We get a fair amount of questions from new or aspiring photographers. Here’s a list of some of the most important considerations a pro photographer should take into account as they get started…
Professional membership with PPA (Professional Photographers of America) for insurance, best practices, indemnity fund, liability, training, conferences, etc.
Carbon Copy Cloner (or other HDD cloning app) for when the inevitable happens and one of your working hard drives dies. Just pop in the clone and you’re good to go. I clone my main working drive every night.
CrashPlan or other redundant off-site, automatic backup system. Again, preparing for the inevitable hard disk failures, and the unimaginable failures, too. I prefer Crashplan as of the writing of this list, because they do not ever throttle back your backup speed, and they keep every past iteration of every file, not just the most recent backup.
Keep your image files! Sometimes I’ll hear of photographers who only keep their images for 6 months before purging them to free up disk space. Hard drives are cheap, keep your work. You never know when a client will pass away and the family will need a print for the funeral or the newspaper. It’s happened to us twice already, and it sure felt good to be able to help them in their time of need.
Insurance is a must, for your equipment as well as your business. Be honest with your insurance agent and let them know it’s for a business, not just personal camera gear at home. Most home insurance will not cover equipment being used for a business, and they’ll do their research to get out of paying a claim if they can.
Quality gear is important if you’re a professional. Just because it’s ungodly cold and raining and blowing, that’s not a good enough excuse as to why you put your camera gear away and didn’t get some professional photos for your clients. We unexpectedly shot an entire wedding in the rain once. Good thing we had top-of-the-line gear, or we’d have been in big trouble!
Backup gear is a must-have, too, if you’re going to be a pro. And keep it handy, especially during those once-in-a-lifetime moments, like when the minister says, “You may kiss the bride.” There’s not a lot of room for telling them to wait or for redoing the moment.
Think Tank is one of our favorite gear companies. Lifetime guaranteed rolling bags, and super functional memory card wallets that won’t break the bank.
Sales taxes are required on photography services in Oklahoma. Collect it and pay it in or bad things can and will happen.
Get a good accountant or tax professional. They will save you more than they cost you over the course of your business. If they’re not, then they’re not the one for you.
Make mistakes to get better. Everything mentioned above is to avoid those really costly mistakes that can ruin a reputation, career or business. However, it’s important to try new things to keep developing and stretching yourself. I’ve found that making mistakes has been the quickest route to really dramatically improving in the craft over the years.
Be responsible and dependable. This should probably be the first one, but I didn’t want it to get forgotten by the time you reach the end of the list. We’ve all heard horror stories of lost pictures, photographers who never showed up to weddings, etc. Don’t be that guy/gal. Do whatever it takes to honor your clients and the industry as a whole. Even when you don’t feel like it.
Finally, there are the universally known five simple rules for photographers. I have no idea who to credit for these, as they were most likely a collaborative effort that evolved over the years, but it’s largely remained unchanged for the last 30 years as far as I can tell:
1) To be a better photographer shut up, put your head down and work hard.
2) Find a mentor who will take his/her time and help you grow.
3) Awards and honors are nice, but you’re only as good your last picture, so get back to work.
4) When you truly have learned your craft, pay back to your profession and become a mentor to others.
5) Be humble. Always.
Any others I’m forgetting here? I’m sure I’m forgetting a lot of good ones. Feel free to leave a comment and if it’s good enough, we’ll add it to the list and credit you!