As you know I’m a photographer in my heart, but I also have another job
For those of you that know me pretty well, today I celebrate a milestone. This is year number five of my (somewhat) lucrative career working as a mechanic. I had no idea I would end up doing this, considering I went to school for communications. Turns out my niche was on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.
How did it all start? Well, I got what I thought was my dream job right out of college, but found out quickly that I absolutely hate working in a cubicle. In fact, it only took a year for me to figure out that almost all of the jobs that I qualified for with my degree were jobs that I really couldn’t see myself doing for a long period of time. Whoops, wish I would have figured that out earlier.
Well, a good friend of mine told me that his place was hiring a person to work on the large industrial machines in the factory he’d been working at since high school. These machines are massive…presses that are twenty feet tall, CNC machines that can cut about anything you could need, giant conveyors, robots, you name it. Well I didn’t have a ton of experience but I had a good work ethic so they gave me a chance.
After about six months, I was finally in the full swing of things and discovered that I really liked getting my hands dirty. Something about fixing things just satisfies an innermost craving I have. I guess I could say it brings out my inner caveman. Either way, I had finally found something I loved, and knew I would stay here for a long period of time.
I love this job, and I definitely love the tools I get to play with on a daily basis. One of the coolest things I have at my disposal are hydraulic torque wrenches by TorqLite. This thing is pretty small compared to what it can do. I hook it up to a hydraulic power unit, hit a button, and this baby can drive a bolt with tens of thousands of pounds of torque. I think it’s the fact that I have this kind of power at my disposal that makes me glad I work here. Like I said, this job brings out my inner caveman and every time I get to play with something as powerful as this, it’s like I rediscover fire.
I am in the process of remodeling my house and it has been nothing but easy. I keep hitting these little roadblocks and I’m starting to get pretty frustrated over the whole deal. I wish I was rich so I could afford to have somebody else do all the work for me but sadly that isn’t the case. I’m hoping the next room I work on will go smoother than what I have done so far. I’m going to be working on my office and am going to keep it simple. I bought a bunch of wire shelves to hang up to keep things tidy in there for starters. I also bought a new computer desk and chair and am going to add some art to the walls and that’s about it. I thought about putting up new wallpaper in there too but the fact is I’m not in there enough to justify doing that. I have both a laptop and netbook now and am rarely on my computer.
After the office I’m going to tackle probably my biggest project in this whole thing and that is my kitchen. I doubt you want to hear my plans for that but I’m going to tell you anyways. First off I’m removing all the cabinets. They are old and need to go. I already have some new ones picked out because I like to plan ahead. I am also getting a new granite table top which I can’t wait to have. The old kitchen table and chair are also going although I haven’t picked out anything new to replace them.
Last but not least is my downstairs. My friend Mark has a man-cave in his basement and I want to try to replicate that. It wont be exactly the same of course but it’ll be close. I want to get the same sized TV that he has and the same sectional couch. I have spent many of nights on that couch of his so I know it is nice. I won’t however be putting in a pool table like he has. I was never a big fan of shooting pool although I will do it on occasion. I should probably be honest and say I don’t like it because I am downright terrible at it. I can never make any balls unless I get lucky and the way my friends play those lucky shots don’t count.
You know what one of the best parts about digital photography is? It’s not the fact that you can immediately see your pictures as soon as you taken them (as opposed to having to wait to develop the film). It’s not the ease with which you can digitally edit a photo. Both of those things are cool, don’t misunderstand, but my favorite part is the the fact that everything is digital and that means storing your photos is simple.
I have shoeboxes and albums full of pictures from back in the day when I used a real camera with real film. I should really go through and scan all those pictures one day, but in the meantime they’ll just stay in the albums.
But now that everything goes directly to my hard drive, I can do whatever I want with it, I can save the original, and I can send copies to everyone. If you want a copy of an actual photograph you have to develop the negatives into another picture, which takes money and time. If the pic is on my computer and I want another copy of it, I just copy and paste it and I’m done. It’s much easier!
The other thing that’s easier about keeping pictures on your hard drives is it’s easier to back them up. If you lose the negatives for an original picture you’re pretty much out of luck (well I mean you can scan the picture and have a copy of it that way, but then that’s crossing into the computer realm). I’ve also been looking for an online backup for all my pictures (just in case something happens to my computer). There’s always a cloud backup, you know, “the cloud”, which is basically just a fancy term for the internet. Here’s a Zipcloud review which is one such service. Basically they keep your data on their servers so if you lose your computer or your hard drive crashes or whatever you still have a backup copy. It’s kind of a cool idea, and also makes it kind of convenient since you can access your files from anywhere, so like if I’m vising a friend and want to show them something I wouldn’t have to bring my computer or external hard drive with me or anything. Just something to consider.
Of course, there is still something to be said for old school photography, it’s just that using digital cameras is easier so it’s no wonder they’re so popular.
I remember about 15-20 years ago when the internet wasn’t widespread like it is now. In the early 90′s I discovered bulletin boards. You’d call up a bulletin board with your modem and access everything through a text-based interface. Bulletin boards were awesome. They had a basic form of email (you could send messages to other users of that board) and users could share files with each other. I remember getting a bunch of shareware games from them. It was actually really cool though because sometimes game developers would upload their own games there, too. The only problem was that you had to make sure the numbers you dialed weren’t long distance or you might get a big phone bill!
I remember when the internet started becoming widespread. I had a trial; one month free. I gave it a try with my dial up modem and I was hooked! This was in the days before Google, of course, so I would hop over to Alta Vista or Excite and search for whatever I wanted. Most of the results were fan pages. It wasn’t like it is now where everyone is trying to sell you stuff and there are ads all over everything. The early days of the commercial internet were just people with like interests talking and sharing information with each other.
I remember in the late 90′s and early 2000′s in university when we had classes on how the internet was going to transform the world. You have to keep in mind that most people there, and especially the teachers, weren’t internet “nerds” like I was. Some of them were just getting their first email address ever through the university. We had classes about how the internet could revolutionize business by providing and outlet to sell goods and services without having to actually pay rent on a physical store location. We studied Amazon.com and some of the teachers said they weren’t comfortable ordering books online. I remember sharing with them my brilliant strategy of going to a brick and mortar bookstore to find the books I wanted, and then ordering them online to save money.
Now I use the internet for even more. I pay my bills online. I spend countless hours online researching stuff (much of which is just for fun). I talk to other people on forums devoted to many of my hobbies: photography, music, cars, etc. Of course, there’s YouTube, which needs no explanation. I can even stock my wardrobe online from many of the online clothes shopping Australia sites. There’s eBay where I have bought (and sold) a lot of stuff. There are review sites for everything. I cannot even tell you how many new bands I have discovered online that I never would’ve heard of otherwise.
So yeah, there’s all the cool business stuff. My professors were right about that. But I think it’s even more impressive in its use for sharing information around the world.
One of my best friends from the US is kind of freaking out right now. He just sent me this email:
“I am not too happy with myself right now. I got pulled over the other night and got charged with a DUI and am sort of freaking out about it. I don’t know what is going to happen but I do know that I am going to be paying a lot of money. I also was reading online that I might have to do community service and counseling and the counseling is not free. This just couldn’t come at a worse time for me financially. I have a huge medical bill from earlier this year that is looming over me like a dark storm cloud. I also will be starting to pay child support in a few months when my son is born. I’m no longer together with his mother in case you couldn’t figure that one out. We broke up about a month ago and I’ll save that story for another time as it is something I don’t want to talk about right now.
I know that I’m going to need to hire a good lawyer to represent me in court. I found sarasotaduiattorney.net and I am going in to talk with them next week about my case. I don’t think I can beat it but I’m not a lawyer. I do know that I wasn’t that much over the limit and it wasn’t like I caused an accident or anything like that. The reason I got pulled over to begin with was stupid. I was trying to put a CD in to listen to and dropped it on the floor. When I reached down to pick it up I swerved just enough for the cop three cars behind me to pull me over. I should have just stuck to listening to the radio but every single preset was commercials.
I know that I’ll never again in my life get behind the wheel even after one drink. I know this first DUI is going to be bad but a second one from what my friend Kevin said is a lot worse. He should know because he has two on his record. I remember when he got his second one I had to drive him around everywhere. That was back when we lived really close which is no longer the case. He moved like an hour away a few years ago and we still stay in touch with one another.”
I know my friend is a good guy and I wish him the best in dealing with this situation.
I was recently invited to a beach to do some photography for a friend. He’s compiling a scrapbook of his life and wanted to get some shots of himself surfing. At first I wasn’t sure what I thought of his idea, but then I realized I actually really liked it. It made me think of some of the times in my life that I’ve really enjoyed, like much of my experience in university, where looking back upon them I realize I wish I had taken more picture of myself and my friends. I actually do have an album full of pics from school, but like 90% of them are from Freshman year, and then for some reason there aren’t really that many more from later years. This was back in a time before digital cameras were common and most people didn’t even have a cell phone (much less a phone with a camera on it), so I’m talking about actual photographs. I did a lot of stuff and had a lot of fun, but it never really occurred to me to take pictures of it, and now all I have are memories instead of actual pictures.
So I was just like, that’s a good idea, mate. Not only will he have a lot of personal memories for himself, but he’ll be able to share them with friends and family as well.
So anyway, we get to the beach, and I’m pretty excited for this because I really don’t have any experience with surfing other than occasionally seeing some people do it every now and again. The shoot went well, but it also sparked an interest in me to learn how to surf.
It was one of those things where you don’t realize just quite how awesome it is before you actually experience it. Sure, I’d seen people surfing and sure it looked cool or whatever, but actually being there with my friend who was really into it and feeling the energy that goes with it already has me completely hooked. It’s kind of like when you first go to a nightclub for the first time and actually feel the energy there. You can’t explain it to someone who hasn’t experienced it.
So this summer I will be heading to a Costa Rica surf camp and taking lessons, and hopefully getting someone to take pics of me, and I think I’m totally going to copy my friend’s idea and start taking more pics of the things I do so I’ll have some pictures to go with the memories.
Camera equipment is expensive; it’s no secret. This is also the reason why many people avoid getting into this adventure that we call photography beyond just taking casual photographs with their cellphones. If I would have been writing this blog post 10 years ago I’d replace “cellphones” with “entry-level digital cameras.” The cameras on some cell phones today are better than digital cameras from just over 10 years ago.
Two things come to mind about this. First, I remember the first digital camera I ever saw. It was in 1999 and this camera actually took 3.5″ disks. Like you actually inserted them into the camera itself and it saved the pictures on there. The pics were really low resolution by today’s standards but they were awesome at the time. It was one of the first commercially available digital cameras. And it was high tech!
The other thing I remember is when they started putting cameras on cell phones. I remember people saying “why would I want a camera on my cell phone? If I wanted a digital camera I would just buy a digital camera.”
I remember thinking the same thing, too.
I remember the first cell phone I had that had a camera built into it. I don’t even remember the resolution because the pics were pretty grainy, and it wasn’t able to send picture messages (MMS), but you could copy them to your computer and then email them to your friends.
Why am I reminiscing? Because I remember saving my money and living a certain way so I could afford the equipment I wanted. Many of my friends spent their money on fun stuff: XBoxes, flat screen TVs (oh man, I should do a post on when flat screen TVs first became popular!), partying, etc. But not me. I would save my money for photo gear. I went on the ramen diet, I looked for more affordable car insurance rates, I bought my furniture used, I sold a bunch of old stuff on eBay, I bought my flatware at the discount store, and I never got into a $5 cup of coffee per day habbit. I remember when one of my friends from University got a state-of-the-art plasma TV. He was so happy cuz he got a great deal on it, and he told me how much he paid, and I remember thinking I could’ve bought two of those TVs with the amount of money I just spent on a lens last week.
And was it worth it? Oh heck yeah! Anyone who follows their passion will tell you the same. Ask a musician who forgoes having nice things so he can afford the gear he wants. Or the guy who saves all his money for car parts. Or the collector of Star Wars action figures.
It’s a cool club and we’re all members. Even the Star Wars toy collector.
(btw, check out the sweet macro shot of those coins)
Most people who take their photography to the level of being a professional don’t really think about how their income and tax situation will change. Technically speaking, when people pay you to take pictures, that is income. And technically speaking, you’re supposed to pay taxes on your income. That doesn’t mean that everybody does, of course, but you should.
And you can get into some trouble if you don’t.
Let’s talk about a few of the things that change. Assuming you’re getting paid for your work, you have income. As this technically makes you a professional, you may now be allowed to legally deduct some of your expenses from this income. For example, did you buy a new camera? That’s a business expense, isn’t it? How are you going to take those pictures that people are paying you for without a camera?
But it doesn’t stop there. Do you ever drive to a shoot? That gas that you are burning on that trip may be a business expense, too. Did you pay someone to make a website for your business? Or maybe you made your own website and are paying for your own hosting and domain name. Those are all business expenses.
The more I read about how this all works, the more confused I became, so I went to a Five Dock accountant who helped explain everything and who now helps to prepare my taxes. Honestly, I figure it’s better to do it this way, even though it costs a little more, because I want to make sure I’m doing everything legally and getting all the deductions and expenses and everything and not missing anything.
It is cool what counts as an expense, though. Many of them are things you’d be spending money on anyway. Advertising, your website, supplies, even your computer if you use it for work. Of course, none of this should be taken as business advice; merely things you should discuss with your accountant.
But don’t stress about paying taxes. The only reason you have to pay taxes is because you made some money, which means you’re doing something right! Hopefully that money will grow each year as word gets out and you improve your skills.
Just remember to keep good records of everything. You need proof that your expenses really exist, so keep all your receipts just in case. You might even want to enter them into an Excel file, too, since sometimes receipts are printed with cheap ink that gets lighter over time.
Spend enough time in this industry and eventually you will get the one request that, to non-photographers, sounds like the holy grail of photography: doing a model shoot.
Now, don’t get confused. “Model” doesn’t necessarily refer to an actual famous model; it could be anyone. I have had numerous people, both male and female, as me to take pictures of them. Most of them were from aspiring actors/actresses who wanted some decent head and body shots for their portfolio, or from people who were aspiring models and wanted some good quality pictures for their website.
It reminds me of the joke that boys would tell on the playground in school; what is the best possible job to have? Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue photographer! (Or, as you get older, the answer changes to “Playboy photographer.”)
Working with people is different from just taking pictures of things or scenes. You actually have to give direction to the models and tell them what to do. If you’re taking a picture of a house, for example, you can’t tell it to move to the left a little bit because that shot would be optimal. It’s a house. It’s not going anywhere. But with people on the other hand, they can move, and so can you.
Some people take direction well. They love it. Other people seem to think they know what will be the best shot despite the fact that they aren’t the ones looking through the lens.
Some people are also super cool to work with. They actually enjoy having their picture taken. Other people are neurotic. “How do I look? Does it look good? Do I look fat? Can you photoshop that out? Is the lighting ok?” But the thing to remember is that if your income depends on your looks, you might start to obsess over it. I remember one woman was telling me about all the supplements she uses to lose weight and stay in shape. She told me at least 10 different things, vitamins, amino acids, protein shakes, green coffee bean extract (which I had never even heard of before), and some other stuff of questionable efficacy. But hey, I don’t know much about that stuff. They just pay me to take pictures.
Just remember to be professional. If you’re doing swimsuit shots or whatever, you can’t be giggling like it’s the first time you’ve ever seen a woman in a bathing suit. I shouldn’t even have to mention this, but some of the comments that I’ve gotten from clients have lead me to believe that it needs to be said.
One thing that doesn’t get discussed much is how much physical activity there is in taking pics of stuff. The layperson might see what we do and think “lol, they just point and shoot.”
Sometimes the image you’re trying to capture requires taking a shot from a specific angle or location. Maybe you’re taking a picture of a particular flower that is in the middle of a garden, and you have to tiptoe around the other flowers so you don’t disturb them. Balance and stamina in unstable positions are necessary.
Maybe you’re taking pictures of people but you have to appear to be like part of the background and can’t interfere or interact with the people themselves, like a ninja keeping an eye on everything without actually being noticed.
Maybe you’re standing in the same spot for an extended amount of time waiting for that one perfect shot. Maybe you’re doing it while crouching.
Or maybe you’re part of the paparazzi and you’re running after a celebrity to get a shot!
Regardless, decent endurance, agility, and comfortable shoes are required.
I’m also a big proponent of fitness for people in the photograph industry (and everyone for that matter). Exercise makes me feel better, and when I miss too many workouts, it has the opposite effect; not only can I feel myself missing that good feeling, but I also start to get annoyed at the fact that I’ve been missing workouts, which contributes even more to my not feeling good. Plus, if I am somewhere taking pictures, chances are it’s because I was invited (read: hired), and I need to be representing myself and my company, and if I appear out of shape it may have a negative impact on how I am perceived.
So in all seriousness, get yourself some cheap trainer’s and get to the gym. When was the last time you exercised? If you’re one of those people who hasn’t missed a workout in years, then you’re excused from this. But for the rest of you, if you’re a photographer there’s a good chance that you are your own company and you’re representing yourself and your company every time you go to a shoot, so you want to present yourself in the best light possible.
Just make sure if you’re starting to work out that you take it easy at first. Sometimes people will jump into it right away, overdo it, and either get injured, or burn themselves out in the process and have their motivation go from 10 to 1. Slow and steady will win this race. You can always increase the intensity of your workout on your next workout.