Photographer at a bank

Hello kitties!

Banking can be confused.

Banking can be confused.

Paws up if you are tired of pseudo articles and in-helpful tips!

Let’s try something new. I am going to file this under photography section, but perhaps later on we will create a separate category for what my friend Annika calls “self – help pieces that you had to write yourself because there were none on the Internet”.

The idea for this post was born one day when I became very upset with several photographic and career related websites that offer unlimited amount of articles to read but nothing helpful to implement. You browse through the features and then you proceed to the comments and everybody says “Wow, great job. Well done”. In the meantime, you are left wondering if there is another person out there being equally annoyed at the complete lack of actual content.

Here is an example. Light Stalking (a very popular photography site with over 60K followers on social media) feature about photo-critique communities online written by professional art photographer:

http://www.lightstalking.com/5-incredible-online-communities-to-get-genuine-feedback-on-your-photography

Yes, over a thousand words and the picks are Flickr and Google+ and the hosting website (LightStalking). I have used Flicker on and off for about a decade (way before it was purchased by Yahoo!) and never got a single comment. Goggle+ is identical to Facebook, you have to pester people, even on photography – related pages to get constructive criticism.

But it ain`t that bad yet! Try to read this fine piece penned by a marketing guru about news journalism (caution if you have a weak heart!)

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20121203225228-107961-how-to-save-a-newspaper-stop-being-a-newspaper

Forget about newspapers being all about readers, news and bringing awareness to the community. Turning real life stories into profits in excel sheets is all the rage these days. At least according to dorks.

 

Articles similar to those quoted above are popping up everywhere like pumpkins before Halloween and taking place of real, user-friendly advice columns that Internet was once known for.

And that is why I feel so tempted to write my own advice piece.


Creating your own Tips &Tricks

Rita and I are gamers. We grew up reading Tips and Tricks columns and tried out thousands of cheats, secrets and combos. We can tell a good advice column by just looking at how it is written. It has to be straight to the point, rational and going into details. There is nothing more infuriating than scratching the surface, stating the obvious and leaving your reader thinking they know something, while in fact you have given them nothing. It’s rude and completely against net-etiquette. We may sound like Dear Abby in this point, but then again if you want respect from your reader, you’ve got to give it all you have. This little blog proves our words. Since our inception, we have tried to give our readers interesting concepts and stories and tell them about artists, food, places and events worth knowing about. We have now 13k hits on our counter and that goes without any big promotion. We just write and people enjoy and respond to it.

Come to think of it, Rita and I already created one post that meets all criteria of a good advice column. It was about using social media to promote a band and you can access it here:

https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/john-brittany-crowd-funding-done-right/

It was meant to be a “one stop post” for those who considered a stint with social media and crowd sourcing to collect money for their own artistic (musical?) project. It went very well with the readers; we have received a positive feedback and a lot of attention. So, perhaps it wouldn’t be all so bad to try again, this time about something I really care about: photography.

Your nearest bank

Your nearest bank

Photographer and bank

I know what you will say – why not write something about exposure or taking photos in particular conditions, or where one should go to receive a constructive critique. Those are very important topics but there is one, perhaps even more important factor to being a photographer than technical merits and being recognized for your work. It is what it means to be a photographer.

What I am going to write below can be also applied to other professions, or even perhaps to ones personal life, so you are free to use this article as a point of reference in case of you will find yourself in similar conditions.

Professional or amateur, once you venture beyond the basics of photography you will notice one thing: equipment costs and sometimes it feels so expensive that is out of your reach. And new cameras or lenses or gadgets appear on a regular basis so you have to upgrade, upgrade and upgrade. Cables, cards, bags, tripods, books – whatever additional gear you can think of – costs as well. You also travel a lot more often than other folks: be it on a local or international level. So more expanses: clothes, shoes, backpacks, hotels, food, tickets, perhaps a car and petrol.

If you are a studio based photographer, things are even more complicated. You need lighting; you need backdrops, soft-boxes and oh, a venue.

Of course you can be inventive, buy second hand gear, rent out, travel light and on budget. Those things can be arranged, but still, no matter how creative you get in this department, sooner or later you will find yourself thinking: where do I get money for all this and next thing you are on a way to the bank.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing bad about used gear or a shoe-string budget. It’s just not everybody’s way to do things, sometimes you simply want to have the gear in a perfect condition. However, it never hurts a photographer to have several options at hand. So if you are in need to arrange something here are two links that may come in a perfect moment:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/173777076106733/

Photo X-Change is a Facebook group set up by the Guild of Photographers in the UK for all your gear needs: selling, buying, exchanging. It grew large recently and you may meet people from most Commonwealth countries posting there. Probably one of the best places I know to buy equipment from: you are among other enthusiasts who know how to take care of the things and you may find some gems in the process.

Photo X-change Facebook group

Photo X-change Facebook group

http://www.lightstalkers.org/

LightStalkers is the oldest forum for travellers, photojournalists, photographers and adventurers online and has a big community of professionals hanging around. It doesn’t matter if you just want to travel somewhere off road, if you are a war correspondent or a budding journo – this community will be probably you first stop how to prepare yourself for life on the road with a camera as your best friend. You can network, find information about scholarships and grants and even receive critique on your work. If it requires invitation (it used to) just let me know, I will send you an invite, I have been a member of this forum since 2006 and you cannot find a better spot.

LightStalkers community

LightStalkers community

Questions, questions or what to ask to get what you want.

Banking in general is difficult for many people, less alone banking with a purpose. By purpose I mean that you go to a financial institution and deal with them because you want to use their offer to get yourself closer to your goal. It may be a small loan for equipment, easy and accessible banking while you travel or even a long time project like buying a studio or even a house.

To find yourself a right financial partner you have to ask tons of questions and read small print on every page. It’s good to keep a list of questions that will make it easier for you to decide.

Let us start with the most common issue – looking for a right banking account. It is not only crucial to obtain loan in the longer run, but without access to your money on the travels, you may face many unnecessary obstacles. Just one thing to be cleared here: if you plan to travel somewhere off beaten track or straight dangerous, please carry two bags: one with your clothes and equipment and the other with documents (and copies of documents), medicines and enough of cash in local currency to survive for a week (or preferably equivalent of 1000 EUR). In case of emergency, you just go for the grab bag and maybe sleeping bag and that’s it. You leave everything else behind, even the gear. If you travel in rather normal circumstances, you may prefer to keep less cash on yourself and most of it in the bank.

Money maker

Money maker

Bank accounts are also helpful if you run a business or even just earn with photography from time to time.

Each bank has their own terms and conditions, if you visit more than one bank, it is easy to be utterly confused!

So what to ask when opening a bank account:

–          What are conditions for a normal (“savings”) account and business account? – they tend to differ, it’s good to know!

–          What is the interest rate on the bank account? – it may come handy for business accounts.

–          What are the monthly fees for my account?

–          What annual fees there are?

–          Is there a tax that I have to pay at the end of fiscal year (“withholding tax”)?

–          Does that particular account come with online banking?

–          Do I get an ATM card?

–          Do I get a credit /debit card as well?

–          Do I get a check book?

–          Do I get travel cheques?

–          How long it will take to have the card/check book/travel cheques issued?

–          Is my debit/credit card international? – it must be if you want to use it abroad.

–          Do I pay any fees if I use an ATM of a different bank locally? – sometimes you will pay a % of the amount that you withdraw, if the banks  don’t have an agreement.

–          If I use my ATM/debit/credit cars abroad what are charges per transaction? – they may be as much as 3% per transaction, so it may affect how many times you use the ATM abroad. Even if the ATM belongs to your own bank.

–          What are the charges per transaction if a use an ATM that belongs to a different bank? – please note that in such occurrence you pay double: for withdrawing abroad and for using a different bank. It can come to 4-5 % of the amount you withdraw, so it’s important to have more on the balance than you plan to spend.

–          What are the exchange rates in the country where I plan to travel – good idea is to check with the bank a week before you travel to your destination.

–          If my card gets stolen or my banking is compromised, what are the security procedures? – always keep your PINs separate from the cards and keep the number to customer care helpline in case you have to block the stolen cards right away. This is a matter of life and death especially when you are travelling.

–          What is the minimum amount that must remain on the account? – at times you cannot clear the account to zero.

–          If I want to close the account how do I proceed?

Cash machine

Cash machine

That covers the basics, as you can see it’s a long list already. But knowing the above can help you to plan your budget, the way you handle the money, where you keep them and simply helps you to be more organized about your financial needs in general.

After approx. 6 months with your bank, you may be suitable to receive a loan. It is entirely different beast than a bank account because you not just place your funds somewhere, you actually borrow the funds you don’t own, to purchase either something smaller (equipment for example) or larger (a property like a studio). And essentially you have to give it back, with interest that is.

So what is there to look for, no matter the amount you plan to borrow? Yes, let us run another set of questions J

–          Am I suitable to apply for a loan?

–          What are the requirements for a national and for the foreigner to receive a loan? – it is generally easier to take a loan in your country of origin, but you may find yourself living abroad, so the more you know, the better you are prepared.

–          What is the minimum amount I may take?

–          What is the maximum amount I may take?

–          Do I have to pay a premium (own input) and how much it would be? – this would be when you plan to buy a property

–          Does the loan require a guarantor or a security deposit from my side?

–          How high would be the monthly rates?

–          Are there any other fees I need to cover? – taxes, notary, architects, insurance – there is always some extra cost written in small print on the back of the last page;)

–          If I buy equipment – can the bank insure it as well?

–          Can I prolong the guaranty of the equipment with the loan? – it is possible to extend the guaranty up to 5 years with some banks.

–          If l pay off the loan before the time, will I get penalized? – you may in some instances, because each month you pay more than you borrowed, so bank will be at loss with the interest.

Wait for service

Wait for service

–          What happens if I lose my job?

–          What happens if I get sick or die and the loan is not paid off?

–          Can I sell the property/equipment when the loan is still not paid off? How it is handled?

–          If you take a loan with somebody else, please see into separation of assets in case of a business split or bankruptcy.

Again, this is just a tip of an iceberg but can be a good start; all depends on what exactly one looks to purchase with the help of a loan.

Photographers like artists in general are known to be rather bad with their finances, so it is of uttermost importance to try to secure oneself and constant learning is advised.

We truly hope this post helped you in one way or another.

If you have any tips that we overlooked, please drop us a line and we will update the blog accordingly!

Adios for now

M+R

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