My image of the Great Sphinx at Giza was recently licensed to be on the cover of the Maadi Messenger, an Egyptian magazine based in Maadi, a suburb of Cairo.
 
 
Most business classes teach people that the appropriate mark-up price is 40% higher than at-cost. Although most businesses probably make more money than 40%, I'm going to choose to assume that value as the standard. So what does it mean to make 40% more than the value you buy it for?

To calculate that value, you take the amount you pay for the good, multiply it by 0.4 and then add the amount you pay for it. If manufacture cost = c and store value=v, then 0.4c+c=v
That is the amount of money you pay for a brand new item. You may see some price-fluctuation between, say Canon and Nikon versus Amazon.com or B&H Photo and Video. What you can presume from this is that, since they are all businesses, they are all still making a profit (duh - how could it not be that way?), and that's good for us because it means we still have somewhere to go to buy things. We can also presume that either the lower price is less than the 40% to stay competitive, or Canon and Nikon are making more than 40% because they are the name-brand store.

If you use the 40% rule in reverse, you can find how much it cost to make that brand new good at cost. IE subtract 40% of the value from the store value instead of adding.

In order to purchase a used camera, the price being offered better be less than the cost it took to manufacture it, or else you're getting ripped off, in my opinion. Presumably a second-hand camera has the risk of coming with some defects, and presumably you don't know what those are because you don't know how it was used, when it was abused, etc. 

There's another reason: periodically, when businesses have a surplus of items that are not selling (like I have presume will happen with the Canon 5D Mark ii cameras) you will see them decide to make less than 40% profit off that item in order to clear it out and make room. Maybe it will be 10% profit - I've seen that number out there. That is when you will see a brand new camera marked at the cost you see some people who don't use this math equation pricing their second-hand or refurbished cameras. Had I just bought a used camera for that price and saw it listed at that value new, I'd feel like an idiot!

I am patiently waiting for this low discount to happen so I can get a new camera truly CHEAP, but if I see someone asking a FAIR price for their second-hand camera, I'd consider taking them up on their offer instead. I would never pay more than this low-ball 10% profit for new value for something another photographer is selling used, and I've seen lots of photographers asking high values. I couldn't decide if it was ruder for me to comment on that high price and warn potential buyers, or if it was ruder for me to not comment and not warn people. So instead I wrote this article.

If you don't want to be ripped off, you should take the time to figure out the math and know what the used camera is worth. It's kind of like buying a used car. 
 
 
Google has a safety feature on its accounts that is optional. You can sign up for it to keep people from stealing your account - and for many of us, that means they steal our identity as well. When you log on from a computer you haven't used before it asks you for a pin number in addition to your password. You get the pin number when it is texted to your phone. When I was in Egypt, I got locked out of my account because.... I didn't think about the logistics of this before I left. IE my cell phone did not work overseas so I couldn't get into my account.

Recently, this has happened to another photographer I know who was studying in Australia and then went home. So now his Australian number does not work, and he is locked out of his account. I was lucky enough to come back to the USA whereas, unfortunately Danny is not returning to Australia so he cannot simply just wait to get his account back.

If you have 2-step notification enabled, make sure you:

1) Actually print out the back-up codes Google gives you. Those will save you if you are overseas and can't get the text message from your phone. You can get to them by going to your account settings and clicking on "download backup codes." It may ask you for your password.

2) Find out the dates that you started using all the Google products you use. It is probably the FIRST email you have in your box if you use Gmail (unless you delete them) or the FIRST in your Google Voice inbox.... etc. If you become locked out, they will ask you for the specific DAY. If you're off by a few days... no access.

3) Maybe set a backup number that belongs to your spouse / friend / mother so that if you lose access and none of the rest works.... you can still get your pin code from them. DON'T SET YOUR BACKUP NUMBER AS A GOOGLE VOICE NUMBER. If you're locked out of your account that includes your GVoice number. So if you can't get it on your cell phone (which your voice number is linked to) and you can't see the text message on the GVoice site, it does you absolutely no good to do it that way.

You could always go into your account settings before you leave and disable the feature, but if you enabled it in the first place, it was for a reason, right? That said, I personally think Google could probably have a better way of doing this service - maybe security questions that we can make up (I guarantee nobody would guess the name of my first stuffed animal and steal my identity.) HOWEVER I am not a Google Geek nor really a geek in general so there may be a very good reason why Google decided to use text messages / voice call instead of the way every financial institution seems to do it. The answer would probably contain a whole bunch of computer-y words that make my head hurt. If there is a reason why we NEED to have something we know and something we have in order to be secure, then maybe we could print out a big grid of codes - say 100 boxes with one code in each box. The computer could ask you for the code in box AA5 and then you count 27 over from the left and 5 down and that's the code you put in! That would keep people from having to rely on a phone if they are overseas.

If you are moving overseas..... just deactivate the security feature until you finish moving. Honestly it's a lot easier. Hopefully nobody will hack your account during that time. Make sure you only log on when necessary, as you will probably be on unsecured networks. Just be careful! 
 
 
LEE FILTERS - to join the list of people waiting for theirs from back order..... or to settle for something else?? Disclaimer: I am not being paid by ANYONE to put out this mini review.

Most people want Lee Filters, but get frustrated because they're on back order. You can add your name to the list of people waiting for theirs to come. I have managed to get my hands on their 3, 6, 9 Neutral Density set as well as their 3, 6, 9 Graduated Neutral Density set, the square full red, and the sunset set (half red, half orange, and half yellow.) I also have a Tamron half red and a Tamron half blue. In addition, I have a whole bunch of home-made filters, but that's another post worth of information.

While using a filter, I can indeed produce a SOOC (Straight out of camera) image that is (from my perspective) better than the one I could produce with layers in photoshop with no filter use. I also find that to properly use LEE filters, one needs to know how to use the white balance on their camera to better amplify the effect of the filters (or you can do it with software, but that doesn't typically turn out as nice). What I'm saying is that when you use filters, you're better off NOT shooting on AWB.

Lee is the top-of-the-line company, but if you don't want to wait or don't want to pay that much (remember that a British Pound is currently $1.55) here are some you could substitute as kits: HiTech, SinghRay, Tamron. Don't substitute Hoya or Cokin. Honestly I think my Hoya is best used as a Frisbee. Cokin only produces graduated color filters, and there is a big difference between that and a graduated gray filter. I can't speak by experience about their quality, as I don't use their products.

Things I like about LEE: they are very compatible with my light meter. Some others I have borrowed have done wacky things to the light meter that make it annoying to shoot - you basically have to guess and check on exposure until you get a feel for whether it sits at +2 or -2. 

Like all filters, Lee's products are not scratch proof. However, they come in a great cloth case and cardboard box. You can buy their filter pouch for like $7 and that's well worth the price as well. The square ND filters are best kept in the cardboard box. Don't screw up that box!

I don't have much negative to say about the filters except I wish they weren't so hard to obtain.

I will also say that the LEE grad colors out-perform my Tamron grad filters. However, if I tweek my white balance, I can achieve the same result with the Tamron product as I could with the Lee's.

About my LEE Holder

It is larger than other companies' holders, which is very convenient. It holds larger filters (4"x6"), and is great construction. I love the quick release! I can take it off the 77mm (filter size) ring and put it on the 82mm easily and quickly. It's also drop proof by the way.

I wish the attachment (the part that the quick release releases from) screwed onto the lens like either a lens cover or filter does. It's kind of a pain in the neck to attach to my lens quite honestly. It's so much of a pain that I wish I could just leave it permanently on my lens - but if I leave it on and release the holder, I have to take it off to use a lens hood or a filter. It's more than a little annoying, and I have seen better schematics on my friends' cameras.

I wish it had a slot for three filters instead of two (they make a part you can add on, but it's always sold out so if you want to use three filters and have one stay tuned as I am making something and will blog about it once it works the way I need). I find myself sometimes hoping I could use 2 grad colors and an ND but I can't because there are not enough slots to hold them. If someone can find me a 3 slot LEE holder for sale that is not sold out I'd sell my 2 slot holder.

I wish there were a way to use the LEE holder with a circular polarizer on the lens. They sell a "circular polarizer front mount thread" but is back ordered (of course.) I am going to attempt to make one of those as well from a step-up ring. 
 
 
Are you debating whether or not to start selling your photos professionally but become flabbergasted by how much it costs to do this? Here's some completely non-inclusive advice about what to pay for and what to not pay for.

PAY FOR: 

1) Web hosting and domain. Personally I use FatCow.com because their customer service is great (it's outsourced but they have online chat and fix things immediately) and they are pretty cheap. People trust sites that have a .com address with its own domain over anything else. You have more control over what you can post where, and more control over raising your web ratings. You even have more control over who can see your work - I don't allow mine to be pinned on Pinterest, and I can track who right click / downloads my images.

2) A web site creator (a human) or an HTML / CSS for dummies book / or a class - I took a class on Dreamweaver at the community college. Great investment!

3) A lawyer and an accountant. Nuf said. The lawyer is even more important if you photograph people - I also invested in a Business Law course and a Small Business Owners class at the college.

4) Insurance.

5) Backup for your images. Harddrive crashes are your worst enemy. I would recommend getting a Drobo or other form of backup for your precious photos.

6) Pay the fee to send your images to the US Copyright Office so you are protected from theft.

DON'T PAY FOR:

1) A payment card program / print sales site separate from yours - I use Storenvy to sell prints online instead of SmugMug because it's free! It's linked to my paypal account. There are also apps out there that you can use to sell your prints off your site but they may cost money. Some HTML geniuses can figure out how to do it - but I'm not one.

2) A business phone - I use Google Voice as a number for my business so I don't have to give out my cell number - for the same reason - It's free. I can organize calls into folders like Gmail. I can easily block numbers, and I can even record calls!

3) An online organizer program to track clients / sales / etc. I use Microsoft Access to track who ordered what when - what serial number print was sold to who when - etc. No need to pay extra money for something online.

4) A smartphone. (Unless you want to or do phone-ography or something.) Lots of people think they NEED a smart phone for their business. My answer is "why?" Clients can pay by credit card via Storenvy, and I don't need internet to finish a transaction with them. My portfolio is in my briefcase on shoots and not on my phone. I suppose some might find a reason they'll NEED a smart phone, but I don't lol.

5) Entry into contests!! Sometimes I joke about how I've never won a contest, but the main reason for that is that I rarely enter. Why? Well.... why the hell would I see it as a good business practice to PAY SOMEONE to consider my art? If my art is good enough to be seen in that way they should be PAYING ME to use it. Of course there are a few exceptions (a very few), but for the most part - if you're a pro photographer entry fees into contests are a waste most of the time! 
 
 
Jessica Rae Photography requires a pre-session consultation to go over this question face-to-face, but there are certain rules about what to wear and what not to wear that are universal.

Photographers can use many pieces of software to create a work of art that shows you at your best - but you have to follow the rules to make sure this happens! Most of the time, if a client decides they don’t like a photo, it’s because of confusion. The photographer needs to explain what the client’s job is, and the client needs to explain what they expect from the photographer.

Retouching is an every-day process for many photographers, but there are limits to what retouching can accomplish. Sometimes it can take longer to do for different patterns of clothing or different styles of hair, which would cause the price to go up. Typically if the client wants a photo done in a wardrobe or style that is not in compliance with what the photographer outlined, the photographer will change more or even void the refund clause.The guidelines in this post are by no means all-inclusive, but some guidelines are below:

Clothing
TOPS: A solid color top that is not revealing is best - avoid obvious textures or fabrics that shine (avoid sequins, velvet, glittery clothing etc.) In most cases plain cotton or polyester blended fabrics work out best.


Sleeveless tops are a good item to avoid if you are concerned about your upper arms and shoulders looking large or if you are concerned about cellulite or arm hair.


Avoid very bright or bold colors if you are looking to have a great photograph of your face.


Generally, shirts that show the midriff or belly are not a good idea for most women - some are concerned about stretch marks or imperfections, but almost all will decide they do not like it when they are a few years older. Jessica Rae Photography tries to generate photographs that are loved for lifetimes.


BOTTOMS: Dark with dark stitching or a solid color - non-textured pant is best if you intend to have retouching done to your photography.

Solid colored not-shimmery mid-thigh length or longer skirts are preferable.

If you are concerned about looking slimmer in your photo, you should wear black clothing that is relatively form-fitting but not skin tight.

Short shorts and short skirts - these items limit your posing options and can be an issue to some people who are concerned about the toning of their legs, stubbly leg hair, or cellulite.

Makeup
Avoid glitter. When glitter is photographed, it tends to looks like white dust spots on the camera instead of shiny makeup. In other words, it looks bad on film.


Wear makeup that you would wear in your everyday life. If you change what you look like, you might end up with a photograph you dislike simply because it doesn’t look like you. Your parents might not like it for the same reason.

Typically, the simpler the better is the rule for glamour shots.

Shoes
Unless you want full-length shots every time it’s not necessary to go buy shoes for the photo shoot. Keep in mind that full-length also limits your posing and greatly limits the photographer’s ability to hide features of your body you don’t like by not putting them in the frame.


The photographer will often like to do informal attire shots without shoes, but you can keep your shoes on if that bothers you.

Hair
Wear your hair however is natural for you, but you need to make sure it is neat.
 
 
Starting out as a professional photographer is exciting! Chances are, if you are considering the answer to this question, you enjoy taking pictures. However, there is a lot more to being a professional photographer than simply liking the work. This blog post will (hopefully) help you realistically answer that question before you start a business. Some of the information in here is from my own experiences, and some is from the experience of other photographers I have had the pleasure of meeting or working with. Either way, this post is full of solid points that you should consider.

Do you know how to make your business successful? I was lucky because I have a parent who is self-employed, so I knew basically how to run a business before I made one for myself. There is a lot of extra work that goes into a small business that people don’t even realize: paperwork, budgets, even more complicated taxes, lots of time and money spent on advertising, extra bank accounts, extra stress on your credit score, more chances to lose it all unless you set up everything correctly. (More information about all of these areas is discussed in the below paragraphs).

Being a pro photographer does not necessarily mean that you can make your own hours. Most of the time, photographers work whenever the client is NOT working. This means weekends, evenings, federal holidays, etc. You need to be prepared to accept this as a reality if you want to be a professional photographer. You cannot simply set your own hours and expect the client to get off work to get photographs taken by you. Moreover, whenever you are not shooting clients you will be spending “normal working hours” advertising, networking, budgeting, editing, blogging, managing the website, and whatever other chores need to get done. In all reality photographers do not get days off, nor do they usually get sick days. 

Spending money on additional camera gear and software for your computer is NOT optional. It is necessary. However, you don't need to buy EVERY upgrade. If you are going to be a professional photographer, you should be able to buy all the gear you need (or already have it, or have friends from whom you can borrow it). You should have at least two camera bodies, two memory cards with sufficient space, at least 5 batteries for each camera, two battery chargers, flash kits and filters, and necessary lenses to make your art come to life. I would also recommend having a separate computer for your photography separate from your daily use computer. If you intend to sell prints, you will need a professional-grade printer. I started out with a lot of camera gear because photography was a hobby of mine for a long time, and I still spent about $12,000 on expenses related to my business the first year. The other side of this is that you should KNOW all your gear inside and out. This means that you don't need to upgrade your camera until the camera you are using does not suit your needs anymore. The same goes for software. You don't necessarily need to buy every upgrade to Lightroom or Photoshop, but you should HAVE the necessary software if you are going to be a professional photographer.

You will need to formulate solid contracts, and that will mean you must get help doing so. Law suits are becoming more common in today’s society (at least here in the United States), and it would be unrealistic and irresponsible of you as a business owner to operate without taking all legal precautions to protect yourself. Draft a contract about your services - I have one for weddings and one for everything else. Then spend the money to have an attorney look at your contract and help you make sure it will hold up in court. I would also recommend taking an introductory class on business law. If your client has not signed a contract, DO NOT TAKE PICTURES. True story: I had a client a while back who wanted some photographs taken for his own business - he is a real estate agent. He and I got along well in the beginning, but he was very reluctant to sign my contract. I asked him why, and he said that he didn’t like bringing the law into his business transactions. Eventually I did get him to sign it. I took his photos in my studio, and sent him some proofs of which I was very proud. They looked like most real estate agents’ pictures. When he saw them he got really hostile, said they looked like [trash] and thought I was lying about my credentials. He told me he wanted a refund and the rest of his prints as a penalty for my bad work or else he would sue me for the amount I charged him plus legal fees. It gets better: he had asked me to use software to make his face skinnier, which took me hours. He agreed to pay the extra $200 I charged for that, but he wanted that money as well. After looking online I saw that he had cropped my proofs so that my name was not visible, severely altered the saturation to make his face look yellow, and then put it on his website.You might get a similar situation one day and must decide what to do about it. My solution worked out well for me, but I knew about the law enough to know where to find answers I was looking for. If you want to know more about this, I’d be happy to talk about it with you. 

The client will not like the same photographs that you like. If you can’t take someone saying “Oh I don’t like the way my smile is in that one” or “eew I look fat” etc. then you should reconsider whether or not to enter this industry. You as the photographer will like the artistic shot, but the client is only interested in the ones in which they look their best. Of course, the fashion of the shot matters as well. You need to let the client choose which photographs they are going to buy - and that means that they look awesome, and so does everything else in the photograph. If you’re ready to be a pro, you’ll get some comments like “eew I don’t like the way my nose looks huge in that one” but you’ll also get some like “oh wow. I like that one. I look beautiful there! Thank you!”

If you charge $100 per hour, you will unfortunately not be making $100 per hour. Why? What the heck? Let’s say you are lucky enough to only spend 30 minutes post-processing / editing for every 1 hour spent snapping photographs. You then are down to $75 per hour. You will also be driving to and from the location, which will take another 30 minutes. Now you’re up to two hours of work for that $100, which means you’re making $50 per hour. You also have to set up the shoot, which requires being there 15 minutes early, and you have to have a consult after the fact for them to pick photos, which could take 45 minutes. Now you’ve spent 3 hours on this. You made $30 per hour.Don’t forget about time you’ll spend networking, money for advertising, etc. I like to make sure I get a little money from each client to cover my equipment if something happens. This means I typically charge more if I have to transport my lights somewhere or use my camera on the sandy beach or shoot over rugged terrain where things can break.Bottom line: figure out how much it will cost you to do that photo shoot, and charge that rate. When you factor in all your time, you’ll be making minimum wage.

To be blunt (without knowing you, and without seeing any of your work) is your work good enough to go pro? If you get compliments on your work from your parents, your friends, and your step uncle twice removed, it means that your work is better than their snapshots. But is it good enough to compete with the pro photographers around you? If people offer to buy your work, you know you can compete. 

Your website. You can pay lots of money for a nice looking website, but unless you follow the rules of the great God Google, it will not get seen. Invest the money to have someone show you how to make your website so that it shows up on Google’s search results.

You really do need all the lights and gear to do studio photography.This is also expensive, but if you try to do photography without lights it will not look professional.

Of course none of these are all-exclusive, but I’m sure most professional photographers would agree on these in principle.