Welcome to your new favorite photography resource website. Here you’ll find a number of articles with tips and techniques on professional photography. The emphasis is on wedding photography, but you will be able to gain insights into other areas of photography and business as well. Especially business. In general photographers are an artistic lot, and prefer the art end of their work more than the sales and marketing side of the business. Unfortunately, marketing is just, if not more, important. You won’t survive long if you can’t make sales. So look for our coverage of how you can use social media on the Internet for social networking and social marketing of your business.
The Steps to Starting a Photography Business
Being a retired company manager and advisor for several recognized professional photographers, I am often questioned how I might guide youthful capable photography enthusiasts to begin and develop their own photography venture into a fully committed occupation. The photography enterprise has evolved significantly in the last Two decades, and has now turned into probably the most relentless industry areas of all occupations. You will find presently more than 140,000 professional photographers in the United States, with hundreds of thousands of amateurs switching to freelance photographers.
The barriers to entry in the photography business are at the lowest it has ever been in history and the market share of paid opportunities are shrinking everyday. This growing trend has led many of the young talented photographers to stack away their career in this business, leaving the lost and precious talents to be drowned out and sidelined forever. Many good, young talented photographers failed to succeed in the photography industry mainly for one reason; the lack of business skills.
In my years of consulting professional photographers, I find the most difficult challenge is convincing a full-time professional photographer to change their mindset from being a photographer to becoming a business person. The days of having great talents of looking through a lens for the most majestic angles will not be enough to make you successful in this industry today. It is just too competitive out there, it is certain that your work will be drowned out with the rest. The Z Plasma site has more to say on this. Like every photographer who carries a family of special lens in their arsenal for different types of shots, every professional photographer today absolutely needs to have the necessary business skills to survive and grow their business in this field.
The single most important business principal that every professional photographer needs to understand to survive in this industry is; “how to sell value”. The “value” is the single greatest asset any professional photographer has and their main competitive advantage in this field. Fortunately for most professional photographer, this “value” comes in different forms, but for most, it is easily found in their own unique style and artistic way of how a photograph is taken. The challenge though for many professional photographers is how to extract this value to their market and eventually to their business. Check out www.robospark.com for more. Below are five fundamental basic business principals to build your own business skills and learn how to extract “the value” out of your talents and business.
Every business needs to define a target market and how you plan to reach this market. In the photography business, this is the most important task and where 90% of your time and energy should be spent in the first two years of building your business.
When I ask many young photographers to define their target market, many respond back in very general terms such as, “I freelance. I do wedding, portraits, children, landscape, and fashion”. This is single most common mistake among young professional photographers starting their own business. Every photographer first need to ask themselves, “What is my talent, or what is my value?” Whether it’s capturing the emotions of a bride on her wedding day, or finding the most perfect angle of a mother’s maternity shoot, every photographer needs to understand what their talents are and how their work will separate them from the rest. It is only when this is understood, that a photographer can make the decision on which markets to target and how they can position themselves among their competitors. Remember the old saying, “A Jack of all trades, is a Master of none.” Pick a target market and specialize your talents in this one specific area to brand your business. If you do this correctly, you should be able to extract the most “value” out of your talents and put you in a position to succeed in this business.
Once a target market is defined, the next step is to understand how you will reach your market. Most photographers lack the skill and understanding on how to reach their targeted market. If you asked the most successful professional photographers in the industry what their best marketing channel is, almost every one of them would say that the single, greatest marketing channel in their photography business is referrals. This is the road to the promise land. Photographers need to be able to harvest and leverage as many of their past successful referrals as possible to build a chain of testimonials that act as marketing agents to exponentially grow their marketing channel and reach. This is the key in any successful photography business. Online websites such as FindPhotographers.net are great tools to be able to secure these referrals and testimonials to harvest them in one place and build out your own marketing channels for future clients.
The second best way to increase your marketing channel and reach is to learn to get local. Photography is a local business, and every photographer needs to market with local partners. Successful photographers get in front of their customers, and work with business partners in their community to leverage their marketing channel. If your specialty and target market is high-end maternity photography, then by contacting and partnering up with other parallel small businesses like 3-D ultra-sound or paternal massages for would-be Moms, you can leverage both sides of your businesses together and increase your marketing channels many folds over. Having the business skill sets to market yourself within your local community is absolutely necessary to build a successful photography business.
Once you are able to define and drive your target clientele to your business, the next critical business decision that needs to be made is your pricing strategy. The most common mistake that photographers make is how they price their products and services. Most photographers would lead you to believe that you should price high and above any amateur or else you will be undercutting your fellow professional photographers and leaving money on the table. This could not be further from the truth and is absolutely wrong!
In order to set your pricing strategy, you need to understand your competitive landscape. Who are your competitors and what is your “value”? You’ll find more info about this online. If all you have to offer is the quality of work of a part-time amateur shooting a wedding and you charge 2 times more, how many clients would you book based on this pricing strategy? A professional photographer needs to first understand what “value” they are offering to their clientele and how this “value” is compared to other competitors in the industry. The greater the “value”, the higher premium the photographer can charge on their products and services. Understanding your value and your price competition is the best way to set a pricing strategy that works, and have confidence in the prices you provide to your clients. This concept will determine if you are able to close the sale opportunity in the next principal.
I often asked professional photographers, what is the difference between marketing and sales? Most photographers don’t know or believe it to be the same. Simply put, marketing is the action to bring the customers to your business, while sales is the action of closing or booking the business. These are two very separate principals, and it is very critical to understand and differentiate between the two.
I consulted with many photographers in which their business had failed because they lack any salesmanship skills. These photographers have beautiful work and have a large clientele at their doorsteps looking to book with them, but lost the business due to their inability to close the sale. With the competitive environment of this industry, photographers need to be aggressive and tenacious to close the sale. You should click here for background information on this. The best way to close a booking is to focus on your “value” that you are offering to your potential client, as this is where you will excel and have the most competitive advantage over your competitor in the industry. Carpe Diem, or seize the moment (day), is the mantra when it comes to closing a sale. Be aggressive and strike it when it’s still hot. Get out there and sell yourself!
Keep in mind that the pricing strategy and sales goes hand-to-hand, and if a client does not book, a determination needs to be made if the real issue is due to the pricing strategy or due to a lack of salesmanship skills.
So you worked hard, defined your market, create your marketing channels, adjusted your pricing strategy, and brought customers to close and book. The next step is your operation and execution of your business. Operation and execution in the photography business comes down to solely resources. All photography businesses start with either a one person operation or at most a two person operation. Therefore, the use of your limited resources is critical to make your operation and execution in your business run smoothly. The Zena 21 website has much more to say on this matter. As mentioned previously, in the first two years, most of the resources should be spent mainly on marketing and cultivating your clientele base through referrals and local channels. Remember, you are a business person now and not a photographer, so most of your time will be spent in this area. Between the second and third years, the resources of the business will start to drain quickly between marketing, sales and operation, and the decision of where to put resources will be critical in reaching the growth of a successful business. At this stage, the business owner will need to hire or outsource the less critical daily tasks, and focus on where the “value” of the business is. I can’t tell you how many photography businesses I seen failed at this stage due to the wrong allocation of resources.
The last business principal is to create a brand out of your work and business. This is the ultimate competitive advantage to separate your business in this marketplace. By cultivating relationships with your clients, and branding your business name, you create an identity for your business that can’t be replicated by any of your competitors. Your “value” that you push in the beginning will now be a part of your brand.
It is really only at this stage that you can you tell yourself that you are now a professional photographer, or even better, a successful business person.
Social Media Networking and Marketing For Your Photography Business
Do you want to convert your fans and followers into paying customers? Are your social activities working? In this article we’ll show you several simple ways to tweak your social media updates for better sales conversion. Some social media updates can go further toward bringing in sales than others. And they can do this without detracting from the spirit of social media.
Incorporate a Clear Call to Action
Your customers and fans visit your social media pages for a variety of reasons, but generally speaking, they want to do something or learn something. If interested in this topic you should click here.
Some people are looking for information about your company, some are looking for details about products and services, some want access to special deals and coupons, some want to see if you have any contests or promotions running and some may be looking for expert tips and how-to tricks. If you don’t give them what they’re after, they won’t return. Use status updates to give them what they want and what you want: a sale. Post calls to action like “Click here for a Facebook fan exclusive coupon,” or “Enter to win…”
But remember to stay true to the 70-20-10 rule: 70 percent of your page’s content should be information that’s valuable and relevant to your fans; 20 percent should be content that comes from other people and 10 percent should be promotional. Once you know why your audience wants to interact with you on social media, be sure to give them the types of information they’re looking for.
Convey a Sense of Urgency
Due to the ticker-tape nature of most social media platforms, you have a very limited amount of time to catch the attention of your customers/fans/followers. If they see an update with verbiage that compels them to “act now,” you win. Using words like “For a limited time” or “On sale this week” or “Own it first” will catch the eye of your visitors.
You can also offer incentives for booking or buying immediately instead of later. Depending on your business, you could waive shipping fees, offer an extra week of your service or even a buy-one/get-one, etc. Ideally, post different time-sensitive offers on different networks. You can click here to continue your studies on this subject.
For example, “The next 10 people who retweet this will receive 10% off their next purchase.” On Facebook you could use an app to make an offer like, “The first 10 people to share this on Facebook get $25 off a $50 purchase,” and so on. This is one way to use the instant nature of social media to your advantage.
Offer Followers and Fans Exclusive Deals
This idea is similar to the previous one, but you want to make sure that your fans know the deals you’re offering are for fans of a particular network only. To grow your following on a variety of networks and inspire loyalty, offer deals that are exclusive to each network. If you’d like to read more then visit the Yippee Ki Yay website.
Kate Spade New York always has something special cookin’ for their Facebook fans. Periodically offering special deals is a great tactic for a business that wants to keep its fans coming back again and again. And doesn’t every business want that? This is a great way to reach out to specific audiences within your social media strategy.
It never hurts to ask your fans and followers to retweet, repin or share. Ideally you’re offering such a great deal that your fans and followers will want to share it anyway, but a little nudge is okay.
If your update is about a Facebook contest, you can even let your followers know that if they share the news about your contest, they’ll get an extra chance (or chances) to win. The Influential Geeks at www.influentialgeek.com have more to say on this. National Builder Supply uses Pinterest to give fans a chance to win a chandelier. When you ask your audience to interact with your content, they’re more likely to do it.
Keep All of Your Social Media Profiles Current
When potential customers land on your various social pages, they should have a clear idea of what your business/brand is all about. At the very least, go through each of your business’s social profiles (Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) once a quarter and make sure all of the information is current, because social networks occasionally change dimensions and other details.
For example, earlier this year Facebook relaxed its rules about using calls to action on cover photos, but many companies haven’t yet updated their pages to make the most of this space.
You can now include price or purchase information on a Facebook cover photo including phrases like “40% off this week only” or “Download our new eBook here,” contact information or other calls to action such as “Get it now” or “Tell your friends.” The main image should also give customers and prospective customers some insights about you.
Wedding Photography Basics for the Non-Professional
There are quite a few websites devoted to photography. Some are very good, others not so good. That’s because just about any one, with very little effort, knowledge or skill can start a site. A person may have just recently taken up photography, purchased a very expensive camera, and then happened to snap a few good pictures. And then decided they were quite good, and ready to give out photography advice to the masses.
I wouldn’t want to put anyone off this great hobby, past-time or vocation, but it is extremely important to establish the credibility of the individual giving out the advice and amateur wedding photography tips, particularly when it comes to wedding photography. You’ll find more info on this online.
I have occasionally read amateur wedding photography tips and advice from sites on the net that really wouldn’t pass muster as being from a wedding photographer, as not once did I see the words professional or professionalism. Anyone can click away with a top end digital camera at a wedding, but to do it correctly, in sequence, with all the required and necessary photographs being taken efficiently and professionally takes experience. Visit the We Do Code website for more on this topic.
My initial piece of advice would be for you to advertise anywhere and everywhere and put yourself out there as an “inexperienced photographer” who is willing to listen and learn and eventually take up wedding photography.
Approach an established professional wedding photographer and respectfully ask if you can tag along at an upcoming wedding firstly without any camera equipment, and assist him or her for free, (although he/she may “throw you a bone” at the end). The next time ask the photographer if you can take a few of your own reportage or candid shots so long as that under no circumstances will you get in the way of either the photographer OR the proceedings!
Then maybe you could approach a couple who are soon to be getting married and explain to them that, if possible, you would like to take some photos alongside the hired professional photographer (for nothing again) for practice, and that if they like any of your pictures, they are able to buy them from you at a reduced price.
Once you have done this maybe once or twice, and you feel confident enough that you can do it alone, I would suggest that once again, you offer to photograph a wedding free of charge, although this time as the ONLY photographer, and you should just charge for print costs to cover your own expenses.
By not charging at this point, and because of the fact that you are NOT yet an up and running business, and as long as you make this crystal clear to the wedding couple, you are limiting your personal liabilities but at the same time, getting some incredible experience under your belt for any future work.
Before you take the final plunge and start charging for your wedding photography services, the last of my amateur wedding photography tips is that you enrol yourself on a weekend or 2 or 3 day wedding photography course with a professional wedding photographer and learn as much as you can about lighting and posing techniques, as well as all the other details you are going to need to learn. These courses normally include a model wedding “couple” for a day for you to practice your skills on.
Wedding photography is honestly so much more than simply taking the photographs, you must think about the organizing, the printing, the albums and above all else, your own personal proficiency, efficiency and professionalism.
All of this is a lot to take in and the chances are that you won’t earn much money for a while starting this way, but when you finally begin to charge for your wedding photography, you will be more than ready and able, and hopefully have bags of confidence to kick start you on your way.