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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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.


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.



What is the Summer Slowdown in Stock Photography

Are you wondering what the summer slowdown in stock photography is? Have you heard this terminology but don’t really understand it?

Like many types of photography, stock photography goes through seasons or cycles. There are peaks of demand around major events. Think of large events like the US presidential election, the Olympics, or Valentines Day, or major upheavals and social unrest. And there are also peaks and troughs at certain times of the year.


July and August are typically slow months for stock photography sales

The bulk of the world’s population lives in the northern hemisphere – the United States, North America, Europe, and major parts of Asia. Because of the population base these countries or continents represent the majority of the buyers of stock photography. So when those economies slow for a summer holiday, stock photography sales also slow down.

The summer slowdown in stock photography refers to the time of the year when northern hemisphere clients are having a summer holiday, and so stock photographers are experiencing fewer downloads of their images. That happens in July and August each year.

What should you expect in the summer slowdown in stock photography? My own experience as a stock photographer is that the total number of downloads of my files reduces each July and August and then picks up again in September and October. I am writing this post in the first week of August, so if you are experiencing a reduced number of downloads of your files, this is normal for this time of year. Don’t panic. You should see it pick up again in September.

So, it is one thing understand what the summer slowdown in stock photography is, but what do we do about it?


Consider doing more client work in July and August while stock photo sales are down

Exactly what you will want to do about it depends on your own business and circumstances, but here are three options to think about.

Option one. Do nothing. This option recognizes that sales will slow at this time of year, and so your stock photography income will decline during these months. If you have cash flow from other sources, the summer slowdown in stock photography is nothing to worry about and no particular action is required.

Option two. Develop more client work at this time of year. If you are wanting to develop a consistent flow of income you’ll need to build up income from other sources during the northern hemisphere summer months. I do this by shooting more family portraits at this time of year. Family portraits might not be the solution for you depending on what you like to shoot and what your typical client looks like. With planning and preparation its possible to adjust your client work to increase at this time of year. Keep in mind your stock photography income is likely to drop in July and August, and you will need to increase income from other sources.

Girl with Australian flag

Not all stock photography sales slow down in July and August. Consider shooting content which will sell well during this period

Option three. Develop stock content which isn’t impacted by the summer slowdown in stock photography. Not all stock photography markets experience a slowdown in these months. Where I live in Melbourne, Australia it is the middle of winter in July and August. It is also a time where there are very few public holidays. This is generally a good time for stock photography sales and I see steady downloading of my Australian themed images in July and August. Perhaps there are geographic markets or specific content you could shoot for which don’t slow down in the northern hemisphere summer months?

Thanks for reading what is the summer slowdown in stock photography. I hope it has helped explain the seasonality which occurs in stock photography and given you some options to consider. Happy shooting.

Superior Customer Service Tips

In the business of photography, do you think of yourself as being in the image business? The photo business? The print business? Those items are part of the product we deliver, but ultimately we are in the customer service business. It’s about finding and keeping the right sort of clients. We need to look after them, so that they will refer us to people they know, and keep coming back to us year after year. Different photographers deliver customer service in different ways. Here are 12 superior customer service tips that all photographers should be doing.

Customer Service

Running your own photography business – you are in the business of customer service

  1. Be on time, always. Being on time shows that the client is important to you. You have put aside other commitments and the client is the focus of your attention. Have you had a customer service commitment where the person is late? When someone is late it screams ‘you are not important enough to me for me to be on time’! Always be on time.
  2. Communicate the way your client wants to communicate. Some of my clients like to meet face to face, some like to chat on the phone, some like to email, and some like to message me from their smart phone. Old customer service advice suggested you should always speak to your client. I’ve found it better to communicate the way that they prefer. I like my first meeting with a client to be face to face, but after the initial meeting If text messages work best for them, that’s how I’ll communicate with them.
  3. If a client has an ‘urgent’ request, get back to them immediately. When my clients have an urgent need it usually isn’t too urgent, it’s usually a bride wanting confirmation of the details. But if it is urgent in the mind of my client, I will treat it with urgency and contact my client as soon as possible. Take their concerns seriously, and work with speed to put their mind at rest.
  4. Don’t let your smart phone distract you. When you are meeting with a client there is nothing more important than them. Don’t look at your smart phone. Don’t answer any calls. Don’t let anything distract you from your client. Don’t keep looking at your phone as messages and prompts pop up. The client is important and you need to respect them by giving them your full attention. If you let yourself get distracted, you are telling your client ‘you are not important to me’. It’s likely that they will respond by finding another photographer who does make them feel important.
  5. Make the client feel like an individual. Clients want to know their photographer has experience and has shot similar work in the past, and they also want to be made to feel like an individual. Find out what they like. Find out what they are interested in. Can use that knowledge to produce images which are tailored for the individual? I had a wedding client tell me that she loved nature and she particularly loved tall trees. You can better that the signature image from her wedding day featured a large tree.
  6. Prepare your gear the night before. Everyone forgets something sometime. Most of us have done it. Reduce your risk of forgetting something by preparing it when you have time. 20 minutes getting organised the night before is much better than a panic the next morning. Batteries charged. Equipment checked. Bags packed. All done the night before.
  7. Always be polite. No matter how tired, overworked, or stressed you feel, always be polite. You can bet your client will remember if you are abrupt or dismissive. And you can bet that they will tell their friends. This applies to all clients, not just the ones you have an instant connection with. Always be polite.
  8. Don’t avoid discussing the bill. Clients expect to pay, so don’t avoid discussions of price or payment. Don’t leave things unsaid, or leave your client guessing. Clients are expecting to pay, so make it clear how much, when, and how.
  9. Listen with a sense of care. Clients have all sorts of concerns and worries. Our job is to respectfully answer questions and make them feel comfortable. This starts with listening attentively and with a sense of care.
  10. Ask questions. Very few clients can give you a completely comprehensive brief that is totally understood without some dialogue. To meet and exceed your clients expectations you need to know what is important to them. To do that you need to ask questions. Whatever sort of client it is – from commercial work to weddings to portraits and anything in between – be prepared to ask your clients questions. If you are struggling, use big open questions. ‘What is the most important thing to you from this photo shoot?’ ‘When I present the images to you, what are you expecting to see?’ ‘What does success look like to you from this shoot?’ ‘What style of images do you like best?’
  11. Take time to follow up with clients. This is about making clients feel like individuals and feel important to you. I still like sending my wedding clients anniversary cards and prints. You can guarantee they will consider me for their family portraits if they feel like I care for them enough to remember their wedding anniversary. Have you considered how you can keep in touch with your clients? And how you can continue to make them feel important?
  12. When things go wrong, do whatever it takes to put it right. When you are running a photography business and dealing with a lot of clients, no matter how good you are, inevitably something will go wrong. And this is when you need to shine. Superior customer service tips would not be complete without addressing this issue. When things go wrong you need to do whatever it takes to put it right. Even if that means losing money on that specific job, you need to put it right. A dissatisfied client will poison your business. Do whatever it takes to put it right.

If you have found this post useful, you may like to read Things Your Photography Clients Don’t Care About. Thanks for reading 12 superior customer service tips. Do you have your own superior customer service tips to share?

Student on smart phone

Show respect for your client, by not using your smart phone in client meetings.

8 Reasons Renting Pro Photo Gear Makes Sense

More and more professional and semi professional photographers are choosing to rent gear rather than buy it. Have you started to rent equipment too? Here are 8 reasons renting pro photo gear makes sense.

Reason #1 – Renting is very cost effective if you are not using that piece of gear often. Perhaps this point could also read, buying gear is not very cost effective if you are only using that equipment a few times per year. Let’s use an example, if you are only going to use a tilt shift lens three or four times per year it is not going to be very cost effective to purchase a pro quality one. At the rental store I use, that same lens can be rented for just $70 for 2 days.


There are significant financial benefits if you don’t have all your money tied up in gear

Reason #2 – Renting leaves cash flow free to invest in promotional activity. When you choose to rent instead of buy it leaves cash in your business to spend on sales and marketing activity. That activity then generates more jobs for you. Instead of tying up your money in gear, renting leaves you cash to promote your business.

Reason #3 – Renting allows you to tackle a broader range of jobs. Any photographer is limited in what jobs they can take by the equipment they have. Renting gives you access to an almost unlimited range of equipment, which greatly increases the types of jobs you can tackle. Whether you need a 600mm lens, a specific lighting rig, or a super high mega pixel camera body, they can all be rented. Don’t let your equipment limit your business. Use rental gear to expand the number of possible jobs you tackle.

Kids jumping

Be radical. Leave your gear at home and pick up rentals at your destination.

Reason #4 – Renting gear at your destination means fewer headaches when you are travelling. Most photographers have a close affinity with their equipment. We get used to the camera bodies and lenses we use. But travelling with them produces some anxiety. Will all my cameras and lenses make it through the airport ok? Will I be able to carry all that gear onboard? If I check them in, will my bag get lost?  So what if you had identical gear waiting for you at your destination? Try it. Jump onto a flight with just your memory cards, and leave the rest to the rental company. Top quality gear and no travel anxiety.

Reason #5 – Renting let’s you work with the latest equipment. Most photographers don’t buy new camera bodies and lenses the moment they are released. I use Canon equipment and shoot with a 5D. It’s not the latest model. I have a range of L series lenses. Some are also not the latest model. Here’s an added benefit to renting, it gives you access to the latest models and the best technology.

Save money

Renting saves on your insurance as well

Reason #6 – Renting equipment rather than buying saves on your insurance bill. For gear I own, I choose to have it insured so if I lose of damage it, it will be replaced. That comes at a cost. When I rent gear, it is insured through the rental company’s business insurance. I save by not having to buy the gear, and I save again on my insurance bill.

Reason #7 – Rental equipment from reputable stores is well maintained. I rent my equipment from a well known store. After each rental the equipment is checked and cleaned, so that it is in top condition for the next person who rents it. It’s ironic that rental gear might be better maintained than your own equipment.

flash triggers

If you want to experiment with new kit, consider renting it first

Reason #8 – Renting lets you experiment with new equipment. Have you ever shot with a 600mm lens? Or the latest full frame camera body? Or with pocket wizards? Before you commit the big money by buying your gear, rent them first and experiment. How heavy is that 600mm lens? Does it help me get the results I am after? Renting let’s you experiment before you commit.

Thanks for reading 8 reasons renting pro photo gear makes sense.


5 Opportunities When You Are Asked to Shoot for Free

Have you been asked to shoot for free? Are you outraged that potential clients ask you to help them in return for exposure? I regularly read social media ‘rants’ from photographers who are livid that a potential client doesn’t want to pay them. Being asked to shoot for free does happen, and I challenge you to find a positive in this experience. Having any client approach you is an opportunity. Here are 5 opportunities when you are asked to shoot for free.

Opportunity #1 – Expand your photography business. The opportunity to shoot without payment is potentially an opportunity to expand your business into a new field. For example, if you’ve built your business on shooting family portraits and weddings, doing a product shoot for a local business is an opportunity to showcase your skills to a new market. An unpaid job comes with less pressure than a highly paid one, and gives you the chance to explore whether you like a different type of work and to see if you are good at it. Opportunity #1 – consider whether an unpaid job has the potential to help you expand your business.

beach huts

Unpaid jobs can expand your business. A wedding shooter might be able to expand into lifestyle or real estate work

Opportunity #2 – Build great contacts. Any client represents one immediate job and a potential pipeline of future work. Before you feel your blood pressure rise and unleash a tantrum on social media, consider whether an unpaid job will benefit your business through the contacts you can make. I have found this can be beneficial when shooting for charities. Charities have people who support them. Often the key supporters are influential business people who have future photography needs. Opportunity #2 – consider whether an unpaid job has the potential to build valuable contacts.


Can payment be in kind? An annual pass to a wildlife park would be valuable to me.

Opportunity #3 – Get paid in kind. The reality is some clients really need and want professional images but just don’t have the immediate cash flow to pay the photographer’s normal day rates. If you are inundated with work, you might let this job pass. But if you’re not, have you considered other ways to get paid? Does the client have goods or services that you would be happy to accept instead of cash payment? Does a new accommodation provider want you to shoot for them? Would you accept free accommodation instead of cash payment? Opportunity #3 – consider whether payment could be made in goods or services instead of cash.

Opportunity #4 – Use the images in your stock photography portfolio. Clients that are not in a position to pay cash may be prepared to sign a model release or property release to let you use the images in your stock portfolio. While the job itself would be unpaid, you have the potential to generate an income years into the future by making the images available through a stock photo library. I have written extensively about stock photography for Beyond Here (see Why I Shoot Stock and other posts) and always consider this option with cash strapped clients. Opportunity #4 – shoot the job unpaid, and use the images in your stock photography portfolio.

dead line

If you are going to say no, give your client plenty of time to find an alternative

Opportunity #5 – Say no, and still help the client. After you have explored all options, sometimes there will be jobs you don’t want to do on an unpaid basis. In this case, there is an opportunity to still be helpful to the client. Firstly, say no promptly. Don’t drag it out. Give the client time to make alternative arrangements. And secondly, suggest a way to meet the clients needs. Do you know an emerging photographer who would happily shoot the job unpaid? Is there an opportunity to help the client and the emerging photographer? Opportunity #5 – say no, and still be helpful to the client.

Thanks for reading 5 opportunities when you are asked to shoot for free. I hope this has encouraged you to think differently and find a positive out of this experience.