I debated sharing this on my blog, but it went out to my email subscribers last week (grab a freebie ··HERE·· to join), and I decided that if can help anyone else out with being profitable in photography, it’s worth putting out there!
Today I’m going to share with you one of THE MOST IMPORTANT parts in creating a successful, PROFITABLE business.
It’s basic math really.
Are you ready for it…?
Don’t spend more than you make.
Okay, I’ll elaborate, since you probably already knew this, but I see so many photographers that “know” this yet still spend more on props and things for their studio then they actually make. Granted this is more common with newborn photographers, but can affect all genres.
- You don’t need to have a full client wardrobe just because someone else does. People own clothes, and are generally capable of buying/borrowing/renting what is needed.
- You don’t need to have that latest and greatest prop or backdrop in every colour. Your clients will never know. They aren’t following a million photographers and seeing every new trend as soon as it pops up like you are, and they are not booking you based on whether or not you have a heart bowl. Literally zero clients have ever asked me if I have a heart bowl. I do not have a heart bowl.
- Your camera? It’s probably fine. Unless you are actually noticing the limitations of your gear and know exactly what you need in order to create better images, don’t go investing in new gear just for the sake of it, or because it feels like it’s time. Know WHAT you’re needing and HOW it’s going to help you.
- You can alter wrap and prop colours in Photoshop or Lightroom. Get your basics, but you do not need one in every shade of every colour that exists.
Okay, now that I got that off my chest, let’s look at some practical tips for what I DO suggest:
- I’ve said this before, but invest in good glass (lenses) so you don’t end up buying the same focal length multiple times. Many photographers can get away with just a 24-70. Maybe add in a 70-200. Going with primes? 35, 50 and 85 will likely be your best bets, and maybe a 135 if you like being far away from your clients and super creamy bokeh (that’s the background blur). I shoot mainly with a 35mm 1.4 outdooors, and 50 2.5 macro in studio, since I know that is a question that will be asked ;)
- When looking at larger investment prop pieces, buy these in neutral colours that can work for boys or girls, in multiple setups. Then add in your colours with less expensive pieces like your wraps, bonnets, and tiebacks. Watch for people selling used items in good condition. And if you’re going to build elaborate sets, make sure you are charging for the materials AND your time in setting it all up. Just because you *think* you’ll use that Busy Bee set again, doesn’t mean you actually will, so don’t take a loss on the first session you shoot with it. And well-used items will need to be replaced over time too.
- You’ll likely get more out of investing in your personal development or photo education than you will from having the biggest wrap collection. Often what is holding our businesses back more than anything, is us. Yup, ourselves. Our own mindset and ways of being that keep us from our higher potential.
In the end, I always try to ask myself if what I’m about to buy is going to
A) save me time, or
B) make me more money
Sure there are plenty of things that squeak through anyways, but try to focus on investing in the things you’ll actually see a return on, or things that truly would make your job go smoother and quicker, or the knowledge you need to advance your skill set or your mindset.
It always hurts my heart a little when I learn that a photographer I thought of as “successful” is actually not even turning a profit on their business. You are taking time away from your own family and interests in order to be with someone else’s family. You owe it to yourself to make money doing this, and to use that money for yourself and your family. Otherwise… what is the point?