Mistakes of a Photographer – Ben Briones Studios

As a business owner without any formal education you tend to learn things the hard way. In my career as a professional photographer I have made many mistakes. This blog post is to share my experiences and how I was able to overcome those mistakes.

There are four important things as a business owner you must stay on top of to succeed, your finances, your products and services, the care of customer and yourself.  Those components are what spins the wheels to move your business forward. Unfortunately, if one is off balance it can bring you to a complete halt.

In the commercial photography industry the care for your customer ranks number one and the care taking of their data follows. As photographers we capture and archive precious one in a lifetime moments. We photograph valued objects and subjects. Then after all the photos have been taken we archive them and protect them because the y are images our clients value. You too should value them just as much as your client. You are the caretaker of that data.

This leads me to my first mistake.

LOSING DATA | HARD DRIVE CRASHES | MISPLACEMENT OF ASSETS 

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I waited nervously at a corner table of a busy Starbucks on a Wednesday night. I was missing church but I had to because what I was about to do was extremely important.

I kept looking out the window for my clients to arrive. Finally, I saw their call pull up and park. They walked in together looking a little worried but still greeted me with a smile. By this time my heart was pounding out of my chest. I first presented to them their large canvas prints that they loved. I wanted to bring them joy before I brought them sadness. Then the moment came.

“Mr. & Mrs. XZY I have very bad news.”, I said in a low tone. I turned my MacBook to them I had setup prior to them arriving and I showed them the very small collection of video and photos I had left from their wedding. A few months before the hard drive I had their images stored in crashed leaving no chances of a full recovery. A company named $300 Data Recovery sent me back all he could restore from the disk. Most images and videos were currpot and unusable.

Tears rolled down the newly wed couples eyes. Gloom and disbelief filled that little corner table of Starbucks. I felt dead to be honest. The god of electronic data storage should of taken me with that hard drive too. They asked if nothing else could he done. If we could send the drive to another company. Nearly 70% of their wedding night memories in photo and video were gone!

Then the bride asked the right that nailed my coffin shut… “Why didn’t you back our files up on another drive?” [insert internet troll insults here] She was right. How could I be so stupid?

I thought all hope was lost until my friend Mike Garcia texted me one day asking me if some files off his CF card were mine. I asked him to send me a photo of them and low-and-behold…they were the “lost” files. Mike had allowed me to borrow his camera and memory cards for that specific wedding and I guess since the event he hadn’t shot or formatted his card because many images and video clips that were missing or not recovered were still stored in that CF card. I quick rushed over to his home to get the files and triple back them up because I now had good news for my clients.

The first thing I did while driving to Mike’s was text the bride about the good news! Not all the files were able to be saved but thanks to Mike, we had at least 80% of her wedding files back! Act of God! But though we had found the majority of their wedding files I still took responsibility and refunded the bride and groom completely for the wedding video services. I owned up to my failure with my wallet.

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THE MORAL OF THE STORY

Photographers: Always backup your files immediately after a shoot or event or even during the actual shoot. If you do manage to fall into this predicament always own up to it and do not be afraid to talk to your client. Never avoid them and be as transparent about any issues that will affect their data or files. Try your hardest to fix the issue or create solutions that will balance out the issue at hand. If any issue requires you to refund the client be ready to do so and talk to the client about a re-payment plan.

Clients / Future Clients: Technology is not trustworthy and is always changing. Be aware that there will always be some type of hardware failure when dealing with computers, cameras, and memory storage media. I assure you that it’s very rare and can be avoided by proper storage data archiving practices. Know that I will always do my best to resolve the issue and will pay top dollar to restore, revive or recover any lost or corrupt data or files that belong to you. I understand that as your photographer you are entrusting me with the most beautiful and special moments in your life and I am beyond honored to be a part of. I will do my best to communicate with you in all aspects of our business relationship and outside of our business relationship. I, most importantly, want you to know that you can trust me. 

If you have gone through a similar situation as a photographer or a client and would like to talk in detail about the issue please fill the contact form below.

Good or Bad, A Review Is Good Business For You!

How valuable are reviews to your photography business? 

I would say that having good reviews or any type of reviews, rather they be good or bad, is extremely important to your business and to your potential client.

A good review assures you that you’re fulfilling your responsibilities and allows potential clients to see that you’re creditable.

A bad review also allows you to see were you need improvement. It challenges you as a business owner to correct the issue and lastly it shows potential clients that you’re human and make mistakes too. Just make sure to correct the issue and make it known to your online community.

On what social platforms should I have client reviews? 

  • Facebook
  • Google +
  • Yelp
  • The Knot
  • Wedding Wire
  • Your Website

How do I get my clients to leave me reviews?

To get a client to leave you a review is a job in itself! Don’t get me wrong, many clients would love to leave you reviews but getting them to actually follow through is tough. In my business, I remind them at our product delivery meeting, via email, via Facebook, and through personal texts.

At times, we have offered an incentive to our past clients to leave reviews on all our platforms.

Client Reviews Take Home 

Obtaining reviews is good business practice. Reputation management is an area in business (especially a photography service type of business) that gets overlooked. Usually, a business only gets attention when it is being badmouthed! I urge you, as a aspiring professional, to look into boosting your client reviews.

If you would like to have a one-to-one conversation about the importance of client reviews, please email me at ben@benbriones.com

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!