The photography tax man cometh! Okay, there’s not really a photography tax…the same dude takes all our taxes. But the end is near! Well, you’re almost out of time to pay your taxes, anyway.
In a previous post, I touched on some tax considerations for photographers. Now I want to give you a working illustration and a quick and easy way to give Uncle Same his due.
As always, please remember I am not an accountant. I sought help from a certified public accountant and I suggest you do the same; especially if you’re just starting out.
So here’s my deal: I have enough coin to buy that shiny new 5D MKIII. Sweet, huh? Not so fast. I’ll have to work a little harder and wait a little longer. You see, I owe taxes on everything I’ve made this quarter. I add up all my profits, subtract my expenses and calculate 38.3% of that to come up with my estimated tax payment for the first quarter of 2012. Keep in mind that not all expenses can be taken at 100%. The IRS calculates depreciation for equipment. But that’s why it’s called an estimated payment. I may end up owing the government more money at the end of the year, or I might get money back. Read the previous post to find out why it’s 38.3% for me. Your mileage may vary.
Taxes are due April 15, June 15, September 15 and January 15. This year April 15 falls on a Sunday, so we get an extra day. The fastest way to pre-pay your estimated tax is to go to www.eftps.gov. Click the “enrollment” link and follow the registration instructions. Basically, you enter some personal info (social security, address, etc.) and link a bank account. You then request a PIN which comes to you in the mail within 7 days. Use that PIN to complete the registration and you’re all set.
Why pre-pay my taxes every quarter? ‘Cause I don’t want to get hit with a big tax bill at the end of the year. I would rather pay it in chunks throughout the year. I know it’s not fun, but I don’t imagine getting audited is fun either! And hey, maybe next quarter I’ll be able to deduct that 5D MKIII!
I haven’t seen too many Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals of interest for photographers recently. So on this Thanksgiving-eve, I thought I’d pass along a couple of items.
First up, I got an email from Adobe offering deals on its software titles until November 29. I’m always a little skeptical because I can usually find better prices on Amazon; but this is actually a good one. You can buy the full version of Photoshop CS5 for $549. The best price I found on Amazon was $610. Lightroom 3 is $199 which is about 3-dollars less than the price on Amazon. The fine print says you have to click the “buy” button and the discount will be applied when you add it to your cart. Click the image above for the link.
This may not be breaking news, but did you know you can subscribe to Adobe titles instead of paying the full price? In the screen where you select the version, platform etc.; click the drop down menu for “version” and select “subscription”. For Photoshop CS5, for example, you can pay $49 every month or $35 a month with a yearly plan. Excluding the deal mentioned above, it could save you money over buying the full version; not to mention having to pay the upgrade price when a new version comes out.
Speaking of which, Scott Kelby recently wrote Adobe a letter regarding their upgrade policy. You can read it over at his blog.
That leads me to the next Cyber Monday deal: UPDATE 11/29/11: The following offer from NAPP and Kelby Training have been extended through Tuesday.
The folks over at NAPP and KelbyTraining.com are offering some pretty sweet deals on Monday. NOTE: I did read on Facebook that these deals are active now, so you don’t have to wait; but I haven’t tested it myself. Some of the deals include 6-months added to your NAPP subscription, $50 off one year of KelbyTraining or get one year of both NAPP and KelbyTraining for $199. If you’ve never heard of it, KelbyTraining is a great educational resource with online courses covering photography and software training. I credit it with teaching me Photoshop. Check out NAPP, if for nothing else, the discounts they offer on products and services photographers use. The discounts I got from Adobe and Apple more than paid for my membership fee.
That’s it for now. If you see any deals out there, let me know. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving and happy shopping!
If you are saving your pennies for that shiny lens or DSLR, there’s an easy way to do it and keep your eye on the prize.
I saw this on the PetaPixel site over the weekend…
The coin bank looks like a Canon 350D with a 24-105mm L lens.
It reminded me of this USB drive I wrote about in a previous post:
Or this miniature camera:
They make good stocking stuffers for photographers. But you better hurry, only 4 shopping days left!
So I tried something new last weekend. I’ve never shot a sporting event nor have I ever shot a concert. Now I know what both feel like!
My girlfriend’s cousin, Jordan, was competing in the Cheerleaders of America (COA) “Ultimate National Championship” at the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, FL. If you’ve ever caught a glimpse of a cheer competition on TV, let me tell you, you have no idea what it’s like to actually be there.
The hotel grounds were teeming with teams of tweens…sorry, couldn’t help myself! But seriously, how else would you describe hundreds (maybe thousands) of pre-teen girls wearing WAY too much make-up and cheerleading uniforms? I’m guessing the heavy make-up is meant for the judges to see from where they’re sitting…if they happen to be sitting on the planet Mars.
But let me cut to the chase. Jordan’s team, Top Gun, was on; so I enter the competition room. It was dark and loud. Let me emphasize the word LOUD. If you like dark rooms with loud techno/dance music blaring, you would feel right at home…glow sticks optional. When I got in, the team before Top Gun was wrapping up. So I took this time to figure out my exposure. But it wasn’t long before I had to head to the front when Jordan’s team came in.
I was shooting with my 70-200 f/2.8 lens. I like to shoot in manual mode, so I dialed in f/2.8, at 250th of a second and ISO about 800. I don’t like shooting at high ISO, but even with the stage lights, I needed it. I also didn’t want to shoot at f/2.8 because I knew I could run into a depth of field problem if I wanted more than one part of the image in focus; but I needed the large aperture to let in more light.
Things moved so fast…and I don’t just mean the cheerleaders. I mentioned concert photography earlier because it’s similar in a couple respects: you have stage lights, but you only have about 3 minutes to get the shot. I didn’t have a whole lot of time to look at my LCD and evaluate the shot. I was shooting on burst mode; 6.5 frames per second and focusing mostly on Jordan. At one point I switched to shutter priority and was around 350th of a second. I was really trying to capture the flipping sequences.
Looking at some of the frames, they’re still not tack sharp. If I get to do it again, I’d shoot at a minimum of 350th, boost the ISO to maybe 1600 and a narrower f-stop.
About 3 minutes later it was all over. The Top Gun teams (there are different classes) took the All Stars Level, 2,3 and 5 Grand Champion titles. See this link for the full results, if you’re interested. We took the rest of the afternoon to walk around the hotel and enjoy the pool. If you’ve never been to Gaylord Palms, I recommend going just to see the inside. It is massive. They have a tropical atrium complete with alligators and turtles. Click the link above to see a picture on their home page.
All in all, I’m glad I got to try something new; it was definitely a learning experience that tested me while pushing me outside my comfort level.
The moment you take a picture, it’s yours. You created it. You own the copyright. Copyright means just that: you have the right to copy it. So how do you protect your rights?
You can watermark your images (more on that later). You can post a disclaimer on your Facebook page. You can have a verbal agreement (this is about as good as a nod and a wink). But if someone really wants to use a picture you took, in a manner or for a purpose that you did not consent to, there’s not much stopping them.
The only way to protect your images in a court of law is to register the copyright.
Hey wait, come back! Yeah, I know; it’s not sexy. It’s not even fun. I mean I get it. As photographers we want to spend our time…uh…taking pictures! Who wants to edit? Learn about taxes and limited liability corporations? Booooring.
What’s really at stake here is money. You took the picture. If someone wants to use it for advertising or promotion, they should pay you for it. This is called “licensing” (more on that later too).
To quote the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP): “You do not have to register your work with the Copyright Office to acquire your copyright. However, the legal protections available to you are limited if the photographs are not registered. Those limitations can translate into lost income.”
Worth More Than A Thousand Words
Let me cut to the chase and then I’ll circle around again. It costs $35.
Hey wait, come back!
I know, I know. We’re saving every penny for that fast super-zoom lens! But first, you should know it’s not $35 per image. It’s $35 for a batch. As many as you can register during a one-hour session. Now think about it; how many pieces of photographic gear do you own that costs less than $35? I can think of two and one does nothing but blow air.
Now those 35-dollars can mean hundreds, thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars for you if someone infringes on your copyright. And it’s good for 70 years after you die!
So let’s say you copyright an image today. You die at age 100. Sixty-nine years later your great-great-great grandson discovers a picture you took being used in a Nike ad. Because you left your estate to your heirs…CHA CHING! Your great-great-great-great grandson can now go to college!
This scenario may seemed a little far-fetched. But only a little….
I first opened my eyes to the process of copyrighting through kelbytraining.com. I highly recommend the subscription, but you can watch the first three lessons of each course for free. Over there, Jack Reznicki and Ed Greenberg have a course on the topic and they walk you through the process of registering your work online. They tell the story of the late Stuart Gross who, in 1987, took a routine picture of 6-year old Lisa Steinberg . The little girl died 9 days later at the hands of her mother’s boyfriend. The story made national headlines. The picture became evidence in court and was licensed to specific media outlets under specific conditions.
Greenberg says 22 years later the picture is still being infringed and he’s brought more than a dozen claims against some of the top media outlets in the country, including CBS News.
The photographer is dead. The picture lives on. And so does his copyright.
Go watch the course (at least the first 3 lessons) HERE.
THE eCO SYSTEM
No, not the eco-system. The eCO system. That’s the electronic copyright office. I’m going to cop-out here because I really cannot walk you through the process better than Carolyn Wright over at the Photo Attorney blog.
The entire article with step-by-step instructions is here:
If you prefer the video tutorial see the kelbytraining.com link above.
Chances are if someone is using your image, it isn’t malicious. They probably didn’t “steal” it. They’re probably just a little ignorant. If you find someone who infringed your copyright, don’t go calling the attorney just yet. In fact, a lawsuit is probably the last step. There are ways to deal with it. But try walking into an attorney’s office with your story and the first thing he or she will ask you is “Did you copyright it?”. If you didn’t, they probably won’t even take your case.
The first thing you should do is have a contract. Always. If you put someone in front of your lens, hand them a contract before you press the shutter. Shooting your best friend’s wedding? Shooting your neighbors newborn baby? Get a contract! What if that picture ended up in a bridal magazine ad or the cutest baby in the world billboard with NO compensation or credit to you? Get a contract and specify the use and terms. When Stuart Gross took that picture of the little girl, he never imagined it would become such a huge story, or that the image would be used 22 years later, even after his death.
Next, add your contact and copyright info to your metadata. If it’s in the metadata, someone can’t later say that they had no way of contacting you.
Disable “right-click” on your website so no one can right-click and “save” the image.
None of these options is fail-safe. Like I said if someone really wants your image, they’re gonna get it. But a combination of these methods will help protect you.
Let’s clear something up here. When someone pays you for a picture you are not selling the picture. You are not selling your copyright. You are selling a license for that person to use your picture in a specific way. Unless, it’s specified in a contract, or you are a work-for-hire photographer (that’s another blog for another day), you retain the copyright. Now a photographer can sell their copyright; but that will net him much more money than a license.
I use watermarks sparingly. I think they distract from the image. But something David Hobby wrote in 2007 has always stuck with me:
“The first thing I would do would be to lose the arty signatures embedded within the photos. Very “Buck’s County Arts and Crafts Show,” IMO. You want to be aiming higher than that. If you feel you must stick your name into the image area, make it very small, in a bottom corner, with a “©” symbol (created with an option “g”).”
Actually, the copyright symbol doesn’t even have to appear on your image to be protected. (source: ASMP Copyright Primer; link below)
I know this has been a long blog post. But it’s important. I’m not an attorney, so take this advice as a starting point only. And please check out the helpful links below. Those links have links within them that you should follow.
Look, you spent thousands of dollars on gear and all your free time taking and editing pictures. Why not protect them?
The Copyright Zone (Reznicki and Greenberg)
Photo Attorney (Carolyn Wright)
You know the expression “it’s a small world”. And we all know how the World Wide Web makes it even smaller. Well a funny thing happened not too long ago. But the story starts in 2007. That’s when I took a trip to NYC, Toronto and Niagara Falls. Step by step…inch by inch…sorry, obscure reference for some.
Aaannnyway…While in Toronto I spotted a couple dancing the tango in an open air market called St. Lawrence Market. I snapped a few pics with my point and shoot Canon 800IS.
Almost two years later, I uploaded the photo to Flickr and about a month after that I get an email:
” Hello Harry,
I came across your picture during a search, and it was a VERY nice surprise. It nicely captured the essence of Argentine Tango – living in the moment; a dialogue without words.
That’s my back facing your camera in this pic.
No other dancer showed up that day, so I had all afternoon to dance with that girl and got to know her better. She was in Toronto for some studies and has since gone home.
I am wondering if you can send me a hi-res version of the picture just for my personal use.
Thank you in advance.
I was blown away! The picture was captured in a brief moment, in passing, two years prior…in another country! And the guy in the picture finds it and contacts me!
I exchanged a couple of emails with him just to make sure he was who he said he was and gladly sent him the images.
I took this experience to reinforce something I had just learned and I would like to pass it along to my photographer friends using Flickr. The possibility exists that a publisher or editor is looking for a particular image. They could search through stock agencies, but some also search Flickr. Your image stands a better chance of being found if it is properly titled and filled in with a description. Afterall, who searches for “IMG_1003″ or “DSC_009″? Because I titled and labeled my picture, it was found. No, it didn’t lead to a client or a financial payoff….yet!
So I first heard of Alltop on Scott Kelby’s blog last year. I didn’t think much of it. Dismissed it somewhat. At the time I was subscribed via email to David Hobby’s Strobist.com and Joe McNally’s Blog. On my customized Google page, I already had widgets to take feeds from a few other blogs including David Ziser’s Digital Pro Talk, Photoshop User TV, and Planet Photoshop. Then that list started growing. It now includes Virtual Photography Studio, Scott Bourne’s Photofocus and Photo Attorney. That doesn’t even include the photography sites I’ve bookmarked. I realized I needed a better solution to keep track of all the blogs I follow. I tried Google reader, but then I remembered Alltop.
Let me take a moment here to talk about the education of a photographer. I suppose you could take the traditional route and go to school to learn photography. Me? I’ve learned from blogs and websites and personal experience. I have a lot of peers who are relatively new to photography and love to schedule so many photoshoots that they hardly have time to edit the images afterwards. I agree that the best education is practical experience. Every shoot, every press of the shutter should be a lesson. But you also need time to “hit the books”. Some of the world’s best photographers are sharing their knowledge for free! Why not take advantage? Set aside some time each day or each week to read a little…and learn a lot!
Ok, I’m off my soapbox. Now, go to www.alltop.com and create an account. Now you can customize your page and select your favorite blogs. The topics are not limited to photography but search for that topic and you’ll get a ton of photography related blogs. Just add your favorites and voila! You can even set the order of how they appear.
Here’s my alltop page:
I hope you’ll find some useful resources!
Maybe you’ve heard the horror stories. Maybe you have one yourself. A photographer friend of mine lost his entire portfolio when his hard drive crashed. More recently, another fellow photographer posted on Facebook that his computer had a virus and unless he could recover, all of his files would be lost.
I heard once that it’s not a matter of “if” your hard drive will fail, but “when”. So use protection! Now, I know a lot of photographers who are starting out are on a tight budget and they want to save every penny for that next lens or piece of equipment. But honestly, what good is taking pictures if you’re just going to lose all of them? And if you want to get paid to take pictures what are you going to tell a client when you lose theirs?
Step One: Physical Back Up
Memory is cheap. You can get an 8GB USB drive for about $15-$20. Now 8GB may not get you very far if you’re shooting RAW files. A 64GB USB drive will cost you anywhere from $120-$170.
Personally, I have both a USB drive (4GB) and an external hard drive (1TB). You can get a 320GB external drive for about $60. Or for double the price you can get 1 terabyte! Prices, brands and types vary. I’ll include helpful links at the end. I think I read that Scott Kelby likes the LaCie portable drives. The 250GB model will run you $99. The portable ones are handy ’cause you can bring them with you on a shoot and transfer your files periodically in case something happens to your memory card.
Step Two: Virtual Back Up
Google “online backup” and you’ll get a list of companies that offer online storage of your files. One of the most popular I’ve heard of is called Mozy. They offer 2GB of storage for free. Mozy claims you can store 300 photos with 2GB of space. It’s a good way to try before you buy. It’s $4.95 a month for unlimited back-up or $54.45 for a year (13 months actually).
Another service is called SOS. They offer a free trial, then you pay an annual fee according to storage space. $19.95 for 2GB, $29.95 for 5GB or $49.95 for 15GB. Think about it, less than 50 bucks a year for either service. That’s .93-cents a week!
There are others. This article from PC Magazine reviews some of the more popular ones and calls SOS the most user friendly.
Putting It All Together
Ideally, you want to have both a physical back-up and a virtual one. Your workflow could go something like this.
1.)You come back from a shoot and download the images to your computer. That’s 2 copies (one on your memory card, one on your hard drive).
2.)You finish editing and put the final images on a CD for your client. That’s 3 copies
3.) You delete the images from your memory card and back up the files from your computer to an external hard drive. That’s still 3 copies.
4.) You deliver the CD to the client leaving you with 2 copies.
5.) You need the space on your computer so you back up the files through an online service and delete them from your hard drive. But you still have the files saved on your external drive. That’s 2 copies.
Now if your drive ever crashes, or gets lost/stolen or destroyed. You have at least one more source to retrieve your files. Yes it costs a little money. But for $150 bucks you and your clients have piece of mind that the pictures you worked so hard on to take and edit are safe.
On assignment for Central Florida Lifestyle Magazine this week. First assignment was to photograph Heidi Ordaz, a Stetson University student studying Piano Performance. The Steinway Society of Central Florida recently donated a piano to her. Read more about it in the next issue of Lifestyle Magazine.
(UPDATE: Article is posted online HERE.)
Although this is not the picture that the magazine will use, it’s my favorite of the set. (The editor wanted to use one of Heidi sitting at the piano with her head turned over her shoulder looking at the camera.)
Lighting for this was pretty simple. There was a large window camera right diffused by sheer window curtains. I set up my flash in a softbox camera left and dialed down the power until I was happy with the mix. f/4.5, ISO 100, 1/60th, 38mm.
The next assignment was a simple corporate type headshot for a financial advisor in Winter Park. Hera (cool name, no?) handled the shoot like a pro. Her office had a solid green wall which looked to me like a professional backdrop. Once again there was a window camera right with blinds. So I used the same set up as I did for Heidi.
I was a little worried because the last time I did headshots, I got a big shadow to the lower right of the subject. If I had another flash, I could light the background. Or I could place the softbox higher so the shadow is cast out of frame. In the shot above you can see the shadow in the lower right corner, but I don’t think it’s distracting here and I really like the catchlight in her eyes. f/5.6, ISO 100, 1/60th, 48mm.