Category Archives: Craig’s Comments

Comments from Craig

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!

Five Reasons to Start Your Photography Blog Now

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

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

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

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

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

bird

A photography blog will help bring focus to your online activity

Reason 2 – A Photography Blog Provides You a Target Audience

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

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

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

puzzle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

variety

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

Reason 5 – Writing a Blog Drives You to be Productive

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

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

Doctrine of a Successful Pro Photographer

I have the good fortune to speak with a large number of pro photographers. Sometimes it’s helping with the business side of their photography, sometimes it’s at industry events, and often it is simply in a social setting. Those discussions give me a lot of content to share on Beyond Here, and in this post I share the doctrine of a successful pro photographer. If you are a pro photographer or an aspiring pro, these points should give you goalposts to measure your progress and assess the next step forward.

Doctrine of a Successful Pro Photographer

  1. Know Your Gear. Put very simply, pro photographers have the equipment for the job and know how to use it. This knowledge means they know they can get the job done, and even if something goes wrong on shoot day – they know their gear well enough to be able to meet the client’s needs.

    bird

    The successful pro photographer shows only their best work

  2. Aim for Genius. Here’s an ambition! Successful pro photographers don’t just want to grind out another job and get paid. They want to exceed the clients needs and break new ground themselves. Every shoot is another opportunity for their best shoot ever. The doctrine of the successful pro photographer means they must keep pushing forward. Ok is not good enough. Raise your standards. Aim for genius.
  3. Be Ethical. The successful pro photographer knows that life as a photographer is both a career option and part of their being. By default, they plan to be in this business a long time. This is not a summer job, this is their life. They know they need to deal ethically with everyone they come in contact with. Always.
  4. Back Up. The successful pro photographer knows that shooting, producing and delivering great images is part of the job. There will be times when clients lose files and need help. Living the doctrine of a successful pro photographer means organizing files and backing up so they can be found when they are needed.
  5. Show Only Your Best Work. If you are aiming for genius you will show only your best work. Being a successful pro photographer is not about sharing the most work, it’s about sharing only your best work and showing potential clients what you are capable of. Don’t be tempted to share anything less than your best.

    Money

    Doctrine of the successful pro photographer. Know your worth. Every job has a price you won’t go below.

  6. Know Your Worth. Number 6 is what sets the successful pro apart from the successful non pro. Pro photographers know what their time and skills are worth. Often that is built on having dealt with a lot of clients over a period of time. Successful pro photographers typically have some flexibility in their pricing structure to meet their clients needs – and they all have a clear picture about the price they will not go below. Know your worth.
  7. Know Your Client. Successful pro photographers know their worth and they also know their client. More importantly they know who is not their client. A high end wedding shooter knows that if a potential client’s first question is about budget they are unlikely to be a suitable client for them. boy
  8. Stand Out. Successful pro photographers are not run of the mill. They stand out. They build a reputation. They continue to work on their art and evolve over time. What was excellent this year, will be so-so next year. The doctrine of a successful pro photographer is continuing to strive to stand out. This process never ends.
  9. Keep Learning and Evolving. To aim for genius and to stand out mean the successful pro photographer must keep learning and evolving. Photography is an art that is never mastered. There is always something new to learn or a new piece of equipment to master. There is a new way to see and to express. Keep learning and evolving. Keep shooting. Keep breaking new personal frontiers.
  10. Be Authentic. Successful pro photographers know that their business is about producing great images and experiences for their clients. It is not about the photographers ego or desire to look good. To that end, successful pro photographers are authentic. There is no pretense. They are genuine and authentic in their desire to serve their customer and at the same time express their artistic vision.

Thanks for reading the doctrine of the successful pro photographer. How are you measuring up to these 10 points?

 

How Not to Run Your Small Business

I love to share good news stories and experiences to help us run our businesses better. This week I’ve got a bad news story to share. There are lots of lessons to learn from this one – and they are all about how not to run your small business. (I’ll try to focus on the lessons and avoid a rant!)

I am currently planning a stock photo shoot where I need an environment that looks like a shared working space or creative collaboration area. (It’s a concept shoot for my stock portfolio with iStockphoto and Getty Images). I have researched possible locations and have found a venue which looks suitable. It is a studio space in downtown Melbourne, Australia which has two large studio areas and a rooftop outdoor space. It looks very cool and I could imagine it as a creative collaboration area or even as a workspace for a funky advertising agency. I was impressed that they also have a range of tables and chairs and props which could make it look like an active work space, and flexible enough to look like a café.

Here’s where my problems started and the lessons for how not to run your small business begin.

customer service

In small business, you are at the center of customer service

My first step was to call the studio to arrange a time to view the space. I was going to be in the area last Friday and wanted to visit. So on Tuesday I gave them a call. The only contact number on the website is a mobile number. I called. There was no answer. There was no option to leave a message. I thought that was odd, but I pressed on. I went back to the website and got the email address. On Tuesday afternoon, I sent an email to the only email address listed on the website.

I didn’t expect an instant reply to my email, but by Wednesday night I was wondering if they had received it and if they were going to reply before Friday.

I have been following this studios posts on Instagram for several months and was encouraged when they added a new post on Thursday. I sent them a private message on Instagram asking if it would be possible for me to visit them on Friday.

By Friday, I hadn’t received a reply to my email or Instagram message, but I was in the area and decided to visit them. Again I drew a blank. At 10.30am the studio roller door was down and there appeared to be nobody around.

As I’m writing this post it is Tuesday afternoon, one week after my first attempt to contact the studio. I haven’t had a reply to my email or Instagram message.

So, what could possibly explain what’s going on for this studio? I’m assuming it can only be one of two things. First, is that business is so good and they are so busy that they have not got back to potential clients. It is a busy time of year and it is possible that they have lots of bookings prior to Christmas. The second possibility is that business is terrible and they have more pressing issues than getting back to a potential client. Who knows, they could be in financial trouble? Or be about to shut down? Or a key person may have health issues? Or there may be other issues that I know nothing about which means they haven’t got back to me? Who knows.

serviceSo, what are the lessons we might learn from this? I’ve come up with five. If you have some to add, or want to share your own experience please add some thoughts in the comments section below.

  1. Make sure website details are correct and up to date. I wondered if they had mis-typed their own phone number and email address? That sure would have an impact on the number of bookings they get.
  2. If there are special circumstances, let your clients and potential clients know. I assumed this was a poorly run business with no focus on responding to clients. But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe it’s a one person business and they have a sick child? or a major health issue? To avoid clients thinking the worst – keep them informed. Let them know via your website or phone message or auto reply from your email that they are currently experiencing special circumstances.
  3. Clients expect you to respond promptly. Make doing this a priority. I thought the idea of contacting the studio on Tuesday and visiting on Friday was giving them lots of time. (I have some clients contact me today and want to visit same day!) Given the ease of electronic communication clients expect a prompt reply. Set aside time in your day to get back to people.
  4. Word of mouth is a big influencer. Unfortunately I’ve already told this story to several people. It’s annoyed me that I thought I’d found a great location and I haven’t heard back from them. The studio might be getting an unfair wrap, but I’ve shared my experience with other photographers and I know it will influence their choice of studios in the future. Reputation is important. Word of mouth – good or bad – is influential. Do everything to make the word of mouth feedback for your own business positive.
  5. Doing the basics well is important. Many, many small businesses are built on providing excellent customer service. Excellent customer service does not have to be fancy or special. Often it is about doing the basics very well, every day of the year.

Thanks for taking the time to read how not to run your small business. If you have an experience to add for other readers, please use the comments section below. And to finish this post on a high, please read this post about a great customer experience I had.

How to Drive Change in Your Photography Business

I have been working with photographers wanting to make a step change in their business. Three of them are running existing businesses and one is starting out. All four are clear that they want to change and want to see change in their business, and have struggled to make that happen. That has lead to this post – how to drive change in your photography business.

For change to occur, research says you need three elements. They are:

  1. A picture, or vision, of where you want to get to
  2. An understanding of what pain or discomfort you would feel if you didn’t achieve that
  3. Clarity about the next step
focus

Step 1, be specific about your vision. It will bring focus to your business and your actions

So, how to we use this to drive change in a photography business? We work through each step to provide direction to our business. If we haven’t been able to turn that into action and change yet, then we needed greater detail.

Let’s look at each.

Firstly, building a vision of where you want to get to. In this step it’s really easy to be vague. If you are serious about change you need to be specific. For the photographer just starting out, she wants to be a successful wedding photographer.

That is not a vision and is not specific enough to drive towards. Work through – what does that mean? How many weddings per year? What sort of weddings? How much will you be charging? Who will be doing albums and prints for you? What does your ideal couple look like? Where do they live? What sorts of venues do you want to shoot at? Will you have assistants helping you? How much money do you want to make per year? How many weeks off will you have? Get the idea? Spend time on building this vision in detail. Write it all down. Don’t be vague, be specific. If you haven’t been able to find the motivation for change yet – start by being very specific about your vision.

determination

Being clear on the pain of never achieving your vision will make defeat unacceptable

Second, consider the discomfort if you never make it to the vision. This second step really determines whether you have the fortitude to push ahead and make a change. One of the other photographers wants to move away from weddings and portraits, and ‘make it’ as a sports photographer. So how much discomfort will he have if he never makes the leap? If he says ‘oh well, I’ve got a successful business already … I’m comfortable … I’m doing well’ – then his chance of making the leap is almost nil.

However, if his answer is – ‘I will be completely unfulfilled, I will feel like my creative vision wasn’t realized, I will feel like my purpose in life hasn’t been achieved’ …. then wow (!) he has got some real motivation to get this thing done. Imagine the discomfort of saying “I will feel like my purpose in life hasn’t been achieved”. It’s not about money or status or material things … it is way bigger. This is a strong foundation for change. Give serious consideration to the discomfort you would feel if you didn’t achieve your vision. It will help clarify if you are really serious or are pretending.

my businessThird step, are you clear on the very next step. Don’t worry about all the steps ahead of you – just be clear on the next one and act on it. My budding sports photographer friend is clear he needs better equipment to shoot action sports. To date he has got by with his wedding and portrait equipment but he knows he needs a camera body that will shoot 10-12 frames per second to capture the fast moving football action. Buying new gear won’t guarantee success, but being clear on your very next step and taking action will keep getting you closer to your vision. Once you’ve acted on that very next step revisit your vision, revisit the discomfort you would have if you never made it, and decide on the very next step.

So, now you know a simple three step process for how to drive change in your photography business. (You can use this to drive any change in your life). Work through the three steps and you’ll move from procrastination to action, and from “I want to” to “I did”. Step forward with purpose. Drive change in your photography business!

Creating New Revenue Streams

The photography business is a very competitive one, with limited barriers to entry and extensive competition. This makes it challenging for both new and established businesses to generate an appropriate financial return. This week I’ve been working with a major financial services business. They are tackling the future needs of their business in a very structured way. I can see their approach to creating new revenue streams being appropriate to photographers. Let me explain.

So what is happening in this financial services business? Their CEO sees a rapidly changing environment driven by new technology, changing client needs, and heightened competition. It seems that in their business, the old model is dying – much like traditional photographer being overtaken by the new tech savvy weekend warrior.

Coins

Are you deliberately setting aside time to create new revenue streams?

This financial services business is preparing for the future. It’s how they are doing it that is really interesting. They are preparing by explicitly focusing on different parts of their business. They are very deliberately trying to build capability in creating new revenue streams.

  • 70% of their resources are dedicated to their core business
  • 20% of their resources are dedicated to emerging new growth opportunities, and
  • 10% of their resources are dedicated to long term experiments

So, how might we learn from the corporate world?

Most of the photographers I speak to are focusing one hundred percent of their time and energy on their traditional core business. Most are also seeing eroding margins for this work, or increased competition, or both. They don’t dedicate any of their time to creating new revenue streams. They are hoping that what they have always done will be relevant for their future clients and enable them to make a living. Can you see a flaw in this logic? Without change, the best they can hope for is a slow decline in their business and some seriously long hours.

How could we implement a strategy similar to the financial services business? If you are working 5 days per week, dedicating 20% of your time to emerging new growth opportunities is the equivalent of one day per week. What might this look like? Well, this will be different for every different business, but a traditional wedding photographer might spend that time investing and learning about implementing drone technology into their wedding photography business. This would give them a unique point of difference, and stop their business being overtaken by competitors. Exactly what you do in that one day per week is up to you, the point I want to make is that you could be spending one day per week creating new revenue streams for your current business.

Jigsaw puzzleAnd what about long term experiments? The financial services business was dedicating ten percent of it’s resources to long term experiments. How could we do this? Ten percent of our time is one day every two weeks. Could you set that aside to focus on a completely new income stream for your business? Could you build onto your current business something that you have an interest in? Maybe a new line of photography, new products, a blog, photography seminars, photography tours? Again the activity is up to you, but I want to encourage you to deliberately set aside time for creating new revenue streams.

Thanks for reading this blog. I hope it has given you insight into how another business is tackling the challenge of creating new revenue streams that can be translated into something meaningful for your business.

What is the Summer Slowdown in Stock Photography

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

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

Couple

July and August are typically slow months for stock photography sales

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

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

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

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

baby

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

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

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

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

Girl with Australian flag

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

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

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

Superior Customer Service Tips

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

Customer Service

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

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

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

Student on smart phone

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

5 Opportunities When You Are Asked to Shoot for Free

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

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

beach huts

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

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

Wallaby

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

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

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

dead line

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

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

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

Fail Fail Fail Succeed, Irony

Today I was watching a corporate video which examined the difference between invention and innovation. (Please keep reading – I know that was a boring first sentence but it does get better). Invention is about making something for the very first time, while innovation is about building on something that already exists. (Trust me it does get better, just keep going). Innovation is the buzzword of the corporate world. Everyone wants more innovation. So why fail fail fail succeed, irony? The video pointed out that to have an innovative business, you needed to be prepared to fail and accept failure as a stepping stone on the path way to success. At this point the corporate world started to explain what I often try to explain to photographers. Their photography is good, but their business is lousy. And it’s not about simply stepping back onto the right path.

Success

Success and failure aren’t different paths like here. Failure is a stepping stone to success.

I work with photographers to help improve their businesses. Unfortunately many come with the mindset that “I’m on the wrong track, can you just get me back on the path to success?”. It is not that easy, and doesn’t work that way. What works for one photographer, may not work for another. So you can’t copy what someone else is doing and expect it to succeed for you. Just because a successful photographer is advertising on facebook, if you advertise on facebook it doesn’t guarantee business success for you.

This is also what makes it exciting. There are lots of different ways to business success – you have to find the one that works for you and your business. There is no set formula – you have to find your own path.

So if success and failure are not different paths, how does it work? Explaining this is easy – living it is difficult!

Failure and success are on the same path. Failures are stepping stones to success. If you want to improve your business, challenge yourself to make more mistakes. Try things, learn from them. Have more failures, have more learnings. Trust that each failure is getting you closer to business success.

Take steps forward towards success. And once you get there, redefine success. That’s how it works. Failures are stepping stones toward success. If you give up, you may have stopped moving forward when you were just one step from business success! I’m grateful for the corporate video explaining it so well. Lots and lots of photographers could benefit from this insight.

So where does the irony part come in? Ironically, as photographers and creatives we understand that mistakes are ok.

Who takes only one landscape shot, knowing it is the best shot they could possibly take? In short, nobody does – especially in the digital age where it doesn’t cost more to shoot more. We take multiple images. We compose and recompose. We shoot, then review, then shoot again.

Sunrise

I can’t remember how many shots I took of this sunrise, but I certainly didn’t view the others as failures

We find new and different ways to view a scene. We might take 50 shots of a sunrise to get the image that really speaks to us. Do we view 49 of those images as failures? Heck, no! We know they were stepping stones and experiments that got us to the image we love. They gave us a point of reference to then shoot the best image of the day.

See the irony? As creatives we get it, and as business people we don’t. This insight can change your business today. Those 49 shots aren’t failures, they were helping you build up to the success.

See failures as the stepping stones to success. Fail fail fail succeed, irony. Pick up your camera and go and fail some more! Your business success depends on it.