Today’s question is from Helen who asks:
Table of Contents
- Question: Upgrade camera equipment or reinvest money into the business?
- Reinvesting back into your photography business
- 3rd party marketing
- Update your branding
- New wordpress hosting
- Connect with other photographers
- Updating your camera and computer equipment
- Update your camera & lenses
- Buying new equipment to enter new photography markets
- Backup system upgrade
Question: Upgrade camera equipment or reinvest money into the business?
After a couple of years in business I have saved up a small amount of money. Should I invest the money back into my photography business or buying new equipment to update aging cameras and computer equipment.
We discuss the topics –
Where you can spend money in your business to get someone kind of return. either by reinvesting or upgrading your current equipment.
Reinvesting back into your photography business
- Using Studiopress sites to update your existing WordPress site so you don’t have to worry about updates, backups and security. Learn more about StudioPress Sites here
- Advertising such as google adwords to get more leads
- Paying other people to help you in your business
- Branding e.g. new Logo
- Take someone out for coffee to network
Updating your camera and computer equipment
- Gaining more confidence in your photography by upgrading you camera
- Buying new equipment for added cash flow
- Increasing your productivity with a faster computer
- Investing in your Back up system
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Hey Helen, thanks for your question, and it’s great that you’ve saved up a little bit of cash. It means that your business is making a profit, which is awesome.
Now, what would I do? I would actually reinvest back into the business, only because I would try to maximise my profits. If I’m buying new camera equipment or computers, it would mean that I may not see the results straight away.
Whereas if I was to say, do something like advertising, I could hopefully get a return on my money. But having said that though, everyone’s different.
I’m not too sure what type of equipment you have, or how old your computer equipment is, so what I’ll do today is just go through the things that you potentially can spend your money on, and just talk through some of the things that can come from that.
Reinvesting back into your photography business
I’ll start with investing back into the business, and what I would do is advertising.
I really like Google AdWords, the fact that I can set up ads and bid for certain keywords within my local area. And as we all know, when you want to go find something, you always jump on Google, right? So, it’s one way that you can get results quite quickly, or leads quite quickly, without having to do a whole heap of work.
Now having said that though, you can’t just set and forget Google Ads, or any ads that is. Facebook included, Instagram and Pinterest, and all that stuff. You’ve got to keep on top of it, so if you don’t, you can end up spending a lot, a lot of money.
Because in effect what you’re doing with say Google Ads, is you’re bidding for a keyword. It could be like New York wedding photographer. It could be portraits New York. Whatever it may be, right? And, there’s obviously other photographers bidding for the same thing. The more people that bid, the higher the cost of the price of that keyword.
I’ve seen wedding keywords go as high as 10 dollars or so, depending on the time of year. A couple of years back, I noticed that, and obviously I did not bid for that, because what in fact was happening, is that if you are successful in that bid, and the customer had clicked on your link, your ad, which is in the top four spots of when you search for something, you in effect … If you were bidding for this particular keyword which was 10 dollars, you had to pay Google 10 dollars just for them to come to your website.
What happens if they jump straight off the website, or didn’t even make it to your website, because your website’s slow? So, that’s just something you just need to be on top of, and have … I guess all your ducks in a row, I guess I’m trying to say. So basically, everything working for you.
So with Google AdWords, I find that it’s actually quite successful, in the sense that you’re not having to do a whole heap of work. You don’t have to go out and meet and greet people.
You can do it from the comfort of your home, if not on your couch, if you have an iPad or a tablet, and you can set up your accounts from there, which is great. But, you just need to keep on top of them, and making sure that you’re not paying too much for keywords.
If the keywords are bigger than your budget, doing a budget of say 20 dollars a day which, you’re not necessarily going to use all that budget. But, I find that if I set my budgets to 20, 30 dollars a day, over the course of the month, I’m spending basically about a hundred and something dollars a month, which I’m giving to Google.
So, it’s about 1200 dollars, maybe a little bit more a year, that I’m spending on ads just for wedding and my portrait side of the business.
These type of ads will get you a client that’s looking for your photography. Well, photography in that genre that you’ve got there.
Now, the thing is, is that you’ve just got to be careful, because the client may be only in the beginning of their searching for a photographer, which once you become comfortable with ads in general, you can up your game by doing retargeting.
What that means is when they come to your website, you put a cookie in their browser by putting some code on your website, and that makes the browser pick up a cookie that basically follows them around the internet.
And when they go to websites that run ads, they’ll be running your ads, and I find that I get a lot of my leads from these re targeted ads. I’ve tried Facebook, I’ve tried Google, and I find Google works quite well, because the reach is a little bit further than Facebook. So, that’s what I would do in regards to the advertising.
3rd party marketing
You could also do marketing, so third party marketing is what comes to mind. And, that’s like using another business other than your own to gain leads. So, if you’re a portrait photographer and … Say for instance, you were interested in photographing kids and their families.
You could team up with say, a dentist. So you know, giving out vouchers to all the kids that have their braces taken off. And what would happen is that kids at that stage really want photos of themselves, because as soon as they get them off, they’re more confident, and they’re a bit more sure of themselves, and that’s a great time for them to want to take photos.
The other thing you could try is maybe a vet, families with pets take photos down at the park with their dogs, that could be another avenue. Even a children’s clothing store of a particular age group. It could be toddlers, or it could be the teens, that type of thing.
And basically, what you’re doing is approaching the small business, and it’s ideal that you deal with the small business, because usually when you find it’s a large organisation, they’re probably going to say no.
But, the bonus for the business is that they’re giving their clients something for free, and it shows that they’re giving value to them.
So if they’re spending a bit of money with them, they’re saying, “Hey, as a valued customer, I’m going to give you a free portrait session.”
And basically, what you’re going to do is maybe give away your sitting free for nothing, and also maybe give a free print, which … You could say, “Hey, I’m giving 250 dollars worth of value for nothing. Here’s a free portrait session.”
You take their portraits, and when it comes to the sales session, you’re obviously giving their free print. It could be something quite small, like a five by seven, four by six, whatever it may be.
And then, your job from there on is to upsell them to something bigger. A bigger print, canvas, albums, a bigger package, whatever it may be.
That’s how you’ll actually make money from there. You will of course get people that will take just the print and nothing else, that’s fine. So, you’re working on numbers here, and every promotion’s different. So, don’t get held up that five people have taken the print, and no one else.
But, once you do make the money, it actually will be quite substantial for you. So, that’s advertising and also a bit of marketing for you.
Update your branding
The other thing is to maybe change your branding and your website. So, if you’ve been a business for a few years, up your game a little bit. A little bit of freshness to your website, maybe bring it up to date if it’s a little bit out of date. You can get a new logo from fiverr.com, that works quite well.
New wordpress hosting
Also, getting a new hosting provider, or a new theme. So, companies such as StudioPress, which have a product called StudioPress Sites. And what that is, that’s a managed WordPress website, so they look after the server, they look after the backups of your server, they look after the security of your server, they look at the updating of your WordPress installation.
So, your dealing with your website has been lowered, because you’re paying somebody a monthly fee to do that, which allows you to get back into the business, and deal with the things that you’re good at.And speaking of the things that you’re good at, if you are not good at something, or you just loth, just hate doing it, hire somebody.
Well, what about a sales session? If you know that your sales could be better, because you just don’t like doing sales, you find that they’re icky, or you’re just not good with people in that sense when it comes to selling something, hire somebody.
Hire someone, and make it a performance-based thing. So, the more sales they do, the more percentage they get. Also, maybe if you don’t like photo editing, or even some of the customer service, hire somebody to do that. You can outsource the editing to someone, you can have somebody come into your office and do the editing. You can even get somebody to do your customer service, answer emails, to do some of the filing, that type of thing.
Also, to invest back in your business, by taking out people that are of significance within your area of photography. So, you hear wedding photographers take out the vendors. They could be people that help them get new clients, like the establishments where people get married. So, it could be a venue, a wedding venue. Also, taking up people that … I don’t know, that’s people like celebrants, or other photographers. You learn from these people. Taking them out for coffee, it’s not going to cost you a lot, even if they get something to eat. 20 dollars, 30 dollars, it’s not a big investment. You learn about them, they also learn about you, so they’ll want to actually refer you to people.
Connect with other photographers
Also, if you build connections with other photographers, that could potentially give you jobs when they’re busy. Also, you could learn about the business side from other photographers.
Talking about what works for you, or what doesn’t work. It’s a great way of networking, and just building these relationships.
It’s interesting, where I’ve received business over the years, I’ve told people that I’m a photographer. But, some of the people that have hired me for the types of photography, I didn’t actually think of doing. Things like real estate photography, or even head shots.
And they’re all types of photography that I’m starting to pursue now in the slower months, which have worked. A little bit of extra cash flow is not a bad thing. So, that’s something to think about.
Updating your camera and computer equipment
Now, in regards to equipment. So, I mentioned before that I would invest into the business. That’s a given, because I want to get something back. But, there is a time and place that I think investing in your equipment will benefit you.
Update your camera & lenses
A little while ago, I used to use a camera, that as soon as I hit the 1600 ISO mark, it was just really grainy. And I found that if I was to crop a little bit into the photo when I was post-processing, it just looked garbage.
For one thing, it lowered my confidence with my camera equipment, which meant that I didn’t feel confident as to where I was going to photograph, and I always wanted to be taking photos in a more brightly lit area.
Which is not a bad thing, but it’s just more the fact that I wasn’t being creative enough, is what I’m trying to say. So it’s very bland, the ways I was taking photos, because I just used my camera in a certain way, because I knew it was a safe photo, and I would get the quality that I wanted.
And so when I upgraded, because I didn’t upgrade my straight away, I waited a couple of models. But, when I did, the difference was huge.
The difference in photo quality, I could go to a higher ISO and therefore push some of the photos that I was trying to take, experiment a little bit better.
And, my clients were happy with the photos too, because they saw that I was taking, the type of photos were a bit more … Not edgy, but a little bit more different than what I was before, and therefore they were getting a different set of photos to what they were used to, which worked really well in my favour.
Upgrading your camera just because something comes out, I find that camera manufacturers … As you know, these manufacturers want to make money, so they release products on a regular timeline.
And just because they release a product, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should buy it. Sometimes, the difference between features is very minimal.
So therefore, waiting one or two models is probably more benefit to you. And by then, the camera technology would have increased enough, that you’ll see the bigger benefits for your business.
Getting new lenses is sometimes a good thing, because the type of lenses that you used may have served you well a few years back. But, as you’ve progressed with your photography, and maybe photographing in different conditions, there may be better lenses for that.
So, if you’re doing more night, or more photography that’s in poorly lit areas, instead of using flash, then having something that’s like a prime lens, it’s like a 1.4, or 1.2, or 2.8, if you haven’t got those lenses already, could be a good investment for you, because therefore you’ll be taking more keepers at the end of the day, so you can process them.
And also, processing of the photos would be better, because there’d be less grain, and you’ll feel more confident in your ability.
Will it make you a better photographer? Not really, but it will help you along the way, and give you that confidence to maybe try new things. And therefore, that’s how you’ll become a better photographer, because you’re trying new things.
Buying new equipment to enter new photography markets
The other thing would be to actually buy new equipment that you may have not had before.
And as I alluded to a little bit before, when clients were asking me to do a different type of photography I was normally used to, things like head shots, getting an external flash, just one flash, softbox, and a background. And, that gave me extra revenue, which was excellent.
It gave me different things to think about, about my photography. And, when there was the quiet times, so the cooler months, I could promote that side of my business, to get more clients and more money.
Now lastly, in regards to your computers. The last thing we want to be doing is spending hours and hours and hours processing our photos, when we could do it in half the time, or even a quarter of the time, because of our slow computers.
I had a five year old computer that I was using with Lightroom, and I just loathed using Lightroom, because it was a pain in the butt.
It was really painful, it got to the point where I just went back to Photoshop exclusively. And yeah, it wasn’t as quick, because I couldn’t apply all these different presets. Even though I had actions, I found the automation in Photoshop to be a little bit clunky.
Now, when I upgraded my computer, a few things happened. One, I upgraded my computer, and it meant that I was not stuck on USB 1. I could actually use USB 3, and therefore I had a new card reader, which downloaded my photos a lot faster. 32 gigs of raw files in like 10 minutes, if that.
Then, importing of the files. From 40 minutes to like 15 minutes. So, there was just all this time that I spent trying to process and wait for my computer, it just drove me nuts.
And, now that I could actually ingest the photos into Lightroom, or add them into Lightroom, and edit the photos at the same time, and have very minimal degradation in performance on my computer is beautiful, because my workflow has literally almost halved by doing so.
That, and of course an efficient workflow had really, really worked wonders for the whole process, and I enjoyed editing again, and it was really, really good.
Backup system upgrade
Now, here’s one thing that’s probably very, very important. We just talked about upgrading the computer because of productivity.
One thing you should upgrade is your backup system. If you have a backup system that is nonexistent, or is failing you, or is almost out of date because you’ve neglected it, you should stop everything else and spend money on that first.
So, a simple backup system would be having a copy on your computer, then having an external hard drive that has the same.
Then, you have a third copy, either in the Cloud, so things like Dropbox, Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive. They’re free.
But also, if you want to add more photos past that threshold, you pay, that’s fine. That’s one way, because it’s in the Cloud, it’s offsite. If you don’t want to have anything in the Cloud, then get another external hard drive, which is a copy of the desktop.
You take it to somewhere that’s offsite. It’s not on the same piece of land that your desktop or laptop computer is.
So, you’re left with three copies. You’ve got one for your computer, one is an external hard drive that you keep somewhere within the house.
And then a third one, which is somewhere else. It could be a friends place, it could be another office, it could be a safe deposit box. I’ll leave that up to you. But, you need to have backup as a professional, and that’s definitely one place that I would be spending my money, if I didn’t have a proper backup system.
So there you go Helen, there’s some things to think about. I hope some things jumped out at you, and you can consider for your business. Thanks for your question, and I hope that helps you.