YOU’VE MADE THE momentous decision to leave the security of a steady job and to go it alone in your own business. Welcome to the freedom of being your own boss, but also the stress that goes with the knowledge that you no longer have a regular salary coming in and you’ve effectively waved goodbye to holiday and sick pay. Make a go of it, however, and you’ll never want to go back, however challenging it can be at times.

One of the first decisions you’ll have to make will be how to set yourself up. If you’re earning over £1000 from self-employed income in a tax year – from April to April – then you’ll need to register as a sole trader or set up a limited company, and you’ll need to fill in a selfassessment tax return to work out what you owe HMRC. Of course, if you don’t have income from any other sources then you won’t pay any tax at all on the first £12,570, but you’ll still need to declare what you’re earning.

The decision about whether to register as a sole trader or to go down the limited company route is an important one, and it’s best taken with the benefit of advice from an accountant, with pros and cons to both approaches to consider.

Becoming a sole trader is the simpler way to set up; you’ll be running your business as an individual and can keep all of your business profits after you’ve paid tax on them. You can trade under your own name or a company name and you’ll need to keep records of your business sales and expenses and, as mentioned, you’ll need to complete a self-assessment tax return every year. You’ll also need to pay Class 2 rates of National Insurance if your profits are more than £6515 a year or Class 4 if they are over £9569.

It all sounds very straightforward and personal, and indeed it is. You simply need to notify HMRC that you’ll be paying your tax through the self-assessment route and you’re good to go, but it’s crucial to keep very thorough records and any invoices for expenses you might be looking to claim along the way. Very many photographers choose to go down the sole trader route and it can work really well, but the drawback is that you’ll be personally responsible for any losses the business makes. In the very unlikely event of you being sued by an irate customer and you weren’t insured, the bottom line could be that your house on the line.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay

Going Limited

The alternative is to set up a limited company, which is more involved but it means that your company will be a legally separate entity. This is an important differentiation because it means that the shareholders in the company – usually yourself and perhaps a partner – will not be personally liable for the company’s debt, because there is limited liability. There can be tax advantages to running your company this way as well, since you’ll be paying corporation tax on the profits of your business, which is at a lower rate than income tax, which you’ll only pay on a lower salary and dividends.

The extra mechanisms in place with a limited company means that it will cost more to set up and you might need to get an accountant involved to ensure you do everything correctly. You’ll also need to be registered at Companies House and you could potentially fall foul of the IR35 rules that state you’re an employee if you are regularly working for the same client. There is more paperwork involved as well, since you’ll need to file both a company and a personal tax return every year.

This is purely a snapshot of the two approaches and it’s crucial to seek professional advice before jumping in, though it’s easier to switch from being a sole trader to a limited company than it is to go the other way. It is also worth

remembering that those running limited companies have been offered precious little help in the way of grants during the pandemic, and so it’s clear the government isn’t necessarily encouraging this arrangement.

Whatever you decide, make sure you keep those records up to date and invest in an accountant if things start to get on top of you down the line.

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Working for Yourself:

IN TERMS OF how I broke into fashion I don’t have one of those ‘I started photography when I was a kid’ type of stories. To be honest, I didn’t really touch a camera until I started my journalism degree in 2012, and initially it was filmmaking that appealed to me. In 2017 I quit my job to study Cinematography in Cape Town and, during the course, we had a fashion film assignment. At first I wasn’t too fussed about it but, as soon as I started creating and shooting, I was hooked!

Fashion is amazing. I honestly could ramble on about it forever. The industry often gets portrayed as toxic, but there are so many rad people involved – from models and other photographers through to agents and clients, and this is particularly evident in the sustainable sector that I specialise in. Some consider fashion to be basic or superficial, but I strongly believe it’s a huge part of people’s lives. Fashionista or not, everyone expresses who they are with fashion. It’s a way to make a statement without having to speak.

No two days are ever the same in this job. For productivity’s sake, I try to block out one to two hours for each of my regular tasks, and would typically start every morning by reading the fashion news either on Vogue Business or the Business of Fashion websites. Following that, I reply to emails from clients and to private messages on Instagram, and a lot of enquiries do now come through social media. I don’t work with an agent.

I have nothing against them but most of the clients I’m working with in the sustainable and small business sector wouldn’t usually work this way. If I have an urgent job then I would edit pretty much for the rest of the day. If not, I tend to divide my time up between editing a job and preparing for the next one. This involves researching locations, models and props and creating mood boards, shot lists and call sheets.

Finding Models

I mostly source the models I use through agency websites. It’s a lot less exclusive than it used to be and most models are super keen to test. The bigger names though are looking for photographers with a decent portfolio, so I would suggest first doing a selection of test shoots with friends or models to make sure that you have a nice diversity of shots to show before contacting them.

I do test quite a lot and it’s super important. Firstly, it helps you to get the sort of content you need to be showing in your portfolio and, secondly, because you have the chance to go absolutely wild on test shoots it’s an amazing opportunity to try out all the ideas you build up in your head. Ideally, I would be looking to have
one test and two jobs a week.

The team I work with tends to vary. Sometimes a brand would send me products and trust me with the production, which involves sourcing the model and location as well as doing styling and

choosing the final images. These are usually brands that employ a lot of content creators to shoot a variety of photos for their social media needs. If a company wants to have a campaign or ʻlook book’ shoot it will typically take four to six weeks to prep. During Covid, it often took longer because their new collections were delayed. With the brands I work with, it’s quite a collaborative approach. I will suggest make-up artists and a stylist if they don’t know someone already and we will have a creative brainstorm about how best to present their clothes.

I’m very organised and will always write a call sheet, have a super detailed mood board for clothing and accessories and will send emails back and forth to make sure everyone is on the same page. I really don’t like it when there’s a misunderstanding on the day that’s due to a lack of communication.

I would call myself a natural light photographer. I absolutely love shooting outdoors and on location – much more than in a studio. It’s way less predictable but I love how raw it is. If you’ve planned for a sunny shoot and, all of a sudden, it’s cloudy – you just need to work it.

In terms of my regular gear, I work with a Sony a7R II with a 24-70mm f/2.8 and 85mm f/1.4, and I also have a couple of vintage lenses, a 50mm and a 35mm. I usually aim to be spending the UK winter in a sunny place. For these trips, I invite brands to send me their products so I can shoot them overseas. I actually planned to go to Cape Town in March this year and take some brands with me – obviously, that didn’t happen. But you will definitely find me shooting some amazing sustainable brands somewhere warm this winter.

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MPB Used Kit List

Fashion is a very open discipline and, accordingly, the kit that’s required will vary wildly. MPB’s used kit expert Marc Reid comes up with three alternative approaches.

Fujifilm X100F (£729, Excellent) A style icon in its own right, this premium compact from Fujifilm is the perfect companion to keep by your side whether you happen to be in the studio or on the move. This silver finish X100F incorporates a series of advanced imaging capabilities while retaining its trademark design and intuitive handling assets. A high quality built-in Fujinon 23mm f/2 lens provides a general wide-angle 35mm equivalent focal length, and its optical design utilises aspherical glass to ensure sharp imagery, while a Super EBC coating reduces flare and ghosting.

Canon EOS 5D IV (£1,709, Good) + Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L USM (£629, Excellent) + Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM (£1,099, Good) The Canon EOS 5D IV is an outstanding option for stills and is an able 4K video machine as well. Impressive tech such as an enhanced AF system, built-in Wi-Fi, NFC, and GPS means you’ll be able to navigate a vast range of scenarios. Pair the 5D IV with two high-quality pieces of Canon glass: we recommend the fast Canon EF 24mm f/1.4 L USM wide-angle prime, combined with the versatile Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8 L II USM wide-angle zoom.

Sony Alpha a7R IV (£2,259, Excellent) + Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm f/1.8 ZA (£444, Excellent) + Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS (£689, Excellent) Lastly, entering the fray is the best-inclass a7R IV from Sony. This model features a 61MP full-frame sensor and includes pixel-shift multi-shooting that allows users to create stunning 240MP images. Partner this game changer with the Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm f/1.8 ZA and the compact and lightweight Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens, which collectively cover your wide-angle zoom needs.


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