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When Do You Know If You Have Made It As A Photographer?

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Yesterday my friend Imanol Miranda reminded me of a question I posted in photography group we belong to called RGV Photoshoot Connect: When do you know if you have made it as a photographer?

Before I give my opinion on that question let’s Throw Back Thursday to the time we use to do photography for fun. Picture that first photo shoot you ever booked. Are you visualizing it? If you were like me you were probably asking your most prettiest friends to model for you. Remember putting the camera to your face and seeing endless possibilities? One, two, or three hours would fly by but you didn’t care because you were having fun. And don’t forget the hours spent in post processing contrasting the sh#% out of the shot because you wanted to show it off to your friends who would tell you your camera was the best and you would agree!

Those were the good’ol days!

Now we’re booking sessions left and right for both the pretty and the ugly. The possibilities have ended because every photographer and their mother have shot at so and so spot. The three-hour-for-fun photo shoots are now 30-minute mini sessions for ten-times the amount of money because our time and knowledge is now “valuable”. And if most of you haven’t outsourced your editing you’re probably still spending hours in Adobe Lightroom until your a$$ has gone numb.

So have we made it as photographers?

I’ll tell you this much…I freaking miss those days when you didn’t have think about paying taxes every time you pick up your camera to photograph a client. Creating a business is like birthing a hungry monster who never stops eating. But we’re making money doing what we love right? What’s that saying? “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life”. Some of you are doing well for yourself. You have your own studio, you’re featured in magazines, and even traveling to shoot gigs. Still there’s some of you struggling who have a career job because photography does pull in enough cash. So who’s made it as a photographer; the full-timer or the part-time shooter? My opinion is both can claim to have made it! This why I say this.

You have made it when you learn to value free time and your passion over money!

Take this time to reevaluate your passion for photography. Sit down with a pen and paper and plan the next best thing for your brand. Approach a fellow photographer to talk shop. Share some your best work from the for-fun-days to remind you of why you picked up a camera in the first place. Take a Monday off to take your kids out to lunch at a park and take silly selfless with them. Time cannot be bought and we as photographers, know the importance of memories — so go out and make some.

How to have it all: when college and your photography career collide.

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When I got my final letter recognizing my graduation status as complete, I celebrated with an over-the-top-wear all your UT apparel-hook’em horns selfie, but I wasn’t always this excited to be a University of Texas at Austin Longhorn. There were days where I wanted to give up, pack my bags, and move back to my mom’s.  And that is because I was accepted into UT’s very competitive photojournalism program of which I didn’t complete. My best friend claims that I said, “I’m going to dropout and pursue photography full-time.”

So, why didn’t I?

The reason I didn’t drop out of school to pursue photography full-time was because a degree helps beyond school book knowledge. Ben Briones Studios would not be as successful as it has become without the experiences a college education gives you. It feels good to have a bachelors from a university ranked 22nd best in the United States and the 8th best public university and 30th among the words universities. Earning a degree period, should push you to become a better you. UT’s motto is ‘What Starts Here Changes The World’ and I truly believe I am doing just that. 

Here are five ways my degree has helped me: 

  1. Status; because I am a Texas Ex I have booked clients on that connection alone. #HireALonghorn
  2. Discipline; deadlines, exams, and studying has allowed me to reactivate my inner-student and apply it to my photography career. As  ‘pros’ we have multiple deadlines, we are faced with real life exams and photography is constantly changing so we must study to stay relevant.
  3.  Network; the lawyer who setup my LLC was also a University of Texas graduate and the day I went to pay the $2500 setup fee, it miraculously dropped to $700 because it was ‘3 P.M. and OU STILL SUCKED.’
  4. Knowledge; my last semester I took an Introduction to Accounting course as an elective, which I dropped a few weeks before graduation, but the knowledge I gained you best believe it has helped me manage my business finances.
  5. Confidence; college is scary but when you graduate you come out a totally different person. Confidence is built through relationships made on campus. Confidence is built through class presentations. Confidence is built when you walk on stage to grab that fake diploma and walk off stage without falling flat on your face in front of all your classmates, family and friends.

When college and your photography career collide.

BenBrionesUT

 

My Breakup Letter To Pictage.com

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Dear Pictage,

It is time to end our two-year relationship. There was a time when I really needed you but things have changed. When we first started our relationship I was super excited about you and all your qualities. What attracted me wasn’t only how innovative you were but also the free album building services, your very low credit card transaction rate of 1.5% and the great email marketing you offered my clients. But I was young and you were too — we grow, change, we also want different things and have new individual goals. I remember how extremely proud I was of having a pro-membership with you; I would tell everyone about you!

You know I always wanted to purchase canvas prints from you, but the prices were always too expensive. Now I get my canvas prints from someone else and the price difference is phenomenal. One of the main things that frustrated me about you was the difficulty of purchasing a digital download. My clients could not just download a full set of images straight from their galleries. The point that you were still offering CDs for $40+ was ridiculous in this era of the digital download.

It is obvious now that things are rocky between us and enough for me to downgrade to a starter account. My clients and I are demanding something you can’t offer and I have to look out for them myself. With its few ups and downs I can’t say I didn’t enjoy having you in my life — but it’s time to move on. Sincerely, Ben Briones.

To find out what Ben Briones Studios is using now for print products, canvases, and digital downloads. Please fill out the contact form below.

Why I am paying $2071 more in taxes for my business than last year!

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Here are the numbers plain and simple:
Ben Briones Photography cleared $60,000 in our second year as an LLC, as compared to $24,000 from last year — baby steps, but we’re moving.

So, let’s get to the juicy goosey part, which is preparing your business for tax season and organizing all your numbers.

When I first started my business I did not know anything about business and how to handle its finances.  I had no idea that bank accounts, profit and loss statements, FICA, taxes and all that ‘mumbo jumbo’ is what makes your business legit. I had to learn that as I went, but these days I’m eating up business books like it’s a buffet. You have to know these things to produce a successful business — this means — making a profit, AKA cash-money-dough!

And you may be wondering,  what are these “things” ?

Número Uno: You absolutely have to get a business bank account or a separate bank account for it. This will help you monitor the money going in and out of your business. Having record of expenses is extremely helpful when tax season rolls around. This helps a lot because now you don’t have to struggle explaining to your accountant that the $40 charge at Red Lobster was for a client, and not for a date with your girlfriend.

Number Two: You have be good at tracking, and we’re talking numbers here, not zombies like the bad-ace Daryl Dixon from The Walking Dead. Although, you might end up looking like a walker if you wait last minute to organize those numbers  (like I did).
The first day I saw my accountant I was sporting a fresh black button-up with off-white corduroys. The next day, I rolled up my sleeves and half-assed an obnoxious green tie so he wouldn’t notice I was wearing the same clothes from the day before. I slept at my office that night because the method of tracking I did on my income and expenses wasn’t the right one, obviously. I had the correct numbers, correct sums and I had the categories, but not in the form the accountant needed them. So, if you don’t want to make this same mistake, make sure you have the following categories tracked and summed up:
Contract labor, utilities, rent, phone and internet, tax-deductible meals, etc. Everyone will have different categories, but make sure you track the ones you spent the most on each month. At the end of the each month you need to have a sum of each important category,  so that at end of the year you can create a profit and loss statement.
Track those numbers!

Número Tres: Learn about business. You will not understand what you are doing if you do not educate yourself on business. Here is a list of websites you can go to,  ask questions and educate yourself to be able to do the previous two tips. I go to, Inc.com for the latest on business systems and any questions I have on business basics. For accounting and taxes I go to irs.gov, yes –the most boring website on earth — but it has all the answers to anything related to taxes. Lastly, for more personal photographer-to-photographer information I visit Nashville’s finest, ZachandJody.com.

The reason I am paying $2071 more in taxes this year as compared to the $800 I had to pay last year,  is because I have educated myself in business and therefore, made a bigger profit. I have taken learning about business very seriously and you should, too.  You are not just a photographer, you are now businessmen and businesswomen.

If you are interested in sitting down with me to help you review your business and give you one-on-one advice on  business growth. please fill out the contact form below.

Thank You!

 

Are you digitally unorganized?

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Lacie Drives – Ben Briones Studios

I am going to give you a few pointers on how to organize your Raw and JPEG photos in your external had drives. Now remember this is my method of organizing my clients’ images in my hard drives. It may not work for you, but if you plan on taking your photo business to the next level it is key to have your images organized. If things start getting chaotic in your drives or computer, your business will hurt.

Let’s get started!

TIP 1: When you first buy your hard drive make sure you buy it with enough memory to last you for one year. Remember you will be shooting lots of sessions, events and maybe video. I would play it safe and go for a 2TB Drive. I personally like using Lacie drives and… I buy them refurbished from MacMall.com.
Once you set up your drive on your computer do the following: create one folder and name it for the year you will be using it for.

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Digitally Unorganized 1 Ben Briones Studios

TIP 2: Within that folder you are going to want to create 12 new folders and name each one for the month in this manner: 1_January_2013.
Naming them with the number first will automatically set them in chronological order. This will also help you look up events faster because you will be able to see the month, and find the folder you are looking for. It’s also very helpful if clients do not purchase their digital files from you upon signing, but do so later on. With this method, you’ll have them safely stored and well organized — which makes it a piece of cake to produce those digital files for them.

Digitally Unorganized 2 Ben Briones Studios

Digitally Unorganized 2 Ben Briones Studios

TIP 3: Now that you have your folders setup by month you can began transferring in folders from your events and sessions. For my business I like to title the event folders in a particular manner: I put the the year first, then the month, the date and then the name of the event followed by the name or initials of my business, for example, 2013-01-20_Adam & Emily Wedding_BenBrionesStudios. This style of labeling helps me recall the exact date of the event plus the name of the client and what type of event it was. You may wonder, how is this super long name helpful?  Well lets say your client’s parents contact you five months after the wedding and they’d like to purchase some prints or parent album. First of all you will not likely recognize them, so when they start asking you about their kid’s photos you can ask them, “What year and month was the event?” And with just the year and date alone you can narrow your search in seconds and get those orders started for your clients. Trust me this has happened before and it will happen to you. Earlier this month I had a client from 2012 call me asking for her daughter’s Quinceañera photos. I was able to access my 2012 drive and find them very easily.

Digitally Unorganized 3 Ben Briones Studios

Digitally Unorganized 3 Ben Briones Studios

TIP 4: As I mentioned at the beginning, this is what works best for my business but it may benefit or inspire you as well. My last TIP for organizing your digital images on external drives is to divide the Raw or Original images into their own folder. The PRINT files are the high-resolution JPEGs and any behind the scene images you might have taken of yourself or your second shooters working. I like doing this because it keeps my Raw files all in one place, so if I ever need to go back and re-edit or look for a replacement photo I know where to look. I have had issues where a bride remembered I took three shots of her at a certain location. In the JPEG I gave her she didn’t like her smile that much, but recalled I taking others. So, to please my client I went back to my Raw files to find the outtakes of that. Other components were not good for production, but her smile was perfect. I was able to Photoshop the smile from the outtake on to the shot she liked.

Ever since 2009, I have been posting behind the scene images of myself or my team working. Clients love it, they get to see us at work and other photographers get to see how we work. I always make it a point to take behind the scene images at a session or event — I make a folder for them and upload them to our Facebook page. The PRINT folder is where the final product is stored. I use the word, PRINT in the title so I know those are the high-resolution images that can be printed from sizes of 30×30 or less. This makes it easier for my clients to understand when they received them, because both the folder and the images have the same title and they know the photos are printable.

Digitally Unorganized 4 Ben Briones Studios

Digitally Unorganized 4 Ben Briones Studios