How to succeed as a photographer – Part III

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How to succeed as a photographer – Part III

This is part three on succeeding as a professional photographer. The question that I am always getting asked is what equipment and tools should I buy. “Canon, Nikon or Sony is coming out with a new whiz-bang gizmo, should I buy it?” In short, probably not. I am not going to recommend brands, because as long as you stick to the major manufacturers it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference in the long run.

First lets look at cameras. The body you choose depends a lot on what you will actually be shooting. If you are shooting action sports a camera with decent frame rate should be considered. Also read up on focus speed and focus tracking. Portraits are your primary business, then low light might be important, so look at noise levels for these images. In the end a lot of photographers choose a camera which does well in both areas, but isn’t the best at any. Another option is two cameras, one suited for each style.

Eventually you are going to need to have two cameras. As a professional you need to have a back-up available for emergency. In the beginning it may make sense to rent your back-up camera until revenues justify owning a second. Also remember your back-up does not need to be the same model as your primary. A lower end camera can work fine. Typically I rotate cameras from primary to back-up to sold. Last year’s model is often a great way to save.

Which brand of camera should you be using? If you know other photographers, using the same brand may be beneficial. You may have the ability to borrow a lens for flash in an emergency if you use the same gear. Also you will have someone to ask questions.

Lenses are another area of debate among photographers. A prime vs. a zoom is the one of the biggest questions. Primes will almost always give better results than zooms. But in the real world, it can be very difficult to tell the difference in a final print if you have good zooms. The most important thing is to buy good lenses. You will have them for a long time, whereas camera bodies in the digital world have become consumables unfortunately. Again, rent the specialty lenses as you need them. Owning a seldom used lens is a waste of precious money.

Lighting is the last key piece of equipment. Reflectors and bounce cards are your friend. Learn to use them and you will need fewer lights, saving money. If you are shooting outside the studio you need a good on camera flash. Lots of modifiers are available read reviews and get one you like, or make one. The ability to use your flash off of the camera will come in handy, so consider this as a future upgrade – brackets with cords or wireless remotes for longer distances.

In studio you can do a lot with as few as two lights, especially with the use of reflectors and a few good modifiers. Umbrellas are the lowest cost modifier, but softboxes tend to be the favorites among the pros. Get some decent stands and some sandbags to keep the lights from falling over. Once again look at wireless remotes, you can use cords to save some dollars, just be careful about tripping. Some lights have them built-in. This equipment can be rented too as needed when you are starting out.

Renting a whole studio for your shoots is a good idea when starting. A studio is a huge overhead with rent, utilities, alarms, insurance… Many studios rent to other photographers, and some cities have studios that only exist for rental purposes. Some rent equipment too making it every easier, albeit a bit more expensive.

Insurance is probably one of the most important areas that photographers will overlook. You need to not only insure all your equipment but also have general liability insurance protection. This can help you when you need financial assistance if any damage claims are alleged against you while working from your home studio. You may be able to add it to your home owner’s policy when you start out. Check as if you use your equipment for business, it is often excluded or requires a special rider.

The biggest equipment area to watch is spending. Don’t buy until you can justify with revenue. It is so easy to want the latest and greatest. Manufactures love to push this, but buy with caution. If you don’t manage your money, there will be no money to manage.

Next week I will continue this discussion and talk about computers, software and organizations.

Orcatek Photography – Phoenix

Studio Rental in Phoenix

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The Studio is now open

The Studio is officially open for business.  We built the Studio so that photographers could rent a studio with the features to create amazing work without paying for all the flashy stuff that doesn’t pay the bills.  With today’s tight economy, photographers need to watch their budgets very close.  The Studio is the answer to their needs.

We have four primary shooting areas available for rent.  Each bay was created to fit the varied needs of a photographer.  Why rent what you don’t need.  Of course if you need more we have that too.

The first bay is a large cyclorama which is 20×36.  Plenty big for photographing cars and large groups.  With two cove corners to allow the photographer to work with ease.

The second bay is a small cyclorama which is 18 feet wide.  The bay extends back 23 feet.  Perfect for fashion photography.

Bays three and four are what we call our standard bays.  They are 18 feet wide and 23 feet deep.  Bring your own backdrops or rent our seamless papers.

 The bays can be draped off for privacy as needed.

 Located on the Tempe / Scottsdale / Phoenix border, it is the perfect location.

It took a lot of time and effort to build The Studio, but it was worth it.  We have already had photographers come in from Los Angeles and they said it was just what they needed – affordable quality and functionality.  Exactly what we had in mind.

The Studio – Phoenix, Tempe, Scottsdale and the rest of Arizona

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Studio Construction Continues

Studio construction continues as we race towards a May 1 completion. Painting is scheduled to begin Wednesday on the main studio. The lobby is scheduled for paint today. We could, of course, have opted for some peel and stick wallpaper to cover the walls, but for what we plan to use the space for the paint makes a little more sense. Still, something for a future project, perhaps?

Construction Continues

So many things to get done, power, internet, alarms, audio systems, new locks, moving equipment, new furniture, permits, etc. We also need to get in touch with a welder to finish off some of the metalwork in our new studio. A friend of ours is a welder and has just purchased some weldpro multi process welders for his welding company, so I might have to give him a call to see if he could help us. I cannot wait to see how everything comes together. This has been our most audacious construction project to date, truth be told. That being said, our construction project was made a lot easier through the use of construction project management software. Keeping on top of all the different tasks involved in a construction project is not always simple, but using software can make a big difference, as well as implementing the right safety practices during the construction stage. This is incredibly important in cases like these, we need to make sure that everyone involved is safe, that is why checking out a safety sign supplier in the UK/US was on our to do list, we needed to label everything just so we could hopefully avoid any injury, and we still hope we can. Slowly but surely it moves on. We have our first scheduled shoot for May 2, sure hope we are ready!


BTW, if you need a great drywall guy in Phoenix, message me and I can hook you up.

Orcatek Photography – Phoenix