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Scott's Column
Photography Profits and Next Camera

January 1, 2016
By Scott Lewis

This month I am going to give a quick overview of the accomplishments of my photography business. How much profit did it make? Does this pay for itself as a hobby? I also look into 2016 and give you some ideas on what I want for my next camera, which I plan to purchase this year.

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Photography Profits fro 2015

I only worked as a paid photographer for about 3 months in 2014, and did not make a profit. However, I did pretty well with only a loss of just under $1,700. Since I was only charging clients for the last 3 months that's was pretty good.

This year I did turn a profit. Some people were telling me to buy more stuff. Why pay taxes if there is gear to get. That did factor in a bit, I bought more gear than I needed to, and could have pushed of some stuff until next year.

Let's not bury the lead too much. My total profit for 2015 is $954. The ultimate goal for a hobby is if it can pay for itself. In that regard... Mission Accomplished. Let's tale a look at how it breaks down.

Total Revenue        $15,480
Material Expenses    $14,020
Mileage Expense      $   506

Net Profit           $   954


So... the business made a profit of just under $1,000. I spent $694 in December that was largely unnecessary. However, you have to spend money to make money. Part of that $694 was $179 so I could provide free framed prints to all the couples I took pictures of at the Ferrari Club Christmas Party. There is no profit in this. However, every one of those frames has my business card taped to the back. This is money well spent in good will.

The rest of that money could have easily been delayed until 2016 give me a profit over $1,500 for 2015. I am not that concerned.

But about this time you are wondering... only $954 profit. Is it worth the time invested for that. The answer is YES! Because what comes next is the major photography gear I bought during 2015... gear I essentially got for free.

x-Rite Monitor Calibrator             $  150
Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L Lens         $2,200
Various Filters                       $  300
Camera Bag                            $  100
Canon EF-S 10-18mm lens               $  270
Vanguard 283CT Carbon Fiber Tripod    $  200
2x Teleconverter                      $  430
YONGNUO YN560-TX Transmitter          $   40
2 YungNuo YN560 IV flashes            $  140
Steel C-Stand with Boom Arm           $  150

Total                                 $3,980


So... in reality I earned almost $5,000 ($3,980 + $954 = $4,934). Not bad!

If I control my spending on gear, next year should be much more profitable. Unfortunately, I am going to buy a new camera next year. It's just a matter of what camera.

2015 had a number of issues that required me to "go dark" in the photography business. My sons moved in with me, and I had to move twice in two months (long story) and had to help my ex-wife sell our house. During that time I did not do anything to push myself for photography. I only did jobs that people contacted me to do.

I expect be more aggressive in promoting myself, as well as doing more to follow up with potential clients (people that show interest, but don't call me).

Overall I am enjoying the photography. I want to do it more and more. Since I specialize in "car enthusiast photography" I get to hang around with car guys a lot. Seems much less like work when you are doing something you love.

Next year I am going to start something new. I am going to start keeping track of all my time. I have not done that to date. I will keep two buckets of time: 1) Photography and Post Processing, 2) Miscellaneous.

It obviously takes me time to photograph a car. I will try to include travel time with that, but I am not too concerned there. More important, I spend a lot of time in Lightroom and Photoshop. Those are the buckets of time I will count towards being compensated for. My goal would be to get this so I was making $50/hour for this time.

I also spend time trying to get business. Networking, for lack of a better term. I attend the Ferrari Club meetings regularly and attend Cars & Coffee events as well. I do this to maintain contact with exiting people I know (in hopes to get a photography job) as well as try and attract new customers. I also attend track day events (of which I am behind on post processing one event). This sometimes turns into getting paid if someone wants to buy prints. Regardless, these are the times when I am not doing work directly for a client. I will track that time separately.

Next year we will see how it all turns out. I also plan to try and setup a small studio in my garage. This is temporary as I expect to move when my lease runs out (yes, move again). I want a garage big enough to photograph a car. For now, I just want to have some space to play around and still have room to park my car in my one car garage.

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Camera Goal for 2016

I shoot Canon. I sometimes wonder if I should change brands. I have a large enough collection of lenses that it would be prohibitively expensive to try and sell off that gear and buy all new gear. Sony's A7R II is mighty tempting with its 42 MP full frame sensor. And they make adapters for it to use Canon lenses. Yep, tempting indeed.

I am waiting for Canon to announce the replacement for the Canon 5D Mark III. It should be called the 5D Mark IV. I would love to get the Canon 5Ds R, which is a 50 MP camera. I regularly print at 24 x 36, which is pretty close to the native resolution of the 50 MP Canon camera. I use special software to upsize my photos when printing that large. However, I am close to the limits doing it that way. If someone asks for a 40 x 60 print I could be screwed.

The 5Ds R is a studio camera. Great... I do studio like photography with cars. However, it is not a good general purpose camera. If I bought it I would likely need a backup camera, especially for track days. My current camera is not good enough for sports, so again I am pushing it beyond its limits. As a second camera to the 5Ds R I would buy the Canon 7D Mark II. This camera has good (if not great) low light capability (much better than my 6 year old T2i). It is also fast... at 10 frames per second. It has a much better focusing system that my T2i as well. Everything I would need in a walk around and sports camera. The perfect offset to the one trick pony, the 5Ds R.

I would much rather just get one camera to handle both tasks. There are a lot of rumors going around about the upcoming 5D Mark IV. I have heard it will have 24 MP, or 28 MP or 36 MP. At 24 it is NOT enough of an upgrade for me. I will seriously consider it at 28 MP. At 36 MP it is a no brainer and I would get it over the 5Ds R in a heartbeat.

I have also heard this Mark IV will shoot at somewhere between 7 and 9 frames per second. Either of those should be good enough for the times when I need fast shooting. And the Mark 4 should get some pretty impressive low light capabilities.

The latest news is that Canon will officially announce this camera in March. If its specs meet my needs I will likely pre-order it the day that is possible.

I am guessing about $3,200 - $3,500 for the 5D Mark IV (my own guess... not rumors from around the web). The 5Ds R is $3,900. I hope the Mark IV is closer to $3,000, but I can't do anything about that.

Of course, there are also rumors that Canon will release an update to their "consumer" full frame camera, the Canon 6D. I have a friend with one and he likes it a lot. He gets pretty good low light performance out of it and it has some consumer features that make it attractive to me, such as built in WiFi to allow remote control and photo transferring (it would be great to send a client a photo from my phone during a shoot. 

I don't know exactly when a 6D Mark II will be announced. The big reason to consider it is it will certainly be less expensive than the coming 5D Mark IV. It would also need at least 28 MP and at least 6 fps to get me to skip over the more professional workhorse 5D replacement.

Once I get a full frame camera, I will also need one or 2 new lenses. My 70-200mm is about the best lens Canon makes and will work perfectly on any full frame Canon camera. But it is too long to be used for my car photography. My 28-135mm is pretty low end (It cost me $219 refurbished). I will need another workhorse lens in a focal length range that works for my car photography. Likely a 24-70mm (I would want the f2.8, but might just decide to save over half the price and get the f/4 version). I also want a wide angle lens... and I want the best... the new Canon 11-24mm F/4 L lens. This is $3,000.

So... a new camera in the $3-4K range, and 2 lenses in the $3,800 - $4,800 range (all depending on exact models) means I am looking to spend somewhere between $6,800 - $8,800 on a body and glass alone. Not to mention any other gear I might want. So... 2016 needs to be better than 2015 to get me that gear and still be profitable.

Here's hoping we can keep the business coming in.

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Conclusion

That's it for this month. I really don't know what's next. I put off the upgrade of my SSD to make room for upgrading to Windows 10. I also put off testing qdslrDashboard with the TP-Link router. So maybe I can finish those up in Hanuary.

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