I used to share all kinds of projects on my blog for fun…. if you know me, you know I cannot sit still. I also have devoted this year to get back to my roots – and some of the things I have enjoyed for so long and have lacked any time to complete.
While I’m wrapping up “slow season” and getting ready to start into busy season, thought I would share this simple project for all you DIYers…..
I was running an errand that took me into Walmart, and I happened to walk by the curtain aisle, and saw these very inexpensive curtains that matched my bedroom, and immediately wanted to do something with them.
I had been procrastinating putting new curtains up in my bedroom because I can’t stand searching out fabrics. I get overwhelmed quickly, and I like to change up decor often enough that I hate investing too much into one color. But my bedroom has stayed this color for some time, and it’s about time I got rid of these ugly white things I threw up over top of the even uglier pink/black fabric that I ripped off of these boards when we first moved in. Aren’t they awful? So I started tearing them down…
These sailcloth curtains were so cheap. I’m thinking maybe $6 a set? I bought two sets and have enough fabric left over to make matching throw pillows or something later if I want.
I started by just cutting up the cloth. Even though I know how to sew and have a very nice older model Viking machine, I hate to sew. I cut the fabric so that I could use as many finished edges as possible.
I cut the panels up – I wanted just a simple valance above the blinds. My room has enough color in it, that simple is better. Next, I ironed everything nice and crisp, so I had a good foundation to work to make sure lines were aligned well.
Any edge of the curtain I needed finishing, I used iron-on hem tape. It’s super easy. You peel one side back, iron it to the fabric, then peel the other side off, and then iron the fabric down. I knew I was going to staple this valance onto the old boards, so I needed to make a strip of fabric that had finished edges to place over the stapled areas. Used the hem tape again to fold up a piece, that would resemble bias tape.
The finished product. Exactly what I was looking for. A simple tailored look, and this seriously only took me about 20-30 minutes to accomplish. There are two other smaller windows in the room on the opposite side. Quick, easy, efficient
Another reason valances were the choice for in here is that whoever built this house made this little weird window on the left of this next picture. The height of that window to the ceiling is “off”. It’s not the same alignment as the other windows, so with the valance, I could hide that and althought the valances are all the same distance to the ceiling, you cannot tell the one window is not.
And here are my little “superheroes” that love to watch…
This is another post for the photography industry. (So clients, you can excuse yourselves haha If you don’t know, I am on a mission to help save the photography industry and am asking others to join me.)
I went back and forth whether to follow up to this How to Price Photography post. Since that was published, I have received good and bad responses. The backlash has floored me.
Many photographers were thrilled to use the spreadsheet (SEEN HERE) and the fact that it was so affordable, and it made me happy to be able to provide something that can help the industry. Remember, I’ve been saying, this is the year to help the industry! that is what I committed to. I made THIS COMMITTMENT ;)
I received some backlash. Why? Isn’t this a win-win for all? I thought it was. The backlash implied I was a hypocrite for selling a product for “cheap”. That backlash wasn’t from photographers. That backlash was from those who sell to photographers. That’s where they get their income, or the majority of it - selling to other photographers. Is there anything wrong with that? No. But if we don’t help the photography industry at its base, there will be nothing left for anyone, and that means no photographers to sell to either. Think about it.
A Little Background
First of all, back in 1994, I started college to become an accountant. I also had training for my day job where I worked with an actuary in Excel and Lotus (remember Lotus anyone?). I quit college, married my husband, and started my first business. I really didn’t like that business, so I started a new one. Both of them were successful. I was always profiting and paying myself a good salary. I became burnt out in that second business, and decided to go back to my art roots, and open up a photography studio. I’ve done that ever since. Because I have always run my own businesses, and had the background in spreadsheets, I always used spreadsheets to keep track of everything. Now, I am back in college, again, for accounting, so this has always been my thing.
From a Business Standpoint
I have had this spreadsheet since the late 90s, evolving as I changed businesses, and it took me one hour to clean it up, and prepare it for download. After that, it doesn’t take me any time at all. I’m putting no work or time into that spreadsheet as it sells. Anything that I make on it, is direct profit, no cost of goods sold. I wanted to give it away free to everyone, until my husband looked at me and said “It’s slow time, we have bills to pay… why not sell it for something to recoup your time.” I thought “Yeah, didn’t I just go on and on about valuing your time?”
I Weighed My Options.
Sell it Expensive: You know, again, this is not costing me any more time. Nothing. Selling 10 of them covered my time. I could put it up for $150. Who would buy it? —- Those who are business smart who are doing fairly well enough in business to pay for it, will buy it. Well, those people usually already know their bottom line, right? How will that benefit this industry? Who I want to have this spreadsheet is those who really need the help in business management and aren’t doing well financially with their businesses, or don’t really understand they aren’t doing well —— The up-and-coming photographers, the ones that will carry the future of our industry. THAT is who I want this spreadsheet to be available to, and I won’t reach that target with a price of $100+.
Sell it Cheap: Is there ever a reason to sell cheap photography? If you are mass producing like Sears did, 15 minutes of time, no edits, no 10 expensive props, yes, there is a time and a place that you could sell cheap photography and still make a decent salary that you could support yourself on. It doesn’t happen often, but some business models can work. Gasp! I said it. Usually, however, as a custom photographer, you are a one man show and an artist, and won’t allow yourself to mass produce…. so that is where the conflict in this model arises many times. What would selling this spreadsheet for cheap do?
- I’d recoup my costs within 10 sales, and now that we are up to 100+ sales, the other amount covered my expertise/experience enough, right? Sure. I didn’t work for minimum wage or less. I got paid very fairly for my time. I did not gouge. Even my tax accountant wouldn’t have charged me that much for a simple spreadsheet. There is no way he would have handed something like that to me and said, “That will be $150 please.” No. He would give me a spreadsheet so that it would make his life easier when I came to him later and presented him with my figures. He wants me to be able to profit, so his services will still be needed. I was told yesterday, just like I have told others, work smarter, not harder. I should have sold that spreadsheet for like $100 or more and been sitting on a pile of $10,000 in cash right now.
Yes, I know…. I could have done that. That’s what many are doing, there is nothing wrong with that. However, this wasn’t about money to me. This was about something more. What is bigger than any amount of money for this industry right now? Raising awareness to photographers what exactly they are paying themselves and what they can do to make changes for their future pricing that will keep this industry strong. Hmmm…. I’m sorry, maybe I have too much morality deep down inside, but I felt that being able to help the industry at its foundation, its base, would be a good thing. Did I do wrong? Am I a hypocrite?
I was kicked out of a group of professionals and told that I was untrustworthy and apparently undercutting my fellow ‘sell-to-photographers’. Hey, I was a team player. I kept their secrets. And what is there to trust? I didn’t see anything illegal going on. Is there something I should have seen and didn’t? I really have no idea. I saw people sharing their business techniques for making money. If you know me, I am too honest at times and make myself vulnerable by telling exactly the state and numbers of my business versus lying to the public to keep some sort of facade up. I’m not the one they shouldn’t be trusting. Wow… if they only knew what else was lurking in that group… but I digress…… I will say this. They better start paying attention to the foundation of this industry. We need to educate at the base, even for cheap (but yes, pay for your ACTUAL time, doesn’t have to be “the photographer tax” we sometimes add on…..because we can….), just to get photographers to learn business management and to better themselves and value themselves. If we don’t, even these “sell-to-photographers” types, will not have anyone to sell to. Then, we are all out of luck, right?
There’s a strange underbelly in this industry, that I stepped into, completely naive. I had no idea it existed, and moreso, it’s hard for my brain to wrap around the fact that many who I thought wanted a better industry that has some longevity, really don’t. It’s all about the cash in the pocket today. I lost several deals yesterday I had with other people. It was like a hit went out on me instantly. How dare I care for my fellow hard working photographers. Backs were turned on me.
Maybe it’s because I’m still in the trenches with all of you, that I made decisions like I did for this. I still depend on a client base to make my bills. Don’t get me wrong, I do sell to photographers. I sell my expertise to in my books, and they aren’t cheap – they are very much valued, but that’s because those books are my heart and soul and took me years of experience to write and contain my secrets to everything I do with a camera and lights. However, 90 percent of my income comes from having real live clients, and that’s the area of this industry that needs help. We need to protect the future of the foundation – the photographers. Those who make this industry what it is. Those who do the hard work. If we don’t do that, we will have nothing.
I wasn’t out to hurt anyone. I’m loyal to those around. Even if I see something I find is just a bit slimey, if I’m in with you, I’m in with you…(unless it’s illegal, I won’t stand for that) and I will try my best to see everything from all angles, and be a team player. I’m an ISTJ – look it up. You can’t find a more responsible and hard working personality type… an ISTJ is a machine (that’s why my other part of my brain likes math).
So if you feel I’m a hypocrite. It’s okay. I can take it. I now have said what I had to say. I’d rather spread an easily accessible help for businesses in the hopes that seeds will be planted, and maybe a strong root system will develop for our future. If anyone wants to make this a them vs. us. I’m on the side of the photographer, and that is where I always will be.
The alternate title to this post, I know, it’s not very classy, so pardon me, please, but a note to the sellers-to-photographers. Keep this in mind: ”You shouldn’t defecate where you eat.”
It’s time for a post like this. This is for the photographers everywhere.
A local-to-me, Kat Forder, posted a survey last year. Kat wanted to know the numbers – what were the photographers here paying themselves as a salary? What was normal? I’ve been in this area my entire life and part of this industry for 17 years, I watched a huge shift, which is why although I am still doing photography, I’m back in college as well, making sure I have a safety net…. but Kat needed exact numbers, and I love it that she did this.
I want you to keep in mind, this covered the Maryland/DC/Northern Virginia area. If you do not know this area, it is a VERY expensive place to live. Many people from all over the US come to especially the DC and outlying areas for work because it pays quite a bit and many jobs are still in demand. While Northern Virginia has become an extremely prosperous area, Maryland also houses two of the most expensive counties in the US to live in – Howard and Montgomery. I’m not saying that everyone in this area is wealthy, I’m just saying, overall, this metro and surrounding is not a wasteland for business. It is still thriving.
Last year’s survey for this area photographers (click here for the full results) showed the following….
- The majority of the photographers who took the survey were between the ages of 20 and 49
- The largest percentage of photographers were full-time with no other jobs.
- The largest percentage group were only paying themselves less than $10,000 per year as a salary and admit to making more than the previous year!
Did you read that right? Yes you did. One of the most expensive places to live in the US, and BUSINESS OWNERS are paying themselves less than $10,000 per year in salary. I was floored. I was sick when I read this. I knew it had gotten bad, but I didn’t realize it had gotten THAT bad. I want you to understand this math. $10,000/year full time is $4.81 per hour. That’s not even minimum wage. It wouldn’t be legal to pay an employee that salary.
Kat did another survey this year. If you are in the area, please take it here.
I know everyone wants rainbows and ponies and not the truth, but here’s the truth. This industry used to be amazing. Anyone who was a custom photographer (regardless of whether they were new or not) could be making a salary to support their family. They could pay their mortgages and put food on the table, and go on vacation at least once a year with their talent. What better way to make a living than with something you love. Custom photography was sold as a luxury product. While not everyone could afford it, there was always Sears and Picture People (and believe me, I used them). This mass epidemic of everyone buying a camera and going into business within a few months (many illegally and without insurance), charging $200 or less and giving all the images away on CD has done a few things to the perception of the public. Custom photography as a whole, is not a luxury anymore. It is a commodity. The price is in reach for everyone. The value has been so driven down that even Sears Portrait Studio closed up because they could no longer compete. The legitimate professional photographers who are priced to have a decent salary to support their families are being portrayed as rip offs and scam artists, when THESE are the true professionals that should be held up and respected for being real business owners.
The Bidding Wars
In a panic, many photographers have lowered their prices because they let fear lead them. The problem with lowering prices is then more photographers go even lower…. so there is no use in lowering your prices “to get more clients”. That’s a myth. You will get more clients for a month maybe, and then someone else lowers theirs even more…and then there is this race to the bottom. It’s the most bizarre thing I have ever seen. You can go online and see someone say “I need a photographer to photograph my baby.” A response, “My friend does it for $200.” Then someone will inevitably say, “Well I can do it for $150″ and then yet another one, “I’ll do it for $50…” But wait, there is still someone who will do it for $35. Recently, there was a screenshot going around of something that happened to a wedding photographer. She met with her client for coffee. As she was chatting price, service, etc., a stranger interrupted them and said something to the effect of she’s ripping you off, I can do your wedding for $500. THAT folks, is the state of the industry, whether you want to admit it or not. Read up on business management – REAL business management textbooks and such. If an industry competes on price alone, the entire industry fails.
How to Price for Photographers
What can we do about this? We will never be back to the way it was 10+ years ago. We can’t dwell on that. We have to move forward. The first thing we have to do is start HELPING this industry in every way we can. Help your fellow photographers. Kat Forder is here with these surveys – do your own in your area. Educate your area. Get together with your locals and help teach business management. I know I have received backlash for pushing business in forums and such, but for every photographer that called me names, I have had some come to me and say reading what I wrote was the best thing that ever happened to their business. So maybe, just maybe you can plant some seeds that will grow. We need a ‘revolution’ of education in this industry. REAL education, not fluffy birds chirping “Follow your dream!”. What can you do? blog about it. Talk about it. If you have other photographers that read your blogs or websites, educate them! The more we can educate, the more it will reach. Make blog posts like this go VIRAL. This is what we should be sharing with our peers - ideas, hope, solutions….. any way we can built up this industry once again!
I’ve created this business spreadsheet *groan*, here comes a sales pitch… hear me out. It’s probably not what you think…… Full details are HERE. I’m selling it for $12.99 – immediate download. I could have taken advantage and put it up for $100+ and marketed the heck out of it. Instead, I made it simply affordable for everyone because something this simple being made available for everyone can help spread good things. You can see, I’m not out to get rich on it. This is my “give back.” This spreadsheet is everything every photographer, new and old, needs to make sure they are priced right. Don’t know how to price? This will tell you EXACTLY how to price. Whether your business model is shoot and burn or boutique, it doesn’t matter, this spreadsheet customizes YOUR business model. Don’t listen to what everyone else says about price – know for yourself… and gain the confidence that you are priced exactly what you need to be for YOUR situation.
Women (not that this doesn’t apply to men but the photography industry is now dominated by women, and I’m a woman, so I would really like to address my fellow women first and foremost). I understand that you tend to be the giver in the household. You feel blessed to be doing something you love and at home with your children. Please value yourself. Value what you do. I don’t care if you are new to photography. The new restaurant owner still has bills to pay and doesn’t discount his food based on the fact that he is new. You work hard. You do a great job… keep this quote in mind.
“The great the artist, the greater the doubt. Perfect confidence is granted to the less talented as a consolation prize” – Robert Hughes
I’m not 100% pleased with my work all the time either and I have been doing this a long time, but you have to separate that from your business decisions. We complain that we are devalued in the workplace and don’t make as much as men do in the workplace. It is because we let this happen. YOU are amazing. YOU are more valuable than you realize.
There is still a market out there for all of you who value yourselves and your time, but you will not find it by lowering your prices and battling in the trenches. When people ask me, “How do I raise my prices?” My first question is, do you count on this income? Do you use this income to pay your mortgage? your bills? Many times the answer is no. My response is “What do you have to lose?” So you may have 2 clients as opposed to 10. So what? Spend your extra time on other things, and when you do work, you are being paid well for it. I have to tell you, I have cut back on my work hours quite a bit these past few months as we have had a lot of family and health issues going on. I have to say, I have been enjoying my family more. I’ve been cooking meals (which I normally didn’t have time for), keeping the house organized, running errands with my teens, and overall, spending more time with them. I’m not sure I want to go back to the stress of being overloaded with work.
Let me leave you with this thought that has been first and foremost in my head as a family member has developed Alzheimers at a young age. Value your time. Time is the most expensive thing on this earth. You will never realize how expensive it is until you run out of it.
So….. would anyone like to see the re-release of Studio Lighting Naturally for Newborns? This updated version is nothing but newborns — only newborns. Working with newborns, lighting, editing, and composites. All updated!!!! If you are interested, you can preorder. We have the preordering price up HERE – $235 includes shipping! You will never see this book at this price again. We’ve reduced as a thank you for the early order as the book will be shipped in approximately three weeks. This offer ends this coming week. Need more information about the book – please go HERE
For those who preordered the Lost Art of Getting Great Images in Camera – we were notified that due to the snow problems in the South, shipping has been delayed until Monday! I am as anxious as you are to see the completed book. You will receive your book next week, no doubt!
Look at these siblings. Seriously, how can you not love this little boy – he was AMAZING with his gorgeous little sister….
Can’t say we haven’t had a very rough winter this year in Maryland. 24 inches in Norrisville with a few more inches coming tonight. Still digging out, but it’s absolutely beautiful this morning….
Well, Erynn is at it again, thought I would share. Yes, indeed, this is her hair color, obviously enhanced just a bit with lighting….
and just to show you, she’s a very happy girl – just has her own style and her own look….
2014 is the year for me to get back to my roots – as I have said, several times this past week
This is a tiny peek at my new project. I will show bits and pieces of the process, and then I will unveil the first of what hopefully will be 12 parts to a themed art exhibit. This will be true mixed media. I used to paint and sculpt when I was much much younger, so it’s great to be digging my hands into this once again, combining my photography with some of my original art. A true mix of light, form, shape, etc. will be developed out of this project.
Ever wonder why I cannot keep my nails nice? Yeah.. ;) Below is the very basic shape taking place… quite a bit more to go. The clay has to remain wet for days as I work with it. Lots of smoothing to do, lots of detail to “chisel”.
I know, you all are looking at this like – what in the world is she doing? I’ve envisioned this for years. I’ve discussed it with only a select few. As I post more on this, you will start seeing it come together and understand where this is going. Promise
I would like to discuss something that has been an issue for quite a while. Copyright.
This is a long one. Grab a cup of coffee and contemplate this out. This is long, but VERY important for businesses, for photographers, and for consumers.
Yes, we know, clients aren’t allowed to use or print photographers’ images unless they have copyright releases, but that’s not what I am going to talk about today.
I’m going to talk about photographers and bloggers and businesses using other copyrighted work.
See this image of my daughter from years ago? This image is one of the most viral and illegally used images I have. I posted this image on flickr back in 2006! I made the mistake of not putting a watermark on it. Not that it matters – it doesn’t matter if an image has a watermark or not, no one is allowed to use it without my written permission. No one is allowed to use any photographers’ images without written permission. Just because it exists online does not make it yours to use!
This image has been stolen over and over and over again. It has been used by other photographers, other businesses, blogs, and even equestrian retail stores online. It has been placed in contests and won (by people who do not own the image of course – not by me!). It has been used as advertisement to sell things (not by me), and it has been defaced countless times with stupid quotations all over it. Besides for the fact that this is a complete embarrassment to my daughter, it is completely wrong for anyone to take an image, online or not, and use it for their own gain, in any way. I can file a suit and receive compensation from anyone who is using this image (and be ready, I’m working on this now for this particular image). So you don’t think you need to pay for an image you are using? think again – look at this. HERE…. Yup, I plan to use compensation I receive from this image for my daughter’s college fund.
Businesses/Organizations Stealing: The problem with businesses stealing and using images is this – they see an image online and want to use it… they push it out in social media and put their own logos or information on the image, and then it gets shared 10,000 times. They have advertised their businesses to over 10,000 people using an image that I created. They have managed to garner free advertising from an image that they did not pay a dime for. This is not okay. Companies and organizations are doing it all the time now. They need to stop. Recently another company wanted to use this image, and I quoted her an amount for one year’s usage. She said, “No thank you. We can hire our own photographer to shoot it for that amount.” Well good. Do it. I doubt you will get the same image. It can take hours to get a child and a horse to cooperate or connect in this way. It can take hours or days just to desensitize a horse to equipment (why did these two cooperate so well together? Because they knew each other for months, and this girl has some major communication abilities with animals). Good luck with that. That’s why there are commercial usage fees that apply to using images for marketing/advertising. A great image sells a product, organization, or business. A great image is worth quite a bit of money. Purchase a great image to represent your business, and you, as a business, will see great return.
Let’s change the direction, now that we have discussed that, there’s another layer of this….. Photographers actually steal from other photographers now….. Isn’t that absurd? Here’s a peek into a recent one.
This past week, someone had recognized one of my images on a photographer’s facebook page. I checked it out. It was a new photographer who had taken an image of mine and placed it on a digital promo piece to advertise her business.
1. This is stealing.
2. This is false advertisement for your customers.
I confronted her about it. She responded with a heart-felt apology and took the image down. Here’s part of what she wrote back to me….
- When starting out my Newborn Photography, I advertised for babies so that I could build my portfolio, I created an advert and eventually found a few mummies that where willing to give a go as it isn’t a popular item to have done where I live. However, with a month or two as you will appreciate, ‘themed’ photo’s can prove popular at different times of the year (ie.christmas-valentines-twins that are never done where I live etc). So I browsed the web ( I didn’t directly go to anyones blog) and located a twin photo that I thought might be suitable for what I was looking for and only used it as it had no markings as an example for promotion etc . . I simply saw it as showing what I was looking for or what I could do … I never once claimed that any of these items belonged to me. I would always reference the babies names etc of who I am using in my promotions. I probably shouldn’t have used these images at all ( i know that now ). I know its wrong to take someone elses work and claim it as your own but thats not what I did.
That last part *sigh*
YES IT IS. This is exactly what you did. You did not have a twin picture that you wanted to advertise, so you took one from the internet that wasn’t yours in order to draw customers in from it. Customers look at a portfolio or promo piece and assume, rightfully, that the image was taken by the photographer advertising it.
Even if an image does not have a mark on it, it is not yours. It is not yours to take, and it is not yours to use to falsely advertise to your potential customers. Whether you understand that now, but didn’t before or not, it doesn’t change what happened. There is no excuse as a photographer to take an image and use it that does not belong to you. Period.
CONSUMERS: This is happening ALL. THE. TIME. Check out the PHOTO STEALERS site. Corey does her best to post what she can, but she is bombarded daily with the amount of reports of photographers stealing or violating copyrights (and meanwhile, they want you as consumers to respect theirs).
So how do you find photographers that are established (although hey, we have seen even established photographers steal or violate copyrights, so this isn’t a fool-proof list)?
- Really look at a photographer’s portfolio. Notice if the same faces keep showing up throughout – that usually is a red flag that they do not have many clients, so therefore not established. That’s still okay, but dig deeper. Notice whether or not the work is consistent. Do you see a really bad image and then a really good one? That is the #1 way that we find out whether or not a photographer has stolen images.
- Do some digging. Look at bio pages and see how long they have been in business and whether or not they have some credentials or history of some sort to back them up. Go on their blog and see how long they have been blogging.
- Is the photographer trying to give away photography? Do you see desperation in their posts: Mini-sessions done every other week, free “casting calls” constantly? This usually signals that a photographer does not have a regular or full client base and not established.
- Trust your gut. If something is too good to be true, it probably is.
What to know if any of your images have been stolen? Use Google Images or Tineye. Here’s a quick result from Google Images on my image above: Yes. You better believe, I will be sending DMCA takedowns after acquiring screenshots and invoices for payment for use of the images.
282 results of people using this image without my permission. Here’s a screencap of a few.
BLOGGERS and BUSINESSES: Don’t think lawsuits can happen to you as a blogger? They can. And I encourage photographers to follow up on this. Check out what happened to Roni, this Blogher, HERE….
Another call out to this PHOTOGRAPHY industry: Stop stealing. Please. Just stop stealing. You claim you have talent? Use it to make beautiful images. You should not be a business overnight. It can take YEARS to develop your craft and talent. Use those years first to practice making beautiful images, and THEN you can consider going into business. Enjoy the process. Stop trying to fake it til you make it. You are hurting yourself as an artist and you are hurting your potential clients.