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Belgian taxes for stock photographers

I thought it might be useful to share how taxation works in Belgium.

Remark: This is not an official tax advise and I am not responsible for any misunderstanding. I simply share what I learned from my accountant and what works for me.

Stock photography falls under simplified light taxation that applies to art/copyright works.

That means you don’t need to register a business (even self-employed is not necessary), you can declare the income as your personal.

The tax applied is 15%

You are allowed to declare 50% of your overall stock income as your cost, so 15% is taken from half of your income (up to the ceiling of 13,840 Eur for income 2009 – and you can declare 25% of income as cost for the second 13,840 Eur).

On a practical side – if you are filling paper tax declaration you need to request tax office to provide you the second part (that is usually used by business); if you are filling your tax online in tax-on-web you can enter data directly.

You declare your total income per year in Euro in field 1190; and half of the a mount as cost in field 1191 (if your annual income is <13,840 Eur). How to count the amount: Typically you don’t receive any supporting documents from stock agencies (unless it’s a German one). So just write down yourself every dollar amount that you transferred during reporting year from stock sites to your paypal account (or to your bank account or whatever method you used); and convert every transaction to Euro using historical exchange rate on that date (find in internet). Of course you keep Euro amount if you are receiving money from European agency. Then sum all Euro amounts and use it your for declaration. Attach your calculation to your declaration.

Update on stock photography improvement plan

This is end of the year update on my stock photography improvement plan.

Although I wasn’t yet able to achieve all of my targets, I am happy with the progress.

Since beginning of October I had 4 photo sessions specifically for stock – i.e. much higher rate that I had ever before. Unfortunately due to personal reasons I wasn’t able to organize any sessions in December otherwise the number would have been even higher. For the same reason I wasn’t able to produce consistently 100 stock pictures per month – something I definitely need to address. In 2 months I produced around 220 pictures (fully processed and ready to upload).

As I already mentioned in my previous update I am satisfied with the partial outsourcing I made. I only outsourced retouching part, i.e. I am still doing myself RAW processing, white balance, brightness/contrast, masking and keywording. I only outsourced the least creative part and it saves me quite a lot of time. I will certainly continue using that service.

As I mentioned in my plan I didn’t waste time processing non-stock photos for stock. Combination of this, plus higher number of stock-oriented photo sessions plus outsourcing resulted significantly increased output. The only reason I stayed below target was personal circumstances that consumed a lot of my time that I could have devoted to photography.

Thus the adjustment of my plan is that I will aim to produce around 150 good stock photos monthly – that will allow me to stay above 100 even when I will need to take some breaks.

I believe I made a good progress with item 5.1 of my original plan – take better photos i.e. to improve various small elements such as model’s smile, clean background etc.

Point 5.2 from my original plan is still open. It was about making analysis of what subjects sell well and make sellable photos. The word “analyse” here is related to both evaluation of the market bestsellers and evaluation of my own portfolio and my own bestsellers.

While I keep doing some basic analysis I plan to work seriously on item 5.2 later, after the previous items will be successfully implemented and will become a normal routine.


First full month with outsourced retouching

This is the first report about progress of my stock photography improvement plan.

October was the first full month when I used outsourcing for retouching. Also, I focused on production of photos specially for stock. Thus I didn’t loose time processing my random family/friends pictures for stock.

I must say I am quite happy that I decided to outsource. I easily produced 100 stock photos (which was my target for this year) and I feel that I can quite easily produce even more.

A positive side effect was improved acceptance rate. My acceptance rate at istock was around 75%, but in October it went up to ~98%. I believe it happened mainly because I didn’t spend time on non-stock photos; and didn’t experiment with processing/filters etc, making just straightforward adjustments and editing.

In October I had 2 stock photo sessions. In November I already had 1 and 1 in scheduled for this weekend.


Taking my stock photography to the next level

After doing stock photography for a few years I reached lately (yet another) plateau. Adding new photos to portfolio doesn’t improve sales. This isn’t an unusual situation; but in addition to that I am not satisfied with my past pace of growth. I believe I now learned enough to seriously take my stock photography to the next level.

There are few quite obvious (to me) areas that I need to address:

1) I need to take more pictures specially for stock.

So far most of pictures taken by my camera aren’t made specially for stock. At the same time O noticed that pictures taken specially for stock take less time to post-process; and session organized specially for stock generates many more usable photos. Thus the conclusion is simple:

2) Don’t spend time processing non-stock photos for stock.

Post-processing (selecting good photos from the shoot; RAW processing; editing in photoshop, keywording) takes several times more time than shooting. One of the main reasons I didn’t organize too many shoots specially for stock was too big back-log of unprocessed photos. The previous point will address that to a big extend. Further reduction of post-processing time can be achieved with another simple step:

3) Be more selective processing photos for stock. Don’t waste time trying to improve imperfect pictures.

Still, processing pictures takes a lot of time and it is still much longer than shoot even if I select pictures more carefully. So the next focus point is to reduce post-processing time. So, my next step is:

4) Outsource part of post-processing.

This one is being tested right now. I decided to try to outsource retouching work to India. Retouching is a routine procedure that takes a significant portion of my time now but isn’t very expensive when done by somebody else. I will keep other, more creative parts of post-processing for myself.

This is now in test mode – I found a company to do the work (via a recommendation), tried a few pictures with them, agreed on price and send them the very first batch. I hope it will work.

As a possible next step I consider outsourcing keywording but that is yet to be decided.

So to summarize all of the above: I need to take more pictures, be more selective which ones to process and need to reduce post-processing time. Yet another step to improve my stock photography is:

5) Take better photos.

Technically my photos are already good – vast majority of my pictures are accepted by agencies without problems. However I need to take better stock photos. There are two parts in that task:

5.1) One is relatively simple and is to improve various small elements such as model’s smile, clean background etc.
5.2) The other is much more difficult – to analyse what subjects sell well and make sellable photos. The word “analyse” here is related to both evaluation of the market bestsellers and evaluation of my own portfolio and my own bestsellers.

I plan to work seriously on item 5.2 later, after the previous items will be successfully implemented and will become a normal routine.

My plan for the remaining months this year is to implement items 1 to 5.1 and to produce at least 100 good photos monthly. If it will work well I will need to increase the number next year and to start seriously working on item 5.2.


Stockxpert conference in Moscow

http://www.stockxpert.com/events/moscow/en/index.html

This is just a short note about the event. The full article is published in Microstock Diaries.

Stockxpert conference was attended by ~150 Russian-speaking visitors from Russia and other countries (I noticed people from Estonia and from Ukraine, but there might have been others).

Besides two main invited guests – Ron Chapple and Lev Dolgachov – Jupiter’s own team included Patty Vargas (Senior Director of content in Jupiter), Steve Kapsinow (community Xpert in SPX), Stockxpert founder Peter Hamza and a few other people.
Lev, Steve, Ron
Left to right: Lev, Steve and Ron

Ron and Lev remained the main speakers through most of the day. In the beginning, Ron was speaking about ‘Creativity & Business’.
Ron speaking
Ron’s presentation was covering various topics. Ron was speaking about growing stock market and new markets created by new technologies. On photography side Ron was discussing that clients want new ideas and that copying successful pictures isn’t a good idea.

Then Ron shared his 5 ideas for success in stock photography business.

After Ron’s presentation a quick slide-show of his own favorite pictures was shown and then Ron has answered several questions about photography, about working with model and about model releases.

Lev DolgachovThe day continued with Lev’s presentation in Russian. Lev has shared his perspective on microstock business and it’s near future. Lev elaborated on constantly changing environment that forces every stock photographer to keep up with the pace. One of his other focus points was to do what you like and not force yourself doing something you aren’t interested.

The lunch was followed by Ron and Lev workshops. Ron has shown how to use natural light, and Lev was speaking about studio work.
Ron working with model Ron working with model
Ron showing how to work with model using natural light

At the end of the official part, Jupiter and Stockexpert perspective was shared and some questions answered.

You can find more details (including all main points from Ron’s and from Lev’s speeches and main topics covered by Jupiter) in the full article in Microstock Diaries.

I enjoyed the day, and I saw that most other participants enjoyed it too. It seems that Jupiter/SXP team was also satisfied with the outcome. One item that was particularly interesting for me was too see that Jupiter looks at SXP as integral part of greater corporation and is already trying to get it to the right place – something we don’t see happening with Getty/iStock neither with Corbis/Snapvillage.

Peter Hamza
Peter Hamza – stockxpert founder

The Stockxpert conference is over and I will write a report about it in a few days.

The day after the conference we went around Moscow with Ron Chapple. Ron is a very successfull stock photographer. He has about 35 years of photography experience, he is doing stock photography for over 20 years, and doing very well on microstock with 14 months experience so far.
Ron shoots St.Basil Cathedral

It was a great day. We started early to catch the good light and to avoid too many tourists. As I am a lazy person I would for sure not start so early on my own. I would have missed the opportunity of making pictures in wonderful early morning light that we got. The picture above is St. Basil Cathedral – and the Red Square is just on the opposite side of the Cathedral.

The picture below shows Ron in front of the former KGB building.

Ron in front of former KGB building

As we started at 6 am and stayed on our feet up until 3 pm we got tired and decided to stop. That allowed me to catch one of the workshops that was organized by Russian photographers. They used the opportunity of many Stockxpert contributors being in Moscow for the weekend and organized few events on Sunday – and I catched the last one. The workshop was about studio light and work with model. It was led by photographer Vlad Gansovsky and one of his models. Vlad is Russian nude and stock photographer (http://vladgans.ru, http://www.surart.ru, http://www.stockxpert.com/browse.phtml?f=profile&l=najin). Workshop was very interactive, and I learned quite a bit (and I truly enjoyed it).

Stockxpert contributor conference

Stockxpert agency organizes contributor conference this Saturday in Moscow, Russia. I will be attending it and I will share my experience in this blog.

I am particularly interested to talk to Ron Chapple who is long time professional photographer, veteran of traditional photo stock and also successful in microstock. The other items of the agenda also look interesting.


iStock was the first microstock agency that started organizing events for it’s contributors on a regular basis – but iStock is community driven so it was quite natural move. The next was LuckyOliver but that startup company didn’t succeed and is being closed down now. Other agencies didn’t organize anything similar so far, so we can consider Stockxpert being the second (although it is doing it very different comparing with iStock).