What Your Tax Return Can Teach You About Your Photography Business

Every year the process of filing taxes teaches me the true cost of doing business as a small business owner. My tax return also establishes a baseline for my business and shows me where I can improve.

I began my business 10 years ago. That’s when I started work as an independent contractor for a large metro newspaper — although I thought of myself as a freelancer rather a business owner at the time.

VIDEO: Google Analytics for Photographers: Using Filters

In this part of our video series on Google Analytics, I show you how to improve the value of your traffic statistics by filtering your own visits to your site out of the results. (You can find the previous posts in this series here.)

Why Chris Usher’s Loss Is a Defeat for All of Us

If you thought the money you contributed to this or that photography trade organization was a worthwhile investment, think again. ASMP, APA, EP, PPA, WHNPA, SA, and their siblings are guilty of the same crime. Silence.

It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear

We spend a great deal of time in my office thinking about how to communicate to clients.  For example, “I need to get my contract to you to review and sign before I can get started on your assignment” can sound off-putting.  Instead, we say, “We’ll send along some paperwork for this assignment, and once  you sign it, we’ll be all set.”  

VIDEO: Google Analytics for Photographers: Your Dashboard

This is my third video post on Google Analytics. The first two were designed to describe the benefits of Google Analytics for photographers, and to show how you can use it to monitor traffic to your Web site. In this video, we look at the Google Analytics dashboard, and how you can customize it to add the data that is most relevant to you.

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times — for the Photography Business

How’s business?  The answer depends on your individual circumstances, of course — but also on your perspective.

The glass is either half full or half empty for many of us today. Take the Windy City. Just as Chicago delivers its chosen son to become President, and one of its premier photographers to become official White House photographer, both of the city’s newspapers are relegated to the pit of bankruptcy.

Sometimes, Improvisation Is Not All It’s Cracked Up to Be

As a former newspaper reporter who later became the head of large corporate communications departments, I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with both photojournalists and corporate assignment photographers. And while many of the best assignment photographers I’ve worked with have also been photojournalists, I’ve found that some photojournalists don’t make the transition to corporate work very well.

Eye on Image-Making: Eight Tips for Aspiring Photographers

I almost don’t recognize Shawna Simmons when she appears in my office doorway. A 2007 graduate, Shawna has returned to the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication to give several presentations as part of the school’s I-Comm Week, an annual exploration of the latest trends in mass media.

VIDEO: Google Analytics for Photographers: A Tour

In my last video, I discussed the benefits of Google Analytics and how to install it on your Web site. In this post, I define some terms used to describe the traffic to your site, such as “bounce rate,” “abandonment rate” and “conversion rate.” Then I show you how to track these and other stats using Google Analytics — an important step to improving your Web site’s effectiveness.

Value Your Clients — and They Will Value You

I had originally started this post with a different topic, but after a recent airline trip I wanted to share a few observations about customer service and customer loyalty. The thing about customer service is that we all understand its importance in theory — but we sometimes forget to implement it in practice, in the heat of our daily work lives. That’s why it’s worthwhile to remind ourselves occasionally of what good service is and why it’s in our best interests to provide it.

Don’t Let Amateur Photography Tell Your Brand’s Story

When Captain Sully landed US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River in January, his photo wasn’t the face of the brand that everyone saw. No, what they saw first was that now-famous cell phone picture taken by a commuter. He was on a ferry that responded to the scene. Out came the camera, followed by a quick upload to the Web.

How to Find the Perfect Wedding Photographer: Viewing Your Photos

Fifth in a series.

Your wedding day is over. All of the planning and preparation has paid off, and you’re now married to the man or woman of your dreams. Basking in the glow of that unforgettable day during your honeymoon, you or your spouse will inevitably declare: “I can’t wait to see the pictures!”

As Long as There Is Passion, There Will Be Great Photojournalism

Documentary photography may not command the same amount of money, magazine space and editorial support it did 10 years ago, but it is still thriving in many ways. You might be surprised how many photographers are still willing to risk their money, personal comfort, and even their lives to produce great photographs.

Still Images Plus Audio Can Be More Effective Than Online Video

I’ve written before about multimedia slideshows, and how nice it is that today they are available to everyone via the Web, when in the past they were generally created for small groups. In this post, I will make the argument that multimedia slideshows can be a more effective way of communicating than online video.

The Art of Advertising Photography

Photography is the single most important element of most advertising campaigns. While copywriters may spend hours producing an eye-catching headline and copy that explains the benefits of a product, it’s the image that first attracts the viewer. It’s also the last thing the viewer usually remembers after turning the page.

Photography, Newton’s Third Law, and Paul McCartney’s Imaginary Shovel

When I was 13, a gangly and extremely enthusiastic teacher imparted to my science class the essence of Newton’s third law of motion: that every action has an opposite and equal reaction. Walking out of the classroom, I promptly forgot this lesson. Only years later did I realize that Newton’s third law governs not just motion — but virtually everything we do.

Want to Stop Online Photo Piracy? Create a Better User Experience

Paul Graham, in the essay Why TV Lost, says the problem with copyright owners — including photographers and agencies — is that they spend too much time worrying about the money they are losing to piracy, and not enough time trying to improve the experience for users. Solving the latter, he argues, can solve the former.

Composing Landscape Photographs with Confidence

A good landscape photograph tells a story of the place it describes. And like all good tales, your landscapes should have a catchy beginning (the foreground), an interesting center (the middle area) and a memorable ending (the background). Not every landscape lends itself to this somewhat formulaic treatment, of course, but applying it saves a lot of time and provides you with a solid starting point from which you can improvise.

Dealing with Fragile Artist Syndrome

Back when I was heading the corporate communications department of a billion-dollar company, I had the uncomfortable experience of watching a graphic designer break down and crumple into a ball in my office.

How to Find the Perfect Wedding Photographer: Embracing the Unexpected

Fourth in a series.

The bride’s dress won’t zip up. The brother of the groom had a little too much to drink before the toast. The flower girl’s hair catches on fire. The maid of honor loses the groom’s ring. You name it — it’s happened.

Nine Essentials (Besides a Camera) You’ll Need as a Freelance Photographer

In my last post, I offered some recommendations for the camera gear you’ll need to make it as a freelance photographer. But having the right photographic equipment is just the beginning. Here are nine other business essentials to be ready for any assignment.

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: Teaching Video

It’s the halfway point in the semester, so I thought this would be a good time to report on the video course I am teaching. Video has always been part of the Visual Communications sequence here at the University of South Carolina’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications. But until the spring 2009 semester, we’ve always incorporated video into our other VisCom courses — a little in the Introduction to Visual Communications course, a little in the two Photovisual Communications courses, and a little in the Graphic Design course.

The Art of Architectural Photography

A corporation’s offices are often its most public face. The architecture a company chooses sends a message about its brand. Landmarks such as Hong Kong’s Bank of China or New York’s Chrysler Building, originally constructed to house the offices of the Chrysler Corporation, broadcast international statements about a company’s ambitions.

A Gear Guide For Going Freelance

I’ve read the articles and postings about newspaper layoffs, and I’ve gotten my share of e-mails from former staff photographers asking for guidance. As someone who’s been freelancing for most of my career, what’s the first advice I would give to those of you striking out on your own?

Should You Really Keep the Sun Over Your Shoulder?

I’ve seen a funny shift in the perceived value of front lighting since I began writing photography books. When I started writing about photography three decades ago, the general rule was “keep the sun over your shoulder,” which meant, in essence, to always use front lighting. Then, as consumers became hip to the value of different lighting directions in “creative” photography, front lighting fell out of favor.