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Archive for March 2010

Does the IRS Consider You a Business?

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By Scott Bourne
Editor’s Note: This post is written for a US audience and may not be applicable for our readers outside the USA.

In general, taxpayers may deduct ordinary and necessary expenses for conducting a trade or business. An ordinary expense is an expense that is common and accepted in the taxpayer’s trade or business. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate for the business. Generally, an activity qualifies as a business if it is carried on with the reasonable expectation of earning a profit.

Accountants tell us there are nine factors that the IRS considers when determining whether or not you have a photo business or a hobby.

1. Do You Operate in a Business Like Manner?
Open a business bank account, get a business license, separate business and personal expenses

2. How Much Time & Effort You Spend on Your Business?
Keep a calendar to record the efforts you put into the business. Keep documents to prove you attended conferences, made sales calls, etc.

3. What is Your Dependence on Income From the Business?
Is the money you earn intended to eventually replace the money you earn from a non-photography job? If you’re making a profit on your photography this question is already considered answered for most photographers

4. Are Your Losses Reasonable?
If your photo business loses considerably more money than other photo businesses, you might have trouble justifying your photo business losses.

5. What Effort Have You Made to Make Money?
Attend seminars, conferences, read books, join professional associations, hire personal coaches.

6. Have You Implemented Ongoing Changes to Make Money?
Adding new products, changing advertising, adding employees.

7. What is Your Professional Experience? Do You Have Enough Experience or Access to Advisors Who Do?
Making profit from similar past experiences, hiring consultants

8. Have You Kept Business-like Records?
Kept logs of past profits and losses, receipts

9. Are Your Assets Like To Appreciate?
Real estate, equipment, online business activity, future appreciation as demonstrated in a Pro Forma Cash Flow Analysis

If you are serious about business, it’s probably a good idea to discuss these issues with a qualified professional such as an attorney and/or a Certified Public Accountant. This post isn’t meant to give legal or financial advice. It’s a primer on the IRS test for a business as described to the author by several accountants interviewed for this story. See a licensed professional to best determine how this information applies to your personal situation.


Written by scottbourne

March 31, 2010 at 7:46 am

Posted in Business

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Photo Business Tip – Ask For Referrals

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By Scott Bourne

One of the most powerful methods working photographers can use to get new business is the referral. In these days of social networking, transparency, etc., people rely more and more on their friends’ opinions when it comes to selecting a vendor.

How can you get referrals? Just ask. But it’s HOW you ask that counts.

You can beg, plead, borrow or steal. That doesn’t end up delivering the result you want.

You want enthusiastic referrals based on your performance. Words matter as does presentation. Accordingly, I submit one of the ways you might ask for referrals.

A sign, carefully positioned in your place of business, with the following words, or something similar will do the trick.

“Our studio is both sustained and honored by your referral of family and friends. Thank you.”

This approach is low-key and puts you in the best light for clients who would be inclined to refer others to you. Feel free to modify this as you see fit for your particular circumstances.

Written by scottbourne

March 29, 2010 at 5:43 am

Posted in Business

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Are You Trying to Get Published? Editing Counts

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Copyright Scott Bourne 2009 - All Rights Reserved

When it comes to selecting the best photos to show buyers and publishers, most photographers show far too many images. What’s worse, many of the images they end up selecting are not their best.

The first rule of good editing is be brutal. If there is even ONE thing you don’t like about a particular photo, don’t include it in your portfolio. Editors are accustomed to looking at only the very best images. Good images will not be good enough to compete. So, choose only great images or your very best work.

Narrow your best images down to 25 and then, narrow them down again. To finish the job, consider paying a consultant to critique your work. After explaining the target audience for your images, ask the consultant, “Are these the right photos to show?” Then listen to their advice.

Most photographers have great difficulty in editing their own work. They end up selecting shots that have emotional or sentimental value to them, but do not work in a portfolio. Try to get professional assistance if you can afford it or if you have a relationship with an art director, designer, editor or buyer, ask them to evaluate your portfolio before you submit it for review.

Also use online tools like and ask for feedback. Join pro groups or groups comprised of serious amateurs. Showing images to lots of people is a good way to help complete the editing process successfully.

And always remember – just because you fell in love with one of your images, doesn’t mean the photo buyer will too.

Written by scottbourne

March 27, 2010 at 7:04 am

Posted in Getting Published

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Community Involvement and Professional Photography Go Hand-in-Hand

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By Skip Cohen

Years ago I heard Jay Conrad Levinson speak at PPA’s Marketing and Managment Seminar.  It was an incredible presentation from the creator of  “guerilla marketing”, but one idea stayed with me more than any others.  In the top 100 list of things Guerilla Marketers need to do was be involved in the community.  It’s a simple concept – people like buying products from companies they perceive as giving something back to the community.

In this economy, everybody is looking for ways to get their name out there ahead of the competition, so here’s the easiest tip of all to implement right now…get yourself involved in your community.  Look for local events where you can volunteer your time and services.  Look for charities that need help.    The community has been good to you, or at least you’re hoping they will be, so you need to be good to the community!

If you’re looking for more ideas on meeting the challenges in marketing today, check out Levinson’s website at

Written by scottbourne

March 25, 2010 at 7:57 am

Posted in Marketing

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Making Salable Photos out of Lemons

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Copyright Scott Bourne 1998 - All Rights Reserved

By Scott Bourne

I was photographing a wedding for a friend. She picked June because it’s typically a nice sunny month in Seattle. Unfortunately, the Sun didn’t get the memo and was in hiding. The outdoor lighting was terrible. I had all my strobes set up in the church and was outside taking a break when I spotted this cute little ring bearer. I knew the light sucked, but made the shot anyway and came away with the first image.

Great pose – great look on his face – terrible light. Here comes Photoshop to the rescue.

I imported the RAW file into Photoshop and quickly realized I had little to work with, so I decided to make the image a black and white photo. I used the Channel Mixer to create a monochrome image on a layer. Channel Mixer gives you far more control over your image than simply converting via IMAGE > MODE > GRAYSCALE. After a bit of tweaking – the image came out greatly improved. See picture two.

But it was still missing something that made it sing. Aha! I made the correction on a layer so I simply made a Quick Mask and erased the top layer over the boy’s flower. (I just did it freehand – no need to make a fancy mask or selections.)

The final result is the last image.

Copyright Scott Bourne 1998 - All Rights Reserved

The ultimate judge as to whether or not this little exercise was successful was the boy’s father. Fortunately, he and the bride loved it. She paid it the ultimate compliment by ordering more than a dozen enlargements of this one image.

The lesson is simple. Don’t be too quick to throw away that so-so photo. If the pose and expression are good, you may still have a money maker.

Written by scottbourne

March 23, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Posted in Sales

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Want to Make Money With Your Camera? Try Pet Photography

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By Skip Cohen

I’ve heard it a thousand times – “I don’t want to photograph pets!”    Well, if you’re one of those people who’s had that attitude it’s time to think again.  Pets are number three behind Brides and Babies as the third most popular subject matter for people to hire a professional photographer.

Take it one step further:  “Three-quarters of dog owners consider their dog like a child or family member and more than half of cat owners say the same…Americans own approximately 73 million dogs, 90 million cats, 139 million freshwater fish, 9 million saltwater fish, 16 million birds, 18 million small animals and 11 million reptiles.”*

The market potential is huge.

“…gift giving to pets continues to rise with eight out of 10 dog owners buying dog gifts and 63 percent of cat owners purchasing gifts for the family feline.”*

Still think it doesn’t make sense?  Check out Ann Hamilton’s work and her workshops on pet photography.  If I still haven’t successfully got you fired up to photograph pets now and then, visit Vicki Taufer’s site.  Vicki set the original standard with her annual pet event selling it both as a cause she wanted to support and a way to bring more people into her studio.

Pets create an exciting opportunity for you to diversify your business, but still stay within your comfort zone as a professional photographer.   And these days it’s not about survival of the fittest, it’s about survival of the most creative!

*; courtesy of American Pet Products Manufacturers Association

Photograph by Bambi Cantrell

Written by scottbourne

March 20, 2010 at 9:45 am

Posted in Business

Tagged with

Photographers Using Twitter For Business

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By Scott Bourne

Photographers can and do use Twitter for business. And to make that easier, here’s a list of resources that photographers might use to enhance the value of twitter.

Twitter-related Tools to Improve the Power of Twitter


One of the big selling points of Twitter is the brevity of each tweet which is limited to 140 characters. Since traditional URLs take up lots of space, this tool enables you to use an abbreviated URL. It also keeps track off how many clicks are generated on this abbreviated URL thus providing useful feedback on what is working.


Twellow serves as the yellow pages directory for Twitter. It enables you to find people who live near you or share your interests. This means that you can conveniently follow them if you choose.

3. &

Create a personal brand. You need a Twitter background that suits the image that you want to project. Killertweets charges a price, but provides many striking backgrounds from which to choose. Twitbacks is free, but nowhere near as impressive.

4. Twi5

To check on spamming, Twitter has limits and you may only follow a total of 110% of the number of your followers. You need to quickly eliminate those who do not follow you back so that you can follow new prospects. This site allows you to “unfollow” the “unfollowers”.


This invaluable tool allows you to see all of the action in your account within one single application, enabling you to automate Twitter to run on autopilot.


Great service that helps you count followers over a period of time. Offers projections and all sorts of important data for those who are serious about Twitter.


A way to measure Twitter influence and informs you what sort of reach, demand, engagement, velocity and activity. You can use it to search for topics and find the influencers relative to that topic.


Grades your influence based on number of followers, power of those followers, updates, followers/following ratios. Also provides rankings.


This tool lets you use Twitter to post photos.


Measures audience engagement.

Written by scottbourne

March 17, 2010 at 6:50 am

Posted in Marketing

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