So you want to be a model photographer?

It was bound to happen;

It’s time to talk about photography, photographers and the business of photography.

To be a Professional photographer it takes a LOT more than a desire. It takes countless hours of promotion, self promotion, education and willingness to learn via bumps, bruises and scrapes. Much like my “So you want to be a model?” series, this will be broken down into several different groups; starting out, halfway there, there and what next. Let’s get right to it.

Photography is not an easy or cheap hobby or profession. Photography is one of those things that one can never really master, just become proficient in it. If you want to be a professional, you have to start  your business like a professional, with things and people that are geared to keep you on the right path, and protect you on said path. Yes, you will spend money out the gate. As long as it’s good money, in the end it will all be worth it. I am of the opinion every new photographer wanting to be a professional needs the following;

Gear: Your gear doesn’t need to be top of the line, brand new latest and greatest, it needs to be functional. A huge mistake people make is buying into the marketing of the various companies and assuming they need a $10,000.00 to take the best photos, when an $800.00 camera will work just the same. To further prove my point, here’s an entry I made a few months back that shows how I’d spend $1,500.00 if I were just starting over.

CPA: Having an accountant is AMAZING! There’s an old adage; “If you’re going to fight the system, best have a lawyer.” The same holds true for those starting ANY kind of business. An Accountant is an AMAZING asset to have as they will watch your pennies and help them turn it into dollars. At the start, you may not be able to afford them to do everything for you like pay creditors and handle your money, but at least around tax time you can itemize your expenditures and they can get you tax breaks as well as adjust your taxes and handle gear depreciation. You can save big money by itemizing your expenditures, you can even get tax credit for working/shooting out of your home!

Lawyer: IMHO it is imperative that you have a lawyer. Retain one before you do anything. You don’t need to have a working relationship with them, but to have one on retainer, on file, will help you when you need it. The lawyer will help you with all the legal stuff and that’s one headache you can afford to give up. A lawyer will draw up all contracts and agreements as well as review whatever proposals you get from would be clients. As stated above, you don’t want to enter court with out one, you don’t want to start a business with out one. My lawyer handles my business registration and everything that comes to my business. I myself, I look for the meanest lawyer I can find because if they’re mean to me as a client, they’re going to be mean to everyone else in the judicial system.

Insurance: Doesn’t matter if you rent a studio, shoot outdoors or in your home, you’re a fool if you don’t have insurance! Why? when you have clients or people that come to you to shoot, you are responsible for them. Your home or studio needs to be protected as a simple ankle twist or sprained wrist can turn into hundreds of thousands of dollars lawsuit for you. You’re shooting at a studio you rent out by the hour? Do you really want to chance that the studio has insurance? I can’t began to tell you the large number of studio operators that don’t carry insurance on their property. So why run the risk? Also, insurance companies can and will do a rider add-on that will cover your equipment. I know a photographer who just had a client trip over his strobe and break it. In this situation his deductible was  more than the strobe, but imagine if it was his $3,500.00 camera? $500.00 or replace the camera?

LLC: You NEED this in order to operate a legal functioning business. Well technically you need a DBA, but I group LLC with business registration and taxes because it’s another form of protecting yourself. I know many photographers who do this for fun, for a hobby. They buy the newest, latest and greatest as well as book small jobs. They don’t pay taxes because it’s not their primary source of income. Ummm…if you’re ot paying taxes on ANY money you get, you’re operating illegally. I know a young lady, a photographer who was diligent about paying federal taxes every year. She had a job and was paying federal taxes through that. She was operating at the city level and wasn’t paying city tax because she figured she wasn’t making enough money to pay city tax and never got one. A few years later she got a knock on the door and it was the city tax enforcement. They stormed in and took her computers, cameras, lighting gear and other things that they felt would more than cover the amount of money she owed. Now remember, what we pay for our gear is not what it’s worth once we take it out the box. She ended up getting some of her gear back but there was an absorption fee. This is someone I know, not a friend of a friend of a friend who heard that a sisters, cousin had this happen to them.

Marketing: We will discuss marketing in another segment and marketing will be it’s own segment. To touch on it, you will need to have some people skills. Something to sell to people even if they weren’t buying. You don’t need to waste a lot of money on marketing, but you will have to spend some money on it. Knowing where and how to spend the money is the tricky part. There are many business blogs out there that will speak to marketing, you will need time (time is money) and patience (something I’m still trying to learn) and willingness to put it into action. But again, more on marketing later.

I understand not everyone will have the money to go out and get each of the above, so I will list in my opinion, the order of importance-noting each one is VERY important. Some things can hold off a while;

  • Gear
  • LLC/Taxes
  • Insurance
  • Lawyer
  • CPA
  • Marketing

Once you have a strong footing on the above, you have the most difficult question ever to ask yourself; “What kind of photographer will I be?” No, sorry, there really isn’t a photographer that is a jack of all trades. There’s photographers who are one thing, and moonlight as others. You can always tell where they’re strong or whats their bread and butter because everything else they do to make a buck doesn’t look as good.

Hope  you’ve enjoyed segment 1, segment 2 will be the good stuff.


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