Why Visit Wedding Venues Beforehand

This week I visited the venue for a function I will be shooting in 2 weeks time. I’m really looking forward to the function. It is for a lovely couple at a beautiful location on the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria, Australia. The venue is a vineyard which has a well presented functions area, lots of grape vines, a rural outlook, and 4 wheel drive access to a private beach. It was a long drive for me to visit so, why visit wedding venues beforehand? The answer is obvious – to get the best result for my client!

Wedding photography

This venue had a private beach with 4WD only access. It was great to visit and plan shots here.

But when I am visiting, what am I looking for? Here’s the top 5 things I want to achieve:


  1. To know where the best shots will be made. I don’t make it up as I go when shooting weddings or events. I like to visit beforehand to understand what the possibilities at the venue are, and to develop a shot plan. To do this, I walk around the venue, both indoor and outdoor areas, and imagine the possibilities. I also ask the people at the venue where they think the best photo spots are, and then I ask ‘what are the undiscovered photo opportunities here?’. It’s amazing the insight the venue’s staff can give you.
  2. To develop a wet weather plan. Most of the weddings I shoot are in spring, summer and autumn and are likely to have outdoor opportunities for making images. I plan for both good and bad weather. When the weather is bad, you will see how well prepared the photographer is!

    outdoor function area

    All function spaces are different and visiting in advance lets me plan.

  3. To check out the function area. When it comes to functions and speeches I like to know how the room will be laid out and any strengths or limitations of the space. From this I will develop a plan for where I intend to operate from, and where I would like my second shooter positioned.
  4. To best prepare myself for the day. This only comes with experience, but I have learnt that I work best when I am working to a plan. I like to think through the photographic options and plan the timings. Knowing I have that plan in my head let’s me relax and enjoy the time with my clients and their guests. So, one of the key reasons for why visit wedding venues beforehand is actually for me. I know that I will do a better job for my client if I’ve visited and planned.
  5. To meet the venue staff. Staff at venues are a wealth of information. They can make suggestions, tell you about images previously made at their venue, show you shots made there, and add their own suggestions. I take the time to listen to their input as I’m planning the day. In the event of bad weather, having an existing relationship with the staff can be a huge help. They will often go out of their way to help show off their venue in the best possible way even when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Beach

I take images on my smart phone to help with planning each shot and thinking through the timings.

They are the top 5 reasons for me as to why visit wedding venues beforehand. And so when do I visit? I know lots of photographers who wait until the day before the wedding or event. To me this is a risky option. You never know if you are going to be unwell, have an urgent last minute job to do, or have another emergency come up. I like to visit the venue 2 weeks before the wedding or event. And I try to visit at the same time of day that I’ll be shooting the key images. That gives me a better understanding of exactly where the sun will be, and how I can make best use of the natural light.

I hope Why Visit Wedding Venues Beforehand has been helpful to you. Best wishes with your weddings and events.

Delivering More Products Per Customer

Running a successful photography business is not easy. It’s hard when you are getting started and you struggle to find your next client. And it’s hard when you have worked hard for 2 years and find you need to spend all your accumulated profits to upgrade your equipment. And I’m seeing more and more photographers who have been operating for years but are struggling to make the profits they feel they should be making. This post looks at how to help them increase margins by delivering more products per customer.

Australian money

Delivering more products per customer will help grow profits

Before we look at delivering more products per customer, let’s consider the options open to the photographer who has been in business for several years. They have plenty of work, but are not making the profits they think they should be making. While they love the work they do, they resent that they are working very long hours, juggling multiple different clients at a single time, and every time they feel like they are getting ahead financially, another bill arrives.

Our photographer has several options. They could:

  1. Do nothing, and continue to work long hours and make sub standard profits. Unfortunately a lot of photographers choose this option, and complain all the way.
  2. Increase their number of clients. This option isn’t very appealing to the already tired photographer but it is what they have done for years. Some choose this path, and work harder and harder. Unfortunately, this often produces more and more resentment and only slightly more profit to the photographer’s business.
  3. Increase their prices. In this scenario our photographer can continue to shoot the same number of jobs per year but charge more per job. This is a legitimate strategy and one that many successful photography businesses choose. They know how many jobs they plan to shoot in a year, and continue to lift their prices year on year.
  4. Increase their profit per job by delivering more products per customer. In this case our photographer looks to increase their profits not by doing more jobs, or raising prices, but by delivering more products per customer. Think about the profit made by the ‘shoot and burn’ wedding photographer provide electronic images only to the customer. Now, compare that the the photographer who is providing electronic images, prints, canvas prints, thank you cards, and albums to their wedding clients. Who do you think makes the most profit? It’s the photographer who provides more products.

There are other options a photographer could use to increase their profit, but these are the basic choices. As you consider what is best for your business, keep in mind it’s not a matter of choosing one strategy or another. To really turbo charge the profitability you could do several of these strategies at once. This year I’m aiming to use options 3 and 4 at the same time. Many photographers will use options 2, 3 and 4 all at once.

Pile of canvas prints

Canvas prints are popular with my family and wedding photography clients

So how do we go about delivering more products per customer.

For regular readers of Beyond Here you will know that I don’t believe in a formula – but that each photographer needs to find methods which suit them. That’s the case here too. That said, here are some strategies for you to consider while you decide what is right for you.

Strategy 1 – Make samples of the products you wish to sell and show them to clients when they are booking. I used to take 40x60cm canvas prints with me to clients meetings. Guess what product was really popular? Yes, the 40x60cm canvas print. Now days I’m taking 60x90cm canvas prints. Guess which product is really popular? Yes, 60x90cm canvas prints and that is great because the margin is about 50% more than on the smaller print. Make some samples and take them to show clients. You’ll be amazed how clients choose the exact product you’ve shown them.

Strategy 2 – Provide ideas and options for your clients. Today I delivered 3 8×6 inch leather bound wedding albums to one of my clients. They plan to keep one for themselves and gift one to each set of parents. What a lovely idea. It’s an idea that came from my suggestion in one of our early meetings. They saw great value in a priceless gift for their family, and I managed to increase my profit on that job. Win, win.

wedding album

I always show sample albums to potential wedding clients

Strategy 3 – Make suggestions at key times of the year. How much additional profit do you think you could generate by contacting all of your clients in September each year suggesting products they might to use as Christmas gifts? From my experience, simple ideas like this are gold. They solve a problem for my client – for example, getting a present for their spouse – while increasing the profits of my business.

Why do I choose September to do this? It leaves me a few months to make sure I can deliver the products in December, and every year I have at least one client who wants to do another shoot before Christmas.

canvas print

Birthdays and anniversaries are great times to contact previous clients

Strategy 4 – Contact your client on important dates for them. Here’s a recent email I sent to one of my clients. It uses the same strategy as number 3, but uses events which are unique to my customers. “Dear XXXX, I’ve just realized that YYYY’s birthday is just a few weeks away. At the time of your shoot I know you loved this image (image attached to email). I have a special deal with my canvas print supplier and can get you a 60x90cm print for $ZZ. Would you like to get one for YYYY’s birthday? I’ll be placing the order next Wednesday, so appreciate if you can let me know before then. Thanks, Craig”. This type of offer generally does well and takes just a few days to go from email to order to delivery.

There are 4 simple strategies to help you in delivering more products per customer. As you review the profitability of your business, is this a strategy that can benefit you?

Developing Multiple Photography Income Streams

Reflecting on the week that has just passed, I’m feeling grateful for the range and variety of activities my photography business offers. I don’t like shooting the same type of thing all the time, and this week confirmed for me that I’m making strong progress in developing multiple photography income streams. Let me tell you about that range of activities and see if it is relevant to your own photography business.

So, here it is – the week that was – and the 7 different income streams it produced.

Income Stream 1 – Wedding album. Just before Christmas I shot a lovely church wedding for a couple in Melbourne, Australia. Since then I have delivered their images and canvas prints, and this week I designed their wedding album. I’m pleased to say that this couple are doing it right – they have ordered an album for themselves, and one for each of their families. That’s three albums in total. I’m looking forward to delivering them soon. Developing multiple photography income streams takes time, but this type of printed product (wedding albums) is an obvious extension to my core activity of wedding photography. Do you have the opportunity to add printed products for your existing clients?

(To see more images from this wedding please visit my website at Craig Dingle Photography.)

Bride

Can you create an additional income stream by providing printed products for existing clients?

Income Stream 2 – Corporate Portraits. This week I shot corporate portraits for a local businessman. He is starting a new role and needed images to be added to the company website. I shoot these in my home studio which makes it an easy and convenient job. Does your business come up early in the Google search results for photographers in your area? Do you have resources (like a home studio) that can be used for extra shoots like this? Can you make yourself available at short notice to meet the needs of a client like this?

(If you are interested in creating a shooting space at home, please read How To Build a Home Photography Studio).

Home studio

I shoot both corporate portraits and product shots in my home studio.

Income Stream 3 – Product Photography shoot. I don’t do many product photography shoots, but I have one client (who I met at a wedding) who regularly asks me to shoot images for their website or for advertising purposes. Often it is a short notice request – like this week’s shoot. They needed a small range of images for an advertisement they are preparing. I don’t get a lot of excitement from shooting products, but I like this client a lot, and I appreciate the regular work which comes from them. Are you cultivating regular clients who know they can rely on you?

Income Stream 4 – Uploading Stock Images. I shoot and upload stock images on a regular basis, and although this has been a quiet week, I have been uploading images from a recent shoot. This doesn’t produce any income today, but builds my stock portfolio which will produce an income for years into the future. Can stock photography form part of your business income? Can you utilize down time to build your portfolio and generate a future income?

(I am a strong believer in stock photography to produce a regular income for photography businesses. Read more about that in Why I Shoot Stock).

Businesswoman sitting on the ground

Adding to my stock portfolio helps create a future income stream

Income Stream 5 – Editing Images. This week I was asked by another photographer (and reader of Beyond Here!) to assist with editing her images. It was in a style, and with a tool, which she was not familiar with, and so I have edited the images for her. This is the first time I’ve generated income by editing images for another photographer. I don’t see myself doing this often, but I appreciated the chance to help another photographer deliver a quality outcome for her client.

Income Stream 6 – Selling an E-book. If you are a regular reader of Beyond Here you will know that stock photography makes up a significant part of my photography business income. I wrote an e-book called Build a Five Figure Income in Your Spare Time to encourage photographers to get into stock photography. I have priced this very affordably, and it is regularly downloaded by people wanting to generate an income from stock photography. I had one sale this week, which made a small contribution to the week’s income.

Income Stream 7 – Selling Stock Images. In Income Stream 4 I covered the work I did this week uploading new stock images. They are unlikely to be downloaded immediately but will produce an income in the future. In the meantime, the 8500+ older images in my stock portfolio will continue to be downloaded and produce an income today. While the income per download is small, it is encouraging to know that buyers are purchasing my stock images every day.

So that is ‘the week that was’ in my photography business. It produced 7 different income streams. I hope that reading Developing Multiple Photography Income Streams has given you some ideas for your own photography business. Happy shooting!

Making Good Stock Photo Shoots Exceptional

As I’m writing this post for Beyond Here, iStock is going through some ‘teething’ pain in its unification with the Getty Images enterprise submission platform (ESP). The long awaited first lot of stats were delayed, were then ‘under-whelming’, and then needed clarification. What is an iStock exclusive photographer to do? I’ve decided to focus on something more positive and share a recent studio shoot. It was a shoot which went really well and so I’ve called it – Making Good Stock Photo Shoots Exceptional.

I have worked in corporate environments for more than twenty years and have developed a good sense for the type of image which will be useful in a corporate environment. For that reason, I regularly shoot business themed stock images.

Business frustration

There is strong demand for business themed images which communicate a clear message

From time to time I look for new models to work with – as was the case in this shoot. I generally do my first shoot with a new model in the studio so I can assess whether the images will be popular, and whether there is a good working relationship. That leads to knowing whether it will be worthwhile to progress to a shoot which involves higher cost (like hiring a specific venue).

For this shoot we worked in my small studio.

So what goes into making good stock photo shoots exceptional? An exceptional stock photo shoot for me is when you can produce a wide variety of effective images in a short space of time. And how many images is that? This will vary by photographer but for me, an average shoot of this type will produce 60-70 images for my stock portfolio. This specific shoot produced more than 120 – making it exceptional. Here are 5 tips to fast track you from good to exceptional.

Tip #1. Use changes of wardrobe to create different looking images. In this shoot we used 2 simple wardrobe outfits – one dark suit and one light suit. As you’ll see from the images on this post, a very simple change of wardrobe can create very different images.

Whistleblower

A simple prop like a whistle can be used to produce specific messages in your stock images

Tip #2. Use simple props to create variety and communicate a message. There are a limited number of images you can produce if you are just relying on changed facial expressions to communicate a message. Simple props can enhance the theme you are going to create. I have a range of them on hand, and generally use the props the model feels most comfortable with. You can see them in the images on this page – my glasses even suited her nicely!

Confused

I expect this type of image to do well as stock. It communicates a message and can be used in a wide variety of situations.

Tip #3. Real emotions make strong stock images. This tip comes down to the ability of the model, and the ability of the photographer to help the model express genuine emotions.

In this shoot, both the photographer and the model liked to work quite quickly. We went through a series of poses and props before we started working on images expressing frustration and confusion.

This model was really good at expressing those emotions, and so we spent a little longer than usual shooting this type of image. I expect images like these to do well as stock, as they effectively communicate a message and will be relevant for a wide variety of situations.

Inspiration

Black backgrounds can help an image stand out on a white website

Tip #4. Use Different Backgrounds to Create Variety. I shoot the majority of my studio stock images against a white background as that gives a designer the most flexibility in how they use the image. Greater flexibility means greater potential uses, and that means more downloads.

But I also shoot on different backgrounds to create different looks. In years gone by stock images were mainly being used in print and usually on near white backgrounds (the page).

Today, stock images and most extensively used online, and specifically on websites which can be any color background.

To meet this need, I’m shooting more images on black backgrounds as well, which often help the image stand out on a white website.

Tip #5. Very literal messages do work in stock photography. In the past it was often images which were subtle in communicating a message which did the best as stock images. That was mainly because they could be used in a wide variety of situations. Today, there is a growing trend for stock images which communicate a very literal message doing well. I see these used most commonly as the lead image on blog posts where the author is trying to grab a readers attention with the image so that they will continue and read the text. So, I have started to shoot stock images with very literal messages as well.

Decisions

She’s choosing love over career, a very literal message

This was a really fun, enjoyable shoot which produced a large number of images for my stock portfolio and helped me demonstrate these 5 tips. I hope these tips will help with your own stock photography projects.

If you are new to stock photography, there is an extensive number of posts on Beyond Here to help you. Here’s one to begin with, Starting in Stock Photography. Thanks for reading Making Good Stock Photo Shoots Exceptional. Happy shooting!

iStock Unification One Week Along

Photographers who contribute to the microstock site, iStock, have been going through weeks  and months of change. This culminated at the beginning of February 2017 with the ‘turning off’ of the old methods for uploading still images as part of the unification with the Getty Images site. I outlined those changes in this post. So, how is iStock unification one week along? And what do we think the future holds?

money

Contributors are all hoping these changes generate more income for the artist.

Gaining Access. As an exclusive contributor I was in the first group who were to be sent emails to gain access to ESP (Enterprise Submission Platform). Unfortunately my email didn’t arrive when promised, but I knew why. Four years ago I experimented with video, and have the grand total of 50 video clips in my portfolio. Video contributors were invited to join ESP approximately 2 years ago. (I can’t remember the exact date as I was no longer contributing videos). So Getty Images figured I already had access to ESP, when in fact I had deleted their email without ever using it.

Getting Help. So, what did I do to get help? And what can you do if you need help? There is a Facebook group for ‘iStock Exclusive Contributors’ where Brenda and Chris (who work for iStock) are actively helping contributors. I posted a note in there, and within a few hours Brenda had me sorted out and able to use ESP. What if you are non exclusive? There is another active Facebook group called ‘iStockphoto’ only. I’d recommend posting any issues in there and seeing if iStock staff or other contributors can assist.

Help

If you need Help, try the Facebook groups for iStock contributors

Uploading in the New World. There are now 3 options for uploading still images to iStock. They are to use ESP itself, to upload through Deepmeta, or to use qHero. I had always uploaded to the site directly, so in preparation for the change I researched qHero. It seemed to be a simple tool to use, and I have begun uploading using qHero.

Changes in the Upload Process. qHero is a straightforward tool to upload, keyword, and submit images. I find it easy to use and quite different to uploading to the site itself. Key benefits I see are – you only need to upload the model release once and can use it on multiple files, and you can keyword multiple files at the same time. Both these changes will save me time in the uploading process. They make it particularly easy to upload and keyword multiple files from the same shoot.

File inspection. So far 5 of the 10 batches of files I have submitted have been reviewed. The review times have been approximately 48 hours for each of these batches. This is slightly slower than the norm for exclusive contributors but has been explained by iStock as due to training needs for image inspectors.

File display. Of those 5 inspected batches none are yet visible in my portfolio. I am not alarmed by this (yet!) as the files were approved in the last 48 hours, and iStock have indicated it might be slightly longer than usual for files to become ‘live’ in portfolios. Hopefully that starts to happen late this week.

File Editing. For one of my batches the inspector asked me to update keywords. I was able to edit that detail easily within ESP itself. I’m glad to say that was a simple process. I found that at first ESP looked a bit daunting, but after some time exploring it, the tool is logical and simple to use. So don’t be overawed – once your files are within ESP, editing and updating is straightforward.

sale

I’m hopeful that the changes will bring real benefits to buyers and sellers, and iStock won’t have to resort to sales to drive traffic

What’s Next? Within ESP there is currently no download or royalty detail. The first time this data will be available is due around 20 February 2017. While you can’t see any data at the moment, you can see the framework for more detailed information than has been available in the past. That’s encouraging and I’m looking forward to that data being available.

Other comments. Overall my transition and experience of iStock Unification One Week Along has been positive. I see real benefits in the improved functionality of being able to upload and keyword batches of files from the same shoot. I typically upload about 100 files per month. In the last week I have uploaded more than 100 files for the week alone. The new tools are definitely going to make submitting and keywording content simpler.

Concerns? While it’s nice that images submitted in the ESP world have been approved already, that’s meaningless until they are available to be downloaded. I’m waiting to see how long it takes from image acceptance to image display. On a separate note, I’m optimistic about what the reporting will bring come 20 February 2017.

That’s my experience of iStock Unification One Week Along. How is your experience? Which tools are you using? Are they helping your workflow?

8 Steps to Start Your Freelance Photography Business

Today’s post comes from guest poster Kylie Glover. Connect with Kylie on Twitter. Kylie is based in Sydney, Australia and writes about small business for Authorflair from her personal experience. She has been part of successful start ups in Australia and New Zealand and is motivated to share her insights and writes for several publications in Australia and abroad. Thanks for your contribution to Beyond Here Kylie. Here are 8 Steps to Start Your Freelance Photography Business.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and when it comes to freelance photography, it couldn’t be more true. It’s easy to forget that behind every stunning shot of the sunset washing over the Golden Gate Bridge, there’s a shutter, lens and focus working in synergy to faithfully capture the moment. One photo could be the difference between whether someone decides to jet set halfway across the world to one destination or to another.

SunriseHere are eight considerations that will help you get your feet off the ground when it comes to kick-starting your freelance career.

Step 1 – Start Planning Your Business

“by failing to prepare you are preparing to fail” – Benjamin Franklin

Before your photos feature on the front of Lonely Planet, it’s important to visualise the steps you’ll need to take to get there. In other words, planning is a must. To make sure you’re thoroughly prepared, consider things like basic start-up costs, and scope out the market to check how much other photographers typically charge so you can set competitive pricing.

Will you give clients the option of giving deposits, or will you expect a full upfront payment? Will you deal in cash, or accept credit card payments? What are the risks associated with each of these decisions?

Step 2 – Establish Start Up Funds

Unless you’ve a hidden pool of money ala Scrooge McDuck, it is a wise idea to make a small investment. This usually occurs when small businesses set up bank loans, but let’s say your application with the bank is rejected, or you want to explore the market. There are plenty of other methods to kick-starting your dream.

One increasingly popular method of fundraising in today’s digital world is online crowdfunding, through platforms such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Indiegogo. The idea behind these services is pitching your project to the public, and placing your trust in them to determine whether it is something worth paying for.

Step 3 – Figure Out What Tools You Need

Pro photography gear is a substantial investment, to create high quality shots that stand out from the crowd, you’re going to need some high end equipment and a good basic knowledge of photography. An artist is only as good his tools, so break down all the essentials from tripods, lenses, and filters to top editing software. Sometimes it might be tempting to go for lower price range equipment, but in the long run it could very well end up costing you more. The most important thing of course is the camera itself. Check out travel blogs, books and magazines, and decide which style suits you best. Then hunt down the camera used to take those pictures, and get snapping.

BridgeStep 4 – Editing Your Shots

So you’ve taken that perfect shot of the Eiffel, and it’s ready for publication. Well, almost. The next steps include enhancing the photograph by warming/cooling the image, sharpening/blurring key areas, heightening the intensity of various colours and whatever final touches you feel give your work an edge. You might already be familiar with some basic editing techniques, or even the majority, but newer versions of favourite software programs release almost every year, offering updated versions with more powerful editing abilities. Well known photo editing software programs like Adobe Photoshop or Corel’s PaintShop Pro have affordable one-time purchases that are great for when you’re starting out.

Step 5 – Legal Lingo

One of the most important things to get on top of well before you’re in operation is safely navigating through any legal requirements first. After you’ve finalised your business plan, it’s time to pick your business structure. Are you a sole proprietor, or a corporation? Do have a partner going into this business? Next, come up with an available business name and register it. Lastly, don’t forget about tax obligations! Your accountant is your best bet for assisting you with that and making sure you don’t attract any unwanted fees.

Step 6 – Getting the Right Insurance

Photography is an art form, so naturally, you must organise insurance for both your product and equipment, but make sure you also insure for any unforeseeable/accidental injuries. These are generally covered under general/public liability insurance, which will act as your legal buffer when things go wrong. If you’re thinking of handing over the business somewhere along the line, you might want to consider life insurance, too.

SunriseStep 7 – Don’t Sell Yourself Short

Rule of thumb says most businesses won’t really take off until the three-month mark. Within that timeframe, you’ll need to spread the word about your product and convince the world about why it’s so great. Should you immediately lower your pricing if clients don’t bite?

Absolutely not. Apart from web and radio ads, a tried and true method for boosting sales is incredibly basic: word of mouth. Establish meaningful relationships with your clients, and show them you are very passionate about delivering the best quality photos. Finally, believe in your product.

“What a man thinks of himself, that is what determines, or rather indicates his fate “- Henry David Thoreau

Step 8 – Be Inspired

Inspiration is often depicted as a fleeting, curious phenomenon and has become the subject of many books and presentations over the years. The truth is, there’s no secret, everlasting well of inspiration that somehow runs dry. Inspiration for the perfect shot can be found anywhere, anytime.

As humans, we place a lot of undue pressure on ourselves to achieve constant perfection, and thus may not take risks because we are afraid of ‘failing’. When you feel seeds of doubt start blossoming.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working” – Picasso

Launching a new business can be a frightening prospect, especially when it centres around your greatest passion. But with the proper legal and financial planning, adequate preparation of equipment, and enough self-belief that your product is worthy, the road to success is well within reach.

Thank you again Kylie for your contribution to Beyond Here. These 8 Steps to Start Your Freelance Photography Business will set people off on the right foot!

iStock New Beginnings Week

This week marks the end of an era and new beginnings in the stock photography world. iStock, one of the original microstock sites, is changing the back-end technology used to run its site. What does this mean for iStock contributors? Read more about the iStock new beginnings week.

If you are an active contributor to iStock you will be well aware of the changes going on with the site. You should have received several emails over the last 6 months explaining the changes, the implications, and the timelines. If you are an occasional uploader, then this brief summary might be useful.

plan

iStock changes in February 2017 mean contributors will need to re-plan how they upload and track performance of their files

What’s changing? iStock is ‘retiring’ its legacy uploading system and replacing it with the system used by Getty Images (and also currently used for iStock video contributors).

So what does that mean? It means that – if you have been uploading directly to the iStock site – the way you do that will change from February 2017. You will no longer upload directly to the iStock site, but instead through a Getty Images application called ESP (or Deepmeta or Qhero, more on those in the next paragraph). Between 1 and 3 February 2017 you will receive an email from iStock / Getty Images which provides details for ESP.

What if you currently upload using Deepmeta or Qhero? Many contributors use Deepmeta as their way to upload and track their files. More recently Qhero has been available as a tool to upload your images. The upload process remains unchanged for Deepmeta and Qhero.

Do you really need to know about ESP? Yes, as a contributor you do need to know about ESP. As well as being a tool to upload images, it will also be the place where you find data about downloads and royalties. So, look out for the that email this week, and make yourself familiar with the ESP tool.

What else? If, like me, you are an active iStock contributor the past month has been very frustrating. During the current changes, stats about downloads and royalties have not been available. To a degree contributors have been ‘flying blind’ in January 2017. That all ends in February 2017 when details will be available in ESP. Here’s hoping it is a smooth transition and a success.

Thanks for reading iStock new beginnings week. I hope it goes smoothly for you and that the new world is an improvement for both contributors and buyers.

Five Reasons to Start Your Photography Blog Now

As photographers we’ve all heard that writing a blog is an excellent way to promote our work and connect with potential clients. Yet many photographers have put off starting their blog, finding all sorts of excuses and other priorities. We are all busy and it is easy to fill the day with editing images, contacting clients, and updating our social media profiles. If you know that a blog would benefit your business but have been putting it off – read here for five reasons to start your photography blog now.

Before we start, let’s clarify. I’m not going to tell you why blogging will be good for search engine optimization or where your business appears in Google searches. I’ll leave that to the online marketing experts. I’m going to give you five reasons to start your photography blog now which are good for you, the photographer.

Reason 1 – A Photography Blog Brings Focus to Your Online Activity

In today’s online, connected world it is very easy to spend hours online on a range of different activities which really don’t do much for your photography business. Think about it, how much time have you spent updating images on your facebook profile, adding images to your Instagram account, and otherwise just browsing what other people are doing online?

Writing a photography blog can transform the time you spend online by bringing focus to your activity. If you are wedding photographer writing a blog about wedding photography, you are likely to waste less time online and spend more time writing about wedding photography. There’s a benefit for you! You will spend more time focused on your area of expertise by writing a photography blog. Winner!

bird

A photography blog will help bring focus to your online activity

Reason 2 – A Photography Blog Provides You a Target Audience

The second of the five reasons to start your photography blog now is that writing a blog means you have a target audience.

If we use the wedding photographer example again the blog is likely to be targeted towards engaged couples or other wedding photographers. Each would produce a different focus and a different approach to writing. In the case of engaged couples, a photographer might share key insights for brides and favorite images of each wedding. This will be useful for potential brides as they get to learn from the photographer’s experience and see how other brides approached their wedding day. In the case of other photographers, the blog might discuss overcoming lighting challenges in candlelit churches or tips for managing workflow to ensure images are delivered on time.

The blog content will be very different depending on which target audience you choose – but like the first reason – having a target audience will bring you focus. And having focus means your online presence will, in time, produce content which benefits your business.

puzzle

Is a blog the missing piece in the puzzle for your photography business?

Reason 3 – Writing for Your Blog Forces You to Learn Lessons

Reason 3 is self explanatory. Since starting my own blog, each time I have something go right or wrong I am very conscious of the lesson which comes from the experience.

Why is that? Well, if I am going to share it with the readers of Beyond Here, I will need to describe what happened as well as how it might be a learning for my readers. And why is that good for me? It’s good for me because it forces me to learn the lesson and apply it to my own photography business. Let me give you an example. I wrote a blog post for Beyond Here called Tips for Building a Strong Stock Photography Portfolio. Just the act of writing that post forced me to assess how good a job I was doing implementing the tips. And that will lead to different content being added to my stock photography portfolio in the year ahead. Writing the blog post helped me to learn the lesson and apply it in my own business.

Reason 4 – Producing Images for Your Blog Can Super Charge Your Creativity

Reason number 4 is something I learned from another photographer. She is a long term, successful wedding photographer with a large number of happy clients.

She found that when she started posting images to her wedding photography blog that many of her key images were very similar to images she had produced in the past. She had taken her successful formula and was repeating it. There’s nothing wrong with doing that, but she found that she was in a creative rut where she was reproducing successful images rather than finding new and creative ways to shoot. Interestingly, she never got this feedback from her clients – she discovered it herself by looking at the images she was posting to her blog. Fascinating!

Reason 4 to start your photography blog now is that you will get feedback from your readers, and from yourself, which can super charge your creativity. No more shooting similar images, now there is a challenge to produce better, more creative work.

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A photography blog can help you break out of a creative rut

Reason 5 – Writing a Blog Drives You to be Productive

The final of the five reasons to start your photography blog now is that writing a blog drives you to be productive. Nothing is more depressing than reading a blog and suddenly realizing it hasn’t been updated for a year. A commitment to a photography blog is a commitment to your readers to add content regularly. That commitment drives you to be productive. It drives you to produce content for your target audience when it would be easier to browse online. Writing a blog drives you to be productive and that’s good for you personally, and will ultimately be good for your business.

Thanks for reading five reasons to start your photography blog now. Happy blogging!

Great Reads – Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin

When I started Beyond Here in 2014, I developed a series of posts called Great Reads. The idea was to put together a series of posts which would provide recommended reading for photographers. This initially focused on books, and particularly books about the business side of photography. In this post Great Reads – Backyard Silver I expanded the scope of Great Reads to include online resources. Backyard Silver is an excellent blog detailing the experiences of US stock photographer Steve Heap. Today’s post Great Reads – Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin looks at another excellent online resource.

BooksI should start by saying that I’ve never met Michael, and possibly never will given that we live on opposite sides of the world. That said, you can read about Michael and his background on the ‘about’ section in his blog.

He has a very interesting history – both as a photographer and as a person with a technology background. He chose to be an exclusive contributor with iStockphoto for 6 years, and also worked for iStockphoto and Getty Images promoting their business in Europe. More recently Michael has chosen to drop his exclusivity with iStockphoto and become an independent contributor.

Like Steve Heap’s blog Backyard Silver, Michael’s independent contributor status means he has a wealth of knowledge about the broader stock photography market which he can share. This is a key difference to Beyond Here. I am the primary writer for Beyond Here and as an exclusive contributor to iStockphoto I can only bring you my experience with the one agency I work with. So I encourage you to check out both Backyard Silver and Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin to read about their experiences with a wide variety of agencies.

I particularly encourage you to check out Michael’s three recent posts:

If you are already a stock photographer or are considering stock photography for your business check out Michael’s blog. Please also see the Stock Photography section on this blog. It has a wide variety of posts explaining stock photography and how it works from a contributors point of view.

Thanks for reading Great Reads – Michael Jay Fotograf Berlin.

Four Year End Ideas to Make Your Photography Business Stronger

As we approach the end of the calendar year I am coming to the end of a busy three months. Normally in the week before Christmas things start to slow down. Prints and products have all been delivered well in time for Christmas, and my wedding work takes a break for a few weeks.

This year I’m shooting a wedding on Christmas Eve, which is unusual, but with all of my client Christmas orders delivered I am starting to unwind and expecting to have a quieter few weeks. This time of year is ideal for assessing what your business has achieved for the year, and to plan for next year. To help with this, here are four year end ideas to make your photography business stronger.

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Is your first move of the new year to renegotiate with suppliers and immediately boost profitability?

Business Improvement Idea #1 – Analyse and Negotiate with Suppliers

In the majority of photography business tips I read there is a never ending debate about photographers needing to raise their prices. Then there is the inevitable push back from some photographers who fear their work is not worth the higher prices, or that their clients will suddenly vanish. In 20+ years in the business world, I’ve learnt that the quickest and most effective way to increase business profitability is to reduce expenses.

Looking at my own expenses this year I see I have ordered 65 canvas prints for the year from 3 different suppliers. I’m currently paying the same price per canvas print as someone who only orders only 1. In January I will be speaking to my preferred supplier (of the 3) to see if they can offer me a special rate, fixed for the year, to reflect the volume of canvas prints I plan to do with them. The savings will be an immediate benefit to the profitability of my business.

Have you looked at your expenses and found areas for savings? Can you negotiate with a supplier for a better deal?

Business Improvement Idea #2 – Invite a Trusted Friend to Review Your Business Operations

One challenge in running a photography business is that you can be so close to the operations that you can no longer see the strengths and weaknesses. By inviting a trusted friend to review your business operations you have the potential to see things more objectively than you can on your own.

Don’t ask them to review the quality of your work – just ask them to look at the business operations and offer feedback for improvement. It could be as simple as them saying – “I see expenses have increased 8% while you revenues have only increased 2%” to focus you on addressing issues you couldn’t see yourself.

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A trusted friend can help see your business in a new way

Business Improvement Idea #3 – Killers not Fillers

There are only 2 key criteria your potential clients will assess you on when considering which photographer to hire. The first is your reputation, and the second is your portfolio.

It is the portfolio which is easiest to influence and is worth continually assessing. We all like to include work in our portfolios which is meaningful to us or comes attached to special memories. But a potential client is not aware of this. They are only assessing what they see. Make sure your portfolio is the strongest it can be. Display only your strongest images. Ensure your portfolio is full of killers not fillers.

(If you are reading this and expecting to see price as a key consideration from a client – price is an important consideration, but not as important as reputation and portfolio. If it was, the cheapest photographer would get all the work.)

Showing only your best work is very important. Please see this post on Doctrine of a Successful Pro Photographer.

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A potential client’s decision will be driven by your reputation and the quality of your portfolio

Business Improvement Idea #4 – Streamline Paperwork Which Slows You Down

It seems incredible in today’s digital world that there can still be any paperwork! My business still has plenty and it has the potential to distract you from your main purpose – meeting the needs of your clients.

As we come to the end of one calendar year and the beginning of a new one – consider, are there any paper based processes which you can streamline? The objective is to create more time for client related activities, and to spend less time on administration.

Thanks for reading four year end ideas to make your photography business stronger. I hope they have been useful to you, and will give you something to consider over the holiday period. Merry Christmas!