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Thread: Business Side of Photography

  1. #1
    CNelson's Avatar
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    Business Side of Photography

    I have a website and sell prints but I don't consider myself a professional so I wouldn't want such a topic limited to professionals. Many of the photographers on the other site I visit are what I call production photographers, they do portraits, weddings, senior pictures, etc. I learn a lot from them but so far I haven't done anything I would call production photography. I prefer what I would call "fine art" photography which is a pretty fancy name for what I do but I don't know what else to call it. The distinction in my mind being that production photography is done for a client and fine art photography is done first to please the photographer. If it has market value then all the better.

    As some of us try to find ways to market what we love to do I think we could help and encourage each other in the business side of photography.

    Chuck
    Last edited by McQ; 26th February 2009 at 03:25 PM.

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    Re: Business side of photography

    A lot of photographers, particularly the younger ones, dream of making a living out of their camera without realising that it can be hard work, and all they succeed in doing is ruining an enjoyable hobby.
    An example comes to mind about the mad keen golfer who, during his working days, dreamt of nothing else but playing golf. When he retired and was free to play golf every day he realised that golf was his distraction and relaxation from the stress of everyday life, and not a way of life in itself.
    Last edited by McQ; 26th February 2009 at 03:27 PM.

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    Re: Business side of photography

    From a business perspective it is all about giving the client what they want, when they want it. Hence a series of pics I did this morning on location were on the editors desk within 30 mins and that included me driving home, all the necessary post production and emailing them.

    Business is all about workflow, although not all jobs need quite such a quick turnaround.

    It would be interesting to see how others deal with these areas, (whether it is from a business or hobbyist selling photos, perspective).

    What are the biggest bugbears?

    Is word of mouth your best means of marketing?
    Last edited by McQ; 26th February 2009 at 03:28 PM.

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    Re: Business side of photography

    Word of mouth marketing.

    A couple of examples I can give are of a friend and of myself. A mate of mine in Victoria has two daughters who are into Pony Club. Having been an industrial photographer in his time he naturally started to take shots of his daughters. Long story short, he is now occupied every weekend taking paid shots of events within a 200K radius of his home. This year he was honoured by being the first photographer to be invited to take shots of the Victorian Hunt Club in action.

    In my example it's still the early stages due to the cricket season closing in two weeks. I started out just taking shots of my Grandson in action, and then decided to shoot his other team members as well. I selected just a few shots and gave them to the respective parents. Proud parents that they are they showed them around and of course the inevitable "Would you take some shots of my son?' pause, "I'll pay you", started. It can be as simple as that.

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    Re: Business side of photography

    I'll throw in my 10c worth ...

    "Knowing how to do the technical work in a business" (ie being a good photographer) bares no correlation what-so-ever to being able to "run a business that does that technical work".

    I see it all the time. Someone thinks "I'm a great photographer" and "since I'm a great photographer, I could make a lot of money doing what I love". So they "go in to business" (or loosely translated "create a job for themselves"). Because they only know about photography - and know little about accounting - compliance - tax obligations - sales - marketing - cashflow management, or advertising, the photography is what they concentrate on, not realising that ALL of the above areas need attention for the business to succeed (or put another way, "if you're not going to perform in ALL of those areas then you're wasting your time and money attempting ANY of those areas because the "business" will probably fail).

    So it's really no surprise that some of the biggest photography businesses don't necessarily produce the best photographs.

    Welcome to business 101

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    Re: Business side of photography

    Average figures taken from the last 25 years. Extracted from a report on small business failures in Australia.

    In the first year nearly one third of all start ups failed on the average. The proportion of failures then declined for each subsequent year but the cumulative failure rates are high - 62% after 3 years and 74% after 5 years. In other words, no more than about one quarter of enterprises have survived 5 years.

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    Re: Business side of photography

    It's very hard to do this topic justice because (in my opinion) there's no substitute for experience - and a lot of that comes from good and bad decisions made over many years ...

    ... So when we give someone specific advice (a) They don't understand where we're coming from (eg risk reversal strategies - so they run a mile) and (b) they often don't have the foundation to be able to execute the strategy successfully anyway.

    I started to head down a path of teaching marketing and business management, but in the end found that there was just so much enertia - with deperate people who still preferred failure over venturing outside of their comfort zone that it just ended up being a big waste of both of our times.
    Last edited by McQ; 26th February 2009 at 03:30 PM.

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    Re: Business side of photography

    “After all from a business perspective it is all about giving the client what they want, when they want it.”
    Yes, that is the first bit.

    The second bit is doing it, and making a Net Profit, no sense in having 10,000 happy Clients without happy Businessman.

    The third bit is doing it enough times, to convert that Net Profit into an Income Stream.

    “Business is all about workflow, although not all jobs need quite such a quick turnaround.”
    Part of (almost all) Businesses is workflow.

    The absolute basic of all Businesses is: Mathematics. And not High Level Mathematics, basically, almost always just simple Arithmetic.


    “What are the biggest bugbears?”
    Dishonesty; Incompetence (not honest Ignorance or Limited Capacity); lack of Work Ethic; Lack of Value for TIME.

    “Is word of mouth your best means of marketing?”
    Absolutely, and it is really a low $ capital expense too.


    WW
    Last edited by McQ; 26th February 2009 at 03:33 PM.

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    Re: Business side of photography

    “Is word of mouth your best means of marketing?”

    Yes - absolutely.

    A few thoughts on that ...

    Others will often tell you that what you need is "satisfied customers" - but I disagree. Before anybody enters into a transaction, they already have an expectation of the outcome;

    - If their expectations are reasonable, but you perform poorly, then you've failed to meet their expectations ... "Man, what a joke. He was rude - arrived late - and did a pretty poor job considering what he charged us" (etc) - I won't be going back to John Smith ever again.

    - If their expectations are reasonable, and you perform to expectations, then they're happy ... not delighted, not disappointed - just happy ... "John Smith? yeah - he was OK nice enough chap - pictures looked OK - would probably use him again"

    - If their expectations are reasonable, and you deliver a result that vastly exceeds them then they're over the moon ... "Jenny - John Smith was FANTASTIC - he gave us so much more than we expected - was great with the relatives and kids - soooooo professional - and you should see the images ... you just HAVE to see these and check hm out for your wedding next year"

    Do we want satisfied customers? No. We want customers who's epectations are vastly exceeded; or to put that another way ...

    ... The degree to which you exceed customer expectations is the degree to which they will rave about you to friends and family.

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    Re: Business side of photography

    Managing those expectations in the first place is the key. They may have different expectations to that which you can give, perhaps due to past experiences or a lack of understanding of the processes involved.

    You know your capabilities and timescales.

    Therefore always underpromise and over deliver against those expectations.

    That way the customer gets what they perceive is more than they were expecting, in a positive way and they then are not only happy to pay for your services (at a healthy rate which makes you happy too) but also happy to do your free advertising and promotion for you. (Which saves you a fortune) Win Win.

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    Re: Business side of photography

    Quote Originally Posted by shreds View Post
    Therefore always underpromise and over deliver against those expectations.
    Once you've got the job then that holds true, but one needs to be careful that they don't lose out on getting the job in the first place due to "under-promising" (or over-promising for that matter).

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    Re: Business Side of Photography

    Colin

    The art of marketing.

    Getting the job in the first place!

    Ian

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    Re: Business Side of Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by shreds View Post
    Colin

    The art of marketing.

    Getting the job in the first place!

    Ian
    Oh yeah!

    Marginal net-worth - back-ending - host/benifiary relationships - ah, those were the good old days

  14. #14
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    Re: Business Side of Photography

    When I initially made this post there didn't appear to be much interest so I didn't return to it until today and was suprised to find a continuing discussion.

    Let me make a few general comments then I'll describe how I started to think more in terms of photography as business. In some ways a photography business is like a restaurant business. You can have anything from a hot dog stand to a fancy formal restaurant with lots of possibilities in between. Depending on your interests, skills, needs, abilities and training, there are many ways to approach photography as a business.

    I am retired and don't need to do photography to support myself. That said, I love photography and would like to earn money to to supplement my retirement and to justify upgrading my camera gear. I think it's probably wise for anyone thinking about a photography business to do so from a secure platform. By that mean, don't quit your day job to start a photography business. Have a secure job/income and work from there. As has already been said, have a plan and work it. It's a trite saying but it's true that "most business don't plan to fail, they fail to plan." (Now I will proceed to tell you how I started out without really having a plan.)

    Here's how I started to think more seriously of photography as a "business." I think my story will be similar to many if not most others who are interested in photography.

    I have been interested in photography since I was young. (By young I mean post Cambrian but pre Jurassic.) I bought a cheap camera and started taking pictures but was unhappy with the quality of my images. When I could afford it, past college and into a career by now, I bought a 35mm SLR. My images improved and my interested in photography took another step forward. I took advantage of opportunities to do photography in my job. I had photos published in various career related publications. Some people began to tell me I was a good photographer and that was incentive to try to do better. I read books and studied the photographs of "real" photographers.

    Somewhere along the line I began to scan my 35mm prints into digital files and play with them in whatever cheap software I could find. This really peaked my interest as I had done some darkroom work in my career and always wanted a darkroom but couldn't afford it. Now I was beginning to explore the digital darkroom. I watched digital cameras evolved and told myself I would buy a digital camera when they came out with a digital SLR, it could take a picture that compared to 35mm quality and the price came down from the moon.

    Those parameters came together for me in 2004 and I bought my first digital SLR. It was a low end Canon...my 35mm cameras were Canon so why not. I bought Paint Shop Pro image editing software and I was launched into the wonderful world of digital photography. I felt like a coyote in a hen house, where do I start. I continued to take pictures and play with them in my digital darkroom and some people again said I was a good photographer but some even said I should sell my photographs. I didn't take any of their comments too seriously until I had some photos professionally printed. I have a cheap printer and almost never printed anything out...I just kept digital files and shared them with friends.

    I was asked to speak at a local library about my book and brought some large prints of some of my images that corresponded with the book. I sold a few books and a few prints and made much more money selling photographs than books that night. After viewing some of my images printed well and noticing other people's reactions to them and the sales at the book talk, I screwed up some courage and walked into some small galleries in rural norther California (where most of my images come from) and asked if they would look at them and consider carrying some on consighment. I was pleased to find that they liked them and would carry them on consignment. I was unprepared for acceptance and soon found that my suggested prices were way too low. I had not done my homework. The galleries I'm in take froma 30 to 50% commission and they helped me set prices. I use a rough formula based on the size of the print...I found that $0.50 per square inch put me below the big guns but somewhere in the middle price range of what I was seeing in the galleries.

    I learned that one must honor your gallery prices and not undercut one gallery with prices in another gallery. One must not sell below the gallery prices on one's website...why would a gallery take your work if you undercut them on your website or in another gallery. It's common sense but I had never thought about it. I steer people to a gallery rather than sell a print at the same price....keeping the galleries happy is important. For fun an intertainment I began to make 5x7 folded cards out of my images and the galleries buy these from me. Not much profit for me in it but it build's reputation.

    When I was contacted by a business that was doing a brochure for a federal agency that wanted wildlife pictures I found that one of my emailed images had gone through many hands and ended up in their hands. They wanted to license the image and asked if I had more. This is when I decided to do a website. If a potential "client" found my image by accident then I might as well put some out there on purpose. The website is also good for building reputation. I'm finding that one needs to self promote...even though it feels awakward.

    I should add here that I have had a website for almost a year. I've had over 1000 new visitors but only sold a couple prints off of it. During the same time I've sold over 50 pints in galleries. People are apparently more apt to buy what they see in person than what they see on the web. However, some photographers are very successful with web sales. I attribute this to better photography and reputation.

    Because my pictures have attracted interest and sold I now have dedicated wall space in three galleries. These are small town galleries and I'm in no danger of getting rich but I am loving sharing what I love to do and continue to think more and more of photography as a business. I have always reported and paid all taxes due....keep honest and above board with the people you work with and the government - a good rule of thumb.

    Now people are starting to ask me to photograph events and different things and this forces me to think more along the lines of photography as a business while keeping it alive as a hobby. Most of what I am doing for people now I do for free or a song but I'm learning and building confidence. I am "evolving" into a business mode without setting out initially with a business in mind. The idea of the "business side of photography" catagory in this forum is to help us learn from each other. What works, what doesn't work, float ideas, etc.

    Hopefully I have encouraged others to consider sales or to think in terms of "business." Some of the things I have done may work for you but I'm eager to see what's working for you.

    Another windy post by

    Chuck

  15. #15

    Re: Business Side of Photography

    Regards to all people in this forum, I say kudos to your postings. I want to use this opportunity to say business is not the money but the person. I mean who you are and not what you are. What you are is the photography in you but who you are is the business so, we need to bring the two together. It is not enough to know photography if you want to go into the business side of it but you must reealise who you are and that is what you are able to offer if it is what is acceptable by the people. That makes you to go by it without stress.

    Most of your customers are really buying your interest or what you like as person. I mean those photography you have taken out of your own special interest. So, if you are good then you make a good sales but if not the otherwise. Its not good to start from the money side but what you have to offer as a person. Its is also good to see it as if solving a problem for someone and that is the real mindset for business.

    And don't forget where we start that is what you are, the photography in you. So you must be good at it. Of course what you like you must have master it. With this perspectives i beleive we could make something out of photography business. I beleive some seniors in the house could still say more better, but as new as I am in this forum I must contribute not as an expert photographer (infact new in it) but as business man over this few years. Once again, thanks to all the previous post in this thread. The poster of the thread, I appreciate your story, I call it the real thing.
    Last edited by Colin Southern; 26th March 2009 at 06:57 PM. Reason: Fix typo

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    Re: Business Side of Photography

    On a light note, my girlfriend's mother had her portrait done at the local photographer's studio many years ago. When she called to collect the print she was not impressed.
    "Can't help what's in front of the camera Missus!" was the response.

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    Re: Business Side of Photography

    Quote Originally Posted by isaacwatchman View Post
    Regards to all people in this forum, I say kudos to your postings.
    Hi Isaac,

    Thanks for your post, and welcome to the forums

    If you get a chance, how about popping a reply onto the welcome thread and telling us a bit about yourself? ... you can also read a lot about the others here.

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    Re: Business Side of Photography

    SO i thought i'd give revive this thread......

    Recently soem surfers have offered too buy some prints from me...and naturally being the first prints ive sold I am just happy as a clam..I am waiting for them too choose what photos they want and then ill print em up...SO i plan just to charge my exspenses as i am hpoing that word of mouth will bring more business aswell as myself trying to market myself to the local surf shops....SO my question is,,,assumming thsi generates more opportunities,,,what woudl you guys charge on a reguler basis? for standerd A4 dbl glossy prints and maybe 4x6 if they want em?

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    Re: Business Side of Photography

    oh yah,,,In American dollars please...

  20. #20
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    Re: Business Side of Photography

    Hi Kevin,

    I'd suggest some local research, I'm sure there are photogs with ads in the local papers or shops, not sure it is something we can really help with, so have a look around your locality to best judge what prices 'the market' will stand. It also does no harm to know what competition you are up against.

    Also, if you're thinking of rattling them off on your own printer, be aware that most inkjets are not waterproof. You wouldn't want your customers to show their pals down at the beach their new, unframed, unprotected print(s) and have the colors run as they hand them around not good advertising and they'd probably be back at your door for a replacement print (at best).

    Hope that helps (avoid a couple of potential pitfalls),

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