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Photo Business Building Basics

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Photography is one of the most accessible mediums to this day. Digital cameras and photo editing software are more affordable now than ever. There are tons of tutorials and workshops on the internet for practically any technique you could imagine. Seldomly do we think about the business aspect of photography when jumping in for the first time. To be fair, a lot of people getting into photography never have the intent to turn it into a business. For some, it starts as a hobby, then slowly evolves into a company; others have a clear intention of making photography their career.

Whether it's intentional or not, the way you do business as a photographer has a significant impact on our industry as a whole. In this article, we'll cover some basic things you should consider when developing your business model.

Pricing 

Before you set your photography prices, you need first to understand your operating cost or the cost of providing your services to clients. The cost of providing any service typically falls into one of three categories; materials, overhead and labor cost.

Materials are the cost of goods used in providing your photography services. Photo or video equipment, computer hardware or software are examples of things necessary to create an image and are considered material cost.

Labor cost includes anyone you hire to provide a service. Photo assistant, Digital Tech or Retoucher are all examples of people you may need to hire and the wages you pay them are part of labor cost. Not all jobs will require a crew but typically the more significant the job, the higher the chances are of you needing hired help.

Overhead cost is the indirect cost to your business in providing services to your customers. Examples include studio/office rent, advertising, insurance, taxes, depreciation, office supplies, utilities, and mileage.

Once these things are determined, you will have a base amount of what it takes to run your business. At that point, you will need to factor in a realistic living salary and perform a markup to ensure you're making a profit for your business and also to compensate yourself. The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) has an excellent cost of doing business calculator that can help calculate these things for you, all you do is plug in the numbers.

Invoice Basics

Invoices should always look professional and be easy to understand. The essential things you should include on every invoice is your contact information and mailing address, itemized breakdown of charges and your terms and conditions of doing business. The breakdown of costs is typically arranged as your professional fees first then production expenses after. Examples of professional fees are the photographer, creative, session, and usage fees. Examples of production expenses include crew member rates, gear rental or studio fees. A good habit to start is to create an invoice for every client, even for charitable or trade jobs and be descriptive as possible in explaining the details of the project. Programs such as Blinkbid, HoneyBook or Sprout Studio are great for keeping invoices organized and professional looking. A Photo Editor also does a beautiful job of breaking down real-world estimates.

Image Usage and Licensing 

As a photographer, you own the rights to the images you create. A license is an agreement between you and the client as to how the image will be used (usage rights). When creating an image license for commercial use, it's imperative to have a clear understanding of what the intended use will be. Will the image be used for print (flyers, magazines, billboard) or web only? How long does the client plan to use the image? Will the image be used locally or internationally?  How many photos does the client want to license? Is the client a small local retailer or a Fortune 500 company? These are all things you need to know when building and pricing your license.  There is an excellent article on the ASMP website on how to draft a license and fstoppers has a great write up on how to price a license. 

This article isn't intended to cover every business aspect; it's meant to provide you with some foundational knowledge to build upon and provide you with some excellent resources to help you along the way. The goal should be for you to optimize your business model as you become more experienced in the industry. Keep learning and growing. Cheers! 

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