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Photography Question 
Carrie Scruggs
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/11/2005
 

Starting a small business


Hi - I am interested in trying to market myself to do "event photography" - more so, like kids birthday parties and things of that nature. Something to get me out of the house and tends to happen mostly on weekends and doesn't require the entire day (like weddings). I love photography (not necessarily of the event nature), but I'm hoping that this would help me make some money on the side to further my interest in photography as a whole. Also - I just had my son's second birthday and I have no pictures to show for it since I was busy entertaining and taking care of my 5 month old - figure other people must have this problem too. Any advice would be welcome. I would like to know how to register a business name as well. Thanks in advance for your time and thoughts!


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3/3/2006 2:39:31 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  I won't pull punches Carrie. My initial thought when I read your question was while you may love photography, you don't necessarily love the area you want to make money in. I think that could be a mistake, for a number of reasons.

If you "dabble" in this kind of work then my guess is your results will reflect that. I note that your gallery here, although you've got some nice work there, doesn't indicate any preference for shooting any kind of events, large or small.

There are a few around here who will probably suggest that you just dive right in and start doing this type of work. I think that kind of advice is foolish. You can't learn a profession over the dead bodies of your clients. Understand that in this business, your reputation is one of your most, if not the most, important assets. You're only as good as the last job you shot. Blow one event in a small or even a large town and your reputation starts to deteriorate quickly.

So, see if you can find a photographer doing this kind of work that you can apprentice with for awhile. Learn the trade before you go out and do this on your own. You may find you hate this kind of work and favor other areas instead like kids portraits.

Meanwhile, think about using your spare time to take some courses in business, like business law, (covering contracts) and fundamental accounting practices.

As far as registering a business, you generally do that by applying for a ficticious business name at the local county recorder's office. After publishing the proper notice in the local legal publications, it's yours. BUT at the same time, the County assessor's office will likely be sending you a questionaire for business property taxes; you may receive a visit from the local fire inspector, and open yourself up to a lot of other bureaucratic headaches.

In other words, slow down a bit and if you do it, do it right.
Take it light.
Mark


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3/3/2006 9:18:48 PM

 
Carrie Scruggs
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/11/2005
  Hi Mark!

Thank you so much for your time and response. I love the idea of an appretice position, but outside of shooting large events or portraits, I don't know of anyone who shoots things on a smaller scale like kids birthday parties. I realize that doing research before diving in will pay off in the long run. I guess what I was hoping to do was some sort of "nice snapshots" of birthday parties to make some extra cash and use that money to take classes in what I really like. I was referencing my own experience of not having any pictures from my kids 2nd birthday as an area that other people may need help in as well..... say more like a second set of hands. What I was thinking by starting at such smaller events is that it would give me the opportunity to hopefully exceed thier expectations while I became comfortable with doing contract type of work. I am thinking small as in $50 for a two hour birthday party with say a min. of 24 pictures on a dvd with the option of printing themselves or I could print for them (at cost). I am not trying to find a "cash cow" persay, but trying to gain experience while meeting a need?... and hopefully having some fun too. With hopes that along the way I will be able to offer more, say more of a nice portrait from the party or something like that as I learn more from classes about portrait photography/kids.

Taking from your advice - it might be good for me to work as an apprentice on larger projects so that I could then do the smaller projects on my own with confidence and a more "finished" product.

I really appreciate your time and advice. I certainly need to think this through more. Being a stay at home mom with two small boys - it's just frustrating with such time restraints that an apprentiship may require more time than I can give at the moment. Sorry if I'm starting to ramble now - trying to think things through and type at the same time :-)


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3/4/2006 7:14:35 AM

 
Tonya Cozart
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/22/2003
  Carrie,
go to this link...

http://www.shuttermom.com/picturepartyopp.htm

this particular one is on event-type business

shuttermom.com has lots of info for starting a home photography business


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3/4/2006 7:19:56 AM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Hi Carrie: I understand what you're saying. And certainly starting with birthday parties is much better than starting off with weddings. The problem with doing that and only charging 50 bucks for two hours, is that later (perhaps sooner) when you feel that's too low, then your reputation may preceed you and people will be hesitant to pay you more if they knew what you were charging before. Seewhatimean? So I think it's better to start on the high side, especially since your two hour figure doesn't seem to cover your pre and post shoot time dealing with clients, prints, dropping off cd's etc.

I think you'd be absolutely right to take your time to think all this through and then I suggest you come up with a business plan, even an informal one that will help you stay on course and assess whether what you intend is realistic or requires modifications.

Be well.
Mark


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3/4/2006 10:50:44 AM

 
Nick Milton
BetterPhoto Member Since: 8/25/2003
  Hey carrie,

I too have looked at your work,its very good,I think your idea is great,people with kids just like moments caught to reflect on in the future,so nice close up sharp shots are great.

however,your pricing yourself way too low,dont undervalue your work,$50 for 2 hours work,inc a dvd with 24 shots is give away price.

If you want to break in,offer a hourly rate min 2 hours by all means,but make the first hour $88.00 followed by $77.00 for example,then offer the dvd as an extra.maybe as a slideshow?and a cd of the proofs for printing?you should easily be able to gain $200 this way,and they will still love you for it,they pay $300-$400 for a clown to make jokes!!(some would say we do that also??)you may then find it easy to move into weddings,as its very similar,just adults this time.

good luck,be confident,have fun,relax.

(they can smell nerves!!!!)

Nick.


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3/5/2006 11:45:42 PM

 

BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/28/2003
  hi carrie, I haven't read every single response to your question, but I did read mark's initial response, and it was right on.

just a little word of advice, there might be a reason why pros dont cover small events like birthday parties. I would LOVE to do that. someone called me about 2 months ago because they thought it would be fun to have a pro photographer at their kids 1st birthday party. when I quoted her my price, she almost choked over the phone, and I never heard back. this has happened many times. I don't think I am over priced for that type of event (well, obviously I am, but my fees are in line with any other type of event photography - and not my wedding prices - weddings are a whole different animal), it's just that people don't really want to pay for it. truly, they don't. not for a birthday party. they don't mind a wedding, or another important event, but a birthday party has some sort of block with expenses like that.

i can't tell you how hard I am trying to market in my area for that, but it's just too much...and I live in a very high income area. I not only sell events, but also 'day in the life' concept photography, and you would think the rich people around here would eat it up, but they don't.

now, if it was just $50, i'm sure I would be very busy, but for that kind of money, i'd rather just take a nap.

if you don't like event photography, though, then why are you doing it? if it's for the money, then you should re-evaluate, because no one does event photography for the money...it's because we love doing events...capturing moments...the thrill of the challenge. it's not for the money. in fact, photography in general, has nothing to do with money. I mean, we all love it, and some make a good living, but you can't do this for the money. there's a higher power that pushes you into it. you just need the money to eat, but you aint gonna get rich, or even live all that great. look at the bls, the national average for a full-time photographer is around $18k per year. I know some that make more than $200k per year, but they are marketing machines, and have been at it for 20 years. And, they are by far, the exception. for everyone of those guys, there are 1000 out there barely able to pay their rent.


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3/6/2006 5:28:18 AM

 
Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  Mark & Jerry make some really good points.

I'm sure some people can make some money doing this type of work, but I see it as a really tough sell. Digital cameras have become so commonplace that many people think they can do just as good a job as anyone else. Weddings are definitely a different animal, but even there, many brides are choosing to go cheap.

I went to a 1st birthday party Saturday for a cousin's kid. They had pony rides and a clown. There were about 20 kids between 1 and 8 years old, and almost as many cameras. There were digicams of all shapes & sizes, 2 video cameras, and even a mom with a Polaroid.

Sure, I brought my camera, I bring it almost everywhere. And I'm sure my pictures will look better than most of the snapshots that were taken, but that doesn't mean any of the other parents would pay money for my pictures. They'll be satisfied with their own. Sure, I'll give my cousin a CD with a bunch of pictures on it, and she might print some. But I'm not looking to make any money off of it - I already had cake & ice cream, and the clown was pretty entertaining, too. ;-)

Chris


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3/6/2006 7:53:44 AM

 
Deborah Liperote
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/8/2006
  hey Chris. Iwas wondering if you checked your e-mail lately? I sent you an e-mail to ask you a question. sorry to intrude on this thread.


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3/6/2006 7:56:22 AM

 
Christopher A. Vedros
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/14/2005
  Just sent it. ;-)


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3/6/2006 8:45:54 AM

 
Denyse Clark
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/2/2002
  Hey Carrie,
I know exactly what you mean... Any event I've done or had, as the "family photographer" I've often been too busy to really pick up my camera, and I thought "wow, I wish there was a serious hobbyist I could hire for a few hours for 'cheap' to take some snapshots". And so I started offering that service, like you said, to gain experience while filling a need.

I offer a 3 hr event package with the images on cd only for $150. Unfortunately, no one but us seems to want it, haha. It's in people's heads that they only need to hire someone for a wedding.

As far as registering a business, every city is different. Call your town or city hall & they should be able to tell you what's involved. I had to go downtown and pay to register my DBA. Then you get into having to report sales tax. But you also can keep track of your expenses and deduct them from your income tax. I didn't have any of the issues that Mark mentioned about the assessors office or fire inspector. Every town will be different.


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3/6/2006 9:35:05 AM

 
Deborah Liperote
BetterPhoto Member Since: 2/8/2006
  thanks Chris for taking the time to answer my e-mail. you gave me tons of excellant advice.


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3/6/2006 12:39:45 PM

 
Carrie Scruggs
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/11/2005
  Thanks everyone for your responses. Mark, your advise is very sound and well represented and I appreciate all the time and effort you put in to helping me think some of this through. Nick and Denyse.... you seem to really get what I was trying to say/do. Thank you so much for your feedback as well. I'm not sure what I'm going to do at this point, but you all gave me a lot to think about. For clarification purposes only.... I was never intending on selling my pictures to the guests at a party or sell my pictures to the host of a party I was invited to as a guest. Thanks again everyone!


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3/6/2006 1:12:50 PM

 
Michelle Ochoa
BetterPhoto Member Since: 10/4/2005
  I do event photography, and I couldn't imaging NOT doing it if I didn't LOVE IT! They're exhausting! But I get a rush from it - so much that I can't sleep at night afterwards. Something about everyone having a great time, and being able to interact with the guests. It's a blast! I do mostly photo favors, so I print everything on site - instant gratification. You see everyone enjoying your work. I would understand if you wanted to charge a small fee to take pictures at parties because you wanted the experience and loved to do it, but why do something you don't like? And if you're not confident with your work, then you shouldn't be doing it for hire. Do all your friend's kids birthday parties. OR shoot your kids' baseball games, and their friends' baseball games, etc to get your name out there. Then when someone approaches you for hire, have a price and a plan.


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3/6/2006 8:55:38 PM

 
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