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Shades of Blue

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Hey guys, I need some advice and insight from those of you who have been at this a while.

I just started my "business" earlier this month. I've done two shoots since then, and the clients both loved my work. They have been spreading the word through facebook and genuinely seemed pleased. I have one shoot scheduled in January, and am getting pretty positive on the outlook to this point. Only issue is that so far, these clients have been friends and family.

Which leads me to my questions. How long did it take you to start getting new faces and regular client work? How should I advertise? I have a facebook page and a free domain page at the moment.

I thought about giving the salon where my wife goes a business card as that seems like a good place to start.
 
Since you placed the word "business" in quotation marks, I have to ask; are you a business? Do you have the license(s) required to conduct business in your area? Do you have liability insurance? Do you have sold contracts, agreements and releases ready to go? Do you have a business plan and realistic pricing? Do you know who your target customer base is? If the answer to any of these is 'no' then, you shouldn't be looking for clients until you've taken care of that.

FAR too many people think that a facebook page is all that's required to run a business, and while you might (probably won't) make any money from it for the first while, you need to spend the money to have those things in place before you take in dime one. Your local municipality probably won't care how much you did or did not make, they'll take a guess at how much you could have made and levy a fine for operating an unlicensed business based on that. What happens when Mrs Smith's little boy trips over your light stand and cuts his head, requiring a trip to the emergency room and stitches? Do you really want to pay for that out of your own pocket?

All that is NOT to scare you off, rather to put you on the track of how to actually set up a business vice a "business". Once you've got all of those things done, then you need to advertise. Heavily. The market is saturated with weekend warriors, and if you want to make any money, you need to rise above them. You need a strong, cohesive portfolio, a professional website, and you need to reach out.

Rather than a business card (which, if you're lucky, might get used as a book mark instead of just being tossed in the rubbish) meet with the management and offer to shoot a couple of sessions with clients, and provide them with prints to display, provided you can also have your name & contact information and a rack of business cards there. Do the same for businesses. Print & distribute flyers, and don't be shy about passing out your card at every opportunity.
 
Since you placed the word "business" in quotation marks, I have to ask; are you a business? Do you have the license(s) required to conduct business in your area? Do you have liability insurance? Do you have sold contracts, agreements and releases ready to go? Do you have a business plan and realistic pricing? Do you know who your target customer base is? If the answer to any of these is 'no' then, you shouldn't be looking for clients until you've taken care of that.

FAR too many people think that a facebook page is all that's required to run a business, and while you might (probably won't) make any money from it for the first while, you need to spend the money to have those things in place before you take in dime one. Your local municipality probably won't care how much you did or did not make, they'll take a guess at how much you could have made and levy a fine for operating an unlicensed business based on that. What happens when Mrs Smith's little boy trips over your light stand and cuts his head, requiring a trip to the emergency room and stitches? Do you really want to pay for that out of your own pocket?

All that is NOT to scare you off, rather to put you on the track of how to actually set up a business vice a "business". Once you've got all of those things done, then you need to advertise. Heavily. The market is saturated with weekend warriors, and if you want to make any money, you need to rise above them. You need a strong, cohesive portfolio, a professional website, and you need to reach out.

Rather than a business card (which, if you're lucky, might get used as a book mark instead of just being tossed in the rubbish) meet with the management and offer to shoot a couple of sessions with clients, and provide them with prints to display, provided you can also have your name & contact information and a rack of business cards there. Do the same for businesses. Print & distribute flyers, and don't be shy about passing out your card at every opportunity.

Thanks for the advice. I put business in quotes simply because I am still testing the waters, and don't really know where it is going to take me yet. I am actually doing all of my family shoots for free at the moment and intend to register my business with the city I live in beginning next year. I am doing everything for free right now and just getting started.

I would be happy if this was nothing more than a way to fund my hobby, and I'd be even more happy it I could keep it as informal as possible. My pricing is such that people don't have to feel like they are taking a huge risk, and they will know exactly what they are getting. But, if it takes off, then it takes off and I will cross that bridge accordingly. As far as insurance, I doubt I will ever make enough cash to warrant it.

I think that sometimes the people who are successful in the photography business look down on the newcomers who have no experience. I see it a lot. There are those who think that if a person has the attitude of "I'll do a few shoots a year and make some cash" that there is somehow something wrong with that. If someone wants to pay big bucks for an excellent photographer, they are out there in spades. If someone knows me through a friend and wants me to spend a couple hours with them for a reasonable price so they can get some Christmas cards together, I'm your guy.

There is no reason hobbyists can't do this on the side in an informal way to get experience, make a little side money, and have FUN. I fall into the "weekend warrior" group you mentioned. If weekend warriorism (a word?) is a big "no-no" here, my apologies. If I want negativity, I'd turn on the news.

(This isn't aimed at you tirediron, I very much appreciated your feedback. Things can get negative quickly when amateurs are involved sometimes...)
 
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Tirediron is just being realistic. Know any part time brain surgeons? Weekend warrior attorneys? Most freelance photographers are underfunded small businesses. If you're in business then you have to pay the price. If you're not then you shouldn't charge for your work. We are in a sue-the-b*st*rds society and you have to be professional and protect yourself. The IRS ain't gonna think you're just a fun guy if you don't pay your taxes. Likewise your city and county. They likely have rules about doing business.
Another point. The wondrous Internet is lousy at local. I look up tire stores and get places 100 miles away. But you need to get noticed locally. There are local publications that you could advertise in, get an article printed about a local dude, and so on. I suspect your clients will be mostly local and you have to mine the ore from the nearby mountain. Somebody 300 or 3,000 miles away probably doesn't care much about your services. And try to hook up with local organizations that might have an interest in your work. Can you give a lecture to your local Rotary or Kiwanis clubs about stalking the endangered Wild Haggis ram with a camera, or whatever it is that you do? Turning pro never was easy and it's a real bear today. You gotta hang in there if it is something you have to do.
 
Thanks for the advice. I put business in quotes simply because I am still testing the waters, and don't really know where it is going to take me yet. I am actually doing all of my family shoots for free at the moment and intend to register my business with the city I live in beginning next year. I am doing everything for free right now and just getting started.

I would be happy if this was nothing more than a way to fund my hobby, and I'd be even more happy it I could keep it as informal as possible. My pricing is such that people don't have to feel like they are taking a huge risk, and they will know exactly what they are getting. But, if it takes off, then it takes off and I will cross that bridge accordingly. As far as insurance, I doubt I will ever make enough cash to warrant it.

I think that sometimes the people who are successful in the photography business look down on the newcomers who have no experience. I see it a lot. There are those who think that if a person has the attitude of "I'll do a few shoots a year and make some cash" that there is somehow something wrong with that. If someone wants to pay big bucks for an excellent photographer, they are out there in spades. If someone knows me through a friend and wants me to spend a couple hours with them for a reasonable price so they can get some Christmas cards together, I'm your guy.

There is no reason hobbyists can't do this on the side in an informal way to get experience, make a little side money, and have FUN. I fall into the "weekend warrior" group you mentioned. If weekend warriorism (a word?) is a big "no-no" here, my apologies. If I want negativity, I'd turn on the news.

(This isn't aimed at you tirediron, I very much appreciated your feedback. Things can get negative quickly when amateurs are involved sometimes...)
I have nothing against anyone who wants to try and make a buck with their camera; go for it! BUT... do it right. You say you want to accept money for services, but don't want insurance. Okay, try this scenario on for size... you need a plumber, but money's tight right now, and a friend recommends "Joe" who's a retired plumber doing a little work on the side for cash. Sounds great, he comes in and fixes your hot water tank, but... he makes a mistake and accidentally turns the hot water tank up to 190 instead of 165. Your three year old son goes in to wash his hands and scalds himself severely requiring several hours at the emergency room and expensive medication. Now, you may be more forgiving than the average bear, but if not, you're likely to get a lawyer, and at a minimum will be seeking several thousand dollars in compensatory damages. If "Joe" doesn't have insurance, that comes out of his pocket. How is that any different than a client's child tripping over your lightstand and injuring himself? You can do without a lot of things in photography, but insurance is NOT one of them! Hopefully in 30 years you can curse me for having convinced you to waste $5-700 a year for "nothing" but if you needed it? The alternative? NOT pretty!

As for pricing, start the way you mean to continue. Calculate your costs and set realistic prices. It's very, very difficult to raise your prices to a reasonable level after a year or two of "a million images on a CD for $99". Again, I have nothing against part-times, half-timers, or anyone else. What does bother me is people who take shortcuts. That's bad for everyone!
 
Since you placed the word "business" in quotation marks, I have to ask; are you a business? Do you have the license(s) required to conduct business in your area? Do you have liability insurance? Do you have sold contracts, agreements and releases ready to go? Do you have a business plan and realistic pricing? Do you know who your target customer base is? If the answer to any of these is 'no' then, you shouldn't be looking for clients until you've taken care of that.

FAR too many people think that a facebook page is all that's required to run a business, and while you might (probably won't) make any money from it for the first while, you need to spend the money to have those things in place before you take in dime one. Your local municipality probably won't care how much you did or did not make, they'll take a guess at how much you could have made and levy a fine for operating an unlicensed business based on that. What happens when Mrs Smith's little boy trips over your light stand and cuts his head, requiring a trip to the emergency room and stitches? Do you really want to pay for that out of your own pocket?

All that is NOT to scare you off, rather to put you on the track of how to actually set up a business vice a "business". Once you've got all of those things done, then you need to advertise. Heavily. The market is saturated with weekend warriors, and if you want to make any money, you need to rise above them. You need a strong, cohesive portfolio, a professional website, and you need to reach out.

Rather than a business card (which, if you're lucky, might get used as a book mark instead of just being tossed in the rubbish) meet with the management and offer to shoot a couple of sessions with clients, and provide them with prints to display, provided you can also have your name & contact information and a rack of business cards there. Do the same for businesses. Print & distribute flyers, and don't be shy about passing out your card at every opportunity.

Thanks for the advice. I put business in quotes simply because I am still testing the waters, and don't really know where it is going to take me yet. I am actually doing all of my family shoots for free at the moment and intend to register my business with the city I live in beginning next year. I am doing everything for free right now and just getting started.

I would be happy if this was nothing more than a way to fund my hobby, and I'd be even more happy it I could keep it as informal as possible. My pricing is such that people don't have to feel like they are taking a huge risk, and they will know exactly what they are getting. But, if it takes off, then it takes off and I will cross that bridge accordingly. As far as insurance, I doubt I will ever make enough cash to warrant it.

I think that sometimes the people who are successful in the photography business look down on the newcomers who have no experience. I see it a lot. There are those who think that if a person has the attitude of "I'll do a few shoots a year and make some cash" that there is somehow something wrong with that. If someone wants to pay big bucks for an excellent photographer, they are out there in spades. If someone knows me through a friend and wants me to spend a couple hours with them for a reasonable price so they can get some Christmas cards together, I'm your guy.

There is no reason hobbyists can't do this on the side in an informal way to get experience, make a little side money, and have FUN. I fall into the "weekend warrior" group you mentioned. If weekend warriorism (a word?) is a big "no-no" here, my apologies. If I want negativity, I'd turn on the news.

(This isn't aimed at you tirediron, I very much appreciated your feedback. Things can get negative quickly when amateurs are involved sometimes...)
Going by your other threads it sounds like you only just got your camera and can't even shoot it in manual yet I think your running before you can even walk
 
Thanks for the advice. I put business in quotes simply because I am still testing the waters, and don't really know where it is going to take me yet. I am actually doing all of my family shoots for free at the moment and intend to register my business with the city I live in beginning next year. I am doing everything for free right now and just getting started.

I would be happy if this was nothing more than a way to fund my hobby, and I'd be even more happy it I could keep it as informal as possible. My pricing is such that people don't have to feel like they are taking a huge risk, and they will know exactly what they are getting. But, if it takes off, then it takes off and I will cross that bridge accordingly. As far as insurance, I doubt I will ever make enough cash to warrant it.

I think that sometimes the people who are successful in the photography business look down on the newcomers who have no experience. I see it a lot. There are those who think that if a person has the attitude of "I'll do a few shoots a year and make some cash" that there is somehow something wrong with that. If someone wants to pay big bucks for an excellent photographer, they are out there in spades. If someone knows me through a friend and wants me to spend a couple hours with them for a reasonable price so they can get some Christmas cards together, I'm your guy.

There is no reason hobbyists can't do this on the side in an informal way to get experience, make a little side money, and have FUN. I fall into the "weekend warrior" group you mentioned. If weekend warriorism (a word?) is a big "no-no" here, my apologies. If I want negativity, I'd turn on the news.

(This isn't aimed at you tirediron, I very much appreciated your feedback. Things can get negative quickly when amateurs are involved sometimes...)
I have nothing against anyone who wants to try and make a buck with their camera; go for it! BUT... do it right. You say you want to accept money for services, but don't want insurance. Okay, try this scenario on for size... you need a plumber, but money's tight right now, and a friend recommends "Joe" who's a retired plumber doing a little work on the side for cash. Sounds great, he comes in and fixes your hot water tank, but... he makes a mistake and accidentally turns the hot water tank up to 190 instead of 165. Your three year old son goes in to wash his hands and scalds himself severely requiring several hours at the emergency room and expensive medication. Now, you may be more forgiving than the average bear, but if not, you're likely to get a lawyer, and at a minimum will be seeking several thousand dollars in compensatory damages. If "Joe" doesn't have insurance, that comes out of his pocket. How is that any different than a client's child tripping over your lightstand and injuring himself? You can do without a lot of things in photography, but insurance is NOT one of them! Hopefully in 30 years you can curse me for having convinced you to waste $5-700 a year for "nothing" but if you needed it? The alternative? NOT pretty!

As for pricing, start the way you mean to continue. Calculate your costs and set realistic prices. It's very, very difficult to raise your prices to a reasonable level after a year or two of "a million images on a CD for $99". Again, I have nothing against part-times, half-timers, or anyone else. What does bother me is people who take shortcuts. That's bad for everyone!

I'm not a shortcut taker...in fact, I'm usually a do it by the book kind of guy. I do plan to register my business and follow the necessary protocol. I see you guys relating photography to brain surgery and plumbing. I get it, I do, but I relate what I'm trying to do more to the weekend warrior bar band. I was in a band in my younger days and made some side money playing for a few bars. It was fun and we got some local exposure and it was cool. I never intended to play arenas or record albums, nor do I intend to photograph weddings and big events. Maybe later if it pans out.

But just from a few posts I'm wondering if this is even worth it. I simply am not in the market to charge over $100 for an hour or two of photos, and I don't see myself really having more than 10 shoots a year. So, is a guy like me just not supposed to charge for pics? Am I to pay insurance for $500 worth of income per year?

I'm not trying to be confrontational, just asking the question. It's easy for people in the business who have been successful to pass judgement, but I am simply looking for advice for a part time money generating hobby. That term seems to flare up tempers among photographers.
 
Since you placed the word "business" in quotation marks, I have to ask; are you a business? Do you have the license(s) required to conduct business in your area? Do you have liability insurance? Do you have sold contracts, agreements and releases ready to go? Do you have a business plan and realistic pricing? Do you know who your target customer base is? If the answer to any of these is 'no' then, you shouldn't be looking for clients until you've taken care of that.

FAR too many people think that a facebook page is all that's required to run a business, and while you might (probably won't) make any money from it for the first while, you need to spend the money to have those things in place before you take in dime one. Your local municipality probably won't care how much you did or did not make, they'll take a guess at how much you could have made and levy a fine for operating an unlicensed business based on that. What happens when Mrs Smith's little boy trips over your light stand and cuts his head, requiring a trip to the emergency room and stitches? Do you really want to pay for that out of your own pocket?

All that is NOT to scare you off, rather to put you on the track of how to actually set up a business vice a "business". Once you've got all of those things done, then you need to advertise. Heavily. The market is saturated with weekend warriors, and if you want to make any money, you need to rise above them. You need a strong, cohesive portfolio, a professional website, and you need to reach out.

Rather than a business card (which, if you're lucky, might get used as a book mark instead of just being tossed in the rubbish) meet with the management and offer to shoot a couple of sessions with clients, and provide them with prints to display, provided you can also have your name & contact information and a rack of business cards there. Do the same for businesses. Print & distribute flyers, and don't be shy about passing out your card at every opportunity.

Thanks for the advice. I put business in quotes simply because I am still testing the waters, and don't really know where it is going to take me yet. I am actually doing all of my family shoots for free at the moment and intend to register my business with the city I live in beginning next year. I am doing everything for free right now and just getting started.

I would be happy if this was nothing more than a way to fund my hobby, and I'd be even more happy it I could keep it as informal as possible. My pricing is such that people don't have to feel like they are taking a huge risk, and they will know exactly what they are getting. But, if it takes off, then it takes off and I will cross that bridge accordingly. As far as insurance, I doubt I will ever make enough cash to warrant it.

I think that sometimes the people who are successful in the photography business look down on the newcomers who have no experience. I see it a lot. There are those who think that if a person has the attitude of "I'll do a few shoots a year and make some cash" that there is somehow something wrong with that. If someone wants to pay big bucks for an excellent photographer, they are out there in spades. If someone knows me through a friend and wants me to spend a couple hours with them for a reasonable price so they can get some Christmas cards together, I'm your guy.

There is no reason hobbyists can't do this on the side in an informal way to get experience, make a little side money, and have FUN. I fall into the "weekend warrior" group you mentioned. If weekend warriorism (a word?) is a big "no-no" here, my apologies. If I want negativity, I'd turn on the news.

(This isn't aimed at you tirediron, I very much appreciated your feedback. Things can get negative quickly when amateurs are involved sometimes...)
Going by your other threads it sounds like you only just got your camera and can't even shoot it in manual yet I think your running before you can even walk


I've had my camera for several years and have about 4 years experience with my camera. My "other threads" were simply written to make sure I am on the right path. I've been taking photos of family and friends for years, and I took a photography class (real film) in college. I have been an artist my entire life, and have painted, drawn, and sculpted since I could do so. I've entered and won several art competitions for my drawings and sculptures. After about a year as a graphic design major I dropped out in favor of engineering. I grew tired of the pompous and pretentious attitude surrounding the program. I grew tired of getting grades of C+ and B- for the same type of work that got me "Best in Shows" in the local competitions. Only thing I really learned from the arts is that art is subjective.

I get it...being able to draw, paint, and sculpt has nothing to do with photography...or does it? In the end this is all personal, this is all art. There is a lot of technical details I need to learn and I'll be the first to admit that, but I came to this forum for advice and what I've seen from reading is that people are so quick to condemn. Why? Why are we so quick to say "you aren't ready," "you don't know the details," "you are going to fail because you don't want to go into this full time?"

I have thick skin....sort of had to grow into thick skin when I got my first impressionism drawing back in college with a "C" on it. Impressionism wasn't my thing. But, I try not to jump to conclusions because someone isn't doing something like I think it should be done.
 
We are quick to say your not ready because I looked at your shots of the young girls and they are not even in focus or is that artistic
 
We are quick to say your not ready because I looked at your shots of the young girls and they are not even in focus or is that artistic
Ohhh... crap. Sorry Gary, I forgot to circulate the memo to the membership that appointed you sole judge of artistic merit!
 
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We are quick to say your not ready because I looked at your shots of the young girls and they are not even in focus or is that artistic

Ah...tough guy. Ever had a bad shot that other people just seemed to dig? Then after a while you start thinking, well maybe it was a good shot and I'm being too critical? Apparently, I wasn't. You are right.

Anybody here need a camera? I think I'm going to finally hang it up after 15 years...
 
Photography is indeed an artistic discipline, and a background like yours would, I think set you up very well for the artistic side of photographer. Learning the technical side is easy, so if you've already got an artistic background, then you're ahead of many. BUT... photography the art and photography the business are two very, very different animals, and make no mistake as soon as money changes hands with someone who is not a friend or close relative, it's a business and expectations go up. Way up!

What I think upsets a lot of photographers is the group out there who feel that a camera is an easy way to make money. This is no different than buying a set of tools at your local D-I-Y store and saying that you're going to do auto repairs on the side. Helping a friend change their radiator, or putting in new brakes for old Mrs Smith down the road is one thing, but accepting payment for it from strangers is a whole new ballgame.

My belief is this: If you want to take money for your work, that's fine. But you should have the basics of a business in place. If you don't want to, or don't think it's worthwhile for you, that's equally fine, but stick to family & friends and fun shoots. If you do find someone who really wants you to create their family portrait, then tell them sure... buy me dinner (or whatever) in exchange.
 
We are quick to say your not ready because I looked at your shots of the young girls and they are not even in focus or is that artistic

Ah...tough guy. Ever had a bad shot that other people just seemed to dig? Then after a while you start thinking, well maybe it was a good shot and I'm being too critical? Apparently, I wasn't. You are right.

Anybody here need a camera? I think I'm going to finally hang it up after 15 years...
If it's digital you can keep it
 
Free - of course people liked the photos, they got something for free. That doesn't seem like the best way to gauge your work. Look up other portrait photographers etc. in your area, established photographers that have been around awhile - your work needs to compete with that. Your pricing could be at the lower end of the going rate in your area but underpricing is just bringing photography down as a potential business for photographers, whether it's full or part time. Or an option would be doing occasional photos for family/friends as mentioned, or for a charitable purpose.

For resources try American Society of Media Photographers or PPA.
 
Photography is indeed an artistic discipline, and a background like yours would, I think set you up very well for the artistic side of photographer. Learning the technical side is easy, so if you've already got an artistic background, then you're ahead of many. BUT... photography the art and photography the business are two very, very different animals, and make no mistake as soon as money changes hands with someone who is not a friend or close relative, it's a business and expectations go up. Way up!

What I think upsets a lot of photographers is the group out there who feel that a camera is an easy way to make money. This is no different than buying a set of tools at your local D-I-Y store and saying that you're going to do auto repairs on the side. Helping a friend change their radiator, or putting in new brakes for old Mrs Smith down the road is one thing, but accepting payment for it from strangers is a whole new ballgame.

My belief is this: If you want to take money for your work, that's fine. But you should have the basics of a business in place. If you don't want to, or don't think it's worthwhile for you, that's equally fine, but stick to family & friends and fun shoots. If you do find someone who really wants you to create their family portrait, then tell them sure... buy me dinner (or whatever) in exchange.

Very nice post, and thank you so much!

I want to first point out that I'm not in this for money. I also can tell you that I've experienced the dismay of photographers who feel that the digital camera has single handedly destroyed the artistic side of photography. But, just so I am clear, I'm not the schmuck that gets a camera for Christmas from uncle Ben and decides to make "easy money." I have a deep appreciation for art that goes back to my childhood days. I see art in everything.

My issue is that I do want to take photos of people, but at the same time I feel that my time is worth something. I can't just do this for free forever, and am trying to balance hobby and business. Like I said before, if someone is looking for a certain style of photography and wants to get more detailed than I am willing to do, then I'm not your guy.

I need to mull this over some more and figure out what makes sense for a guy that just wants to expand his portfolio and enjoy taking pictures.
 

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