Category Archives: Business Tips

Tips for your photography business

Why I Dropped iStock Exclusivity

This year has been one of big change at leading microstock site iStockphoto. I’ve written about that in many posts. On my recent holiday, as I planned for the future of my business, I had to rethink my position with iStock. That has lead me to cancelling my exclusive contributor status. Here is why I dropped iStock exclusivity.

It is never just one thing which leads to a decision like this. Here are the 5 reasons, starting with number 5 and building to number 1.


palace

Next year will bring a new dawn in the stock photo side of my business

Reason 5 – iStock does not provide photographers with up to date, easy to use statistics.

What am I talking about? I’m really talking about live sales data so that photographers can see what is selling at the time it sells. It is frustrating to wait until the monthly sales report to see what is popular with buyers. If sales were growing strongly and I had faith this would improve, then this alone is not a big deal. But I don’t have that faith and it’s annoying not to have live data.

Reason 4 – it is harder and harder to get images into the Signature+ collection.

Getting images into S+ allows them to be mirrored onto the Getty Images site. Being on GI means your images are available to more potential buyers. Earlier this year I had a lot of files accepted into S+. In recent months, with similar quality content I have had none accepted. It feels like Getty have changed the requirements without informing photographers. It’s hard to justify spending money on shoots when there is no guideline for acceptance into S+. Fewer files in S+ means lower royalty income.

Reason 3 – iStock is almost giving photographers work away.

In my most recent sales month I had 450 downloads of my images. That sounds ok on the surface. Dig a little deeper and we see that for 200 of those downloads I received less than US$1 per download. This is connected to the rise of subscriptions for buyers. I’m not against subscriptions and have actually written about why subs might be good – but when I received US$0.12 in royalty for a download last month that was the final straw. iStock and Getty need to rethink their approach to subs so that the image copyright owner (the photographer) might get some benefit. Currently all the benefit is with the client and the image library.

umbrellas

My personal outlook for iStock exclusive contributors remains gloomy

Reason 2 – new files are buried.

iStock recently introduced some enhanced reporting. I wrote about that in this post, iStock Contributor Statistics Progress. What the reporting does show me is that new files are not getting seen by buyers. It is very clear that the 1700+ new files I have added this year are not getting in front of buyers. iStock have recognized this by looking at issues around ‘search freshness’. This is ongoing. I’m not confident this will improve outcomes for new files as the collection is already so large. With little value coming from newer files, that makes it hard to invest in new shoots.

Reason 1 – the big one – monthly royalty income continues to fall.

Today I have over 10,300 files on iStock. In 2012, I had 4,000 files. Wonder how my royalty income compares? Today, my monthly royalty is roughly half what it was in 2012. Yes, with two and a half times more files, my royalty income is half. Income falling, new images not getting in front of buyers, and no useful stats to understand performance – I think you can see why I dropped iStock exclusivity.

So where does this leave iStock?

I don’t imagine my move to drop exclusivity will make any difference at iStock. But if my experience is replicated by others, eventually iStock will have less and less exclusive content. With less exclusive content they will only have 2 areas to compete on – price and website functionality. I expect price will be the main driver. That will be good for buyers and very bad for photographers. That’s a risky strategy for iStock and only time will tell whether they ‘win’ by selling the same content that is on other sites at low prices.

What else?

It is interesting to see other photographers making similar decisions. When I started contributing to iStock in 2008 one of my ‘heroes’ was Nicole Young. She had a great range and quality of images in her portfolio. This blog post she wrote back in 2014 sums up many of my own views – I just wish I’d come to the decision back in 2014 when she did! See Nicole’s post  Why I Canceled Exclusivity with iStock.

So, iStock contributors they are the reasons why I dropped iStock exclusivity. What is your experience? How does your monthly income compare to previous years?

 

5 Great Reasons to Have a Break From Your Business

I have just had 3 weeks overseas. It was a great time to have a break and to reflect on my photography business. I had plenty of time to consider where it is at now, and where it is headed. I feel refreshed! It has also enabled me to make some really significant decisions on where my business is going – more posts on that to come in the next few weeks! I was reflecting that isn’t it funny that I was looking forward to a holiday, but I was going to miss my business and my clients. And I did! But it has made me really appreciate getting away for a break. Here are 5 great reasons to have a break from your business.

fitness

This isn’t me (obviously!) but after a 3 week break I feel physically refreshed and energized

Reason 1 – A Physical Refresh.

Many of us are running one person businesses and while I love the hustle and bustle of my business, it wasn’t until I got away that I realized I was tired! I was too busy to realize it before! For most of the first week on holiday I relaxed and slept really well. For the next 2 weeks I ate a lot healthier than I normally do, and did some exercise. I feel much better for it. Do you need to schedule time for a physical refresh?

market

Being on holiday it was fun just shooting the people, places and experiences in South Korea. That made it one of the great reasons to have a break from your business

Reason 2 – Shooting was Fun Again.

When I’m at home I rarely find time to just shoot for fun. While I am quite good at setting personal projects for myself, it’s very rare for me to shoot random stuff just for fun. Taking a good break enabled me to shoot for fun again, and to experiment. I would never do that when I am shooting for a client. It was great to be experimenting and to shoot for fun again.

Reason 3 – Space Helps Perspective.

Being a long way away (14 hours flying time!) helped me to detach from day to day business issues and to reflect on the overall shape of my business. That helped to then re-shape where I want to move to in the future. I like to be busy shooting and meeting with clients. It was a blessing to be not able to do that for 3 weeks.

alarm clock

Without the pressure of immediate deadlines I had the space to plan for the future

Reason 4 – Time Drives Considered Decisions.

I have been thinking about taking a major step in a different direction in my photography business. When I was on the first long plane ride I had a lot of time to think through that option and to write down all of the issues associated with it. Over the next 3 weeks I had time and space to revisit and challenge my earlier thinking. It was this space that has helped me reach a significant decision on the next steps for my business. Are you making space for yourself to assess progress and future direction? or are you buried in the day to day busy-ness?

Reason 5 – Realize What You Miss and What You Don’t.

Being away from my business for an extended time made me realized what I missed the most! It also made me realize what I didn’t miss – which was the extensive time I can spend in front of a computer. I know I’m better in front of clients than in front of computer screens, and am going to start to make that work better for me.

I hope my experience and the great reasons to have a break from your business have been helpful to you. Schedule a break and make the most of it!

 

 

Getty Updates Custom Content Briefs

Getty Images recently launched a new service to marry the needs of their clients with their network of photographers. The new service is called Custom Content Briefs. You can read about it in this post Getty Launches Custom Content Briefs. While Getty and iStockphoto have traditionally operated under the stock photography model where an image can be licensed many times, under Custom Content Briefs they can only be licensed by that one client. This makes it tricky for stock photographers to assess the likely financial benefit of shooting to these briefs. And that has lead to this post, Getty Updates Custom Content Briefs.

When the Custom Content Briefs were launched, a sticking point for photographers was the issue of what would happen with ‘unsuccessful’ images. That is, images which were not selected by the client. Getty had outlined that those images would not be able to be added to the photographer’s stock photo portfolio. That made shooting to these briefs more of a gamble for photographers. If your images were chosen by the client, great. If not, the photographer had lost the time and money invested in the shoot.

Train

I can’t see enough financial upside in Custom Content Briefs and will be letting this train pass

So what is changing in this update?

This week, Getty has had a change of mind. Quoting directly from the update on the Getty Images contributors forum ….

“What happens if a client doesn’t select all or part of my Custom Content submission? Can I license non-selects?
If the client doesn’t select all or part of your Custom Content submission and the non-Similar work is suitable for general stock licensing (i.e., it has all applicable releases and contains no client products), then we’ll put it straight into the regular collection you submitted it to in ESP. There is nothing you need to do and the work should appear in your regular collection around two weeks after the submission brief deadline.”

What does this mean? In short, it means if your images are not selected by the Custom Content Brief customer you will be able to use them in your stock portfolio (if the images meet the requirements of the collection).

Does this make Custom Content Briefs more attractive? In theory, yes. By having those ‘unsuccessful’ images in a stock portfolio there is a potential financial return.

tram

Getty will need to increase the payment for ‘successful’ images for me to consider jumping on board with Custom Content Briefs.

Will I be shooting Custom Content Briefs? At this point, no. I can’t see enough financial upside in shooting a one off project as opposed to a steady flows of royalties from successful stock images. While Getty has addressed one piece of the puzzle they need to address another, and that is the financial return for the successful images.

What other options are there? Imagebrief’s business is built around a model like Custom Content Briefs. I wrote about that in New Ways to Sell Your Images. I see higher potential return in the Imagebrief model than I do in the Getty model. While I’m not planning to shoot for either in the near future, it’s clear to me that it would be more financially lucrative for the photographer to work with Imagebrief. What about you? What do you think of this emerging model of crowd sourced contract work?

Thanks for reading Getty Updates Custom Content Briefs. I hope it’s helped you.

Taking Your Photography Business in a New Direction

It’s not uncommon for photographers to come into the industry with a burning passion for an area of the market, only to find that their early enthusiasm and drive gets worn away over time. This month I’ve been working with a photographer to help her move away from weddings and into pet photography. We’ve been talking about how to make that transition, and how to move from a moderately successful wedding photography business into a very successful pet photography business. Based on those discussions here are 5 tips for taking your photography business in a new direction.

Woman and train

When you are taking your photography business in a new direction, focus on the opportunity in front of you and not on any failures behind you

Tip #1 – Don’t Let Past Performance Define your Future Success

My observation is that most photographers who are changing direction in their photography business are not doing that because they’ve had too much success! While that’s possible, I’ve found that most are changing direction because they’ve lost the passion and drive for the area of the market they initially targeted, and that’s also reflected in the performance of their business.

In the case of the photographer I’ve been helping lately, she has grown tired of long days shooting weddings, managing wedding guests, driving to different locations, working with a wide variety of second shooters, and spending hours editing images. As a result her wedding business is not particularly strong. That is impacting her finances and her self-esteem.

So tip number one – don’t let that current circumstance affect your mental health or your confidence. Take it as feedback that you need to refine your business and refocus – not that success is beyond you.

I wrote this post about an important principle – it’s about progress not perfection. I believe that’s the case for every small business, regardless of the industry you are operating in. If you can adopt the outlook that it is about making progress in your business every day, then success will come your way.

Tip #2 – Be Very Clear on Your Target Market and Commit to It

When you are changing direction in your photography business it is very important to be clear on your target market and commit to it. In the case of the photographer I’ve been helping, she should try to avoid shooting any more weddings if she sees her future in shooting family’s pets.

As she moves into the world of pet photography she needs to clearly define who her potential clients will be. The more detailed she can be, the better. Consider these questions about your ideal client:

  • Where do they live?
  • What types of occupations do they have?
  • What family structure do they have?
  • What socio economic profile are they? What income levels?
  • What is important to them?
  • What type of photographic products do you expect to provide them with?
  • How much do you expect them to spend with you?
  • What do they do in their spare time?
focus

Be specific about your target market. It will bring focus to your business and your actions

Tip #3 – Show appropriate work on your Website and Social Media profiles

Now that you are pushing forward and re-energised we need to make sure that the work we are showing to the world reflects the type of work we want to do, and the type of clients we want to attract.

The photographer I have been working with wants to do studio pet photography. So it’s important that she shows studio based pet photography on her marketing materials. The easiest and arguably the most important are your website and your social media profiles. Resist the temptation to share old wedding work if you see your future in pet photography. Share studio pet images if this is the type of image you are going to build your business on.

Tip #4 – Network in Your New Space

If you want to accelerate your move into a new market, network in that new space. The rewards will justify the effort. Get to know people who share your passion.

Start with making a list of possible networking contacts – for the pet photographer this could be pet stores, dog training schools, vets, animal hospitals, or animal care organisations. Then research which ones are local to you. Visit them. Get to know the people. Ask how your business could support their business or organisation. See if you can refer your clients to them, and ask if they will refer clients to you.

Effectively networking in the new area will accelerate the development of your business.

Juggling

While you take your photography business in a new direction you will have a lot to juggle. Network in your new space to accelerate your business.

Tip #5 – Leverage Your Previous Clients

I’m known for preaching that the key to a successful photography business is a growing number of happy clients. Don’t complicate things. Ask yourself – today, do I have more happy clients than I had last month?

When you are looking to move your photography business into a different area, leverage those strong client relationships. Get in touch with the couple whose wedding you shot last September and explain that you are moving into pet photography and ask if they know people who’d appreciate your style of images. People like to make referrals to their friends. Use this to your advantage and ask them to help you establish a new direction for your business. Those strong client relationships you’ve built up are an asset to you and your business. Use them as you move your business in a new direction.

Other resources

I’m a regular reader of Cole’s Classroom. It is an online resource covering a wide variety of photography topics. They recently had an interesting post about when you are trying to grow your photography business in a new geographic location. Check out 5 Tips For Growing Your Photography Business in a New Area.

If you are considering repositioning your photography business I hope that Taking Your Photography Business in a New Direction has been useful for you. Happy shooting!

Getty Launches Custom Content Briefs

In July 2017 many Getty and iStock photographers were advised of a new initiative – Custom Content briefs. This was positioned as a new way for photographers who currently submit to Getty and iStock to earn income.

What are Custom Content Briefs?

According to the communication from Getty “there’s a fast-growing market for brand imagery that is shot for clients on demand, but which is very different from a traditional commissioned shoot. With our vast customer base and your talent, we’re in a unique position to lead this rising market and grow revenue and royalties”.

Getty will send briefs to select contributors stating that it is for Custom Content. Again, directly from the Getty communication “the brief will explain the content need and any tips that could help”.

What are we likely to see in the Custom Content briefs? and what do I think?

The Getty brief says customers are asking for:

“Simple, easy to shoot, highly relevant topics. The content is meant to be loose and authentic, so making the images should be fast and easy.” This sounds just like the modern trend in stock photography. Less in the studio on a white background, and more with real people engaged in authentic activity. Nothing really new here.

Melbourne, Australia

Custom Content briefs are likely to want real people and authentic settings

“Customers come to us looking for large sets of imagery, in a variety of styles, on a specific theme or subject that fits their brand.” Ok, this is starting to sound different to the imagery Getty and iStock are known for. As a stock photographer I would typically try to shoot a wide variety of content in a single shoot. I wouldn’t necessarily be trying to shoot what this outline asks for. I can see the business need here. It’s not likely to be met by current stock libraries and represents an opportunity to get a better outcome for the customer.

“They often have very specific needs, for example that the images contain their product or are taken in specific countries or cities.” There are lots of stock briefs requesting content from specific locations, so that element is not new. But including their products is very new. Previously I would have avoided showing any branded product (so that it could be approved to be part of the main iStockphoto royalty free collection).

They typically want the imagery cleared for commercial use (released).” This is normal practice for stock photography, and makes sense here as the customer is likely to be a business who will want to use the images in a commercial context.

“They want to license this imagery exclusively.” Again this is new ground for Getty and iStock. The model of stock photography has traditionally been low prices and images which will be bought by multiple customers. In this case they are saying that the customer will purchase exclusive rights for the images.

Man in Melbourne

Custom Content briefs seem to be a form of crowd sourced contract work

So what’s the concept here?

The idea of Custom Content briefs seems to be a hybrid of crowd sourced contract work. This type of content would not have previously been met by image libraries, and a client would have had to contract a photographer to shoot this imagery. Getty’s Custom Content briefs look like they are trying to marry their relationship with a large number of clients, with their relationship with a large number of photographers for mutual benefit.

If it is successful, the client, photographer, and Getty are all likely to benefit. And equally, photographers who were previously shooting this content on contract to the client will be the losers. Their corporate client will be partnering with Getty and their photographer community, and no longer directly with the photographer.

In many ways, this concept is similar to the model operated by ImageBrief. For details, please see this earlier post on Beyond Here New Ways to Sell Your Images.

How will submissions work? and where will the images be displayed?

When responding to a brief, photographers will upload content through the Getty Images portal ESP. I see what Getty are thinking here, they will leverage their existing technology capability to open up a new market. From the photographers point of view this is straight forward as they are already familiar with ESP for their stock content uploads. They just need to add the brief code to the upload process so that Getty know it is content in response to the brief.

Where will the content be displayed? This is where things change. Instead of displaying on the Getty or iStock site for clients to purchase, these images will be “routed to the customer to review“.

If the customer buys your content – great – the photographer will earn an income. One point which Getty have not yet clarified for photographers is whether ‘unsuccessful’ content submissions can then be used in stock portfolios (if the images meet the criteria).

What’s the financial incentive for photographers?

Getty’s communication indicates “pricing will range based on the volume of images being requested by the customer – we expect to have a licence fee of between $200 and $400 per image.” And what will photographers get? “You will receive your standard royalties (in the case of iStock Exclusives this will be your iStock tiered rate).”

Those iStock exclusive tiered rates are from 25% to 45%.

If we take a rate in the middle (35%) that means iStock Exclusive contributors can expect to earn between $70 and $140 per image. (Getty have not advised the currency but we can safely assume they are talking about US dollars given they are a US based company).

Business woman

Early feedback from iStock photographers says they are skeptical about the potential financial return

What is the early feedback on the concept?

Taking a small sample of iStock photographers – those contributing to the iStock / Getty community forums – the initial feedback is largely negative. Most have a view that earnings per image won’t justify the time, money and effort to invest in the shoot.

Can the concept work?

I’m a glass half full person, and I would say that yes, the concept can work. It appears to be working for ImageBrief and their clients, and it can work for Getty too.

From my perspective, making the concept work will depend on Getty making sure the right clients are using Custom Content briefs.

I would see a client wanting just one image and wanting to pay $300 will not work as the photographer will receive between $75 and $135 depending on their royalty rate. From my own point of view I expect my stronger stock files to produce more income than this and so would choose to shoot stock ahead of Custom Content briefs.

However, if a client wants 25 images at $200 each that’s a $5000 shoot for which the photographer would receive between $1250 and $2250. Depending on the quality of the brief I would consider shooting to a brief that offered this potential return. I would be even more likely to if any ‘unsuccessful’ images (ie not bought by the client) could then be used in my stock portfolio.

So?

Getty intends the first Custom Content briefs to be issued soon. Time will tell whether the concept will work, but I have a view that it can. Do you share that view? Do you plan to shoot for Custom Content briefs?

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.

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!

Delivering More Products Per Customer

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

Australian money

Delivering more products per customer will help grow profits

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

Our photographer has several options. They could:

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

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

Pile of canvas prints

Canvas prints are popular with my family and wedding photography clients

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

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

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

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

wedding album

I always show sample albums to potential wedding clients

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

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

canvas print

Birthdays and anniversaries are great times to contact previous clients

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

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

Developing Multiple Photography Income Streams

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

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

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

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

Bride

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

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

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

Home studio

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

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

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

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

Businesswoman sitting on the ground

Adding to my stock portfolio helps create a future income stream

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

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

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

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

8 Steps to Start Your Freelance Photography Business

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

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

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

Step 1 – Start Planning Your Business

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

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

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

Step 2 – Establish Start Up Funds

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

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

Step 3 – Figure Out What Tools You Need

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

BridgeStep 4 – Editing Your Shots

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

Step 5 – Legal Lingo

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

Step 6 – Getting the Right Insurance

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

SunriseStep 7 – Don’t Sell Yourself Short

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

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

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

Step 8 – Be Inspired

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

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

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

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

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