A Common Financial Pitfall for New Professional Photographers

In the competitive and often unpredictable world of professional photography, managing finances can be as crucial as mastering the lens. The journey from a budding photographer to a seasoned pro is fraught with challenges, not least among them is financial management. This important video from a seasoned professional discusses a crucial mistake less seasoned photographers often make. 

Coming to you from Scott Choucino of Tin House Studio, this insightful video takes a look at a common yet critical mistake many photographers make: the temptation to splurge following the receipt of a big paycheck. This instinct, as described, is often fueled by the initial euphoria of success - the desire to upgrade equipment, buy new accessories, or simply reward oneself. However, this practice is cautioned against, emphasizing the importance of financial prudence in a field where income can be sporadic and unpredictable. Choucino shares personal experiences, highlighting how premature spending on non-essential items can lead to financial stress, especially when subsequent jobs are delayed or payments are slow to arrive.

What stands out is the emphasis on a disciplined approach to financial management. The advice to wait for multiple jobs to come in before considering any major purchases is practical and grounded. It reflects a deep understanding of the industry's uncertainties and the need for photographers to be financially prepared for dry spells. The focus shifts from immediate gratification to long-term stability, urging photographers to view their earnings through a lens of sustainability rather than momentary excitement. It's important advice for anyone who wants to make an income from their work. Be sure to check out the video above for the full rundown from Choucino.

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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There is another benefit to resisting the urge to splurge, one that's rarely discussed, and that's the problem-solving expertise one develops in pushing the boundaries of what can be done with a modest kit. Can't afford expensive lighting mods? Foamcore is cheap. Can't afford big sensors and bright glass? There is lots of good, affordable flash gear available now, tripods can be your friend, and multi-frame stacking and modern noise reduction software can accomplish amazing results. In short, technique can take one far, and bumping into challenges is one of the best motivators for developing it.

I realize the irony in complaining about this, but.. do we really need so many videos from this dude posted here? This is the 4th one shared in the past week, and they all seem to be telling what to do or what not to do because you suck, your photos suck, your lighting sucks, your gear sucks and you suck.

He's always pushing older gear (those 1980's broncolor lights?) over anything modern like Godox, pushing how old cameras will get the job done, and it all comes off like "The Angry Photographer" on Youtube. Nearly 600 videos and they've all got a negative tone to do them. There might be some valuable information in there, but it's just depressing to watch. No, you don't need a new camera or lens or lighting setup.. but a lot of the time those are tools that you'll use for years to come (just not.. 40 years) and will improve your quality of life as a photographer, improve your images quite a bit of the time, and motivate you to do more with your photography

Hi Scott, thanks! I have more than 3 decades of experience but never did hit your level of achievement in terms of clientele or team coordination levels or national ads. I do agree with what you are saying and do keep posting.

To: Matt S
There's very few voices who will honestly tell you what the business side is. It isn't depressing if you are forewarned.

Btw, a Godox isn't really more modern than a 30 year old Broncolor. Really!

A well taken care of 30 year old flash might outlast that Godox and deliver more consistency on the job. Clients value consistency and reliability more than technique. Of course nothing lasts forever, a color meter might be necessary for critical jobs and when you lay on diffusers.

Mobility would be the only recent difference that forces you to think different for a job. Then I would consider a Profoto.

A 30-year-old Broncolor isn't battery-powered. It also doesn't have built-in TTL, radio triggering and remote control. So, yeah, Godox stuff is more modern.

And, if you need battery power, Profoto's recent batteries have a terrible reputation, never mind that some of the Profoto flashes are reported to drain them very fast even when on standby.

If you shoot exclusively in a studio, maybe Broncolor or Profoto is the right kit. But, for location shooters like me, Godox offers a fantastically versatile lineup that doesn't max my credit card.

As for reliability, I've been using Godox gear since the first V850 came out about, oh, 6-8 years ago. I've now got at least a dozen of their flashes, from a pair each of V850 and V860 IIs and IIIs, V1s, AD200s and MS300s, and they've all held up and performed superbly, the only exception being two of the oldest $40 batteries that swelled after several years of use. I use them for event work and location portraiture, so they're not coddled in a safe studio environment, either. Really couldn't ask for more.

A 30 year old Broncolor in the studio doesn't need battery. TTL is not needed if you know your science for most scenarios including events. Radio triggers can be bought and attached to the 30 year old Broncolor and works fine. Portability is also mobility.

I have used Profoto, Elinchrom, Lumedyne, Balcar, Bowens over 30+ years.

I'm not doubting your experience with Profoto batteries but a quiet sit down and discussion with the technician would solve many issues. Everything on earth has issues. Just solve it.

My Profotos are the B10, AcuteB 600R, B2 250 AirTTL series. What's good about them is really the consistent color quality fired at 1 to 2 seconds apart for thousands of flashes a day. That's my measure. The older flashes have warmer tubes but slower duration. The newer B10 has a bluer color and faster durations meant for fashion so color matching is necessary but at least, the very least a professional flash system has to deliver under pressure is the consistent color quality. Fluctuations will kill your reputation.

Have you checked the mechanical fittings of your Godox. Stress tested the connectors. Work out how fast you can change your modifiers under pressure. How big/heavy a modifier can it carry? How robust or fragile are the modifiers. Have you checked their flash durations for action work. How precise is the shape of the output, does it feather nicely and consistently?

Broncolors are just faster but I'm like you, a location shooter for most of my career. I only shot in-studio with Bowens for 12 years. I use Profoto because it's better for location but I can work with anything. I didn't like the Godox but it doesn't mean I can't work with it. Broncolor is designed for speed, precision and rapid changeover in studio conditions. I study what I might need because if I need it I don't get hung up on the price if the client pays for it and I don't slow down on the job.

Lastly, do you have a color flash meter to test consistency? That's the "modern" that you need when they are not consistent in color and power.

Before I went pro, I assisted scores of pros for several years, working in studios and on location. I worked mainly with Profoto and Dynalite. Yeah, I like the Profoto studio gear, but for event work, Profoto and Broncolor just aren't the way to go. And while I'm a bit of a dinosaur myself, a 30-year-old Broncolor isn't "modern", which is the claim to which I responded initially. Whether "modern" has value to you is a separate issue.

There are widespread reports, including from a colleague, that Profoto speedlight batteries drain with shocking alacrity even when they're on standby. And, at $300 each, spares are a luxury.

As for color consistency, in event work lighting is often changing, and any minor color shifts are completely unnoticeable. Further, I shot a day's worth of corporate headshots recently in a conference room with el-cheapo Godox MS300 / Flashpoint Blaz 300 monolights, and reviewing the photos now I don't see any color shifts from shot to shot. I shot a ColorChecker Passport and set the same WB for all in post.