« Wedding Photography - Pro or Amateur? by Dominic Lee | Main

February 06, 2010


Maggie French

That's a crazy tax system you got over there, I'd have an absolute heart attack knowing a tax man could show up at any time, requesting a huge sum of money like that. It puts honest businesses on the defensive. And here's a thought, if you're that into photography (and actually have the balls to charge money for photographing a wedding when you're just learning- and hoping the pics turn out!), wouldn't you WANT to be legal so you can establish your business and be more respected in the future?
Maggie French

Tony Maddox

Hey budd,
I like reading your blogs. You sure are a spicy one aren't you? I like that you are outspoken and a good photographer. You make your blog interesting because you form beautiful and clear word pictures. Not easy to do. And you push people to be... PROFESSIONAL, keep doing it.

Tony Maddox Photography

M McKay

Well done - my sentiments exactly - I have always said that we professionals should compile a list of "known part-timers" who pay no TAX or VAT and are still able to buy their products at so-called "wholesale prices. The list should be updated regularly when we observe one of these boyos in action and pass their name to the TAX & VAT people for proper retribution. As far as I see it, this is our only weapon against these cowboys. And is also the main reason I parted company with PPANI.
I reckon you should forward this idea to the pro bodies and also to the Taxmen - I am sending it to all my photographer friends
Good luck


Good post...one of your better ones! And certainly one way of curbing all the weekend warriors & uncle bobs out there.

podge kelly

Good Post Dominic,

For most of us that have had a visit or two from the tax people....well put...

Uncle Bobs and Auntie Fanny's will always be around, but I don't think the License is the right way to go.
who runs it?...
who approves it?....
Who approves YOU?

What if it is controled by a Goverment Body?...
will they know what makes a Pro Photographer?
What if it is Run by a Photographic Group and you are not a member?....
Do you have to be a member?

Where does that leave you ????

It maybe a Good Idea....
but there is a lot of loop-holes in there..


mark donovan

A license to take photographs , madness, it will never happen, this is just some photogs just trying to protect their corner, the only way of protecting your corner is to get better, be worth the money you charge, give great customer service,

The market will decide..

In every walk of life there are people not paying taxes, working in the black market or whatever, forget about them and worry about what we do to get or market share.

That's my new years resolution, f##k the €500 men they will still come in their droves and there is nothing I, you or the ipp or the tax man can do about it.

Photographers at the top of our market don't seem to be feeling this downturn, I wonder why.

They don't care much about the €500 give everything photographer, they are not competing with them.

This license is to try and drive away the man doing the nixer, the man doing the nixers have being around since time began and no license is ever going to stop them.

Mark Donovan

Margaret Moore

Germany has a licensed system for photographers. They have to have 3rd level or validated apprentice qualifications. If Ireland's skilled workers and professionals in other industries (architects/electricians) can be 'qualified' the photographers can be too. It would be simple to implement.

The tax dodgers I have no sympathy for. The tax office only presents these €50k bills to people who are clearly in business but who have made no returns. The bills are based on average industry returns. It's not mad - it's fair.

What is mad and unfair is to see the name of a photographer, in receipt of jobseeker's allowance, being promoted and advertised as available for work. My taxes and yours are being stolen by him as he clearly works and possibly charges no VAT and pays no tax on that income. How could he? He'd be rumbled if he did....and I'm sure this situation is being repeated all over the country.

What's also a shocker is to have heard that last week at the biggest Irish photographic trade show, the car park of the event was overflowing with taxi plates. Now here's a group of people who really want their cake and eat it... "Limit the number of taxi plates and let's all do nixers..."

It is entirely fair and correct that the public should expect that when they engage a photographer, that photographer has a proven level of education, expertise and experience that goes beyond attending a course showing them how the controls on their camera work.
The SkillNet run by the IPPA was intended to create a course which would give photographers a measurable base level of skills or increase the skills of those who already had some formal education in the field. The Skillnet is laudable and does great work in teaching. The steps required to give the course recognition on a par with some of our European counterparts were sadly never taken, though it had been part of the plans of the Council previous to this one.

Our industry is in a mess. Let's see what 2010 brings...


Tax evasion is a serious offense regardless of the "type of job" you do - professional or otherwise.

Forcing a system of registration for photographers is a ridiculous idea. Think about it, if a person has a revenue generating business (photography, window washing, whatever!), then that's what should be registered.

In my humble experience whether registered/certified/trained or educated, photographers have just as much chance of being as good or as bad as any other person with an ability to make an image. Would we propose to 'judge' everyone's work to see who cuts the mustard?

clive sanders

Its obvious that the Photographic Studio business is dead because of the recession.

We now have these very same photography studios complaining that they are no longer getting the wedding business - the very same wedding business that they abandoned because it wasnt worth their while closing their studio on a saturday.

Dont complain just compete


I watched my boss cry like a baby as he told us he had to close the studio after 10 years in business. He had no money to pay the wages or the lab bill after paying the taxman who didnt care about our jobs or saving the business, only that he got his money. So do not say we should not complain about cowboys!
Dominic is wrong to wait for a governing body to clean up the mess. Michael is correct, we must report these cowboys to the taxman ourselves before any more established studios close down.


Is the licensing being proposed above akin to one that you'd simply apply for (like a taxi license) or is it proposed that one takes a test as a pre-qualification exercise?

If there's is a test, then who's to say that my shots would qualify? One persons art is anothers toilet paper and all that!

And on licenses/certifications - isn't there already a LIPF/AIPF and FIPF 'kind of' a license-of-competency that allows one to assert a basic level of ability in controlling ones camera equipment (without saying you're any good, mind you!)?

On the financial aspect, every other industry who make money pay tax in the exact same way. Professional photographers are no different and should be no different in this regard.

Have you not considered that paying 500 euro for a couple of framed studio portraits is just a little rich for the recession weary public?

Perhaps the the problem is more to do with a diminished need for 'luxury goods' and a situation of oversupply than it is of 'cowboys'? And yes, I do know the value of having a good portrait, but I don't value owning such a portrait over the expense of paying my mortgage!

As one person above said, it's a time to compete! And I'd add that you'd need to be extemely creative in your service offering, materials procurement and payment terms, but above all be excellent!

Finally, I'd have no problem with 'ratting out' tax cheats, but would do so equally, across ALL lines of work! Of course, this wouldn't affect anyone here because we all purchased our gear in the good old ROI and payed our VAT locally!

Brian Farrell

somthing like a c2 card, that they have in the building industry could be the answer. It would show that your a pro photographer, who pays his tax & is up todate.

It would have a distinct advantage of showing the diff between pros v nixer. And would give clients confidence.

As for who is good photographer & not so good - well that would be decided by the clients, which is the way it should be.

A licence/card would not remove nixers or cheap photographers, as you will always get people offering & wanting cheap prices - but from experience agreeing todo a "cheap" price usually ends up with a client who wants everything for nothing - and are not the clients you want.

A Card/License would give the pro a distinct advantage i believe.

btw, i have been reading similar posts on photog forums in the USA & UK - they are all having similar problems with their industry


Dermot Daly

I'm not a photographer. But I have used photographers on a few occasions over the last few years.
Each and every time it feels like been overcharged and ripped off.
The barrier to being a good photographer has dropped dramatically with the advent of digital cameras. It used to be that a photographer needed many talents, including the ability to read light conditions, etc.
Now, with instant preview, and photoshop, these skills are required less.
I'm not taking from the other skills - the ability to put subjects at ease, not to mention the true art of framing a photograph. (the latter though, has also got easier, as it is so cheap to shoot off lots and lots of photos).
So..whilst photographers are trying to protect their industry, and this is understandable, I can help feeling this sentiment is grasping for the photography studio of old.
The reality is your industry has changed significantly. You'd have more people through your doors if there wasn't a raised eyebrow every time the cost of single print is mentioned.
Pure and simple; Photography is too expensive for the man in the street, and this is despite the fact that your operating costs have crumbled.

Conor Twomey


I am a part-time photographer and I pay tax on every cent I earn from that income. I have just completed my FORM 11 and it includes all the income from my PAYE and my Photography business.

There are people out there that play by the rules.

I would be less concerned about Photographers requiring a license and more concerned about Photographers not having Public Liability.



cowboys dont have to be good or bad or part-time or full-time. cowboys are people who work but dont pay tax so if you pay tax dont worry but if you dont pay tax then you should be sweating cus Dracula is coming to bleed you dry aaahhaaaahhaaaaaaha


The Irish Professional Photographers Assocation have just sent out a letter to all it's members confirming that in the past few months there has been a discussion group working on the idea of a Photographers License.

The IPPA has also requested its members to submit a list of all known Photographers in Ireland who take photographs for reward which the IPPA will forward to the Revenue Commissioners by Thursday 25th Feb.
This list can be drawn from local directories, adverts, wedding websites & wedding magazines and in some cases just from common knowledge.
This is a clear indication that the License will not make reference to a standard of workmanship or to the price charged but is to ensure that cowboys (people who do not pay tax or vat on their nixers) get entered into the Revenue Commissioners database.

I'm not a member of the IPPA but they have expressed an interest in my views on the License issue and as they are following this blog I'm sure they will also take on board any constructive comments added by you the reader and remember nothing has been set in stone yet so speak now or forever hold your peace!


How on earth can 'photographers who gain' from photography be suspected of non-tax payment on the hear say through the IPPA?

What the IPPA are proposing here is little more than an insidious witch hunt that's driven by a downturn in business on luxury items and they're now closing ranks on anyone who would seek to take from their membership. While I understand their strong desire to protect their membership, it is an ill thought out approach. It will also be prone to serious backlash (legal and otherwise) from falsely accused individuals.

I'd really suggest that this be thought out a lot more.

Can't you already hear the gleeful rubbing of hands in solicitor circles?

While in principle, a license would say that you have a bonafide business (a customer guarantee if you will), how will this be administered, charged for, and followed up on? How might a license be revoked (on hear say from other members?)

Perhaps some better initial approaches would be
1. Lower prices drastically from the outrageous levels they're at.
2. Put a code of practice together to make pricing transparent with respect to materials, time and 'creativity'.
3. Educate the consuming public and to specifically call out the impact of 'cowboyism' in a similar way to the advertising we see regarding piracy on DVD's.


Alan Murphy

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When you get an accusation like this wrong, and it's compounded with Revenue's involvement, then you force a situation where payment of said 'suspected' tax deficit be made first with proof of innocence and protracted period of time before a refund is made, second. For an innocent victim of such reporting, that is really an intolerable situation in the current climate. I would suspect a lawsuit for defamation would follow swiftly. In this context it would certainly have been a witch hunt.

I guess what I'm really trying to say here is that if 'suspects' are being reported then I'd certainly encourage the reporter to have their evidence lined up and to solicit legal advice before taking up a vigilante-style role! Of course, this is probably stating the obvious.

Personally, I'd love to see offenders hammered for tax evasion because the black market drives my taxes up!

Dominic Lee

The IPPA President- Paddy Clarke has informed me that they have been inundated with lists of people who make money from photography and have now offered to take further lists from non IPPA members. I expect the taxman will simply check this list against their existing files and only contact the ones whose names don’t match up.
There is a section on the Inland Revenue’s website which invites you to disclose useful information in strict confidence so I presume the IPPA could avail of that feature in order to avoid a lawsuit. They also engage a solicitor to advise them on legal issues.
I also understand that the IPPA are exploring who would issue this license so it may not be the IPPA and I would object if it was.

Brian Farrell

What will happen - is that The whole industry of Photographers will be tax audited - not just names that dont match up on a list. so IPPA members and non members will have to have their accounts in order - which is rightly so.

Paul W

How is a license possible, never mind legal? It's simple that the idea is totally impractical.

What gives anyone the right to think they can issue a "license" ? How would it be regulated? What criteria would be used to issue a license?

How would the idea of a license support IPPA members? By being an elite club? Be a member, or else???

I don't charge VAT, I'm not registered for VAT, simply because I don't earn enough. I'm well under the limit. But, I have no problems filling in my returns in Oct and sending it in to the Revenue. It's life.

But, by thinking you can report people to the Revenue, to protect your little empire, is a little ridiculous. For every one that does stop, 2-3 more will pop up. It's the nature of a free market, especially when cameras are so cheap and anyone can take a few photos.
Just my view.

Uncle Bob

Don't be bitter because your prospective customers choose other more talented photographers, be they card carrying members of the IPPA, 'weekend warriors' or 'uncle bobs'.

Revel in your own little 'licensed photographer' status if you wish. Pro's will always be undercut by those with the talent and means to undercut them. It's the nature of every business, not just photography. Suck it up and stop pissing and moaning.

Do you suppose that couples being charged €1k less for a wedding package by an 'unlicensed photographer' will stop for a even a nanosecond to inquire about paperwork?

Brian MacL

This is total sh1t.

Who would run the license system?
revenue it is far from their job.
Why should there be a license system?
are you handling other people money, assets, health and safety. Solicitors, Doctors, Architects even gas fitters should be licensed but photographers?

With regards to tax just because someone makes money from photography and is not a member of the IPPA that does not make them a cowboy, this seems to be a way of IPPA members complaining about competition coming in at a lower cost to them and suggesting that it is because they are not paying tax.

lads stop trying to suggest that all the opposition are tax evaders and spend more time trying to come up with ways of marketing yourself, get new business in and offer genuine quality and value for money.

I am cheaper than some of my competitors this is due to the way I structure my business and the fact that I am happy to only earn a lower income, hence I don't have to charge VAT.

Brian MacL http://www.firstpointproperty.com


where will uncle bob and his band of cowboys advertise now that they know their ads will be passed to revenue inspector? and when they stop advertising how will the bride find these cowboys? it is not total sh1t, it is sh1t hot idea. i support effort to shop tax dodgers.
it has been said here many times if you pay tax on your photography dont worry. i believe it is the cowboys who complain most.


How will IPPA members decide if another photographer/ non IPPA member is possibly not paying VAT & income tax and therefore should be reported? Do you have to have proof or is the fact that they are not IPPA or work part time enough?


@salem - word of mouth is always the best advertiser, and doesn't require any work. "Uncle Bob has a good camera and can take your wedding picts" will work just as well as a few hundred Euro spent on magazine advertisements.

The IPPA is on dangerous ground reporting people to the Revenue without having good information to back up a claim that someone is not declaring their income.

When times are tough, people will choose the cheapest option to give them what they want. They will seldom want to know if someone is an IPPA member, registered for tax, fully insured, etc. They will want photos at the best price.

Nothing will stop the cowboys. It's a fact of life. You just have to live with it, and improve your own business model.


i just reported you paul walsh it was easy go on www.revenue.ie pick dublin region no informations required. i only do this to see how easy it is. you pay tax so do not worry.


@salem - I am not worried at all.

But I fail to see how this will stop someone making money from photography.

How is this supposed to help you? After all, I assume you're only doing it to help yourself/your business?


Hi Dominic,

Does this extend to music photographers? I am a music photographer - the work is sparse and to make a decent living I also work freelance in another area. I have no choice. I work as either a Schedule D (PAYE) employee or self employed but not VAT registered (I earn too little) but I do pay income tax on those earnings. I have an accountant and everything I do is above board.

Most music photographers I know are in a similar boat. A search of the IPPA reveals no members in the "Music Industry" section. I can't join IPPA because typically only around 50% of my income is from photography. This doesn't mean I'm committing tax fraud.

I find it a little offensive to read "And if they are already in full time employment they are not only depriving the country of much needed tax they are depriving professional photographers of a living"

I pay my taxes. I don't deprive any IPPA members of a living, and charging set rates means I don't deprive any music photographers of a living either.

Colin Hogain

Are NUJ and PPAI, (Press/Sports Photographers),
aware of this?.

Margaret Moore

The Revenue Commissioners don't need the IPPA to do their work for them. They already have inspectors who attend wedding fairs collecting publicity and marketing materials for ALL service providers to the wedding industry - not just photographers.
They cross check the information for compliance and only inspect businesses which are not on record.
We have often had tax inspections and just a few months ago our local tax inspector called in to 'spot check' our employee numbers against our declared returns.
Believe me the Revenue don't need any help. Tax evaders - and it is only evaders who damage all our livelihoods - will be picked up. Things are much tighter than they used to be and the net will close in on those who are dishonest.
The worrying part of this 'debate' is the number of people who have posted comments like "anyone can buy a camera" and "the cameras are so good now, with all the automatic functions..."??
I never knew a camera "took pictures". If I buy a Steinway piano today will I be a pianist next week? No, not likely. Or I could buy a good scissors, will I be a hairdresser in a week? In a restaurant you won't find anyone in the kitchen who hasn't trained or who isn't training to be there.
We all accept that some level of training is needed in other industries but in photography it seems "the camera maketh the photographer".
What is the problem with Irish photographers having some training in their discipline and having certification to show for it? We would all be better off - photographers and consumers.
Ultimately, we all want the same things. Being in or out of a professional association is a choice and should always remain so.
It's a pity when the tone of a discussion escalates to the point where people feel upset. This seems to be part and parcel of all photography debates...


Is photography an art or a trade? To most, it's an art.

Can you imagine Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Dali, Goya, Rembrandt or Andy Warhol having to apply for a license to paint?

Yes, anyone can buy a camera. And, with that camera, anyone with talent can take brilliant photos. You don't always need to be technically compotent with a camera to take a good photo, although it does greatly help.

How do you license art? In reality, you can't, and nor can you license photography. What do you license? The ability to take a photo? The ability to sell a service? The ability to sell a photo? The ability to run a photographic business?

What do you license? All photography? Just wedding photography? Just portrait photography?

The reality is - having a license for photography is absurd, and I can't see the law being changed to require photographers to be licensed. There are too many associations, organisations, etc and all try to focus on their own sectors.

People need to come back to reality and focus on their photography and what they offer their clients.



Business licence maybe (but not just for photographers) - photographer licence - no.

Dominic Lee

My original blog opens with the line “I hear rumblings about introducing a license to photographers”.
So it was bizarre how people jumped to conclusions about price fixing and a standard of workmanship etc and those comments were then taken as gospel by every Tom, Dick and Jeannie who used them as an excuse to post venomous remarks which clearly don’t make any contribution to the discussion whatsoever.
As the first meeting of the License Committee is due to take place on the 15th March there is still time to add your twopence worth.
I’m not on the committee but I’m happy to be afforded the opportunity to express my opinion and I hope others will avail of it too.
However, any comments which are deemed to be sent from an anonymous email or which contain nasty criticism of others just because they have a different opinion will not make it onto the board.


dominic the license is a good idea and your scare tactics worked on me lol. i registered my business and it feels good so thanks to you. if it was up to the taxman to do his job as margaret moore likes to think then i would carry on as i have been for many years as a cowboy selling my pr shots mostly to government departments and many politicians who never asked me if i was paying tax and if nobody asks why would i or anyone offer?

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