How to start... a photography business

As technology advances, it's never been easier to express yourself artistically or to share your work with the world. However, it's vital to stand out if you're going to turn your passion into a career. One person who knows something about presenting a unique vision is Christopher Hanvey, the founder of SHOTS.BY.HANVEY, a photography and film-making business shooting stills and documentaries with a neo-noir edge. Here's how Christopher started up his photography business.

1. Where is your business based, and why did you base it there?

SHOTS.BY.HANVEY is based in London. The city is one of the most vibrant hubs of Creativity on the Planet. It is also perfectly situated for international travel.

2. What made you decide to start your business?

Originating as an actor, with numerous stage and screen Credits to my name, I had a parallel career as a writer and producer of my own plays and movies. After years of critical acclaim and varied success, with all of these productions financed on various minimum wage jobs, I needed to have an income that financed my creative production output on a more regular and expansive basis. So, I picked up a camera, shot some visuals, and became SHOTS.BY.HANVEY.

3. Do you need any qualifications? How do you get them?

I picked up a camera for the first time when I was ten years old. I bought it at a jumble sale. It was broken and rusty. I loaded it with film, took a picture, and sent it off to be developed... The developers (a high street chain that shall remain nameless...) returned the completed images with a ‘helpful’ sticker on every picture that translated as “Too much blur. THIS is how you take a picture...” I didn’t pick up a camera again until I was 31! You can study for years, but a degree in photography will never teach you to have artistic vision. It’s something you’re born with. And the only qualification you need? Tenacity.

4. Do you need any equipment? If so, what is it?

The only equipment you need to get started with photography and filmmaking is:

Camera Body;
Lens x 1;
Laptop;
Basic Photo and Movie Editing Software;
Shotgun Microphone

5. What natural skills do you need to be good in the photography industry?

It is essential that you have an Artistic eye that is uniquely different and uniquely yours. Someone should be able to pick up any of my shots and say “That’s a SHOTS.BY.HANVEY image.”
On the  business side, you need to know who your competition is. That competition isn’t every other person, working at a certain level, who says they are a photographer. Your ultimate competition is the very best of the photographers working right now. Artists such as David Bailey, Anton Corbijn, Bruce Weber, and suchlike. And how do you approach the competition? By looking them in the eye and saying: “I can take a better shot than you.”

6. What market research did you do?

I spent a decade researching the creative industries through print and digital publications, screenings, podcasts, video interviews, etc... Parallel to that I was also learning the business of business. I didn’t just focus on my industry, but on every successful  brand I respected, because the most successful brands are usually linked through a common mandate.

7. How did you find your premises?

Most photographers have studios. I don’t - I work mainly on location.

8. What was your approx. budget for starting up?

Excluding the cost of the equipment and any costs associated with some pilot projects, the approximate budget was around £6,000.

9. How did you market your business pre-launch?

Social media channels, digital, print media and word-of-mouth.

10. How did you launch?

We didn’t have one specific launch date. The company grew organically through our creative production and the marketing channels mentioned above.

11. Any tips to someone else that wants to start a photography business?

If you have a unique vision that can change culture: DO IT.

Connect with SHOTS.BY.HANVEY on Twitter and Facebook.

Get the Virgin StartUp Business plan