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How to make it as an amateur photographer

Receiving compensation as an amateur photographer for a service performed is certainly a great satisfaction as well as an excellent incentive to improve and study new techniques.

However, if you are an amateur photographer, it may seem ethically incorrect , and probably a little embarrassing, to get paid to take pictures.

The problem is not naturally linked to your skill and competence, but precisely to the role you play, that is that of amateur photographer .

Let's explain

Those who dedicate themselves to a hobby do it mainly for passion, and therefore hardly think about the possibility of being able to profit from their passion. This at least at the beginning .

It can happen that the passion turns into real work, but then things are a little different .

For now, let's stay in the field of amateur photography : let's say that you are good enough to always take shots well done, and enough prepared both from a theoretical point of view and as regards the equipment, so much so that some friends and / or relatives ask you. to participate in a birthday party or an anniversary, not only as a guest but also as a photographer.

Once such a request would have been accompanied by reassurance that the cost of the rolls and the printing process would be reimbursed.

Today, of course, it would not make sense, especially because once your photos are finished you can download all the material on a USB pen drive or upload them online and the friend or relative concerned can print the photos they like best by themselves.

Working for a friend

In this case you would work above all for friendship for the love of photography and to make yourself a photographic portfolio and, from your point of view, it  can also be seen as an investment, not just a favor.

Doing work for free can be a good method (and therefore investment) to create a series of photos that you can show to "potential new customers". What time did you decide to make this hobby a real profession.

In any case, once you have had some experience in photos of birthdays or small events, even by participating in them completely free, you may be presented with the opportunity to have to ask for a fee as a photographer.

The question of payment

Sometimes it happens by pure chance, because a customer asks you a simple and banal question at the same time whose answer, however, the first few times, can be embarrassing. More for you than for the customer to be honest:

"How much do I owe you?"

These are only three words but you have to be ready to know how to answer in order not to seem unprofessional, but also unprofessional.

Defining compensation

It is not easy to define a compensation as a photographer but you can still follow these tips on how to determine a price that is at least "fair".

If it is true that you do not want to enrich yourself with your hobby, it is also true that you cannot lose money on fuel, on the highway or on parking .

First you have to quickly calculate the distance from home to work and do the math of how much it costs you to "move".

Starting from this assumption, even assuming you want to do a “free” job : you can easily offer your neighbor a photo shoot at no cost, while someone further away you should at least ask for money as a flat-rate reimbursement of expenses . 

Photographing a wedding

A little 'different is the situation if they ask you to attend as official photographer at a major event such as a communion or a wedding.

In this case, in addition to the basic price to cover expenses, it is good that you also consider the possibility of really feeling up to this situation , especially in the case of marriage.

Today weddings include an infinite number of shots, in different locations, in the church or town hall, in the restaurant, etc. As strange as it sounds, you may also elect to do drone photography for golf courses.

It is a very long and complex job that does not include a single day of work, that of the wedding, but also a period of preparation , to understand the wishes of the spouses on the type of photos they want and a subsequent sorting, to eliminate all bad shots and basic post-production.

In fact, one cannot think of delivering all the photographic material to the newlyweds without first having eliminated photos that… would ruin your reputation as a photographer!

ATTENTION: The professionals who work as wedding photographers did not get there by chance, but they have years of experience behind them and above all, since they do this profession, they are also prepared for the unexpected that could happen during the event.

So do not take lightly the proposal that someone might make to you. Also consider well the duties and risks you face if you do some stupid thing.

In any case, to return to the main question: how much do you have and can you get paid for a photo shoot during the wedding?

Also in this case the answer may depend on different parameters, first of all, if you are also a guest or if you are only and exclusively the photographer.

Basic decisions to make

In the first case , you can decide to offer your skills in the photographic sector as a wedding gift for the newlyweds . If you choose to do this, you should also pay for the printing and photo book costs , to really offer a nice service and gift.

In the second case , if your role is exclusively that of a photographer, then a minimum remuneration as a photographer must take into account both travel expenses and the whole day , especially if perhaps, to take photos at the wedding, you had to use one day vacation at work or in any case put aside other commitments .

This is where the hourly price comes into play, which is very subjective. For a professional it can be "easy" to determine the hourly price, or at least he can make assessments on the basis of the "fixed" costs he incurs. 

But you, as an amateur photographer, have to make an assessment of what you think is a fair price for your time. Personally, I would not "give" my time to strangers for less than $30 an hour . And this only includes my "time", not expenses.

I would say that an honest price, especially if it is your first experience as a wedding photographer having albums printed by low-cost commercial firms, can be between $200 and $300 plus any travel expenses reimbursement.

As you can understand, it is easy to get compensation as a pro photographer around $500-600 which are the prices that usually “amateurs” make for an occasional job .

This, of course, if the wedding takes up a whole day. Conversely, if only the photos are requested in the church or at the Municipality or only at the refreshments, you will automatically have to lower the prices a little.

Fiscal aspects to consider

When you put the words "compensation" and "amateur photographer" together , it is usually like raising a crawl space: on the one hand, professional photographers  -  those who have to pay our bills and bread with photography  - accuse that this practice is illegal and harms those who work honestly and pay taxes: on the other hand, there are many amateur photographers who still get paid for their services based on an urban legend about the fact that up to $10,000 per year you don't need to have a business license.

Well, both of them are wrong . But the solution is much simpler than you might think.

Dissolving myths

I have heard all sorts of things despite the obvious thing that would be simply asking an accountant for clarification. Anyway: getting paid for a job without having a business license is not illegal . Put your heart in peace professionals in the sector ... if one does not have a license number and is doing a photographic job, this is not why he is a tax evader or a "black" worker; the much-cited threshold of $10,000 exists but it concerns something else , therefore being paid without issuing a declaration and reporting the collection obtained to the revenue agency means doing things illegally and being subject to complaints and penalties.

Doing occasional work

Basically, without going to the technical (you can easily find all the technical details on the web), if it happens in a completely occasional way that an acquaintance / friend (but it can also be a company) asks you to do a paid job that does not it has nothing to do with your regular business, you can do it.

And you can also get paid as long as you issue a receipt for occasional work (a kind of invoice) which you will also have to communicate to the tax office through the tax return the following year .
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