Author Archives: Craig Dingle

Six Great Reminders from this Stock Photo Shoot

Regular readers of Beyond Here will know I have been shooting an extended series on Melbourne lifestyle for my stock photo portfolio with iStockphoto and Getty Images. This winter I’ve stepped up my effort in this series and am building a wide range of material. Of course, not all shoots go fantastically well – but last weekend’s was excellent and has prompted me to write about the six great reminders from this stock photo shoot.

Before I take you through the six great reminders from this stock photo shoot you may like to check out other posts related to this series. You can find them at City Stock Photo Shoot Explained and Making Good Stock Photo Shoots Exceptional.


So, let me tell you about this shoot. It was conducted early on a Saturday morning. We met at 8am on a cold but sunny winter day. First of all, we completed the model release, made payment to the model and then sat and discussed the shoot. From there we walked (and talked!) and shot various concepts around Melbourne city. And here are the six great reminders from this stock photo shoot.

Woman in Melbourne

Alicia arrived wearing a hat and scarf which communicate a strong winter theme

Great Reminder 1. Wardrobe is Really Important to Communicate a Message. For most of the shoots in this series I’ve encouraged the models to dress like they were going for a day in the city with friends. When Alicia arrived wearing a scarf and beanie it immediately communicated a winter theme. I like that it anchors these images to winter. Here in Melbourne we don’t think it gets very cold in winter, but the rest of Australia think we freeze. The wardrobe in these images help to communicate the message that it does get cold in winter, and it is still possible to have an active, vibrant outdoor life at this time of year. Nice work on wardrobe Alicia!

Great Reminder 2. Facial Expressions Can Really Make or Break Stock Images. Some models struggle to communicate a message with their facial expression. Others, like Alicia, really get this concept and can pull off a wide range of different facial expressions. This provides great variety in the images, and allows the photographer to shoot different themes with different messages. Another great job Alicia!

Melbourne laneways

Location helps communicate the essence of the city. Here we explore Melbourne laneways.

Great Reminder 3. Location Helps Capture the Essence. Melbourne is well known for its lane ways which are often full of shops, bars and cafes. Taking time to shoot in these locations helps to really capture the essence of the city. In this case, shooting in the small backstreets on a Saturday morning meant we could shoot a range of images which show Alicia exploring this part of the city. Because it was early morning there were not many people around which makes it easier to capture images without people in the background.

Great Reminder 4. Don’t Shoot All Images with the Model Smiling. Alicia has a great smile, and I encouraged her to smile more. But, some of the strongest images in this shoot came when she was looking thoughtful or pensive or bored! For those shooting stock, keep in mind that the broader range of messages you can incorporate into your images, the more likely your images are to be purchased. Encourage your model to express how they feel, but don’t shoot all your images with the model smiling.

Serious

Happy, smiley images have their place. Expand your potential market by also shooting different facial expressions.

Great Reminder 5. Exploring and Shooting Your Own City is Cool. I know the Melbourne CBD area quite well and enjoy walking around creating images which capture the essence of the city. In this shoot we walked around some areas I know well, and it is fun and challenging to find new ways to shoot in familiar areas. Don’t be afraid to explore new parts of your city, but equally, don’t be afraid to revisit familiar areas and shoot them in a different way.

Great Reminder 6. Shooting Stock Images Can be a lot of Fun. Within 20 minutes of starting this shoot, experience told me that this was going to be a successful range of images. Alicia is a very natural model. She also took interest in the images we were creating, and where we hadn’t got it quite right she was happy to re-shoot that image before we moved on. This shoot lasted 2 hours where we walked a lot, talked a lot, shot a lot, rode on the tram, and before I knew it the 2 hours was up. It was a very fun 2 hours, with a very capable model, and I now have a wide range of Melbourne lifestyle images to add to my stock portfolio.

Thanks for reading six great reminders from this stock photo shoot. I hope it is helpful for your own shoots. Best wishes.

Five Lessons From Fine Art America

This week I had a sale of a print on Fine Art America. It was one of the extensive range of images I have shot of grey headed flying foxes. The image itself shows the animal flying in mid air with the sun showing the veins in its wings. It’s a cool image, and it will look great as a large print for the US based buyer. I have written lots of posts for Beyond Here about stock photography, but very little about my experience with Fine Art America. Here are five lessons from Fine Art America.

Flying fox

This image is similar to the one which sold on FAA this week. A magnificent animal with the sun shining through its wings

What is Fine Art America? FAA is a website where artists can post their work for sale. Unlike stock libraries where buyers purchase the electronic image and a licence to use it, on FAA the buyer is purchasing a print or other physical product. FAA works with printers and other product manufacturers around the world to produce the final product and ship it to the buyer.

So here are my five lessons from Fine Art America.

Lesson 1 – You need to promote your own work. FAA has not been a source of significant income for me as I’ve treated it like an image library – in that I upload my content and expect the buyer to do the rest. In my experience those who are doing well on FAA are actively promoting their content. They are adding links to their social media feeds and encouraging followers to check out their content. So the lesson is that you need to promote your own work, don’t rely on FAA to do that for you.

Lesson 2 – Set your own prices. One of the key differences between FAA and image libraries is that on FAA you can set your own prices. That means you can determine the margin or amount of money you want to make on each sale. FAA has a well organised back end system where you can set prices for individual files or for groups of files. If you intend to make a significant income through FAA it is worth investing the time to price your content appropriately.

flying bat

Grey headed flying fox in mid air

Lesson 3 – Income per sale will be high. While I don’t have a lot of files on FAA each sale represents a reasonable sized income. In the case of this week’s sale (I only had the one sale on FAA this week!) the income from this one sale is the equivalent to 30 sales of my stock images. So while the number of sales is lower, the income per sale is high.

Lesson 4 – There is still a market for prints and other physical products. It’s nice to remind ourselves once in a while that the era of physical products is not dead. People still want prints to hang on the walls of their homes or office, and increasingly there is a market for new physical products. (Before this print sale, my previous 2 sales on FAA were for smart phone covers.)

Lesson 5 – You need to continue to add new content. Just like a stock photo portfolio you can’t expect a growth in income without adding new content. I haven’t been very active in adding to my FAA portfolio and this is reflected in low levels of income. To state the obvious, to grow your income stream you need to keep adding new content.

fruit bat

Grey headed flying fox carrying it’s baby

My income from FAA is far below my income from stock images. (For background on stock photography please see Why I Shoot Stock). Having a nice big sale this week was a useful reminder of the potential of FAA as a sales outlet for photographers.

Do you contribute to FAA? What has been your experience?

Thanks for reading five lessons from Fine Art America. Happy shooting.

Five Months After iStock Unification

The end of this month marks 5 months since the iStock unification with Getty Images (you can read more about that process here). Where I live in Melbourne, Australia the end of this month also marks the end of the financial year which is a good time to assess the changes at iStock. So here it is – a review, five months after iStock unification.

I’ve divided this up to consider key elements of being an iStock contributor.

Element 1 – The File Upload Process. Prior to February 2017 there were 2 main ways to upload – either directly through the iStock site or via an application called DeepMeta. I had always uploaded directly to the iStock site. Since unification with Getty Images there are now three main ways to upload – via DeepMeta, via qHero or directly into the Getty Images ESP site. I have been using qHero and find it a very easy and efficient way to submit files. I consider the upload process an improvement on the old way.

happy

qHero is an easy and efficient uploading tool

Element 2 – Key wording. Key wording your stock images can be an arduous process. I find keywording batches of files in qHero very easy and again would consider this an improvement.

Element 3 – Inspection Times. The time taken to review files have been a major step forward since the unification. As an exclusive contributor my files are often reviewed within minutes of being uploaded. In the last 5 months I can’t recall any file taking more than 12 hours to review. This is an improvement. So have these 3 elements have been an improvement – good job Getty Images and iStock! Unfortunately, that’s where the good news ends.

Element 4 – Downloads. Yes, this is what we are submitting files to microstock sites for – to have users download our images and to generate an income. My total number of uploads has increased thanks to the easy to use upload process using qHero. My download numbers have remained static. That’s a little disappointing but I’m trusting that those downloads will come. My experience is one of not improving or declining since unification.

Element 5 – Download Statistics. iStock used to offer real time reporting of downloads and royalties and the ability to request payment once per week. This was great for contributors but is unfortunately a thing of the past. Today we get payment once per month, and the reporting is vastly inferior to what was offered 5 years ago. Unfortunately whatever money was saved in the unification process has not yet been funneled into better reporting for contributors. iStock continue to advise that this is being worked on as a matter of high priority, but as at today, this remains a point of frustration for contributors. Currently this is inferior to what was offered before unification.

Market

Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne

Element 6 – Royalty Income for Contributors. This refers to my own income only, which is down on last year. That means that despite the improvements for contributors and buyers on the iStock website, my income from iStock is below where it was before unification. That might be driven by changes in the market for stock images, or more likely by the prices being charged to buyers and the corresponding royalty received by contributors. Unfortunately at this point for me, the royalty I’m achieving is below what I was achieving before unification. Many other exclusive contributors are having the same experience. I’m hopeful this situation will reverse and am focusing on contributing more unique content. Time will tell.

Are you an iStock contributor? What is your experience?

Thanks for reading Five Months After iStock Unification.

New Source, Photography Inspiration

This week I’ve found a new source of photography inspiration, and it’s not in a place I expected. I read and research extensively about photography – not just the business side of photography, but about a much wider range of topics – interesting projects people are shooting, how they are shooting them, what they are shooting them with, new technology, old technology. Almost whatever the topic, I’m a consumer for reading about it. This week my new source is not where I expected. It’s a new source, photography inspiration.

Hipster

I found key learnings applicable to my Melbourne lifestyle project

When I’m looking for information on post production techniques I have one go to source. It’s at lynda.com There you can find a massive range of training materials on almost any topic, and it’s the first place I head to when I want to learn something about Photoshop, or more recently Lightroom. There I can learn from experts, quickly and easily, with videos to show me exactly what they are doing. What I didn’t realize is that it has a range of other material which is much more inspirational than factual. So what have I been checking out?

This week I’ve watched a cool piece called “The Creative Spark: Nick Onken, Travel and Lifestyle Photographer”. It was inspirational to watch Nick work and to see how he managed his shoot and promoted his work. It was especially interesting to me as I’m currently shooting a series on Melbourne lifestyle, and I could see a direct correlation between watching him and applying the learnings to my project.

MelbourneSo what did I learn? There is lots to learn but my main take outs were:

Lesson 1 – People skills are key. Nick demonstrated how important his people skills were to get his subject to be at ease. He showed it in a lifestyle shoot with a model, and again in a shoot involving kids for a not for profit organisation. It reinforced what I already knew – people skills are key. And I also know some of it is a natural talent, and some of it comes with practice.

Lesson 2 – Knowing your camera let’s you focus on being creative not being technical. Years of shooting wildlife and weddings has taught me to know my camera really well and be able to intuitively make changes to settings. I really don’t think about it much. I just change them because experience has taught me what works. Nick summed it up, by knowing his camera well it allows him to focus on being creative. I’m going to push myself to be more creative on my next shoot.

MelbourneLesson 3 – There’s lots of ways to monetise photography projects. Nick goes into some detail about a book he has had published of his travel photography. He didn’t shoot with the book in mind, but had a strong collection of images he was subsequently able to turn into a book. There are lots and lots and lots of ways to monetise good images. Have you considered a book for your own work?

Lesson 4 – the value of strong images. There is a section in the video where Nick speaks with the guy running the not for profit Nick has done extensive work for. He outlines the power of Nick’s images and how it has helped their organisation grow. I have no idea if Nick was paid for this work or not, but it was clear the growth in the organisation was influenced heavily by the strength of the images and how they were used.

Lesson 5 – not everything works, that’s how we learn. We all love to show our very strongest work. In one brief moment Nick talked about trying new things, then reviewing and being ok when things don’t work out. What felt like a great idea just didn’t translate into a great image. It happens. It’s normal. It’s not failure, it’s part of success. I liked the reminder – keep trying new things, keep learning.

They are the top 5 lessons I took. Now I’m going to find some more inspiration. Check out lynda.com for a huge range of training and inspiration videos.

(Note: Lynda.com offers a free trial period but then a subscription is required.)

 

Thoughts on iStock Exclusivity in 2017

Last week I was asked by a photographer who is new to iStock what my thoughts were on becoming an exclusive photographer. Regular readers of Beyond Here would know that I have been contributing to iStock since 2008, and have been an exclusive photographer since 2010. A lot has changed in stock photography since 2010, and his question forced me to reconsider the issue. Here are my thoughts on iStock exclusivity in 2017.

Firstly, what is iStock? iStock is one of the leading microstock photography agencies. A photographer can submit images, and will receive a royalty each time one of their images is downloaded.

Money

Stock photography can generate a significant ongoing income

So, what is exclusivity on iStock? As a contributor you can choose whether you only upload your images to iStock (this is called being an Exclusive Contributor), or to submit your images to a range of different stock agencies (this is called being an Independent Contributor). Back in 2010 there were minimum criteria to meet before you could become exclusive, but today there are no minimum criteria. It’s just a matter of choosing exclusive or independent.

Why would you choose to be exclusive? For iStock, being able to promote that they have content which is only available on their site is a major selling point. To make that attractive to photographers, iStock offers a high royalty payment if your content is exclusive. For the photographer who asked me the question, he had just been approved as a contributor and so would earn 15% as an independent contributor. If he chose to become an Exclusive Contributor his royalty rate would increase to 25%. (Higher percentages are available as you become more successful up to a maximum of 45%).

Why wouldn’t you choose the higher royalty rate? You wouldn’t choose to become exclusive and earn the higher royalty rate if you were prepared to upload your content to a range of microstock sites, and if you felt this would produce a better financial outcome. While I have chosen to be an exclusive contributor at iStock, thousands of photographers choose to remain independent and submit their content to other sites as well. iStock is not the only game in town.

strategy

I suggested he upload to several sites and rethink his strategy in 6-12 months

After some deliberation, my suggestion to this photographer was that he remain independent and contribute to three other sites in the short term.

Why did I make this suggestion?

  • iStock was a dominant player in the market back in the early 2000’s. It had first mover advantage and rode the success from a large group of loyal contributors many of whom were also buyers. Since iStock was sold to Getty Images there have been numerous changes to the site and the people running iStock. While some changes are for the better, the army of loyal contributors has reduced in size. The roar of the crowd has become more of a whimper, and when the voices do rise in unison it is more often to raise concerns than to cheer for team iStock. While I don’t have market information, I expect iStock is not the major player it was 10 or more years ago.
  • Using different sites will enable him to judge what is best for him. Without knowing exactly what content he was planning to upload, I suggested he remain independent and upload to other sites too. This would enable him to figure out what is going to be the best path for him. He could reassess exclusivity in 6-12 months based on facts from his own performance on different sites.
  • One of the major benefits of iStock exclusivity in years gone by was the preferential treatment exclusive files were given in the search results. The iStock site and back end systems have gone through major changes in 2017 and it appears that exclusive content no longer gets as well placed. That reduces the benefit of being exclusive, and is reflected in my own earnings which are down from recent years.
plan

Many iStock exclusive contributors have had to rethink their plan

While my current year earnings are down, for now I’m choosing to remain an exclusive contributor at iStock. Why? It’s partly my loyalty to iStock after nearly 10 years as a contributor, and it’s definitely because I remain hopeful that iStock and Getty Images will not only realise that exclusive content is the key to their success but that they will also deliver benefits for exclusive contributors. They are my thoughts on iStock exclusivity in 2017. I hope I’m right and iStock can return to its leadership position on the back of the success of it’s exclusive contributors.

I hope “My Thoughts on iStock Exclusivity in 2017” has been useful to you. Best wishes with your stock photography journey.

City Stock Photo Shoot Explained

I am shooting an extended stock photography series on Melbourne lifestyle. This is a project that I have been running for 2 years now, and is work that I fit in around client projects. With winter looming my client work slows down, allowing me to shoot more stock.

I’m always surprised when other photographers ask me about how I organise and complete these shoots. So here it is – a city stock photo shoot explained.

Step 1 – Finding Models. I enjoy meeting and shooting with new models. I wrote this post about finding models using ModelMayhem, StarNow, or Facebook groups. For this particular shoot I used StarNow (I wrote about that in StarNow My First Experience) where in excess of 200 models applied to be involved.

Serious hipsterStep 2 – Finding the Right Look. With each application on StarNow comes a link to the models portfolio. While I had a large number of applicants, the StarNow website makes it easy to work through portfolios to decide on the right look for the shoot. In this case, I went for a young, male, hipster look.

Step 3 – Helping the Model Understand the Style of Image. Step 3 involves helping the model understand what type of images I am trying to create and what they should expect in a stock photography shoot. On StarNow there is a messaging service where you can contact the model. I used this to contact some of the shortlisted models and provided links to a lightbox of similar images and a link to a post I wrote called What Models Should Know About Stock Photography Shoots. I also asked the model to get back to me to let me know if they are interested in the shoot now that they have more information.

Step 4 – Organising Shoot Logistics. For this shoot I exchanged messages with the model both on StarNow and via text message. We organised the shoot to be in Melbourne CBD and met at Flinders Street Station – a destination easily accessible by public transport. I planned the locations we would shoot in advance so that we could get variety in the images we produced during this 2 hour shoot.

Man and ParliamentStep 5 – Meeting and Confirming Details. When I first meet the model I like to confirm that the model understands the type of images we are aiming to produce. I often shoot to a brief from iStock and Getty Images, and in this case I went through the brief with the model when we first met. We then completed the model release and sorted out payment. With payment made, model release completed, and a common understanding of the types of images we planned to shoot – we were ready to get started.

Step 6 – Conducting the Shoot. When I do stock photo shoots I like to work closely with the model and to discuss what is, and what isn’t, working. I like to start the discussion and feedback early. So I find a location near where we meet to begin shooting. That enables us to get started promptly and for the model to relax. At this first point I review the images with the model and we discuss what we like and don’t like. This helps create a common understanding and sense of teamwork in the images we produce. From there, we work our way around the different shoot locations, reviewing images together, and re-shooting where necessary. After 2 hours we were done, and another enjoyable stock photo shoot was done.

Step 7 – Post Production and Uploading. I like to download all the images on the same day as the shoot. I then make minor post production edits in Lightroom and upload a handful of images to iStockphoto. This is primarily to make sure I haven’t missed anything on the model release and so I know that the image library will accept both the release and the images.

I have never had a problem with my model releases, but if I do, I’m confident I could go back to the model promptly if I need any further information from them.

This shoot was done on a Saturday. I uploaded 5 images that evening, and they were approved overnight. They were available in my portfolio on the Monday morning. I expect to have between 80 and 120 images in total from this shoot for my stock portfolio. I will edit and upload the remaining images over the next few weeks.

Step 8 – Follow Up with the Model. I like to follow up with the model to thank them for their time and expertise, and for them to be able to see some of the final images. In this case, I text messaged three images to the model the day after the shoot, and posted several to my Instagram account where he could also see them. When the entire shoot is available in my stock photo portfolio I will send him a link so that he can see the final images.

And that is a wrap on this stock photo shoot.

I hope ‘City Stock Photo Shoot Explained’ helps you understand the process I use, and will be useful in planning your own stock photo shoots.

 

StarNow My First Experience

It’s leading into winter here in Melbourne, Australia which is a period where my wedding photography slows down and I spend more time shooting images for my stock portfolio with iStockphoto and Getty Images. In this post I wrote about how to find models for this type of project. In the past I have used ModelMayhem for most of my castings and Facebook groups for others, but I have found them increasingly difficult to get reliable models. For the first time I have posted a casting on StarNow and so this post is to share – StarNow my first experience.

Melbourne tram

I found the listing process challenging but have had a strong response

What is StarNow?

From their website StarNow’s goal is to “connect talent with casting professionals”. It was started by 3 New Zealanders who were living in London, and today their website has a leading position in UK, Australia and New Zealand, and a growing presence in USA, Canada, Ireland and South Africa.

How did the listing go?

In my previous experience with listings on ModelMayhem the process of getting your casting live is intuitive and straight forward. With StarNow it wasn’t – and I should say, that this was the only part of the process which hasn’t been smooth. Everything except this step has been great.

With the casting, the process is not entirely intuitive (at least not for me!) and I didn’t provide all of the information they required. I then received an email from StarNow explaining this, but it wasn’t clear what I needed to do to meet their requirements and get the casting live.

After several emails over 5 days, the issues were resolved and the casting went live. This casting was for a Melbourne lifestyle photo shoot – I plan to do 20 of these shoots over the winter months.

Melbourne

I have had a very positive response with StarNow my first experience

What has the response been?

The response using StarNow has been very strong. After 3 days I have 193 applications giving me a very large selection of models to work with. This is a much stronger response than I have received with my previous listings on ModelMayhem.

With such a large number of good quality applicants the challenge is going to be to select who to work with! This is a really good problem to have and I’m glad I put this listing on StarNow. So that has been StarNow my first experience. If you are looking for models or actors to work with on your next shoot I’d recommend investigating StarNow.

Two Great Sayings Photography Business Owners Should Know

This week I attended a workshop run by a business development expert. He was helping one person businesses put together a plan to grow their business. He had a lot of content and some useful exercises to take the participants through. Among the gems of wisdom were two great sayings photography business owners should know. So what were these two pearls of wisdom?

Juggling

Juggling a lot this week? See if these business insights can help you.

Insight #1 – It’s About Progress, Not Perfection

This saying came from an example being given by the presenter. The business owner was producing active wear for everyday people trying to get fit – not for elite athletes like Nike and Adidas present in their advertising. As soon as the presenter shared this saying I knew it could be powerful for one person photography businesses. Many of the photographers I work with seem to expect it to be easy and get frustrated that either their images are not winning awards, or their business is not as profitable as they hope (and sometimes it’s both). Patience and perseverance are key.

If I use a photography business example, if you are trying to generate a $100,000 per annum profit in your photography business this can seem overwhelming when your current profit is $20,000 per annum. Rather than focus on the $80,000 shortfall – can you see the power in focusing on progress not perfection? Increasing business profits to $40,000 the following year is a 100% improvement and a huge accomplishment – not a $60,000 failure.

Money

Business success rarely happens overnight. It’s about progress and taking steps forward.

And if we use a photographic image example, mastering a new post production skill and being able to produce a wider variety of images is a major step forward. You don’t go from being a novice to being an expert in one week, or one month, or one year. Again it’s about progress, not perfection.

Be kind to yourself. Focus on making progress this week.

Insight #2 – If You Don’t Have a Marketing Budget You’re Not Really in Business

This insight was a wake up call to the participants at the workshop and will be a wake up call to many of the photographers I talk to and work with. The presenter outlined that word of mouth is the very best form of advertising you can have, but expecting that to fill a pipeline of work – particularly if you are relatively new in business – is not realistic.

His point was you have to be deliberate about your marketing and set aside a budget for it, if you are serious about business success.

He went on to explain that your budget could be in time or money. For example, if you have no money, you can invest time in marketing. You can contact 5 possible new business clients per day to see how your business could serve them. You can spend 2 hours per day researching stock photography trends so you can better meet the market demand. To be successful with this strategy you have to be deliberate, and invest the time if you expect the return.

Plan

Make a marketing plan and commit time or money or both to grow your business.

Once your business is established hopefully you will be busy servicing your clients. While you do that your advertising can help attract new clients (remember, don’t just rely on word of mouth no matter how busy you are). In this scenario you need to set aside a monetary budget each month to keep driving your pipeline of future clients. While you look after your clients, your advertising attracts new inquiries.

I got a lot out of the workshop. I hope these two great sayings photography business owners should know are helpful to you and will help you challenge and develop your current marketing approach. Thanks for reading two great sayings photography business owners should know. Let’s focus on progress in business and in photography this week!

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?