The Economy. Where are you today?

March 1st, 2012 by

It’s been over two years since my first post here. I’m updating with new copy and replacing images¬† since the disaster that removed photos from all the posts.

When the following appeared in December, 2009, some photographers were just beginning to understand how hard the recession coupled with changes in the marketplace were going to impact their ability to make a living. Today that reality has become a way of life. Nevertheless I think some of my advice back then might still be useful in today’s world plus I’ve brought reality up to date.

Still deadly bored by business news? Toss the envelopes from the broker…if you still have enough money to have one…in the back of a drawer? Couldn’t read a financial statement if your life depended upon it? (Guess what? It does).

By now almost everyone has faced the brink. Some have moved on to new careers and others have expanded their client services to include video. One formerly highly successful advertising photographer who saw some of his most lucrative clients go under is pulling in mid five figures a month offering family photos via Groupon. It may not make his heart sing but the money more than pays the bills. In fact it has become so successful that he now has a couple of assistants to fill in as he gets back to work on assignments.

© Maximma |

There was a time…remember those cheery, sunny days?… when stock photographers could say with confidence, “This is going to be my retirement income.” Ooops.

Dial ahead to now: for most still in the traditional stock photography world, incomes are still dropping as is their revenue from microstock  as the number of images on popular topics grows and grows. Unless you plan to spend your golden years picking up coconuts on the beaches of a third world country, forget that stock photo driven retirement fund.

To succeed today determine to work hard with razor sharp focus on goals, put your ego in your back pocket and a rabbit’s foot on your keychain. Adjust your expectations, cut your expenses and expand your repertoire. AND if you don’t already know: finally learn the fundamentals of running a small business.

RPI (return per image per shoot) doesn’t mean much if you are smothered by overhead. Take a look at your professional and personal costs. Do you have to have the latest gear not because it is that much better but because it is a symbol of your ‘success’ whether you can afford it or not? All that is so pre-2008. Only buy what you need and you’ll be surprised at how much more you’ll have.

There are signs that the economy is slowly coming back from the dead but recovery doesn’t mean recovering what was lost but a re-casting of the lives that we used to have. This means if you are in it for a six figure income, your chances of getting there quickly or at all could be the same as the odds of me dancing with the Joffrey Ballet.


  • Review your financial statement monthly
  • Review your end of month financials every month. Even if you have an accountant, it’s your business to be able to analyze financials and budgets.
  • Review your insurance policies annually. Are you paying to ensure equipment that you no longer own? Do you have a current equipment inventory in case of theft and to use in depreciation schedules on your taxes? If you don’t have health insurance, get it. If you can’t afford it, buy a policy with a very large deductable. Photography is a business that involves physical risk.
  • Renegotiate fees with all the services that you use: start with the accountant. I did a little comparision shopping and saved over $600 one year by switching.

Master marketer Seth Godin has this to say about which guide to use when you come to a fork in the career road:

  • Join ASMP to learn/refresh about how to run a photography business and sign up for any of their Strictly Business lectures or workshops that come your way.
  • If you are going to use Twitter and/or FB in your marketing, make certain that you stay professional in look and watch what you say. Save the silly personal stuff and rants against the world to bore your best friend or spouse.
  • Comparision shop and bargain for all services.
  • When is the last time you updated your portfolio? Do you have it on an iPad and carry it with you all the time?
  • Finally as my friend, Colleen Wainright said again during last year’s ASMP’s SB3, “BE NICE”. Making People Love You Madly: Selling Yourself In A Postmodern Marketplace from ASMP National on Vimeo.