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As Professional Photographers, we hear this quote from time to time: "Wow, that is a great photo - you must have a really nice camera." Nothing could be more insulting to a Professional Photographer. It's like telling your Hair Stylist "Thank you so much, my hair looks great! You must have used a really great pair or scissors!" It takes much, much more than a $700 DSLR from Costco to create beautiful photographs. The following is typically what is many, many people go through on the path to becoming a Photographer:

First, you get a cheap "point & shoot" camera.  (p&s  ) You get the occasional nice shot, but you want something more. So you jump into a low end DSLR and a lens. You already look like a Pro, but you might as well be sitting at the controls of the space shuttle, look at all of these buttons and knobs!

At first you're very frustrated because your photos aren't as nice as they were coming from your automatic p&s camera. Eventually you start to figure things out and getting some decent photos. Then you find out that there are such things as small, friendly online photography forums for beginners (such as Learning Digital Photography Together or Photozone --google it and register to get in), where you can more quickly learn how to use your camera.

You join a forum or two and quickly figure out that you are grossly under-equipped. You need lenses - LOTS of lenses, and flashes, studio lights, backdrops, light modifiers, gels, softboxes, MORE lenses (you can't have enough of them) and even though you just bought your camera - you need a BETTER one! And don't forget, Adobe has a new version of Photoshop coming out soon, and your PS Elements software just won't cut it anymore. We won't even bother mentioning PS Actions, brushes, borders, textures and templates.....oops, we just did!

So the addiction begins - you start buying and spending, soon your "hobby" has cost you several thousand dollars. And you're spending so much time on the internet that your mate and Children don't recognize you.

Somewhere along the line you decide to snap some photos of the neighbor's kids just for fun. The neighbor goes ga ga over your snapshots (that you gave them for free) and it hits you - "I can become a Professional Photographer!" Well that's hopeful. We're in a major recession and anything you can trade for chickens, eggs, warm clothes, coal, money even... thassa good thing!

So you take all of your new equipment and start shooting like crazy - your kid's soccer games, photos for your company's website, photos of your neighbors for their anniversary (giving them all away of course - you're happily gaining experience). Soon people are calling and emailing you asking for photo shoots (wow, the word is getting out!) People are practically lined up around the corner for a FREE photo shoot (what could be better?)

By the way, this is also the point where you realize exactly how difficult it is to:

- Pose people and make them feel comfortable in front of a camera.
- Even begin understanding proper lighting.
- Get children to look at your camera, much less smile.
- Dodge a peeing baby boy during a newborn session.
- Deal with Moms standing over your shoulder yelling at their kids to "smile naturally".
- Deal with customers who stand right next to you and shoot photos with their p&s camera.
- Spend less than six hours in Photoshop editing a one hour photo shoot.

All this time you are learning, improving, buying more equipment. You start to build a portfolio, and eventually put up a MySpace page, Facebook page, Flickr page and maybe even your own website (all of which takes a little time and possibly a very tiny amt. of  money so do it now, jso start now. Join/get the stuff / and hit library for books on all these subjects, to study PHOTOGRAPHY but also study MERCHANDISING YOUR work, your SELF online. ). At some point you will decide to get a "real website" so you hire someone to put the site together for you though it's easy as pie, you almost need no books for that, go to WEBTECH FOR DUMMIES, a free seminar. Easy to understand too! (So if you haven't a clue about HTML, FTP, or any other acronyms that have anything to do with website development you can at least do it anyway!). FREE SOFTWARE for FTP is online everywhere, ditto WEBSITE COMPOSERS, the best is free in an old version of NETSCAPE BROWSER, but all that's at the above site.

So now you have a website and a reasonable portfolio. Guess what, it's time to get a business license and hit the big time! MANY STATES don't even require that until you are real big and rent a store. Working out of your house you absolutely can escape detection. So practice GUERILLA CAPITALISM until you are ready to hire employees. Reason? Cuz once you have the license, you have to start paying taxes and insurance. You certainly aren't going to pay taxes when you're not charging anything, but  as you begin to still have very little income, so don't get the license. STUDY THE ISSUE HERE. I recommend that for the interim period, you sweetly tell your friends and webchums that you're now going to charge them money to take their pictures but a rate so low that you trump everyone who's in the biz already as hey, you don't have to pay two k a month rent! And you haven't as yet told the IRS/ GOV/ CITY/ STATE that you exist. Well, I wouldn't tell anyone THAT but I guarantee you, folks are not looking for a big ole license framed on the wall. If you were doing heart surgery they might but not party or wedding or birthday photos.

Now, in the beginning, many of your old chums still want free photos, but you are going to tell them that not only are you going to charge them a session fee (because you've finally realized that a "one hour photo shoot" actually takes about 6-8 hours of your time, and that your time is actually worth something) but you also will charge them for photographs as well. However, if they want negatives they can pay.39 c at Walgreens  for a 5x7 and your blessings are on them.

Quickly your friends and family will want photos from you. No longer will they brag to you about the photos that they got taken at the MALL (you know, the $10 photo session that they ended up spending $500 on?) Because you gave them everything for a good price, great art, not invasive, strangers in their home.

Now you have come to the real part of running a photography business - the business part of things. Now you're working with complete strangers. Strangers who are willing to pay for your time and pay more than friends & family will, but because they are paying for your time, they have higher expectations. They want you to give them all of the images on CD so they can print their own photos, they complain about problems with their photos, they try to negotiate with you to get cheaper prices. It is so easy to put graphics on a CD you won't believe it. Get an IOMEGA CD BURNING DRIVE, used on EBAY and go to it.

Forget competition in the photo biz, sure there are the occasional neighbors who figured that since you of all people could make money with the $700 DSLR from Costco, why can't they? Then one day you see it - the neighbor even has a website, and it looks strikingly similar to yours! It even has some of the same exact verbage as your website! Bless them. You must never succumb to jealousy or terrain watching. In fact, give a classroom to all your neighbors and their kids on omega drives, graphics, cameras, the full monte.

Soon you will get the fun of doing a paid session for a darling one year old baby, become the godparent of the little tyke, but don't spend ten hours of time on the job and make a whole $200 (that's $10/hour not including YOUR expenses, for those playing the home game). Get the kid shot in an hour, and on a cd in a half hour. When the Mommy gets the photos from you she says something like "Oh, guess what? I just got a camera just like yours from Costco! I'm going to be a Photographer just like you!" Try not to rip her a new one when you hear that, remember, you are a saint with a camera. Send her to the PHOTO INDEX to start her career. Yes, good karma will result. And do you really think she will compete with you in your town's marketplace? NEVAH HAPPEN! NEVAH! Unless you take her under your wing as a photo trainer. In your class which costs 5$ a head per 2 hr getogether, potluck party. FUN thing to do! Your parson will lend you church basement when you get to l00 guests, isn't that 5hundred bucks a nite for you? Then start giving SINGLE PARTIES. That requires a photo data bank, a cinch for you!

Then you realize that you've invested over five grand on equipment, you have hurt feelings and emotions toward some of your friends and family and worst of all you have lost valuable time with your own family.

At this point you figure out that being a Professional Photographer isn't that much like a dull job, it's glamorous and fabulous and you've become a guru to the town, party host, matchmaker, something that not every person who walks through the door at Costco has the opportunity to be unless, of course, you train them to do it...!