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So are these folks considered professionals?
Chuck Liddy, Photographer, Photo Editor
PLANET | EARTH | | Posted: 4:23 PM on 11.25.15
->> I'm just curious. It's that time of year again (end of football beginning of basketball). I know things have drastically changed in this business but I have a few questions. Are photographers who cover sporting events who pay their own expenses to travel (no matter how far), hand out photos to any and all organizations that ask for them (SID's LOVE free!) and basically just are on the sidelines because they have the means, financially, to be there (are in no need of money from actually shooting photos). Are they to be considered professionals or hobbyists? Thanks for any and all opinions.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 7:02 PM on 11.25.15
->> The default standard for decades -- and used by many professional organizations to allow membership -- is that at least 50% of one's income must be from photography to be considered a professional. The same basically goes for the IRS too.

Having professional gear and working for major media and agencies does not count when you're earning income to feed yourself and your family from a non-photo regular 40-hour-per-week job. Being a computer programmer during the week and shooting games at night or weekends doesn't make you a pro photographer; it makes you a pro programmer even though your imagery may be better than professional photographers who do it full time. Self-sufficiency is the key.

Other tell-tale signs of professionalism is having a business license from your city, having an EIN tax ID from the IRS, having a sales tax ID from your state's tax commission, having your business be registered as such with your state's commerce department, having business insurance, having a website and email address under your own domain name versus ...@gmail or ...@hotmail, business cards, and so on. Plus charging rates that cover your CODB versus giving away photos for free.

Anything less is usually considered being a hobbyist -- especially by the IRS when it comes to filing photography related business deductions.
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Kevin Krows, Photographer
Forsyth | IL | USA | Posted: 7:50 PM on 11.25.15
->> Chuck:

I've never heard of the 50% rule. I also assume that by "professional" you mean "a business". So, to rephrase your question, Are they considered a business or a hobby:

IRS Publication -

Liability Insurance-
Many homeowner policies exclude "business pursuits" or at least limit the amount of money a person makes to not be considered a business pursuit. Commercial Insurance is required.

State/Local Tax and Business Registration -
These vary from state to state, however, the majority of states require you to register as a business if you have an ongoing pursuit of making profit from your activities. Some people, in Illinois, believe that because you only offer services that you don't need to register since services are not taxable. WRONG. You still have to register and file your monthly or quarterly ST-1 reports and re-register every three years.

One of the best ways to clean up the sidelines is for one of these hobbyists to get injured or to cause injury to an official, athlete, or cause property damage. Who picks up the bill Mr. SID (Lover of Free Pics)?? He won't like the answer.

Chuck, my definition of "Professional" is based more on behavior than anything else. I even know folks who have been full-time photographers for years that aren't anywhere close to the word "Professional".

(hope this is the type of feedback you were looking for)
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Mark Loundy, Photo Editor, Photographer
San Jose | CA | USA | Posted: 2:36 PM on 11.26.15
->> Chuck,

For what pourpose do you need the definition? What are Chuck's requirements for being considered a professional? The quality of work? The amount of money being made? Is an incredible photographer, with excellent ethics, who is a lousy businessperson a professional? What about a great businessperson whose work is mediocre?

I don't think there is a definitive answer.

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Craig Mitchelldyer, Photographer, Assistant
Portland | OR | USA | Posted: 7:36 PM on 11.26.15
->> I consider the 50% rule as well, if you don't make your money as a photographer, you're not a professional photographer. And honestly if you have another job, then this is a hobby.
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David Evertsen, Photographer
Orlando | Fl | USA | Posted: 12:52 AM on 11.27.15
->> Gotta love it when you hear a local HS Yearbook Sponsor gets an email asking if her kids would like to shoot a Major D1 Basketball ball tournament for 100 bucks a game in Orlando at Disney over the Thanksgiving weekend for a big school.. Can't make this up..
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Tim Cowie, Photographer, Photo Editor
Davidson | NC | USA | Posted: 12:06 PM on 11.27.15
->> Would love to know which school this was.
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Paul Bobenmoyer, Photographer
Cheyenne | Wy | USA | Posted: 7:11 PM on 11.29.15
->> Well as someone who is starting out at this, not sure of the difference. As a retired disabled combat vet, I have not established myself with bigger venues as of yet. I been retired from the military for 2yrs now, and just got my first paying gig from one of the local HS's. I also had the oppurtunity to shoot my first D1 football game and was asked to shoot basketball. Now at the moment those gigs are not paying as of yet but I do plan on making them....

Since I work from home, I do plan on getting the appropriate licences and titles. My concern is, I see the long run goals, but right now when you may be only doing odds and ends work (alot for free) where does this title come into play and how is the best way to get your nameout there. Cheyenne is a "small" town and would like to makee something of this. I dont see myself as a professional as of yet, though do not see myself as a hobbyist either. That may offend some, but I want to learn, eager to learn.
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Paul W Gillespie, Photographer
Annapolis | MD | USA | Posted: 12:01 AM on 11.30.15
->> Paul, thank you for your service. I am not trying to discourage you from your desire and hope you take this in the spirit of learning from someone who has been doing this a long time. It is almost always impossible to turn a client you do work with for free into a paying client. They will usually move on to the next new shooter who will work for free. Not saying it can't or hasn't happened before, but it is tough.
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 9:10 AM on 11.30.15
->> Ditto to thanking you for your service.

I agree that once you set your price at the bottom of the hole the pay wall to climb out is near impossibly steep. You've not only hurt yourself, but your fellow photographers too who charge for their services.

Question: You shot for free. But did you give the HS and D1 free pictures too? There's a difference.

My college photo students get offers to shoot for free all the time because the "clients" don't want to pay for pictures. I teach them that if they need the experience, then shoot for free, but do NOT give their pictures away for free. Since a pass doesn't cost the school anything both of you are even. However, if you come up with some images that the school likes, then charge them a modest licensing fee. This way your work maintains value which it does the instant you press the shutter button. If they don't want to pay after the fact, then you know what their true intentions were -- that they are looking for people to supply valuable imagery to them for free with no hope of those photographers being able to charge for their work later when they get better.

You may shoot a thousand images and only three are good enough to equal that of a pro photographer. When that happens there is no reason why you shouldn't be charging the same licensing rate that the pros charge -- for those three pictures.

Another question: Did you just turn over the images to the schools or do you have a signed contract limiting their uses? There's a difference.

Using a photo on the school's athletic website is one thing versus using it on a poster, as a handout photo to the media, for biographical book deal uses down the road, etc.

When I do yearly WAC championships I make a standard licensing deal with individual schools. They give me the names of their athletes they need pictured and I supply pre-sized images for their athletic websites ONLY for a very good deal. The price is cheap but I make it up on volume because I don't have to waste my time doing every kid competing. If you just give away your images or sign typical contracts nowadays the clients get to use them for perpetuity in any form whatsoever. My contract states they can be used only on the website, each photo is watermarked with my name with copyright symbol, and they can only use the photos for as long as the athlete is enrolled in their school. Once the kid transfers, quits or graduates their license ends. Period. What this does is protect my rights should the student make it big time in the pros, goes to the Olympics, etc. because when that happens that is when the media giants with big wallets come calling to the schools for images of their former students. And when the big guys come calling that's when my big bucks invoicing comes into play. The odds are very small, but the revenue can be great if it happens. Why do I do this? It is called running what I do as a business.

I do NOT mean to whack you on the head, but to educate you. If a teen has no experience bagging groceries does he/she work for free at the store? No. Do college graduates start their first jobs working for free in hopes of getting paid later? No. And neither should you. Yet for some insane reason the marketplace believes photographers are the exception and therefore it is okay to take advantage of them -- probably because there are so many willing to give away their pictures for nothing.
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Gene Boyars, Photographer
Manalapan | NJ | United States | Posted: 10:52 AM on 11.30.15
->> Well said Doug and Paul W. G. I am retired now. I worked as a professional photographer for 46 years. The only time I ever gave my work and my time away was to help a charity that mattered to me. That was a form of giving back to the community. They actually offered to pay me and I refused. Even as a college student the school yearbook paid me $10 a page and the school daily newspaper paid me $2 a picture back in the 60's. I assisted people, I worked as a film runner and I hustled to learn as much as I could back in the days when you actually had to focus the camera, set your exposure etc, etc. I always got paid. Working for free does get you in the door but it pretty much closes the door on making money in the future now. Take that one step further, so many really good shooters are willing to work for $125 per day (plus a percentage of sales) now that SI has no staff photographers and Time, Inc has presented a new contract that is not photographer friendly in anyway. We as photographers have devalued our own work.
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Kevin Krows, Photographer
Forsyth | IL | USA | Posted: 11:19 AM on 11.30.15
->> Paul B .... Do what I did. Find a good mentor that is professionally trained in photography and martial arts. That way when he kicks you in the face it will really sink in.

Forever grateful to my Sensei (先生) Clark Brooks
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Doug Pizac, Photographer
Sandy | UT | USA | Posted: 1:04 PM on 11.30.15
->> Gene...

I really like your saying of working for free may open the door but it closes your chance on making money. If you don't mind, I'm going to beat that into the heads of my students.

Paul B...

Even though Cheyenne is a small town, that doesn't mean others are entitled to your photography without paying for it. Yes, you cannot charge NYC ad rates; instead, you charge what your market rate calls for. That's the business norm -- not free photos for a free pass.
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Garrett Hubbard, Photographer
Washington | D.C. | USA | Posted: 4:04 PM on 11.30.15
->> I came here for the comments.
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Sam Santilli, Photographer, Photo Editor
Philippi | WV | USA | Posted: 5:43 PM on 11.30.15
->> The old school 50% income comes from photo contest rules back in the day. You could enter a contest if you were not a professional photographer. The rules stated that to be considered not a pro, 51% your income had to derived from efforts other than photography. I remember people with ads in the phone book who entered these contests and were happy to win a blue ribbon. The last photo contest I judged, you were considered a pro if you took in $0.01 a year in photo income.
So times have changed. To me, if you take money for creating images, you are a pro. If you go around giving away images just to sniff jocks, then no, you are not a professional photographer. Professional jock sniffer, definitely. Here's your blue ribbon.
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Clark Brooks, Photo Editor, Photographer
Urbana | IL | USA | Posted: 7:30 PM on 11.30.15
->> "... working for free may open the door but it closes your chance on making money."

"It is almost always impossible to turn a client you do work with for free into a paying client. They will usually move on to the next new shooter who will work for free."

@Paul Bobenmoyer:
Furthermore, the word "free" and "cheap", providing products and services way below market value, are interchangeable in both of these statements.
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Stanley Leary, Photographer, Photo Editor
Roswell | GA | | Posted: 10:38 PM on 11.30.15
->> Little kids understand business better than many photographers.

How many lemonade stands do you see giving away lemonade for free?

How many restaurants do you see open up and after a little while they can now just raise their prices? No. Most restaurants start with the prices they plan to charge and raise prices to keep them current with the inflation rate.

How many hamburgers would you need to give away to prove you can make a hamburger?

Think people how this is a business first, if you want to earn income from photography. If you just want to take pictures then keep it as a hobby.
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Thread Title: So are these folks considered professionals?
Thread Started By: Chuck Liddy
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