A Financial Guide For Photographers Without the Nonsense

September 26, 2023

You might not be thinking about spreadsheets and budget calculations when you’re out in a sun-drenched field capturing the beautiful moments that make life special with your clients. Chatting and laughing with your clients as you document their lives is what makes this feel like a dream job, and probably what you pictured when you […]

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You might not be thinking about spreadsheets and budget calculations when you’re out in a sun-drenched field capturing the beautiful moments that make life special with your clients. Chatting and laughing with your clients as you document their lives is what makes this feel like a dream job, and probably what you pictured when you started your photography journey. On the flip side, I bet you never imagined math being an integral part of your business — at least, I sure didn’t when I first picked up a camera over a decade ago!  But that’s exactly why I wanted to share my simple financial guide for photographers… so that you can get a firm understanding of how to budget, set realistic rates, save for taxes, and learn about more important financial decisions in this world of photography entrepreneurship.

A No-Nonsense Financial Guide for Photographers | Jillian Goulding Photography

My financial guide for photographers who are ready to grow to the next level—

While numbers may not be as exciting as perfect golden hour light, they are absolutely essential in building a thriving photography business. So, grab your camera and your calculator (yes, really), and let’s dive into what you need to know when it comes to numbers and running a photography business.

The budgeting balance:

Starting a photography business can feel like a first date: exciting yet nerve-wracking with so many unknowns ahead. It also involves some careful financial planning and budgeting know-how when it comes time to crunch the numbers. Let’s talk about some of the most important things to pay attention to!

Track your expenses: Begin by listing all your business expenses, from camera gear and software to marketing and travel costs. This will help you understand where your money is going.

Set financial goals: Dream big, but make sure your dreams have some numerical value attached. Set specific financial goals like “I want to earn $X per month” or “I need to save $Y for a new lens.”

Create a monthly budget: Break down your expenses into monthly categories and stick to your budget like your career depends on it (oh, umm, because it does!).

Figuring out how to set your rates:

Now, let’s talk about pricing. Setting your rates can be as challenging as capturing that perfect shot because there are a lot of variables to take into account, and it’s easy to get trapped in a comparison game. But with a little strategy, you’ll find the sweet spot.

First, it helps to calculate your operating costs, including equipment, insurance, website fees, and transportation. This helps you figure out the exact minimum you need to charge to simply break even.

Then you’ll want to look into what other photographers in your niche charge. This gives you an idea of where your rates should fall, but it shouldn’t be the only determining factor in your rates. It’s good to do some market research, but ultimately only you can decide what your rates need to be.

The most important thing is to make sure you don’t undervalue your skills. Remember, your talent and experience are worthwhile, and you deserve to charge rates that support your family, goals, and lifestyle.

RELATED: How to Actually Calculate Your Rates as a Photographer

Don’t forget about taxes!

Ah, taxes – the not-so-glamorous part of being your own boss. But don’t worry, I’m here to (help) simplify this for you. I would be doing you a disservice if I didn’t include this in a financial guide for photographers

The very best thing you can do when it comes to taxes? Keep impeccable records of your finances. This means tracking your income and expenses meticulously throughout the year. You can do this with a simple spreadsheet or with programs like Quickbooks.

You also want to learn about deductible expenses (aka expenses you can “write off” as a business expense, which saves you a little money come tax time). Things like camera equipment, business travel costs, and marketing expenses (including software fees) can all be written off as deductibles and lower your tax bill.

If you’re still feeling wishy-washy about taxes, consider hiring a tax professional. A good accountant goes a long way (and can save you many a headache) by making sure you’re compliant with jumping through all the tax hoops there are for self-employed business owners.

Numbers aren’t exactly the heart and soul of photography, but they are the backbone of running a successful photography business. Just like we’ve honed our photography skills over the years, mastering financial management is another important key to scaling up.

When you embrace the financial side of entrepreneurship, you’ll watch your photography business flourish. You’ve got the talent, the passion, and now the financial smarts to take your career to new heights. 

Related: 5 Steps To Turn Your Hobby Into A Profitable Business

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I’m Jillian Goulding, a photographer and educator raising babies and building my life in Sacramento, CA.

Over the years, I’ve transformed my side hustle into a thriving photography business that has taken me and my camera to the beaches of San Francisco Bay, the pages of People Magazine, and the screens of Extra TV.

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