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On The Business of Photography

As I have tried to grow my photography business, I have learned that there is much more to it than just taking pictures. There is a lot of work that happens when I don't have the camera in my hands. There are many misconceptions about both the business and creative sides of photography that many people just do not understand.

I have had friends ask me to take some family pictures of them for Christmas cards and so forth. I have been told "Just take the pictures and let us get the memory card from you.". No, absolutely not. I shoot in RAW mode 99 percent of the time. Most people do not have the software to convert RAW files to usable JPG files. Not every picture I take is something that I want people to see as representative of my work. My knowledge of my equipment and photographic principles allows me to have a good idea about what I am going to get before I ever press the shutter release. But even with that, sometimes adjustments have to be made to correct white balance and exposure to produce a good picture. Other times there will problems with a minute piece of dust somewhere in the image path that I don't realize is there until I look at the pictures on my computer screen. That creates another correction to be made. All corrections need to be made while the image is still in RAW format or after conversion to TIFF format. Corrections made to JPG files degrade the image quality every time a correction is made and the image is re-saved. Another reason for not making such deals is that this is a business and my time needs to be fairly compensated. I had one prospective customer ask if I could do some HDR (High Dynamic Range) pictures of his motorcycle at a pull off on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The particular pull off is about 75 mile away from my house. I would have had maybe an hour of actual shoot time involved plus another hour of post processing. I gave him a quote of $100.00 to do the work plus whatever he wanted to spend on prints. He told me that he just wanted to buy the prints and that the price was out of his range. No, it does not work like that. Photography is just like any other service oriented business such as plumbing and electrical work. You pay someone who has the tools and knowledge to give you end result that you want.

There is website maintenance to be done. Time is spent post processing pictures for stock. Researching jobs that I want to bid on and preparing the prospectus can be very time consuming. Not everything I do is purely for business. I enter art shows and juried competitions. Preparing for the shows takes away shooting time. Equipment maintenance and upgrades are required. Almost anything you can think of that is part of running any business, can be applied to running a photography business.

Creativity in this business is something that can not just be turned on and off. I went to a small car show last weekend and came home with about ten pictures. I could have walked around and just taken the same standard pictures of every car there, I didn't. Those types of shots are boring and can done by anyone with a camera phone or point and shoot in automatic mode. I was looking for the art shots, the lighting and reflections that turn a snapshot into art. I just could not get the creative side flowing that day. It happens sometimes. What I did get out of it is ideas for next years car show at that location.

When hiring a photographer or shopping for photographic artwork, remember that the photographer is in business just as any other professional, with all of the same business responsibilities.

Posted by Patrick G. Welch on Saturday, November 19, 2011

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