As I come to the 1 year anniversary of making the crazy decision to open up my own photography business, I was making a list of my expenses that I would need to renew (or add) for the next year. A lot were surprising and I never would have guessed everything involved in being a true professional photographer. I decided I wanted to share this list and why these things are beneficial to my clients and what separates a professional photographer from those who may just be trying to make a quick buck. So here goes ( you know I love a good list!)
1. A Good Camera- Yes a good camera is required. Not the most expensive mind you! The key to having a nice camera is knowing how to actually use it and take full advantage of its capabilities. There are a lot of nice cameras on the market that are very under utilized by their owners. And yes I am one of those nerds who pours through the owners manual of my camera to learn all that it can do! I have two. A back up is always needed if you are a professional. You do not want to be stuck if something goes wrong and you only have the one camera - especially when my clients have taken a lot of thought and planning to be at their session!
2. A good computer - Now why does this matter to the client? This is why - having a computer that does not have the RAM or storage to handle the file size and the editing of the large size photos will eventually crash - not cool when trying to deliver a clients photos to them in a timely fashion or any fashion at all if you do not do step number 3 below. This leads me to the next one.
3. An awesome external hard drive - actually two. Back ups are always necessary! It would be terrible to go through an entire session, download the photos then lose them! I shutter thinking about it. I always immediately back up - literally- as I download to my computer I have an external hard drive hooked on that is immediately making a second copy of the RAW file. Then I back up my final copies 3x! My clients appreciate this one with out knowing it.
4. A good monitor - little did I know that editing photos on a laptop is a big no, no in the photography world. Here is why - color and glare. Depending on where I am in my house the color and/ or glare on my monitor may be different. So I have an external monitor that is connected to my laptop, that lives in its own cubby with very little light that hits the screen to affect the editing. Clients benefit by getting photos that are consistent.
5. Monitor Color Calibration- Monitor color does degrade over time and can affect the editing and consistency of the photos that are actually delivered to the clients.
6. Insurance- yup every business needs this and it separates us as professionals and holds us accountable to our clients. It puts our clients safety as a priority. It is necessary for your photographers protection as well (all the that awesome equipment to name one!)!
7. Website - As a professional a website is a must and this benefits the clients in that they have one place they can look at my work, pricing, information, etc. ( and no although a Facebook page is a nice social media outlet - it is not a website) . It is a benefit to my clients as well in that it gives me access to professional photo printing and album companies so that I can deliver the very best product to my client. Having access to this is huge. There are some good commercial printing companies out there available to the average consumers but the quality of the photo most definitely can get lost in translation.
8. Online photo gallery delivery- the client's benefit is obvious - very easy viewing of their photos and easy access to downloading full resolution photos by a click of a button (but yes this costs $$ to maintain).
9. Business License: Again for the client this holds your photographer accountable. I have two different business licenses right now because of the requirements of utilizing photography locations in two different cities. I do this to give my clients access to the most possible choices of photography locations.
10. Domain name: Yes in order to have my website and make it easy for my clients to find me, I need to own my own domain to build my website.
11. Taxes: eeeks! Self employment taxes are a bear and basically 40 percent of my income goes to taxes..... not sure how my clients see this as being beneficial but worth mentioning my dedication to getting my clients the best that I deal with these extra taxes! ugh!
12. Photography fees/ permits: Almost everywhere you can think to photograph there are commercial photography fees. This is becoming more prevalent as more and more people are getting out there with cameras. A lot of property owners I have talked to have implemented these fees simply to get the photographers and their clients to respect their property. I am glad to see this in that it will hopefully weed out those that just do not care about their surroundings. But it is another expense. My general rule is that I will cover $25 dollars of the cost and the client is responsible for the rest. I am a member of the local greenway mostly to lower the fee per session cost from 50$ to 25$ so I can offer this popular destination to my clients at no extra cost to them. Most people are surprised that so many places require fees. Even North Carolina State Parks are requiring photography permits. A professional photographer researches this ahead of time. Can you imagine bringing your family to a spot to be photographed - going through all the trouble of setting up the session, dressing you and the kids, driving there, just to be approached and kicked off premises because your photographer did not take the appropriate steps? More and more places charge fees and research has to be done before I approach a new place. Some places it is as high as $250 for 2 hours. It is even more for indoor places in downtown Charlotte.
13. An accounting/invoicing program- this is important to my client for two reasons - One - I want to protect their information to the maximum extent. Two - I want to make it easy for my client to pay their invoice with credit card or bank draft without having their personal information in more places than it needs to be. So yes I take this on as an extra expense to make my client as comfortable as possible.
14. Professional Photo editing - access to these programs are all online in a monthly paid subscription form to give the photographer access to the constant updates that are needed for the software programs. It is actually a sweet deal and I love my programs!
15. Education- I love to give my client the best. I believe the best are always learning. What athlete do you know that does not continue to train and tweak their technique even when they win gold? In order to continue to give my clients the best I place a lot of importance on continuing to educate myself.
16. Lighting - I want to be able to have consistent results with my lighting in my indoor photography, I am a huge natural light fan, so I did my research and purchased indoor lighting that best mimicked natural lighting on my subjects (I love light and shadows on my subjects). This helps my clients in that we can scheudule any time of day and have wonderful consistent lighting. Along with this comes backdrop stands and some fun backdrops ( I am a simple girl, so I keep these simple).
17. Lenses - Great lenses are one of the big expenses that really hit my pocket book!. A great lens helps in those low light situations and just gives a photo that "yummy" light quality that my clients so love!
18. Props - I am not huge on props, but the right prop can really bring the photographic story alive! I love that my clients usually have some great prop ideas that they bring so I can incorporate them into my photos to tell their story! I always have some standard props on hand to help as well!
19. Samples - I will not add a product to offer my clients until I have seen it first. Period. This however means that I must spend $$$ on samples to see if they have the quality I am looking for or even just the look I am looking for to compliment my work and look great on my client's walls.
20. Time - THE most valuable service, I ,the photographer can give to my client. Not only the hour or so I spend photographing my client, but the hours I spend before and after the shoot. Hours before are spent scheduling, researching, and getting to know my clients needs. Hours after in editing the photos for the unique look and feel that every client brings with them. For every 1 hour of shooting this equals a minimum of 4 hours of post processing time for me. I like to customize the look and feel of my photos to best suit my client and that takes me a bit more time.
All said and done - am I making loads of money? NO. I am still investing in my business and in the negative numbers right now. However, this is all in the interest of building a great business that eventually will bring profit to me (to ahem pay bills) along with great service and products to my clients. I already have some of my clients in my loyalty program! I look forward to adding more loyal clients and continuing to meet new people! I always enjoy learning my client's own interesiting and individual stories!
Blessings as always!
April of Running Mom Photography