The Lowdown: What Are the Setup Costs of a Photography Startup?

Are you really a professional photographer, or are you a passionate amateur – but one who’s ultimately pretending to be a pro? Often enough, the one differentiator between pros and amateurs is working up the courage to start a legal photography business. It’s not enough to have a camera, website, Facebook page, and a couple of gigs here and there (either for money, or for ‘exposure’). The one essential ingredient you need is to take your photography business seriously – because, until you do, no one else is going to take it seriously either. Now, of course, before you decide on the matter, it’s only normal to want to figure out the setup costs of a photography startup. That’s where we come in, with today’s blog post: a rundown of all the major costs you are likely to face, in your quest to open a new photo biz.

The gear setup costs of a photography startupsetup-costs-for-a-photography-startup01

·         Cameras

Make no mistake, you’re going to need at least two of them, in order to be prepared to deal with camera malfunctions. The pros’ best recommendation for wedding photographers is the Nikon D610 ($2,000 a piece) – you’re going to need two bodies, sans the lens included in the full kit.

·         Lenses

One of the most important investments, in terms of setup costs of a photography startup, is that into lenses. Here’s the kit that the pros recommend: Nikon 35mm f/2.0 ($350), Nikon 50mm f/1.8 ($299), Nikon 85mm f/1.8 ($499) and the Nikon 70-200 f/2.8 ($2,400). About that last lens: yes, it is expensive, but it’s absolutely essential for wedding photogs who often shoot in low light conditions, such as churches.

·         Other gear

A couple of flashes are mandatory and, if you go for the Nikon D610, you might want to opt for two Nikon SB-700 flashes ($329 a pop). Additionally, the rest of the accoutrements: camera bags, memory cards, stands for lights, flash triggers, reflectors, etc. Be prepared to spend at least $500 on them (though $1,000 sounds like a more realistic amount).

Business setup costs

setup-costs-for-a-photography-startup02Let’s get down to the pure business setup costs of a photography startup now. First off, you’re going to have to pay $125 for incorporating your business. Then, you’re going to want to have that business insured, for roughly $600. The services of an accountant will cost you about $300 per year, and a money and client manager to keep track of your finances will add an extra $130, let’s say, to the total tally. A showcase of product samples can cost anywhere between $200 and $1,000.

Then comes the issue of legal fees – you’re going to want your contracts to be completely in order. Ideally, you should seek out a lawyer with previous experience in the field of photography, or one who’s a photographer themselves. Hourly fees are about $400 to $2,000, but you can also purchase ready-made contracts online ($55 to $450) and have your lawyer review them.

Computer & online costs

As far as IT and tech setup costs for photography startups go, you know that there’s no way you can survive without an iMac, and that’s at least $1,299 right there. Then, you will want to invest in a color calibration tool for your screen, a couple of backup hard drives, and licenses to use Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop suites. All in all, these items are going to cost you an extra $450, with the amendment that software licenses need to be renewed each year. And since we’re on the topic of yearly costs, also add yearly hosting and domain name costs for your website (about $70/year), plus a website theme (a good one shouldn’t cost more than $50).

Of course, you might want to invest in some training and business streamlining tools, such as a pricing guide workbook ($150 to $250), a marketing course (about $800), a sales guide ($250). These are optional, but, chances are, they will help you make a lot more money faster, once you invest. So, once you draw the line, expect to put in about $15,000 in your wedding photography business right from the get-go. How does this amount sound for you?

How to Reduce Your Photo Post-Production Time in 3 Simple Steps

reduce-your-photo-post-production-timeA career in wedding photography doesn’t have to mean a you only do one job, i.e. shoot weddings. Of course, perhaps your business strategy is that of a one-person army, a single-engine machine. That is, you shoot and edit your own photos, without the aid of an assistant or second shooter. However, perhaps your current level of career development has brought you to a less stable position and you alternate between post-production work in the studio, second shooting with various main photographers, and running your own photography operation. The advantage of doing all these things is that you develop a lot of diverse and useful skills, not the least important of which is that of knowing how to reduce your photo post-production time. We’ll tell you all about it today – though the truth is that it all boils down to a single strategy: knowing how to shoot like an editor.

1) Tell your clients’ story

As a wedding photographer, what’s your main goal? Putting together a portfolio of photos that look amazing on your blog, that have a ton of editorial appeal, that could, after all is said and done, end up in a wedding magazine? Or do you rather want to please your clients? Ideally, you should strike a balance between the two goals, but, at the end of the day, your clients are always the most important members of your audience as a photographer. They’re the ones whose needs you want to satisfy and whose story you want to tell. And they won’t always care as much as you do about super-edited photos with editorial value. They’ll want the candid smiles and the group photos, so focus on those if you want to keep them happy and reduce your photo post-production time.

2) Shoot for film

In the day and age of digital photography supremacy, it’s all too easy to overshoot. When there’s a 16GB memory card inside your camera, you might find yourself unable to stop shooting – but ending the event with tens of thousands of photos on your camera won’t help reduce your photo post-production time. Instead of falling into this entrapment, try to shoot with the eye of an editor. Try to think ahead and anticipate the necessary edits with each photo you take. You don’t want to be stuck in the studio for days, culling out your photos before you get to do anything else. The general rule of thumb here is to forget that the camera you hold in your hands is digital – think of it as an old-school film camera with no more than 36 exposures on a roll of film. This might just teach you to appreciate each shot and determine you to try and make it count.

3) Let your mistakes teach you

Irrespective of whether you work with an editor or edit all your own photos, you can always learn from your mistakes, especially if you want to reduce your photo post-production time. If you do work with an editor, try to spend some time with them as they work on your photos (and, ideally, on the work of other photographers, too). Perhaps you chose to use a 50mm lens in a small, crowded space and ended up with pictures that had to be massively cropped, in order for the guests’ expressions to become visible. Perhaps you selected an exposure time that worked for one part of the photo, but completely obliterated the side of it that would have actually been relevant. Until you shoot (and then shoot some more), it’s going to be difficult for you to understand what techniques and methods work in which particular contexts – but when you do, do pay heed to your errors.

How to Choose a Makeup Artist for Wedding Photography

Choose-a-Makeup-Artist-for-Wedding-PhotographyPortraiture and wedding photography are definitely the two photo niches in which you can’t possibly do without the presence of a professional Makeup Artist (or MUA). Now, the problem with knowing how to choose a makeup artist for wedding photography is similar to finding a good photog for a wedding. Just like anyone with a camera believes they can pull off a great wedding shoot, so anyone with a makeup palette is convinced they know all about professional makeup. Hint: they don’t. If you want to see great results and happy clients, you need a pro MUA, and here’s how you go about finding and hiring one:

1. Go to Model Mayhem

Aspiring pro photographers, who dabble in either portraiture, fashion photography, fine art, wedding photography or anything that has to do with setting up a setting that also involves people, need to know Model Mayhem. This is a great platform for finding models and MUAs, irrespective of your skill and experience level. If you’re just starting out, you can help the MUA build their own portfolio, while you also improve yours, through TFP (trading for pictures) instead of paying them for the work. If you’re a more experienced photog, seeking to improve their business, choose a makeup artist for wedding photography who’s worked with a modeling agency. Try to find someone who is not only like-minded, but similarly experienced.

2. Choose a makeup artist for wedding photography who is great

While there’s no such thing as the perfect MUA, a great wedding photography makeup artist does need to tick off a few qualities on a checklist. Here are some things to look for in an MUA:

–          Punctuality. Nothing spells professionalism (or lack thereof) more in this business than respecting meeting times and deadlines.

–          People skills. If you want to choose a makeup artist for wedding photography in particular, then you need to look for someone who understands they’re not working with professional models. They’re working with real-life, nervous, often stressed out couples to-be.

–          A flair for branding. And not just their own. The best MUAs are both adaptable and pour their own vision into each shoot. This means that they understand and respect your own brand of wedding photography, while also pitching in their flair and skills.

3. Gauge your chemistry with your MUA of choice

In fact, let’s take the above pointer one step further: as you work with more MUAs, find a few of them (three or four, let’s say), with whom you’ve got chemistry. Chemistry, in this case, can be defined as similar work ethics, similar creative visions, and respect for each other’s skill and experience. It also has a lot to do with basic human interaction: if the two of you generally get along and can share a few laughs, then you have yourself a winner. We can’t possibly stress how important this is. The last thing you want is a meltdown between you and an MUA during an (already charged) wedding shoot.

4. Create a money-making wedding photography team

As you evolve and your wedding photography business progresses, make sure to stay as consistent as possible, in terms of how you choose a makeup artist for wedding photography. Work with the same people as often as you can, if you’ve found some who meet your standards and the above criteria. Have a go-to list of MUAs that you know you can rely on and book for shoots. This way, you can have the comfort of knowing what to expect, in terms of makeup, so you can go ahead and focus on your share of the work.

6 Common Mistakes for New Wedding Photography Businesses

common-mistakes-for-new-wedding-photography-studiosSeasoned photographers, who have been in the niche of shooting weddings for several years now, will come to you at various points in your career, with advice that’s more or less welcome, valid, or solicited. Now, most of them mean well and should be taken at face value, as well as with a pinch of salt. But, occasionally, you will also come across the revelation of committing common mistakes for new wedding photography businesses. There are those errors which are part of the learning process, and which you probably need to go through, in order to evolve. And while the list below does not, by any means, aim to be exhaustive, it is meant to save you at least some of the trouble these mistakes come with. So read on and try to take some of them to heart.

Common Mistake #1: You don’t use the manual mode

Don’t get us wrong – it’s not like using the Aperture and Shutter Priority modes is wrong. They do serve their purpose, when there simply isn’t enough time, or the situation is too complex to set your camera right on Manual Mode. However, if you’re serious about becoming a professional wedding photographer, this is one of the foremost common mistakes of new photography businesses you’re going to want to avoid. If you don’t use Manual Mode, there’s no way you’re ever going to learn anything about lighting, as well as about your camera in general.

Common Mistake #2: You’re only a photographer

That’s also one of the more serious common mistakes of new photography businesses. You see, when you go into this business, you should walk in assuming that you’re going to be doing so much more than just taking pictures. You’re going to become, in turn, a social media expert, a marketing expert, a treasurer and accountant, a PR person, a secretary – and just about any other business running role you can think of.

Common Mistake #3: You believe success will come quickly

Get that out of your head pronto. It’s going to take years before you start making a comfortable amount of money. That’s because, no matter how much your heart is in it, there’s still a lot you need to learn – and not just about wedding photography, but also about all those other skills and lines of work we mentioned before.

Common Mistake #4: You have no people skills

Photography in general, but wedding photography in particular, is all about knowing how to work with and relate to people. People are your clients, prime material, and everything in between. Without them, you have no business to speak of, so if you really want to turn your pipe dream into a success, then you’d better get cracking at honing those people skills – it will pay off tenfold, time and time again.

Common Mistake #5: You spend a lot of money on gear

Yes, we know – it’s hard to hold back from buying that one lens/tripod/case you’ve always dreamt of. However, if you don’t control your purchases, especially in the beginning, you risk running yourself into debt and a very sad case of business failure. And that is just about the opposite of what you want to do, especially since it’s never just that one purchase. It’s a vicious circle and you know it, so practice some restraint.

Common Mistake #6: You don’t have referrals to rely on

In entrepreneurship, getting business to come your way is all about word of mouth, references, and referrals. Yes, paid advertising can help to, but there is no publicity like the one a satisfied client can provide. So always make sure to encourage referrals, or even ask for them upfront.

6 Common Mistakes for New Wedding Photography Businesses

Once Upon A Time In A Photography Studio Far, Far Away …

Don’t you just love a good story?

When you read a great story, it has to have certain things in place.

A great beginning, middle and end. If any of those pieces drag on, aren’t well thought out, or are left to chance, you end up wanting more. It may be an “okay” story, but it will never be great.

Conflict and resolution. There is always something in the story that the main character has to deal with or fight off. Even in a great Disney movie for kids, there will always be a reason the main character has to look within to discover more about him or herself.

A lot of detail. This is Alex. Alex was a recent high school graduate, looking forward to a bright future. Both of these sentences introduce you to Alex. But one begins painting a much more detailed picture. You can start to see who Alex is. You know how old he is and potentially the direction he is heading in life.

As human beings, we care about the story. No one exists in life without a story. That’s why you see stories wherever you go.

Think about the Olympics. Michael Phelps is a household name because they tell his story over and over again. In his third Olympic run, he beat the long time record of total medals held when he swam to his 22nd win. We all rooted for him because we knew his story, have watched him win time after time, and are right there with him as the announcers scream in excitement as he touched the side.

Think about what you read or watch every day. If you have a favorite show, it’s because you are into the story. The Voice, for example, allows us a peek into every day lives of people trying to find that one lucky break. Before every one of the contestants gets up on stage to sing, we spend a few moments learning about who they really are. They grew up bullied. They were different in high school. They’ve been singing in small town bars for years looking for the “big break”. Their mom’s died of cancer. They spent their last dime on a plane ticket for this audition. Whatever the story, you are pulled in and are right there with them, rooting them on and hoping they do well.

It’s because that’s how we are wired. That’s how humans make connections and move around in this world. [Read more…]

Workflow Resource – Give Image Finder A Try

On any given day, do you have a gazillion things running past you, and just as many windows opened up on your computer? I know I do.

So when you start in on a new client, or have someone call up with questions on images, your mind quickly scrambles to come up with where the image files are located and how to find them quickly.

You may want to try Fundy Image Finder – a brand new tool that makes finding and pulling images quick and easy. Its not a sophisticated program; just a simple workflow utility to help photographers pull images for print and album orders in the most efficient way possible.

(And best of all, its 100% free – so you have to go download it now!)

What it is

A simple tool for quickly finding a batch of images.

Why it rocks

Ever have a print or album order with a list of images you have to find?  We’ve made the job of finding them fast and snappy!  Image Finder was designed to do one very specific task, and do it well.  Like the name of the product, it finds images.  That’s it.

How it works

Cut and paste a list of image files into the finder window, and hit go.  It will search a folder and/or subfolders for the images and bring them up in the queue.  From there, you can open the files up in Photoshop or quickly create copies for editing.  That’s it!  It just takes a simple step in your workflow and makes it lightning fast. Watch this video to see just how fast it is.

How much is it?

Brace yourself.  It’s FREE.  Yeah, how cool is that?  Fundy Software is all about making the Photographer’s workflow faster and easier.  This was such a simple tool to develop we were amazed nobody had made it yet, so we busted it out and are making it available completely free.

Grab your copy of it here.

8 Ways To Know If You Are Meant To Be A Business Owner

You’ve been dreaming of the day you’ll become a successful business owner. But do you really have what it takes? Are you really cut out for the entrepreneur path? Can you be taught the skills necessary to run a successful business – or is it something you’re born with?

A recent study reported on Inc says that if business students take as least two core entrepreneurship classes, that is enough to positively influence them into starting up a business later in life.

And while the study was conducted by analyzing students attending college and going for a business degree, I think the same applies to people in general contemplating a business, who decide to pursue a few classes to throw the odds into their favor.

Entrepreneurs are not born; they are taught. And the more desire you have in becoming a business owner, the greater your chances of success. Here are 8 ways you’ll know if the entrepreneur road is for you.

1. Your goal is to have a photography studio that brings in a full time income. I love the story Roy Disney told reporters on the opening of Epcot in Florida. They asked Roy if he was sad that Walt didn’t live to see the opening of his dream. Roy replied not at all: because Walt visualized the whole thing before the first shovel of dirt was turned. In order to meet your goal, you have to see your goal first.

2. You can discipline yourself. Can you easily set goals for yourself and accomplish them on schedule? When you don’t have a boss telling you what to do, you have to prioritize and make sure things get done.

3. You hate working for someone else. Yes, I know; the majority of people probably fall into this category. But if you dig deep down inside and ask yourself, “do I enjoy working for others?” you may be surprised at the answer. Some people truly like the normalcy of having a desk, co-workers, and a boss in the corner office. They like having a paycheck and benefits. And they really don’t want to have to make decisions and face problems that effect their well being every day. [Read more…]

How To Make Your Small Photography Business Seem Bigger

When our business started growing by leaps and bounds, we made a conscious decision to stay small – Andrew, myself, an office manager, and two part time assistants – yet look like we were a very large photography studio that could take on clients anywhere in the world.

Guess what? It worked.

It doesn’t matter if your business is in a large office building, or run out of the basement in your home, there are certain things you can do to give it the large business appearance. Along with the comfy feeling of being a small time studio.

Brand Yourself For Mass Appeal

Your brand is your window into the world. Just because your current client lives 10 miles from your studio doesn’t mean she won’t be mailing photographs and sharing your information with a friend that lives 1,000 miles away. Especially in today’s world, there are no boundaries when it comes to promotion. We’ve had clients in Germany plan a long distance wedding and choose us as their photographer by viewing our online portfolios and making decisions through email – that’s a long way from Colorado.

Start out by looking at the name of your photography business and your tagline. What do they really say about you as a photographer? Does it say we stay local, or does it say we are willing to travel anywhere? When we were in the process of doubling our business, we changed our logo by deleting “Denver” from our tagline, and adding “Worldwide” instead. From that point on our business grew exponentially. Not only did we have a different attitude, our clients did as well. We received many phone calls asking if we had offices in different regions of the world – and they were always surprised to learn how small our employee base really was. [Read more…]

3 Tips For Getting Your Photography Studio In The News

News is changing. When was the last time you actually picked up a hard copy newspaper? And statistics show the younger you are, the less chance of that actually occurring.

Just because the method for getting the news is changing doesn’t mean the necessity for news events is changing. In fact “news” articles are needed more than ever. We no longer have one newspaper for one community. There are dozens of tools and resources that write up and look for news related content on a daily basis.

Yet if I were to ask you what you are doing to attract the attention of editors and writers for these sources, I bet your answer would be “Ummm…”

Let’s break it down, and look at ways you can start growing your business by using publicity, and find resources that will make your job even easier.

1. Know your budget.

Don’t you hate it when the first question out of a potential customer’s mouth is “How much for an 8×10?” Yet that same question is relevant in every industry.

Before you move forward and look for resources in the public relations industry, you have to know your budget. Can you afford to hire a publicity firm? Can you hire people to write press releases for you? How about hiring a virtual assistant to send things to editors and writers on a regular basis – and to keep you on track every month?

The only way to determine how much work you can have done for you is to determine how much you can spend.

You can also talk with more than one person in the industry, and get a better feeling for what is possible. Just because you can’t afford it now doesn’t mean you won’t be able to in the future. Learn what things are, discover the lingo within the industry, and research costs. Then put together a plan of things to do over the coming months.

When you are researching ideas, look for: [Read more…]

5 Work At Home Habits To Avoid – Are You Guilty?

Ahhh, the thought of working at home can be ever so appealing. In fact that’s why a lot of people go into business for themselves. What could be better than staying at home, earning money while you’re there, AND getting a few things done around the house as well?

However, working at home brings its own set of unique challenges. And in many cases, if you fall into the “work at home” trap, it can quickly cause you to lose productivity, and actually prevent you from creating a successful business.

Here are the top five habits I see that can stop you from building the business of your dreams.

1. Establishing work hours

Your home. It’s easy to slip into the office any time you choose. If the phone rings at 6 am, why not answer it? Production time at 2am when you can’t sleep – why not?

Working at home starts out with the best intentions. It’s easy to head out to lunch with friends, and shop during a mid morning when crowds aren’t as fierce. Yet if you don’t treat your business like a business, and set up normal hours built around what you need to get done, you’ll quickly get overwhelmed.

Do what’s best for you. If you are productive from 9pm to midnight after everyone else is asleep, by all means put that into your schedule. The key is to create hours that you can stick with day after day.
[Read more…]