Doctrine of a Successful Pro Photographer

I have the good fortune to speak with a large number of pro photographers. Sometimes it’s helping with the business side of their photography, sometimes it’s at industry events, and often it is simply in a social setting. Those discussions give me a lot of content to share on Beyond Here, and in this post I share the doctrine of a successful pro photographer. If you are a pro photographer or an aspiring pro, these points should give you goalposts to measure your progress and assess the next step forward.

Doctrine of a Successful Pro Photographer


  1. Know Your Gear. Put very simply, pro photographers have the equipment for the job and know how to use it. This knowledge means they know they can get the job done, and even if something goes wrong on shoot day – they know their gear well enough to be able to meet the client’s needs.

    bird

    The successful pro photographer shows only their best work

  2. Aim for Genius. Here’s an ambition! Successful pro photographers don’t just want to grind out another job and get paid. They want to exceed the clients needs and break new ground themselves. Every shoot is another opportunity for their best shoot ever. The doctrine of the successful pro photographer means they must keep pushing forward. Ok is not good enough. Raise your standards. Aim for genius.
  3. Be Ethical. The successful pro photographer knows that life as a photographer is both a career option and part of their being. By default, they plan to be in this business a long time. This is not a summer job, this is their life. They know they need to deal ethically with everyone they come in contact with. Always.
  4. Back Up. The successful pro photographer knows that shooting, producing and delivering great images is part of the job. There will be times when clients lose files and need help. Living the doctrine of a successful pro photographer means organizing files and backing up so they can be found when they are needed.
  5. Show Only Your Best Work. If you are aiming for genius you will show only your best work. Being a successful pro photographer is not about sharing the most work, it’s about sharing only your best work and showing potential clients what you are capable of. Don’t be tempted to share anything less than your best.

    Money

    Doctrine of the successful pro photographer. Know your worth. Every job has a price you won’t go below.

  6. Know Your Worth. Number 6 is what sets the successful pro apart from the successful non pro. Pro photographers know what their time and skills are worth. Often that is built on having dealt with a lot of clients over a period of time. Successful pro photographers typically have some flexibility in their pricing structure to meet their clients needs – and they all have a clear picture about the price they will not go below. Know your worth.
  7. Know Your Client. Successful pro photographers know their worth and they also know their client. More importantly they know who is not their client. A high end wedding shooter knows that if a potential client’s first question is about budget they are unlikely to be a suitable client for them. boy
  8. Stand Out. Successful pro photographers are not run of the mill. They stand out. They build a reputation. They continue to work on their art and evolve over time. What was excellent this year, will be so-so next year. The doctrine of a successful pro photographer is continuing to strive to stand out. This process never ends.
  9. Keep Learning and Evolving. To aim for genius and to stand out mean the successful pro photographer must keep learning and evolving. Photography is an art that is never mastered. There is always something new to learn or a new piece of equipment to master. There is a new way to see and to express. Keep learning and evolving. Keep shooting. Keep breaking new personal frontiers.
  10. Be Authentic. Successful pro photographers know that their business is about producing great images and experiences for their clients. It is not about the photographers ego or desire to look good. To that end, successful pro photographers are authentic. There is no pretense. They are genuine and authentic in their desire to serve their customer and at the same time express their artistic vision.

Thanks for reading the doctrine of the successful pro photographer. How are you measuring up to these 10 points?

 

How Not to Run Your Small Business

I love to share good news stories and experiences to help us run our businesses better. This week I’ve got a bad news story to share. There are lots of lessons to learn from this one – and they are all about how not to run your small business. (I’ll try to focus on the lessons and avoid a rant!)

I am currently planning a stock photo shoot where I need an environment that looks like a shared working space or creative collaboration area. (It’s a concept shoot for my stock portfolio with iStockphoto and Getty Images). I have researched possible locations and have found a venue which looks suitable. It is a studio space in downtown Melbourne, Australia which has two large studio areas and a rooftop outdoor space. It looks very cool and I could imagine it as a creative collaboration area or even as a workspace for a funky advertising agency. I was impressed that they also have a range of tables and chairs and props which could make it look like an active work space, and flexible enough to look like a café.

Here’s where my problems started and the lessons for how not to run your small business begin.

customer service

In small business, you are at the center of customer service

My first step was to call the studio to arrange a time to view the space. I was going to be in the area last Friday and wanted to visit. So on Tuesday I gave them a call. The only contact number on the website is a mobile number. I called. There was no answer. There was no option to leave a message. I thought that was odd, but I pressed on. I went back to the website and got the email address. On Tuesday afternoon, I sent an email to the only email address listed on the website.

I didn’t expect an instant reply to my email, but by Wednesday night I was wondering if they had received it and if they were going to reply before Friday.

I have been following this studios posts on Instagram for several months and was encouraged when they added a new post on Thursday. I sent them a private message on Instagram asking if it would be possible for me to visit them on Friday.

By Friday, I hadn’t received a reply to my email or Instagram message, but I was in the area and decided to visit them. Again I drew a blank. At 10.30am the studio roller door was down and there appeared to be nobody around.

As I’m writing this post it is Tuesday afternoon, one week after my first attempt to contact the studio. I haven’t had a reply to my email or Instagram message.

So, what could possibly explain what’s going on for this studio? I’m assuming it can only be one of two things. First, is that business is so good and they are so busy that they have not got back to potential clients. It is a busy time of year and it is possible that they have lots of bookings prior to Christmas. The second possibility is that business is terrible and they have more pressing issues than getting back to a potential client. Who knows, they could be in financial trouble? Or be about to shut down? Or a key person may have health issues? Or there may be other issues that I know nothing about which means they haven’t got back to me? Who knows.

serviceSo, what are the lessons we might learn from this? I’ve come up with five. If you have some to add, or want to share your own experience please add some thoughts in the comments section below.

  1. Make sure website details are correct and up to date. I wondered if they had mis-typed their own phone number and email address? That sure would have an impact on the number of bookings they get.
  2. If there are special circumstances, let your clients and potential clients know. I assumed this was a poorly run business with no focus on responding to clients. But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe it’s a one person business and they have a sick child? or a major health issue? To avoid clients thinking the worst – keep them informed. Let them know via your website or phone message or auto reply from your email that they are currently experiencing special circumstances.
  3. Clients expect you to respond promptly. Make doing this a priority. I thought the idea of contacting the studio on Tuesday and visiting on Friday was giving them lots of time. (I have some clients contact me today and want to visit same day!) Given the ease of electronic communication clients expect a prompt reply. Set aside time in your day to get back to people.
  4. Word of mouth is a big influencer. Unfortunately I’ve already told this story to several people. It’s annoyed me that I thought I’d found a great location and I haven’t heard back from them. The studio might be getting an unfair wrap, but I’ve shared my experience with other photographers and I know it will influence their choice of studios in the future. Reputation is important. Word of mouth – good or bad – is influential. Do everything to make the word of mouth feedback for your own business positive.
  5. Doing the basics well is important. Many, many small businesses are built on providing excellent customer service. Excellent customer service does not have to be fancy or special. Often it is about doing the basics very well, every day of the year.

Thanks for taking the time to read how not to run your small business. If you have an experience to add for other readers, please use the comments section below. And to finish this post on a high, please read this post about a great customer experience I had.

Changes to iStock Royalty Payments

iStock is one of the large players in the microstock photography market, an industry where thousands of photographers are earning an income from their images. During October 2016, iStock announced changes to iStock royalty payments most of which come into effect in 2017. (At the same time, iStock are making changes to the technology they use and the tools and reporting they provide to contributors). In this post, I look at the changes to iStock royalty payments.

man with piggy bank

iStock royalty changes need to reflect the growth of subscriptions in microstock

Why Change? The microstock photography market has changed very significantly in the last 5 years, which has meant iStock needs to change it’s royalty payment structure to reflect the industry’s new realities. For iStock itself, the biggest change has been a movement away from ‘credit downloads’ to the ‘subscription’ model.

iStock was initially built on the credit download model – where a customer would purchase credits and then redeem those credits when they bought images. The subscription model has superseded the credit model for most frequent customers.

Under the subscription model, a customer purchases a monthly subscription with a limit on the number of images that can be downloaded in that month. For example, a customer purchases a subscription which allows them to download 100 images per month.

Until now, iStock’s royalty system for paying contributors has not kept pace with the change in the industry.

So what’s changing and what does it mean? The changes are in four different areas.

Change 1 – Redeemed Credits. The redeemed credit system was introduced to encourage contributors to continue to upload fresh, relevant content. It was based only on ‘credit downloads’ and so has not been effective in recent years (if ever!) The redeemed credit system is being replaced by a revised system which recognizes all types of sales, not just credit sales. The good news is – all sales will be recognized. The bad news is the system and targets have not been announced yet. iStock have advised that contributors will start 2017 on the same royalty level as they finish 2016, and that the targets will be announced before the end of the year.

In summary, we will have to wait and see what the system and targets look like.

Change 2 – Exclusive Royalty Rates. This is a change without much change. Exclusive contributors currently earn between 25% and 45% royalty rate depending on which tier they have achieved under the redeemed credits system.

This royalty structure stays the same. The change is that all downloads will be recognized and that Signature+ collection downloads will count double. The impact for an exclusive contributor will depend on the system that replaces redeemed credits – so again, this is a case of wait and see.

After these changes, all downloads will be recognized (good), and it will be helpful to have files in the Signature+ collection.

quit

Non exclusive contributors will not like the 15% flat royalty rate

Change 3 – Non Exclusive Royalty Rates. From later this week (25 November 2016) royalty rates for non exclusive contributors move to a flat 15%. Previously the minimum you could earn was 15% – and you could earn more by meeting the redeemed credit targets.

This change will be negative for non exclusive contributors – 15% is less than many were previously receiving, and is less than is available on other microstock sites. I would expect that some non exclusive contributors will stop contributing new images to iStock – and I expect this is an outcome iStock is happy with.

They are looking to encourage exclusive content so that they can compete with other agencies based on the content they provide (in addition to the functionality of the site and price).

For non exclusive contributors – since I published this post iStock have changed the implementation dates. The move to 15% flat commission for non exclusive contributors will now happen on 23 December 2016 for subscription downloads, and 1 January 2017 for credit downloads. (Edited by Craig Dingle on 24 November 2016).

Change 4 – Subscription Download Rates. Until now, subscription downloads have paid a flat fee to the contributor. For me as an exclusive contributor, that has been predominantly US$0.75 for files in the Signature collection and US$2.50 for files in the Signature+ collection.

This flat fee is being replaced by a ‘price per file’ system where the exact amount will vary based on the number of downloads a client makes and the price they paid for the subscription. In some ways, this makes it less transparent but I like that the contributors interests and iStock’s interests become aligned in this process. The contributor will share in the rewards with iStock. The exact impact on a contributors income will be seen in the next few months.

So what does this all mean? The changes to iStock royalty payments are recognition that the current system is not working effectively given the industry move to a subscription driven model. In that sense, change is good.

The changes announced significantly favor exclusive contributors over non-exclusives which will force some contributors to make a choice which camp they would like to be in.

Overall, I am encouraged that iStock are adjusting their royalty structures to reflect the new realities of the industry. If anything, it is a bit late, but I am optimistic that 2017 will bring stronger returns from iStock.

 

 

Great Reads – Backyard Silver

I started the Great Reads section of Beyond Here two years ago, with the intention of building a library of resources about the business of photography. The early posts featured books that I read and recommended, and which were available via Amazon. A good example is this post about a book titled Taking Stock by Rob Sylvan. With today’s post I’m expanding the Great Reads section of Beyond Here to include online resources as well. Here is Great Reads – Backyard Silver.

Books

With this post – Great Reads expands to online resources

Backyard Silver is a blog written by US based stock photographer Steve Heap. Steve and I recently discovered each others blogs, and while we live on opposite sides of the world, we had many things in common.

We are both stock photographers. We both started in microstock at about the same time, and we both stuck at it. We both have thousands of images available via microstock libraries, and both count income from microstock as a key portion of our photography businesses.

It turns out the similarities didn’t stop there. We have both written an ebook encouraging photographers to make money from their images through stock photography. Please see:

The one significant area we differ is that I chose (in 2010) to become exclusive with iStock (and still am) while Steve chose to be an independent stock photographer. By independent, I mean that he submits his images to a wide range of microstock sites. And this key difference is why I encourage Beyond Here reader’s to check out Backyard Silver.

Specifically Steve covers two areas which I am often asked about – the first is feedback about different stock sites, and the second is exactly how much money it is possible to make. Steve outlines each of the sites he contributes to, how many images he has with each site, and the monthly income he generates. Here is an example of a post which gives this detail.

As an exclusive photographer with iStock I like the simplicity of uploading, tracking, and payments which come from dealing with just one agency. I recently asked Steve how he handles the workload of submitting to multiple sites, and he kindly wrote this post outlining how he does it and which tools he uses.

If you are interested in the world of stock photography, I recommend you check out Steve’s blog. Thanks for reading Great Reads – Backyard Silver.

Shooting Lifestyle Stock Images

In Melbourne, Australia it is spring (though today sure doesn’t feel like it!) It is a time when our weather starts to warm up and we move into daylight savings. This year over spring and summer I am adding to the stock photo series I started last year focusing on Melbourne lifestyle images. This is in response to a brief from Getty Images, which encourages photographers to shoot authentic images on location. This post covers my most recent shoot and is all about shooting lifestyle stock images.

Melbourne

We started this shoot at Flinders Street Station, in instantly recognizable Melbourne location.

Planning. Melbourne is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city down here at the bottom of the world. I have been building a portfolio of lifestyle images like the ones displayed in this post. One of Melbourne’s distinctive features are the cafes and restaurants in the laneways of the inner city. They are part of what sets Melbourne apart from other Australian cities and these were the primary locations I used on my latest shoot. Shooting lifestyle stock images is a lot of fun, and having a plan of what and where you are going to shoot is an important first step.

Finding the right model. To find models for this series of shoots, I placed a casting call on Model Mayhem as I outlined in this earlier post. So far I have had 10 models express interest in this type of shoot giving me a reasonable selection. For this shoot, I worked with Julia. We exchanged messages on Model Mayhem followed by speaking on the phone about the shoot. I generally try to meet the model before the shoot so that we can talk through the details, but on this occasion it wasn’t possible and we made do with a phone conversation.

Melbourne

Degraves St is a classic Melbourne laneway in the city

Hair, Makeup, Wardrobe. When I’m shooting lifestyle stock images I generally ask the model to look after their own hair, makeup and wardrobe rather than having a hair and makeup artist and stylist involved. This keeps production costs down and generally the model is comfortable doing their own hair and make up and wearing their own clothes. I am aiming to shoot authentic and realistic images, and being comfortable with their clothes and look helps the model to relax and be authentic.

Logistics. For this shoot we organised to meet at Flinders Street Station in the city. Before we started shooting we had a coffee in Federation Square which gave us time to discuss the shoot and to sort out model releases, invoice and payment. The shoot was then conducted over 2 hours. During this time we started shooting at the front of Flinders Street Station and then walked to Degraves Street, Southbank, Southwharf, Webb Bridge, and we finished by the NAB Building at Docklands. It was a relaxed and easy shoot where we enjoyed Melbourne city and produced a range of useful Melbourne lifestyle images.

Melbourne

In our 2 hour walk around the city we shot at Seafarers Bridge near Southbank

Post Production. When I’m shooting stock images I put time and effort into planning the shoot and composing shots. I also try to keep post production time to a minimum. This usually involves importing the RAW files into Lightroom and making minor adjustments to white balance, cropping, brightness, color, and highlights. This typically takes a few minutes per file. (The most time consuming part of this process is selecting which files I am going to use and which I will delete. The actual editing of each image is a quick process).

Uploading and keywording. The shoot is not complete until the files have been uploaded to the stock photography site and keyworded. I generally do this in the evenings over several days. As an exclusive photographer with iStock for several years I have the process relatively streamlined and spend just a few minutes keywording each image. Where I am uploading a series, I copy and paste the keywords to reduce time and then make minor adjustments to keywords for each file.

Expectations. There is strong demand for authentic images which feature real locations (it’s one of the reasons I enjoy shooting lifestyle stock images). In the case of Melbourne, the city has a population of approximately 4 million people and features several national and world sporting events like the Australian Open Tennis, the Australian Grand Prix, the AFL, NRL, and A League soccer games. At present, there is also fairly limited competition for this style of image. For those reasons I expect sales to be strong, particularly around the time of the major sporting events.

Thanks for reading this post – Shooting Lifestyle Stock Images – I hope it helps your own stock photography.

Lamington

Simple Stock Photos Using Everyday Items

Shooting useful stock images doesn’t need to be a complicated process or involve high production values. This weekend I’ve had my photography plans disrupted by bad weather in Melbourne, and so I did an opportunistic stock photo shoot on Saturday afternoon. This post is to show you how to shoot simple stock photos using everyday items.

Lamington

Lamingtons are a traditionally Australian cake

The subject. The subject of this shoot was part of our weekly grocery shopping! My wife had bought a large packet of lamingtons. According to wikipedia “A lamington is an Australian cake, made from squares of sponge cake coated in an outer layer of chocolate sauce and rolled in desiccated coconut.” If you live in Australia, I’m sure you know them. If you don’t, it’s worth coming to visit Australia just to try them! They are fantastic.

Why would these have value as a stock photo? The lamington is traditionally Australian. That makes them a good subject and I expect sales of these images to peak around Australian public holidays – particularly Australia Day near the end of January. To add to the “Australian-ness” I added several Australian flags to the image. Again, this is to enhance the appeal of the images around Australia Day and to tie the image directly to Australia. I have gathered a lot of stock photography props over the years, including these little Australian flags on a toothpick. If you want to buy some – look for them at two dollar shops or general merchandise stores. A packet of fifty will cost around three Australian dollars.

Lamington

The flag adds to the Australian theme.

Lighting and Background. These shots were lit with 2 lights – one above the lamingtons and one to the side. It is a simple lighting structure and could be achieved using off camera flash and light from a window. In this case it was shot in my home studio using two continuous lights and soft boxes. (See this post for How To Build a Home Photography Studio). Any white background will work for these shots, and I had the subject on a white plate to catch any of the coconut when it fell off.

Lens and type of shot. I used just one lens for this shoot, the Canon L series 100mm macro. With this lens it is possible to shoot extreme close ups, as well as shots which take in the whole of the subject. To create images which have the most flexibility for the buyer, I shot both vertical and horizontal, some with flags and some without, and others with a varying number of flags.

LamingtonTime commitment. This type of shoot is straightforward and doesn’t take long. I started by taking the lamingtons from the kitchen, and returned them after the shoot 25 minutes later. If you plan your lighting and background in advance, setting up, shooting, and wrapping up can be done in a very short period of time.

Post production. I made small adjustments to the RAW images in Lightroom – increasing contrast, whitening the whites, increasing the saturation of the blue color, and cropping where necessary. Again this is a simple process and took about 2 minutes per image.

The purpose of this post was to show you that it is not complicated or expensive to create simple stock photos using everyday items. Thanks for taking the time to read this post. Happy shooting.

How to Drive Change in Your Photography Business

I have been working with photographers wanting to make a step change in their business. Three of them are running existing businesses and one is starting out. All four are clear that they want to change and want to see change in their business, and have struggled to make that happen. That has lead to this post – how to drive change in your photography business.

For change to occur, research says you need three elements. They are:

  1. A picture, or vision, of where you want to get to
  2. An understanding of what pain or discomfort you would feel if you didn’t achieve that
  3. Clarity about the next step
focus

Step 1, be specific about your vision. It will bring focus to your business and your actions

So, how to we use this to drive change in a photography business? We work through each step to provide direction to our business. If we haven’t been able to turn that into action and change yet, then we needed greater detail.

Let’s look at each.

Firstly, building a vision of where you want to get to. In this step it’s really easy to be vague. If you are serious about change you need to be specific. For the photographer just starting out, she wants to be a successful wedding photographer.

That is not a vision and is not specific enough to drive towards. Work through – what does that mean? How many weddings per year? What sort of weddings? How much will you be charging? Who will be doing albums and prints for you? What does your ideal couple look like? Where do they live? What sorts of venues do you want to shoot at? Will you have assistants helping you? How much money do you want to make per year? How many weeks off will you have? Get the idea? Spend time on building this vision in detail. Write it all down. Don’t be vague, be specific. If you haven’t been able to find the motivation for change yet – start by being very specific about your vision.

determination

Being clear on the pain of never achieving your vision will make defeat unacceptable

Second, consider the discomfort if you never make it to the vision. This second step really determines whether you have the fortitude to push ahead and make a change. One of the other photographers wants to move away from weddings and portraits, and ‘make it’ as a sports photographer. So how much discomfort will he have if he never makes the leap? If he says ‘oh well, I’ve got a successful business already … I’m comfortable … I’m doing well’ – then his chance of making the leap is almost nil.

However, if his answer is – ‘I will be completely unfulfilled, I will feel like my creative vision wasn’t realized, I will feel like my purpose in life hasn’t been achieved’ …. then wow (!) he has got some real motivation to get this thing done. Imagine the discomfort of saying “I will feel like my purpose in life hasn’t been achieved”. It’s not about money or status or material things … it is way bigger. This is a strong foundation for change. Give serious consideration to the discomfort you would feel if you didn’t achieve your vision. It will help clarify if you are really serious or are pretending.

my businessThird step, are you clear on the very next step. Don’t worry about all the steps ahead of you – just be clear on the next one and act on it. My budding sports photographer friend is clear he needs better equipment to shoot action sports. To date he has got by with his wedding and portrait equipment but he knows he needs a camera body that will shoot 10-12 frames per second to capture the fast moving football action. Buying new gear won’t guarantee success, but being clear on your very next step and taking action will keep getting you closer to your vision. Once you’ve acted on that very next step revisit your vision, revisit the discomfort you would have if you never made it, and decide on the very next step.

So, now you know a simple three step process for how to drive change in your photography business. (You can use this to drive any change in your life). Work through the three steps and you’ll move from procrastination to action, and from “I want to” to “I did”. Step forward with purpose. Drive change in your photography business!

Tips to Building a Strong Stock Photography Portfolio

I have been contributing images to a stock photography website since 2008, and have spoken to many photographers about making stock photography a part of their business income. I’m pleased to say that many have added stock photography income to their business. If you are already making money from stock photography or are considering getting into it, here are ten tips to building a strong stock photography portfolio.

Tip 1 – Communicate a clear message or concept. Stock images which communicate a clear message or concept are the most popular. Don’t fall into the trap of shooting random images. Decide on a theme and then create images which communicate a clear message.

bullying

This very simple concept is one of my most successful stock images.

Tip 2 – Create flexible images. Often as a stock photographer I won’t know exactly how a buyer wants to use my image. So I shoot with some flexibility to ensure the image is useful to the buyer. That might be allowing extra copy space so that a designer can add text, or to not shoot too tightly so that the designer can crop the image to suit their page layout. Shooting with some flexibility will allow more buyers to use your images. That means more sales for you.

Tip 3 – Look for a niche where you have an advantage. Everyone has an niche that others don’t have access to. It is a matter of finding that niche and then turning that niche into strong images. I have an example from wildlife photography. Some people believe wildlife is too competitive to be profitable as stock. I’ve had a different experience. I live in Melbourne, Australia about 20 minutes drive to a large group of flying foxes. I’ve been visiting them for years now and have developed an extensive range of flying fox images. Not everyone has access to a location like this. It has become a profitable niche for stock images, and sales peak each year near Halloween.

Flying fox

Consider what niche you may have, and how you could capitalize on it

Tip 4 – Maintain a steady upload pace. Success in stock photography is a long term game. It is a business model that rewards continuous, steady effort. To do that you need to operate at a pace you are able to sustain. For some that may be five hundred images a year, for others it may be two thousand images per year. Whatever level you are able to contribute at – focus on establishing and maintaining a steady upload pace.

Tip 5 – Variety counts. Shooting a wide variety of material gives you the best chance to achieve sales steadily throughout the year. You may be tempted to specialize in Christmas themed images, but if you do that, you will have 2-3 months each year with strong sales and 9-10 months with limited sales. Cast the net wide. Shoot a wide variety of themes.

Tip 6 – Expect to have images which never get downloaded. Every stock photographer has images which are unsuccessful. I have over eight thousand images in my portfolio and have hundreds which have not ever been downloaded. So when this happens to you, don’t panic. It is part of the game and process of being a stock photographer. Some files will be successful and others will not. Don’t stress. Learn the lesson and move onto the next concept.

Money problems

The strength of your concept and how well it is executed is important. The gear you use is not.

Tip 7 – It’s not about your gear. Purchasers of stock photos are really interested in the image and whether it fits their purpose. They have no interest at all what gear you used to make the image. So if you are starting out, don’t let not having the best pro quality gear hold you back. If you can create useful images, it doesn’t matter whether they are made using a pro quality DSLR, a cheap point and shoot, or even your phone. (See this post for a different take on this subject.)

Tip 8 – Organize your files well. Like any type of photography where you are handling large volumes of images, it is important to be well organised. There will be times when you need to go back to old files or want to check the camera settings or date the image was made. Take time to plan for how you will organize your images.

Tip 9 – Develop a manageable workflow. Stock photographers deal with large numbers of files. It is important to develop a strong workflow that sees the images coming out of your camera, through post production and uploaded onto your stock photo library quickly. I like to finish editing one shoot and have started uploading it before my next shoot. To do that I need to be very efficient to avoid having a computer full of images which never make it into my stock portfolio. Develop a workflow which suits you, and sees images being added to your portfolio at regular intervals.

Tip 10 – Research in advance. Take time to plan your concept and your shoot. Part of this time should be spent in researching what files currently exist. That will give you a feel for the level of competition and the uniqueness of your concept.

Thanks for reading these ten tips to building a strong stock photography portfolio. Stock continues to be a steady income earner for me, and can be for you too. For more information please see this post on Why I Shoot Stock. Best wishes.

Creating New Revenue Streams

The photography business is a very competitive one, with limited barriers to entry and extensive competition. This makes it challenging for both new and established businesses to generate an appropriate financial return. This week I’ve been working with a major financial services business. They are tackling the future needs of their business in a very structured way. I can see their approach to creating new revenue streams being appropriate to photographers. Let me explain.

So what is happening in this financial services business? Their CEO sees a rapidly changing environment driven by new technology, changing client needs, and heightened competition. It seems that in their business, the old model is dying – much like traditional photographer being overtaken by the new tech savvy weekend warrior.

Coins

Are you deliberately setting aside time to create new revenue streams?

This financial services business is preparing for the future. It’s how they are doing it that is really interesting. They are preparing by explicitly focusing on different parts of their business. They are very deliberately trying to build capability in creating new revenue streams.

  • 70% of their resources are dedicated to their core business
  • 20% of their resources are dedicated to emerging new growth opportunities, and
  • 10% of their resources are dedicated to long term experiments

So, how might we learn from the corporate world?

Most of the photographers I speak to are focusing one hundred percent of their time and energy on their traditional core business. Most are also seeing eroding margins for this work, or increased competition, or both. They don’t dedicate any of their time to creating new revenue streams. They are hoping that what they have always done will be relevant for their future clients and enable them to make a living. Can you see a flaw in this logic? Without change, the best they can hope for is a slow decline in their business and some seriously long hours.

How could we implement a strategy similar to the financial services business? If you are working 5 days per week, dedicating 20% of your time to emerging new growth opportunities is the equivalent of one day per week. What might this look like? Well, this will be different for every different business, but a traditional wedding photographer might spend that time investing and learning about implementing drone technology into their wedding photography business. This would give them a unique point of difference, and stop their business being overtaken by competitors. Exactly what you do in that one day per week is up to you, the point I want to make is that you could be spending one day per week creating new revenue streams for your current business.

Jigsaw puzzleAnd what about long term experiments? The financial services business was dedicating ten percent of it’s resources to long term experiments. How could we do this? Ten percent of our time is one day every two weeks. Could you set that aside to focus on a completely new income stream for your business? Could you build onto your current business something that you have an interest in? Maybe a new line of photography, new products, a blog, photography seminars, photography tours? Again the activity is up to you, but I want to encourage you to deliberately set aside time for creating new revenue streams.

Thanks for reading this blog. I hope it has given you insight into how another business is tackling the challenge of creating new revenue streams that can be translated into something meaningful for your business.

More Photography Business Tips from the Under 12’s

I recently wrote a post for Beyond Here called 6 Photography Business Tips from the Under 12’s. It traced the season of an under 12 basketball team, the lessons they were learning, and how that might apply to photography businesses. The season has progressed and last week was the final round robin game of the season. The team has been making steady progress and has won five games and lost four in the final nine home and away games. They have now qualified for the finals series which commence this weekend. As I reflect on the season so far, here are more photography business tips from the under twelves.

basketballerBusiness Tip 1 – Weaknesses Can Be Turned Around. Every sports team has strengths and weaknesses. In this basketball team we have two very tall kids who are invaluable for their rebounding. They regularly grab the defensive rebound and provide the outlet pass to a running guard. On the other hand, both of them have not been strong on scoring. And if you know basketball, you will know that it is difficult to win games if your centers are not scoring.

As the season has gone on, these two kids have gradually built their scoring to the point where they are now regular contributors. So what’s the business tip? Your weaknesses don’t have to remain weaknesses! Work at them. Practice. Bring them up to a level where they are making a positive contribution to your business. Weaknesses can be turned around with focus and time. Don’t accept them as weaknesses which hold you business back. Identify yours and focus. They can be turned around.

focusBusiness Tip 2 – Success is Not Defined in a Few Weeks. When I wrote the previous post we were just three games into a long season. The team went through a tough stretch where wins were hard to come by, but in the second round of the competition they have managed more wins than losses. That’s progress. Now they head into the finals on the back of two successive wins feeling optimistic about what the final weeks of the season might hold. If we assessed the season after three games we might have viewed it as a failure. But success is not measured in a few weeks. Business progress, like a basketball team’s progress, can be massive over a few months. Keep moving forward. Don’t define your business based on current results. Keep pushing on. (For another post about business success please see Fail Fail Fail Succeed, Irony)

Business Tip 3 – There Will be Setbacks. Setbacks in business and setbacks in sport are a normal part of life. Don’t panic when they happen. Keep focused, your difficult days will pass. Right at the moment one of the under 12 players is out of action with a broken finger. She is a strong player and will miss four games. In basketball, that’s one of the reasons you have ten players on the team. And it is why you practice with different combinations on the court. Whether it’s a player in foul trouble, or a player out with injury, a basketball team practices with these challenges in mind. While she is out injured there is the opportunity for someone else to shine. Similarly we need to prepare our businesses for tough times. When they arrive, our businesses are ready.

Business Tip 4 – Good Practice Produces Good Performance. One of the most enjoyable aspects of following this young basketball team is the effort they are putting in. There are ten kids and two coaches giving one hundred percent effort at each training and game. And the good work going into practice is starting to produce good performances on game day.

So what can we learn from this? Did your last big shoot meet your expectations? Was there any room for improvement in either your photographic output or the way you conducted your business? I bet there was. So have you practiced since then so that your performance is better next time?

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can turn up on game day and just produce the goods. Be like the basketball team and put in quality practice. Then you can expect a quality result on game day.

possibilityBusiness Tip 5 – Persistence is Powerful. There is an element to this basketball team that keeps on keeping on. They don’t give up. Sometimes after a heavy loss they look worn out and dejected but, by the time the next practice session comes around, they are focused on having fun, working hard, and improving. While some teams are limping towards the end of the season, this team is still working as hard as ever. And guess what? They are starting to close the gap on the stronger teams.

Are you letting your business get on top of you? Are you letting short term failures define you and hold you back? Believe you can get to your goals, and persevere. Keep going. Persistence is powerful.

Business Tip 6 – Teamwork is Everything. In basketball and business, teamwork is vitally important. There’s an old sports adage that a champion team can beat a team of champions. That means a well coordinated group can beat a more talented team, and it is the same in business.

Are you building a champion team? Do you have partners and suppliers who you trust and make your business stronger? Who are we talking about? A print supplier, album supplier, second shooters, accountant, business adviser, equipment supplier. The list goes on and on. Focus on building a champion team who will support you when you need them.

Thanks for reading more photography business tips from the under 12’s. Best wishes.