buying new photography equipment? here are some things to consider before you do.
let’s face it. we love our toys and gadgets. hell, it might even be why some of us were drawn into photography in the first place.
the reality is, we are running a business. these “toys” are really “tools”. we all find a way to mentally justify our purchases. trust me, I know. we have to explain to our significant others or business partners how this is a game changer, we have to have it, all my competitors are doing this, or the ridiculous, it’s just so cool! some words of wisdom, “cool” is not the way to spend your money. 🙂
if you change your mindset and think like a business, the decision process becomes much easier in my opinion. for me, my philosophy has always been, if this can help me make more money or be more productive, its a worthwhile investment.
here are some tips when considering new photography equipment, software, plug-ins, or whatever other “tool” you are looking at.
business case – what is the business case for this purchase? meaning, why do you need it? if you don’t know why you need it, you need to move on. everything you do, should have a supporting business case tied to it or you might have a bigger problem on your hands. so, for example, if you are looking to add better photoshop plug-ins to your post production solution to allow you to create unique images for your clients – that might be a business case for shopping for better plug-ins or editing tools. if you find that you are having trouble getting good images from churches when you are shooting weddings in low-lit environments without flash, that might be a strong business case for a fast lens – i.e. a new 50mm 1.2.
do you get the concept here? there must be a supporting business case to justify the investment. why do you need this?
cost – this seems like an obvious one right? well of course, price is always a factor in everything we do. have you ever heard of analysis paralysis? basically it’s a phenomena that we as humans put ourselves through. we sit and analyze something for so long that we reach a no-decision decision. on a personal level, this makes me nuts. I have watched people sit and try and decide on something obsessing over $25-$50. really?
stay with me here. this is a business investment. you have made the decision at some level this is something you need for the business or you would not be sitting at the decision stage. is $50 really going to sway you one way or another? if so, you are not thinking like a business.
the price of something is all relative to your situation, but there has to be a price point where it’s just not worth the time you are investing in it. for me, anything below the $200 price point is usually something I will give a try without obsessing too much, especially since I have already decided there is a business case for this investment. however, additional reasons will become more obvious as you read on.
productivity – this is a big one for me. a big part of my philosophy with all my businesses is around productivity. let’s face it, as photographers, we are sometimes a one-man or woman show. so much of our business rests on our shoulders. sure, we have a support network, but I don’t know many photographers running around with a staff of 20. everyone, including myself, has to be able to multi-task.
here it is in a nutshell. any investment that will help me or my team save time on a repetitive task is an investment I will more than likely make without much thought. for example, how long do you spend designing your albums? if you are a wedding or senior photographer, album design is part o the process, but how long does it take you? 8 hours? 3 days? a few years ago, we found a tool called Fundy Album Builder and it changed my world. the tool was so easy to use it cut my design time for a 30 page wedding album to less than 2 hours!! Hello?! It took me about 10sec to make the decision on that. today, my wife, who has ZERO photoshop skills is designing albums.
continuous improvement – as a business, we have to be committed to continuous improvement. if you are still working with cs2 or cs3 when the current version of photoshop is cs6, I would say you are not getting it. if you are not working with tools like lightroom or capture one – again, I would say you are not getting it. not only do these tools have TREMENDOUS productivity enhancements to save you time, but they offer new techniques for your business to improve and grow.
the world of photography is a very very competitive one. innovate or die is something we live by at our studio. if you are doing things the same way you did them 3 years ago, you are not improving. you are complacent. and complacency will ensure the death of your business.
sometimes, we have to invest in the business just to improve our service offering. we have to always be looking for ways to modernize. for example, a tool like Sticky Albums or Animoto – these are tools we now offer to stay relevant. I don’t have huge demand for people coming to our studio looking for slideshows or pictures on their mobile devices, but when we tell them about it the response is always the same. “that’s awesome!”
investments like this allow my business to grow, continuously improve, and most importantly, remain relevant.
roi – this should be the easiest of them all. how much money/time will you save by incorporating this new tool? now, please understand, some things you may have to buy won’t have any real hard roi to them – meaning, it might not be measurable. for example, can you really measure the roi on a new 50mm 1.2 lens? sure, you could say, by having this, it will give my photography a look I can’t achieve otherwise, therefore, it will increase my sales, etc. and that would be a good way to look at it. just keep in mind, you would be hard pressed to come up with a hard roi number – and thats ok. not everything has to be roi positive.
any tool that will pay for itself in 12 months or less is a tool I will buy almost immediately. there is rarely much to think about. this is when things become a true no brainer.
it gets even better, is this a product or service I can sell to my clients? if so, for how much? then start with the math. if I sell x units over the next 3 months at y price that will = $$profit. BOOM. Sold!
I hope you find this process a useful one. this is exactly how my brian works when I am trying to make decisions for my business and where to allocate my business resources. with Imaging USA and WPPI fast approaching, having this process in the back of your mind should help you navigate the trade show floors with a lot more purpose.