Business Skills for Photographers

In this final chapter of our Business course, Karl looks at considerations for running a successful business. The points outlined in this chapter don’t strictly relate to photography, but are relevant to anyone wanting to make the most of their business.

Karl looks at essential things like insurance, accounting, studio/equipment costs/rental, websites, usage fees and government start us schemes, to name a few.

As part of this course, you can download a selection of useful key documents. These include model release forms, copyright terms and conditions, invoice examples and others. You can find these in our Downloads section.

In this class:

  • What costs to consider when running a business
  • Insurance
  • Accounting
  • Computers and software
  • Transport
  • Studio/Rent
  • Website
  • Licensing and usage fees
  • Government start-up schemes
  • Useful documents for photography business owners

Questions? Please post them in the comments section below.

Calculating business costs

Part of running a business is considering the costs.


  1. hrachess

    Karl, just want to THANK YOU again, can’t count which time I’m writing this again lol ))
    Absolutely valuable information! Appreciate the huge amount of job you do in this educational program (besides your outstanding work). You and Tim Wallace (automotive photographer) are so far my great inspirations! Thanks again! Hope to meet you one day in person in London or here in US.. )
    Kind regards,

  2. Last week I sold two images to a major advertiser for use in a TV commercial. They wanted three images, but the third didn’t have an appropriate model release. The problem was that I hadn’t expected a customer to want a still image in video, so on the form, I crossed off “film/video”. Not more than ten days later, I was told that was exactly how the image would be used but they couldn’t use it because the model release only allowed print. So, this was my first serious sale as a photographer to a very large client for a very good fee but it was fifty percent less than it would have been because of a decision made in moments that would have made no difference to the model.

    I’m mentioning this as a cautionary note to other photographers to be aware of the exact language of their model releases because they do make a difference. I’m using a different one now, and carry them with me everywhere. It grants all rights to everything forever. I have a different one for use when it has to be more specific but I don’t carry those with me for unplanned shoots. Instead, they are reserved for planned shoots where more specific rights are granted, such as through a modeling agency.

    1. Bonjour Karl
      Je suis subjugué par ton talent ta créativité et surtout ta générosité
      Je m’appelle Franck CHARLERY-ADELE je suis martiniquais et je pratique ce beau métier de photographe depuis très longtemps .Aujourd’hui j’ai 62 ans avec toujours la même soif d’apprendre et de trouver les meilleurs stratégies pour rendre services et satisfaire de nombreux clients de qualité .Je fais de la photo de mode pour un magazine ; des portraits ; des photos de mariages; bcp de photos d’identité et cela alimente bien l’affaire et fait vivre souvent . Maintenant avec tes cours et aussi ma volonté de progresser je me sens prêt gravir une autre marche avant mon départ à la retraite que j’ai fixé dans 5 ans si Dieu veut.

  3. Hello Karl,
    first of all and I know you hear this so much but it can’t be said often enough THANK YOU VERY MUCH for sharing your knowledge ! I learn so much more plus my knowledge that I get in my University!
    My name is Phillip I am 34 years old I have an education as an designer for picture and sound and work as a retoucher before I started studying photography ! My wife encouraged me to start studying photography in my “high” age. When I am finished I have an Bachelor degree in Photography and I am 36! .I love Product Photography an my focus is on retouching of course I already know that but also in Product and E-comerce Photography!
    Do you think its to late to start an serious photography business with 36 or 38 ?
    and pls give me an honest answer!
    I thought after my degree I go back to retouching for the family, I have two little Kids and then start my business a couple of years later, or I start right after my degree !
    I am not afraid of doing it but do you think that it is too late with 36 or 38 to start a business ?
    Best of Luck and thank you again for your great education site !
    Phillip Oliver Gordziel

    1. Hi Phillip, no I don’t at all. I wish I was your age again! 🙂 The only thing a client is interested in is how good your work is, how much it is going to cost them and will it help them make more money. The question is how good can you get and how quickly and how good are you at marketing yourself because it is a tough market out there. But if you have the skills and the advantage of retouching skills too then you will be heading in the right direction.

      1. Thank you for your kind answer! That gives me Power courage!
        I will give 1000% to get there and will challenge that tough market !

        Thank you Karl,
        all the best,

  4. Your Program is valuable /priceless if i compare to amount that i had spent for subscription, You are my best photography and business mentor, Great Stuff and Keep up your good work. Thank you very much indeed…

  5. Love your class, I found the class very useful and am happy that you are doing this for us beginners. In the comments for the previous class someone asked about the price rate sheet and in this file video you also mentioned that we can download the sheets to help us in this new venture. Can you please help me find them on your site.

    Also you mentioned about the copy right for images, but does this also apply for baby, wedding, family portraits and special events. Please clarify because I have my doubts about someone being ok with this.

    Thank you

  6. EthanDavis

    Hi Karl, I really appreciate the thoroughness of the detail you provide. However, one thing I must ask, are usage fees based upon each of the images if there are more than one? Or should it count for all the images for that shoot?

    It may be because 6300 alone seems like a big number to me, I understand 6300 is only totaled by the extreme spread and usage of the image but I’d like to know how you would go about it.

    Many Thanks, Ethan.

    1. Hi Ethan, that’s a very good point. Often with this level of campaign image where national and international usage will be required you are most commonly dealing with one image for that campaign. However it is possible that a client may have plans for 2 or 3 images from the same creative day and I would argue that the fee applied only once as the base rate usage fee is usually described as a percentage of the creative day fee or shoot fee.

  7. Hi Karl,

    I’ve obtained a data list of around 300+ advertising agencies in the London area which I’m looking to post my brochure to, but most of their websites don’t list their Creative Director/Art Directors on there. I’m up for giving them all call to check, but would you recommend addressing mail to the ‘Creative Department’ for the companies who don’t list their CD’s/AD’s? Thanks Karl. Best Wishes Will

    1. Hi Will, yes if you are sure independent companies (not advertising agencies) have a creative dept. If not send to the marketing department. For ad agencies if you don’t have a name the to the ‘creative director’ gets it to the top person in charge of the dept.

  8. Information gold! This whole series helped me gain so much clarity and cleared out much confusion I’ve had. I’m sure I’ll be watching this again maybe another 2-3 more times.

    1. Hi Anthony you can download the one we have from our downloads section and just put in the relevant numbers it won’t matter that you are in the USA as the calculator lists different territories.

  9. Thanks for that Karl, priceless information as always!

    I was just wondering if you would recommend registering as a sole trader at the beginning, or is it best to form a limited company from the get go?

    Many thanks.

    Best wishes

    1. Hi Will, I was a sole trader for many years even when I had a member of staff. As my business grew and had more assets, staff and costs I changed to a limited company. Being a limited company incurs more charges annually than a sole trader so you have to weigh that up against the benefits of being limited and/or the necessity.

  10. Hi Karl, I’ve been following your videos on youtube, and a few days ago, I watched a video about pricing photography, so that, I subscribed to your website! Thanks a lot for sharing your point of view about business. I think it is a very important aspect of photography, no matter the kind of photography you want to do. In the last case, every kind of photography is artistic and commercial. Your work is gorgeous. Thank you for sharing.

  11. Hi Karl,

    On what is the Base usage rate based?
    I understand that it is the a rate that is used to calculate the usage fee depending on the scale of the exposure of the image. But how does one come up with an initial amount?

    1. Hi Jacques difficult to answer as everyone set’s there own but as a guide it could be about 10% of the day rate fee.

  12. I have loved this section and it is loaded with all kinds of information I’ve needed. I have to say that I am also feeling very overwhelmed also. That’s tells me that I’m not ready for my own business.

    1. Hi Gina, you can also consider applying this knowledge to a part time business while you grow your confidence and find your way.

      1. Thank you Karl for the advice. That’s the way I’m going to proceed forward. A little at a time. Thank you for all the business forms. They were just what I needed.

  13. Karl, have you ever had a new client require you to sign an NDA (Non Disclosure Agreement) in advance for photos? I have been asked to do this recently by three different clients and I passed on all those jobs. All I could see was the potential of opening myself up to litigation that could cost me far in excess of what the jobs would even pay to begin with. I am not sure if this is a fad or a new trend?

    I understand why a business would maybe require an employee (or contractor) involved in maybe product development to sign something to this effect, but not sure why they would be requiring me to sign an NDA for images that are specifically headed to the Worldwide Web on their websites where anyone can view them?

    From the research I have done recently on the Internet, it seems like most “experts” recommend to avoid NDA’s as they denote a lack of trust at the outset. My existing clients are no problem as they know if they ask me to keep something confidential it is in the vault.

    Any thoughts?

    1. Hi John, yes I’ve had to sign NDAs many times as certain products i’m photographing are in development/secret etc. If I know that the product is going to be ‘released’ by the client at a certain time then I ask them to have terms in the NDA that state ‘after such and such date, when the product is released’ then I can publish the images if required for my website etc. However there have been a few items I’ve shot that were very strict NDA such as some of the worlds most valuable jewels for auctions and those have been strict NDAs.

      1. Thanks Karl for your response.

        I guess I am just reluctant because I don’t fully trust the people (usually small local one or two-man LLC’s) that have approached me. If I were shooting for a large name-brand or even an individual I felt was trustworthy, I would not be so concerned. I also perform services outside the realm of photography (graphic design, web site design, etc.) which complicates things even more in my case. I live in a highly litigious area and while I have no fear of a breach on my part, I know I do not have to be guilty to be dragged into court!

        I probably should have phrased my question differently to “Have you ever turned down a job due to an NDA being required by someone you did not feel comfortable working with”? I am sure at your current level and price range, you attract a better range of clients in general and don’t have that issue.

        1. Hi John, I understand where you are coming from but obviously I can’t advise as I’m not familiar with the market you are operating in and if as you say you have unscrupulous characters to deal with then yes you need to be careful. If it’s any help, earlier in my career when I was working for smaller companies I did not get asked to sign NDAs it’s only now on larger projects where new products are coming on to the market that need to remain secret that it is required from time to time.

          1. Karl… Thanks again for your response – your clarification makes perfect sense to me.

            The only real mystery now is why isn’t everyone a member of Karl Taylor Education!!!

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