Whether you’re a photographer or not, information is something many of us overlook. However quite simply, it is the key to all success. There isn’t an example I can think of in which information isn’t extremely valuable. The C.I.A. call it “intelligence”, the military call it “recon”, scientists call it “data” but no matter which way you look at it, it always boils down to information. From playing a video game to running a business, information often can deal more damage and success than pure skill or brute force or sweet products alone.
As photographers, we may not consider that we have much to have information on, but in fact we do. From our equipment to our clients to our potential clients, there’s loads of data coming from all directions and if used correctly, we can force it to help grow our business and skill to points previously thought of as beyond our reach.
1.) Know your gear!
You need to understand your bodies and lenses to their fullest. Take the time to find out where they’re sharp and where they’re not. Figure out which settings work best and wether to use your primes or your zooms and why. Know your equipment to the point where you’d embarrass the guy behind the counter at your local camera store. Don’t stop there though, know the other brands’ equipment, because theirs might be better for some areas of photography. Know what’s coming and how to invest your funds so as not to gain a better lens for two weeks then something even better comes out and you’re down a lens/2K. Know how to use your body, that means reading all 400 pages of the manual, yes. Excuse my language here, but what I’m trying to say is, when it comes to your gear, know your shit. If you don’t somebody else will, and you’ll lose out along the way 100%. Know which lenses you use when, and determine which to bring on future jobs so you’re not carrying bags like a sherpa. There’s actual metadata in your images that will tell you which lenses you used, and you can easily determine what per cent of the time you use each lens, and for what kind of job. Here’s a breakdown a did a while ago on one of my last weddings on location. Go data!
2.) Know your business!
Getting a read on where your clients are coming from is really important. If you know where business is coming your way from, you can figure out to focus more energy on that direction, or if it’s already as good as can be, then to use more en
ergy elsewhere where it can make more of a difference. Plan your jobs out whenever possible to best make use of your time. Time your jobs and calculate how much it costs for each of your shutter clicks, then you’ll be better able to quote for your next client the best price for both of you. Too many photographers charge way too little without understanding how they’re losing money.
ex: My camera has 300,000 shutter actuations before it’s suppose to die. It costs $5,000. Each actuation costs me 1.7 cents. So if I was a wedding photographer, and would take 2,000 photos that day. That would cost me $33. On top of everything else I normally charge, I need to include this $33 or every wedding I did or I’d lose that money. If I were a full time wedding photographer, and shot 2 engagements and 2 weddings every week, totalling a more likely amount of 6,000 shots. Well for starters I’d be a really busy photographer, but I’d also be losing around $5,000 in a year!!!!
That’s a top of the line body, go figure.. You basically would lose 2 bodies since you’d kill your first one, and lose the money on it, and be down the other in potential. So it may not amount to much, but if you don’t include that small charge per shutter actuation, when your camera dies, you’re going to be a sad little photographer. Don’t forget to include travel time and other little expenses.
Information is all around us and it may be a pain to take the time to go over it and check it twice, but in the long run you can save time and money while becoming a better photographer. It’s skills like that which help us edge out our competition who just don’t undertand why they’re working so much, but earning so little.
Some extra tips:
• Account for equipment getting damaged. I’d say put aside 10% of the cost of something whenever you add a piece of equipment to your arsenal.
• Pay yourself. Figure out your own hourly wage, and also time yourself while editing files. Get an idea of how long it takes you to go over 1,000 images.
• Only invest in equipment that you’re going to be using a lot. We all want as many lenses as possible, but sometimes if you’re not going to use that fisheye too often, renting it is a MUCH better idea.
• Print your images…. SOMEWHERE ELSE!!! Don’t even bother trying to print your own images. You can’t compete with printers. They have machines that cost $100,000, and are faster and more professional than you. I’m not saying don’t buy a printer, but please don’t think that being a photographer means you also need to own the market on printing. Farmers don’t have their own grocery stores, you shouldn’t be the “print king”.
• Don’t take on any jobs unless they do one of two things. 1.) Earn you money. 2.) Earn you usable portfolio shots. Which in turn will earn you money at some point. - Now I know experience is awesome, but you can give that to yourself on the side. And even if it’s free, you shouldn’t be doing a job for someone that you have no business doing, that’s still not professional, I don’t care if they expect poor quality or not. Make a standard for yourself.
So to sum up. Using your brain = awesome sauce.