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DPChallenge Forums >> Out and About >> Business of Photography - Group 1
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03/29/2006 01:02:09 AM · #1
I am at school this week - my reports are here.

is it worth it???
YES!

Cost was $675 for 4 FULL days of instruction, meals all days, meeting vendors, networking.

I got a muslin, bigger than i had planned and for $30 less than i was planning to get - a double win!
I got to borrow, as in take home, a 5D, 24-105 4L IS, 580 EX and batter grip - what, $4500 of gear?
I have learned enough marketing ideas to keep my busy ofr 2 years, and make me MILLIONS. Well, I bet I can up my senior average by $250 with ONE item alone. No more $80 8 up leather folios for me - this product costs less and sells for $200-500 - and i'm a tightwad, but I'd even buy one!
I have learned a bit how to get into the sports market - and make some really serious money at it. Screw memory mates - $10?? Naw...how about $250 instead??
I now know a way into the back door of schools. You may not want a school contract, but man, the MONEY that you can make!! $20,000 in a day. Yes, one day. How about shoot the band and football team etc for free? Yep, cause i know how to sell them that $250 item...the guy that does this did an 88 member football team. 30 bought it - $7500 in for about $350 in product cost and 30 hours work in PS...
Got a 2 1/2 hour speech/talk/lecture on how to market your studio - froma guy that grew from just weddings to a 1.1 million dollar a year studio with a total of 7 employees - he gets $125 for an 8x10...his family portraits AVERAGE over $900 in sales per family. His seniors average OVER $1100 EACH. Wanna know how?? I learned how. Will it make me a million dollar studio in 3 years...lets wait and see! :)
Man oh man...marketing, promotion, proofing, albums, backgrounds, pricing, and my head is just overwhelmed...

Lets see - i saved $30 on the muslin, $1 for EVERY 8x10 i will sell from now on, $30 or more per wedding album, no shipping on my prints anymore, I found sources for products that i buy now but will pay less or get better quality for the same price - these are tangible cash savings, plus the knowledge to sell more!!

Now then... i can come back in may to the mini conference-for free! and in April there is a state conference (PPA i think). Main speaker is Vick - //www.photographybyvicki.com/ - from a home startup to a 4,000 SF studio in 3 years.
03/12/2006 10:11:08 PM · #2
You Go Grrl!

Virginia was awesome and let me register for (and recieve, instantly) my Sales Tax ID online. I can even file my monthly reports online and pay by ACH. Now if only we had some sales to collect tax on. :)

---A

Message edited by author 2006-03-12 22:11:21.
03/12/2006 10:34:21 AM · #3
Originally posted by rjkstesch:

Originally posted by rjkstesch:


Goal: 1) Turn in my business license materials by Thursday, March 9th.


Time to report: I turned my business license application in and found out I'd missed the sales tax number. I've filled that in and faxed it, but it will be up to 15 business days before I get the number and can finish the license application process. So, my next goal is to complete the ap by March 30th.

Becky


Wow!!! My sales tax info came in the mail Saturday. Who says the government moves slowly? Monday I'll turn the number in to my local city and I should have my license in a week.
Becky
03/10/2006 12:16:47 AM · #4
Report:
the 9th is here, and i have done nothing on my portfolio. I have a reason - my furnace quit sometime saturday night, so I awoke to a cold house on Sunday. The part could not be ordered till monday, it ws overnighted and UPS lost it. So it did not arrive until Wednesday morning, and was all was not opertional until 4:30 PM, and heat was not acceptable until about 8 pm. Acceptable being 68+. Wednesday morning the interior of the house was 45 degrees. Needless to say, this slowed me down on doing anything.

I have one more item and my second sample album can be ordered (illuma memory book, need to do the cover). That is tomorrows task.

My studio strobes arrived today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
2 300WS Paterson Interfit Stellar's, with a few attachments. I also got most of the studio space painted (walls - concrete floor patches have to cure for 30 days before painting). The 'office/waiting area/display area' is next on the agenda, then the outdoors - and then open for business. Pretty much on schedule with this.

Here is the basement 4 weeks ago or so
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Here's a quickie panorama of it in use, the strobes in action!
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and the shot with that set up (yes, i was playing with my new toys - front strobe was under the camera shot into a silver umbrella. The back light had a grid and blue gel on it. If you look at the photo above you can see the gelled light on the far left.
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And another shot for fun
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now to learn to use the lights!
03/09/2006 07:59:31 PM · #5
Report.

I think I've complained before about the ridiculous "big fish little pond" syndrome that my small town's government has.

Since my contractor is not a town resident he has to register with the town clerk's office as a "non-resident contractor doing business within the town limits." Bah.

Apparently he's familiar with this and will go register tomorrow. So I guess a good new goal will be to turn in all my permit stuff on Monday.

Bah.
03/09/2006 04:32:50 PM · #6
Originally posted by rjkstesch:


Goal: 1) Turn in my business license materials by Thursday, March 9th.


Time to report: I turned my business license application in and found out I'd missed the sales tax number. I've filled that in and faxed it, but it will be up to 15 business days before I get the number and can finish the license application process. So, my next goal is to complete the ap by March 30th.

Becky
03/09/2006 03:08:27 PM · #7
Oh, and I forgot. Lee and I are considering the WPPI convention in Vegas next month. Hmm... should we blow the $1000 to go? I think it would be fun and VERY educational...

---A
03/09/2006 03:06:57 PM · #8
Chris,

Very helpful.

On your recommendation I bought the Lilley book, and I'm reading it now. He devotes a fair amount of time to this subject as well. When my wife and I sat down and wrote our first price list we did it excatly the way he admonishes against: comparing pricelists of other studios, throwing in some walmart and target price lists for good measure, and generally guessing what we were worth.

Luckily you recommended that book before I made the mistake of showing that price list to any prosepctive customers.

Guys, what Chris says here is spot on. In order to have any real chance of profitability you've got to get a handle on what your expense are, and make sure those are covered. The TAP folio, the postage from Mpix, the electric bill... all those things have got to be quantified and factored it.

Read the Lilley book. It opened my eyes.

---A

PS: Here's a goal for you goal setters. I will get all the paper work in for the building permit for my studio TODAY. I'll let you know in a few hours how it went. :)

---A
03/08/2006 06:36:57 PM · #9
I am thinking and rethinking my "business model". In this ever changing world, one has to keep a step ahead. Microstock was a rethink of the stock photography business model. If they can do it, so can we!

Lets start with costs: These are pretty concrete numbers. But not easy to get to the bottom line of what to charge, and more importantly, why.

If i offered you a job at $100, for 6 hours of work, plus i'll pay for prints, would you make money? How much? Are you sure? How do you know that?

Cost: Overhead + materials + labor= the cost to do the work. Until i know what it costs me, i have no idea if i am or can make any money.
$15 an hour? $40 an hour? If i spend an hour shoot, PP and package 4 8x10 prints, what did those prints really cost me?

So lets start with overhead - My camera equipment, computer, software, etc might total $7500 if i had to go and buy them all today. They last 3 years (not quite, but i do upgrade and add to the collection) so $2500 a year for that stuff. Pays the debt, sets some aside for the new lens, next body, upgrade so CS3 one day, etc
Education - $800 (a class and magazines, books, WPPA membership, etc)
Advertising ($500 to 2,000?? not sure at this time)
Office (postage, paper, envelopes, etc) $300
insurance (umm, no at this time)
utilities (phone, rent, internet, websites, etc) $3000 (approx - about 20% of my home is dedicated to the business, so it uses and can deduct 20% of the utilities, plus taxes, depreciation, etc)
-So to open the doors costs me $7100-8600. Figure 8,000, a round number. Full time or part time, it does not matter. These costs are still the same.

Other materials...this vary by the job, the prints, albums, and such. We'll get to this later, but these cost are easy to figure.

labor: Assuming you are your own labor, what are you worth? Per hour? Or how much do you need to make in a year? If I can make $X i'll be happy. More than that and I'll be happier, and richer, but lets work with this number - $30,000. If you could clear that from your photography business you' probably be pretty happy (for awhile anyway)

Time: You have several types of time -
overhead (bookeeping, planning, etc)
prime time (in front of the client, on teh phone etc - making sales)
shooting time (behind the camera)
PP time - downoading, backing up, photoshop, etc
maintenance (cleaning the studio, charging batteries, etc)
wasted time (aka DPC ;)
education - reading this (maybe) and such
I figure 10 to 12 hours a week in this non-shooting, non-PP time. Overhead time so to speak. This is time not directly associated with a shoot. No one wants to pay you for this time, but you need to get paid for it.

There are 2000 hours to work in a full time year (and 80 on vacation) (40 hours x 52 weeks)
10x52 weeks = 520 hours of OH time. Perhaps 640 (12x52). That leaves about 1400 to actually 'work'.

So you work full time, and can actually stay busy for all 1400 non-overhead hours. Ignoring any income from markup on prints and such for the time being, you need to collect $38,000 over 1400 hours, or $27.15 an hour. Make that $27. I like round numbers for planning. You could figure it the other way too, $38.000 over 2000 hours for $19 an hour, but you can't bill anyone for those overhead hours - you can't 'sell' that time for a profit. So i deduct it to get the hours you can sell.

Time to time yourself.
How much time do you spend on a wedding, - consultations, phone calls, meetings, previewing the sites, prep on equipment, driving, shooting, PP work, album assy, delivery, another consultation perhaps, a few more phonecalls. I figure I spend 26 hours to actaully 'produce' a wedding product, 7 of that is spent shooting. So if i multiply my $27 needed by the 26 it takes, I need to charge $702 for a wedding, plus any costs for prints, materials, etc. If i pay an assistant $100, then I need to charge $802 plus the cost of materials, etc. If i can do it all in less time, BONUS! If it takes me longer, I make less per hour, stay late at the office, work my lunch hour (all for free of course - ain't self empoyement fun!)

For my on-location seniors, i spend about 2 hours shooting and 3 on 'support' if you will. 5 hours at $27= $135 is what i need to get.
For studio time I figure 45 minutes to shoot, 15 minutes in consult and 1 hour in PP/support so 2 hours spent, or $54 for a sitting fee (yeah, right, like i can get that)

Alright, so that's the plan!
BUT WAIT a minute.. I can't charge $54 for a sitting fee. I can get more for that wedding...you have to do the math to balance it out - you might do 30 weddings and 2 studio sessions, or 2 weddings and 300 sessions. This is called 'product mix' and not all products have the same markup/profitiabilty. Walmart makes more on a TV than they do on a box of rice. As long as the sell enough of each things are fine. This is why you set goals. This is why you plan. This is why you need to know what things cost you!! Once you know what makes you the most money, you know what to sell more of!

So lets say you only get 1000 hours of work - 71% of what you planned. So you make 71% of your 30 grand, right? WRONG! You have that nasty overhead thing going on. SO you collect $27,000, and still have to pay $8 grand out, so you make $19,000 - only 63% as much. The reverse works too - if you sell 1700 hours that's 121%, and your income is 37,900 or 126%. You can't just work 20 hours and take 20 hours of pay at the end of the week. It's not that simple, sorry.

So you know what it costs you to do your work. You can sell prints and albums at cost and still make your income (assuming you sell 1400 hours of work). At 1400 hours of work, and an overhead of 8 grand, it literally costs you $5.71 an hour to work. So if you take a job at anything over that, the amount above that is your paycheck, and if you don't get that much...it's called a loss, or perhaps you can call it advertising or something, but you are taking money FROM your pocket at that point. Like my pet portaits last year - I figured I made $6 an hour when all was said and done. I got expereince, my name out there, portfolio material, and cash flow (cash in in any form is cashflow). Was it worth it? Should I do it again this year? Can i make it more profitable this time? Is it better than doing nothing at all at that time of the year? Now that i have the numbers, I can make an informed intelligent business decision instead of 'yeah, it was fun' or some such. It does add billable hours so that overhead number is spread over more hours - so i do make money in some fashion for my pocket in at least covering my expenses.

As for prints and albums...same bat thread, same bat forum, next week's bat subject. (hey, i'm tired typeing...you gotta be tired reading LOL)

Was this helpful? It helped my organize my thoughts if nothing else. Thank you for allowing me to do so.



03/05/2006 03:55:52 PM · #10
I have two key goals I'm working towards right now...
1. Set up my own web site rather than using pbase.
2. Pull together a stock portfolio to submit to a couple of my favorie stock agencies.

The web site is making progress, but I have a few more capabilities to add. I hope to have that completed within two weeks at the most. I'll put the files up on a hosting site and see if anybody on this threads want to provide some input.
03/03/2006 07:15:00 PM · #11
Get a portfolio book together by the 9th, as it's so popular a date. Then I can go after more portrait business.

Message edited by author 2006-03-03 19:15:20.
03/03/2006 04:07:51 PM · #12
Good idea -- I've stalled for good reason (life happened), but I believe I can take another step forward.

Goal: 1) Turn in my business license materials by Thursday, March 9th.

2) Finish 2 more pages on my web site by Friday, March 17th.

WonderBread- I would love to see your contract when you're done.

Becky

Message edited by author 2006-03-03 16:39:03.
03/03/2006 03:48:14 PM · #13
ok, idea time... how about we all pick ONE goal and list it here. Set a time frame for it. If any of us can help each other then say so! Game?
Mine will be really simple because I don't want to fail. :0) And it's something I've needed to do for a while.

Goal: Create a portrait contract by Thursday the 9th.
03/01/2006 05:07:31 PM · #14
Anyhone into classic portraiture? Wanna learn about it?
//www.photodigital.net/zeltsman/
Lots of good info there, basic posing, lens selection etc - i have not read it all yet.
02/22/2006 10:17:50 AM · #15
Thanks Laura,

I used my 12-24mm lens (at 12-15 most of the day) and my SB600 bounced off the ceiling. I think they turned out pretty good too. :)

The same friend who is selling the house is in a BNI chapter. I'm interested, but nervous. One thing I'll have to ask him is what happens if you don't have anybody to refer people to. Since we don't have much business yet, I don't know how successful I'd be in bringing leads to the rest of the group. And paid member clubs like that tend to get pissy if you don't bring anything to the table.

---A

Message edited by author 2006-02-22 10:18:19.
02/21/2006 11:43:45 PM · #16
I have heard of a couple of networking groups here that meet every so often (weekly?) for breakfast. Thought about it.

I have heard the local chamber of commerce can be good too, but not sure if small businesses like ours (microscopic) would benefit much.

The book by Lilly (get a copy and read it!) recomends taking in a bit of a portfolio and a framed 8x10, or offering to take pics of their cusomters, that type of thing, in exchange for swapping referrals. I tried this on my first wedding - the only hot lead I did not follow up on (groom's mom runs a catering biz). As for the rest -the tuxes came from 80 miles away, the bride's gown from a closed store, same for the bridesmaids dresses. I began to give up at that point...I was going to take in pics and offer to hang an 8x10 or 10x13 showing their tuxes/gowns etc.

The second wedding was all referral (site to caterer, caterer to florist, etc) - all except teh photographer. So i guess i know where to go as those places didn't refer a photog. Hmmm..missed that. I just hate the door to door thing.
02/21/2006 06:39:21 PM · #17
Nice shots Andrew- did you use a flash? which lens did you use? The reason I ask is I was approached by an interior decorator. That would be a first for me.

I was also thinking about joining some kind of networking group to get more business. My husband did it when he was starting up his electrical business and it worked great. He had to quit tho- had too much work to make it to the meetings... not such a bad thing :0) He had joined BNI. I'm sure there are tons out there.
02/21/2006 02:04:37 PM · #18
Chris, Great idea. How to choose which one to send? I don't know... I'd trifold the whole thing and include it all.

My family and I spent the weekend with my son's Godparents in Richmond, about an hour from us. He's a real estate investor and wanted to show me one of the houses he has on the market. There was an open house going on, and I met his realtor. Like a good boy I had my camera with me and I snapped off a few photos of the house.

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Well the realtor was amazed with the quality of the shots, just based on the preview on the camera LCD. Apparently she's had very bad luck with her point and shoot. So I started schmoozing and let her know that if she wanted quality photos of a house to motivate more potential buyers to come take a look then she should let me know. Cha-ching!

As for the assignment: I have no idea how to hire a commercial photographer in this area. I honestly think they would have to come from Northern VA or DC. I just don't know that there are any. A few wedding photogs showed up in my google and phone book searches, but the area seems ripe for the picking.

I was thinking that if I was getting married again, and I didn't know anyone local I'd probably ask the local florists, maybe ask at the church if they knew anyone... So how do I get on those guys' referral lists?

The marketing blitz is getting prepared.... :)

What I want from this group... I look at this a little like a business networking oppertunity. We can bounce ideas off each other, set goals, get feedback and encouragement. I'm game for whatever assignments anyone can give us. I'm here to learn and get support as well.

Hope everyone has a successful week. :)

---Andrew


02/21/2006 12:32:12 PM · #19
On a marketing note, see this thread/post

Feedback welcome on the idea. I will be providing results as they happen. Note, I did not say IF.
02/19/2006 02:15:31 AM · #20
In Pittsburgh was the //www.trianglephotographers.org/ . I know little about them, but they sponser/hold a weeklong 'triangle institute' twice a year and I'll be going to the spring one ($675 - ouch). Looks to be a great thing and I am quite excited. Details at //www.triangleinstitute.org/. Many 'teachers' will be there so hopefully I can at least meet a 'name' or to (mike colon is one). I signed up for the one on HS Seniors as that is one area I would like to know more about and grow the most.

I have not found (nor looked too hard for) other local pro organization chapters. I hope I find it as encouraging and welcoming as Kevin has.
02/18/2006 02:45:54 PM · #21
Take this for what you will.

In our business we spend approximately $500/month in marketing. Given our relatively short time in the business (3 years) this buys us a little name recognition. We've shown our work at 2 bridal fairs already this year and seen hundreds of prospective clients. By comparison, however, when I ask clients where they found out about us they may mention the direct mailing, a fair or our website but more often than not they tell me about someone who used us and recommended our services and how that made the difference for them.

We don't advertise in the Yellow Pages as we've found that this only brings price-conscious "shoppers" into contact with us and we seldom if ever get a consultation with those individuals. Good quality and consistently high service will be the most lucrative investments you will ever make in your business and that includes the equipment you choose to invest in or the website you have designed by someone or the ad you purchase. You will spend no money and you will do nothing that compares with how much business word-of-mouth referrals will bring to you.

On a separate note, I'd suggest that everyone check to see if they can find a local professional photography group (WPPI or PPA affiliated probably). I've found interaction with those individuals to be beneficial to me in terms of business as well as in terms of photography. "Checking out the competition" was how I originally expected to approach this business until I met some of the other photographers in my area on a professional footing (went to one of the professional meetings as opposed to the local hobbyist meeting). In that setting I was able to admit how our studio is part of our home and how I had been ashamed of that as well as mentioning some of the problems that occur when you're running a home-based business. To my surprise I found that the majority of professional photographers (people who have business licenses, pay dues to professional organizations and pay taxes) either currently had a home-based studio or had used a home-based studio for years before becoming "large" enough to afford a free-standing business. I found the people understood the problems I was noticing such as having strangers come over to our home while my family might want to relax and how I might go about setting boundaries. One thing these pros shared with me that showed me that they felt my growing pains and had been where I am now was when they talked with me about setting boundaries that help my clients as well as help my family so that we can have time when this building is our "home" and have some expectation of not being "invaded" and so that clients can have some time to expect that they can approach the person they have hired and be able to meet us and talk about things they want. In a traditional free-standing establishment a client will drop in anytime they notice a light on even if its 15 minutes after your posted closing time. With a home-based business it can become a problem.

There were other things that showed me that these people may be my competition to a degree but that they still are interested in all of us learning to live together. Most of them are so booked during certain times that they cannot service all their clients' needs and they gladly refer clients around the group as long as they believe the other photographer is professional in his/her business demeanor and can take a decent photo.

I guess I'm just saying that you might want to check in to your local professional photographers instead of checking up on them. You might find that if you approach the business and admit where you are there are others out there in your area who have already been through some of the experiences and if they are any good at all then they are probably so darned busy they won't mind throwing you a bone every now and again. If you try it, worst case is that you might meet a jerk.

Just my experience at this point. Good luck with your businesses and your goals.

Kev
02/18/2006 01:06:19 PM · #22
Sorry about the late reply, I've been working a lot lately!

So- what do I want from this group?
I want to make sure I'm on the right track, people to bounce around new ideas (feedback!) and generally something to keep me motivated!

I've been thinking over the assignment and that's a toughie for me. The only photographer I've hired has been for my wedding and that was word of mouth. The guy didn't even have a website. So for me it would be first word of mouth (hand out as many busniess cards as possible) and then I'd check out their website.

So I guess I have to really work on my website and right now I am using a template from Go Daddy. I'm not too happy with it- there's not much flexibility. But it works.

I don't know how many of you know about photoreflect. I'm sure that was something Matt was gonna get into but you guys should check it out!!!

Cindi- what kind of free web software did you use? Were you happy with it?
02/16/2006 12:01:00 PM · #23
I began my first Photo site with Yahoo WebBuilder - simple enough for anyone to use and was able to build a custom page in a few hours. Over time, I linked that first page to PhotoReflect so I'd have a point for e-comm. Now, a couple of years later, I am learning Flash so I can give my new site some zing - bit more complex, but still doable.

So - I would recommend some very simple FREE website software with templates to get you going and PhotoReflect to get you selling. :)

Hope that helps
02/16/2006 11:52:03 AM · #24
Originally posted by Nusbaum:

Originally posted by dahkota:

I currently have a lame website and am looking for suggestions on where to host the new one. currently my site.

If you like smugmug, smugmug pro might be a viable option for you. I'm curious what others think of the pre-packaged photo hosting sites for pros?

I decided to build my own, but I have some unusual idea about photo web site design and desided to see if they work.
-> I don't like thumbnails, although that is the standard for almost all web sites that host photos.
-> I like minimal web site around the image so the image is the focus, many sites just have too much going on.

I'm curious to hear where other are headed with their web sites.


I currently have smugmug pro and don't care for it. I would rather have my own site. Drawbacks to smugmug - limited control, smugmug branding...

Message edited by author 2006-02-16 11:52:30.
02/16/2006 09:29:57 AM · #25
Originally posted by Prof_Fate:


Assignment You know where you live and what you want to shoot - with that info, go and find photographers as if you were the customer.
-Report back on: What method did you use? Why?
What did you find?

I started with the yellow pages and then checked the web sites as like as a url was included in the add. I skipped the adds with no URL because there were already too many options to chose from.

I didn't start with the web because I thought google would return too many results, but I was wrong. I googled on rochester,mn photographers and the first link, from google, had a very nice list and a map of their locations. Now I have to figure out how to get my sight on this list.
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