Help:Advice for a Veteran


TPF Noob!
Jan 12, 2012
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Hello Everyone,
My name is Katherine Stathes, I am a former Marine Combat Cameraman. I spent 5 years on active duty and have traveled to multiple countries documenting events and training with both still and video imagery. I would like to continue this as a profession in the civilian world. I am currently working with a local production company doing some photography here and there, mostly weddings. I am looking for advice to help build my personal portfolio since most of my work was classified and unable to be personally published. I would like to branch off on my own eventually and continue to work with photography. I have been working with the people and things around me, such as my horse, children, pets, pretty much what ever I have access to. However I am finding it difficult to advertise and "sell" my self because of the local "competition". There are a lot of locals who advertise "photography" for very cheap, $10-15. So people are hiring them instead of people with experience and good equipment. I am looking for words of advice to help advertise my self, build my portfolio, and continue on the path of good imagery.

Thank you and God bless

Welcome to the board. I can't help with your question but just wanted to say Semper Fi from one Marine to another.

This is a GIANT subject and starts with your business plan and goes all of the way through marketing. There is so much I have to say here that it could be another of our marathon posts! LOL!

First where are you in the process here? Are you out and trying to work professionally complete with your business license/certificate and all that or are you wanting to take steps in that direction?
Hi Katherine, First thank you for your service to our Country! I'm a hobbyist but I would recommend James Betz does discuss some business aspects in his videocasts. In fact in the episode 116 (on his front page now) he gives an excellent example of a promotional video for a wedding photographer. He's given other tips on building a photography business and he's a fun presenter. Have you also looked into opportunities where an organization (corporate, not for profit, government) might need a staff photographer? Newspapers?....just another option to get a start. Good luck!!
First and foremost you cannot compete with the facebook photographers who are doing it for $10-$15. They are not your competition, you are not their competition. You do NOT want their customers. And now you think I am insane. LOL!
Let me explain a little: If a client is looking for a cheap photographer they are looking for cheap. They do not see the value in a good, custom photographer and are not going to pay the amount for a good, custom photographer. They want it all and they want it cheap. You cannot provide it cheap or you would be doing it for $10 too. It costs more than that to photograph a client, let alone give them any product.

Which brings me to your business plan and your costs. Here's an overview of starting a business from another member
Before you can have any idea what you want to charge and begin to "compete" you must know your costs. And... in order to do that you have to have either a complete business plan or you have to have all of your business pieces in place-licensing, legal contracting, accounting, phone, web, equipment and budget for replacement/expanding equipment, vehicle expenses or mileage, lab and COG's... You name it, you have to have it either on paper and know the costs and needs for EVERYTHING.

Once you know all of your overhead and needs you can find your cost of doing business. Once you know your full CODB you can then find out what it costs you to do a shoot and the minimum you MUST make to break even. It's not $10 or probably even $100 per session.
The thing about your average ten dollar shooter is they don't know what they don't know yet. They have no idea that the $10 they are putting in their pocket was actually just a loss of anywhere from $100 to ? They just paid out $100 to put $10 in the pocket. Which is why you find their equipment for sale on craigslist somewhere around June/July of each year.

Here is a great CODB for photographers. When I first figure my costs I put in 0 for my income and retirement, etc. That way I know what it COSTS me-bottom line before paying myself anything. Every thing must have an entry in it-even if it is 0. If your entry is 0 you need to ask yourself what you are missing because 0 really shouldn't be in there anywhere (besides in your income when you are figuring your costs.)
If you are using a home office or a home studio that portion of your home is now a business expense and you need to figure it as such. If you are using your home computer you need to figure it as an expense and develop a plan for getting a business only computer. Those things cost you money and you are now going to be using them up by using them as a business tool. They only have a life of X time.
You already own equipment-yes, but if you didn't you'd have to purchase it so even the equipment you have already bought is a business expense.

After you have all of that figured out you can then figure out what you actually want to be paid per hour. Don't forget that a 1 hour photoshoot is easily 4 hours of work.

SO... We'll say your costs run about $250 per day of shooting and you can shoot 2 sessions in any one day. Your cost is about $150 COST per session. Not paying you a penny.
What are you worth per hour? Well, you're a professional with a considerable amount of skill and knowledge. You're producing a high end product so it probably shouldn't be $15 or $20 per hour. Don't forget you have to pay all of your own taxes, etc out of that. We'll go on the lower end of a PROFESSIONAL and say $30 per hour for 4 hours $120. A minimum session fee for that scenario would be $270 per session. No goods included there.

Which leads you to the point of... UM... the other guy is charging $10??? How the heck am I supposed to survive here???
Covered in my next installment! LOL!
I will give you my favorite blog about the business end of things. I drop this one a lot because I really like what this guy and his wife have to say: …a Man to Fish…
Begin at the beginning and go forward.
Hello Everyone, thank you for writing back!
Semper Fi to you Eric, it's always comforting seeing another Marine.:)
As for my personal business, I have advertisements on a few websites for portraits and what not. I have turned my spare bedroom in to a studio. I just purchased a pair of haligine, box lights and a three piece backdrop set. ( white, black and green screen) I am in the process of getting my LLC. I have titled my business "Stathes Quo," as a play off of Status Quo. Stathes is my last name ( pronounced stay-tis.) I am scheduled with some horse shows in my area, which I am really excited about, but that is about all the business I am getting.
I am looking in to the other sites quoted above, thank you for sending me there.
We were posting at the same time!
That was exactly what I was looking for. You have some great words of wisdom MLeeK, you have so many good points I don't know where to start.
I'll have to check out that blog, the title its self sound interesting.
He and his wife are very interesting.

I have a ton more on where to start and all kinds of stuff for you. I am prepping for a weekend of solid shooting right now, so if I don't get back to you by Sunday night give me a pm or a nudge and I'll give you the next installment.
I am also on the mentor's list here and I do business start-up stuff. Not that it's any different than just sending me a PM!

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