How to Start a Wedding Photography Business
We are going to be focusing on how to officially start your business and this is great because this is bonus material for those who have purchased the course. So not only is it a more relaxed approach, it's definitely an approach for people who have drank the Kool-Aid at this point, so the questions that you ask are going to be fantastic, they're gonna act as fodder for where we're moving in this direction. So over breakfast a few months ago I asked JD, did I have a business plan? Because I couldn't really think. Like optimally, like, I have a tendency of looking back with rose-tinted glasses and being like, of course I did. But in my mind, I also probably could've attempted to run the Olympics and made it in my childhood 'cause I look back and think, I was really a fast runner. No, that was not the case. But his certainty surprised me because he just simply said yes, you did have a business plan. And his certainty surprised me because I still, even after he told that I did, I felt uns...
ure. A business plan, in my mind, was formal and legit, and I'm sure there was a certain way to do it. So one of the things I wanted to do because I did not feel certain and I did not feel legit when I started, I wanted to just cross my references, so I did some research on Google and discovered that a business plan, as simply defined by Wikipedia, is a formal statement of business goals. Two, a list of the reasons why they are attainable. And three, the plan for reaching those goals. So a business plan is a formal statement of goals, the reasons why you can do them, and the plan for reaching them. It was then when I read this and I was at my laptop, I realized I truly did have a business plan. But it didn't come out in the way that you might think. I didn't sit down at this big, oak mahogany desk with a little quill and tap my tongue and let me quill out all of my goals. I want to talk about how I created a plan for my first year of business. And here were a few things in that plan. So remember, we're gonna talk about business goals. We're gonna talk about the reasons why I think they're attainable and the reasons why... The plan for reaching those goals. So the first thing on my business plan, my first year business plan, was I wanted to second shoot or assist five to 10 weddings. That was a goal. So I said, I want to second shoot five to 10 weddings. Well, I ended up second shooting over 30, over 40 weddings my first full year of business. I wanted to book one wedding that year. Well, it ended up being great because I ended up booking three. So I was trending pretty well. And I wanted to attend a photography workshop and I ended up attended five. So my first year of business to attend five photography workshops. One might wonder and question, well, how did you get the money to afford to go to those workshops? Well, 'cause this is pre-CreativeLive days when they weren't free and you had to pay to actually go. Well, I paid to go to a few that I could afford, but then there were other photography workshops where photographers came into town and they were traveling. And so I emailed them in advance and I said, hey, I'm really connected in Los Angeles or in Orange County. If this is where you're having your workshop, how can I help you? How can I offer my service to you for free? And of course, they took a free worker. And while I was setting up paper cups and running and grabbing Subway for lunch, I was still getting the workshop for free. Let's be real, right? So I'm all about the hustle. So let's talk about attainability. Why did I think that my goals, second shooting five to 10 weddings, booking one wedding, as well as going to workshops, why did I think they were attainable? Well, first things first. I second shot my very first wedding in April of 2006. I was an active participant in an online photography group and there was a photographer who said, I'm shooting a wedding on my own for the first time. The client did not pay for a second shooter, but I'm a little bit uncomfortable doing it on my own. Would anybody be interested in joining me for free? Now, if you come for free, you get to use the images in your portfolio. Now, if somebody puts an opportunity out online, so many, hundreds of people threw their names in the hat. They were like, I want this, I wanna do that, and I wanna do this. Well, I took a risk. I made myself vulnerable. I said I would love to second shoot with you. And would you believe that of all the names of all the people that had put out there, my name was chosen. And then we had a conversation after at the wedding, we had, like, a break, and I said, hey, Shawn, how, like, how did you choose who was gonna be your second shooter? Because one day, if I'm in the position to choose a second shooter, what would you suggest I do? And he said, well, of all the people who put their names in, I didn't recognize a lot of them. So these people were going and they were being a part of the group, but they weren't participating in the group. So they were essentially strangers to me. Why would I invite a stranger? And though we hadn't met in person, you were always offering something nice or helpful to somebody. And even though I was not technically sound, somebody could be, like, can somebody talk to me about chromatic aberration? And I would be like, what? I didn't know what the heck they were talking about. But when somebody said, this is how I'm feeling, I would just try to participate in the conversation in a way that I felt I could. And he said that that struck him as something that's nice and that if I was nice on the online forum, well, then there's a probability of me being nice in person. I was like, hm. I was chosen because I like to talk a lot online. Wow, okay! But he also said that for him, which is ancillary, which is awesome that he actually admitted it, but he had said that it was his first wedding and he did not want to work with somebody who was so far advanced that they would make him feel insecure or inferior as a lead photographer. And I was like, wow. That was pretty deep. So no matter where you are in the spectrum and whether or not you feel like you're in the shoes to actually go and second shoot for somebody, you might be a really good fit for somebody who's looking for just the things you possess. So put yourself out in your personal capacity. Now, if, for instance, I lowered my second shooting fees, I could shoot more. So when I say lower, I started off doing it for free. You can't get any cheaper than that. But I did know that I would put the price that somebody would pay to hire me in their court. I did not say, this is my hourly rate. I was just hungry. I wanted it bad. Now, if they were not going to allow me to use images in my portfolio, however, however, they allowed me to, you know, I had to wait six months or I couldn't blog them or I couldn't do this... They would set the stipulations. But if I could still use them in some capacity, it didn't matter that I wasn't getting paid 'cause that experience far superseded anything that I could be doing out on my own. Now, as the business grew and as people became depending on me more, my rates went up naturally. I didn't have to ask for them. I didn't have to say, you know what, I'm $300 for the day. People were paying me to be there for $300 a day. Now, this is Southern California. It might not be that rate in different types of the area. I know second shooters who will get $500 to $ a day for second shooting a wedding. It depends where you are and the market that you're doing. So I believed that my goals were attainable because I believed that I could book one wedding based on the marketing that I was doing, based on the networking. And by networking, I have explained in previous lessons. By the time you get to this lesson, you will know that I'm not very good at networking because I am socially awkward and I'm an introvert. So when I say networking, it was me just, like, peeling myself off the chair, walking inside, and finding the other single person by the fried food station. Well, those people all hang together and we bonded over our commonality and love of food. We got to know each other. And I think to myself, hey, we could potentially bounce referrals back and forth. So I believe that one wedding was in my future based on the marketing that I was doing, based on the networking that I was doing. And let's just face it, based on the praying that I was doing 'cause I believe in miracles. My mom was healed from cancer. Surely God could give me a wedding. You might disagree, but that was my philosophy. Thirdly, I believed that I can-- the attainability of me going to a photography workshop was attainable because as I started second shooting other weddings, the $100, $150 was being put into a savings account, was being put into a savings account, was being put into a savings account, so that when I actually had the money to invest in either a lens or going to a workshop, I was afforded that luxury. Anything that I need from shooting went directly into this bank account. Now, you can read more about the details and how all the finite details worked out in Expose Magazine. But this is just the loose outline of why I thought the goals were attainable. Now, here was my plan for reaching those goals. First, I needed to participate more in the photo community. If I wanted to second shoot more, I needed to get my face out there more. And by face, I mean, basically online. We live in a digital world, this is what we're doing. I worked part time, so that on my lunch break and on my break and when things were really slow, I was just getting online, being like, what can I do, who can I be talking with? Now, I want you to make friends, I want you help others, and I want you to create trust because just like Shawn told me at that first wedding, he simply trusted me based on the amount that I was participating. So if you go to photography groups and you're not saying anything, it means that you're just taking from the group and you're not replenishing the group. Secondly, another plan for me to book my weddings was that I planned to take any wedding if it came my way. So I did not let price get in the way, I did not let expectations get in the way. My goal, when I set out, was I want to get busy and I want to get busy fast. Now, some people will say, oh, being away from my family or my children is valuable to me. I work a full-time job, I'm tired. So if I go out, then it really, I need to be around $3000. If that is your goal, awesome, you rock your goal. For me, I was just, like, I need to hustle. I want this to be my career, I'm hungry, I will do it for whatever. I will pay you to shoot your wedding. Not exactly, but you know, I was this close. Now, I worked part-time. So when comes to actually my plan to actually get to workshops was that I worked part-time. I worked Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and I was picking up shoots. I was picking up shoots and I would shoot anything. I would shoot portraits and I would shoot family shoots. I knew that portraits and family shoots were not my cup of tea. In fact, when I got to family shoots, I realized, I'm a really bad at these family shoots. So I necessarily should not be taking things that I wasn't so good at. So I took, if my memory serves me correctly, about 30-- ooh, excuse me, about three to four family sessions. Now, what I did with that money, I applied it to me educational fund. I would get there and be like, I don't wanna do this family shoot, but I'm 50% closer to booking my retainer for a photography workshop. And when I thought in those contexts, I thought I can actually do this. Now, these are just three examples of what my first year plan was. So this was my business plan, what my goals were, why they were attainable, and my plans to get there. Now, what I want to talk about is that I just didn't have hope. I just didn't have a loose plan. I had goals, an action plan, and a deadline to make these happen. So now that you know what wasn't outlined for my business, I wanna talk about the logistics and how we made it happen. Because so often, photographers start a business and they're like, whee! And without doing all the technical, formal stuff to go on behind. Then you get so deep into your business. Here's a common thing that I see often, is that photographers will charge prices and for some reason, they omit to charge tax. So a photographer who had just started his business, I was talking to him, I think they're a wonderful, amazing couple, this was a few years ago. And then they go slammed with a $27000 tax-- it wasn't tax evasion, they were just like, oh, we didn't know, for the past couple of years, we actually had to pay taxes on this income. And they had to go into a payment plan and it was such a jarring shock for them. And I can't help but think, had we prepared ourselves to know what was going on, we could've avoided a very, very tough decision. It was a hard time. Nobody wants to get smacked with a bill like that. So here is how things went down for me. So you might be a well-oiled machine. You're well on your way, but for those of us who are kind of, like, starting beneath or want to go back and make sure that all our Ts are crossed and our Is are dotted, this is the brief outline. Oh, excuse me. In March of 2006, I went to the Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder's Office and I filed for a DBA, Doing Business As. Now, I didn't know what kind of-- I just simply went in, I was like, I need a DBA. And I wasn't sure if I should be a sole proprietor or an LLC. So I filed to be a partnership because I just assumed, oh, me and JD are partners, duh. I mean, this is how little I actually knew about it. So I filed for sole proprietor or partnership and this could be risky because people can come after your personal assets in case there is a discrepancy in the way that the business is handled. Now, I have talked to my accountant since then and I still remain a sole proprietor/partnership, but I have taken out a much higher personal insurance policy 'cause he said it doesn't make sense for my business to go into the form of an LLC because it would cause more money to change and there wasn't gonna be any tax benefits. So in light of that, I've taken out a personal insurance policy that goes up to X amount. I don't wanna tell you 'cause people are like, I'm gonna sue that girl. So that's kind of where we've decided and I have approached with a legal and an accounting perspective and it works for me. So after that, in that same month in March of 2006, I filed for my DBA and they made me require to put in that my business had started in local newspaper. Totally random, I still don't know if that's a thing, but I had to do that. In April of 2006, I applied for my first business credit card. Now, at the time, I wasn't really making money, but I sure as heck was spending money. So I looked and checked out what business credit cards were going to be advantageous. JD, at the time, we're not traveling as much as we wanted to, but we dreamed. We dreamed of traveling, so in faith, we got out a credit card. For every dollar, it equals a point and then the points can parlay into travel. And so that's what we had decided to do. Now, everything went on that business card that was business-related. So we were buying lots of len-- We were renting lenses first and when we could afford lenses we were buying the lenses on the credit card. We were paying for websites and blogs and computers and tax services. We were paying to buy Photoshop. We were paying to buy, at the time, it was Bridge, it has now transitioned to Lightroom. So all of those expenses had to go on that single card, so that I could track them. I never wanted to use my personal card for business expenses or use my business card for personal expenses. Now, in May of 2006, I scored my first second shooting opportunity. You guys know how that went down. Now, I knew that even though I didn't get paid for that gig, there was a possibility for me to get paid for future gigs, so I needed to get my ducks in a row. I filed for a business checking and savings account that was separate from my personal checking and savings account. All the money that I made... Oh, like, I was like Diamond Jim all. Like, the couple hundred bucks I made my first year went into that business checking account. I needed a clear, clear, clear, clear outline of what I was making and what I was spending. So in June through September of 2006, I second shot weddings almost every weekend and I was second shooting weddings multiple weekends. So like I said, I started off getting paid, like, nothing and then $100 and $ and slowly working my way to be in the $150 and $300 range. All of that money went into my business account. And I was also picking up small side gigs, family shoots, portraits sessions. That money went into those business accounts. In October of 2006, I shot my first wedding and then I got my first official payment of $1500. Now, she had originally told me that her budget was $1000. And I said, great, well, you can have everything you want, which was 10 hours of shooting and engagement session. And she wanted the disk of digital negatives, but I said that that was going to be an additional $500. Well, after some deliberation, she agreed. So my very first wedding I booked, I booked for $ and that money went into my bank account. And you might think, woo-hoo, that's great! Except for the fact that I had to rent all of my gear. In addition to renting all of my gear, I had JD come along to shoot the wedding with me and we rented all of his gear. So basically, we shot that first wedding for about 14 cents and that's okay. It was my wedding and boy, did we leverage the heck out of that in regards to marketing. But we'll talk about in another marketing lesson. Now, in December of 2006, when it came time for me to file taxes, I had booked that first wedding in 2006, I had booked two other weddings for a total of three weddings. So in 2006, I second shot somewhere around 30 to 40 weddings, I picked up a couple family shots, a couple portrait sessions, and I booked three weddings. Well, it was time for me to file taxes. And then what I did was I filed for an EIN number. I did not want to use my social security number when it came to filing for business things. If you go to Google, you type in EIN, it'll take you to the Federal Government website and you can file for the EIN instantaneously. That is what I put in all of my documents when I fill out W-9s and that is stuff that's related directly to my business. Now, that year, if you could imagine, I had booked weddings, I had done a couple shoots, but I also bought gear. So I didn't end up profiting that year. That year, we took a loss for the business, but it was an educated loss. And furthermore, we didn't get into debt for buying things we couldn't afford because making an investment for your business is really scary and it's absolutely terrifying. So I only really know how to talk about investments in regards to my business and I have a very cautious approach. I know that my cautious approach stems from the fact that I grew up very poor. I saw my parents lose not one, but two homes. We had had things given to us and donated to us. We rode the bus as our form of-- And I mean, well, here where you say in Seattle, you rode the bus, it's like, yeah, and? Okay, in LA, when you ride the bus, it's a clear distinction of, like, a socio-economic status. It is not like we're trying to be green. It is literally that is what you can afford. So we did all of that, so then when it comes time to make investments in my business, I'm extraordinarily cautious. I would only buy things that I could afford. Now, I am not saying that there is a photographer who shouldn't take out a business loan to start and pursue his or her dreams. I am just saying that I would be very, very cautious because how hard do you have to work to break even on taking out a $15000 loan? Do you think in your first year of business you will profit $15000? For those of you guys who have been experienced, we're all shaking our heads no. The first year you're not profiting 15 grand. So you're gonna be paying interest, so you're not really paying 15 grand on that loan. You're paying $17000, $18000 to start a business without doing it right. And I think that in this industry-- I should say, not right, doing it smart. There is amazing websites where you can rent lenses and they are delivered to your doorstep. For larger cities, there are camera stores that you can walk in and you get a three-day rental for $25 to $55. That is exactly how we started. You can rent a 500 millimeter 1.4 for about $18 or $20. Now, you can rent a 7200 for somewhere in the ballpark of $60 to $75 depending on where you live. That $75 is so much better than spending $ to buy the lens on credit. Now, we're gonna move into how I invested for my business. So now, now, now, we've walked out to how to start a business and most of you in this room, I'm guessing are at that point. But then it comes to, well, how do I invest back into it? Once I get the momentum, do I go and buy all my gear? This is exactly how it happened. Now, I have mentioned that we started with very little, but here's an abbreviated version of how it happened. In January of 2006... well, okay, really, I received my camera December 25th, 2005. It was a Christmas gift in 2005. But me, just being weird and awkward me, I was like, no, no, I can't open the box with the camera until January 1st, because I'm all about new beginnings. I'm all about fresh starts. And 2005 was just not that great of a year. 2006 is gonna be my year. So I opened my camera, Canon 20D, on January 1st, 2006. So that's when I say that is when my business, I was in business, not so technically, but technically. March 2006. I had had my camera and the kit lens for about three months and then I realized, this kit lens is just not gonna cut it. So we had invested, we had... We had a little bit of money after our wedding and we had a little bit of money because I was on scholarship at UCLA law school. And so I had taken the scholarships and that's what we survived off of. And so I just thought, I'm gonna be paying back these scholarships anyway. I'm gonna use this money and bought a Canon 24 to 70 2.1 IS and that was the lens that I used the most. It was a pivotal, foundational lens in my business. April 2006, I assisted a photographer for the first time and I rented the 70 to 200. So I went to that first second shooting gig with two lenses, the 24 to 70 and the 70 to 200. So my range was 24 to 200. At the core of it, you can shoot an entire wedding and get an entire scope of the day and be proud of your portfolio with two lenses. Now, I am not saying that's what you should do, but that is what I did. It is possible and we rocked that setup for a long time. I also rented a flash. Sorry, so I rented the 7200 and the flash 'cause I did not have one. In May through July, I assisted other photographers and I shot their weddings. And by the payments I received from them, I saved up to buy the 70 to 200. I also bought the Canon 550EX. I actually first and foremost went-- because y'all know by this point in time, I have issues with money and I can be very cheap, I bought the 480. And the guy at the store was just like, you should really invest in the 550, it's gonna be worth the extra money. And I said, no, no, I'm fine. After the first wedding that I shot it, I was like, ugh, I made the worst decision. Went back, bought the 550. I wasted money because I was cheap the first time around. So what does this teach you? You get what you pay for. If you can afford it, save up for it. It really, really makes a big difference. So in August of 2006, I second shot two weddings for a photographer friend and she said she couldn't pay me, but I could use the images in my portfolio. And I said, great, I'm done. But what she did was she had an extra Canon 50 millimeter 1.4 and she gave it to me. So that was my payment. I was like, okay, I would definitely shoot two weddings for 50 millimeter 1.4. Then what we did in... The second lens that I bought, like, on my own was the 16 to 35. This lens is so wide. And some of you guys are like, why would get that lens? I don't know. I saw the cool kid photographers were using it. I really did, I based my entire judgment on that lens based on, you know what, all the cool people that I follow are using wide lenses. It did not reflect my style, but that was a mistake on my own, which is why we started off this course with how to define your photographic style. It should be ellipse, so you don't spend money on lenses you won't use, like me. Now, at this point in time, I saved up to buy the 16 to 35. So in September of 2006, I opened my camera in January 2006, in September, nine months later, I have four lenses. I have the 24 to 70. I have the 70 to 200. I have the 50 millimeter that was given to me. And we bought the 16 to 35, in addition to two sets of flash, one that was really only working. Late-September of 2006, early October, we booked our first wedding. And I asked JD to come along with me and we rented the lenses that he needed because by this time, I was shooting with the four lenses. I was more than covered, I had flash. I was more than covered, but now, we had to rent everything for JD. So you're seeing kind of what the pattern happened. I did not go and get three or four lenses all at once. I only bought what I could afford. So I think that's what this boils down to. It's not to buy what you can't afford. We profited very little from our first wedding, but we set up a savings account. Now, the money that we made from the first three weddings, we used any sort of profit to put towards buying a computer. So my first setup, because a lot of times, photographers will start a business and they say, I need a full legit setup, I need this, I need the RAM, I need X, Y, and Z. I started off with a 12-inch Macbook that I used for work and then I would plug in a hard drive. And I didn't have a mouse, I had a trackpad. So I edited all my photos on a trackpad. And I didn't know how to use Lightroom, so I opened up each photo in Photoshop and edited on a trackpad. And the first wedding that my clients got had about 900 or 1000 images and that's what I edited one by one. I didn't know any better! And I was like, is this what everybody does? This sucks! And then my life changed when I found batch processing. And then my life changed when I found out that I could outsource that. But that was how it worked. So first we went to lenses, then we went to basic gear setup for computers. Now, I think it's important not to get caught up to wanting to say you want to use the nicest gear. There's an illusion when we would go to weddings and I was shooting with the Canon 20D and there would be a photographer there with the 5D. He'll kind of be like, oh, how sweet. And I was just like, I felt like saying, you know what, you're shooting in auto. You know, me shooting manual with my Canon 20D would be far superior than you shooting auto in your 5D. And whether or not that was the truth, I don't know, but that was the thing I told myself. I think it comes down to photographers jumping off into the deep end and then they use the credit card and then they hope that things work. But I can't help to really emphasize the importance of making smart decisions 'cause smarter decisions aren't always the coolest decisions, but understanding there's a complex relationship between starting a business and being a photographer. If push came to shove, I can absolutely shoot a wedding with a 24 to and with a 70 to 200. That is what I started with. I could still shoot a wedding just like that day. Take time to understand what your style is and then own it. Don't feel under the gun. Rent until you can afford. Now, it was very emotional to kind of be buying things and not really seeing a return. And that was the hardest part about starting a business and feeling it go slowly. I wanna read an email that I got from a girl. I know I've been in her position, so I wonder if there's of some who might feel the same way. Dear Jasmine, I've been frustrated lately. I'm not booking clients. I get so many inquiries, but no bookings. I second shoot and I assist a lot. I feel like maybe being socially awkward as I am is hurting me during my consultations. I've gone and reduced my pricing and I try to get busy, but nothing. I'm slowly losing faith that I will ever become successful. I don't plan to give up, but something has got to give. I've tried offering complimentary sessions for portfolio building, passing my business card out, and having friends and family model for me. I don't know what else I can do to gain more experience. Photographers around here only wanna hire experienced second shooters and assistants. But how do you get experience that they're looking for? I feel like I'm whining, I guess I am. I'm just so darn frustrated. I want to share the beauty I see in the world. I just need a chance. Sincerely, Not Ready To Give Up. Have you ever felt that way? I have. Like, I read it and I was like, I feel you. Because momentum is the hardest thing to get when you are starting a business. Because once you have momentum, even the tiny bit, you can find ways to leverage it. But I read this and my heart went out to her because I'm just like, I feel you. I will tell you some of things that I did or my suggestions. Dear Ready Not To Give Up, I'm sorry you're so darn frustrated. But I want to crawl through the computer and shake you. You're talented and you're hungry for more, so stop whining. Does that sound mean? Yes, likely, but life is good, even when it feels like it isn't. The worst part is that life feels like it's moving too slowly. I get it, totally. When I first started my business, I felt like I was getting shoots at a snail's pace. But in retrospect, I just needed more time to research and practice my photo skills. And no, you can never get enough of that. So then I went on and then I explained what I'm gonna get into now. I went on and I continued what I think she should do. First, she needs to ask the second photographers she has shot with for feedback and a critique of her work. Most photographers, if you're first photographer, it's unlikely that you're gonna turn to your second shooter and be like, let me tell you a few things you can improve on. We, as first photographers, will only say those things if we're given the permission to speak to other people in that way, or at least I am. I am too uncomfortable to be like, let me give you some unsolicited advice. That's just not really me. You ask me for advice and I will definitely tell you and be honest with it. It might be uncomfortable to hear, but the only way you will get better as a second shooter and as first shooter is if you have somebody speak into your life in a way that may or may not hurt. Next, I told her to join a photography group. Because by her getting into a photography group, one, it makes her feel alone, two, she can put her work out for a critique. These are the things that are so wildly uncomfortable. Just the notion of putting out my work to have people actually, these are some of my notes. There was, like, this contest of sorts and the guy, he contacted me and he said, can you judge this contest? And I said no, I don't judge contests. And he's like, you just pick a few of your favorites and then people vote on those. And I said, okay, let me try it out. And he said, if you have to be a judge, you must submit three photos, so that you can create a profile. And I said, okay, fine. So I submitted these three photos. I didn't know that the audience was voting on my photos. I didn't get it. I was just like, oh my god. I started getting these emails and it's just like, your photo was passed... this photo... It was, like, some European organization and you can choose one or two photos and my photos just never got picked. How embarrassing that I'm a judge and nobody chooses my photos? And then I thought to myself, it's all good. It is all good. Why? Because there are differences between getting a critique and getting criticism. I don't care about winning contests. I don't care about winning contests. I don't care about awards. Yes, they're nice. Yes, I would never turn them away. But awards don't pay the bills. You don't like my work, that's fine. There are brides who do. And if we can change that perspective, we care less about what other people have to say. Now, once you've heard from your peers, either the people you have second shot with or the people within those photography groups, what I want you to do is you'll have to outline distinct ways for you to grow. So if somebody says, you know what, your green casts are a little too strong, or maybe your focal point is not where it should be in this collection of images. Or maybe it just seems like things are underexposed or that they're grainy. Does it hurt? Yes, but if they're offering insight, now you know, I maybe shouldn't shoot with so much ISO. I may need to navigate how to shoot backlit. Maybe I need to kick back on, like, that color tonality for my green tones. Whatever it is, you now have a path. Now, one thing that I want to clarify distinctively is that there is a difference between getting a critique and getting criticized. And here is the difference. A critique should be helpful. It should be an educational opportunity. When people criticize, they're trying to tear you down. When you put your work out, you must be able to, to the best of your ability, see what is a critique and what is criticism. Because when I think about people who criticize, I say that they, they shout from the sidelines. And when I say that people shout from the sidelines, it means that they're tucked behind their computers. And when people are tucked behind their computers, boy, are they brave. Oh, they can say whatever they want. In fact, there was one particular person, I said this over lunch a couple of days ago to a few students. There was a photographer who was talking so much trash about me. I mean, ugly, dirty stuff. Like, this man must not have a life at all based on the things that he was talking about. I'm in Las Vegas for a photography conference. I'm in the elevator, doors open. I see the badge and I'm like, oh, that's you. And he walks in and he turns and he just waits. And he just waits. I was like, Muntz, Muntz told me you're talking trash and you're standing two feet from me and you ain't gonna say a thing. Talk a big game. Go behind the glow of your computer. See how good that does for you. 'Cause I'm right here and you won't say anything. So be brave on the opposite side of the coast. I know you, I smell you, I'm no longer intimidated. If you have a problem with me, you email me. You're in front with me, you say something in the elevator. And if you will not say something to my face, if you will not give me the courtesy to send me an email, I ain't got time. I ain't got time because when we know what these people do, they have too much time, they have endless opinions. You know these people are present because when they criticize a photographer, all they do is tear them down. And as any creative can attest, that developing a craft is hard. If you're a painter and you have to paint a picture, that is hard. If you're a writer and you have to write a book, that is hard. If you're a photographer and you're trying to learn how to take a photograph, it's hard and it's time consuming and it's frustrating. So when you put your work out online, you hold your breath and you hope that people are nice to you. And I hate to break it you, but the chances are they probably will not be nice. Why? Why aren't people nice? Well, the answer changes, but it boils down to the negative climate in the photographic industry. Because those who do are different from those who merely think about doing. The people who just think about doing, well, they have opinions. Those who think about doing, they insist they can do it better. They would've done it differently. They would've used off-camera flash. They would've left room for cropping. They might have Photoshopped the sky back in. Could've, would've, should've, but they didn't, right? Because those who do, those who do, well, they make mistakes, they trip, they overexpose, they underexpose, they fall flat on their faces, they clip highlights, they crop out toes, they blow out the sky, but they embrace their missteps and they know that it's making them better. To fail publicly and grow is far better than staying in a point of stagnation doing nothing. So basically, those people who do, get better. So I'm saying is, if you're afraid of failing and you're doing, you're getting better. For those of you who are doing, be great. Stand strong in the negative, choppy waters of criticism within the industry. Trust that your mistakes are stepping stones to your dreams. And continue to learn from the past and extend yourself grace when you realize, I'm not really where I want to be. Because those who do, move confidently in the directions of their dreams. And those who simply don't, watch as life passes them by in mere hopes that life will change and get better for them when it won't because they do not have the hunger and the desire to do. So as you do, go confidently and I wish you guys the best. Having said that, are there questions in regards to starting a business or things that you might've navigated and tried to figure out, am I doing this right? So we're gonna get a mic to Terra. And then if there's another person with a question, we'll get the mic, we'll go back there, and then we'll bring the mic up here and bring it right up here. Okay.
So this might be really nitty-gritty, but I wanted to know how you decided how much to pay yourself once you started making more money? Like, how frequently and yeah, how are you saving and that sort of thing?
Great, great, great. Okay, so because you guys know the history. My history is I'm very conservative. I only afford what I can buy. I grew up very, very, very poor, so we have learned-- JD says, you shouldn't say the word 'poor.' You should say 'economically disadvantaged.' I was like, baby, my parents were so poor, we couldn't even afford the 'or,' we were just 'po.' Like, it's okay, it is what it is! You know what, and guess what, nothing tastes as good as government issued cheese. I'm just telling you. It melts in a way that it's just like sheer oil. So people can clown and whatever, but it's like, I grew up good, I'm fine with, I'm fine with it. So because of that, here's how it worked. So I shot my very first wedding in October of 2006. And then in 2007, we booked 38 weddings. But the way that it usually works is that you get a retainer. Now, a difference between a retainer and a deposit. Do not call what you get paid a deposit because a deposit in legalese is fully refundable, a retainer is not. So I would receive retainers and I would require a 50% retainer in advance. So in about April of 2007, it was then when I realized I could forecast how many weddings I had for the year. I knew how much money I had and how much money was coming. All I needed to do was make sure that I can cover the exact same amount of money that I was getting paid from my part-time job. That was how I figured. If I can say for this year and then the risk became, well, I don't know if I'm gonna hang in for 2008. But I'm gonna take risk, a cognizant, calculated risk. The money that I had booked by April, I had indicated I can continue paying myself the same amount, still renting my gear, still paying my bills with this amount of money and it was very little. I think the best thing was me to have the most simple job. I will be honest and I got paid about $2000 to $2300 a month because I worked part-time. If I can take that amount from my business checking and put it into my personal and not go shopping and not veer off, that's what I did. Now, as the business progressed, I was then able to give myself a raise here and there, here and there. So every three weddings I booked, I raised my prices $300. And so at the end of the year, when I saw our profitability, I might give myself a bonus. Be like, it's Christmastime in the city! You know, like, I was gonna go do something nice for myself or we would go on vacation. But that was the strongest point. And now, what I pay myself, it's actually silly. Technically, on paper, what I pay myself, I can make more at Starbucks. And I'm okay with that because my bank account, I'm a saver, that's what I do. I don't need a big, profitable personal account. I need to pay my bills. I need to have a little time for going to movies, doing pleasurable things, shopping, put a little bit in there. And other than that, everything else. So it's a personal thing. In order to figure out how much you need to pay yourself, you just need to create a baseline and you need to stay to the baseline. And budgets really suck, but they're really, really good for entrepreneurs the first two years of business. Cool, we're gonna go back to there, yes.
Hey, sorry, I'm Jen.
So second shooters, I guess I'm kind of a snob, mostly because it's uncharted territory for me as a, I guess, lead photographer. How do I find someone 'cause I've been searching. How do I find someone who shares the same views as me as a photographer, but yet, make them kind of feel special? But anyways, sorry, second shooter. How can I find one that will match my style and me as a person and mesh with the bride and groom?
Great. Well, I'm gonna venture to say that I do not choose a second shooter if I was-- This is functioning on the assumption. I have second shot with other photographers when JD was, you know, not available or at the time where was my third shooter, and I would hire a second shooter because we did that for a while. So two things. I never am concerned if my second shooter gets along with my bridge and groom because quite honestly, I don't want my second shooter talking to the bride and groom. I make that very clear. Like, this is our show and I need to be in control of our bride and groom the entirety of the time. So once that's the case, I then think to myself, if I need a second shooter, it's like online dating. You need to try a few before you find the one. But in order for you to expedite that process, what I would challenge you to do is to put more of yourself online. I want you to write more about yourself on your blog. I want you to update Facebook, Twitter, Instagram from your perspective, your point of view because you can't say like, why don't these people know me? Well, they don't know you because you're not putting yourself out there. That's gonna be the main thing. The more you put yourself out there, the more you're gonna attract the type of second shooter that you want. It's going to take some time. Give yourself grace, a little bit of patience, but it's definitely worth getting a network of two or three other second shooters that you can call on in a pinch. I wanna do one last question if there is the mic. Had it passed? I think that there was... Did you have a question? Mic was going here, so Terra, we're gonna pass the mic here.
Hi, so is there an advantage to getting an EIN rather than using your social security?
No, there is not. It is technically the same, but I'm just weird. I also don't like to put my thumbprints anywhere that they don't have to be. Like, this is like, you know, my one semester in law school, boy, did they teach me a lot. No, I just like, at the gym, they give you the option to use your card or, like, scan your thumb. I was like, oh, no, I don't wanna scan my thumb. Like, where are these thumbprints gonna go? You know, it's like, I'm that person. So for me, I really wanted to have a clear distinction between my social security and my EIN. The EIN is indicative of just solely, which isn't an issue so much now. But before where I had a job and that income was filed under my social security number and then I started my business and I really wanted a clear distinction. But thank you, guys, so much! Encourage others as they build their business and feel free to share information out online. What you know can definitely help others. Thank you.