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Photography as a "business"

Posted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 2:56 pm
by mmvt
I am intersted in hearing what folks know about developing a photography "business". A bit of background, in addition to my "regular job", I have a private practice business for my main profession so I understand the ins/outs of how that works in terms of business expenses, home office expenses, tax implications, etc for my current profession but wonder how this applies to people who want to start a photo business.
Any thoughts about this appreciated!

Re: Photography as a "business"

Posted: Thu Oct 22, 2015 7:34 pm
by From_the_NEK
Honestly I've been batting the same question around in my head as well. However, I'm pretty sure it would be difficult to make as much $ as I am in my current job (incl retirement benefits, etc).

Re: Photography as a "business"

Posted: Fri Oct 23, 2015 3:52 pm
by autzig
What kind of photo business do you want to be in? Portrait, wedding, and special event photography is probably the only kind of photography business that pays enough to live on. If you want to make money selling your photos, you have to write. There are thousands of good photographers in the world who sell their photos through stock agencies and get pennies for every photo sold. Tough to make a living that way. On the other hand there are not many good photographers who are also good writers. Editors are looking for well written articles and they will buy quality photos to go along with the article.

My advice is to write articles about what you know and offer your photos with them. If you don't write well, learn!

Study magazines in the areas of your interest and/or expertise. Look at the articles and photos. Get a feel for what the editors are looking for. Get the writer's guidelines from their websites and write. Then prepare to be disappointed. I thought I had an article on night sky photography sold to Outdoor Photographer magazine. They say they will accept or reject an article within six weeks from submission. If they don't do either, they will keep it for future consideration. Months later, I got excited when I saw the article on night photography featured on the cover. The only problem was that the article wasn't mine. They bought an article on the same subject from someone else. Disappointed? Yes, but I've learned that disappointment goes with the business.

Another option is to write a book and fill it with your photos. That's what I did. http://www.goldimagesphoto.com/Book. That said, if I had to survive on income from my book, my articles and my photos, I would have been dead long ago. My book has a pretty narrow audience. After all, how many photographers want to buy a book about photographing Minnesota's North Shore?

Unless you want to get into the special events business, it will be very hard to make a decent income from photography. That's why I spent my career in the insurance business.

For what they are worth, those are my thoughts.

Al

Re: Photography as a "business"

Posted: Tue Oct 27, 2015 6:20 am
by Andy
I agree with Al, that the probability for success just "selling your images," is around 0. Not only are these stock photographer out there but there are the microstock sites. And with multi megapixel phone cams and gopro cams and now drones, the competition is insurmountable.

Likewise the competition for articles is fierce. Even niche areas like wedding and portrait are difficult to break into at a make-a-living price point.

As far as business principles go, they are the same as any small business. But the key element is revenue and that is going to be a huge challenge.

Re: Photography as a "business"

Posted: Wed Oct 28, 2015 6:26 pm
by mmvt
Thanks for the replies and ideas. I think it would be almost impossible for most people to support themselves with a photography business but can imagine that it might be a good "side" business for some - either to make a little extra $$ or to break even on the expenses of those who are passionate about what they do. From an IRS standpoint, it seems that there would be some risk for someone who wanted to start up this type of business in terms of making enough $$ so that it moves beyond the designation of "hobby". It also seems that another "line" of business for some might be photo shoot excursions? There are people who seem to charge a LOT of $$ for those types of experiences. I ran into a group of Leica users in VT a few years ago - guys from all over the country who were traveling with a pro - it was right after Andy's book came out and I was showing it to them on my iPad as they were looking for one more place to shoot the next day (it was a difficult color year!).
Al- I could imagine you leading this type of workshop for nighttime photography!

Re: Photography as a "business"

Posted: Wed Nov 18, 2015 12:36 pm
by autzig
Margy said:
Al- I could imagine you leading this type of workshop for nighttime photography!


I considered doing some workshops once but decided that there is just too much that needs to go into it. For example, workshop leaders need permits in national parks. You need to have iron clad contracts with participants that hold the leader harmless if they are injured. Notwithstanding those contracts, you still need liability insurance to pay for defense costs when the participant sues you for an injury. You have to deal with cancellations. What do you do when not enough people sign up for the workshop and you need to cancel? Some participants have already made and paid for airline reservation. Then you have people who sign up, decide to cancel and want their money back, even if you have made it clear that there are no refunds.

Workshops can be lucrative and a lot of fun, but I don't need the hassle.

I'd prefer to go out with friends. If I can teach them something, wonderful, if not, what could be better than making photographs with others who you know and who share the love of photography?

Al

Re: Photography as a "business"

Posted: Sat Feb 13, 2016 8:17 pm
by Andy
Wait. What do you mean Al? People would actually sue you? No way. You are too nice a guy. :mrgreen:

Margy: Both Al and I have sales outlets on our websites. I sell one or two images a year. I don't work hard at it. It would NEVER put food on a table or pay a mortgage. But it does help pay for my website and occasionally, some equipment or travel costs. I also have my eBook, which has surprised me on the revenues it generates annually - but it is still only "beer money." Most pros are work really hard to make a living, including stock photos, workshops and books. Some who have built the business make a good living from their stock photography. I have a friend/mentor pro who makes about the same kind of $ at his photography business as I do in my law practice. But he has been around for a long time, and has some pretty good connections. He photographs for Lonely Planet and a major music performer, as well as his stock business.

Bottom line for you and me: Don't give up your day job :D