Even top professionals consider how to save money on production costs to maximize revenue. Here are the top tips to keep your photography costs low.
1. Rent — don’t buy — certain equipment
It’s likely that your camera, basic lenses, and flash are things you want to own. But studio lighting and other equipment can often be rented in a cost-effective way. Top professionals often rent equipment when the benefits of renting outweigh the cost of buying, storing, maintaining, and insuring equipment that could be technically obsolete in just a few years.
2. Share equipment and studio costs
If you know other photographers who submit for stock as well, talk to them about sharing production costs. For example, studio lights can be rented by the week and then shared among a few individuals. Always remember that whoever signs the rental agreement is responsible for the equipment in case something is lost, broken, or stolen, so choose partners who are trustworthy and responsible.
3. Shoot multiple scenes with your models
There are photographers who develop entire portfolios around a few models. While it’s best to use a diverse selection of models, you should maximize your time when you have models in the studio. Different sets, angles, facial expressions, orientations, clothing, and scenarios are all ways to maximize the return on a single shoot.
4. Shoot video and stills at the same time
More and more cameras have HD video capability. HD video is an increasingly popular stock medium and videos are often licensed at higher prices than stills. There are differences between shooting stills and video, but you can greatly increase your earning potential by creating both during the same shoot.
5. Try before you buy
Photography software can be very expensive. Thankfully, many companies like Adobe offer 30-day free trials of their software. If you’re not sure if you’re going to need certain functionality, try out a few software packages before settling on your final workflow and committing to making purchases.
6. When you do buy, try to DIY
Brand-name video and photography accessories can be expensive. Thankfully, a large number of “DIY” sites have been created. Sites like CheesyCam.com have tutorials to create or buy inexpensive versions of popular items like video stabilizers, dollies, LED lights, and camera sliders.
7. Get releases and avoid logos and trademarks
If your images show people or property, they can’t be licensed for commercial use without a model or property release. They also can’t be used commercially if they contain obvious logos or trademarks. Getting a signed release will ensure that you get the highest return on your work.
8. Get creative with your space
You don’t need a 2,000-square-foot studio to shoot sellable photos. A clean white bathtub can be used creatively to get object shots on a white background. Many amazing shots are taken in garages against a small seamless white or black backdrop. Be sure to pay careful attention to lighting, but remember that no one can see what’s outside of the frame.
9. Take good care of your equipment, and sell it when it makes sense
There are many reasons to take good care of your equipment. One reason is that camera equipment such as lenses and flashes often holds its value very well. If you protect your glass, you might find that you can sell it on eBay for almost as much as you paid for it. Camera bodies might not retain their value as well, because new technology comes out with great improvements.
10. Run your business like a business
Be conscious of exactly what you’re spending on equipment, models, and each shoot. Keeping track of your expenses with a spreadsheet is a smart way to increase profits. It’s like dieting: unless you count calories and weigh yourself, you begin to quickly lose track of how you’re doing against your objectives. Set realistic goals and plot a long-term strategy for success.
Bonus tip: Top photographers also know that their value is often in creating images, not keywording and uploading.
Images and video can be sent to third-party production houses to be keyworded, retouched, and optimized for sales. Or a paid assistant can do the same. This approach typically applies to photographers who create thousands of images.
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