CHAPTER 9-: This is the ninth chapter of “The Complete Guide to Starting a Photography Business.” – Photography businesses are of a diverse nature. Some are focused more towards providing a service, others are based more on manufacturing photography products or commodities that can be easily marketed in retail outlets. Regardless of which direction your photography business takes, there is one common thing that you have to focus all your attention, money and energy in, and that is the ordeal of setting up a photography inventory for your business.
Just like any other business in the world, whether it is in the tertiary sector or the manufacturing sector, photography businesses too are in need of inventory. The word inventory may sound a little too fancy for you to comprehend and relate it to the photography business, and thus you can refer to inventory as simply camera gear and photography equipment.
The Importance of Buying Your Own Photography Inventory
The need to have your own inventory when you are starting out your own photography business cannot simply be stressed enough. You do have the option of renting cameras, accessories and other related equipment from time to time, but that will reflect poorly on your business ethics and professionalism. All the photography businesses that have attained success in the industry have done so because their owners firmly believed in the need to invest in inventory.
Your start-up funds may not be very heavy during the initial stages of your business, but the majority amount that you have must be spent in purchasing state of the art inventory that will allow you to provide the best service and products to your clients. Being stingy or miserly with your investments on inventory will be a sign of compromising on the quality of your products and services.
Given how intense the competition in the market, if you are churning out sub standard products and services, then chances are that the consumers in your sector of the industry will not take you seriously and will simply give up on your business even before it has had a chance to bloom. Such is the significant of having high quality camera, accessories and related equipment.
a. Quality of Inventory Affects Photography Ability
One of the biggest mistakes made by budding entrepreneurs in the photography industry is making the assumption that upper tier or upper echelon camera and photography equipment are not required to earn success in the photography industry.
According to their theories which lack the touch of expertise and experience, the skill level of the photographers in a photography business alone is enough to determine how successful a photography business will turn out to be. While there is no denying the notion that it’s not the camera that makes the photographer, but it’s the photographer that makes the camera, you still need to take into consideration the fact that ability of a photographer will be greatly limited or stunted in the absence of adequate photography equipment.
b. Race Car and Driver Analogy
It is a situation that is somewhat comparable to race car drivers. When you are watching motorsports, you will notice that the very best drivers in the industry are fitted into the very best motor vehicles that the industry has to offer. Why is that? Why cannot these insanely talented drivers simply drive a saloon car and win the race?
The reason is because winning the INDY 500 or a Formula Race is logically impossible with a saloon car. The drivers need specialized and race optimized motor vehicles to get them across the finishing line ahead of others. Regardless of how proficient a driver is, it is not humanly possible for any person to compete with motor vehicles that have the capacity to move at speeds in excess of 200 miles an hour with a saloon car that can hardly reach speeds of 120 miles an hour.
In other words, placing a championship winning driver in a mediocre non racing vehicle will put him or her in a serious disadvantage which cannot be overturned under normal circumstances. The exact same principle applies to photographers.
c. Provide Photographers with Ideal Inventory
You can hire the best photographers in the world and make them a part of your business, but unless you allow them to use technologically advanced cameras available in the modern market, they will be in no position to provide better services and products than the photographers employed by your competitors or rivals.
The Need for Research Work
There are two specific things that you need to do before you go out to procure the equipment and cameras needed to build a proper photography business inventory. The first thing that you are required to do is a lot of research work. Similar to how a professional photographer will spent hours and days surfing through content posted in online websites and in magazines to seek out the very best cameras in the market, you too as the owner of a photography business are required to conduct a thorough and comprehensive research on all the cameras and the equipment that have the potential of letting your photographers shine while completing the assignments of your clientele.
The Need to Economize
The second thing that you need to do is find out ways in which you can purchase the best camera and equipment without pushing your budget to the limit, let alone crossing the boundaries set by your budget. It is extremely important that you do not overspend while trying to set up the perfect inventory. Investing in cameras and equipment of good quality does not give you the license to go on a shopping spree.
You need to spend your money wisely and make cost effective decisions at every turn. Look for discounts and offers in retail outlets and wholesale stores (depending on your demands and the amount of goods that you need to procure). Try to build up a connection with the suppliers of your inventory. This helps you to buy goods at a far lower price and also receive the assurance of not being ripped off or cheated by your supplier.
Remember, the cameras and equipment that will best serve your business operations and your photographers need not be the most expensive products in the market. It is important that you maintain a balance when trying to procure your inventory. The key is to spend just enough to ensure that the products you have purchased will deliver the goods when being used on the field.
Inventory Varies with Photography Niche
The kind of inventory that you set up, or in other words the kind of cameras and equipment that you buy will vary with the needs and nature of your photography business. The cameras that are required in a wedding photography business are certainly not the same that are used in a photography business that covers pet photography.
As mentioned before, a photography business can operate under a number of different labels and in a plethora of different forms. Whether it is a portrait studio, wedding photography establishment, product photography agency or simply a photography school, each photography business requires its own kind of equipment.
Therefore, when you are conducting your research on the most suitable types of cameras and equipment out there, make sure that your research is conducted from the perspective of your photography background. For example, if you are the owner of a wedding photography business, then make sure that your research work is confined within the subject of wedding photography.
This will save you an incredible amount of time and will also allow you to focus your research work towards the particular niche where you are trying to make a name for yourself and your business. Once you have figured out the type or combination of types of photography that you want your business to specialize in, you can then focus on your plans to set up an inventory.
The 5 Essential Photography Inventory Items/ Equipment You Need
Regardless of the background of your photography business or the niche that you are adhering to, there are certain pieces of inventory that are common to all kinds of photography businesses. These are camera, lenses, processing system, lighting, tripod and a host of other miscellaneous items that are a must have in any photography business.
1. Digital Camera
Choosing the right camera is certainly not the easiest job in the world. Much of the research work that you have to go through prior to setting up your inventory will be focused on finding out which cameras will provide the best value to your business. It is not nearly as simple as picking the most expensive camera in the shop and hoping that it will yield dividends.
There are countless things that you need to take into consideration, one which is determining whether or not your camera is compatible with the skills of your photographer. If there is an absence of compatibility, then your photographers will fail to make the best use of the cameras.
Coming back to the example of the race car driver, sometimes it is not just about putting the best driver in the best car. It is about building a harmony between the two and developing the chemistry between the driver and the car so that both of them can perform to their full potential. The case with photographers and cameras are pretty much the same.
As the owner of a photography business, you need to handpick those cameras which fit the style of your photographers and which are most convenient for use in the eyes of your photographers. Only then can you expect your photographers to be at the top of their game.
What Type Of Camera Do You Need?
If you were a professional photographer at some point in your career, then you must be fully aware of the fact that point-and-shoot cameras will hardly be of any use to the professional photographers that you have employed in your business. You need to give all your pros what they truly deserve and that is a single lens reflex camera or a SLR camera.
With the SLR in their hands, your photographers will have the ability to capture exactly what they see on their viewfinder. SLRS are so significant to success in photography nowadays that most clients will probably reject your services unless you can prove to them that your photographers are proficient with SLR cameras. In the eyes of most customers, SLR cameras are a symbol of photographic excellence, and although that may not necessarily be the case for all fields of photography, there is no harm in you taking advantage of this misguided perception of the general masses as long as it helps you to channel money towards your business.
What is the Camera Brand to Buy?
As far as which brand is the best when it comes to buying cameras, you have quite a puzzling situation to handle. This is because almost everyone, starting from the 13 year old amateur photographer to the veteran professional photographer who has spent decades in the industry, seems to have an opinion on which brand makes the best cameras.
Since you are not expected to take the advice of amateurs as the owner of a business, your safest bet is to ask the professionals on what they think is the best brand at the moment. You’ll get to hear the names of a number of different brands, and although you may feel slightly overwhelmed by the choices, having a wide pool of brands to choose from can actually turn out to be a good thing for you as the owner of a photography business.
If there are more brands competing for the top spot in the photography industry, then it means that photography business owners like you will have the chance to avail high quality cameras at very reasonable prices. Make sure you keep the needs of your business in mind when selecting a brand.
For instance, if your business is involved in wildlife photography, you may need cameras that have a high shutter speed. In the case of portraiture, going for cameras that have an impressive megapixel count may do the trick. You do not always have to opt for the high-tech digital cameras to produce the best work. Sometimes, in the case of picturing art, you can resort to the old school film cameras instead of the digital cameras. At the end of the day, the key is to align the needs of your business with the features of your camera.
2. Camera Lenses
When it comes to SLR cameras, the lenses are just as important as the cameras themselves. The manner in which your photographers change, alter, switch and swap the lenses to acclimatize your camera with the environment will prove how efficient and proficient they are in their work.
Choosing the Best Camera Lenses to Buy
Similar to choosing the cameras, the type of work your business is engaged in will determine the kind of lenses that you need. If your business is built around wildlife photography, sports photography or adventure photography, then your photographers need to make use of telephoto or zoom lenses.
In the case of landscape photography, you need to purchase wide angle lenses, which as the name suggests, are perfect for capturing wide expanses of land masses. These lenses can also prove to be quite useful when taking team or class photos. For portraiture, the lenses that you would want to count on are mid-range lenses.
Then again, there are a host of other unconventional and innovative lenses which may prove to be highly useful when dealing with the assignments set by your clients. Among them, you have speciality lenses such as fish-eye, extreme telephoto, night vision and image stabilizing lenses.
Artificial lighting is a must have for every photography business. You may not require artificial light all the times, as is the case with product photography, but there will be times when you need it to enhance the quality of the image that your photographers are capturing and producing.
For example, if you have clients that require you to take photographs at night, then you may want to purchase strong strobe flashlights. Then again, you may be assigned work where you will be required to use remote-firing flash lights. If your photography business operates in a studio, then a stationary lighting system will be required. Last but not the least, indoor photography may require you to use flash lighting of various colours.
4. Processing System
Following the procurement of the camera and the lenses, you need to set your sights on getting the processing system of your photographic works absolutely spot on. The pictures that you capture in your camera must be transferred to a display medium in order for them to be sold or distributed to paying clients. This display medium can either be in the form of film or the internet.
Without a processing system, you will not be able to transfer the photographs from one medium to the other. In the case of film cameras, you will need to own or rent a dark room to develop the films. With digital cameras, the transfer of photographs is much easier since you will only need a computer installed with a photo editing program and a photo-quality printer to get your job done.
What Type of Processing System Do You Need?
Similar to choosing the camera, lenses and the lighting, the type of photography that your business is engaged in will go on to determine the kind of processing system you require. In other words, the computer, the software and the printer that you select will vary depending upon the niche of your photography. There are certain programs which are pre-packaged with generic computers and then there are those which are of a more exclusive nature and thus are priced heavily.
Refrain from buying the most expensive products unless you have a specific need for its features. Photo printers, similar to computers, come in a number of different sizes and quality, and the ones that you will buy should match the needs of your business.
Selecting tripods for your photographers is nowhere near as tough an ordeal as selecting cameras, lenses and processing systems. Once you have purchased those items, you can afford to take a breather and have a more relaxed approach to buying your tripods. All tripods serve the same function of keeping your camera steady, but as is the case with any product, some tripods serve the purpose better than others. Tripods are available in a moderate range of sizes and a wide range of prices. Some come fitted with features such as waterproof ability and portability. Buy according to what is best for your budget and your requirements.
Depending on the kind of niche that you have selected for your photography equipment, you may need a variety of miscellaneous photography equipment and accessories to take the quality of your images up a grade. For example, you can purchase a remote control to trigger the shutter of the camera automatically without causing it to shake. Sometimes you may need an underwater adapter if the subject of your work involves aquatic wildlife. If much of your work is done inside a studio, you will need a studio and a background cloth. You can also consider investing in some lens filters especially when your business is operating in places where the conditions are beyond your control.