Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Don’t Let the GREED of ADOBE Rob You of Income!



 A photographer has to remain vigilant if s/he is attempting to do Photography for Income. Adobe software has become one of the greediest companies in the software world. Their unmitigated greed led Apple to develop their own software alternatives to the bloated Adobe software offerings.

I have been a loyal Adobe customer for over 15 years. I started with Photoshop 3.0. Since I used both MAC and PC, I bought a copy of each software: 3, 3.5, 4, 5, 5.5, 6 (a crappy version, I might add), 7, CS, etc. I have paid these people a boatload of cash over the years. And my payback for being a loyal customer was to be kicked in the face and cast aside.

A few years back, Photoshop 7 quit working on my PC. Adobe said, gee, sorry, we are no longer supporting that version; you’ll have to buy a newer version. Thank god automobile companies don’t follow the same upgrade path:

 “Oh, your 2009 Corvette stopped running? We are so sorry, we stopped supporting that version. You will have to upgrade to a newer version and just throw away what you have now. Yes, we know you paid $55,000 for it, but it’s no longer supported. Sorry.”

Anyway, I bought the newer version. About 2 years after that purchase, my Dell desktop lost its mother board (bad capacitors), so I had to replace it. I loaded PS CS3 on my new machine. Less than 90 days later, the Solid State Drive (SSD) failed. Dell replaced the SSD. However, I had a problem: Adobe limits Activation to two instances. I could not deactivate the software due to hardware failures. So I called Adobe.

It was not a good experience.

After waiting an hour for online tech support, I had a rep. He admonished me that my User’s Agreement only permits me to run the software on two machines, one machine at a time. I told him I wasn’t trying to install it on multiple machines—I just wanted to put it on ONE machine. I explained I had experience hardware failures, etc.

He asked for my serial number. I gave it to him: MY PHOTOSHOP 3 SERIAL NUMBER WAS 1330-1615-0223-6773-3008-9278. He told me that this was not a valid serial number. I told him that I must beg to differ…it has installed my software each time. He asked if I could tell him where I bought it. I said no, I wanted to buy CS5 and contacted them, but they were out of business. He asked if I had the proof of purchase. I said, “For a piece of software I bought over 3 years ago? No.”



I told him I could take a picture of my serial number with my cell phone and send it to him (see images above). He said that did not prove it was valid! In other words, I paid the full retail price; I cannot reactivate it, too bad for me. As far as I am concerned, this is no different from theft. The only difference is that Adobe doesn’t use a gun.

Photoshop has always been an expensive program. Thank god the hardware cost has come down over the years, because the price of Photoshop has more than doubled. Now, they are moving to a Cloud based model that will cost you $50 a month to use the software.

I would advise every photographer to avoid patronizing this company at all costs. Corel has a photo editing package, but it is not very responsive. It is workable, but I think there are better choices. Aperture, ChocoFlop, Seashore, and Pixelmator are a couple of Mac only options. Some PC choices are PhotoPlus,Pixlr  Editor,  Inkscape, Xara, and Pixia. Here are some other alternatives:

Splashup (formerly Fauxto) http://www.splashup.com/


A couple of photo editing programs were bundled with Epson and other printers, and may still be found on the internet.

The last option is to use pirated software. A Google search will lead you to may sources. I have been a vocal critic of pirating software ever since I started using a computer. But if greedy software companies like Adobe are going to steal from us, we might as well return the favor.
I know that I will NEVER pay for another Adobe product ever again.

What are your thoughts? Let me know here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Don't be Swallowed Up by the Social Media Monster!

I have a friend who will remain nameless (But David in Flint, you know who you are) who spends as much time on email and Social Networking as he does taking photographs. I think he's addicted, although he is much better than he was 10 years ago. Now granted, some of this is actual business, and there's nothing wrong with promoting your business on linkedin and Facebook. But be careful: too much twiddling and not enough effective promoting can seriously impact your income!

Many photographers find themselves drowning in email, Twitter messages, and Facebook posts. After all, one comes along at the rate of about 1 per minute. By day's end, you start to feel the urgency--imagined or real--of having to read and/or answer all of these messages! Does this sound like you--(be honest!)? If so, you can be sure it's killing your productivity, ergo your business.

With over 35 years of business experience, I had to make time management a top priority--because I am not an organized person by nature. I found to keep on track I had to filter all of the time demands that existed. So here are the top 3 tips from time management experts that can help you get control of that Social Media Monster:

1. Set aside specific times to answer messages. Preferably first thing in the morning, right after lunch, and right after you have quit for the day.

2. Turn off instant notifications. Let's face it, the constant reminder of  incoming messages a distraction. And honestly, how many times are they so important you HAVE to act on them immediately? Not that often, right? Do yourself a big favor, shut off the instant notifications on your computer or tablet and on your smart phone. Check them during down time or a missed appointment, or at the same time you check your email.

3. Don’t read a message without doing something with it immediately. Email (and other messages) come in 3 types: junk, reference, and action items. Delete the junk right now. If you feel a message has information you’ll need to reference later, drag it into a folder. You can save even MORE time if you set up filters in your email program to have these messages placed in their folder automatically. For example, if I get a message from PayPal, I have a label (folder if you are using Windows Mail) set up in Gmail that sends that message to the "PayPal" label. This leaves action items. Pay close attention to this: answer them immediately and delete them! If you feel a message will take more time to complete, or if it has the potential for being a profit maker (like an email from me), create a "TASK" and set a "COMPLETION DATE." As part of your daily message review, review your tasks. Here's the kicker--you are going to discover that on average 50% (some time management experts say 80%!) get old and reach the Completion Date without any action being taken. If this happens, delete it.

These tips, in addition to keeping you on task and prevent time wasting, has the added benefit of keeping your inbox tidy. My wife chides me about how many messages I have. She shouldn't throw stones! Truth be told I think AOL sends her warning messages about having so many emails in her inbox it's slowing down their system! Sorry baby, you know I love you!

Make sure that if you are doing Photography for Income, that you will actually earn an income! As always, your comments are welcome!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Canon New Repair Policy Worrisome?

Sorry to be so long between posts: I have a 4½ year old granddaughter who is affectionately known as "The Princess." And The Princess insisted on having a special room just for her at Grandma's castle. She said, "The next time I come here, I want it to be done, I want it to be pink, and I want it to be perfect!" So Papa was busy constructing The Princess' domain.

To all of my xBox friends, I PROMISE MrPicture will back on soon to help to kill the bad guys and talk smack to our opponents! Anyway, back to Photography for Income:

At the PhotoPlus Expo held at the Javitz Center in NYC, the Teamsters distributed leaflets and held banners protesting Canon's new repair policy. In the past, photographers in NYC could drop their cameras at local repair shops and often get same day or next day turnaround. But that is over: Canon now has customers ship their equipment to out of state facilities. And that can lead to long wait times.

In contrast, Nikon retains its 20 authorized repair shops across the US...including NYC.

Now to be sure, Teamsters Local 210 is upset because this move hurts its members, who are the repairmen. It is destroying local, skilled repair techs' jobs. To add insult to injury, Canon provides a much higher standard of customer service. The Teamsters have employed numbers of photographers to demand that Canon rescind this policy and restore access to independent authorized local repair service.

Here's the thing: if you are doing Photography for Income, this should not be a concern. Why? Because if you don't have at LEAST two bodies and at LEAST two lenses and at LEAST two flash units, you shouldn't be doing Photography for Income.

By not investing in your business, you put your customer at risk, AND your reputation at risk. A good reputation takes a long time to create...and just one bad experience to destroy. Make sure you are doing it the right way.

As always, your comments are welcome.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Jenny Januszewski: Actress turned Headshot Specialist...and More!


I have known Jenny Januszewski—and her parents—for over 20 years. Jenny has been in films and performed on the stage as an actor, and has been a model.

It seems all people blessed with creative talent possess a kind of “wanderlust” when it comes to creativity. Jenny branched out into film and photography. I thought her story may be relevant to many of my readers, so I asked her if I could interview her via email, and she agreed. The content of that interview follows:

Tell us a little bit about your background (when/where born, school, family, education, career, interests, etc.):
I was born in Vietnam and raised on a farm in Michigan by my awesome parents, Nick and Jane Januszewski. Eventually, I attended high school at Lumen Christi in Jackson, MI, where I took my first formal photography and darkroom classes. After that, I went on to Chicago to work on the stage and in front of the camera---I worked as a model and actress. Now, I’ve combined all of my experiences to pursue the career track I’m currently on. I direct films. My current feature film is in post production and is called The Boogeyman. It’s based upon a short story by Stephen King. Website is www.TheBoogeymanFilm.com . I also am working as a headshot photographer, taking photos of actors. My website for that is www.KickAssHeadshots.com .

When did you develop an interest in photography?
I’ve always been into visual arts and expressing myself through them. But photography came into play when I realized the darkroom was a really fun place to escape during lunchtime. I was a shy geek without friends in school. [Ha! I have a hard time believing that!] So, the option was to either sit in the lunchroom alone or to play in the darkroom. Photography was the obvious winner.

What gave you the idea to get started in what you are doing currently?
Every photographer has their own “gift.” Mine is to make people comfortable and help them bring out the emotion they wish to share in the photograph. I don’t think of my headshot sessions simply as photography sessions. Its very much “headshot therapy.” Film and TV actors are often fearful of a still camera because they can’t move out of an unflattering look or a state of vulnerability that they may find uncomfortable. I’m good at easing that and so, I decided to focus on working with actors doing headshots.

Do you have partners, assistants, etc. or are you strictly a woman show?
Sometimes I have an assistant. But usually, it’s just the actor and me. I find people are more their true selves when they don’t have a ton of people staring at them. However, in June, I have 15 clients scheduled in two days. I’ll need to bring my assistant for that one.

What kind of investment did it take for you to get started?
I started with a Canon 5D (not the Mark II) and an 85mm 1.2 USM lens. If you include that along with the software to edit and store photos as well as blank DVDs, etc. you’re looking at a startup cost of around $9-$11k. You can EASILY start for much less. If you’re not competing in LA, Chicago or NYC, you can get away with something like a refurbished Canon Rebel or even a refurbished Canon 7D.

What do you use in the way of equipment?
Camera Body/bodies (brand/model): Canon 5D. I chose the 5D rather than the 7D because of the format. It was about $3k. However, this one is now discontinued. Now, it would be the Mark II that people would get.

Lens/Lenses: Canon 85mm f1.2 USM (About $2,049 plus tax and insurance)

Electronic Flash Make/Model - how many (if used): Sunshine is my flashbulb

Background(s) used (were these purchased or made yourself?): I like to just shoot people out and about in alleys, doorways, etc.

Other Items: Bags, various filters, extra memory cards, extra battery and battery charger, card readers, reflectors, clips, DVDs, marketing materials, etc.

What equipment would you like to have that you do not currently own?
I would absolutely love a big lighting package that I could use for both photography and filming. I’d also like more lenses.

How do you package and sell your service?
I offer actors a headshot session for about $400-$500. It includes 4-5 looks (e.g. changes of clothing); a DVD of their images un-retouched; and an online link to their session so they can mark their favorites and forward the lists to their agents or manager. If they’re a student, I often do packages at a lower cost if they can get a few friends to shoot the same day. For the LA/NYC market, my price is on the very low end.

Who owns the Copyright?
If I take their photo, they can do what they want with it after they pay for the session. We equally own the rights to use the photos. I’ve even gone online to read an article about an actor and saw that they used a photo I took. That was pretty cool.

How do you develop new poses, lighting, etc.?
Honestly, I just play it by ear and see how each person works best.

How do you market and advertise your service?
I used to list in photography books and make fliers to leave at various audition houses. But now, I just go by word of mouth. Most of my clients are friends of friends or friends of past clients. I do have a website: www.KickAssHeadshots.com for my photography and www.JennyJanuszewski.com for my film directing.

Do you do any photography OTHER than headshots?
Yes, I am a film director

Do you use any companies to help market your business (web design, Constant Contact email marketing, etc.)?
 Nope

Do you have a goal or target ($$ earned, multiple locations, etc.)?
My monetary goal is just to pay my bills and make enough to help support my film directing. It’s always nice to have about 5 clients a month. But the market is driven by what’s going on in the film/TV world and what part of the season it is. So, some months are dry and others, it’s pouring actors and actresses.

What problems or challenges—if any--have you encountered along the way (difficulties; equipment problems; discrimination based on gender, race, occupation, body type; finances; etc.)?
The economy really hit the actors hard. A lot of them lost their day jobs and just don’t have the funds for new photos. Plus, everyone with a digital camera thinks they’re a professional photographer now. The market gets saturated. But it’s not that easy. I own a pair of ballet shoes----I suck at dancing. Photography is for everyone but not everyone is a professional photographer.

Is this something others could do with a little effort, or do you feel you were uniquely positioned to do?
If you work hard at anything, you can make goals and reach them. However, to really stand out and give your client something in a way very few can, it’s something you are born with. Some people are born with an ability to play baseball like no other; for some, it’s math; for others, it’s areas of the arts. I don’t think this should ever discourage someone from pursing it if they are interested. However, the average person isn’t going to go out there, buy a camera, and have their work mistaken for Ansel Adams’.


What advice would you give to people who wish to pursue a similar endeavor?
I’d tell them to be patient and realize that working for yourself is harder than working for someone else; that they need to be realistic as to their goals and abilities---is this meant to be a profession or a hobby?; and to try shadowing another photographer or assist them for a few days. I handed my camera to an assistant once and they couldn’t deal with taking photos for more than 10 minutes. Just the physical stamina of staring at details through one eye in the sunlight is something some people have to work up to.

Could readers contact you for further information and/or advice?
Sure. My work email is WLDFilms@gmail.com

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Should I ONLY Shoot RAW? Should I Use AWB? Answers to These Common Questions

Wow, sorry for the delay in getting this new post up, I have been slammed the last couple of weeks with business, then there was the July 4th holiday, and...well, you know how it is.


Over the past couple of weeks, I have been asked a couple of questions about digital photography, and it occurred to me that these questions may be on the minds of others as well. So let's take a look at them:

Question #1: "My camera gives me a choice of several different file sizes when saving my images. RAW, Full, Medium, and Small, and then Full Compressed, Medium Compressed, and Small Compressed. One friend told me you should never photograph in anything other than RAW. Another said you should always use Full Compressed! I am just not sure--but I AM confused! Can you help?"


ANSWER: I sure can. First of all, this is confusing for many photographers--even seasoned pros! I wrote an article for ABOUT.COM several years ago, and you can refer to that article here. It is still posted on ABOUT.COM, and will give you more details than I will post here--hey, why retype what I have already done? Understand that depending on your camera, the menu may look like one of the following:
  • RAW
  • LARGE
  • NORMAL
  • REGULAR
OR
  • RAW
  • FINE
  • NORMAL
  • SMALL
OR
  • RAW
  • LARGE
  • LARGE COMPRESSED
  • MEDIUM
  • MEDIUM COMPRESSED
  • SMALL
  • SMALL COMPRESSED
I do not recommend using the compressed option unless the photograph is for posting on the web, for viewing strictly on a monitor, or a small print (4x6 or smaller) is being made.


First of all, you MAY want to shoot all RAW if you are a new photographer or just entering the Photography for Income market. It lets you correct minor exposure flaws. Understand that RAW is not a substitute for proper exposure! If your highlights read more than 245 or less than 7, there is no usable data there!! Garbage in is always garbage out. If you are photographing with studio strobe and have metered the scene at EI 100, but you have set your camera at EI 800, you are not going to save this because you shot RAW, okay? RAW is not some great potion sent to Earth from God that saves crap files...end of story.

If you are using RAW files because you think they are sharper, you are wasting time and storage space. RAW files are NOT sharper than JPG files--they were both created on the same sensor. One guy sent me an email after I wrote the ABOUT.COM piece saying that the proprietary software that shipped with a particular Nikon camera at the time output JPG files that were softer than the RAW files. So what? That is a shortcoming of a piece of software, not RAW vs JPG. The simple solution was, don't use that software to convert them! The files that came off the sensor were the same sharpness, because it was the same sensor.


Other photographers say, "I shoot RAW because I want ALL of the pixels...why would you save as JPG and throw data away?" Well, this is not a totally accurate analogy. Understand when you edit a file, you are throwing data away...it is IMPOSSIBLE to add data to a file. If it ain't there at capture, you can't add it in later. These photographers are confused about how JPG works. JPG does not actually throw the data away...it looks at large areas of similar color pixels and says, "Hey, here is an area of 2000 pixels that are all exactly the same color. I don't need to save every single one of these...I can save every Nth pixel and make a note to myself to fill in the other pixels when the file is opened."


Yes, it is true: there is some loss. Some minor, imperceptible loss (unless you are compressing a 48 Mb file into a 326 Kb file, of course). I have taken files and worked on them, compressed them from a "HIGH" JPG file to a "MEDIUM" JPG file, and shown them to photographers who swore they could tell the difference. I had it full screen on a 30" Apple Cinema Display. The result. NOT ONE of these people who said, "Oh, I can tell the difference!" could pick out the original file and the compressed file. Read it again...not one professional photographer could discern any difference.


Now for my own workflow, I never use RAW for my portrait or wedding photography. Why? Simple...TIME! First of all, RAW files take longer to write to your storage card. Next is moving the files from your card to your computer--it takes longer to download 200 RAW files than it does to download 200 JPG files. Next is using Photoshop...unless you have one powerhouse of a computer, you are going to experience load times of 25 to 75 seconds PER IMAGE to load into Photoshop. I read posts on the Internet where people say it takes longer with their 3-4 year old computer. Many people are presorting in a stripped down viewer to pick the final images. I'm not really interested in that. Next is file conversion: labs don't print from RAW files. They normally print from JPG (a few will print from TIF files), so now you have to convert all of those RAW files to JPG...more time.


Yes, RAW gives you more options, but just understand there is no free lunch: RAW files take longer to process than JPG files. If you are shooting just a few images and you don't need them ready to view in a couple of hours, RAW is just fine. I normally use a hand held meter and make all of my images in JPG mode, using a "Zebra Card" to make an exposure that I can color balance from. I'll talk more about the Zebra Card later.


In fact, I rarely even use the LARGE setting. The MEDIUM setting is my choice--at least on my Canon cameras. The reason is that the camera software over-samples the image, so you will see ZERO difference between an image photographed on LARGE (AKA FINE or FULL on some cameras) and the MEDIUM setting. Don't think so? Give it a try yourself. Photograph an image on the Large/Fine/Full setting, then set the file size to Medium/Normal. Make an enlargement--say 16x20--and see if you can tell them apart. I can save you some time...you won't be able to.


Now here is an interesting point: scroll down and read the comments on the ABOUT.COM site--some of them are hilarious! One guy said I didn't know what I was talking about if I thought JPG was better than RAW. Another person states RAW "...has more detail than JPG." One guy said he wished he shot RAW when he photographed a family and screwed up the exposure. Finally, one fella says that you should ONLY shoot RAW while another says he shoots RAW and JPG.


Let's look at these comments one by one. First off, if you read the article, I NEVER say ANYWHERE that JPG is superior to RAW. Never said it. What I did say was that if you are careful about your exposures, then JPG is fine, and preferable if you have to process a large number of images. And working pros do!
The guy who said his RAW files are sharper than his JPG files--no way. This is simply untrue--it is same image off the same sensor regardless if it is RAW or JPG.


Now to the photographer who screwed up the family shot: he shouldn't be doing Photography for Income! Remember I said it is for people who can get good exposures!
Finally, the last two comments are not incorrect...for those users. If you have all the time in the world, shoot RAW to your heart's content. But when you are photographing 5 seniors a day and two weddings a month, that adds up to 1200 images, or nearly 100 images that have to be processed nearly every day. This doesn't even count my school, baby, and family images. If I had photographed them all in RAW, I would have worked 20 hours a day photographing and processing the images. I still had to eat, sleep, and market the business! Where would I have found that time?


Look, if you have nothing but time, or you have some slave locked up in your basement doing all of your image processing, or you just enjoy working on your images, then shoot RAW all day long. But if you do not have a top notch computer, those RAW files can take 10, 15, 30, even 90 seconds to load. Let's see if you can deliver that wedding you shot--all 600 images--on Memorial Day weekend by the 4th of July! HA--probably more like Christmas!


To summarize: if the images are made by a COMPETENT photographer who knows his/her equipment and how to read a meter in an controlled environment, such as studio portrait photography, saving them in the RAW format is simply, utterly unnecessary. If the photographer uses a Zebra Card, then JPG will be just fine for the same COMPETENT photographer outdoors nearly 100% of the time. If you miss, it will still be salvageable. And if you are not a COMPETENT photographer, you shouldn't be doing Photography for Income, right? End of discussion.

Question #2: "Someone told me using Automatic White Balance (AWB) is only for snapshooters! Is he right?"


ANSWER: Before 2007, he most likely was correct. However, the AWB on most of today's "prosumer" and professional model cameras do a pretty darn good job! But if we are doing Photography for Income, and we want the best we can get! If you only shoot in a studio, you can make a custom white balance for your camera--your manual tells you how to do this. I know, you haven't read the manual--well you'll have to now. It isn't that tough.

If you are an outdoor photographer, you will likely want to make a custom white balance each time you switch camera position, since the lighting will normally not be exactly the same in each area. You can use a white balancing device such as the ExpoDisc or the ColorRight. I have used the ExpoDisc, but I found a Zebra Card lets me work faster. A Zebra Card is normally an 8x10 photograph that has strips: 1/3rd black, 1/3rd Grey, and 1/3rd white mounted to a piece of mount board. By including it in the first scene, you can correct exposure AND color balance for 99% of your photographs.


In Photoshop, you use the CURVES tool. There are three eyedroppers on the menu box, and probably 90% of photographers do not know what they are used for. I'll teach you now. First set the values as follows in the CURVES tool:
  • Black - 7
  • Gray - 128
  • White - 245
(You may need to tweak these depending on your color lab, but this normally is spot on)


With the image open and the CURVES tool open, select the BLACK (left) eyedropper and click on the black strip. Next, select the white (right) eyedropper and click on the white strip. Finally, click on the Gray/Neutral (middle) eyedropper and click on the middle strip. Amazingly, your image will be color corrected and proper exposure. All this done while the RAW users are waiting for their file to open ;)


I made my own Zebra Card--I have not seen them available commercially. If you can't make your own, contact me and we'll work something out. Give this a try and see if it doesn't work for you. As always, I welcome your comments and your emails. Next time we'll talk about selecting a working Color Space, Out of Gamut problems and other topics.

Geesh, look at the time--I gotta run! Hope all your exposures read 7/128/245.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Are Weddings a Good Place to Earn an Income from Photography?

It seems the number one jumping off point for people to earn money is wedding photography. There are many reasons for this:
  • People are still getting married; 
  • There are many budgets from low to extravagant; 
  • For some reason, photography is where people feel they can shave the budget. 
When it comes to a wedding, here is how it normally works: the engagement is announced and the champagne flows. The happy bride and her mom then set out to plan this event. It used to be called a once-in-a-lifetime event, but now it is more commonly referred to as a “starter marriage.” A budget is sketched out and given the okay by dad.

First, bride and mom go to find a dress. They find a gorgeous gown. It costs a little more money than the budget allowed for. Mom goes to dad and says, “I know we had $1200 allowed for the dress, but John, you just have to see your daughter in this dress…she is stunning. It’s only $1800 more than we planned for!” Mom shows dad the pix from her camera phone and he agrees…she is a vision. He wants his princess to be happy, and hey—it’s not like you do this every 72 days (unless your daughter is Kim Kardashian—and if she is, I weep for you)!

Next it’s on to the flowers. “Oh honey, I know we thought we could do the flowers for $2000, but we found the most beautiful centerpieces for the reception tables, and her bouquet was a little higher than we planned, but it will be so beautiful—only $6000 for everything—and they are giving us a complimentary bouquet to toss!” And dad agrees it’s not like she’s going to do this again in 72 days, so why not?

Now, this scene repeats itself with the invitation, the food, the reception hall, favors, music, etc. So when it comes time to hire a photographer—normally the last thing the typical bride takes care of--if the budget was $1200 and mom comes back and reports it is going to be $2000, dad goes ballistic. “No, absolutely not, there is no [expletive deleted] way! You girls went over budget on every single item. You need to pump the brakes--I am putting my foot down here!”

As a photographer, this is the reality that you are faced with: a majority of brides are much more concerned with the perception of friends and family than they are concerned with keeping—and reliving--the memories of the day. This is tricky: do you sell the bride on your price, or do you sell her on your abilities?

90% of the photographers who start out photographing weddings do so by cutting the price of established pros. This is not a good idea. Number one: you immediately alienate the working pros, and you may need them on your side in the future. Number two: you make it very difficult to increase your price where it needs to be down the road. So think long term: how do you want to be perceived in the future—the cheap photographer or the good photographer?

Next, do you have family support? Understand that weddings typically take place on Fridays and Saturdays (Jewish ceremonies will normally be Sundays). Will your spouse or significant other be okay with that? How about the kids’ sporting events or dance recitals—how many of those will you miss? How many evenings a week will you have to meet with prospects? How much of a financial expenditure will you have to make to market your services and get you equipment up to what is needed?

How are your skills? No, really. I don’t mean your mom thinks you are great and your instructor at the adult ed center says you are his most promising student…I mean are you really good?

Do you have the business knowledge that lets you know how to price your work in order to show a profit? You can’t believe the people who have told me, “The only cost I have is the CD I give to the bride. I charge $200, I am making $199.50 on every job!”

Yeah, right…

You have your time, your equipment, your knowledge. Do you clean your suit after every wedding (I sure hope so—they get gamey after 6-8 hours at a wedding in July). Do you advertise, or will you count on ESP to advertise your services. The person in the example above told me he averaged 2 hours meeting with the couple and 8 hours at the wedding. After figuring his overhead (conservatively about 35% if working from home) he most likely actually earned $60. A big whopping $6 per hour! Doesn’t look that good to me.

Finally, can you handle the pressure? Weddings are a fast paced and high pressure situation. The bride doesn’t want to hear that an important image was missed because of something outside your control…she just wants the picture, and that’s why she hired YOU instead of any clown with a camera. I have known photographers who had 20 years experience (or more) who confided to me, “You know, Steve, I hate to admit it but I still get nervous before a wedding!” Me? Nope. You do it for 35 years, it’s another day at the office. But I was doing photography every day…it is a completely different thing if you just do it one day a week and maybe just 2 days a month!

When you get your new phone book, look and see how many people who were advertising wedding photography last year are still in the book this year. The wedding photography business is a business of thirds:


  • 1/3 of the people are just getting in to the business;
  • 1/3 of the people are getting out of the business;
  • 1/3 are there to stay.
Weddings can be a place where you can earn a fair income from photograph…just be sure you know what it really takes to do so. If you have a comment, by all means, send it to me! 

Til next time, may all your exposures be perfect!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Why Professional Photographers Give Newcomers the "Cold Shoulder"

I recently received an email regarding this topic. I did a little web investigation, and found that there were more than a few sites where people talked about this. One site called them "Momtographers", and basically said working pros should "...give them a break!" Other people said pro photographers were greedy and wanted to overcharge people. And of course, the pros said you grubby part timers--especially the "Mom Arrazi's"--don't know what you are doing and you don't know photographic composition from a musical composition, and should just stick to taking "pitchers" of your kids in stupid costumes, since that seems to be what you are best at.

Wow.

The relationship between part time and full time photographers has always been contentious, even though 97 out of 100 full timers started as a part timer...I know I did. Back in the sixties, full time photographers (FTP) called part time photographers (PTP), "bathtubbers"--this stemmed from most amateurs not having a darkroom, so they processed their film in the bathroom. Today, thanks in large part to the inexpensive Canon Digital Rebel, there is a large influx of female PTP. "Momtographers" as one site called them. I had a business consultant who referred to them as "Digital Debbies." And I could see how FTP could get a little pissed at some of these people.

I was photographing a wedding in Concord, Michigan as the HIRED photographer. A local real estate agent who just happened to be female, was there as a guest. One of my "Trademark" photographs was a floor level shot with a wide angle lens of the back of the bride and her father going down the aisle. This wench walked past me, went halfway up the aisle, and stood in the middle of the aisle ruining my photograph. I took it anyway to show the bride and groom. But it didn't stop there.

After the wedding, the bridal party was sequestered in a small holding area to permit guests to go onto the reception where the bride and groom would meet guests. As the wedding party filed in, she pushed past me, entered the room, closing and LOCKING the door! I got no images there.

At the reception, she showed off her snapshots (she had them printed at the local one hour lab), and in a loud voice said, "Gee, you'd think the PROFESSIONAL photographer would be able to do this, wouldn't you?"

I cornered her and said, "You have a home closing on Monday for a friend of mine. I am going to come to that closing and look over his deal. I think he might have paid too much and I think you are getting paid too much commission. I am going to bring another friend with me who has his real estate license and we are going to look things over. I'm pretty sure I can get him to void the deal."

She replied, "You wouldn't!"

I said, "After this crap you pulled tonight, you watch me. I don't know what your problem is, but I want you to know if you ever do that to me again, I believe in equality for women. If a man had done that to me I would have knocked him out. I gave you a free pass tonight, but next time I will have absolutely NO qualms about punching your lights out!" The next time she was at a wedding I photographed, she put her camera back in her car! No, I probably wouldn't have hit a woman--I think...

The second issue is that of price. I hear a lot of ignorant PTP make statements that pros are overcharging because they are greedy. The average PTP thinks, "If an 8x10 print costs me $1, then I can earn a profit by selling it for $2." No, they can't and that's why an astonishing 97 out of 100 photographers who start out part time and go to full time are not in business two years after going full time.

The FTP does not have the luxury of an income other than photography. S/he must pay their own health insurance, they often have a building and employees, and they have a large amount invested in improvements, equipment, training, insurance, and salaries. In other words, their overhead. The PTP has a main source of income, and does not have these expenses. Their undercutting of price ruins the market for ALL photographers.

Let's say Perry Pro is a FTP. He charges $20 for an 8x10 portrait. It should be $50, but the part timers in the area are cutting the price and it makes it difficult for him. Debbie Digital is a PTP. Her husband works for the local utility company and earns $50,000 a year. Debbie is not feeling fulfilled, so her husband lets her use his Gold AmEx card to buy $10,000 worth of equipment so she can do something the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day she's not busy with him. Debbie is having FUN! She takes pictures of pretty flowers, cute kitties, her kids, her friends, her friends kids, and she gives them the CD or thumb drive, or prints, or whatever. Oh, and her friends just LOVE her work and they LOVE her. One says, "You know, Debbie, your pictures are just as good as Perry Pro's...you should open your own business!"

So Debbie does just that. She finds a space (since hubby said "No Way" to running the business from home) and fixes it up "real cute"--for about $10,000. She gets a girlfriend to come in and help and join in the fun. Debbie charges no session fee, and charges just $8 a "sheet", telling her customers, "I charge less than JC Penneys!" The customers come in. They are not her friends. They tell her the pictures are total crap and they wouldn't pay $2 a sheet for this...sheet! "The customers are mean!" Debbie tells her husband. Debbie also tells her husband that she took in $2,000 in sales this month [YAY!]. The only problem is that rent, utilities, advertising, and cost of sales was $5,000.

Debbie's husband is not happy. Neither are the customers, who thought her photographs sucked. Now they think all professional photographers are like Debbie. They also think that since Debbie wasn't a good photographer, then a good photographer will charge more. Like $10 a sheet. After all, Debbie charged $8. True, she ran the business into the ground and never made a profit, but the customer doesn't know that.

So you can see why FTP might have a little problem with PTP.

Now before I get a ton of email complaints, I am not picking on women. There are more than a few really great female photographers who also run their business well. This is just an illustration. I could have made it Penny Pro and Dan Digital--so don't mail bomb me, please.

Professional Photographers are under extreme pressure today. I think we are having to deal with the same changes in our business model that the music industry is faced with. Copying is rampant, people don't care about copyright--they will freely and unapologetically make illegal copies of CDs and computer software, so they have no problem ripping you off. The problem is, people think, "Hey this is my picture, I paid for it, it's mine, so fck that photographer--s/he's charging too much anyway!"

I feel the future of professional photography--well, consumer photography for income, anyway--will be reduced to a handful of photographic specialists who work full time and command a very high price, and the majority will do consumer photography part time. I see this coming in the very near future.

All right, so we have determined that PTP get under the skin of FTP, because they are seeing their income and market share erode...rapidly. I still think FTP should be a little more altruistic when it comes to PTP. At least those that are not blatant price cutters, and do not put really crappy images on display and try to pass them off as "My images are high studio quality without the high studio price." Yeah, there was a loser right here in my area that advertised this. His pictures were real crap. I wouldn't give him the time of day.

If a PTP came to me and needed a piece of equipment, I normally loaned it. I had one guy who was struggling--he worked two jobs and did photography on the side. He had a baseball league to photograph one day and he forgot his flash unit--and it was 30 minutes back to his home. The local camera store (now closed) didn't have his model. I overheard him and said, what camera do you use? I can loan you something. I thought he was going to cry. He tried to pay me when he brought it back, I said, "Forget it--it didn't cost me anything to loan it to you." Then he did cry. Did it bring me any business down the road? Not that I can point to. But it meant a lot to him. We don't need to be so hard, especially when everyone is having a tough time of it right now.

So, what's the takeaway here? Well here it is as I see it:

  • PTP, try not to be a price cutter and run down FTP;
  • FTP, try to come to a working relationship at least with those PTP that are decent;
  • FTP, sorry, the business model is changing: you may be a PTP before you know it!
Can't we all just get along?

Are you enjoying these posts? If so, please tell your friends. Are you not enjoying them? Then why did you come back? Just kidding, if you think I've missed the mark, or you have a comment, by all means contact me!

Til next time,
Steve Bohne

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Ways You can Earn Income from Photography

Happy Mother's Day to all of you Mom Arazzi's and Momtographers out there (and to you non photographer moms, too)! Remember, without moms, there would be no photographers--without dads, there normally would be no family photos, because he's never in them!

There are lots of ways to earn income from your photography. In a bit, I'm going to give you a list of VIABLE ways to earn money with your camera. I say "viable," because there are a bunch of scumbags out there that are ready, willing, and able to scam you out of your money. Most of these people have a website that promises you "Make hundreds--even thousands--of dollars with your camera!" Now, they want to sell you their eBook or a subscription to their email blast, and there is nothing wrong with that...IF the information has any value, and as long as it isn't ridiculously overpriced!

I am offering Kindle publications. They range in price for $1.99 to $9.99. They provide actual information that is useable.


On the flip side, the vast majority of these scams below ask $39, $69, $99, even $199 for the information--which is pretty much worthless. It is not uncommon for these to be a come-on, a scam, a rip off--plain and simple. Here are a couple of examples (all predicated on the purchase of an eBook, CD or PDF, of course):

A common ploy is to advertise that you will earn $1000 a day/week/month (year is probably more like it) photographing people at a fancy restaurant--the idea being everyone will be dressed to the nines, and they would love to have their portrait taken.

I'd like to see the actual sales receipts.

First of all, very few are going to do this at a restaurant unless it is a special event or holiday: New Years, Easter, Mother's Day, Christmas, etc. I have done this personally at our local country club where I was a member. And while I did all right, I sure as hell didn't earn $1000 every time I did it. Some holidays were better than others, and people will not participate each and every time. So while the BASIC premise is sound, the promised results are exaggerated.

Another one is to be a "field rep" for a company to take photographs of homes and businesses, etc. You get paid $XX for every picture you take. This is right up there with getting paid to stuff envelopes or be a "secret shopper."

Yet another one has been running for nearly 50 years: a photography company specializing in reunion photography calls local photographers and tells them they will pay them $500 to photograph a local reunion. After you send the film or digital card, they will pay you the $500, plus give you $50 for each digital card you send them. You will never, ever see any money. I cannot give you the name of this company, because they are CONSTANTLY CHANGING IT! As people get burned, they MUST change the name to hook new suckers.

An old one that has just about disappeared offers "Get paid $268 for every roll of film you shoot!" They have you take pictures for Child ID forms to protect these children in case they are snatched. They never sell any of these forms--they make all their dough off from you. When I was in HIGH SCHOOL this scam was being run, and a had a couple of friends who pooled $49.95 (back then--I think it's up to $69.95 now).

"But Steve--they give me a 100% money back guarantee if I am dissatisfied for any reason!"

Oh, sure they do: it's 100% all right, 100% worthless. Take a look at this most excellent post by Lesley Fountain explaining The Anatomy of a Worthless Guarantee on her website. It's priceless! Her website has good information, too.

Don't feel bad if you've been scammed--it happens to more people than you realize, because most of them feel too foolish to tell you they got the shaft. When I was young, I paid money for press credentials that promised me that I would be, "...permitted access to any sporting or entertainment venue for free." They were worthless.

Or then there was the stock photo scam that got me big time. You paid $100 per form--one form per category--filled out the form, sent your images, and you would be making $100 to $1000 for every photograph sold. End result: I paid out $500 (that I couldn't really afford back in 1978), never received a dime, and never got my images back. OUCH! A 55 gallon drum of KY lube should have come with those forms...

But take heart, young gunner! There are actually ways you can earn a real income from photography. The list below is not complete, there are certainly more. I have actually earned income from many of the activities listed. Take a look!


OVER 100* WAYS YOU CAN ACTUALLY EARN INCOME FROM PHOTOGRAPHY

TYPE
DIFFICULTY
EQUIPMENT
Sports Teams
**
*
Graduations
***
*
PR Events
*
*
Parties
*
*
Banquets
**
**
Reunions
***
***
New Years Events
**
**
Fashion Shows
**
*
Theatre Groups
*
**
Nursing Graduates
**
***
Model Composites
**
**
Church Wall or Directory
*
**
Golf Tournaments
*
*
Country Clubs
*
*
Magazines
*
*
Restaurants
**
**
Car Dealers
*
*
Book Covers
*
*
Model Contests
**
**
Hobbyists
**
**
School/Group Composites
**
**
Motorcycle Clubs
*
*
Period Costume Portraits
*
***
Legal Photography
**
*
Santa Photos
*
**
Easter Bunny Photos
**
**
Auction Flyers
*
**
Construction Progress
*
**
Tourist Photography
*
*
Ebay
*
***
Corporate
**
***
Hospitals
**
***
Physician’s Directory
**
**
Bar Association
**
**
Presentations
**
*
Advertising
**
***
Elemtary Schools
*****
*****
Halloween Pictures
*
*
Nursery Schools
****
***
Dance Schools
**
*****
School Dances
**
****
Headshots
**
**
HS Seniors
***
*****
HS Proms
**
***
HS Yearbooks
*
*
Candid Sports Photos
**
*
School Service
*
*
Group Service
*
*
News Stringer
**
*
Bar/Bat Mitzvahs
**
**
Family Portraits
*****
****
Child Portraits
*****
***
1st Communions
**
*
Hospital Newborns
***
**
Weddings
*****
**
Products
****
*****
Ann. Reports
*****
*****
Fashion
*****
*****
Political Photography
*
*
Architectural
*****
*****
Travel
***
****
Parades
*
*
Fairs
*
*
Races
****
****
Animals
*****
***
Photo Book
*
*
Car/Yacht Clubs
**
**
Illustrative
*
*
Dog Shows
***
***
Stock Photography
*
*
Room D├ęcor
*
*
Greeting Cards
*
**
Post Cards
*
*
Posters
*
*
4-H
*
*
Real Estate
*
*
Nursing Home
***
**
Groups & Organizations
**
**
Calendars
*
*
Trade Publications
*
*
Fundraisers
*
*
Insurance
*
*
Home Inventory
*
*
Home Portraits
*
*
Home Before/After
*
*
Garden Photos
*
*
Brochures
*
*
Photo Novelties
*
*
Custom Screen Savers
*
*
Photoshop Services
****
****
Retouching
***
***
Teach a class
*
*
ID Cards
*
*
The Categories Below are VERY LOW VOLUME Today
Passports/ID
*
*
Copy/Restoration
*
**
*The total listed is less than 100, but several of these categories have multiple ways to earn money.
"But Steve, how do I actually make make an income from these topics?" Well, some are self explanatory. I obviously cannot give you all the details in a blog post. That would be one BIG post. But I do have a Kindle book that is about to be released. In this book, I give you details on what it takes to do these, from start to finish. If you would like to be notified when this book is ready, send me an email and in the subject line please put PHOTOGRAPHY INCOME LIST.

That's all for now. Check back next week for further words of wisdom that you just cannot live without! Until then, may all your exposures be on the money.
--Steve Bohne