What Percentage of your revenue do you spend on Equipment?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by christopher hartt / dallas, Dec 27, 2008.

  1. This question has been debated in various forms, but to the best of my knowledge never asked outright.

    Professional Wedding Photographers - Full time or "Weekend Warriors" - how much (percentage) of your annual revenue do you spend on equipment (Cameras, lenses, lighting, etc). Although computers and software could be considered, lets limit the question to purely photographic hardware.

    What do you think the reasonable (based on ethical/ practical considerations) percentage of client revenue is to invest in your equipment?
  2. I'm not sure why this should be expressed as a percentage.
    Lab costs? Yes.
    Overhead? Yes.
    Marketing? Yes.
    Camera equipment is generally fixed and has about the same cost of entry no matter how much revenue you produce.
  3. "do you spend on Equipment?"
    less than 7%
  4. Well, expressed as a percentage because there is a difference between the photographer who earns $25K a year and the one who earns $250K a year...IMHO, at least.
    Of course there are lab costs, marketing, overhead...which can likely be expressed as a percentage of your revenue as well, but what about photo equipment? What percentage do you assign to buying cameras, lenses, memory cards, flash, etc.
  5. I would think for a lot of us, as when I was starting, being nre, I spent a lot more per client than I do now. Started with 2 D70's and upgraded one to a D200 and hen the other to a D300. A few extra lenses, Second QUantum battery for flashed instead of more AA bateries. Now I spend a WHOLE lot less. I do stock up on albums for proofs and frames for engagement pics/signature mats when I can find a deal. I AM at the low end of the groups shooting for proofs and CD only.
  6. Chris - do you invest in equipment based on an ethical or practical percentage of revenue?
  7. I put back into equipment based upon both a practical and ethical basis. Many years ago, when I apprenticed for a well-known landscape photographer, he used a 10% of revenue back into photo equipment. That didn't include darkroom or lab supplies, marketing, etc. That 10% was the amount he used to maintain current equipment, lenses, lighting, etc. My expenditure is right at about 10% as a matter of practicality and ethics. My clients pay for, and receive an excellent photographer with excellent equipment. As a practical matter, this means that my budget for marketing doesn't need to be significant. I turn away many more clients than I accept during the course of a year - both wedding and commercial.
    Of course, the hope is someday I will be "discovered" and manufacturers will give me their cameras for free, but in the meantime, I have to budget for the equipment. And for me, expenditures always follow the revnue.
  8. So you decide on an ethical and practical percentage and then decide on what gear to buy with that percentage.
  9. Starting out in the business you should expect to take a pretty good hit, maybe not even show a profit for a year or 2, therefore all of your earnings for gear, the labs, and advertising will probably be gone. After you've been around for a few years I think saving away 15% seems about right for updated new gear only.
    Advertising an another fugure subject. A business can go under in a very short time, in just a few months, if your advertising overhead isn't paying off. Smart advertising is really the key to a successful photo studio.
  10. That's it for me...but it works for me. I buy a new Series One FF and crop frame every 2 years or so, because I put about 200-220k exposures on each of those bodies each year. I also cycle other equipment based upon their exposures/usage and that equipment cycling is budgeted upon revenues. None of my equipment is more than 5 years old and bodies, flash, cards, etc - all less than 3.
    If I have an exceptionally good year, I will replace a camera at 300K exposures rather than 450K...similarly cards and lenses. I use the "specialty lenses" (24, 35, 135, 200 400 primes) considerably less, so they have longer service life than lenses like the 24-70, 24-105, 85 1.2, etc
  11. sorry for the typos - Advertising an another fugure subject - should read Advertising is another future subject.
  12. From a business standpoint the goal is to NOT have to have alot of capital expenditures at ALL. Thus you want a profitable business that doe NOT need to spend a boatload of money on major upgrades of equipment to stay competitive. Thus if "ethics" is a criteria; and I look for an "ethical manager" who naturally does NOT chase capital expeditures. One should not just consider age as a criteria; or you be throwing way perfect 5 year old tripods; lens caps.
  13. Kelly, your thoughts are shared by a lot of photographers. "Put as little money into the business as possible"...it's one business model. Not one that I agree with, but it is a widely held model.

    I'm just curious to find out where self-described "Pro" photographers on this forum stand.

    PS - I have a couple of older tripods...that's where the "practical" part comes in. Although even tripods get beat up (heads loose, joints less stable) after 5 to 10 years of heavy use...well, the way I use them, at least. And those use issues (of tripods) affect stability which impacts the final image.
  14. Well, I am a bit of a gear junkie and so I estimate (rather too accurately) it to be around 12.75% from year to year.
    If I sold the closet full of stuff I have accumulated, I would probably retire earlier...
  15. Christopher;

    setting aside a fraction into saving account or dedicated cubbyhole for future capital purchases is what we do here; with printing.

    The "wear"per shot; per wedding' per customers print is not uniform.

    Thus one wedding might have little wear on a camera; another might have it bumped; crud/cake on the lenses; one 3 years from now might have a lens dropped and totalled..

    Most businesses fails due to lack of funds in rough times; thus you are WISER than most chaps by worrying about this issue!.

    Lets say you set aside 10 percent; if after 3 years you have too much you can pay yourself a dividend! If its too low you have to borrow!
  16. Kelly, another legitimate argument on your part.

    We look at exposures on bodies much like mileage on a car. Shutters are rated for "durability" mean failure by the Canon engineers for a reason. I would no more rely on a body with 500K exposures for a wedding than I would rely on a car with 500K miles for a cross country trip.

    My paradigm is probably different than yours because of duration too. I've been a full-time photographer for 30 years, so my business plan is more about "maintenance" than "acquisition".

    You hit upon a great point though, one I've been wondering about. For most of my associates & students, wedding bookings are way down for 2009. The prevailing strategy seems to be (based upon my observations) that they're spending a lot more for advertising (joining the "sea" of other photographers doing the same thing) and many seem to be putting equipment acquisition/maintenance on hold.
  17. I buy equipment on a as needed for long term basis. Equipment needed but not in the long term sense is rented.
  18. Seeing that I carry around a EOS A2E --about 4% . Never abuse my gear ~~ SO they have lasted for many years....30 or less weddings @ 2/300 images per - my camera will be around next year. Cost of living takes about 80%
  19. If you believe a camera body lasts 300k shots and it costs 3K than one could straight line and pay per click; here shown with no scrap or residual to make the math easy:

    ie one year you shoot 100k; you sock away 1k

    year two you shoot 150k; you sock away 1.5k

    year three you shoot 50K MIDYEAR; your fork over 500 bucks and buy another body.
    Or maybe you just say place 1k way per year and any excess about 100k clicks

    ie year one as slow year you shoot 50k; you sock away 1k

    ie year two you shoot 150k; you sock away 1k plus 500 for the 50k overage

    ie year three you shoot 250k; you buy another camera at the first 100k
  20. Kelly... Huh?
  21. I imagine a well rounded plan would be about 10% for the average pro. Seems fairly well covered to do that and take a "bonus" from that fund once a year as the fund reaches your target figure.
    IOW, if you think you will need say 40K to replace a full wedding kit (cameras/lenses/lighting/batteries/cards/ and miscelaneous other "wear" gear) and you put say 15K away for that per year. After 3 years you have 45K. At the end of that year you can safely take 5k as your bonus. However, in real life you will likely need to use half of what you put aside each year for maintenance of your gear. So it will likely take you about 6+ years (starting from 0 of course).
    Well I can see by that strategy I am not doing what I should. I usually have about half of what I need to replace everything set aside at any given time. However, I don't limit what I use either. That is to say, if I think something will do the job that much better, I will get it and take less as income. And this is the part that I see as being such a tough issue for most people. We don't seem willing to adjust our personal economy in a downward direction, even when it's obvious we NEED to. With that in mind...
    Off topic slightly, but related:
    One big factor that seems largely overlooked in the equation of how/what to budget for gear, is the part of the equation that relates to income. To me, that income expressed as a percentage of total revenue, is about 60%. So (from my standpoint) if you are using all your revenue each year, you are not only preparing to fail financially, you are specifically heading in a backward direction. So, keeping a tab on what you are earning, then adjusting your income based on that number, will mean that you are not caught by surprise. It's not any surprise the economy is where it is today as the mass of the population subscribe to spending more than they really have, not saving for a rainy day and to add some insult, juggling their debts in order to make themselves think they have more income than they really do. Do yourself a favor and take a good look at your real income, then plan your expenditure AND saving, to allow you to ride the inevitable peaks and valleys of any economic future.
    Rant over... :)
  22. I bought my latest car when it was 10 years old --my house was 30 years old --- I purchase my cameras seasoned. Although the film cameras seem to last much, much longer > our 20d we expect to be around several more years for sure ~~ we have budgeted for a 40d and zoom for the second quarter of 2009. We always eat -- before buying equipment :)
  23. Often this forum seems way too interested in issues related to equipment......
    I wonder how much others invest in themselves as photographers via professional associations, networking, and in continuing education/training.
  24. David S - good questions suitable for another thread. There are many expense items - many ways to divide up the revenue pie. Aside from the purely practical expenses ('I have to buy a new camera because my old one is unfixable'), there is a range of "less necessary" costs that as "professionals" (Photographers who hold themselves out to Brides as 'Professional Photographers') we should probably make.

    What are those "less necessary" expenses and how do we handle them? How do we budget for them? What "obligations" (as "Professionals") do we have to the clients who hire us? There is no licensing, no requirements for minimum equipment or Continuing Education - as there are in virtually all other professions. So how do we, as Professional Photographers, handle those things?

    I'm seeing responses that range from 'I'll spend as little as I possibly can for items other than absolutely necessary' to more of a fixed percentage approach. Which approach makes more sense?
  25. C Jo:
    Yes, food, mortgage payment and clothes for the kids is higher priority than equipment.
  26. Danny W, yes, necessities are important. So I'm guessing your approach is 'siphon off as much money as possible for mortgage, food, living and other expenses and invest in equipment, continuing education, etc after other things and only if necessary?'

    Do you see that as a good long-term strategy for your business? I mean, as a "Professional", you're in it for the long term, right?
  27. Art ; I am just mentioning that if Christopher believes his 3000 buck camera lasts 300,000 click that he plan on replacing it; ie setting aside money; ie having actual cash to buy a replacement body with NO LOAN.

    Thus if he shoots 100k exposures in one year; one third of the camera's mileage/clicks are "used up." This is called depreciation. Thus if one third is used up in one year; 1000 dollars is set aside in a fund to buy another body in the future. Thus if one year has low revenue; but alot of clicks/mileage; one is FORCED to set aside money for future tool purchases; ie another camera body.

    Since everybody charges different rates; everybody has a different number of images per wedding; everybody has a different number of NON revenue clicks; a revenue basis is really abit oddball; its LESS tied to replacement than clicks and years.

    One might have reprints from one bride and groom and the added revenue adds ZERO wear on the dslr.

    With another job one might have to reshoot; have terrible lighting; no reprints; the client check might bounce and one has a mess of camera clicks and very little revenue for that job.

    If a Business does not set aside cash for replacing or repairing tools one can be in a pickle when they fail.
    Typically most new businesses fail; they are undercapitalized.
    They get sales by going lower than another; and are all fine and dandy until a crisis hits; ie tools break; are stolen; or hard times. There is usually no reserve; no "extra" to pull thru a businesses speed bump.

    There are also issues on how "hard" one is with tools; how "careless" one is with leaving camera gear unattended; how much "keeping up with the Jones" factor one has.

    If one doesnt set aside cash for replacing tools in the future one is going to go out of business.
    IF one pulls too much cash out to pay oneself; buy junk; the business might have no funds to buy another dslr or flash when they die in a year or two.
    The real goal is to have cash reserves; ( probably a totally foreign concept today) ; a goal to run a business that does NOT require constant expensive annual capital outlays; to have equipment thats robust; low in costs; lasts forever.
    Here the Mamyia C3 I used to shoot weddings in the 1960's still works; my dads GE meter from the 1940's still works; my 1960's Marchioni Tiltall Tripod works perfectly; its been used in Singapore; Japan, NewZealand, UK; Bangkok, the USA; its over 45 years old. The 1962 Nikon F still works; its never had a CLA yet. It I set aside 10 percent of revenue I made with that one body one could buy an entire modern dslr wedding kit; instead I bought more spare used bodies at 49 bucks each and have many lifetimes of spares.

    Many slr bodies will be scrapped because consumers chase megapixels; this is good for the economy; folks "consume" the goods; get bored; and buy a newer tool to chase a moving target. Its the worse thing one can do as a business; illogical; a waste of capital if it really doesnt add value. If ones goal is a Hobby wedding business for the IRS; one can strive for maximum turnover of equipment; you goal is to ride the wave of new gear; have zero profit; all cash flow goes into buying the latest doo dad.
    Thus you scrap out the 1960's Tiltall and buy a new tripod; and crush the old one; since old gear is worthless, junk, a new knockoff is what you buy. Thus the cast iron paper cutter we have from 1906 that can cut a LA phonebook in half should be scrapped; maybe it might fail?

    The pickle today is folks with dslrs shoot alot of frames/clicks; a major bump or hit may total the body; its probably NOT going to be repairable after XX years; its going to be about worthless; like an old 386 computer. Many cameras and lenses "die" because lack of usage; or they are dropped, bumped, soaked in water; or one gets a weird error code and its not worth fixing the obsolete dslr. Hitting a magical number of ABC kiloclicks and the shutter fails is what you get if one has better luck; Based on the repair calls I get; that is NOT the norm at all.

    You just want to set aside enough money so when your tool/camera is worn out or not worth fixing you can buy another, WITHOUT A LOAN.

    Tools wear, break or go wonky based MORE on useage patterns than revenue; alot of electronic stuff dies do to lack of use; capacitors deform; the strobe will not hold a charge due to lack of usage; the lens gets stiff due to lack of usage; the iris "sticks" due to lack of usage. Flash cords with wedding usage are a decades old failure issue; one expensed them and threw then out to get a new known batch.
  28. The trend when younger and/or a new business is often not to account for replacement costs.

    John Doe shoots a wedding for a grand.

    Jane "gets into the business and charges just 700 bucks.

    Kilroy sees how much Jack and Jane are making and does a wedding for 500 bucks; and rolls in the vast profits.

    At some point the "business" only is as smart as your dumbest competitor; maybe they got a SBA loan; have starter business low incubator rent; are using "daddys" camera; and moms car.

    Maybe Kilroy spends all the cash flow; and a rich uncle buys the new dslr "to help him out in business".

    The facts are you do not know what the other chaps cards are; are they a bailout subsidized business; one with low rent; one that sweats costs; one thats drunk with illogical expenses.

    A business thats out all alone has to have reserves or sink. Like a ship thats overloaded; top heavy a gale in will sink the non prepared; Darwin in action.
    In a real pro applicaton the business is what one does; the cash flow pays the rent, ones food.

    In an amateur pseudo business one can fall back to another business; another paycheck; it is less "real world";
    the 500 buck wedding shooters can make money; their "overhead" is ziltch; thus breakeevn point way less.;
    decades ago it was the 50 and 100 buck shooters one had at the low end; back when a tri-x 120 roll was 49 cents.
  29. Necessities first -- if your Canon 1V still works > its not a dire expenditure to go chase the latest. Learn to live within your means.:::: " As a "Professional", you're in it for the long term, right? "....I am in it fully, for over 25 years ..always have a backup system. If the main camera is unfixable > just use the backup ~ until funds allow for a new purchase. Pretty simple economics.......
  30. A B&G contact you and your $3k package is offered but, they would like you to deliver it all > for $1800. If you need that job to live >> then you take the wedding but, you don't bring a 5d MK II ~ you have to cut corners ~ because your market is dictating your camera in hand. You have to compete, without following a path to the red side.
  31. So if I'm getting this right, once I've 'sold' the bride, I can show up with my old 10D (that still works) and G9 point and shoot (back-up) and she should be happy to have me shoot her wedding with that equipment? Gosh, that would sure take the pressure off me - no worries about equipment replacement, continuing education, seminars, etc, etc. I might even be able to live in Maui (Ka'anapali Bay - I love it there) where the cost of living is sky high. But if I'm not spending anything on equipment, there'll be some more money left over for living expenses.

    Curious though, do I tell the bride about my business approach or sell her heavily on the 'Cameras don't take pictures...people do' argument?
  32. If they can not afford the Royal Royce limo --ya don't bring it out of the garage. Just the stretch Detroit "fits their budget" vehicle. The client is dictatoral of their budget > if you accept the job for less ~ you have to help cut cost. That's why we shoot film. And many of our "cost-cutting" shoots will be hand over the unprocessed film or cards at the end of the day. We are helping them maintain their budget : which is going to be foremost in many inquires next year. (would like a used G10 for digital backup, though ! ) Ya don't bring out the Hassy > just because they ask you kindly ;-) <p>
    Still going to deliver the same guaranteed 30 year experience > manual exposure /hand-metered results to the B&G..... and that can still be produced with our the camera system @ hand.
  33. C Jo, I think we have different (valid) business models. My prices have purposely been kept in the middle area, and business has been consistent. I NEVER cut prices...although I've shot a few weddings for free over the years (for a good cause). A huge part of the reason, for me, NOT to cut prices is that regardless of the wedding I shoot, I still have the same expectations of quality for my performance - regardless of client expectation. My approach is arguably, nonsensical. But it's something that has worked well for me.

    I've been thinking about the Lasik procedure. The popular Doc down the street is running a special on it right now. It's my hope that just because he has reduced prices that he still uses the best equipment he has...not the "old" laser in the backroom. Even more, I hope that his "new" laser is "state of the art"...comparable to the very best equipment used by the best Lasik doctors - because this is important to me.

    Despite statistics to the contrary, I still operate from the standpoint that people get married once in their life and that the wedding photography is extremely important, so no corners should be cut in performing it. I understand your logic though, it makes sense...and is probably becoming the "norm" more than not in the current market.
  34. We do not ever expect to "cut corners in performing it." But, the B&G can save $ by developing the images at their budget, as well, as editing the RAWs. They can always pay our price at the door ~ and have our pro processing throughtout...but, I am not one to sit in front of a PC screen for free * for hours. That Lasik doctor will probably be out of business, if they have the latest gear to their P/L schedule and starting to discount to stay above water.
  35. <p>CHRISTOPHER: Would be very enjoybable &gt; if with we did not have to CUT prices. The last years economy, in our market, started going for the &quot;bargins.&quot; We had to really re-evaluate our staying power and our own personal livelyhood. Guess we could always move --NOT :) This place, we are nestled into, is the best place to &lt; &quot;suffer &amp; die&quot; &gt; we know
  36. Carmel is a wonderful place. I spent 3 yrs there working for Ansel. Couldn't afford it myself though.

    Ever thought about moving?
  37. Normally a Bride and Groom cares about the final product; not the tools one uses.
    They really should not care about the cater, limo, photographers confusions about how they plan equipment expenses either.
    A season pro with an older rig can shoot a better wedding than somebody who chases the latest camera gear with quadraphonic matrix metering and nano pixel technology.
    In the 1960's and 1970's a wedding photographer for a higher end wedding shoot would include a swatch of the wedding dress for the lab to "close the loop" on the off white wedding dress. One also shot trial exposures of the dress; to make sure there were no UV/strobe issues. Today this is a foreign concept; your camera is your God you worship! It will solve any lighting issues!
    The B&G really do not care what photo equipment you use; they are paying for pro images; not for your tools.
    They will look back 5 ; 10; 20 , 50, 100 years from now and will reflect on how great , average, or poor the images are , NOT whether the shooter used a 5D, speed graphic, Zorki, Blad, D300, 10D, Nikkormat, G9, C330, D200; Rapid Omega.
    Its really not about the equipment AT ALL; it is the results!
    Thus folks here are abit doomed to a capital outlay treadmill if they think the next camera of the moment will bring magic to ones images; you have drank the amateur koolaid; the new 2009 nano matrix camera for only 6000 bucks will make you shoot pro images; buy it to keep pace; to shoot pro work!
  38. Normally a Bride and Groom cares about the final product; not the tools one uses.
    They really should not care about the cater, limo, photographers confusions about how they plan equipment expenses either.
    A season pro with an older rig can shoot a better wedding than somebody who chases the latest camera gear with quadraphonic matrix metering and nano pixel technology.
    In the 1960's and 1970's a wedding photographer for a higher end wedding shoot would include a swatch of the wedding dress for the lab to "close the loop" on the off white wedding dress. One also shot trial exposures of the dress; to make sure there were no UV/strobe issues. Today this is a foreign concept; your camera is your God you worship! It will solve any lighting issues!
    The B&G really do not care what photo equipment you use; they are paying for pro images; not for your tools.
    They will look back 5 ; 10; 20 , 50, 100 years from now and will reflect on how great , average, or poor the images are , NOT whether the shooter used a 5D, speed graphic, Zorki, Blad, D300, 10D, Nikkormat, G9, C330, D200; Rapid Omega.
    Its really not about the equipment AT ALL; it is the results!
    Thus folks here are abit doomed to a capital outlay treadmill if they think the next camera of the moment will bring magic to ones images; you have drank the amateur koolaid; the new 2009 nano matrix camera for only 6000 bucks will make you shoot pro images; buy it to keep pace; to shoot pro work!
  39. Around 30% but when you sell off the old stuff it boils down to 15%
  40. Christopher Hartt .
    Carmel is a wonderful place. I spent 3 yrs there working for Ansel. Couldn't afford it myself though.

    Ever thought about moving
    Many times think about it ...but travel elsewhere and miss this part of the world ... I still see Rod Dresser & John Sexton around. Virgina & AA were always so nice to me ...he could play the piano and talk my ear off about politics.
  41. Kelly got it right. It is about the pictures not the gear.
    If we simply look at camera equipment, very little. I send my bodies back to Nikon every 12-18 months for maintenance. CLA. Got a new shutter last year in one body and some kind of electronic gizmo quit in another. Lenses last forever. Bodies that are well cared for last for years.
    I spend more money on education. It gives me more bang for the buck. Besides. Who wears out a tripod?
  42. Off the top of my head I don't know what percentage I spend, but for 2009 my spending budget for equipment is about $2000. I currently have about $1100 in equipment to buy, update the studio a bit. Most of it will be spent on new lighting, backdrops, etc. I don’t think it’s that much but if you aren’t making money it can be a big chunk of change.
  43. C Jo - We just spent the weekend in Carmel so we saw what you are contending with- empty stores and multi-million dollar homes being marked down and still not selling.
    We could see that a lot of money had probably passed through there in the past few years- now gone.
    If your referral pool is dying it may be time to buy a mailing list to meet new people- some of them will still have money.
    In assembling a list from infousa I noticed that when I added 29 year old single women the number of people went up a lot- we are also contending with a smaller base of potential brides in the younger groups.
  44. Holy Cow, 2k for a years worth of gear! I need get out more...
    C Jo, hope your market rebounds and can make your life a little more financially stable.
  45. Thanks STEVE :& : DAVID <p>
    Carmel was a wonderful experience for 25 years ...photography offered a wonderful ~ artful~ livelyhood. Even my fine art has all but dried-up, in the last year. Corporate is down severly for next year. Will trudge on through the next 24 months >> see if there is a kick in the "wedding world" around here then. Paying a 10% finder fee across our market > may have to increase that scale /\<p>
    Homes are down from 3 mil ~ to a low as a million >> and no one is buying ? Looks like we are in for a rough road....
  46. This thread is of great interest to me because 2009 will be my first year as a full time professional photographer. Like many wedding photographers, in years past week-end work equipment was funded by a paid position doing something else. So up to now my percentage of acquisition was sometimes 100% ... LOL! ... (to be honest, that was funding a full blown commercial studio, not just my wedding gear bag.)
    However, that means everything is paid for outright and I'm properly prepared to do this full time for at least 3-5 years without purchasing anything in terms of gear. Over the years, I socked away replacement funds and a full years' earnings in a Money Market before I went full time.
    In lieu buying yet more gear, I AM investing in advertising ... but I have a leg up on most folks because that was my previous career. Not all advertising is created equal, and nay-sayers usually do not know what they are doing and just waste their money ... so they knock it out of ignorance. For one thing, advertising can break the cycle of "birds of a feather" referrals if you want to move up the social-economic ladder ... including awareness amongst other premium vendors and high-end planers catering to that strata ... so "cold calls" are warmed up by being perceived as being "one of them." The first order of advertising is strategic planning NOT making and ad and paying to run it.
    Investing in training and seminars is money well spent and can pay dividends faster than a new camera purchase ... depending on where you are in your career. However, in these economic times and at this point in my career, it's down the priority list. Not that I don't need to learn more, just that I need to spend all my time applying what I already know for pay.
    I also am of the opinion that the cycle of digital upgrade investments is becoming less pressing compared to the past. We all know that between 10 and 16 meg cameras are good for 99% of wedding shots ... for sure when it's a full frame version like a 5D or D700 ... (or even better one of the Pro spec dual slot cameras even when bought used.) Things like live view, and video just are unnecessary do-dads and a waste of a wedding shooters money. The camera makers are struggling to add value to cameras with stuff no one that shoots weddings really needs ... ( at least not needed to get what the client wants to pay for.)
    As an aside, I had to laugh ... I also still have my Leitz Tilt-All and companion mono-pod that's probably older than most forum members here. Still works and I use it all the time.
  47. Marc - what do you think are the most important points for effective advertising?
  48. C Jo - I would suggest avoiding anything like a "wait and see" attitude.
    I lived through the dotcom bomb, essentially losing everything.
    Every year for several years after 2000 we kept thinking "things will get better next year." They did, but very slowly.
    I'm afraid we are in for the fight of our lives in the next few years.
    I would suggest following Marc's example by seeking an expanded client base.
  49. Steve, it's not an easy question nor a simple answer. But you asked, so I'll give it a try.
    It is far more about strategy 101 than it is about making an ad and where it appears (that is also important, but comes later).
    You have to target who you want, where they are, and what they want, and how the competition in that sector is communicating. In other words do some homework before doing anything or spending a dime.
    Then comes the hard part ... finding a "Brand" appeal that's in tune with your new target audience, but is different than that of your competitors. If you can't determine a difference, then you have to dream one up and follow through on it. If you are after a new target audience, then you are facing established suppliers that already cater to that group and have an established string of referrals.
    This all is hinged on the fact that you can deliver what's expected by the new target audience. Despite, posts here to the contrary, some clients can tell the difference ... and they are used to a certain level of final product qualities. While not all may exactly know, they almost always know someone who does ... which are called "Key Influentials" in basic marketing terms. So, you really have to be honest with yourself and not confuse a desire to be something when you are not.
    As we all know, referrals are the backbone of this business ... so one strategic point is to make more of those referral resources to the target you want ... which means cherry picking which type of referral you use. It's better to have a couple of killer referrals from the same socioeconomic group you're after, than twenty from another group. If you don't have any ... then do what it takes to get one ... which you can often find out by simply asking.
    Finding leads: people discount some of the on-line lead resources, but most of them are on a pay per lead basis ... I pass on those that are obviously price shopping. However, if the lead is looking for catering for 250+, and wants a live band, then that prospect is worth contacting for $2. First place I send those prospects to is a 3rd party refferal/rating page as well as my website.
    Personally, I've been lazy about doing this for myself because my career was in advertising where most of my energy went ... but as of Jan.1, 2009 I am a full time photographer ... so about 2 months ago I started applying some of this for myself. So far I have already booked more weddings for 2009 than I had in all of 2008. More importantly, fully half of them are my largest package, and all of the remaining ones are just one step below those.
    If you want to step up your game, then you have to believe you are there. Confidence is contagious. Also, don't be afraid to be competitive. For example, a lot of journalistic photographers in my geographical area claim they are "decisive moment" shooters and believe they are ... but honestly they aren't ... and I do not mind pointing that out to a prospect ... then showing them wedding after wedding packed with "decisive moments" ... to illustrate that it's NOT an occasional accident. Clients want consistency and IF the client is also looking at other photographers, I don't mind setting the consistency criteria for evaluation.
    Once you have determined all of the above, you can look into various PR and advertising venues. Many advertisers run one ad in a publication targeted at the prospect they want, and merchandise that for a full year afterwards. Put it on your website, blog about it, hand carry it to wedding planners and other vendors serving that target audience ... be one of them, don't act like a wanna-be.
    e-mail me with any further specific questions Steve, so we don't gobble up band width here. Sorry for the long post, I did say it isn't a simple answer ... and this is just the tip of the Iceberg.
  50. I have been shooting weddings since the 80s. I am still shooting weddings with the same gear. mamiya 330s, 1950s rollie and step back in horror. 3 Chinon CP9s. I like the grip, the autofocus, running on AA batteries,lens mount etc,etc. All are still going strong giving the same quality results. I was recently commissioned to shoot a wedding at a chateau on the shores of Lake Lucerne. Flights and accomodation paid for. This was attended by a brace of millionares. They were really impressed that I was shooting with old film equipment [all of my cameras are covered with black tape to protect and less likely to attract attention from ner do wells. They look like rubbish.]. As Armstrong would say "it's not about the bike".
  51. James B, it's great that your business model is still working for you. I suspect you might be the exception rather than the norm.

    Lance Armstrong has said "it's not about the bike," but a few days before Christmas here at the Richardson Bike Mart (Richardson, TX), he was picking up a $14,900 frame only. It's just me...but I suspect the bike factors in somewhere...
  52. Christopher
    Put me on that top of the range frame [and I am a decent rider] and him on my old mountain bike and he will still leave me tasting his dust. I think some of it might be about the skills not the tools.
    Yes whatever works for you and pays the bills. But I don't think you need top of the range gear to produce good wedding albums. IMHO simple equipment that you are totally at ease with makes life a lot easier. The last thing you need to be concentrating on at a wedding is the camera. I don't know the USA scene but here in the UK the wedding pros still use tried and rusted cameras to achieve consistant results.
  53. One way Lance would be ahead would be in psychology.
    In sports there is now a well-developed mental approach to increasing performance.
    Among other things, they find that mental rehearsal is as effective as physical rehearsal.
    One successful archer always shot on windy days when other people stayed home. Fill flash in bright sun or against windows is a hard case for us.
    Good athletes try to optimize every part of what they do.
  54. James B, of course, I don't disagree with you. But I am amused at the irony of the situation.
  55. "But I am amused at the irony of the situation"
    Ha. Iron as in rust! well spotted. pity I didn't.
  56. Here the old Mamyia C3 from the 1960's I used in wedding work still works; it has 120 and later I got as 220 back in the mid 1960's.`it was used in the 1970's and 1980's too. In the 1990's I used it more for portrait work with the 105 and 180mm. It used it a few months ago at an air show; if it works why replace ones tools?
    The camera has those "unreliable ;)" chrome Mamyia lens that folks say one cannot get parts for; the lenses still fire ok and were bought when Kennedy was in office.

    I replaced the foam on the C3 body awhile back; the camera is so old I have a glass plate 3 shot film/plate holder kit; and thru the lens porro prism meter unit that still works well.

    I am not sure what the logic is behind replacing equipment before its time; it sounds abit more like an amateur typical waste of money.

    A brand new camera can fail too due to infant mortality; a backup brand new Nikkormat I bought in 1975 failed about every 2 to 5 rolls; it spent almost its entire life in Garden City being fixed; and broke many times; finally it got stolen.

    It had a MTBF of only as few hundred clicks; it failed 4 times in a row; it was a brand new camera; a BACKUP for my 1965 used Nikkormat that still works today.

    A brothers spare backup Nikon F3 body died after only a few rolls; my used Nikon F from 1962 still works fine today

    Baseing equipment replacement based on revenue is tying it to a very weird variable; if I replaced the old trusty Nikon F based on this logic; I would have bought hundreds of camera bodies.

    A contractor doesnt replace shovels based on revenue; he chucks or repairs them based on wear and usage. With a wedding outfits strobe units; one very hard bump can crack the traces in the circuit boards; one hard pull can make a flash cord flakey.
    In airlines planes are inspected by the number of landings; pressure cycles; miles flown; engine on hours; tying it to revenue is a radically wonkier variable.
    With a modern digital with a readout in clicks; just depreciating it by clicks can be done; its the model used with big giant digital printers too; alot of wear is modeled by the square footage; or feet of output. For batteries in power tools and cameras; wearout can be used in months; some advanced items have "charge cycles" logged with an internal chip in the battery.

    The windup Kodak timer I use in one darkroom was my grandfathers from 1920's; I suppose if it ever breaks I will count out loud; or use the wall clocks second hand. It has lasted 3 generations now. In the sprirt of being wastefull as this thread advocates; one could crush the old trusty timer and buy a new Chinese timer and feel one has more reliability? What ever happened to the Yankee thriftyness concept; or basic business were good productive paid for assets are not chucked?

    Some loony buying is good for the economy; one throws out last years tripod or anvil; or filter because one had a good year and some magical percentage of revenue figure is reached; one buys new stuff; this props up the economy. It also brings great values to the used market; since the year old tripod, anvil or filter is worthless; a magical percentage has been reached.

    Maybe Hollywood's Panavision will embrace this new concept with their leased cameras; they could crush them based on revenue and not worry about actual wear or feet of film ran thru the camera.
    Taxi cabs could use the scheme; the a fantastic giant bonus and the car gets crushed; because a magical percentage was reached. The possibilities are endless. All the makings of a government spend spend job! :)
  57. You should invest whatever is necessary to do the job. Every year I decide what I need and buy it regardless of the percentages, as long as the money is there. I don't find something to buy because I've only spent 4% and I had budgeted 7%. I only buy it if I need it, or if it would be an advantage to own it. But again, only if the money is there.
    I've been a professional photographer for 18 years and have never taken out a loan for equipment. Most jobs can be done with what you have. That's not to say they couldn't be done better with more equipment.
  58. I can't tell you how many photographers I've seen who seem to believe it's the equipment that makes you good, or successful. The fact is, the best photographers could do their job with very limited equipment if necessary, and often do.
    But I checked my numbers and I generally spend 2-4% of my gross revenue on equipment, but that includes HD's and computer equipment too. Lenses typically last for a long time, so I generally only need a new body, or two, every year or two. It wasn't this way in the film days, but digital cameras change and improve so rapidly that I need to upgrade to stay competitive. Being able to shoot at higher ISO's is a perfect example of a very good reason to upgrade both of my Nikon D2x's this year and get D3's. It will cost me $10k for the two new bodies and I'll be lucky to get $1k for each of the year old D2x's. So this year I'll spend $8k on bodies that I'm hoping to use for two years, or more.

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