Monthly Archives: October 2015

How to Reward Repeat Customers

I recently met with a photographer here in Melbourne, Australia who is in the early stages of his photography business. He has made a good start and is clear on his target market (head shots for actors). Interestingly he was considering offering discounts to clients who update their head shots regularly. That led me to consider the broader client issue of how to reward repeat customers?

Let’s start by considering what a customer goes through before a shoot.


Often for actors or business people, they are going to use their images as part of a pitch for a job or a role. The images are part of the impact their application will make, and it is important. A strong, well lit image can assist in making a first impression and helping to get a face to face meeting. Ultimately it helps in whether they get the part or job.

Now let’s think about the mental questions the client goes through before a shoot. The following things will be going through the clients mind either consciously or subconsciously – is this photographer any good? do they know about lighting and can make me look good? will this be value for money? will this be fun? will I get a range of images which I can use in different situations? will this be an ordeal which I regret? is my hair and make up ok? They are not very positive questions! Most of my clients know they need good quality images, but start the process with this range of concerns and doubts.

client

Put yourself in your clients shoes to determine what additional service you can provide

So what about after the shoot? The most common feedback I receive about the experience of the shoot is – that was fun, that was easier than I expected, and I felt relaxed in front of the camera. And of course, the client receives a range of high quality images to use.

So, should you offer a discount to repeat customers? Everyone will have their own opinion on this, so please take this as just one point of view. I don’t offer discounts to repeat customers because they already know and have experienced that:

  • they will receive high quality images
  • the shoot will be relaxed and fun
  • the shoot experience will not be difficult
  • I can adjust the length of the shoot to meet their needs on the day

So why would I offer a lower price to people who have that peace of mind? They already know the process of the shoot and don’t have the concerns of someone you haven’t worked with before. I want my business filled with repeat customers, but won’t be able to afford to do that if I am always offering them a cheaper price than new clients.

save time

A short, stress-free shoot may be more important to your customer than the price

So how to reward repeat customers? As I’ve outlined, I don’t use price as a reward mechanism for repeat customers – I use service. As an existing customer of mine I look for all possible ways to offer a high level of service. Here are some examples:

  • short notice bookings. If an existing customer needs some shots done at short notice, I will move other shoots and appointments to meet the time frame they need.
  • prints. Often my clients need printed images. I will do all I can to help them with prints. Again I don’t discount these, but I save my clients the time and inconvenience of doing it themselves.
  • on location. If we have already done a studio shoot, I offer to do the next shoot on location. It might be at their work or home (usually their work place) so that their image can be taken in the context of their business.
  • file sizes. I ask what the images will be used for and make sure the images I deliver are ready to use. If an image is urgently needed for a LinkedIn profile, I will email the image in the correct dimensions at 72dpi ready to be uploaded to my clients profile. I aim to make life easy for my client and to deliver a level of service which is worth paying for
  • family portraits. I find that most people intend to do family portraits but never quite get around to it. For clients where I have shot business portraits, I offer to shoot family portraits for them too. I make it easy. They know and trust me, and know I’ll make the shoot fun and light-hearted

I hope this has given you a different perspective on how to reward repeat customers. Leave your prices and look really hard at what additional services you can provide. Thanks for reading how to reward repeat customers.

How to Photograph Simple Stock Images

In this post for Beyond Here I show you one example of how to photograph simple stock images. It’s a beginning to end look at how to create this image.

Why shoot this style of image? There is strong and ongoing demand for simple, well lit images of a huge range of subjects. Often they are used on websites and blogs to support a written story. Sometimes they are used in printed newsletters, newspapers, magazines, and documents.

Australian savings

Successful stock images have a wide range of potential uses

In this case, the image has a business, savings, investment theme. Well lit images with a business theme have a wide range of potential uses and strong demand. That is the main reason I keep shooting them.

Consider this image, it could be used – in tough economic times to emphasize savings, in good times to highlight an abundance of wealth, in a home finance theme about small amounts adding up, in a theme about the value of the Australian currency, or by financial planners to emphasize the importance of saving and investment. It has a multitude of different potential uses. So, let’s look at how to photograph simple stock images. How was this image created?

Step 1 – Decide on the type of image you would like to create. This is an obvious first step. Put time into considering the type of image you want to make and its potential uses. The variety of potential uses will impact the number of sales the image receives.

Step 2 – Assemble requirements. For this image I needed to gather – the glass jar, dollar notes and coins. These were relatively easy to assemble. Next steps were to make sure the glass jar was clean, that I had enough coins to fill the jar, and the right combination of notes to add some color to the image.

Step 3 – Determine lighting requirements. This image was shot in my studio using 3 continuous lights. I like to use continuous lights when shooting products as I can see where the shadows will fall before I shoot. For more information on continuous lights please see this post.

Step 4 – Consider copyright issues. When shooting any sort of stock photography you need to consider any copyright or legal issues. The glass jar in this image was an old one from our kitchen. It has some writing in the glass at the bottom. I don’t want that in my image as it may get rejected in the stock photo library inspection process – so I need to be aware of that and position the jar so it doesn’t show. In addition, Australian coins have a picture of the Queen of England on the back of them. They are not allowed in stock images, so I need to position the coins so the Queen’s image is not visible.

Step 5 – Shoot. Yes, get in there and shoot the image. Consider different variations on the same theme so that you have a range of stock images.

Step 6 – Post production. For this image very little post production is required. I cropped the image very slightly, increased the saturation of the colors, and made sure my background was pure white.

Step 7 – Upload and Keyword. The final step in making this image available to be downloaded is to upload it to my stock photography portfolio and to add keywords. For this image I use keywords like – australian currency, currency, coin, australian coin, jar, savings, investment, finance, home finance, isolated, isolated on white, white background, nobody.

Thanks for reading how to photograph simple stock images. Good luck with your stock photography.

7 More Questions for Photographers Going into Business

I wrote this post for photographers considering getting into the business of photography. It outlines key questions to ask when you are getting up and running. This week I have spoken with two readers of Beyond Here who are in the early stages of their photography businesses. It prompted me to consider other questions which you should consider when you are starting out. Here are 7 more questions for photographers going into business.

Funny sign

Define what success looks like so you can see business danger coming

1. What does success look like? To know how you are going you first need to decide what success looks like. To do that, I suggest you break it into 3 sub questions.

1a. What income do you want to generate? This is the financial measure of how the business is performing. It gives you a point to focus on. Regardless of how busy you are, and whether you are enjoying the type of photography you are doing – this measure answers the question – is my business financially successful? An example might be – in you first year of operation you would like to make a profit (revenue less costs) of $30,000.

1b. How do you want to spend your day? Think about what balance you would like between shooting, editing, marketing, delivering product, taking time off, having a holiday and other responsibilities in your life. This question will determine whether your business is meeting your lifestyle needs.

Kookaburra

Keep focused. If you are a wildlife shooter, don’t let other work distract you

1c. What type of photography work do you want to do? This is a really important question. It will help determine whether your business is meeting your artistic need.

Let’s take an exaggerated example. Imagine you got into business because you love landscape images. Then you are asked to shoot a friends wedding. You do a good job and referral business rolls in. Soon, you are spending 2 weekends per month shooting weddings when you got into business to enjoy the great outdoors and shoot nature images.

Determine the type of work you want to be doing to help you stay focused.

It’s okay for a landscape photographer to shoot an occasional wedding – just don’t let those occasional jobs take over your business.

Client

Define what your ideal client looks like.

2. What does your ideal client look like? Define what type of client you are looking for and your marketing will become more focused and effective. Consider the difference between – ‘my ideal client would like family portraits’ with ‘my ideal client is a family. The parents are in their thirties and work in professional┬ároles. They live in an upper-middle class area in the eastern suburbs. They own their own home and appreciate the value of fine family portraits to hang on the walls. They have 2 children, one in primary school and one in pre school.’

3. What hours are you prepared to put into the business? This is where the line between hobbyist and business owner becomes clear. The successful business owner is clear on the number of hours they are prepared to put into the business – and will work those hours even if they “don’t feel like it”. The hobbyist will focus on other activities until their ‘phojo’ comes back. That’s not a criticism of the hobbyist – its that the business success is very important to the business owner and they are prepared to keep working at it.

4. How much do you need to charge per job? This is a simple calculation but is often overlooked. If you are planning to generate an income of $2500 per month and anticipate shooting 10 jobs per month – you need to charge enough to make a profit (revenue less expenses) of $250 per job. Yes, the calculation is that simple. Make sure you do it.

Getting started in a photography business is a very exciting time. If you are clear on the answers to these questions you are well ahead of most. At this early stage of your business its about being clear about what success looks like and having goals to keep you focused. Thanks for reading 7 more questions for photographers going into business. Go find some of those ideal clients!

7 Business Lessons from Being a Stock Photographer

Regular readers of Beyond Here will know that selling images through iStockphoto and Getty Images is an important component of my photography income. I’ve written many posts about stock photography, from getting started, through to how to use props, and many topics in between. I regularly get asked about the business or financial side of being a stock photographer. Based on my experience, here are 7 business lessons from being a stock photographer.

Coins

What starts as a small trickle of coins, can transform into a rapid flow

Business Lesson 1 – Small Amounts Do Add Up. The first image I received a royalty for on iStockphoto back in 2008 was a cityscape from Melbourne, Australia. I shot the image while a friend and I went on an evening photo shoot. We walked around the city, chatting and shooting night city images. The royalty from that first download was US$1.26. While that amount seems tiny, I was excited as I could see the potential for that amount to grow, and for an individual image to be downloaded hundreds of times. That image has since been downloaded a further 49 times to reach 50 in total. So far. While each royalty amount might be small, over time they will add up, and can add up to a significant total. Don’t be discouraged by small amounts when you are starting – be excited for the potential of those amounts to grow.

Business Lesson 2 – Significant Income is Possible From Stock Photography. While I have a large portfolio of stock images I am a ‘small fish’ in the stock photography world. My annual income in US dollars is well into the 5 figures and has been since my third year as a stock photographer. That makes a significant contribution to my overall photography income and adds to my wedding and portrait work. More successful stock photographers are generating incomes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. Many people start out in stock photography thinking that you can not earn worthwhile amounts. I’ve found that to be untrue. (If you’d like to read more about how to generate a worthwhile income please check out my e-book Build A Five Figure Income in Your Spare Time.)

Fruit bat

Flying fox images have been a lucrative niche for me

Business Lesson 3 – Finding a Niche can be Very Profitable. When I started contributing images to iStockphoto my portfolio was a diverse collection of random images. It took me some time to find what I liked to shoot, and where there was a market. I found the intersection of supply and demand in my Australian wildlife images and specifically in flying fox images I shot near my home in Melbourne, Australia. I have continued to upload flying fox images as they sell year round and peak in sales just before Halloween. Finding that niche helped me realize that stock photography could work for me.

Business Lesson 4 – Buyers Care About a Useful Image. And nothing else. Buyers don’t care where the image was shot, what camera you were using, or who you are. Buyers only care about the image. So, if you think your equipment is not good enough, or that you will start when you get the latest version of Photoshop – realize that they are just excuses. Buyers don’t care. As long as you can meet the stock libraries quality standards there is no reason not to get started.

Location free careers

Many stock photographers no longer need a home base

Business Lesson 5 – Location Free Careers are Reality. What’s a location free career? It is a career which is not dependent on where you live – and many of the world’s most successful stock photographers are making that real. They can travel and shoot and upload and get paid all without needing a permanent home base. As long as they have a digital camera, a laptop, and an internet connection they can work anywhere. And increasingly they don’t even need to carry all their gear with them – they can rent it at their next location.

us dollar

US dollar income is handy for my business

Business Lesson 6 – A US Dollar income is handy. My royalties from stock photography are paid in US dollars. When they are transferred to me each month they are converted into local currency. As the Australian dollar goes up and down versus the US dollar it is very handy to have a US dollar income. The price of photography equipment in Australia goes up and down in line with the exchange rate – so having a US dollar income protects me from exchange rate volatility.

Business Lesson 7 – Successful Images Keep Selling. I wrote this post analyzing my recent downloads on iStockphoto. It showed that nearly 50% of my current income was being generated by images shot and uploaded 4-5 years ago. This was an important lesson for me. It highlighted that successful images have a lifespan of several years. It is worth taking the time to shoot well thought out concepts as they will generate an income for many years. In many ways, building a stock photo portfolio is building an asset which will generate an income into the future. It is worth taking the time to do it well.

Melbourne

Successful images are likely to keep selling for several years

Thanks for reading 7 business lessons from being a stock photographer. I feel it only captures a tiny fraction of what I’ve learnt since first getting into stock photography in 2008. If you have questions, please feel free to contact me via email or by leaving a comment on this post.

What To Do When the Photo Jobs Are Not Flowing

US dollar

Resist the urge to cut your rates when bookings are slow

This week, in a Facebook photography group I belong to, a photographer expressed her exasperation that despite having ‘tried everything’ she was not able to book as many photography jobs as she wanted. She was frustrated and disillusioned. I hate to see someone’s dream of being a professional photographer being left in tatters by financial failure so I offered to help her. We swapped several messages. I asked her to email me details of her circumstances, so I could properly understand her situation and give her some relevant advice. Unfortunately that email hasn’t come. I hope she has found what she was looking for from someone else, and hasn’t given up her dream of being a professional photographer. If you are in the same circumstances, here are 8 general pointers for what to do when the photo jobs are not flowing.

  1. Don’t Doubt Your Photographic Ability. If you have been in business for some time, and had happy clients in the past, it is very likely that your photography and the work you produce is at a professional standard. Of the photographers I work with, the problem nearly always is a sales and marketing problem not a photographic ability problem. Recognize that the issues is about sales and marketing and don’t lose confidence in your photographic ability.
  2. Define Success. Defining success is about being clear on what you want the outcome to be. This is important so that you can build a plan to achieve that outcome. In the case of the photographer from the Facebook group, she did know what she wanted. She wanted to book 20 weddings and 20 portrait sessions per year. By knowing what she wanted, she is well ahead of most who are struggling to find new clients.
  3. Stop What You Are Currently Doing. If you have ‘tried everything’ and it hasn’t worked, then you are trying the wrong things. If you thought you were doing the right thing like advertising via Google adwords and on Facebook, then stop those activities and immediately cut your expenses. There is a lot of pressure to book jobs when you are spending a lot on advertising. If it’s not working, stop it now. Cut your expenses.
  4. Clock

    When you need bookings at short notice, contact past clients

    Focus on Your Previous Clients. If you are a portrait and wedding photographer like the photographer from the Facebook group, you are likely to have a string of past clients who are happy with your work. They know you, they like your work. It is much easier to generate bookings at short notice from past clients than from people who don’t know you.┬áSo, when you need bookings in the short term start to contact your old clients. Make it simple. Call or email them. “Hi XXXX, this is Craig, your family photographer. It’s been a year since I did your family portraits. That must mean Peter is 3 years old now and will be starting kindy next month. Would you like to do an outdoor session at the park to remember this special time? I have a vacancy in my shooting schedule this Saturday morning at 9am. Does that suit you?” Try it. It won’t take long until you have filled your weekends with family portrait work.

  5. Don’t Cut Your Rates. There is a tendency to feel like you need to offer a ‘super discount’ to attract clients when times are tough. Resist this urge! In the example above there is no mention of cutting rates. It is a straightforward communication which shows that you care about your client and that you realize it is one year since the last shoot. Using the child’s name shows you value them and know the importance of capturing childhood memories. Make it easy, convenient and fun. Not ‘cheap’.
  6. Add Value to Your Packages. If you have lots of inquiries from potential clients but few bookings – again, resist the urge to cut your rates. If you really want to make a change, add value to your packages rather than cutting your prices. Include a free canvas print for bookings made this week, or a 8×10 print and frame for shoots which are done this month. Find an incentive for your potential client to book now.
  7. Make Contacts. I recommend making contacts to all photographers but especially wedding photographers. I suspect the photographer from the Facebook group advertised her services as a wedding photographer to local brides. Unfortunately this is often a very crowded market place, and few brides respond to an unknown photographer. I would recommend to her getting to know the people at the wedding venues she wants to shoot at, and meeting with marriage celebrants. These industry contacts have direct contact with couples, and their recommendations will be listened to. Making contacts takes time, but is a very valuable source of referral business.
  8. Consider Letting Someone Else Do Your Sales and Marketing. I have met photographers who have been on this merry go round for a long time. They have tried and tried again, and they seem to be on a never ending cycle between having just enough clients and having not enough. They are never getting ahead. These people tend to love photography and creating images, but loathe the sales and marketing which comes with running a business. Are you one of these people? If you are, have you considered being a stock photographer? I’ve written many posts for Beyond Here about stock photography. In this model the photographer shoots the image, uploads it and adds keywords. The image library looks after all of the issues around attracting buyers and making sales. For some photographers who don’t enjoy sales and marketing, this is the model for them.

Thanks for reading what to do when the photo jobs are not flowing. I hope it has been useful to you, and either reinforces the good things you are doing, or gives you ideas to improve your business. Happy shooting.