How do you know when you are good enough to start a business??

laurenivy

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I know since I am probably asking that question, I'm not there yet. I've been a hobbyist for about 3 years now, and I have done pictures for family and friends free of charge. I randomly get someone to offer to pay me for a shoot, but I dont feel right about it yet, and accept to do the photographs as practice. I feel as though I need to continue to improve before I can think about starting a business. (Which is something I would LOVE to do down the road.) I put some of my photos on a flickr account, and if one or some of you wouldn't mind, I would be very appreciative of your feedback and advice on what you would think I need to improve upon. Also, if you wouldn't mind sharing with me how you knew you were good enough and ready to think about charging for your work.. (AND...I apologize if this is the wrong forum.) Thank you!!
Flickr: materbel's Photostream
 

Derrel

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When one is competent with technique and artistry, and can deliver quality pictures, in the modern era there's a strong incentive to take money for photography services. I looked at your family photos on Flickr. In terms of composition, situations, and timing, you're pretty decent. Maybe even good. Your color control, white balance, and image-processing is a bit variable though. But on the whole, overall, for this current climate, in casual outdoor family and kid photography, you appear better than many people whose sites I see every day on the web and Facebook, and so on.

What I think your pictures need is a bit more control over their color; too much yellow in the fleshtones in many shots. Not quite the subtlety and nuance that a more-accomplished photographer would have. I think if a really experienced image processing artist took your files, they would look really,really good.
 

Big Mike

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Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your perspective)...being good enough and starting/running a successful business can be mutually exclusive.

You could be the best photographer in 500 miles...but if you don't have the wherewithal to run a business...then you're likely to fail.
And there are certainly plenty of mediocre photographers who are very successful...so much so that they become 'famous' and then cash in on that fame by doing seminars, workshops etc., because you can make more money doing that, than selling photos. But it all stems from being a good salesman and businessman.

So are you ready?

Do you know the proper steps to setting up a legal business?
Do you have a financial & tax strategy?
Do you need insurance?
Do you advertise? Is it effective? Do you have ideas for how to get more clients and keep the ones you have?
Would you be able to get job done, to a professional level, even in adverse circumstances? (Do you have back-up gear and/or a backup plan if something goes wrong?)
 

tirediron

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The simple answer is, "When people are willing to pay you". As Derrel pointed out, your artistic skills seem good, but the processing, and, IMO, lighting both leave something to be desired. I would concentrate on honing those skills before hanging out your shingle.
 
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laurenivy

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Great! Thank you everyone for your feedback. YES, I do struggle with post processing, WB, etc. I should probably make it a habit to use my gray card more often instead of eyeballing it post processing. I definitely do agree that I need more work in that aspect. (lighting as well!) Again, I appreciate you taking the time to write back. Thank you!! And Big Mike, thanks for your reply. To answer all your questions... NO! I havent even thought about those things yet. I guess I figured until I was confident in my skill set, I didn't want to put much thought into those things yet. Thank you for giving me that to think about. I will definitely save this for when I am ready to start moving forward. If anyone has any tips on how they mastered or improved on post processing, I would love to hear them. Did you take a class, reference books, or was it just practice, practice, practice?
 

vintagesnaps

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Looks like you might need to keep learning how to get a proper exposure consistently in various lighting conditions. If you have a well exposed image that would probably minimize post processing necessary just to make corrections; then you can enhance images or do something creative more effectively.

It could help to watch your backgrounds to make sure everything in your photo is where you want it before you release the shutter (poles, horizon lines, tree trunks, etc.), and watch how you're framing shots so you're not cropping off part of someone's foot or shoe, etc. Seems like you have the ability for this and have done well relating to your subjects but need to work on technical skills and yes, lots of practice should help continue to improve your skills.

There are resources on websites of professional photographer organizations like American Society of Media Photographers .
 

kathyt

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I would say at this point your images are still very candid. I am starting to see a glimpse of consistency though which tells me you are getting there. Your style is very whimsical and I like it. I would work on composition, editing consistency, and exposure. Your family is beautiful so you have a great canvas to work with. :) Keep at it and you will know when you get there.
 

hirejn

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Can you make compelling images every time, and if the environment presents problems, can you overcome them every time? Being a professional means you make good photographs happen. They don't happen for you. A professional must be able to control the image, no excuses. What if you have a beautiful bride but the lighting sucks or the room is a mess? Do you fumble through and apologize later, or do you know how to make a great photo happen? Can you meet the demands of a real-world client? Vet yourself. Take stock of your skill, portfolio, business plan and see if it at least meets those of the pros you want to be like. Having the goods isn't enough; you need to deliver them, and that means marketing, paperwork, taxes, education, organization, vendors, branding, service, insurance, permits. You have to know it.
 

Robin_Usagani

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Unfortunately the standard is pretty low. People claim they have years of experience and they produce dog crap and still charge craigslist special price. You do not need to worry.. you are better than 75% of photographers out there. Go through craigslist and judge yourself :).
 

hirejn

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Also, if you're struggling with color consistency, you need a WB target. Eyeballing color in post, especially with a monitor that's not calibrated, is like painting with your eyes closed. The brain does not have perfect color recollection. The brain perceives images as truth without scrutiny. So if a purple bridesmaid dress looks reasonably good, the brain will accept it as accurate even if it's not even close to how the color appeared that day under that light. The brain simply does not retain perfect color references for how every color is supposed to look under every light. However, when you apply a color profile and exact WB to that purple, the change is usually significant. To see this, check out some of the ColorChecker videos at Xritephoto.com.

Ansel Adams mastered post processing. I wouldn't say I have, but I've become a competent professional. I know enough techniques to do just about anything that would need to be done on a portrait. It might not match Vogue but it's clean. I keep a document with every major technique I've learned. I can't remember them all, so I look them up when necessary. Watch KelbyTraining.com; watch Mac on Campus. Watch Xrite. Go to seminars. Read articles. Take notes.
 

kathyt

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Unfortunately the standard is pretty low. People claim they have years of experience and they produce dog crap and still charge craigslist special price. You do not need to worry.. you are better than 75% of photographers out there. Go through craigslist and judge yourself :).
I would say not to compare yourself to others. Set your quality levels and the bar high. Let's raise the standards of this industry. It starts with people like yourself, OP not Robin, that really care about the images that they are putting out there. Your clients will eventually pay the higher prices if you slow down and do things the right way from the ground up. Put an image or two up for critique, and go from there. There is a lot to learn here. The business part is another story. :)
 

Tee

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Aside from the great advice above, when one can achieve consistent white balance.
 

pixmedic

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I think my new philosophy is "if someone is willing to pay you, take their money"
i mean, why not? QUADRABAZILLIANS of people on Facebook and Craigslist are doing it.
sure, quality isn't really great for most of it...but hell, its like the McDonald's of photography.
FB and Craigslist have PROVEN than you don't need experience, talent, or good equipment to make some side money as a photographer.
so my advice is this....look up "photography" on FB and Craigslist. browse some business pages, look at some pictures of their $25 "mini sessions" for seniors and baby's.
If you think your photos are at least that good or better, and you can market yourself well enough to get some clients....then go for it. take the money.

People will sit here and lecture all day on business licenses, tax ID's, Liability and gear insurance, proper equipment, experience, a consistent product...
In the end though, all that REALLY matters is this. Can you get people to pay for your services? If the answer is "yes", go for it.

if you want to cover your butt from a tax standpoint, getting your tax ID and fictitious name is cheap and easy.
some states require liability insurance, some ONLY of you have a commercial storefront. sometimes it varies from county to county (this only matters if you have a tax ID and business registered with the state) some venues require you to have insurance.
take or leave the insurance as you like. same with the property insurance. In the end, its all on you.

"good enough" is completely dependent on the standards of who you are asking.
which is why I put forth the proposition, if you FEEL you are ready, and you can get paying clients....you are ready.
 

kathyt

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I think my new philosophy is "if someone is willing to pay you, take their money"
i mean, why not? QUADRABAZILLIANS of people on Facebook and Craigslist are doing it.
sure, quality isn't really great for most of it...but hell, its like the McDonald's of photography.
FB and Craigslist have PROVEN than you don't need experience, talent, or good equipment to make some side money as a photographer.
so my advice is this....look up "photography" on FB and Craigslist. browse some business pages, look at some pictures of their $25 "mini sessions" for seniors and baby's.
If you think your photos are at least that good or better, and you can market yourself well enough to get some clients....then go for it. take the money.

People will sit here and lecture all day on business licenses, tax ID's, Liability and gear insurance, proper equipment, experience, a consistent product...
In the end though, all that REALLY matters is this. Can you get people to pay for your services? If the answer is "yes", go for it.

if you want to cover your butt from a tax standpoint, getting your tax ID and fictitious name is cheap and easy.
some states require liability insurance, some ONLY of you have a commercial storefront. sometimes it varies from county to county (this only matters if you have a tax ID and business registered with the state) some venues require you to have insurance.
take or leave the insurance as you like. same with the property insurance. In the end, its all on you.

"good enough" is completely dependent on the standards of who you are asking.
which is why I put forth the proposition, if you FEEL you are ready, and you can get paying clients....you are ready.
This is a great model for someone who would most likely never make a significant profit from photography, and/or will be non-existent in a few years. (I am not speaking of you Pixmedic, just in general) Most of these "photographers" don't even realize their not even making a profit at all even though they think they are. If you want some spending cash, then this might also be the plan and attitude to have. If you want to earn a significant amount of income and survive the long haul then I would rethink this plan. I don't care what Suzie Sucks Photographer is charging at all, because she is not the one behind the checkbook. I decide my income potential; not Craiglist or Facebook. Just because you can get someone to pay for something that doesn't mean you should put a sh*t product on the market. Wouldn't you rather be proud of your work and stand behind what you just accomplished then just half a** it because you can get away with it?
 

pixmedic

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This is a great model for someone who would most likely never make a significant profit from photography, and/or will be non-existent in a few years. (I am not speaking of you Pixmedic, just in general) Most of these "photographers" don't even realize their not even making a profit at all even though they think they are. If you want some spending cash, then this might also be the plan and attitude to have. If you want to earn a significant amount of income and survive the long haul then I would rethink this plan. I don't care what Suzie Sucks Photographer is charging at all, because she is not the one behind the checkbook. I decide my income potential; not Craiglist or Facebook. Just because you can get someone to pay for something that doesn't mean you should put a sh*t product on the market. Wouldn't you rather be proud of your work and stand behind what you just accomplished then just half a** it because you can get away with it?

Sure. But we also didnt charge a dime until we had our tax id, dba, insurance, reasonably proper equipment, and my wife had worked under a pro wedding / portrait photographer for 5 years...

Who do you think, asking about starting a business on a forum, is going to do all that? I have yet to see it happen. Not to say that it cant, but lets be honest... That is how it SHOULD be done, but nobody wants to hear all that nowdays. Let alone actually DO it. I think the vast majority of people looking to "start" their photography business are just looking for some side money anyway. Its just too easy to say "ill just start taking money now with this camera i got for Christmas and get all that other stuff done later when i can afford it."
Look at how many people post "i have to shoot a wedding/portrait/party this weekend for a client , what do i do?" and then we never see the results.

Doesnt it seem just like people that think they know better than their doctor? They ask for the doctors advice, then when it seems to hard or they think its unnecessary they just do something else anyway. (not saying thats what the OP is doing, im just generalizing)

Nobody seems to care that it is illegal to take in unreported income. We report every dime we make. Cash, check, or charge. Not because we like paying taxes on it, but because it is the right thing to do. Instead of beating myself up trying to convince someone to do things the right way (again, not aimed at the OP at all) i think it is more expedient to just say, if it feels good do it, and heres some legal points to check into.

Who am I to tell someone they are or are not ready? Chuck 'em in the deep end and see if they swim. Of course, in todays market, its all deep end.
 

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