There are some amazing tools and resources out there for photographers. When I first opened my business I constantly scoured the internet for the most impactful and relevant tools for my business. There was a lot of trial and error. These resources are things I would not want to run my business without!
Make no mistake. The gear does NOT make the photographer. I started off on a Canon Rebel and a $100 prime lens. A photographer that understands their gear - and it's limits - can rock what they've got! With that being said, I wouldn't recommend someone go into business with this gear. It's a great place to start, but once you begin exchanging services for money, there needs to be a level of professionalism. You don't want to do the industry a disservice by bringing down the value of photography in the eyes of consumers by 1 - charging before you've mastered your skills (learn to shoot in manual people), 2 - charging too little (more on that later), or 3 - using less than professional equipment.
What's in my bag:
Canon 5d Mark ii - a workhorse of a camera. I love the full frame sensor and the ability to shoot in low light and still turn out quality images.
Canon 7d - my first professional camera. Not a full frame - but I still love it all the same. My back up and I still use it at weddings.
50mm 1.4 - I prefer prime lenses any day to zooms. Yes - they are physically more work, but nothing beats these fast, crisp lenses and let's not even get started on the bokeh.
35mm 2.0 - Great for large groups and I use this one in my studio a lot. My studio is small and tight.
Sekonic L-358 light meter (rarely comes out of my bag)
5-in-1 Reflector Disc
About 10 CF cards from 4GB to 32 GB
One more note here. A lot of photographers feel the need to have the best, newest equipment available. It saddens me to see someone go into tremendous debt simply because they feel spending more and having more will make them a better artist. More photographers (talented ones too) go out of business every year often because they did not make wise business decisions. It's ok to start slowly and build your business from the ground up. And guess what - when I updated my camera body or lens, do you think ONE of my clients noticed? Nope - not even one! Updating your equipment is more about YOU as an artist than it is about the client. Update when the time is right - and for the right reasons!
Dell PC - In my other life I live in ACCESS - data and databases. With that being said I've always used PCs and probably always will. My computer is a 3 year old Dell and it continues to work great for me. Sure the shiny, slickness of a Mac calls my name now and again - but I've resisted and have found my PC to meet all of my business and editing needs.
Lightroom 3 - I love Lightroom. I use it for culling and organizing images. But that's about it.
Photoshop CS5 - I LIVE in Photoshop. Love it and learn more about it every single day. What I love the most though? Nearly perfecting my images IN CAMERA. Photoshop should rarely be used to "fix" an image. And overuse of actions is a trend I hope to see LEAVING the industry soon.
Kelly Moore Libby - A gift from my husband. I love them both! I don't know that you can beat the quality, style and durability of these bags. These bags are MADE WELL. Period. Plus they're cute!
A web presence is so important for photographers. It's the digital age and people are generally going to book you through your presence on the web.
Facebook - it's a no-brainer. Completely free marketing - if you know how to use it. I finally started a business page a few months ago to separate my business from my personal page and it's growing surely but slowly. One thing I would mention here - and this is only my opinion - but think about what kind of "fans" you want to have. One of the most popular ways to garner new fans is to do contests and freebies. While these aren't bad at all - I love giving goodies to my clients - it can often lead to creating a fan base that really isn't a "fan" of your work - but just someone out to get the latest promotion or free deal. I consciously made a decision to try to acquire quality fans - those who truly value art and photography. I don't want 8,000 fans that block my feeds because they hit "like" in order to win something. I want 8,000 fans that are - FANS.
Website - there are a lot out there. A lot that cater specifically to photographers. I've used bludomain and I really liked them. I ended up wanting to stand out from the crowd a bit though and recently turned to ShowIt for my new website. While a bit more pricey, design and my brand are one of the most important things in my business. ShowIt helps me to do just that. Check them out here: http://www.showitfast.com/
Blog - There are tons of blogging platforms as well. I use Blogger. Completely free and easy to use. I purchased my template from Cinnamon Girl Studios. Check her out here: http://cinnamongirlstudiodesign.com/
Online Ordering - I typically do a lot of in-person ordering in my studio now - but for online ordering I've only ever used Zenfolio. Totally customizable - I think it's a great value. Check them out here: http://www.zenfolio.com/
Studio Management - I don't think I could live without Tave. They are amazing. It's a web-based studio management service that helps me manage clients, leads, dates, tasks, shoots and even has online contracts and invoicing. LOVE it! You can try it out for free for 30 days here (you won't be disappointed): Tave Studio Manager
Accounting - I have my own system that I just love. The business side of my business appeals to me (Business Major in the house - whoop!) and I spend a lot of time researching and learning. My accounting system is easy peasy - anyone can do it.
1. I have a very simple Google spreadsheet I have set up. I use a Google doc because I want to be able to enter data from anywhere. If I buy a new baby blanket at TJ Maxx I can enter this expenditure right on my phone. This spreadsheet also tracks revenue, mileage and other tax notes.
2. I set up a dedicated email account where I forward ALL my tax documents. If you get audited did you know you will have to show that TJ Maxx receipt? I personally can't stand keeping up with paper documents - or heaven forbid if I have to PRINT something. The majority of my purchases for my business are done online. In that case, the vendor will email me a document (example - emailed receipt from my lab for a customer's prints) and I forward that straight on to my tax email account. Before I send it I type a quick description in the Subject line including the total. (Example: Millers Prints $43.56). For non online purchases, such as the TJ Maxx blanket, I just take a quick picture of the receipt with my phone and forward that on. EASY PEASY PEOPLE.
You can view a sample and use it yourself by making a copy here: Sample Tax Spreadsheet (If you make a copy make sure you change the visibility to Private. You don't want your tax info hanging out there for everyone to see.....) You'll need to set up a Google account as well if you want to use the spreadsheet online.
I offer a wide range of photographic products to my clients. From loose prints, to wall portraits, books, canvases and more - there is a lot to offer. Here are my favorite labs:
Miller's - I use Miller's a lot. They are great, their products are quality, and their turn-around is quick! I use them for regular prints, mounted prints, books and press products.
ProDPI - I love to offer Fuji Deep Matte Mounted Wall Portraits - this is the only lab I found that offers that paper.
Canvas On Demand Pro - High quality. I love selling canvases and these are the best I have found yet.
Photo Card Boutique - I found this little gem this year and absolutely love them. Their templates are the absolute best I have found and the price is astounding. Totally customizable and automatic downloads - PCB makes making cards and custom design work easy peasy.
Design Aglow - Just look around their site. You'll want to drop a chunk of change if you do.
Photographers I Heart
I love the world of blogging. I follow several blogs very closely - there are really too many to list here. I use Google Reader and stay up to date daily on new blog posts. Here are a few of my favorites:
Jinky Art - Probably my favorite child photographer of all time. AMAZING
Megan Squires - I got to spend 2 days shooting along side Megan in August - learned a ton! And she is one of the sweetest people I have EVER met. Check out her About Me video - fun right?
Baby As Art
Inspire Me Baby
The Savvy Photographer - They have TONS of resources for photographers - plus tons of eye candy galore! Their Studio Tour series was very helpful when building my studio this year.
Meg Borders - I get to spend a day with Meg in Vegas in February learning all about taking my Senior business to the next level. Check out her About Me video - gorgeous!
Kendra Michelle - She's my favorite photographer to get a cup of coffee with!
Promise Tangeman - designed my website. She's amazing!
Sarah Lane - I'll get to meet her in Vegas at the Prime Workshop as well!
I hate that word. But I LOVE networking. To me - networking is simply meeting like minded people and getting to know one another. Not in an effort to see what they can do for me. It's about not feeling alone. Not being the only one who gets excited about f-stops and golden light. Being able to ask questions like "what the heck is back button focusing and how has it changed your LIFE?" Knowing if I'm puking my guts out the morning of a wedding I would have a friend come physically hold me up if they had to.
The photography business CAN be cut-throat. But it doesn't have to be! I love meeting new photographers. I love eating too. And networking usually involves both. Here are a few places where I have learned and networked:
Clickin Moms. Just about any questions you can POSSIBLY have about photography or your photography business you will find it here. And NO you don't have to be a Mom to join. Check them out here: http://www.clickinmoms.com/
East Texas Pro Forum. I just started getting involved with this group of photographers only recently. It's a great group - everyone strives to learn more and it represents a wide range of photographic styles (although typically more conservative). Check them out here and if you're local and want to go let me know! You can be my guest! http://www.theproforum.com/
Thursday Therapy - I actually have never been before. Me and a few other girlfriends are going today in fact! You can find one in your city by clicking on the link.
Kendra Michelle - my own little photo best friend. No memberships available - she's already taken! Check her out here: http://www.kendramichelle.co/
Not sure where to start? Find a photoghrapher whose work you admire. Email them and introduce yourself! What's the worse that can happen? They don't respond? Then move on. It's what I did - and I made some great friends in the process!
I love to talk photography. Have ANY questions at all - just comment here or email me at email@example.com
Part II coming soon!
PS - I would love to hear about any resources you think are just dandy! Let's start a list - GO!