advice needed to start a photo business

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by carrie, May 31, 2008.

  1. carrie

    carrie TPF Noob!

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    I'm new to TPF and hoping some of you photogs out there can lend me some advice. I have a Bachelor's Degree in photojournalism from about 8 years ago, but[FONT=Verdana, Helvetica, Arial] currently I'm working full-time in an unrelated field. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Helvetica, Arial]I'm considering getting back into photography. [/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Helvetica, Arial]My husband is a musician and has an "in" to the wedding industry in our town, which is very popular for destination weddings, etc. I'm also interested in pregnancy/baby/kid portraiture, etc. Since I haven't worked professionally in several years, my experience with digital is limited and I am not up-to-date on current imaging software, etc. But, I have a great eye and a love for photography!

    I have some questions about where to begin with this venture. Any general advice is welcome, plus answers to the specific questions below. THANKS!

    GETTING STARTED:

    -I have inquired about volunteering with a wedding photog in town, to get my feet back into the game and get some portfolio shots. I was thinking my next step would be volunteering/advertising on Craigslist, etc. to shoot a few weddings for free (minus cost of supplies) again to build my portfolio and get some experience. Obviously I would be clear with potential clients about my inexperience, etc. Any thoughts on this approach, or other suggestions?

    EQUIPMENT:

    - I shoot Nikon and have only film cameras. What do you consider the bare minimum digital camera body to get started as a portrait/wedding photographer? I have several lenses, some of which would have to be replaced. Want to share your bare minimum combination of lenses?

    - What about lighting equipment? I have an SB-28 and limited small systems lighting experience, but never was very comfortable with lighting. Do you HAVE to have an elaborate lighting system for the posed portraits following the ceremony, etc., even if you are shooting in (and advertising) a photojournalistic style?

    - What is the bare minimum Mac system/ imaging software to get started?

    - What other equipment needs am I not thinking of?

    TRAINING/EDUCATION:

    - Is website design training necessary?

    - My background is with film. I always shot manually as much as possible, even with AF lenses, etc. Can someone who is comfortable with shooting film on something like an N90s transition to something like a D200 pretty easily, or do I need to consider taking a digital photography course or something of that nature?

    - Do you have a favorite book, website, or other resource that has been helpful in shooting portraits or weddings, running your business, etc.?

    LOGISTICS:

    -Do you absolutely have to have an assistant/2nd shooter to do weddings?

    -Do you use Shutterfly, or some similar service, or some other method for getting prints to your clients?

    - Do you have to have a studio, or can you get by with using public locations/client's home, etc. for portraits?

    Any other tips?

    THANKS ALL!
    [/FONT]
     
  2. judson

    judson TPF Noob!

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    Hi Carrie,

    I'm not an expert, since I am just getting in the business myself, but I'll give you a few thoughts. First, unless you have an excellent reason, never shoot a wedding for free. Period. You become known as the cheap photographer. I have shot a few for free and consider it a mistake. I am shooting one last free wedding. However, the people are friends and are well connected in my community and I have told them I want referrals!

    Before you get involved in webdesign, etc., read the Emyth by MIchael Gerber. Then, when you want to do your own website, read it again!

    I started shooting in 1972. I was thirteen. I went through a nasty divorce in the 90's and put my cameras down for almost ten years. I picked them back up again and discovered it is just like riding a bicycle. You never forget.

    You really need to shoot digital and you need two bodies to shoot with. Look online and get a couple of used D70's or D80s. THey shouldn't be that expensive.

    I shoot with SB800's and SB 600's. Lighting is never perfect. Try for good and you'll make it.

    I use a mac book pro, but a macbook should be sufficent. Get LIGHTROOM. Period. CS3 is nice when you can afford it, but get light room.

    an assistant? What's that?

    I use a local lab, but then again, I am just getting started and my volume is not that great yet.

    Studio? We don't need no stinking studio.

    Monte Zucker's portrait book is worth it's weight in gold.

    Like I said, I'm just getting started in the pro end of this. Hope this helps.
     
  3. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I avoid weddings like the plague, however, I'll throw in my bit just for the heck of it.
    I agree with Judson on the 'free' issue, however, if you volunteer to 2nd shoot for someone else, you should be able to work something out.
    -Equipment, I don't agree on this point. The D70/D80 are good cameras (and I did a couple of weddings with my D70), however if you're going to do in on a pro or semi-pro basis, I would say the bare minimum is a couple of D200s (and a second body is a MUST!). First they have higher frame rates, and second, you can attach a grip to them, which after an hour or two at the reception, you will be very grateful for. A couple of used D2xs would be ideal, but even with the price drops, that's still a lot of $$.
    Flashes at least one SB-800, and a backup SB-600
    Lenses: (Assuming you're going with a DX format camera) f2.8 10.5mm or maybe the f4 12-24mm ('though it's a little slow) , f2.8 17-55, f1.4 50mm, and the f2.8 28-70.
    Education? Definitely I'd recommend some instruction in digital photography, with emphasis on things like colour space, post-processing, and lighting. The actual use of the camera isn't all that difficult, and the photography aspect hasn't changed since Mr. Adams was taking pictures of the Grand Canyon, but the techniques for processing are a world away from film.
    Labs? Find a good, consistent local lab in your area with which you can establish a working relationship. Someone who, when you come screaming in at 4.00pm on a Saturday might just stay open that extra half-hour to reprint the altar pictures you inadvertantly sent in with the wrong white balance...

    Best of luck - better you than me! ;)
     
  4. judson

    judson TPF Noob!

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    She asked for the "bare minimum". I agree with you that a d200 or better would be the best choice. However, some of my best images were shot with a d70. FWIW, you can get a battery grip for the d80. I'm not sure about the D60.
     
  5. JIP

    JIP No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Wel as far as you initial gear investmen goes it depends on how serious you are about all of this. If you are going to stick with this go for it I say minimum D300 as far as body goes and you can use a cheaper body as backup. A place to start might be a D80 with a 17-55 2.8 and SB-800 and later when you feel comfortable with it all go for the "big guns" a D300 with a 70-200 2.8 VR. A fast CPU is important but learning how to use the programs is as important I would not hesitate to go out and take some courses in Photoshop or whatever program you end up with. As far as education goes for photography if you think you need it go for it I would not hesitate to go and take a class to brush up on your skills in digital it can't hurt just don't be surprised if you think you should be teaching the class. Some of these classes can get a little remedial. Also I would do what I can to follow other wedding photographers there is no substitute for practical experience when it comes to weddings and when you do it try to put yourself in the photogrpher's shoes so you can get an idea of the stresses involved.
     
  6. tirediron

    tirediron Watch the Birdy! Staff Member Supporting Member

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    The problem with wedding photogrpahy, unlike a lot of other photography, is that the bare minimum is a lot. As far as the quality of the image goes, the body is irrelevant; a D40 will give you a good enough quality image, it's up to the person looking through the viewfinder to get that image.

    The reason I disagree on the issue of the D70/D80 (and don't me wrong, I love my D70) is that for any serious commerical work, I don't believe they're up to the job. There's no weather sealing, so outdoor use in any sort of inclement weather is risky, the camera itself is made much more economically (plastic chassis vs. magnesium), extended ISO range, and as mentioned, the frame rate.

    Sure, you could do the job with a D70/80 (I didn't know you could get a grip for the D80, now I know what to get my brother for his birthday, thanks! :thumbup: ) but I suspect that you'd be looking to replace them in the not too far distant future.

    Just my $00.02 worth - your opinion may vary
     
  7. judson

    judson TPF Noob!

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    You and I do not disagree on that much. Carrie's original question was minimum equipment and, I'm reading between the lines, that she does not have a firm commitment to this as her vocation for the next 30 years. You and I could easily go blow $25,000 on gear and not break a sweat. 2 d3's, plus some great prime glass could eat that budget in a hurry. But what does she need to start?

    For weddings she is not charging for, or if she is getting on craigslist and doing some "turn and burns", a couple of used d80's plus kit lenses, plus flashes is not a bad start. If she is serious and wants to move up the food chain to where she is charging thousands for her work, then she needs to upgrade. A pro charging thousands had better show up with pro gear. To start with, she can get by on the cheap. But, once she starts generating revenue, every dime needs to go to pro equipment!

    BTW, on the d70 discussion... I love my D70. It is my third body. It has some great uses. You are right, it cannot take the abuse my d2h can take, but it remains an excellent, if not preferred camera for certain situations (EG. it is much quieter than my D2h and even my d200.) Remember a couple of years ago, when the show "The Apprentice" was hot? There was a great shot of Donald Trump, looking over Manhatten, shot by either his personal photographer or the show's photographer. It was shot with a D70 and it is a great photo. I would not take my d70 into inclement weather, but then again, I wouldn't do that with the D200 or the D2h either (at least not without a rain jacket).
     
  8. ukreal1

    ukreal1 TPF Noob!

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    I am enjoying reading these posts. I too am starting my own small business here on Okinawa (no wedding though, no way!!!).
    I shoot with a D70s, I love it, for now at least. Since my husband is active duty USMC and I left my FT job when we had orders out here, I figure, I might upgrade eventually when we have that kind of money. For now, I am happy with my shots :eek:)
    Good Luck :eek:)
     
  9. scoutwes

    scoutwes TPF Noob!

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    Great thread. I personally am also looking to start my own business. I have a D80 and a kit 18-135 lense. I love it the lense may not be the best but it's quite and you can still get some great shots. I was looking at the D200 and the D80 and could not see a big difference in features the camera offers it's just that the d80 is alittle more menu driven (at least that I noticed). I trained on the D200 (Photography school for my job in the USAF) and love that camera once I get work I plan on buying a d200 or d300 for my main body.

    The D80 would work just fine for starting out doing some portrait or even event jobs until you can upgrade!

    Anyway I just thought I would throw my .02 in here. If anyone is looking for a 2nd shooter in the St. Louis, MO - Scott AFB, IL area I'm available! I'm looking for some practice and portfolio work!
     

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