Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Thoughts on Making Photography Your Business

This is harder than I thought it would be. By that I mean, turning a photo hobby into a business.

I knew about the technical side of it all for years. Apertures, shutter speeds, their inter-relationship, ISO/ASA, composing a shot, spot metering, depth of field all were well understood. People liked my photos. I saw photos for sale and knew I could do as well or better. This was just not hard for me.

Satisfying the IRS that I have a photography business wasn't too hard either. These things were necessary: registering with the county/state as a "dba" sole proprietor business entity, setting up a separate bank account for the business, marketing/promoting the business (web site), getting a federal tax ID (so you don't use your SSN), getting a state sales tax permit, becoming a member of a professional organization associated with the business (in my case NANPA) and tracking all expenses and income carefully for tax purposes.

But the real BUSINESS part of it I greatly underestimated.

Setting up a website and deciding what you want to sell and for how much is straightforward but sales are going to be VERY slow that way unless you can get some visibility and pop up on the first page of results on Google or some other search engine.

Making a profitable business out of landscape photography is almost a non-starter. EVERYBODY is a landscape photographer. I read this many times in various magazines and web sites but I thought the power and reach of the web would mean that I could generate a stream of income but it just ain't so. Portrait photography or commercial photography are much more likely to generate income near term.

My hat is off to those landscape photographers who print, mount, mat and sleeve a few hundred images and go to art fairs, set up their tents and sit waiting for sales, hoping to cover expenses and many times having to pack it all up and take it back home. Some are successful. Many are not.

I'm not giving up but I've got to do something different. I'll write about it.

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