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Photography QnA: Tips on Beginner Photography

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Category: Photography Careers and Making Money : Tips on Beginner Photography

Looking for tips on beginner photography? This Q&A deals with all the aspects of getting your feet wet in this great adventure that is photography.

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Photography Question 
Amy R. Jones
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/1/2005
  1 .  Donating Time Vs. Donating Pictures
Hi Everyone,
I am in the very first stages of starting a small photography business, and was recently asked to do candid shots at a local philanthropy event. I would be "donating my time", which I am happy to do for the organization. I am actually quite happy to give them the digital files for their use as well. (They are providing me a great marketing experience.) My question is this: The event is taking place at a local mall, and the coordinator from the organization mentioned that the mall might want some pictures for advertising purposes. Now, there is no contract (yet), and wouldn't that mean that I get into the whole realm of model releases? And would it be wrong for me to charge the mall for digital files when I'm giving them to the organization for free? I don't want to be rude, but I also don't want to be taken. Any suggestions? Thanks.

11/4/2005 5:11:47 PM

Maverick Creatives
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/1/2004
  Hi, Amy.
Don't ya hate it when this happens? lol. Well, I'd look at the advertising opportunity before I'd look at the cash reward. The mall - and the club, for that matter - may result in numerous people learning of your talents. At this point in your business, it should be easy to determine what is more important ... advertising and word of mouth promotion or $$$$.
Regards
Gary

11/4/2005 5:32:45 PM

Mike Carlson

member since: 9/4/2004
  I would certainly rethink your desire to go into business if you are thinking that giving away your work is an effective marketing tool. Another way of looking at this is that you put no value in your skills, equipment or time. How many times have you gone into any store at the same mall and had someone hand you an item for free in the hopes that you'll then come back and buy something? What word of mouth would that spread? Go to XYZ store and get a free shirt ... and then if people had to pay for it when you got it free ... and what about the other shirt shops who have to compete with a store giving items away - they too lose business.

The basic fact is that you are giving away your work and hurting yourself and other photographers by doing so since people will see you as a source for free work, not as someone who is worth paying for. Make good images and get paid for them - the quality of work will be the word of mouth.

11/8/2005 8:36:11 AM

Debbie Del Tejo
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/30/2005
  While I tend to agree with Mike to a certain degree, I will tell you that giving back to the community is a wonderful way to get your name out there if you are a beginner. I have done a lot of work for the community and the NON-PROFIT organizations in the area. They in turn have rewarded me tenfold with wedding referrals, senior portraits, etc. I suggest you examine your conscience and see if this is beneficial to you ... have them give you credit in the program or at a later time set up a display of your work. It is not all bad to donate services ... you just have to be careful who and when you do it to. Don't be taken for granted.
Good luck!

11/8/2005 11:22:24 AM

David King

member since: 9/12/2004
  I generally agree with Mike but would slightly rephrase it: do good work and receive something of acceptable value in return. Sometimes - but with astronomical rarety - an acceptable value comes from the exposure and advertising. But 99% of the time, if you give your work away you have just told the client and the world what you are really worth and absolutely nothing comes of the exposure except that.

Often to get you to work for free someone will hold out the "carrot" of other sales, such as to the mall. The odds against that happening are also astronomical and, worse, you may find that the event organizers gave some to the mall for free (after all, it didn't cost them anything) for a break on the deal and essentially stabbed you in the back. And, trust me, if it happens, they will be taken completely by surprise by your irritation at that.

And finally, although people coming to the event specifically may have, like people in a football stadium, signed or implicitly agreed to being photographed by purchasing and using the ticket, if the event is not self-enclosed, your shots may include people who have NOT agreed to any such thing and you certainly need releases for them in the off-chance the mall will publish one. Guess who will be included in the list of defendants if one of those photos includes a tender loving couple proudly displaying their affection but who are not SUPPOSED to be a couple?

But if you are determined to go ahead, at least get a contract where you retain ALL rights to the images and files and the event people only get a license to USE the images and, at that, for a very specified purpose for a specified period of time. If you do not do this, you may get an even ruder surprise to discover that you CANNOT sell to the mall because the event organizers actually own the rights to the images which you, unknowingly, gave away as "work for hire" precisely because you did NOT charge for it.

Bottom line: You are treading on thin ice from a business sense. Were this thread to continue long enough, hundreds of pros could tell you horror story after horror story of early-on trying to give away work to gain work and how it always, ALWAYS failed. Mike is right, you will be branded as a cheap photographer and it is a VERY hard brand to eradicate.

David
www.ndavidking.com

11/8/2005 11:23:55 AM

Steven Libersky

member since: 9/22/2003
  Hi Amy,

Your predicament comes up many times with all hobby and professional photographers. I just had this conversation with a professional photographer friend of mine. She is always getting asked by friends and family and they think they should (get a deal). This is a good time to sit down and set a precedence. You must decide how you will react when family and friends ask you to take their graduations, weddings, etc. When to charge or not to charge. When to volunteer services and when not to. This has happened so often to me I cannot begin to tell you. I only shoot pictures for a hobby and I decided years ago that I could not do this professionally. So I decided that I would respectfully decline all events unless there is a real hardship of finances and they could not afford a proffesional. I know this has saved me much frustration. I agree with Mike, Debbie, and David you should not do your work for nothing. Even if you charge you will get exposure. You can use it in your portfolio and etc. If they choose not to then you know all they wanted was some freebies. If you set a precedence now you will save yourself many frustrations now and for the future.

Steve

11/16/2005 6:08:28 AM

  Amy's thread started by donating pictures for a charity. I have done several things for non-profits and find it very emotionally rewarding and have gotten a few followup jobs from it. Does anyone have a thought about a way to get tax deductions for the photos? You cannot claim your service but the outcome is a product that is donated. Is this possible? Denise

11/18/2005 5:56:51 PM

Amy R. Jones
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/1/2005
  Hi everyone,
Thank you so much for your input. The charity event went well, I did take some photos for them, and they will use a few for their newsletter, etc. Luckily, interest from the mall never panned out. (and the files I'm passing on to the charity didn't need to be very large for their uses, so I'm not too concerned about them being used elsewhere.) Amazingly enough, I've already had 2 calls about appointments from people I met that night, so I guess it was time well spent.
Now, Denise- I had someone suggest this method of tax deduction to me. See if it makes sense to you.
a. You charge them for your services.
b. They pay you.
c. You make a cash donation to them for the same amount.
That way, You can write off the legitimate donation. I don't know if that makes sense. Just something that was suggested to me.
Amy

11/25/2005 6:37:29 PM

Debbie Del Tejo
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/30/2005
  As long as you tell them what your services is worth and they give you a receipt, that is a good enough record for tax purposes.

11/26/2005 6:27:09 AM

Nick Milton
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 8/25/2003
  amy,

When you start a business,any business,you have to provide loss leaders,and heaps of promotion etc etc,mike was a bit hard I think,this is a new venture,get some work out there and let people see it,it will come back two fold.but explain that its promotional,because like mike says,giving stuff away de values you,and us.but you do need exposure,and like pictures,good exposure is gold.

11/27/2005 12:02:23 AM

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Photography Question 
Maverick Creatives
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/1/2004
  2 .  Professional Photography: Local Sports Option
I'm sure there are many aspiring photographers out there who are having a difficult time "breaking in" to the business. I am offering a little tip here that has worked well for me.
After investing a few bucks in lighting, soft boxes, snoots, flashes, cameras, and on and on, I found myself spending a lot of time sitting around waiting for the phone to ring. It didn't.
Without a budget for expensive advertising and with very little experience beside the usual family and friend photo shoots, I searched around and found I could make a couple of dollars shooting local sports teams. These leagues depend on the registration fees to survive, so therefore I knew they would be underfunded and I would have to bid low to get the business. It worked.
Since shooting league photo day pictures, my business took off (sort of) and now the phone rings a few times a week - *smile* - hey, it's much better than silence.
I approach each individual player shot as a portrait opportunity and have found if you put your love and knowledge of photography into it those little pictures can turn out amazingly stunning. I use filters, backdrops, and reflectors on photo day, and the kids and parents alike are impressed with the "studio set-up" and begin to ask questions I love to hear: "Do you do family portraits?"
Every city and town has a community sports program, and most are hungry for affordable photographers. Don't look for a huge profit from this. but instead think of it as a enjoyable day of advertising and a chance to hone your skills.
Regards,
Gary

3/25/2005 7:21:49 AM

Diane Dupuis-Kallos
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/27/2003
  Glad to hear it's working for you, Gary!

3/26/2005 5:33:28 AM

  Oh Yeah! Woo Hoo! Way to go, Gary ... :-)
Bob (remember? from class?)

3/26/2005 8:55:02 AM

Justin S.

member since: 11/21/2004
  That is exactly how I'm getting my name around now, lol. Just like you said, I went to local recreational ballparks and soccer fields, passed out business cards I made at Office Max and have been busy since. It tends to be a bit expensive to start out but well worth it in the long run. I have two jobs and then I have this activity that brings me income too (I can't call it a third job, because I enjoy it too much for it to be work). It helps me out with paying for school. It's good to hear it has worked for others as well as myself.

3/26/2005 12:50:42 PM

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Photography Question 
Megan 

member since: 11/13/2004
  3 .  Photo Assistant: How to Get Started?
I would like to learn how to become a photography assistant or meet a photographer that will be willing to mentor a beginner. I am very dedicated and hard working person, and would like the opportunity to learn under a professional. I am interested in wedding and studio photography. I would greatly appreciate any advice and how to get started. Thank you.

3/23/2005 1:07:22 PM

  Megan,
I have used many assistants over the last 25 years. I am contacted constantly by photographers wanting to be assistants. This is a fabulous way for you to learn the business if that is your goal, but not the only way. I look for a couple things when meeting and talking with these people. First, how are they dressed and how do they look? Can I take them with me to shoot a corporate executive and not make myself look bad? Do they talk too much ... meaning, will they try to help solve problems on a shoot that I am discussing with the client, and the assistant has no business with that? Are they looking to learn, and are they willing to do all the grunt work? This means carry the gear, load and unload my truck after a shoot, clean my gear, clean my studio after a shoot, dash to the lab with the film and then go pick it up, run errands, and so on. That is what being an assistant is about. But you also get to help while doing shoots and you can learn a lot. Assistants make about $25 an hour in my area. I have had plenty of people want to be my assistant because it paid $25 an hour, but they had no experience. So they wanted me to teach them how to set up my lights, load film into a back, feather a light, assemble a Chimera box, and so on, and they wanted to make $25 an hour while I taught them. It didn't happen! I hire the assistants who have taken workshops, gone to photography school, or worked for someone else for a while and know all that stuff. There are so many qualified assistants out there who have learned how to be an assistant, why would I want to teach? I just don't have time to teach, but would consider accepting payment in exchange for teaching someone to be my assistant. That is why I do workshops. So my point is to educate yourself as much as you can by taking classes and workshops and anything else that you can do to learn how to set up lights, how to help at a wedding shoot, portrait setup, etc. You need to make yourself an asset to have around the studio. Then the real learning begins.

3/24/2005 5:57:08 PM

Mike Carpenter
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 7/9/2004
  Charlie,
That is GREAT advice for a beginner! I would love to be an assistant but my focus is on outdoor photography. I spend as much time as I can taking photos, and I research as much as possible but the real learning experience is being there with someone who really knows what they are doing. I plan on taking some workshops but of course $ comes into play. I thank you for the fantastic advice, and this site is so great because of pros like yourself willing to take the time.

3/24/2005 7:42:24 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Here's part of the reply I posted to a similar question about wedding photography: Greetings Megan,
Essentially, I think the way to go about getting a gig as an assistant is the same as looking for any other job. Although I do commercial work for advertising and corporate image shooting and I have one full-time assistant, sometimes we need an extra pair of hands or two. Initially, if I'm short on resumes, I'll check the registry of assistants with ASMP: http://www.asmp.org. You may qualify to sign up on the call list there which may not get you weddings but if you're called, it'll get you experience plus pay for your efforts. Also, joining a local chapter of a professional association like WPPA, PPA, ASMP, etc., will help you meet potential pros you can work for on one basis or another. It'll also contribute to your education on practices and pricing.
When I interview someone who's interested in an assistant position, I expect them to show up with some kind of self-promotional enthusiasm beyond "Hey, dude, I wanna be an assistant". I like to see some kind of portfolio of their work but nothing fancy; some type of resume with a work and education summary, even if it's only being a high school student bagging groceries at a local market; a certain level of enthusiasm is appreciated; a neat appearance and some kind of idea about how much they want for salary. I also appreciate people who interview me at the same time, asking questions like, "Why should I want to be your assistant?" or "What could I expect to learn working here?".
Personally, I tend to appreciate those who express a willingness to do scut work initially, cleaning up, packing and unpacking gear, cleaning equipment, sweeping studio floors, straightening up, etc., but at the same time, letting them observe studio shoots. They also get familiar with equipment, enough to assist in studio and on location shoots. It's called "paying dues". Wedding photography should be no different.
Getting a well-rounded education is also helpful, including classes in photography, design, art history perhaps, among others.
Meanwhile, best wishes in your quest, Megan. Let me (us) know how you fared. Mark

3/27/2005 8:32:26 AM

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Photography Question 
Erik Rasmussen

member since: 10/4/2004
  4 .  Copyright Question
I was recently in Vermont and was able to make the NCAA National Championship cross country skiing event, and got some close ups of some of the athletes. I was wanting to send them to the school to give to the athlete, but wasn't looking to make money on it, more just to get my name out there and give the picture to the athlete. Do I need to worry about a copyright for that? And, as far as getting my name out there, is it best recommended to have a business name to give?

3/13/2005 3:45:33 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  no problem with that.

3/13/2005 3:59:24 PM

  Give the picture with a business card. Also, having a Web site is essential to doing business.

3/14/2005 4:09:03 AM

Mike Carlson

member since: 7/28/2003
  Greetings,

Not to sound negative, but by sending a 'free' picture you may actually be hurting yourself. I know you want to get your name out there - we all do - but consider what happens when a free picture makes its way into the hands of an athletic department. If they have people willing to do it for free, why should they pay well a person who does this for a living (which is what I assume you want to do by getting your name out there...?).

Undercutting each other as photographers makes it more difficult for all of us to make the money we deserve. Think of this as a general business model - how effective is it to give out your best 'stuff'? Rather than give it away (which, to the school also may imply that you are giving them the rights to the photograph) perhaps post these shots on a website indicating your willingness to reproduce shots like these or to cover a future event for them...for the right price.

I hope that doesn't sound too negative, and congratulations on getting out there an being proactive.

Cheers

3/15/2005 4:44:24 PM

Erik Rasmussen

member since: 10/4/2004
  Doesnt sound negative at all, thats what im looking for and why I posted it on here. The main purpose of it was to give it to the school to give to the athlete. As an avid req hockey player, I would love to get pictures of myself in action, so I was looking at it more as a gift to the athlete since I had the pictures.

I didnt think about selling it only because I didnt think they would purchase it which was why I was asking about copyrighting the picture and for it not to be used by the school, but given to the athlete. I definately want to do it for a living but am having to learn things as I go. There's some workshops i'd like to take, but money is obviously the issue. But thanks for the response, thats the info im looking for.

3/15/2005 5:46:21 PM

Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 3/17/2005
  Greetings Erik: The reason you copyright your work is to protect it from being used without your permission and potentially, without compensating you for use of the image. So, while it's fine to give copies of prints, you should still place your copyright notice on each copy. Under the amendments to the Copyright Act of 1976, your work is automatically protected when you create it (click the shutter). However, to bring any action for infringement, the work needs to be registered with the Copyright office.
For the whole scoop on that, take a look at http://www.copyright.gov/

Let's say your work somehow ends up at the NCAA and they're looking for a hot shot of some player to give to Nike Corp to use in an ad. Without giving them notice of your copyright, you may be foregoing compensation that you'd be entitled to for commercial use of the images you're giving away. You can register images by submitting them in bulk, say quarterly, for a single fee.

Take it light. Mark

3/20/2005 8:17:31 AM

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Photography Question 
Sydney A. Robinson

member since: 5/14/2003
  5 .  Developing a Photo Career
I really love photography, but a friend of mine majored in it and she is now having the most difficult time finding work. She said there just isn't a high demand for photographers. I am into landscape and nature photography, still life, stuff like that. I guess what I'm asking is, is it truly that impossible for a photographer to find work?

3/11/2005 6:43:48 PM

Diane Dupuis-Kallos
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/27/2003
  For me, photography is a hobby, and if I can make a few $'s while doing it, I'm happy. I think it can take a really long time to become established and make enough to feed your family in photography. May I suggest getting a paying job and practicing and setting up your clientele and portfolio until you make enough money at photography - then quit the other job?

3/12/2005 6:21:49 AM

Chris J. Browne

member since: 3/11/2005
  Ninety percent of waiters in Hollywood are actors. Have a good career first ... shoot second and really love it. Enter shows and sit there for 12 hours a day and listen to people say how beautiful the picture is and move on. Rejection is part of it. Landscape is difficult. Think about what you actually have bought! You might have to shoot things you don't like, such as construction sites or crime scenes first. But love it or leave it ... it is supposed to be fun!

3/12/2005 6:22:10 AM

Sydney A. Robinson

member since: 5/14/2003
  thanks for the feedback. you guys have been a big help.

3/12/2005 12:15:34 PM

  It's like construction ... word of mouth is your best advertising. Sometimes, there's no work and sometimes too much, so it's a good idea to keep your day job and shoot on the side.

3/12/2005 1:49:49 PM

Gregg 

member since: 11/10/2004
  Unless you have a really special skill or talent, it's going to be hard to find someone that will hire you for much more than a counter clerk at a photo lab. The trick is too work for your self and market. Find an area of photography you feel comfortable with and start with that. This may be shooting pets, landscapes, families, children, sports, etc.) Now send out mailing pieces with a modest fee. Send to friend, neighbors, etc.. Someone will reply. Now you have a start. The more tricky photography such as weddings, portraits cam come later.

3/15/2005 10:00:55 AM

N. Airazell Riedlinger

member since: 4/18/2004
  Ever since I took my very first photo the a tin can camera in 5th grade science class a photographer is the 1 and only thing I ever wanted to do. At I took ever single photo shop and or developing class possible.....
Luckly I was very young to gain experience I took a job 15 yrs. ago for a nation wide company. And yes I did gain alot of experience in traditional portrait photography. However, what I gained more then that was;
1- a weekly income to help finance my true passion of my own studio
2- a help place to find out answers to my own question on photography. (This site wasn't available)

3- A clientiel --- A with the ability to travel has even help By builting cliential threw out N. CA.

HOWEVER, BEWARE I AM ONLY JUST NOW LOOKING FOR A STUDIO LOCATION.

AND HONESTLY, I AM STILL AT THAT SAME NATION WIDE COMPANY.
SCARIED OF FAILING.
Airazell
whoisairazell@yahoo.com

3/15/2005 10:06:31 AM

Timothy W. Malone

member since: 12/16/2003
  I have been working on answering the same question since 1965. In my youth I wanted to be a full time photographer so bad I could taste it. Those positions don't open up very often and you have to be be in the right place at the right time. Having a fine arts degree doesn't change it all that much. I settled for serving 25+ years in the military, which took me to many foreign countries where I could enjoy my photography in my off time. Now that I am older I work weddings every weekend and do a few portraits during the week just to keep the cash flowing. I spend my free time now working with large format cameras and collecting vintage cameras. A career, no. But a lifetime of enjoyment, yes!

3/15/2005 1:49:03 PM


BetterPhoto Member

member since: 10/28/2003
  One of the fallacies of photography is that you should study it, and then something will happen. My recommendation is to go to college and major in business. I know...yuk! But, you should because photography is a business. I am a businessman who happens to use photography to make money. You need to understand everything about photography, but knowing all the underlying business stuff makes it so much easier to succeed. Understanding that start-ups take at least 5 years to get off the ground, and 90% of those fail, kind of makes you feel OK in those dark moments of life as a photographer. It's all marketing and hype. People have to know that you are there, and they will come. But, then when they come, you have to deliver. So, you need to understand the principles of business, including marketing and accounting. Then, you have to understand all the technical parts of photography. Mesh those all together and you have a winning combination.

Best of luck,
Jerry

3/15/2005 6:10:49 PM


BetterPhoto Member
  A pro makes about $50,000 a year, but the real ? is how much do they spend
My set up cost more than my car ever will

3/16/2005 3:46:37 AM

Scott Pedersen

member since: 11/18/2001
  Making a living at Photography? Well the market is saturated. Everywhere you look there is a studio. Look at volume of stuff rght here on better photo with the introduction of digital cameras. You need to treat it like a serious hobby,of course, get into local clubs (not online) so your stuff will be seen by local people. Depending on what they think of your work, you might just get some jobs. Of course depending on your work on will lead to good word of mouth and get you more.

3/16/2005 4:30:25 AM

Sydney A. Robinson

member since: 5/14/2003
  oh my gosh. your set up really costs more than your car? what kind of photos do you shoot? portrait, landscape, etc...?

3/16/2005 11:22:17 AM

Jeff Wignall

member since: 11/8/2003
  Hi Sydney,

I'm probably going to surprise you by giving you an answer that is different than most (not all) of the previous repsponses. The question is not whether is is possible to find work as a photographer, it's whether it's what you truly want to do. It's just as hard to be a taxi cab driver as it is to be a photographer if it's NOT what you want to do. But if it's what you want to do--what could ever stop you?

A lot of the responses above carry parts of the answer. Jerry's suggestions to get a business degree is excellent, as is Digital K's to keep your day job (at least for a while). But don't let anyone talk you out of a dream if you happen to have one (and I'm posting this for many people to read, not just you, of course): life is short and dreams are worth chasing.

It can be hard to make a living as a photographer, no question. But can it be any harder than any job that is tough to master? One thing I would caution any one NOT to do is to always think about starting at the bottom and working your way up some imaginary ladder. Instead, seek the help and advice of people at the TOP of their profession and learn from them. You can call the busiest photographer/studio owner in your town/state and ask them for an hour of their time (for any reason--business, artistic, technical) and my guess is that they will invite you over. Successful people like to share their knowledge, believe it or not.

If you wonder if you can make a living as photographer, my real answer would be to go to the local bookstore and look around. Someone is filling those thousands of books and magzines (and the ads in the magazines) with photos. You just have to be creative about finding out WHO needs the pictures. There are text book publishers out there who buy tens of thousands of photos a year.

Finally, I'll tell you this: Most clients (ad agencies, editors, etc.) are far more interested in your IDEAS than your past or your reputation. If you have great ideas and can deliver the goods (as Jerry pointed out), then finding work is just a matter of pushing ahead. The clients are out there. Those who can't find work have run out of ideas. You simply have to committ to whatever you want to do. And on that note, here is what Goethe had to say about Committment:

The Power of Commitment!

"Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one's favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now".


J. W. von Goethe

3/31/2005 5:22:19 PM

Sydney A. Robinson

member since: 5/14/2003
  i thank youall for your advice. being a senior inhigh school, i've been hearing a lot lately about following dreams, and the road ahead, and truth is, I don't really know what I want to do for sure. I know that photography is in the top three for the ultimate decision, its tough to decide. im going to keep everything all of you have said to me though, in mind while I make that decision. thanks again
-Sydney

3/31/2005 7:26:07 PM

  As a very old soul I will tell you, follow all of your dreams. And you can jump back and forth from path to path(its your life). Someone who wanted to Judge me for what I do for a living
I told them " I breathe in and I breathe out"

4/1/2005 12:46:46 AM

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Photography Question 
K Daly

member since: 2/26/2005
  6 .  Developing a Personal Style
I have interned for a newspaper as a staff photographer since August and have improved a lot. I wonder, though, about style. It seems that shooting good photos is not enough and is also fairly common, but style is where the edge lies and what sets photographers apart. I imagine a certain amount of style is inherent in each photographer's work, but how does one identify it and/or develop it?
Thanks, K

2/26/2005 5:57:08 PM

  You will be the last person to recognize whatever style you develop. You are too close to see your work in that way. Leave it to others to recognize your style. Trying to develop a style is elusive, to say the least. Your job is to shoot as much as possible and get as good as you possibly can, and others will recognize your style.

2/27/2005 11:21:57 AM

Gregg 

member since: 11/10/2004
  Style is nothing new. Photography has been around too long for anyone to come up with something a major different. You current style becomes different once you market it. Repeat it over and over again. People than begin to recognize your images and associate it with a style. Once the public knows and accepts this, you can charge what ever the market will bear any be $$$ successful!

3/1/2005 5:56:16 PM

Roy Blinston
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 1/4/2005
  I am a Graphic Designer & Photographer. For years clients have told me they recognise my style. I cannot see it myself. I am too close to it. I have questioned them as to what it is, and they can't tell me. It is elusive. I just carry on doing it (whatever it is). My advice: forget it. Just do your own thing and let things happen. If you go chasing "style" you will never get it, because then it will be "false style" (and it will also look false). I let my heart decide what it is I want to create (good or bad). Creation is 90% perspiration and 10% inspiration (not the other way round).

3/1/2005 11:12:35 PM

K Daly

member since: 2/26/2005
  Thak you for responding. I recently spoke to a photographer who told me to cultivate a cerain style, but I was having a hard time with what he meant so it is nice to hear that it is not concrete and that I had not missed anything.

3/4/2005 8:20:03 AM

Kerry L. Walker

member since: 12/21/2004
  The best way to cultivate a style is to shoot a LOT of photos. When you do, you will begin to cultivate your own style and, as Roy and Tony have said, others will recognize your style even when you don't. Over time, your style may change but the changes will be subtle. Years later you will be able to tell the changes in your photos.

3/4/2005 10:34:04 AM

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Photography Question 
Jake Stanton
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/15/2005
  7 .  It's Not Like I Want to Be Famous, But ...
I need to know how to get started as a professional photographer! I've got a great portfolio, a great camera, but no customers. Help! It's not like I want to be famous. I just want and need to start selling my stuff.

2/17/2005 7:07:24 PM


BetterPhoto Member
  Jake,
This is a business where longevity is the key. The longer you can hang in there the better. You need to figure out who you should be marketing to: What do you shoot? Who buys your type of work? What's the best way to get their attention? Then dive in and market with a vengeance.
One other thing to consider if you are new to the market: It may not necessarily be you and your work. The photo business has been slow since 9/11, and the last six months have been the worst so far. So hang in there, and be sure and target your market.

2/17/2005 7:42:16 PM

Jake Stanton
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/15/2005
  Wow, I didnt know that business had been slow since 911. Thank you charlie!


2/18/2005 9:34:51 AM

Jennifer S
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 12/9/2004
  Charlie,
If you dont mind me asking, what is it about 9/11 that slowed things down?

2/18/2005 3:39:36 PM

Jake Stanton
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/15/2005
  Good question! Maybe it's because people only want photo's of disaster's like the twin towers or the tsunami!
Poor people! Pray for them!

2/19/2005 1:48:09 PM

Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member
gregorylagrange.org

member since: 11/11/2003
  The whole economy slowed down. Hardest hit was transportation. Which affects so many other areas of business. Ripple effect. Nothing is directly because of 9-11. You have a slow economy, coupled with a blow to a major part of it, you get trouble all around.

2/19/2005 6:10:29 PM

Judy 

member since: 10/3/2002
  Hi Jake,

I read your post about becoming a professional photographer. I was in the same situation five years ago. I had a "day" job, but my passion was photography. I found that the key is to find the niche for your area. Not sure where you live, but on the coastal areas I 've noticed that fine art photography sells. Where I am, in the Midwest, it is mostly portraits and weddings (so that's what I do). I actually started out freelancing for local magazines and newspapers--try going to visit these people and showing them your portfolio. If you are good, it is quite easy to get on with these places. They are looking for good work. Make sure you get a photo credit; this way you get your name out there. That is very important; also I have found advertising and marketing is huge.

Finally, as someone stated in the replies, the economy IS down and all the photographers I know have told me that the past four or five months have been slow. But it will pick up soon, I believe, these things go in cycles.

Good luck!

Judy

2/22/2005 8:56:34 AM

Jake Stanton
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/15/2005
  WOW! Thanx Judy! I live in the desert! Im not sure what you meant by Photo Credit! but I definantly want to get my name out there! And I have always wanted to photograph horses! Is there anyway that I could become a professional horse photographer? Jake is not my real name though. my real name is Tanya! But I can still use Jake as my photographer name right?
Love Jake

2/22/2005 11:09:28 AM

Maverick Creatives
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/1/2004
  Hi ya Jake/Tanya. I just walked by that nice gallery you have on main street and peeked in the window to see what you have to offer. Ummmm,,you won't get your name out there with an empty gallery?
Regards
Gary.

2/22/2005 2:37:36 PM

anonymous 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/7/2005
  Why are you pretending to be a man?

2/22/2005 4:18:35 PM

Judy 

member since: 10/3/2002
  Tanya, a photo credit is where they put your name beside/under the photo that is published. You definitely want that! Actually one of the publications for which I photographed was a pet magazine and one of the assignments was horses (I learned I was better with people). But you may want to contact area publications to get started. Also, if you live near horse ranches, contact the owners--I am sure they would love photos of their horses! There is a lot of opportunity out there, but you have to get out and sell yourself.

2/22/2005 4:27:56 PM

Chuck Almarez

member since: 11/11/2004
  Tanya, what a great question and it pertains to every profession. Most people have something they are good at (fill in the skill/hobby here) and they want to do that more than their real job. The only problem is they want to get paid to do it!
It would be a mistake to think that most "professional" photographers only do what they want, ie, sell landscapes, do creative portraiture, have clients clamoring for their creative ad layouts, etc. Substitute "commercial" for "professional" and it will give you a better dose of reality. Until you make a name and reputation based upon experience and results -- and satisfied clients -- you need to pay the bills, and get the experience and results.
I shared a commercial studio in San Francisco in the mid-80's with a good friend also in the biz. We shot everything that we could get to walk or crawl thru the door (everything legal, that is). We shot people, places, and thing: toys, microchips, sand-blasting equipment, heavy machinery -- you name it and it was fair game. The secret in this mix is that we shot what our clients wanted to buy, not what we wanted to sell. That's the FIRST REALITY to accept. Just be sure you don't lose sight of your ultimate objective and use what you learn to make better images of (you fill in this blank).
We shot so many images for catalogs that I eventually went back to school. I got a degree in Communications and began working in Marketing in the computer industry. What I not-so-quickly learned was that many high-tech businesses were started by engineers who had a better way of doing (you fill in the blank). So they started a business to sell their product or service -- because what they had was better, faster, etc. than the competition. My job, the job of marketing, was to determine what the customers/market wanted or needed and then coax/cajole/demand that engineering create a product to fit the need -- rather than creating the product and finding a market for it.
Back to the point: find a market for photography in your area and learn as you grow in that business. At some point Tanya's Baby Pix becomes Tanya's Fine Art Images.
I'm still in a full-time business other than photography, but for the last 12 years have had a lucrative part-time business shooting sports teams, small schools, day care centers, senior pictures, etc. I get calls for portraiture and pet pix as well, but teams (AKA Event Photography) is so lucarative that I don't pursue many single-client assignments.
I've not experienced a significant downturn in business since 9/11 -- it may have been more widely felt in larger areas. My business has grown each year and with digital so have the profits, quality, and control because I do all my own printing and packaging - including custom printing my own order envelopes. This also offsets the cost of the fun shooting that I do.
A lot of the motivational speakers end with this note and I'll pass it on to you: do something to fill the needs of others and that in turn will fill your needs as a photographer and as a person.

Chuck

2/22/2005 7:37:42 PM

Jake Stanton
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/15/2005
  To answer Natalie's question! Im not pretending to be a man. It's just that I like that name and everyone has called me jake for a long time! Even my Fiance' Brett calls me Jake! I havent had the time or money to have it legally changed yet. I havent been refered to as Tanya in a long time so it's wierd when people do. But I understand your concern though.....there are a lot of wierd people out there!

Jake

2/22/2005 7:51:45 PM

anonymous 
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 2/7/2005
  Ok understand, but ummmm its a boys name! LOL

I'll try and remember your a chick! he he.

2/22/2005 8:39:20 PM

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Photography Question 
KC Pagano
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 6/27/2004
  8 .  Tearsheets: What Are They?
I've been looking through the 2005 Photographers Market, and I've seen that a lot of companies want a tearsheet along with a resume and all number of other things. I would like to know what exactly is a tearsheet?

2/11/2005 2:43:20 PM

Bob Cammarata
BetterPhoto Member
cammphoto.com

member since: 7/17/2003
  Tearsheets are proof of publication - a page out of a magazine, or if you're real fortunate, a cover. It goes along with your resume to prove to a potential buyer that you have been published. Most publishers will provide them to add to your portfolio.

2/11/2005 4:53:08 PM

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Photography Question 
Tim 

member since: 12/9/2004
  9 .  How to Start a Studio and What Software to Get
I want to start a portrait studio in my town! But where do I begin? I've been in touch with SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration). But they need the layout of what equipment I need. So can anyone give me some ideas of what kind of studio equipment to get, and if there is a place that sells used equipment? I'm going to be doing both digital and film, but mostly digital. Can you point me in the right direction. Thanks for the help!

1/8/2005 8:11:23 AM

  Tim,
There are lots of places to buy equipment, and most large city camera stores carry it. I have to ask if you have experience at taking portraits and running a studio? Trust me, it is a monumental task - not unlike opening an auto shop, where you gotta know how to work on cars.
It also depends on what type of work you are going to do. Do you plan on weddings also? You will not only needs lights, but stands, umbrellas, soft boxes, a background system, painted backgrounds, posing tools, props, and your camera gear. Clients may not want digital, so you will need a film setup also. Then your digital darkroom, color-corrected computer monitors, film scanners, a printer setup, and the software to make it all run. Calumet sells a good chunk of the photo stuff. Good luck!

1/8/2005 2:54:29 PM

Rhonda 

member since: 7/15/2004
  Hi Tim,
Why would you want to start a studio?? If you don't already know what equipment you need, it seems you'll be on a steep learning curve - never having used any of it! Can you afford to buy $50,000 of equipment and then be upsetting customers and experimenting on them when something doesn't work properly? Can you afford to have backup equipment? Do you have a business plan? How long can you afford to pay for your equipment without earning an income?

I do not wish to be critical. I would just like you to think before jumping into a raging river without any help! No doubt you are already an accomplished photographer, so do what you are already doing, and start out slow. Perhaps start by buying some studio equipment and ensure you have it down pat. Have you worked in the industry before?

I do only digital, have a about 4 pro lenses and a Canon 10D. A relatively new computer and Photoshop CS. This was relatively cheap start $A20,000. I don't offer film at all and if someone wanted it I would still do it with my old Canon EOS 300. I also have the 540 EX flash and very basic studio lighting. I shoot mainly with a tripod and natural lighting, but have the flash for weddings, etc. Look further into exactly what you want to offer and buy accordingly.

Remember, too, that if you are renting, you need to generate enough income to cover rent, electricity, heating/cooling, wages, bank loan on equipment, broadband, phone, mobile expenses ,and the list goes on ... I hope you are loaded, because the general consensus out there now is no one wants to pay too much per image ...
Good luck,
Rhonda.

1/10/2005 10:00:48 PM

John Wright

member since: 2/26/2004
  Excellent responses Charlie and Rhonda...
Rhonda, you forgot to mention that (at least here in the states) you only get to keep a portion of what you earn ... taxes will eat a good chuck. Not to mention insurance (not just for your equipment, studio, and car, but also for yourself)... :-)

1/11/2005 6:36:05 AM

dennis w. mcclain

member since: 8/2/2004
  check out
http://www.owens-originals.com/
go to there studio set ups, they have one thats around 900 bucks, its what im fixin to get, u get
2 jtl srrobes with stands and unbrellas
a portable back drop stand
one 9x18 muslin
one 6x8 old masters canvas
they also have deals on some blem back drops, from time to time, tey are 10% usable. I think this would be a good start
im using tungstan shop lights right now, and color correcting in photoshop. it works tho u have to put in a little more work. I have had pretty good success tho

1/18/2005 5:39:18 PM

Maria Horvath

member since: 1/22/2004
  I'm finding these answers very interesting and must agree that its a very big step unless you've been freelancing and have already gotten your feet wet with taking portraits and working with studio equipment. I freelance as a classic car photographer and even though a completely different photo field, I'm a firm believer in starting slow and building things up as you go. Its afforded me to invest in my own studio lighting equipment, backdrop support system,simple backdrop and other photographic equipment so if I ventured into the people market I would have basic equipment. It takes time to build a name and client base and thats so important before you'd take the expensive plunge and hang a shingle outside. Right now I am pretty busy from early spring to late fall with work and don't need an office or studio other than my digital darkroom. I do wish you luck. Maria

1/19/2005 4:46:10 AM

Tim 

member since: 12/9/2004
  Thank's for the help and to answer some of the questions is this! One I've been doing portaits and weddings since high school and that was back in 78. I've done friends and other couples wedding and family get togethers. I have five
35mm cameras that are film and two digital cameras I have six back drops and making a few more. I have the light stands and some props. The question I'm asking is from your experience what is the best light to have to go with my umbrellas I've have a old set that you just attach a flash with a slave unit to it . What I want to do is remove the the flash unit a replace it with studio flash units.And I'm starting my stuidio from my house and things are looking good . Thanks for all your help and
comments . Tim

2/19/2005 9:03:01 AM

Cindy K. Bracken
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/8/2004
  Tim,
Starting out of your home with simple equipment is the way to go. I started out with just a black muslin and two umbrella strobes...and got great results. Sometimes simple is best. Let us know how it goes! Best of luck!
Cindy Bracken
shuttermom profitable photography

2/21/2005 6:55:06 PM

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Photography Question 
MARK 

member since: 1/2/2005
  10 .  Marketing Question
What is the most economical and effective way of marketing your photo studio?

1/2/2005 11:17:19 PM

Cindy K. Bracken
BetterPhoto Member

member since: 4/8/2004
  Mark,
If you have a "day job," I would start there. I booked many portrait sessions that way when I was first starting out. Once people you know see your work, they won't hesitate to hire you. Also, you might consider approaching local businesses and asking to display your work (doctor's offices, children's clothing stores, etc.). Hope this helps. Best of luck!
Cindy Bracken
shuttermom profitable photography

1/3/2005 6:28:51 PM

Robert N. Valine
BetterPhoto Member
robvalineimages.com

member since: 8/3/2003
  Mark,
Cindy's answer was very good. Another thing you might want to try is setting up a Web site and printing business cards with your business information and Web site address on it. Business cards are cheap. You will also need some kind of portfolio to show people. They will want to see your work in some way before they will hire you. Get your work out in front of the public any way you can. Remember: "A business with no sign is a sign of no business."

1/5/2005 6:02:44 AM

Rhonda L. Tolar

member since: 3/19/2004
  Be everywhere, every day.
  • Go to children's sporting events, and wear a shirt with your studio name and number on the back. Stand on the sidelines and shoot pictures. The parents will approach you, especially if they think you are taking pictures of their child.
  • Go to the city recreational center, where these sporting events get started, offer to shoot the team pictures.
  • Go to every dance studio in town, and offer to shoot their recitals.
  • Here in Louisiana, Mardi Gras is a big deal. There is a photographer at every ball, taking pictures.
  • Then go to the scrapbooking stores. Offer up some of your prints for them to use in their displays. The customers love pictures, but may not be good at taking them.
  • Go to every bridal store and offer to take pictures of someone modeling their dresses, then make sure they let you put your name on the corner of the pictures.
  • Go to college campuses and advertise in their community room and dorm lobbies. A lot of the students are getting married and are looking for a photographer.
    Hope some of these help spark some ideas for you. Good luck!

    1/5/2005 9:44:35 AM

  • Tiffany L. Cochran
    BetterPhoto Member

    member since: 4/27/2004
      Hello Mark,
    Rhonda has some great ideas. Advertise everywhere, all the time. And, build a (portfolio) book for each of your specialties. If you don't have many pics yet, for portraits, get your friends and family to pose for you. And, take your camera with you everywhere. you never know what you might catch!

    Although it can be tempting and affordable on the surface, one thing I would stay away from is phone directory type advertising, including web-based directories (which are typically cheaper). I had to learn the hard way that that type of advertising is very risky. You are typically committed to a contract (especially in print advertising) and have no guarantees. With the number of photographers in most cities, unless you pay for premium space, your odds for exposure are minimal. And, this does not guarantee any calls.

    If you do consider this type of advertising, be sure to ask how many hits your heading gets per month in your directory and the surrounding directories. That will give you an idea as to how acceptable the number of hits is. If they do not give you this information, I would seriously consider other alternatives. To date, I have never made any money off of this type of advertising. even being at the top of my heading with a large ad. All of my business has been through being out in the community, networking, and referrals. And, this has helped me to establish my reputation in my area because I am not just a name.

    Best of results!
    Tiffany

    1/11/2005 2:58:34 PM

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