5 Business Mistakes Photographers Make All the Time

1. You Buy Equipment

Nikon recently released the newest version of their 600mm f/4 lens for a whopping $12,299. That’s almost $3,000 more the last version, and you need it right? Wrong. You need to generally use a piece of gear once a month for two years to beat the price of renting, not to mention the massive amounts of cash (or credit card debt) it requires to purchase gear outright.

Sure, you should probably own a camera body or two, but do you really need that Profoto 8a or that Hasselblad H5?

2. You’re Underinsured

If you’re paid to photograph anything, you are a business. Well, maybe not legally a business, but you do expose yourself to equipment damage and lawsuits. Maybe you dropped your camera. Or a light stand fell on the bride’s grandma. Or you were sued for doing an unsatisfactory job. Whatever the case may be, an insurance policy for a few hundred dollars per year might save you a world of pain.

3. You’re Not Separating Business and Personal Finances

When photography isn’t a full-time pursuit, it’s tempting to co-mingle your personal finances. But most accountants would advise you to separate business and personal finances, even if your corporate taxes flow through your personal taxes (as is the case with a sole proprietorship). If you’re ever audited, you’ll save yourself one massive headache by having proper accounting.

4. You Don’t Know How to Price

You might spend most of your days shooting weddings, but one day, the neighborhood school asks you to take photos for their website. Or an ad agency wants to use one of your images on a few billboards across the country.

Chances are you have no idea how much to charge. You might even feel guilty invoicing for the shooting time PLUS the licensing fee. But you should be. Pricing isn’t difficult per se, but it can be nuanced and vary by region, industry, and more.

Joining a trade association like ASMP, APA, PPA, and NPPA, can provide you with a network of professionals and resources to aid your pricing. Tools like fotoQuote can also help you generate good quotes and explain negotiation tactics. Do not undercharge for your services. You’re better than that!

5. You’re Spending Too Much Time on the Wrong Social Media

You’d be a fool not to participate in social media in some form or fashion given the enormous potential reach that it provides. However, not all social media platforms are equal, and many of them change their underlying mechanics over time. For example, three years ago, we strongly endorsed a Facebook Page for all photographers, but given the newsfeed algorithmic changes in the past few months, spending business time on Facebook (without an ad budget) is a poor investment of time.

Make sure you are reviewing your analytics to make quantitatively-based decision on what is working for your business.