: £50,271 to £150,000 (40%)
  • Additional rate: over £150,000 (45%)

When you as a sole trader, you’ll receive a Unique Tax Reference (UTR). You’ll need this information when you submit your self-assessment tax return. 

If you register your photography business as a limited company, you’ll need to register with HMRC as an employer, not self-employed, because you’ll be acting as both a director and an employee.

After this, you’ll need to sign up to PAYE (pay as you earn) if you want to pay yourself a salary. 

Instead of income tax, limited companies pay corporation tax on all their taxable income. Unlike income tax, it’s just a flat rate of 19%, so it can be more forgiving as your earnings increase. 

Equipment

Equipment is going to be one of your business expenses as a nature photographer. You’ll need a variety of photography gear, but you’ll also need equipment to help you and your gear survive the great outdoors. 

Here’s a comprehensive list of all the photography equipment you might need:

  • Binoculars
  • Headtorch
  • Telephoto lens
  • Tripod
  • Gimbal
  • Camera bag
  • Long lens rain cover
  • Wide-angle lens
  • Remote release and self-timer
  • Filter system and filters

Good quality equipment won’t come cheap, so make sure you shop around for the best deals and allocate enough of your budget to cover everything you need. 

Insurance

As part of your startup budget, you need to think about insurance. There are a number of policies you might want as a nature photographer. But the big ones are equipment insurance, public liability insurance, and employers’ liability insurance. 

Equipment insurance

As we mentioned before, you’ll be working with a lot of pretty expensive equipment, so equipment insurance should be your top priority. 

Public liability insurance

Public liability insurance: As a nature photographer, you’ll probably be working in public spaces. And anywhere the public is involved, there’s the chance of disaster. Public liability insurance will cover your legal costs if a member of the public is injured because of your business. For example, if somebody trips on your tripod and hurts themselves, they could make a claim against your business. 

Employers’ liability insurance

In the UK, you’re legally required to have employers’ liability insurance if you hire any staff. This even applies to part-time and freelance workers. It protects you against any claims your employees might make if they’re harmed because of your business. 

Marketing

Marketing is a key component in the success of any business. It doesn’t matter how good your photographs are if nobody pays you for them, so you’ll need a detailed marketing plan. 

You can break down your marketing strategy into three areas:

  • Branding
  • Online marketing
  • Traditional marketing.

Branding

Because you’re starting your own business, you’ll be in charge of building a brand from scratch. Branding affects how the public views your business, so it has a direct impact on the number of clients you’ll attract. 

There are two main areas you’ll need to consider:

  • Building your brand: Make careful decisions about the look and feel of your photography business, then maintain a consistent brand identity. This applies to the photographs themselves, as well as all the other areas of your business. It should all come together to present a consistent brand image. 
  • Legal implications: Make sure all of your intellectual property, like logos, slogan, and company name, comply with the copyright, designs, and patent act.

Online marketing

Online marketing will be your best method of client acquisition, so spread your business online using:

  • A business website.
  • Social media.
  • Email marketing.

Business website

At the basic level, your business website should include contact information, services, products, prices, and an “about me” page. As a photography business, you’re in a unique position because your work can speak for itself in a way that other products can’t, so make sure you have plenty of high-quality examples of your work. 

There are also a few strategies you can use to improve your website’s search engine rankings, including:

The good news is it’s not nearly a difficult as it used to be to create a professional-looking website. There are loads of website builders that are cheap and easy to use.

Social media

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube are all thriving networks full of potential customers. 

Here are some general rules for marketing your business on social media:

  • Follow other photographers and engage with their content. 
  • Post content often and regularly. 
  • Post content that’s interesting to users, not just promotional messages for your business.
  • Engage with users by replying to their comments, taking polls, making quizzes, and running competitions. 
  • Switch up your content between written posts, videos, and photos. 
  • Always link back to your business website in your posts. 

Most social media platforms are heavily focused on images, so it’s the perfect place to show off your work. You can show collections, individual shots, or specific work you’ve done for a client. Just make sure there’s context for your posts. The photographs you choose to share should build an overall narrative, rather than just random pictures that you like. 

Even though they’re video platforms, sites like TikTok and YouTube can be equally effective marketing tools. You can create a variety of engaging video content, such as:

  • Tutorial videos.
  • Product reviews. 
  • Client interviews.
  • Behind-the-scenes videos on photoshoots. 

Email marketing

Although it may not sound as fancy as the others, email marketing is still an incredibly useful form of online marketing. You can send newsletters and promotional material directly to your followers’ inboxes, so you don’t need to rely on them finding it on their own. 

The most difficult part of email marketing for a new business is finding people to sign up to your mailing list. If you need some advice, check out our article, “How to build an email list for a startup”.

Traditional marketing

Although a lot of your business will come from online sources, there are still loads of opportunities to be found through traditional marketing. 

Try some of these strategies to land clients for your photography business:

  • Make business cards to hand them out to 
  • Approach local businesses. In particular, businesses that act as venues for social functions will be especially useful to you. 
  • Encourage your existing customers to spread the word.
  • Encourage your friends and family to recommend your business.

Bookkeeping

One of the more tedious parts of running your own business is bookkeeping. As a business owner, you’ll be directly responsible for recording all of your finances and using that information to make informed accounting decisions. 

Bookkeeping can take a while to get the hang of if you don’t have much accounting experience, so we’ll cover a few of the essentials here, including:

  • Cash flow.
  • Profit and loss statements.
  • Recording business expenses.
  • Invoicing.

Cash flow 

Cash flow is a term used to describe the movement into and out of your business account. You need to track cash flow if you want an accurate picture of your business’ financial situation. 

If you use accounting software, like the kind that comes with Countingup’s business current account, then you can receive accurate cash flow insights in real-time by checking the app. 

Profit and Loss statements

When you have accurate cash flow insights, you can use them to make profit and loss statements. 

Profit and loss statements are exactly how they sound. They’re financial reports showing how much you’re spending compared to how much you’re losing, so you can see how your business will perform over time. 

Accurate profit and loss statements can show you where your business is performing well and where it’s losing money. They can also be used to make tax estimates and apply for loans. 

Invoicing

A large part of bookkeeping is creating, issuing, and recording invoices. Invoicing can take a lot of time, especially as you find more regular clients, but it’s a lot easier and faster with Countingup. 

With the Countingup app, you can: 

  • Create an unlimited number of customised invoices.
  • Add a logo to invoice templates.
  • Send invoices to customers.
  • Receive a notification when an invoice is paid.
  • Match a payment to an invoice.
  • Duplicate an invoice.
  • Change an invoice’s due date.

Recording business expenses 

As a business owner, you’ll be responsible for paying your own taxes, and a big part of that is claiming business expenses. Normally, you’d have to keep detailed records of all your expenses and sort them into different HMRC categories, but the Countingup app takes care of that for you. 

The app’s automatic expense categorisation and receipt capture tool make it simple to keep an accurate, digital record of your business expenses. Just take a picture of any receipts for your business expenses, then they’ll be saved on the app and automatically sorted into HMRC approved categories. 

Opening a business account

When you’re starting your own business, it’s important to keep your personal and business finances separate from day one. If you don’t, it’ll just lead to more time-consuming admin further down the line. 

When you sign up for a Countingup business current account, you’ll receive free accounting software with a range of time-saving tools. With features like automatic expense categorisation, invoicing on the go, receipt capture tools, tax estimates, and cash flow insights, you can confidently keep on top of your business finances wherever you are. 

You can also share your bookkeeping with your accountant instantly without worrying about duplication errors, data lags or inaccuracies. Seamless, simple, and straightforward! 

Find out more here.