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    Hello all! I am an aspiring professional who is new to the site. I have had my D3100 for a little over 5 years now and have gotten to the point where I’ve been asked by my friends and friends of friends to take pictures of their family, engagement, etc. I never felt comfortable doing so because I was just a mom who loved taking pics of her kids. I started doing some looking and around and reaching out to some successful local photographers asking them how they got their start and where should I start to take the first step in having my own business. Each one had the same answer. First, practice practice practice. Get outta Auto and learn Manual. Understand light. So for the past month I’ve dove head first into workshops. YouTube. Articles. Forums. I’ve even done free photo sessions. I bought Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom and have also dove headfirst into that portion of the business also. I purchased my first prime lens (50mm 1.8).
    I found this site after a friend sent me a link and I’ve been hooked. I just wanted to dip my toe in and get some feedback from this group as well. Am I on the right track? I don’t want to be a feauxtog. I love photography. And it’s an absolute dream of mine to do this for a living. Not just “natural light on site” but to own my own studio as well.

    Advice? Tips? Anything is appreciated!!!


    Some of the photographer’s job is taking/making photos.  The rest is sales, marketing, accounting, administration, etc. (all the business stuff), and if you are shooting people, psychology.

    I don’t see a link to any of your photos, so can’t comment on where your photography is at.  How are your business and interpersonal skills?


    I believe I am great at the interpersonal side. Business? I have no experience. However I did and have worked in sales in the past. (Retail to be exact.)

    I thought I posted a link but it looks like I didn’t! Whoops! Here is my facebook page. I plan on building a .com eventually but want to get the photography to a certain level first.



    It’s strange that you were given the advice you were given when you asked about starting a business.  I mean, sure you need to perfect your skills, but… More importantly you need to figure out your cost of doing business, set up a tax ID, get your insurance squared away (most home owners and rental property insurance do not cover your equipment (computer,  hard drives, camera, lenses, flash, tripods etc. at all if you use it to make money, plus there’s liability insurance to think about), get your contracts and model releases drafted, yadda yadda

    Here’s a cost of doing business calculator.  It isn’t tailored to portrait/event photography, so you’ll have to tweak it a bit, but it can give you a good idea of where your prices need to be to get started if you fill it out honestly.

    Here are some articles on pricing that you might find helpful

    The reason why I feel it’s important for anyone looking to start a photography business to set their prices and look at costs first and foremost is because doing so will not only give you a better picture and understanding, it will also help you answer the question in your head “Is my photography good enough to try to make a living with?” in a more realistic and honest way.

    From the get go I had family and friends badgering me to go into business. “You would make so much money”, “you are so talented”, “I would SO pay you”, “Will you shoot our wedding?”.  Yikes!!!  They were relentless, and wouldn’t let up.  I think this is more due to a lack of understanding why someone would get into and invest in something without monetary gain.  Why create?  Are you going to sell it?  What are you doing it for?  What do you mean it’s just for you?  You should do something with it?  Almost like they are saying there is no value to what I do, unless I get paid to do it.  Bullshit!!!  But I know they mean well, and I am very interested.  It WOULD be very cool to make a living with my camera as long as I was still able to shoot for myself too.
    So I set and figured out what I’d have to charge per session, and what I’d have to make in sales (say the word and I can link you to how to price your prints as well) to cover minimum wage part time.  My session fees to start a part time business and insure that I got paid the equivalent to working at McDonalds part time, ended up being approx $200 if I added in print sales as well.
    When friends inquired and started once again pushing for me to go into business I finally gave in and said “O.K, yes, I’ll do it if I have enough interest” (kind of knowing full well what direction the convo would go. My portrait work isn’t all that and a bag of chips.  It’s technically sound, but eh) told them what I’d be charging to start and…. “But so and so, and what n what only charges such and such”. Well so and so and what n what didn’t take the time to figure out their cost of doing business, doesn’t mind working for less than minimum wage, or isn’t running a legit business and collecting and paying taxes/isn’t insured and/or isn’t profitable at all and is going into debt being “in business”.  I can’t afford to do that.  My family can’t afford me to do that, so Id have to charge $200 sitting fee, and hope to sell you about the same amount in finished work to make it worth my time, and give myself any sort of chance at actually making a living at this part time or full time.  “Would you pay me $200?  Do you think lots of others would?  Do I offer that caliber of quality photography?  Would I be able to offer a good experience and service so I could eventually charge more, so I could make MORE than minimum wage?”
    Crickets… More crickets… I no longer get badgered by my friends and family to go into business lol
    I’d be hard pressed to compete with all the fly by night $50 togs that come and go.  I’m no better than most of them.  I just took the time to figure out how NOT to go into debt shooting for people and get paid the same as a high schooler flipping burgers BEFORE I went all in.
    So, I still shoot what I want when I want, and I couldn’t be happier.  Shooting for the love of it, and for myself is much more rewarding and fulfilling than constantly having to explain why I charge more than so n so because although my portraits won’t end up on the front page, they aren’t any better that that girl Sue’s down the street that doesn’t value her time or her talents.


    Wow thank you so much for sharing your experience! You have given me a lot to think about! I appreciate your feedback!


    Oh, and I stopped sharing my portrait work other than my family photos.  If I shoot friends or hired models to scratch any itches I have, I show them their images privately, finish them for them at cost if they want, and give them web friendly files for them to share if they’d like.  If I post um publicly, people are on that like flies on $&@!  Bam!  I’m soliciting my services without even wanting to (lmao people are funny)  it’s like opening a can of worms.  Worms that only want to pay pennies for me to work for them.  No thanks


    Oops!  I just accidentally (Im on my iPad) requested your website on your facebook page.  I meant to click on your about.  I just wanted to read your about.  I swear!  Sorry about that.  Hey, if FB lets you, go ahead and look me up and get snoopy if you want to.

    I really like that you are doing a 365.  The only way to get better is to DO.

    Id like to give you a more through critque but, I’ve run out of time today.  I’ll be back in the next day or so, and give you some more input.  Hopefully others here will chime in as well.  Good night to you


    I’ve noticed that. Lol! It goes from non-chalantly commenting about me taking photos to private messages to texts.

    I love photography. The sound of the shutter. The challenge of capturing Things and people in unique ways. I don’t want to lose that. And I definitely don’t want to feel pressured to charge or not charge at this point. If I’m gonna go into business I want to do it the right way. It IS a dream of mine to have a successful photography business. I just want to make sure I’m not gonna be the feauxtog that other’s laugh at.


    No worries!!! I’ll snoop around for sure! Thanks again for your input!


    Ahh the wonderful world of having a photography business.  Don’t believe the hype, it’s a lot harder than it looks.

    It’s a good sign that you want to hone your photography skills and are open to learning new things, but to be really good, you should expand your knowledge on both front and backsides of the business to really do it right and benefit from being a legitimate business.

    The main thing that “fauxs” miss out on in being a legitimate business is the tax incentives of being a real business, not matter how good [or bad] your photography skills are.  A good example is if you, say buy a $1000 camera, to a faux, this would be a $1000 out-of-pocket expense.  Being a “business” you may be able to claim this as a business expense as and amortize this cost over 5 years.  In layman’s terms, that means from that $1000 cost, each year for up to 5 years you can deduct $200 as a business expense [$200 x 5 years = $1000].

    Now this doesn’t mean you can just go out and buy tons of new gear and just write it all off as “business expenses”, you have to have just means to show income for your business or else you may get audited or worse have the deduction disqualified and have to re-assess your past taxes that these deductions were claimed on.

    You have to talk to a CPA and make a plan that will make the most of your [potential] income versus your expenditures.

    Here in California, you have several choices, a sole proprietor, a sole proprietorship DBA [Doing Business As or Fictitious Business Name], a company or LLC Limited Liability Corporation.  For most, the last 2 are usually very costly and have a double tax penalty as you would be an employee of the corporation and the corporation has a tax liability of it’s own, hence the double tax penalty.  You could incorporate in another State, but that gets complicated come tax filing time.

    Remember, no matter how you become a business, you want your business to provide income from your services and products, tax friendly both in write-off’s and liabilities and also to protect your assets from outside threats, meaning lawsuits and such.

    The problem with “faux’s” doing business as professionals is that the public usually can’t discern whether or not they are legitimate or not so if the faux gets in trouble with a client, the “fauxs” total assets are at risk, meaning camera gear, $$, cars and home.  There are pro’s and con’s to each type of business, but you’ll have to evaluate your tolerance of risk.

    Don’t get scared, most of us don’t get sued, but the possibility is there.  The last thing you want is that adding undo stress to the stressful business environment.

    Breathe, Shoot and repeat!

    Do what you’re doing, hone your skills and take some basic business courses if you can.  Learn how to keep your books in order, buy new gear when needed and keep shooting.

    What ever you do, DON’T take false criticism from friends and family, always rely on non-biased critiques, they may sting or hurt from time to time, but at least they will be honest.

    Another thing, ditch the Facebook for posting all your photos.  You can have a FB page, one personal, one business.  Keep the 2 separate, remember the business page is for business and promotional use.  Down the road, get yourself a real webpage and maybe a hosting service that specializes in photography for business.  I use Zenfolio, you don’t have to use that one, there are others.

    Theres is a lot more, but it’s getting late.

    Have fun, you’ll make mistakes, but learn from them, don’t repeat them hoping the output will change, it won’t.

    And again, KEEP SHOOTING!!!



    Thanks! I appreciate you taking the time to give me your feedback. You have both given me quite a lot to think about.

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