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Author Topic: Start Up Costs for Microstock (Contributor)  (Read 3454 times)

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tab62

« on: November 10, 2012, 13:25 »
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Hi Folks,

I had a long discussion with my wife and friends on how much should I spend on starting up my Micro-Stock portfolio. They all feel I am mentally crazy for spending thousands of dollars to produce 33 cent sales! Isn't is the norm for the first few years that expenses will exceed sales? It takes years to build up a decent size portfolio thus making decent money off the bat will not happen? I am missing the boat on something? Maybe they are right...

Thanks.

T


« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2012, 13:43 »
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you really need to control expenses, whats the point of having a 5d mark ii or iii or iv and all high lenses if you are pulling 100$ / 1k $ or even more, go as you see income growing, I had a D60 and now a D90 for the last 2 years, I am not planning to buy other unless I really see it will be worth (sure I would love to buy a D800 but 3k $ ??), I would be better spending it on restaurants or traveling or actually working hard on producing more pictures ;D

basically I think you need to aim for a cheap camera with I would say 16MP (thinking of FT XXL and also IS) and a 50mm lens, if you are willing to do some isolations a few strobes are a must too, that said I am not telling you to buy profoto ;D

PaulieWalnuts

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« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2012, 13:47 »
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It depends on your approach. You could be profitable in a month or a few years.

I started by testing the waters with some pretty basic equipment to see if micro was worth it. As I made more money I bought more and better equipment. My business has always been profitable because I never spent more than I made.

You can also spend a bunch of money on equipment and hope you'll be profitable at some point. Or you may have run the numbers and have an idea of when you'll be profitable.

The bar is being raised every year, so yes, if you want to compete and make above average to top-tier earnings you'll need to spend top-tier money. I'd guess that's at minimum thousands of dollars. More likely tens of thousands.

How much do you think you'll need to spend to get started?

« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2012, 13:51 »
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It depends heavily on what you decide to shoot and where you're starting from in terms of skill and equipment.  On balance I'd say that yes, your costs will likely exceed your income for some time, but isn't that true of most new jobs you would take on?  There's a learning curve, and there's training or apprenticeship or some other way of getting work before you're experienced enough to good job. 

No difference here, although you do have the ability to learn while doing.  Try shooting scenics; they may not sell all that well unless they're both unusual locations and particularly well executed, but they won't cost you much beyond your camera and transportation.  If you want to shoot people, get volunteers among family and friends who'll work cheap or for free (or who will take payment in photographs).  Take a class, attend a workshop or group shoot; they cost something, but you'll have the chance to learn a lot in a short time.

Would you tell someone not to become a doctor or lawyer because of the expense vs. income in the first years?  Or perhaps a better comparison is to an artist or artisan or a writer or musician.  Would you say they shouldn't practice their art because they stand little chance of making money at it?  Microstock has a much better chance of making at least some money than most artistic pursuits, since you already have somebody else to handle the business aspects and can get started with a small handful of items to sell.

Or just treat it as I do, as a hobby that mostly pays for itself, one where each acceptance sale helps you improve your skills.  If you start to make serious money later on, so much the better.

lisafx

« Reply #4 on: November 10, 2012, 13:56 »
+3
If you are making big expenditures in the hopes of making big money down the line in microstock, I think it's a mistake.  If these are purchases you would be making anyway, to support your photo hobby, then it's fine.  You get to make some money back on your equipment, write it off your taxes, and eventually may even turn a modest profit. 

But here's the thing.  The microstock field is saturated and only growing more so as time passes.  The time for hobbyists and part time shooters to join up and make good money is gone and has been for several years.  Unless you are a big time pro shooter with many thousands of images to pour into micro, you aren't likely to ever make a living at this. 

Sorry to be a downer, but these are the realities of the situation.  If you are not buying this gear anyway, or if your family is tight for money, this is not a good investment for your future. 

« Reply #5 on: November 10, 2012, 13:57 »
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not saying you have got all your equipment after getting into stock but a Canon 1D IV and 24-70 are easily 5k pounds, thats a lot of dosh ;D

tab62

« Reply #6 on: November 10, 2012, 14:07 »
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All great advice! I have spent around 12K and earn about 2K so far. I don't plan on purchasing anymore equipment since I have all the stuff (lighting included) for the next few years and I am in bring in about 3K to 6K a year based on my sales projection from the last 6 months. I agree that the potential for making a decent living (say 50k to 150K a year) is 'Nil' thus would be happy to make from 8K to 20K a year as a hobby.

Thank you so much for the fast and as usual great advice...

T


« Reply #7 on: November 10, 2012, 14:48 »
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Well at least you didn't throw the 12k into facebook stocks... - it could have been worse.

12k for a starting out set-up is quite a number.

To this day (7 years) I haven't spent this much in cameras, lenses, computers, monitors, strobes and other lighting gear.
I went through a D70 to now a D90 with a 18-200mm and 50mm prime. Got 2 strobes, a professional lightbox, umbrellas and plenty of self-made reflectors and diffusers.

I admit that I'm pinching every penny when it comes to reinvesting into my business, maybe more than others but most importantly you have to make sure that you can whip out some good images before you keep on investing into more gear...

A decent D-SLR with a good prime might run you between $2000-$3000. Get a couple of lights and build your own light panels and diffusers and reflectors for another $1000. No idea what you did with the remaining $8000.

Oh, I also got cheap a$$ radio transmitters (and receivers) to fire my strobes ($15), free shipping straight from China. Well they won't do TTL etc. but they do fire the strobes.

The way it is now, it appears you will be in the red for a few more years considering the time you put into this as well. I wish you the best of luck.

The only way to "fix" this is, is to shoot really awesome images - a lot of them.

And... never stop!

velocicarpo

« Reply #8 on: November 10, 2012, 14:59 »
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Start out with good, solid, but inexpensive equipment. My bet:

- 1000 US$ Studio equipment. There are some good working Flashes for little money out there (Alien bee e.g.) Backgrounds and such is not really expensive. Many things can be improvised.
- 1000 US$ for one of the lower cost Canon DSLR (650D e.g.) with one or two good lenses and some minor equipment. It`s not the best but I produced for years good selling content with similar cameras. I you see numbers growing switch and keep this cam as a backup - which is a very important thing too down the road.
- Another 1000$ for Computer stuff if you only plan on doing Photography (not 3d graphics or such). The most expensive stuff should be a good Monitor with a some calibration Hardware.

Thats it for the start. With 3000 you should be easily able to get things started and then grow. Off course this is not a big business style studio and you will have to improvise many things, but I think it si the best recommendation to start.

tab62

« Reply #9 on: November 10, 2012, 15:21 »
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Most of my expensive was the camera (1D Mark IV) and the 24-70 Canon Lens- I figure that should last a long time. I got a few LP160 strobes, cactus v 4 trans/rec lot's, umbrellas, soft boxes plus 50mm, 100mm and 17-40 lens.  Mistakes that I made- the Canon 580 speedlight and some soft box lights (plug in lights that are heavy) that I now rarely use.  My computer and CS6 also cost around $2,500 (4 2TB drives, 64GB Memory, 2GB Video card, 28" monitor with spyder3).  Now it time to do work and no more $$ on anything else for a few years or more - or risk being divorce soon lol!

Once again thanks...

T

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #10 on: November 10, 2012, 15:45 »
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I started with what I had, and only bought new equipment as I earned it.
Keeps me sane, especially now with falling iStock sales.

tab62

« Reply #11 on: November 10, 2012, 15:51 »
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I fear that I lost my sanity a long time ago  :-[


« Reply #12 on: November 10, 2012, 15:54 »
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WOW, 12K. Thats quite a bit.

My whole portfolio is shot with a 60D , a 50mm 1,8 and two flashes (430ex and Yongnuo 560) + Background system.

So about 1300 and it took me ages to decide in buying a 24-105mm Lens :).

But i believe, that if you have the money, why not buy the equipment. At the moment i am a student. But if i had enough money i would have bought the best equipment i could get  ;D

« Reply #13 on: November 10, 2012, 15:56 »
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Most of my expensive was the camera (1D Mark IV) and the 24-70 Canon Lens- I figure that should last a long time. I got a few LP160 strobes, cactus v 4 trans/rec lot's, umbrellas, soft boxes plus 50mm, 100mm and 17-40 lens.  Mistakes that I made- the Canon 580 speedlight and some soft box lights (plug in lights that are heavy) that I now rarely use.  My computer and CS6 also cost around $2,500 (4 2TB drives, 64GB Memory, 2GB Video card, 28" monitor with spyder3).  Now it time to do work and no more $$ on anything else for a few years or more - or risk being divorce soon lol!

Once again thanks...

T

and wow PC with 64gb Ram. What do you need that for?

tab62

« Reply #14 on: November 10, 2012, 16:01 »
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My friend built my computer thus got the 64GB for less than $150- I told me with Windows 7 64 bit the more the better it runs. Let's just say I never crash my system due to memory issues lol!   I must admit my daytime job really pays well thus I would rather be in photography than golf as my hobby. I have friends that spend over 20K a year in golf fees...

« Reply #15 on: November 10, 2012, 16:09 »
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My friend built my computer thus got the 64GB for less than $150- I told me with Windows 7 64 bit the more the better it runs. Let's just say I never crash my system due to memory issues lol!   I must admit my daytime job really pays well thus I would rather be in photography than golf as my hobby. I have friends that spend over 20K a year in golf fees...

Well, then i would be doing the same ;D
At least you'll never have that feeling that you couldn't take a good shot because of limited equipment.
Have fun photographing ;)

WarrenPrice

« Reply #16 on: November 10, 2012, 16:11 »
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My friend built my computer thus got the 64GB for less than $150- I told me with Windows 7 64 bit the more the better it runs. Let's just say I never crash my system due to memory issues lol!   I must admit my daytime job really pays well thus I would rather be in photography than golf as my hobby. I have friends that spend over 20K a year in golf fees...

Golf is a subject you must know quite well;  Use them as models.   :P


tab62

« Reply #17 on: November 10, 2012, 16:18 »
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Thanks- good point on the golf for models. Except my friends! They suck at the game but do like to drink a lot at the fancy club!

lisafx

« Reply #18 on: November 10, 2012, 23:16 »
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Thanks- good point on the golf for models. Except my friends! They suck at the game but do like to drink a lot at the fancy club!

They don't have to be good at golf to model.  They just need to LOOK good.  :)

tab62

« Reply #19 on: November 10, 2012, 23:31 »
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lol- I will make sure I do the photo session prior to the drinking...

« Reply #20 on: November 11, 2012, 00:16 »
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I started with what I had. That was a nikon d 50 and a kit lens back in 2007.
When that set had paid itself back I began to buy gear from the stock income. First a couple of macro lenses, later on new cameras and lighting equipment.
I have a tendency to buy cheap lenses and cameras, such as used nikon d 200s and lenses via ebay. Because I want to make sure they earn themselves back.
I found out that postprocessing and lighting can compensate for cheap equipment.
There is no way I can pay back state of the art lenses and cameras via my microstock earnings.
Microstock is cheap, so I use cheap equipment to get cheap pictures.

If i should give any piece of advice, considering investment for microstock it would be to get a tripod. Or build one, or something. The important part is the 1/4 inch screw. When you live in a metric country, it can be hard to get.
The gear doesnt really matter, the tripod does.
« Last Edit: November 11, 2012, 00:20 by JPSDK »

« Reply #21 on: November 11, 2012, 04:20 »
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Regarding equipment and MS:

NO MONEY NO FUNNY

as old people say.

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #22 on: November 11, 2012, 13:01 »
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If i should give any piece of advice, considering investment for microstock it would be to get a tripod.
I got one this year. Sometimes I use it, in a hide when I'm shooting wildlife. Saves my neck.  :)

« Reply #23 on: November 11, 2012, 13:05 »
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I use my tripod all the time, even inside when I do macro studio things.

ShadySue

  • There is a crack in everything
« Reply #24 on: November 11, 2012, 13:13 »
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I use my tripod all the time, even inside when I do macro studio things.
Oh yes, it would be imperative for that.


 

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