Building Your Photography Business as an Amateur or a Professional

28 04 2011

One of the focuses of this blog is to help you build up a professional photography studio. For the most part, we focus on writing about the business and marketing side (with an occasional article on becoming a better photographer).

And through your comments on such posts as

The Pendulum Swing of Photography

Wedding Photography-It’s Not That Easy

Photography Studio – Going Out Of Business

The Difference Between Amateurs and Professionals

I know you also agree there is a difference between the two. But how do you get the consumer to believe there is a difference? And more importantly, how do you get them to pay for the difference.

The first thing to keep in mind is there are always people that will pay for what they love. Some people love the idea of traveling, and will scrimp and save to be able to visit exotic locations every year. Some people love driving an expensive car, and will live in a small apartment, investing a high percentage of their monthly salary on their vehicle. And some people love memories, and will pay a professional very well to have an amazing portrait of their family every year.

No matter what type of photography you choose to specialize in, how many clients do you need to succeed? If you photograph weddings, how many per year will make you the income you desire? Or if you are a stock photographer, how many images do you have to sell every year? Knowing this number now will help you with your marketing in 2009. Reach out for this goal, and put it in perspective.

Next, you have to shoot as a professional. Take a serious look at your own work. Is it just an average portrait – potentially one they could even take in their own home with a good digital camera? Or is it something that makes them say WOW!

A true professional will be able to take images that you simply can’t get at home. They reach beyond the normal, and go for the WOW factor. They give their clients a little bit more. And they also give a complete package. Your client should never have to take their portrait to a frame shop – everything should be included, from beginning to end.

So with all of this in mind, what should your goals be for 2010?

1. Treat your business like a business. Establish yourself as a professional, and tell the world you are a professional photographer.

2. Create a complete customer service business. Provide everything from beginning to end. Include complete packages, including framing. (Maybe you even go in and install.) The idea is to be thorough in all you do.

3. Give 110%. You can’t expect your clients to pay for average – they want the WOW. Attend classes with mentors. Practice. Practice. Practice. Do everything you can to become the best you can be.

4. Teach your clients to see the difference. If you look like an image they can create at home, they won’t see the difference. And they won’t pay. But if you give them something they could never accomplish on their own – and could never get from another photographer – you can sell well.

Dreaming Big – Using Photography to Achieve it

27 04 2011

Wouldn’t it be nice to take the family to the Caribbean, and have your business write off the entire trip?

What about skiing in some of the best snow around (pick your place – The Rocky Mountains, The Swiss Alps) knowing your business is paying you to be there?

For many people, these dreams sound wonderful. They talk about doing it. They may even read a few things on how to do it. But when Monday rolls around, it’s back to the same old job, working with the same old tasks.

It doesn’t have to be that way. But you do have to put some effort into it. After all, dreams can’t come true if you don’t set goals to achieve your dreams.

Imagine you love traveling, and want to travel several months out of the year. Why not become a travel photographer? There are many sources that will pay you good money for images of destination locations. Every magazine needs quality images. Stock houses will pay well, once you become an excepted photographer.

Imagine you love weddings, and want to photograph weddings anywhere in the world. You can’t just put up a sentence on your website that says, “I’m a destination wedding photographer” and expect it to happen. You need to choose several destinations, and work at getting known in those locations. The more you’re “known”, the bigger you’ll become – and not just in your choice destinations.

Imagine you love fashion, and would love to photograph for magazines and catalogs. Take your first step, and find a small company to work with. Every business started out small, and needed just a few images for their first catalog (or magazine). I know the founders of two start-up magazines right here in Colorado – I’m sure you can find similar contacts in your area.

Take a few minutes and think about exactly what you would like to do. In your dreams, what would you like to be doing a year from now? Write it down! (Email me – I’d love to hear your dreams!)

Then take the next step, and do one thing that will help you make your dream a reality. It may be to choose a destination for your wedding photography services. It may be to book a trip to a resort in your community. It may be to join an association to get closer to catalog producers.

Remember the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” Neither is your business. But you do need to take action towards your goal every day. When you complete one task, start in on another. When one task fails, try something new. Never give up!

How To Use Flickr To Promote Your Photography Business

4 04 2011

[So you’re wondering how to use the many online tools to market your business. This week I’ve decided to start a new How To series that does exactly that. We’ll take a look at many of the different online social sites –things you can do for little to no cost – and show you different ways to put them into your marketing mix.]

Flickr is one of the hottest online social tools that allows you to share your photographs. Flickr was started back in the beginning of 2004 by two game designers who wanted an easy way to share photos that featured their gaming project, and quickly blossomed into something much more. Yahoo purchased Flickr for $35 million in 2005, and the rest as they say is history.

How To Use Flickr To Promote Your Photography Business

So if you are a photographer, chances are you have used Flickr in some manner. You may have an account. You may have uploaded a few images. You may be active. But in the land of “free”, how can you use Flickr to attract clients to your photography business?

The secret lies in thinking of Flickr as an extension of your business. Its not just a casual site where you can put up a few images of your clients, share it with them, and allow them to send their images all over to friends and family – before they’ve paid you for your services. Instead, you have to look at Flickr as another sales tool – without treating it like a sales tool. After all, the worst thing you can do is get to salesy on any social networking platform.

Start With Your Flickr Account

How is your Flickr account set up? Is it based on a cute nickname (i.e. photogirl123)? Or is it based on your company name?

When you think of Flickr as an extension of your business, it’s easy to see how you should set up your account. Title it by your business, personal or website name – which ever makes the most sense depending on the way you market your business. Once your name is established, build your profile and your groups to support your branding and your business.
Read the rest of this entry »

8 Questions That Will Lead You To Quit The Photography Business

20 10 2010

8. How will I find the money to buy more equipment?

Photographers love equipment. The newest camera body or a really great lens has been known to send shivers down a passionate photographer’s spine. But when you find yourself starting to book photo gigs just to have enough money to buy the latest gadget, you know you’ve reached a whole new level with your photography.

Pricing Your Photography

7. Why do I have to market my business?

I get it; photographers love to photograph, but they hate to market their business. It’s time to get over it. If you are in business, you have to market, and you have to sell. That’s the only way to bring in money, bring in profits, and survive as a professional photographer. Read the rest of this entry »

Top 5 Business Mistakes Every New Photographer Makes

22 06 2010

Business Mistakes Every New Photographer Makes

Thinking of opening up a photography studio? Or maybe you have a studio, yet it isn’t bringing in much business. What can you do about it? What should you do to move forward, and what can you avoid?

Here are the top 5 business mistakes that I see every new photographer make.

1. Staying in the scared zone too long.
You want a client or two to build up your portfolio. You want some experience before you raise your prices. You test the waters of a business before you actually tell people you have a business. In other words, you leave it as a hobby for a long time because you’re too scared of what will happen if you make it a true business.

Starting a business can be scary. What if it grows too fast? What if it doesn’t? But living in the scared zone for too long simply cuts off your momentum. If you’re going to do it, just do it. The rest will fall into place.

2. Ignore the marketing.
You may need a business card to hand out, so you print up a free set on your computer. Outside of that you let everything else slide. You may think you don’t need fancy postcards or brochures, or a great website to build up your portfolio – that will come down the road. But if you don’t start out at the beginning with a great professional look to your business, when will it come?

Think marketing first. How do you want to look to your customers? How do you want them to perceive your business? And more importantly, how would you like them to refer you? There’s a huge difference between someone saying, “I found a really cheap photographer that’s just starting out and she’ll give you a deal” and “I found a very professional studio that takes amazing portraits – I would highly recommend her, check out her site.”

Pricing Your Photography To Stay In Business – Click Here>>

3. Buy for the future.
If you are a professional, you have to have what the professionals use. Don’t skimp and buy a Canon Rebel instead of a Canon EOS. Don’t by a consumer grade package of lenses. Don’t choose Elements instead of Photoshop or Lightroom to save money. Save and invest in the best equipment upfront – it will last you a lot longer over time. And allow you to do a ton more.

4. Work on the business.
Photography is fun – that’s why you’ve decided to go into business. But opening up a studio isn’t all photography – its business too. You have to wear every hat, especially if you are a solo business owner. You’ll have to invoice your clients, and pay the bills. You’ll have to do the production, and do the filing. You’ll have to handle all the sales meetings. And then you’ll also get to do the fun stuff – photographing.

If you aren’t sure how to build a business, find someone who can. Hire a coach. Buy a coaching program. Visit your local SBA office. And start reading books and magazines on the business side as well.

5. Jump quickly.
What if you had five new clients come into your studio this week? What if you had 10? How about 25?

What’s the worst that could happen? You may get completely overwhelmed at first, but I’m willing to bet you would come up with a system pretty quickly. Instead of sitting around Photoshopping one client’s files for 10 hours, you would probably find a way to get it done in 1. Or hire it out.

In other words, it would make you very efficient very quickly. Because you would have no choice.

So don’t worry about what may happen, or how something might affect you. Just do it. You’ll be amazed at the results.

Photographers – How To Stop Justifying Your Low, Low Prices

15 06 2010

How To Justify Your Photography Prices

I’ve been writing for years now, and have posts and articles all over the web. Every week I spend some time finding things people like, and reading the comments they place on some of my content. Some posts definitely bring in the comments more than others. Take this one for instance:

Wanted: Wedding Photographer with The Credentials of Annie Leibovitz and the Price Tag Of Wal-Mart

This one still stirs up the emotions in photographers. I’ve found everything from:

“Thanks – you’re right on target.”


“No way. People love me because I charge reasonable rates. I could never charge high prices for my photography, knowing what the final output costs me.”

So let me ask you a question. Is it okay that a surgeon makes hundreds of thousands of dollars every year?

  • He has educated himself in his passion
  • He studies continually
  • He works in a specialized industry that requires him to be good at what he does
  • He lives and breathes what he does
  • He uses his money to take care of himself and others

Most people wouldn’t argue with a surgeon making hundreds of thousands of dollars. After all, your life is in his hands – literally.

But the same can apply to any other industry. In any industry, including photography, you can find someone who is at the top of his or her field. Why?

  • He has educated himself in his passion
  • He studies continually
  • He works in a specialized industry that requires him to be good at what he does
  • He lives and breathes what he does
  • He uses his money to take care of himself and others

Start your education.
You don’t have to go back to college and get a degree in photography. But you do have to learn from the best. Do a quick search online, attend a conference like WPPI, or read a few magazines. You’ll quickly find a slew of top mentors that offer classes on how to become a better photographer. Don’t just shoot because you can make a few extra bucks. Shoot to perfect your photography, and choose to become better every day.

Stop being average.
If you do what everyone else does, you’ll get the same results they get. The only way to be better than average is to quit striving for average. Ask yourself questions like, “What can I do to be the best photographer in my niche?” Take what someone else is doing and add more to it. That doesn’t mean give them more photographs at a cheaper price. It means give them more service to make them appreciate what you do. The problem we’re facing now is we have a whole lot of average, so we don’t even know how to find the WOW. Give a little bit more, and you’ll soon be the talk of the town.

It’s okay to make money.
“I would feel guilty if I charged someone $20,000 for a wedding, or $50 for an 8×10.”

Why? Does the surgeon feel guilty about charging thousands of dollars for his services? If you have the experience and the talent, have built up your reputation, then by all means charge what you can. It really is okay to make money doing what you love.

Making more money means you can use it to improve your lifestyle. You’ll no longer have to live paycheck to paycheck, or worse, wondering how you’ll pay the rent.

Making more money can open you up to new ideas. You can give more when you have more to play with.

And it can also allow you to see and change the world in a whole new way. It feels good to be able to give back or start up a charity. And if the surgeon comes to you for a portrait, he would never agree to spend $50 for a session and prints – he expects things to be at his caliber. He makes a healthy income, and he expects you to do the same.

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Photographers – How To Start A Baby Plan

4 06 2010

Many of the most popular niches in the photography industry are built around seasons. As a wedding photography studio here in Denver, our season ran May through October. The high school senior market runs parallel to the wedding market, and is busiest May through October. Those seasons may change depending on your geographical location – in the Phoenix area, high wedding season ran counter to the Denver market, or October through May.

Which is why many of today’s top photography studios have found a niche that has zero seasonality to it. The baby market.

Babies are born 365 days of the year. And they are only little once. Meaning you can only capture a newborn the first couple of weeks of life. And they will only celebrate their 1st birthday at one point in time. And they’ll hit every milestone along the way during that first year – if you miss it, its gone forever.

That’s the beauty of a baby plan.

A baby plan is designed to capture the progressive steps a baby makes during the first year of life. Thinking of starting a baby plan for your studio? Here are 7 steps to get you started.

1. Design a baby plan to bring in a new client 3 to 6 times during the first year of life. Typical timeframes are newborn, three months, six months, nine months and the first birthday. In some cases, a photography studio may also choose to photograph a mom-to-be in her ninth month of pregnancy. Charge one low fee for the entire year program, with the promise of one print from each session in a keepsake frame. GNP Frame is one of the many professional framing companies with options on wall collage frames.

how to start a baby plan

2. Don’t complicate the process or overwhelm with choices. One simple baby plan is the best way to begin, with a possible upgrade if they want to include a maternity image in their sessions as well.

3. Don’t give them the final wall frame until all sessions are complete. Keep it as a keepsake that is filled with your images. Release it too soon, and the new mom may get busy and forget to come back in, simply filling the empty holes with her own photographs. By holding the frame until the last session, they have more incentive to keep coming in.

4. Find new clients in a variety of ways. You can do a direct mail postcard to expecting families within area codes around your studio. You can partner up with a local baby store. Or you can partner up with OB/GYN’s in your area. New moms flock together. Get in with a group, and you’ll have a continual source for years to come.

5. Sell at each session just like you would any portrait client. Just because they are coming in for a baby plan promotion, doesn’t mean they won’t buy hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of photographs at each session. If you aren’t using projection at your sales sessions, invest now in a great sales presentation. You’ll quickly reap the benefits.

Pricing your photography – learn how to set your prices.

6. Keep it simple. Don’t photograph hundreds of images for this special promotion. Instead, find top selling poses, and stick with the same poses again and again. Work at creating a relationship with the client, while keeping your process on the easiest level possible. It’s all about building the relationship here for future sales many years to come.

7. Every customer that comes in should be treated on the same level, no matter what the potential for sales. A client that spends $1000 at each session should be given the same courtesy as the one who only takes the basic plan with no additional sales. Because you don’t know everyone’s economic situation, just realize future potential is always possible. The client who only took the promotional item may end up referring you to your biggest client ever because she loves your ethics and customer service.

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