What You Need for Your Photography Business – [Guess What? It's Not a Camera]

Put bluntly, if we creatives want to make a real livelihood with our work – we need to realize that the business end of the stick if we’re holding. And while you know I’m always up for the occasional rant on this topic, I today decided to save myself a few blood vessels and some hot air, and instead passed the baton over to my homie, best-selling business/finance author and master of psychology, Ramit Sethi. I’ve said this before in public – Ramit taught me more about the business side of art in 30 minutes than I’d learned in the previous 5 years. As such, if you listen to one person about this shiz, I suggest you listen to Ramit. – Chase

Thanks Chase.

Let me start by asking you a couple questions.

Do you need the latest camera or software? Will it help grow your business?

Or is it more likely that the latest shiny equipment is distracting you from finding clients who will pay what you’re worth?

Today, as in right now, creating a framework to think about whether buying the latest equipment will actually help you grow your creative business and earn more money. Here’s how this came up: I was in San Francisco, shooting a day of video, and on a break I overheard my crew talking about whether they should buy a $70,000 camera to grow their business.

My ears perked up. I asked them why they would buy it. Their answers were wishy-washy and vague: “Well…it’ll help us get exposure…” So on the spot I suggested a framework to use when deciding whether to purchase new equipment for your creative business.

You might be surprised to hear what I suggested.

1) There’s a time and a place when buying the right equipment will help grow your business
2) But surprisingly, most clients don’t care about your equipment
3) If you can figure out what they value, you can save tens of thousands of dollars on equipment and actually make your clients happier — at the same time.

Put another way: I’ve hired many photographers, videographers, writers, and designers in the last 3 years. Can you guess how many times I’ve asked what camera or software they use? Answer: Zero. I’ve spoken to Chase about this as well. How many times do you think he’s been asked about his equipment unless it’s a super elite, over the top shoot. His answer is the same: zero. Put simply… buyers simply don’t care about that. And usually that equipment won’t help you make the thing you need to make.

Now, there is a time and a place to invest in the right equipment. You can become the ‘specialty guy or gal’ at this or that, but I bet dollars to donuts that we’re not talking about what you need NOW. When you’re growing your creative business, here’s a little video to guidance how to know whether you should invest in new equipment…or decide to first focus on other areas of your business….

By the way, in the video I mention deeply understanding your clients to figure out what they value. (This is how you can find better clients, charge more, and work with the people you want to.) If you’re curious how I study my own clients, here’s the actual survey I’ve used to generate over $100,000. Feel free to use it for your own business.

I now return you to your regular programming. [Thanks Ramit! - chase]

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49 Responses to What You Need for Your Photography Business – [Guess What? It's Not a Camera]

  1. Adam February 19, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    Great post. This is so true. See a few people struggle after a few years in business because they go gear mad and think they need the latest and greatest to be competitive. I’m starting to streamline my gears and think what I don’t need to carry all day long.

  2. Kerry February 19, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    Zack Arias reinforces this same guidance, albeit from a different perspective. I think gear (and software) acquisition is a disease much like alcoholism which must be countered with a one step program. That step… focus on the work, not the tools.

  3. Sam February 19, 2013 at 11:40 am #

    This is good information. I think we tend to focus on expanding and we lose site of what has been working and what got us to our current state. Keep the good info coming!

  4. Nick February 19, 2013 at 11:47 am #

    I’m sorry, but Ramit’s website is incredibly shady and scam-ish looking. The “Sign up to get the latest content from my eBook” sounds like exactly the same stuff that gets thrown into my spam box.

    • Chip February 19, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

      @Nick, Ramit’s website and his info are far from shady/scam-ish. He gives out more useful info for free than anywhere else I’ve seen, paid or not. He’s even taken the time to reply to a couple of my emails in the past too. Besides that, his book ‘I Will Teach You To Be Rich’ has been unmeasurably helpful in both my personal and professional financial planning. I can’t recommend his material enough.

      • Nick February 19, 2013 at 12:58 pm #

        I think alot of people would agree with me..he needs a redesign then.

        • Mr. Girard February 20, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

          I believe Chip and think that I will give Ramit a chance on his advice…BUT I also think that Nick is accurate in saying that Ramit’s website screams gimmick. It’s unfortunate but it definitely creates that feeling of untrustworthy/shady.

        • Nomuhwha March 7, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

          It is definitely super shady. Sorry. but won’t click on that. It’s obviously a scam.

  5. Kim February 19, 2013 at 1:03 pm #

    I’ve also pared down my gear like Adam mentioned because carrying around a ton of lenses and extra bodies all day is not fun and not very practical, either.

    I’m all about keeping it simple and using only what I need. I find that it’s way better to focus on honing my creative skills rather than on the gear I may want but don’t have.

  6. Daniel February 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

    My income is

  7. faisal February 20, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    You need vision, which will help you take good photos.

  8. Agustín February 20, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    You are so right! It is more the eye than the gear, among other things.

  9. Brandon Hill Photos February 20, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    Those are some great points on the internal need photographers/videographers have to buy more gear. I’ve found that typically it’s a reaction us to wanting to impress our peers rather than impress the clients paying us to stay in business. A vital distinction to make before any purchase.

  10. Colson Griffith February 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

    Loved the video post. Thank you! A business coach once told me, “Will this purchase make me money? If the answer is ‘Yes’ then you are running a business. If the answer is ‘No’ then you are running a hobby.” I suppose both answers are fine… unless you are running a business! ;D

  11. Jenny February 21, 2013 at 2:59 am #

    Hi Chase, where can we get the video links & scripts that Ramit mentioned he was going to share with Chase Jarvis fans?
    Thanks lots!

  12. Paul Santos February 21, 2013 at 5:07 am #

    Great video – I dont agree with everything Ramit says but on the whole lots of very valid interesting points. As Jenny above stated – will we be able to see the video links etc?

  13. Anne February 21, 2013 at 10:21 am #

    Good points there. It is not the camera that makes the shots, it’s the man behind it.

  14. Christian February 23, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    First Inwas a bit sceptical but since Ramitbwas on CJ Live he had to be genuine as Chase would never invite scammers over. so far Ramit’s advise has helped me to save a fewnhundred pounds and a free up of cash flow. Highly recommend him. And another awesome show.

  15. theadvbuzz February 25, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    Grab your camera and start a high-paying career in photography today! http://goo.gl/ub44h

  16. Jonathan February 26, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    “If something works… DO MORE OF IT, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!” LOL

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  18. Demetrius Fordham March 3, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

    Great post, Ramit is the man, and has inspired me to get my photo business off the ground

  19. Brian Arnold March 13, 2013 at 4:34 pm #

    Great post! These are some great tips and were very helpful for my photography business.

  20. Linnea Lenkus March 19, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

    I agree wholeheartedly with your post. I have found that my clients are only interested in one thing–incredible images that move them. I do find that most men are concerned with equipment because they have a value placed on status. We women tend to know that the imagery is what matters.

    Now equipment doesn’t matter as long as you have good quality equipment that produces the same results as the higher quality equipment. It depends on how anal you want to get.

    Keep up the good work.

  21. LifePhoto March 21, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    Great advice. It’s easy to think purchasing new things will help your business grow but if the numbers don’t work out don’t let your emotion make the decision.

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    I kinda warned u hehe but anyway, on the most part it was fun so that’s good!

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  34. Lelala June 8, 2013 at 11:53 am #

    At least, you need creativity!
    Having a cam is just the tool!! :-) )

  35. Kim June 9, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    I completely agree! I do wedding photography and my clients are so busy with their day they don’t care what gear I use as long as the pictures look great they are happy.

  36. Paul Parkinson LRPS July 10, 2013 at 1:39 am #

    I get asked – a lot – “what camera should I buy” and more frequently, I’m thinking of buying , .

    I changed tack a while back and stopped answering the question. Instead I’ve taken to asking them why they need it. If they can’t come up with a proper reason, a real reason, then I tell them it’s not a case of “need” – it’s a case of “want”. I’m looking for cogent reasons here and when you have the “need versus want” conversation is liberating for many photographers – especially the younger ones. They’ve made the the jump from iPhone to DSLR, see the “pros” using big gear and think they need it too. I explain the reasons why and they seem happy. Their parents are delighted.

    Defining a “need” rather than experiencing a “want” are poles apart. Unless YOU know WHY you NEED something, it’s just a want and therefore unnecessary – at this time.

  37. Brian Sommers July 10, 2013 at 5:41 am #

    and this is exactly why I sold My Nikon D800, Nikon 12-24 and my 105 Micro Lenses.. to get a D7100 and 18-55 and 55-200 lens.. I couldn’t be happier and I love having all the extra money in my bank to purchase other things.

    It was simply overkill!

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