THERE ARE SO MANY exciting aspects to setting up your first small business, but it has to be said that managing the finances isn’t usually top of the list. When you’re designing up your snazzy new website,  putting together your marketing plans and dreaming about being your own boss, taking time to consider which bank account might be right for you and your fledgling new enterprise might take a back seat, but it’s crucially important that it doesn’t.

If you want to lay down the foundations for a long lasting and robust business then it’s important to have your finances under control. Your relationship with your bank should be a positive one, and whoever you choose to work with is likely to have a team on board that’s been set up specifically to work with small businesses such as yours. This means that they should be knowledgeable and supportive and, as we’ve seen only too clearly over the past 12 months, they should be there through the challenging as well as the better times, to support you through periods when cashflow might be tight.

The first thing to consider is whether you need to set up a separate bank account for your business in the first place. If you’re a sole trader, which is to say that yours is an enterprise that’s owned and run by a single person, with no legal distinction between the owner and the business entity, then legally you don’t need one, though most people still choose to set one up. Many small businesses are registered as limited companies, however, and so here the situation is very different.

“By law, limited companies need their own bank account as they are a separate entity from their owners,” explains Symmie Swil, head of SME Banking at Starling Bank. “Even if you’re a sole trader it’s beneficial to have a separate business bank account, because it helps you keep track of your income and expenses for tax purposes and most banks will see business transactions in a personal account as a breach of their terms and conditions.

“Business bank accounts can differ from personal bank accounts in a number of ways – they may have different limits on payments, or allow you to share access with a business partner or fellow director, and most will charge you a monthly fee.”

Choosing Your Partner

Essentially, if you are serious about your new business and the hope is that it’s going to grow and provide income for you for a number of years, then creating a separate business bank account at the outset makes sense. The good news is that there are lots of options out there that are designed to cater for businesses of all shapes and sizes, and you should spend time considering all your many options.

Having your business account in the same place as your current account can simplify things but it’s certainly not essential, so shop around to see if you can take advantage of some of the regular deals that banks will offer to get your custom, and there could be some valuable ‘golden hellos’ being dangled if you look hard enough. Don’t just look at things in the short term, however; consider what type of bank you should be partnering with, and it’s perfectly possible these days to choose someone to work with that’s outside the major High Street names.

A modern internet bank such as Starling, for example, might not have a physical branch but if you can cope with its online nature, you’ll find that it delivers lots of flexibility and is one of the few that won’t charge a fee for your business account, which typically can be around £60-80 per annum. Take a look at the full picture and make sure you pick a partner that ticks all the boxes for you.

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THE GENRE OF portrait photography itself breaks down into a myriad of different areas. While social photographers might be focusing on such things as family portraits, my part of the business is more about commissioned jobs for a wide range of commercial clients, mixed in with the personal projects that I feel are so crucial to ensure that you continue to develop, to learn and to push yourself forward.

I’ve spent 15 years behind the lens, working in both Europe and the USA and, in that time, I’ve had the privilege to photograph a wide range of familiar faces, such as former PMs David Cameron and Tony Blair, Dame Judy Dench, Sir Derek Jacobi, Sir Patrick Stewart, Iain Glen and many others. I’ve had the chance to photograph royalty and military leaders, have received numerous corporate assignments and I also lecture for the National Portrait Gallery and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

ABOVE: Personal projects are hugely important to Rory and his latest has seen him shooting portraits of the first female soldiers to join combat units. This is 1st Lieutenant Batts from The Royal Tank Regiment.

In short, no two days ever turn out the same, which I really appreciate. For example, one day I could be commissioned to photograph His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent, for a new official portrait, and this could be swiftly followed by a location shoot with The Coldstream Guards in Windsor, or a day spent capturing celebrity head shots at my London Studio. I happen to love the diversity, but here’s a flavour of how a typical day might pan out.

Doing the Preparation

I like to begin my day slowly, since I usually work late. When not travelling, I enjoy the opportunity to have a sleep in, and then my first task of the day will be to check through emails, answering queries and setting up appointments. I’ll then take the opportunity to sit down with my wife Alexandra, who’s responsible for marketing our business on social media and promoting my services online. We’ll spend around half an hour discussing a new campaign or marketing strategy, and we’ll always have this important morning discussion even if we’re travelling. I’ve found that having someone around you to help market your business allows you more time to concentrate on your photography and clients.

My base in London serves not just as my home but also my studio and office, and it features 1000 square feet of loft style space. This is home to two Bowens XMT 500s and boasts a full array of collapsible backdrops, reflectors and stands. My regular kit consists of a Canon 5D Mark IV and Canon 85mm f/1.2 and 16-25mm f/1.4 lenses, while I’ll also have a back-up 5D Mark III with me in case anything goes wrong with my main camera.

First Sessions

Late morning I’ll begin with my first portrait session. These typically take one to two hours per client and often I’ll see three to four clients per day. I enjoy an eclectic photography practice and those coming through my door could be actors, politicians, corporate or celebrity clients. If I’m not shooting then I could be carrying out one-to-one photography tuition and coaching via Zoom, which I’ve been doing a lot of recently, or I could be retouching images for clients. In the late afternoon, I’ll either retouch images from the day’s sessions or I’ll be sending edited files to clients. My main tool has always been Dropbox, which is a must for photographers.

If my schedule is light in the later afternoon, I’ll do some research. It’s not unusual for photographers to be inspired by other types of art and, if you look through my work, you’ll notice there is a great deal of Renaissance Italian influence to be found in there. I’ve made use of the Evernote app for many years now to make notes and to capture useful articles and clips, and I draw inspiration from the likes of Caravaggio, Titian and Jusepe de Ribera.

I always try to dedicate at least one day a week to personal projects, which I believe are of the utmost importance if you want to continually move your work forward. The one I’m concentrating on at the moment involves working with the British Army to capture the first female soldiers to join combat regiments. Recording history has always been a passion of mine as a photographer.

In more normal times I also tend to travel quite a lot. Utilising just one or two lights for my portraiture comes in very handy as it means I don’t need to take a lot of gear with me, while my Lastolite Collapsible backdrops and Manfrotto Nano Stands are compact and lightweight, which is great for carry on! I also max out my Air Miles by using an American Express Platinum card, which gives me access to airport lounges and travel insurance, both useful extras and some welcome extra comfort when I’m travelling.

If I have jobs in the USA or Europe, we’ll often make use of Airbnb to rent a live/work space, and this can be booked directly online. Living and working in the same studio location keeps our costs to a minimum and allows for more competitive pricing and less travel once we arrive at a location.

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If you’re inspired by Rory’s lifestyle to consider a career as a portrait photographer, what kit should you be looking to buy? MPB’s resident used kit expert Marc Reid gives his advice.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 II (Good Condition – £629) Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 (Good Condition – £219) Olympus M.Zuiko ED 45mm f/1.8 (Good Condition – £124).

Kicking things off with a budget option under £1000, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 II is a workhorse MFT mirrorless camera, offering a broad range of stills and video-minded functionality. Perfect for wide angle work, the Olympus 17mm f/1.8 M.Zuiko Digital ED lens delivers in every department. Finishing off the set-up with the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 45mm f/1.8 gives you quality in every shot.

Canon EOS 5DS (Excellent Condition – £1319) Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM (Excellent Condition – £229) Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM (Excellent Condition – £279).

Moving up in price, but still a budget friendly setup for under £2000 is the Canon EOS 5DS, partnered with two primes. Offering an impressive 50.6 megapixels, the EOS 5DS it is the perfect camera for the professional. The lightweight Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM and 85mm f/1.8 USM lenses are high quality optics that can partner this kind of resolution and both are perfect for portraits.

Sony a7R III (Excellent Condition – £1889) Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA (Like New Condition – £539) Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM (Like New Condition – £1059)

Our premium recommended set-up comes in at a fraction under £3500. Proving that speed, resolution, and video capabilities can all co-exist, the Sony a7R III is a versatile camera with multimedia versatility. Pairing the Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA with the bright Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 short telephoto delivers a pair of excellent portrait lenses.


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