Photography, like any tool-centric profession, can be rather expensive. When starting out a photography business, you generally need to be on top of the cost of everything, so that you can be as sure as possible that your investments will pay off.
Thankfully, the internet and digital age have brought upon us a wave of free information, tools, and services that can make many parts of your photography business significantly less expensive. Being thrifty is vital to the success of many new business ventures, and it is especially so when so much photographic equipment is both expensive and necessary.
Let’s take a look at some of the best free tools for your photography business.
Website creation and Development
The fees and costs of running a website and online portfolio surely add up. Some of these costs are necessary; the allocation of server space and the cost for a domain, for instance. Some paid plugins and templates for your website might be worth the professional look they afford you, but that’s your choice to make. On the other hand, let’s take a look at some of the best free resources for someone starting out their website.
Domainr is a simple tool; it lets you check if your prospective website domain names (the actual name of the website such as amazon.com) are available. When coming up with your website name, it’s important to see the options and see if you can actually use it. This is especially true before you start creating marketing materials!
WordPress is a great open-source website design tool that, due to its longevity and commercial success, is accompanied by easily searchable information that will surely cover all and any questions you may have. You can use WordPress for both a traditional website and a blog, and the amount of pre-built free templates, plugins, and options you have at your disposal is incredible. Additionally, WordPress bridges the gap between all-in-one website design businesses and starting from scratch – you aren’t getting the instant cookie-cutter look from a boutique website design that you would pay for, but you also aren’t tasked with immediately having to learn all the intricacies of website design. Lastly, WordPress is used by so many photographers and photograph centric businesses that any questions you have will probably have been asked and answered several times over.
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Backing up your photos
Photographs take up lots of space. Currently, my Canon CR3 RAW files are at least 30MB, each, and there are days where I shoot several thousand images. That means I have days where I literally shoot over 100 gigabytes of images. This means two things – firstly that I need to be good about managing my Lightroom backlog, and secondly that I need a lot of storage and backups. I definitely don’t keep every photo or even 10% of them, but I still have filled many, many hard drives, not to mention offsite storage. Thankfully, there are some great offsite storage solutions that are either free or relatively low in cost if needed.
If you are already paying for Amazon Prime, Amazon photos are bundled in your membership and allow you unlimited RAW storage. Sadly, for those of us using a file format such as the aforementioned CR3, it isn’t currently supported. Make sure to check if the file type that you shoot in is, or else you will have to painfully convert each image to one that is supported to upload it. I use Amazon Photos to backup all deliverable images and edits that I want easy access to from my phone. You can even set Amazon photos to auto-sync from your image library, such as where I import Lightroom photos to, but I prefer manually doing it as one of my final steps when working on files.
As someone that does not currently own a Google Pixel device, Google Photos makes me envious of those that do. Sadly no longer free for all users, Google Photos provides unlimited photo backup, albeit it will compress RAW files. This is still a great option for those wanting to save those finalized JPEGs.
Although a recent change has made the free upload amount rather slim, using Flickr as a backup tool and somewhere to share some of your best work is definitely an option. I recommend using Flickr as somewhere to keep your ‘mega-portfolio’, or every photo that you would consider using in a future online portfolio. That makes it possible to even reach out to mentors or other photographers for fast critiques, editing or compositional suggestions, or any other advice you might want to receive.
Lastly, Dropbox offers 3GB of free storage, with the possibility to increase that storage later on on a paid plan. Sadly, there isn’t currently any website that just offers free unlimited storage, and if that were the case, it would be hard to trust them to retain your files and have actual server uptime. These storage solutions might not let you save every single photo you have ever taken, but even as they stand, they are a better alternative than not having a single online backup.
Finance and Business Tools
This is the boring part of the guide, but also the important part. A lot of finance and business based tools are expensive, often having high fees meant for large corporations to pay out. Let’s take a look at some of the better options for photographers that want to keep that overhead as low as possible.
A CRM, or Customer Relationship Management Software, makes it easy to organize, price, and bill for your clients. Flolu isn’t really anything special – it’s marketed towards photographers, but isn’t any different from a basic CRM software, other than some slight difference in interface nomenclature. Despite this, what makes Flolu great is the price – it’s free, and a great step up from the use of unorganized spreadsheets.
I used to invoice only through Paypal, which meant that on each transaction I was losing out on money to pay for Paypal’s service and support. That isn’t a bad thing if you need the payment protection, but it really wasn’t something I needed. InvoiceToMe is a great place to throw together invoices for free, and it doesn’t require any hassle. Just open the link and type out what you need paid for!
Docract is a fantastic website that allows you access to millions of legal documents that you don’t have to pay for. Contracts are just the starting point; you can find everything you will need here. Make sure to read them through yourself, however, as it’s just the best practice when using any open source legal literature. Down the road, if you find yourself reusing the same contracts over and over, it might be time to get a lawyer to draft a contract template for you!
With these three business side tools, you will be able to cut out the majority of the cost for your photography business. I hope that these resources, along with the others listed above, were helpful to you!