Learn the situations where you can write off photography on your tax return
Professional headshots are an important part of your career, whether you’re searching for a job, starting out or promoting yourself as an established freelancer, or putting together marketing materials for your business. But when are headshots a business expense? Being able to deduct expenses on your taxes is a great perk for some situations, and an absolute must for others.
Is my headshot for LinkedIn tax deductible if I am searching for a new
Not anymore. In December of 2017, the Tax Cuts and Jobs
Act was signed into law. This new tax law completely eliminated the
Unreimbursed Employee Business Expenses deduction for 2018 through 2025. This
deduction was included as part of the Miscellaneous Itemized Deductions section
of the 1040, and job search related costs were recorded on this schedule.
However, there are a handful of states that still include this break, including
Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Minnesota and New York.
If my employer asks for a headshot but does not pay for it, can I
deduct my headshot on my income tax return?
Just like the above scenario, no. If a taxpayer is an employee the Unreimbursed
Employee Business Expense section of the 1040 has been eliminated and is only
included on certain states income tax returns.
Is a headshot or any marketing photos I have taken of me tax deductible
if I am a self-employed freelancer and do not have an LLC or Corporation?
Yes! If a tax payer is self-employed and not an LLC, LLP, Partnership or Corporation, the individual would complete a Schedule C Form-Profit or Loss from Business (Sole Proprietorship). On this form, the taxpayer would be able to include headshots (photographers fees and duplication costs) and marketing photos on the “Other Expenses” section of the Schedule C of the 1040 form.
Is a makeup artist or a haircut tax deductible for my headshot session?
Yes, if the taxpayer is self-employed and not an employee of a company. Expenses directly related to the headshot session, such as makeup and a haircut are deductible as a business expense. If clothing is purchased or rented for a special shoot, a tax payer can also deduct those “props” as a business expense.
I own a business– can my business deduct the cost of a photographer’s services?
Yes, if a tax payer is a partner of a partnership or a shareholder/owner of a corporation and the photographer’s services are used by the business for marketing purposes, headshots (photographer’s fees and duplication costs) can be deducted as a business expense.
If any makeup artist is tipped, it’s most commonly the wedding makeup artist. Some estimates are that about 80-90% of wedding vendors in general (including makeup artists and hair stylists) expect a tip. This is because a wedding is a luxury event, and all the vendors involved are supplying a customized, luxury service. For a wedding, a makeup artist usually travels to your location, provides a consultation and communicates back and forth on ideas for the look you’d like before the event, and even purchases supplies and makeup specifically for your application.
Counter makeup artists: NO
Don’t freak out if you just realized you’ve never tipped the makeup artist at Sephora or Nordstrom for the time they spent teaching you how to contour. It’s generally considered not necessary to tip a counter makeup artist, and some stores even prohibit it. These makeup artists are actually salespeople with makeup skills and sometimes training, but their end goal at the counter is to sell you a product. Never go to a makeup counter for a makeup application for a photo shoot. These makeup artists are unlikely to have the skill or inclination to apply custom makeup for your needs, and the products are not likely to be specially made for photography. And again, their main objective is to test products on your face in order to sell them to you, which is great for when you’re sampling products you’d like to buy for yourself. But don’t think you’re cheating the system by having a salesperson at a makeup counter do your makeup for free for your photoshoot. Every time someone has come to our studio after doing this, they always end up unhappy with their look. We’ve had to start stocking makeup removing cloths in the studio so clients can remove their counter-applied makeup before their session.
Makeup artists for headshots/portraiture/commercial shoots: MAYBE
If tipping a wedding makeup artist was a reasonably solid “yes,” and tipping a counter makeup artist was a pretty solid “no,” then tipping a makeup artist for your headshot or portrait session is a definite “maybe.” For hair salons, a rule of thumb some people subscribe to is that you tip the stylists who work for the salon, but not the salon owner. Some people extend this idea to makeup artists: tip the makeup artists who are booked through a salon or agency because they do not keep the whole fee, but do not tip freelance artists because they keep all of their fee. But this isn’t a reliable measure since freelance artists are self-employed small business owners who have expenses an employee would not, such as insurance, marketing costs, travel costs, licensing, and materials. Some makeup artists can spend anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000 a year on the makeup and brushes in their kit and the sterile disposable items they go through. Since there is no industry standard “yes” or “no” for tipping with these kinds of makeup artists, then both freelance and agency artists usually have their fee structured in a way that they’re not relying on a tip to complete their fee, so a tip isn’t necessary. But some people are more comfortable tipping anyone in the beauty/service industry, and if you’re one of these people, then feel free to tip your makeup artist. They won’t turn it down and they’ll definitely be appreciative of it, while not expecting it. A good rule of thumb on tipping makeup artists in this category is: “never expected, always appreciated.”
If you don’t want to tip your makeup artist at a headshot session, here are some kind things you can do for them that they would definitely appreciate even more than a tip:
Come ready for them. Follow their instructions to prepare for your session, which usually involves coming with a clean, makeup-free face.
Communicate with them. Be honest about what you want and don’t want before they start the application, then trust them while they apply makeup, then give them honest feedback afterward so they can make changes before you get in front of the camera. If you’re happy with the makeup, speak up and tell them you like it. If you’re unhappy with it, speak up as well, so they have a chance to adjust what they did to your liking.
Don’t hold a mirror to watch what they do. Again, you must trust them to listen during the consultation and use their skills to apply makeup, without babysitting what they’re doing. A mirror in your hand also gets in their way and slows down the process. If you have any questions, feel free to ask, and the makeup artist will answer.
Give them a positive review. If the makeup artist has a listing on Google, Yelp, or Facebook, give them a positive review, or offer to write a testimonial for their website. Follow them on Instagram if they have an account. More follows on social media means good marketing for them.
Refer the makeup artist to your friends and colleagues, so they can continue their awesome work.
If you’re ready to book a headshot session in our Chicago studio with a makeup artist, do that here!
So many folks swing by our studio for professional headshots to update their LinkedIn profile, so we chatted with our friend Susie to get some job search tips. Susie Grant is a Human Resources Business Partner. With an extensive background in human resources and recruiting, Grant has experience in HR advisory, employee relations, developing sourcing strategies, and staff forecasting.She sat down to offer some insight into what HR professionals look for in job candidates and how your professional presence (both in person and online) can impact your ability to land your next gig.
Q: What are your top tips for job searchers?
It is certainly an industry cliché, but getting noticed is the first—and arguably most important—step. I think what is most important to remember here is while your resume plays a big role, social media is becoming increasingly more important. Recruiters and HR professionals are continuing to rely on networks like LinkedIn, Indeed and Glass Door when vetting candidates for interviews. We’ll go into some of that more in a bit.
Outside of polishing up your professional presence online, I also love the following tips:
Keep it concise: Different industries have different standards, but most of the time you want to stick to a one or two-page resume.
Tailor your story: Don’t just toss your name into the hat and hope it sticks. Review and revise your resume for each application and tell the most thorough story about why you are right for the job.
Do your homework: Study the job board and find a position that really speaks to your interest. Before you apply, consider if you really want this job, and what you can do to convey that in your application. The more strategic you are about where you apply, the less often you’ll have to do it!
Bring your ideas: Talk about what kind of impact you’ve made in your current role. Whether this is process change, innovative ideas or creative solutions to challenges, telling that story (with numbers, if you can!) makes a huge impact on future employers.
Make a list, check it twice: Nothing is more important than proofing. It sounds obvious, but having an error-free resume and application goes a long way!
Q: Anything job candidates should make sure not to do?
A little common sense in an interview is a must! Of course, interviewers understand this is a stressful situation, but this is also your time to shine. Present with confidence when talking about your skills, why you want this new position and why you would be a good fit. Think about how to convey that you either (1) know you are going to be good at this role or (2) what about you indicates you can be easily trained for this position.
Q: What kind of role does a headshot play when you’re looking at job candidates?
This is where social media has made a huge impact on the recruiting field. How you present yourself with a headshot online is more important than ever, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. With the rise of networks like LinkedIn, it’s pretty easy to be a passive jobseeker online. If you’re connected to the right people and are actively updating your profile, recruiters will start coming to you.
That said, consider the fact that (not to sound too creepy here) someone is always watching! Make sure your headshot is up-to-date and that your profile online is complete. It makes you seem more polished and approachable.
While there’s nothing wrong with a traditional, shoulders-up headshot think about ways you can get creative, if it works for your industry. If you’re in a field like banking, sales, or law, you may not want to stray too far from the traditional look, but if you’re in a creative field, think about ways you can change up your wardrobe or let your personality shine through.
It doesn’t need to be the best photo you’ve ever taken, but putting a little thought into your photo selection is important! No matter what, I don’t suggest cropping yourself out of a photo from a night out with your friends…no matter how good the lighting is. J
Q: How can someone be sure they are memorable? Anything that makes them memorable in a bad way?
If you’re using a professional photographer for your headshot, which I would highly recommend, make sure you come prepared to communicate exactly what you’re looking for. If you’re willing to step outside the box a little, give them an example or tell them what you’re hoping to achieve with your photo. Taking a moment to brainstorm will ensure you’re comfortable with the photo you get and that it really captures the personality you’d like to display on your professional profile.
Think about it this way: you want convey relevant parts of your personality. Relaying things like creativity, confidence and an outgoing personality are a plus. Things like your love of reptiles, your massive action figure collection and your dirt bike skills…maybe not relevant. Be you, be confident, but do it in a way that makes sense for the job you want!
Whether it’s a more traditional headshot or something on the creative side, if I see a qualified candidate has taken the time to create a complete online profile, I can usually be confident they are a dedicated candidate and are serious about their career.
“I see that I can add a hair and makeup artist to my session… I’m not sure. Should I?” This is a question we hear all the time. And our answer is always, “it’s up to you.” Everyone is different, so it’s up to you to decide what would help you look your most photogenic. For some of us that means a makeup artist, for others, retouching, for others none of those, and for still others (or most of us, really), both a makeup artist and retouching.
Should I add a makeup artist to my photo session?
Since deciding whether or not to add a hair and makeup artist to your session can be tough, here’s a list of situations where someone can benefit from having a hair and makeup artist at their session:
You’re a woman who barely wears makeup or doesn’t wear any makeup at all.
This one might sound counterintuitive at first, but you read it right. The reason we recommend a makeup artist for women who don’t wear makeup is because our makeup artists specialize in natural-looking makeup for headshots. They listen to how you normally apply your makeup (or how you don’t apply any at all) and create a look that naturally enhances your features without making the makeup itself noticeable. For example, someone looking at your headshot should find themselves thinking, “her eyes look nice,” not, “that’s some great mascara.”
You’re a man or woman who can never get his or her hair to sit the way you want it to for photos.
Having a hair and makeup artist present at your photo session means having a professional to get your hair in exactly the place it should be, and to make sure it stays where it’s intended for each pose.
You tend to have red, blotchy, uneven skin, or rosacea.
A professional makeup artist will be able to use color correcting and matching techniques to apply concealors, correctors, and foundation for a more even-looking skin tone. It’s the most natural way to get your best skin possible for the photos.
You’ve never liked the way your makeup has looked in past photos.
Sometimes the makeup we wear on a regular, daily basis isn’t best formulated for photography. Makeup artists use brands that photograph best under both flash and continuous lighting, and know how to apply it in ways that make sure it shows exactly as they intend.
You would like the extra insurance for a great photo.
We’ve all been traumatized by photos in the past where we looked… well, not our best. Having a professional stylist at your photo session ensures the best possible chances of a great photo. They will use makeup to make sure your skin looks as smooth and even as possible and your best features at the center of attention. Hot tools and styling products will also be on hand to re-curl any fallen curls, smooth frizz from humidity or add volume in dry weather.
If you have any questions about whether or not adding a makeup artist to your headshot session is right for you, feel free to contact us.
Today is the day I’m finally tackling the controversial issue of pricing in photography. Specifically, discounts. As a small business owner and service provider I’ve been asked for a discount more times than I can count. I believe we’re living in what I like to lovingly call the “Groupon Era,” where no one pays full price anymore. Pricing for everything online and in stores is in red ink or with flashing lights and lightning bolts pointing to it.
Picture that shirt at The Gap that was going for $39 so you were on the fence about buying it, until you saw the redlined original price of $59 and you couldn’t get to the checkout line fast enough with your steal of a deal. There’s a definite psychology to discount shopping too tangled to get into here, so let’s just say that in a nutshell, buying things at a lower price makes us feel good. We feel like we got more value out of what we’re getting because we paid less for it than others would have.
As a small business owner with no red lines through the pricing on my website I have to say I’ve felt the brunt of the “Goupon Era” mentality to the point of… well… sometimes rudeness. Some people don’t know they’re being rude when they ask for a discount or tell me my pricing is too high and I actually don’t blame them, I blame the discount culture we live in. But these are some things that have been said to me:
“Ha! Don’t you think that’s a little expensive?”
“Is there any way you could just charge me less?”
“Can you do the same amount of work for $200 instead of the $700 you quoted me? Our budget is $200 for the project.” (coming from a private equity firm with a self-proclaimed portfolio of several million dollars in holdings, by the way.)
“I don’t understand why I have to pay that, I only want 1 photo. Why can’t you just take 1 photo? You just want my money—this is a scam.” (I wouldn’t have believed this one myself if there wasn’t a photo assistant in the room to verify this. This was actually said to my face.)
Now this blog post isn’t going to be another one of those “OMG DON’T ASK FOR A DISCOUNT THAT’S SO RUDE” posts, because I get it. I shop at thrift stores because I love the thrill of the hunt and getting a $50 sweater for $5. I love my money, I worked hard for it, and I HATE parting with it. I’m a part of the discount culture and I hate paying full price for things. So I get it. I totally get it.
And as a small business owner I have to face the fact that discounts are common practice and here to stay. But instead of laying out my expense sheets, justifying my pricing, and begging people not to discount hunt with their photographers, I decided to draw up some tips for both clients and photographers to better navigate the discount road. So here they are: tips for how to ask your photographer for a discount, and tips for the photographer on what to do when you’re asked for a discount.
How to ask your photographer for a discount:
If you think the price is expensive, ask yourself what you are comparing to. Is this particular photographer more expensive than another? If so, compare their portfolios, their experience, etc. Or is it possible that you just had a lower number in your mind when you started price shopping? Which is totally fine if that happened, you did nothing wrong by expecting it to be less. But now that you’ve been given a number different from what you expected, try to figure out if your expectation was within range of the value of the service in the market. Look at pricing from several other photographers with portfolios you like—if there’s a trend, chances are your expectations were off, and that’s okay. Now adjust your budget or the project accordingly.
If you’re going to ask the photographer for a discount, start with asking if they have any existing discounts or a time of the year when they run a promotion. Some wedding photographers, for example, have lower rates for times when business is slower for them, such as during the winter, Thursdays, or Fridays. Be prepared to give a little if you want to take a little. Asking for a discount is asking for something for nothing, so you might have to adjust your own plans to make the price you want work.
Think about “what’s in it for them.” Photographers are small business owners. They only offer discounts when they can get something legitimately good for their business in return. Something that makes less work for them they might do for less money. For example, I have a standing 2-at-once headshot discount where if 2 people come in for a headshot at the same time they each get 20% off their session. This makes less work for me since I don’t have to schedule back and forth with 2 people for 2 different sessions when they come together, so I pass that time/effort savings onto them in the form of a discount.
Please remember that this person is a working professional who owns a small business, and asking them to do their work for cheaper with no good reason or incentive is, well, let’s just say it, insulting. Your boss wouldn’t say “your paycheck is going to be half what it usually is this week because your pay is not in our budget,” and if that did happen, how would you feel? Just try to keep this person’s feelings in mind when asking for a discount. Word it carefully and with respect.
For photographers—how to give a discount:
Offer a standing discount that makes good business sense for you: clients get a reduced rate, but you get something of equal value in return. For example, a discount for someone who refers a new client to you, or an exchange of services of equal value such as 15% off photo services for your hair stylist who gives you 15% off his or her services to you. Or offer a discount for a cause you believe in. I offer discounts to military personnel because I see how hard it can be to transition from active military to making a career change and I want to offer a discount on professional headshots so they can do that more easily, and I view it as a small thank you for serving our country. It legitimately makes me feel good to offer that discount and when someone redeems it. Also having a short list of standing discounts gives you a good canned response when someone gives you that “can I have a discount?” question. It turns an awkward conversation into an empowered one where you can list off all of the exact situations that qualify for a discount, and puts the responsibility back onto the client to see if they fit into one of those situations.
Know your numbers, know your business, and know what you can and can’t do with your pricing. Assert yourself and avoid the guilty feeling that you have to make everyone happy with your pricing by immersing yourself in your profit and loss statements, expense reports, and pricing structure. Know your numbers thoroughly, know why you charge what you charge, and then own it. If you want to help a client out without discounting your rate, consider adding value by adding service instead; such as a free retouched photo, an extra hour of event coverage, or offer to throw in some free prints.
Remember that some people just aren’t your clients. And that’s okay. Even when they beg you. Even when it’s been a slow month. Take care of yourself and listen to your emotions and determine if you’re relinquishing discounts because they make good business sense or because someone is toying with your emotions and trying to make you feel guilty because they can’t or don’t want to pay for it. Every time someone asks for a random discount I don’t offer or tells me my rates are too high for them I feel crummy. It does beat me down a little. But then I scope out my competitors’ rates, look through my own portfolio, and I straighten my shoulders and remind myself that my pricing is correct and it’s okay that it’s not for everyone.
Think of the industry. If you’re a working photographer you’re part of the photography industry, and we photographers stick together. Every time you lower your rate, another photographer gets asked to lower theirs because someone out there got it for cheaper. Please keep the integrity of your profession in mind and your rates in line with industry trends. So many of your fellow photographers are still working part time and even full time jobs outside of their profession because of the discount culture created by bidding sites and other service industry pricing pitfalls. If you haven’t already done so, consider joining a local or national pro photo group like the PPA so that you can keep up with the issues everyone in your industry is facing so we can face them together.