When people choose to become photographers, it’s for the love of it: sharing moments of pure joy at weddings, births, and family sessions. Being the person behind the camera is much more than the art of capturing these moments, though, and it’s important, especially if you’re just starting your photography business, to zoom out and take inventory of the hidden costs of running a photography business.
The physical toll and self care
One of the most overlooked aspects of running a photography business is the physical effort put into every aspect of our job. We’re constantly loading, unloading, setting up, and taking down equipment, plus carrying multiple pieces and juggling two heavy cameras at the same time. We’re getting down on the ground and way up high, twisting and contorting our bodies for the perfect angle. Then, when all is said and done, we’re somewhere hovering over a screen for hours on end, squinting to cull and edit thousands of photos. Every one hour behind the camera equates to about 8 hours of work behind the computer if you don’t outsource your work. Bet you hadn’t thought of it this way, huh?
When you’re working out your budget, factor in the cost of regular massage appointments, chiropractic work, physical therapy, and yoga and exercise classes. In the height of busy season I generally have to go to the chiropractor weekly, the massage therapist every other week, and have a check in with a physical therapist every few months to stay on top of repetitive use injuries.
Exercise and cardio, especially when I’m traveling is incredibly important to my mental health and my physical health. It can seem exhausting after a long week of sessions or a wedding, but staying in shape is critical to the success of your photography business. After all, it simply wouldn’t exist without you.
PRO TIP: The Spider Dual Camera belt has been saving my back from pain for almost a decade now. Carrying your DSLRs and lenses right on your hip takes away the stress from your shoulders and back and allows for safe and comfortable carrying with the convenience of being able to draw your camera like you’re a quickdraw McGraw.
Emergencies and back up plans
You already know the value of your cameras, equipment, and the drives that hold your photos, which is why you should also have insurance (literally and metaphorically) on all of your gear and your business. Consider putting scheduled blocks for routine maintenance on all of your gear at the beginning of each quarter (or whenever makes the most sense for your use case), that way you can prevent breaks and mistakes before they happen. If that’s not a possibility, know that you’re going to need a savings buffer for emergency rentals when things break. In my case, I prefer to have 3 bodies available so that one is a working backup at all times.
Aside from insurance, you absolutely need to have back up plans in place for emergencies. Picture this: Someone in your immediate family dies and the funeral is scheduled for the day of a session or wedding. It may be bleak to think about now, but you’re gifting yourself the headspace if and when that happens. Have several back up, go-to photographers (your A-team, if you will) who will reliably show up in the event you cannot. I recommend only hiring second photographers who have run their photography business for at least five years and have a strong portfolio with a style that jives with yours.
I recently had to put this plan in place when my New Orlean’s Mother passed away. I am incredibly grateful to the team of people who took over in my place. Weeks later, I had to take over for my friend Lisa when she was infected with COVID days before a wedding I was set to second with her for. It was the first time in over a decade that I had to implement those plans, but I was incredibly grateful that I had them to rely on. You might be running a business as a sole entrepreneur, but having a team of people that you can rely on and have on standby, is one of the most important hidden costs of running a photography businesses
PRO TIP: Make sure that your network is as strong and reliable as you to make any hiccups in service stress free. Wedding photographer memberships to groups like Fearless Photographers will make sure that you have a backup network of people at your disposal no matter where your wedding is.
Security and Storage
Lastly, when it comes to security, your clients are counting on you. However you choose to store your photos, contracts, and invoices, make sure you have airtight security and storage, both physical and cloud. You should have a password service in place, not only to remember all of your passwords (because you really don’t need another thing to remember, and a post-it on your laptop isn’t cutting it), but to remind you when you should change them. The short of the long of it is that your passwords should be long, complex and difficult to remember, which is where a password manager comes in. A hacker needs roughly two seconds to crack an 11-character password made up of numbers. If the password is more complex, containing numbers, symbols and uppercase and lowercase letters, the time needed to break it jumps to 400 years. Make sure that your contracts and people’s CC info is secure and, that in the event of your death or hospitalization, that there is a plan in place for someone you trust to have access to your client’s sessions and contact information, set into motion your backup plans, and make scheduling changes with ease.
Pro tip: A password manager like Lastpass will allow you to encrypt your passwords with ease, have a passwordless login to autofill your credentials across multiple platforms, and designate an emergency contact to have access in the event it’s needed.
I’ve been in the business for over a decade now, and I assure you, you will burn out if you don’t take care of yourself. It will show in your work and you’ll feel it in your body. Taking care of yourself IS taking care of your business—you’ll be glad you did. Have questions about the hidden costs of running a photography business? Hit me up and if I can lend some expertise with some answers, I always will.
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