Category Archives: Craig’s Comments

Comments from Craig

How to Ruin Potential Sales

Lately I seem to be particularly sensitive to poorly targeted promotions which leave me feeling like a number rather than a client or partner. I’ve called this post ‘how to ruin potential sales’ as the people who send me these promotions are ruining their chance of me buying from them.

So What Are We Talking About?

Yesterday I received an email promotion from qHero. If you aren’t familiar with qHero – they are a business which offer services for stock photographers. I have been using qHero to upload stock images to iStockphoto since early 2017. More recently they started offering a stats feature and a retouching service. You can read about that in this post – qHero Stats Feature.


Flinders Street

I shoot a lot of Melbourne lifestyle stock content, so am a potential customer to qHero retouching service

What Was the Content?

Taken directly from the email, here is the offer from qHero.

“Retouching Special – 50% Off

With the summer over us, we feel that at least you should get to enjoy the sun. We know how much time and effort retouching takes, and it seems even longer during the summer. Whether the time is spent on managing retouchers inhouse or outsourced, or even worse doing the retouching yourself, it is guaranteed to keep you out of the sun.

We offer you 50% off on up to 200 files in retouching.

Convert the time saved from retouching, into time in the sun, makes it an easy choice. We are happy because we get to show you how awesomely easy it is to manage retouching directly in the tool you use already for uploading.

All you have to do is to use the promo code XXXXXXXX when ordering. This promo is valid until August 31st 2018, and as always we would love to hear what you think after trying our retouching service.”

Why is This Going to Ruin Potential Sales

This is going to ruin potential sales as it is poorly targeted!

I live in Melbourne, Australia where it is currently mid winter. It’s dark, cold and wet. At this time of year we spend more time indoors, and I spend some of that time doing post production work.

The idea of “convert time saved from retouching into time in the sun” is a nice idea, but would require me to book airline tickets and head to the airport! Hello Queensland or Fiji!

weather Melbourne

Today was a maximum of 12 degrees celsius in Melbourne. It’s not exactly summery right now!

What’s My Take Out from the qHero Email

I understand that the bulk of qHero customers will be in the northern hemisphere where it is currently summer. However, as they’ve sent me a summer promotion in the middle of winter it leaves me to think:

  • they don’t care about customers in the southern hemisphere
  • qHero don’t want customers in the southern hemisphere
  • they don’t have much attention to detail. (It would be ironic not have much attention to detail for a retouching service!)
  • although I have 10,000+ images at iStock and have uploaded more than 300 batches of images through qHero, I am just another ‘anonymous user’ to them

So, unfortunately qHero have ruined the chance of a sale by sending me a poorly targeted email promotion.

What Can We Learn

I am a believer that every business, big and small, can learn from experiences like this. I run a one person photography business, and many of the readers of Beyond Here are also running one person creative businesses. We have an advantage over big businesses because all of our customers are local. There’s no chance of me sending a summer promotion to a customer in mid winter (unless they have moved overseas without me knowing!) While it’s not likely that local businesses can make this ‘mistake’ there are lessons to learn.

Female tram traveller

Right now it’s cold in Melbourne. People are wearing coats and hats. Not quite the right time for a summer promotion email

Key Take Outs

I see three key take outs from this experience.

Number 1 – Personalize offers where possible. Being offered a summer promotion in the middle of winter tells me this is a mass mailing to a large number of people. Immediately I know that it is not targeted to me. Small business owners who really know their customers won’t make this mistake.

Number 2 – Know your customer. In this case, it seems qHero haven’t taken the time to really know their customer. I can’t remember whether I provided location information when I signed up for their upload service. I expect I didn’t. But I have uploaded more than 300 batches of images to iStock through qHero ….. and more than 290 of those batches would have the keyword “Australia”. A similar number would have the keywords “Melbourne” and “Victoria”. It would be fair to assume that I live in Australia based on those numbers. And right now in Melbourne it’s definitely not summer.

Number 3 – Don’t treat everyone the same. This point is similar to point 1 where we can learn to personalize offers. I wonder if qHero segmented their users based on how often they upload through qHero? or how many batches they upload? It feels to me like they didn’t, and that reinforces the lesson – don’t treat everyone the same.

The Wrap Up

I hope there are some key messages in here which will help your business and will make sure you don’t ruin potential sales. If you have had a similar experience, please share it in the comments. And finally, if the good people at qHero ever read this post, I think your upload and stats services are great. In your promotions I’m much more likely to buy something if you make me feel like a client or a partner. Thanks for reading ‘How to Ruin Potential Sales’.

Fresh Perspectives on My Hometown

Last month I had a unique photographic opportunity. I had previously worked with a young woman who is training to be a commercial pilot. Several years ago we had done a successful stock photo shoot. We’ve kept in touch since then, and last month she asked if I would be interested in a scenic flight over my hometown, with her as the pilot of course! I jumped at the opportunity for fresh perspectives on my hometown.

Melbourne scenic view

Fresh perspectives on my hometown. Melbourne and Albert Park Lake from 1500 feet.

Flying is very weather dependent and on our first attempt we had to cancel due to the hazy conditions and their impact on visibility. We rescheduled for 3 days later, and although the conditions were still hazy, we were able to fly.

pilot and aircraft

My pilot and aircraft

My expert pilot completed the necessary paperwork on the ground and we took off for a 40 minute flight around Melbourne. We headed from Moorabin Airport toward the Westgate Bridge, then flew around the north side of the city including great views of the MCG and Melbourne Park. We completed this circuit twice. I was grateful for several delays as air traffic control asked us to circle more than once. It gave me the opportunity to photograph the views, and the pilot in action.

Melbourne Cricket Ground

Seeing the MCG from above was unique

I shoot a lot of Melbourne lifestyle stock images and seeing the city from above was unique. I appreciated the fresh perspectives on my hometown. It was refreshing to shoot content which was completely new to me.

Aerial shot of Albert Park Lake

Looking down on Albert Park Lake

Reflections

On reflection, it is easy to get into a photographic rut where we shoot similar content all the time. I find this with wedding photography and also with my stock photography. Do you find this too?

It was good to shoot something new – something I didn’t know well. It was refreshing to be a ‘beginner’ at aerial photography and to see things in an entirely new way. Making multiple laps of the city gave me time to experiment with several angles and subjects. It was fun.

New Perspectives

This gave me fresh perspectives on my hometown. Do you need a fresh perspective? Have you considered shooting something completely new?

Female pilot

The pilot expertly guided as back to home base

Regular readers of Beyond Here will know I shoot a lot of kids basketball. I find I can get into a rut with basketball as well, as I know the game well and know the best spots to position myself. This week I’m going to shoot something new again – a gymnastics competition. I’m fully expecting that being a beginner at gymnastics photography will be fun and will help me experiment in ways which will help the other shoots I do.

Thanks for reading fresh perspectives on my hometown. I hope you can find something new and challenging to shoot this week. Have fun!

7 Early Lessons Building an Image Library

Over the last 6 months I’ve had a dramatic change in my approach to stock photography. I had been an exclusive contributor to iStock since 2010 and had a portfolio of over 10,000 images producing a steady income. The problem was, the income was steady but not growing in line with my portfolio. I wrote about some of those issues in Why I Dropped iStock Exclusivity. At that time most of my stock photography friends were expecting me to spread my portfolio among the other major stock sites. I saw that being a very similar road to being with iStock, and instead focused on building an image library.

I can probably fill many posts with things I’ve learned on the journey so far – but for this post I have limited it to 7 Early Lessons Building an Image Library.

Lesson 1 – It Can be Done!

The most important point first – it can be done! Selling images via microstock sites is not the only option. Building an image library is an option and can be done.

Encourage

Building an image library can be done!

I went from committing to building it, to having a working website in 10 weeks. I’ve learned a lot on the way and could do it faster and more effectively if I was doing it again. But, coming back to lesson 1, if you are considering an alternative to microstock – building an image library can be done.

Lesson 2 – You Don’t Have to Build from Scratch

When I started seriously considering building an image library I had assumed I would have to build the website functionality from scratch. I assumed I would need to write a brief and have a web developer write the code. Good news, I was wrong!

There are several places where you can buy pre-existing capability which is proven in running other image libraries. So it was not a case of wondering if it would work, but buying the capability and tailoring it to my image library.

It was a big short cut and time saver to find that purchasing existing capability was going to be cheaper and easier than starting from scratch.

Lesson 3 – Knowledge of Hosting and Servers will Help

I had assumed that with some common sense and patience I’d be able to work out what was needed regarding servers and hosting for the new site.

On reflection I would say that is true. I also believe I caused myself unnecessary anxiety and worry by not talking to an expert before I started! My recommendation is to find an expert in this space. They will advise what you need.

Time saver

Getting expert help on the technical side will ultimately save you time and help you sleep better!

Save yourself some sleepless nights by asking an expert about hosting and servers.

Lesson 4 – There’s Value in Taking Time to Set Up Correctly

I decided to create a new company to keep the image library business separate from my photography business. If you haven’t done this before, setting up a new company is a relatively straight forward process which an accountant can help with.

Where’s the lesson here? In my desire to get moving I bought the domain name and registered it under my photography company (not the image library company). My speed in doing that then managed to slow me down. I had to subsequently transfer the web address to the new company, and wait several days for that to happen.

In hindsight it was not a big deal. But next time I would establish the new company first and then purchase the web address.

Lesson 5 – Things Take Time

In lesson 1 I outlined that I went from concept to working website in 10 weeks. Some might think 10 weeks is fast, and others will think it is slow. During this process I have learned that things which I assumed would move very quickly can take time.

Specifically I was surprised that setting up payment functionality through the bank would take time. There was plenty of paperwork involved, followed by review from the bank. There must be processes in the background for a bank to make sure everything is legitimate, but I hadn’t expected it to take several weeks. That’s worth knowing if you are setting up payment functionality on your own website or image library.

The second area which took longer than I expected was the legal agreements. The main ones I needed were a licence agreement for the image buyer, and a photographer agreement for contributing photographers. While from a legal point of view this is fairly straightforward, lawyers are not just waiting around for customers like me. They have a range of (mostly larger) projects on the go, and mine was not the A priority. In future I’ll allow more time for the legals to be completed.

Lesson 6 – User Experience of the Website is Key

I made a mistake in launching too soon without properly considering the user experience on the website. I was anxious to move from “build phase” to “proof of concept” on my business plan, and went live as soon as possible.

Puzzle

User experience is a very important piece of the puzzle

I’ve learned that having a working website is one thing. And having a website which is appealing and intuitive to customers is another. Unfortunately that meant that the first 1000 visitors to the site had a “less than ideal” experience.

Both the look of the site and the functionality are now much improved. This will be something we continue to develop. My recommendation is don’t be too anxious to launch. Invest time in making sure your site looks great and is intuitive for your user.

Lesson 7 –  Find a Web Developer You Trust

I have complete trust and faith in my web developer. It is so reassuring to know that the person on the other end of many emails and text messages is completely trust worthy and working to make the website a success. Nothing seems to have been too much of a problem despite there being lots of things to work on some weeks, and nothing to work on in others (thanks Alison!). Having a web expert you completely trust is great for peace of mind.

I have lots more lessons learned on this journey already which I will save for other posts. Thanks for reading 7 Early Lessons Building an Image Library. If you’d like to check out progress, please head over to Melbourne Stock Photos.

 

Imagebrief Terminate Services

Almost exactly one year ago I wrote a post for Beyond Here called New Ways to Sell Your Images. It looked at a site called Imagebrief which was connecting image buyers with photographers by providing written briefs. My final point in that post raised the question Will It Be Successful? Today that question has been answered. Overnight I’ve received an email announcing the end – Imagebrief terminate services.

Plan

Their plan seems to have fallen over. News overnight that Imagebrief terminate services

Directly from the announcement where Imagebrief terminate services

“Dear Craig,

Today, we’re announcing that after six years of connecting agencies, brands and creators, we will be closing down ImageBrief’s photographer marketing services.

We’re proud of the products and apps we built, but even more so, we’re grateful for the community that enabled them to grow. More than 70,000 creators earned millions of dollars collaborating with 12,500+ global agencies and brands in 169 countries.

There has never been a better time for creators to thrive. Demand for content has increased, and the tools to create world-class creative are more accessible than ever.

Our talented team of engineers, designers, developers, and curators have worked tirelessly to make ImageBrief a success in a competitive and rapidly evolving landscape, and our immediate priority is to help you transition to other services to support your business.

In the coming days, our team will be in contact with you directly with detailed information about your specific account, license history, and services. Over the next week, we recommend logging into ImageBrief to download and retain your license history and related assets. Further details can be found in the FAQ’s below.

We want to thank you for your participation and loyalty, and look forward to working with you in the coming weeks to ensure a smooth transition.

Sincerely,

Team ImageBrief”

How Will This Impact Individual Photographers?

I had submitted images to a handful of briefs but it was a tiny part of my business.

I know 2 photographers who invested significant time and energy working on briefs for Imagebrief. They were positive about the financial returns they received. Those photographers also felt the briefs directly connected them with the buyer, and gave them a better understanding of the needs of the image buyer.

They will no longer have Imagebrief as a source of income or ideas.

money

Multiple sources of income is an asset to any business

What Can We Take From This?

The email from Imagebrief doesn’t explain why Imagebrief terminate services. I assume the business model was not a financial success.

This reinforces the challenge of working with an online business. If it is not going well, that is very difficult for a photographer to know. I doubt any photographers were wholly relying on Imagebrief for their work and income. If they were, they have very short notice for finding alternatives.

As a business this reinforces the value of having multiple sources of income.

What Other Outlets Does a Photographer Have?

There are significant challenges with the stock photography model and distributing through major stock agencies. However, this is still an easy way to access a global market of image buyers. If you’ve got the time and the commitment to produce a high volume of images, stock photography is still an option.

With the announcement of Imagebrief terminate services it also reinforces to me the value of a photographers relationships in their local community. There is always a pipeline of work, both commercial and domestic, where people want to deal with local people who they know and trust.

map

Investing in local relationships helps produce a pipeline of business

I recently did a shoot for a dentist who runs his own practice. Ironically, he wanted images which did not look like stock images (!) and featured himself and his staff. He asked me to do the work as he knows and trusts me. He didn’t get quotes from other photographers, and he paid my invoice within 3 days of receiving it. That was great value from a strong relationship built over time. Have you been investing in relationships in your local community? Is it providing you a pipeline of work?

For more reading about Imagebrief Terminate Services see this post on PetaPixel – ImageBrief Shuts Down After 6 Years of Trying to Disrupt Stock Photos

Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs

Thank you Beyond Here readers. Beyond Here has been ranked in this list of the Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs. Thanks to you for reading Beyond Here, and for sending in your questions and comments.

I’m not sure how many Australian Photography Blogs there are, but being ranked in the top 100 feels good. Beyond Here is ranked at number 87. We have plenty of room to move up in the rankings next year!

Photo Blog

Beyond Here has ranked in the Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs

I encourage you to check out the blogs on the list. Australian photographers are doing fascinating work and reading these blogs will give you insight and ideas for your own work. Are you are into wedding, new born, or family photography? If so, you are extra lucky. There are numerous blogs on the list in those genres.

I’ve been through the full list of the Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs. I didn’t visit every blog, but I did check out a lot of them. Interestingly, Beyond Here is the only one on the list focused on the business side of photography. Does that mean we can be the self proclaimed Number 1 Australian Business Photography Blog?!

Where to from here?

Starting 2018 I’ve set several objectives for further improving Beyond Here. These include:

  • More frequent posts. As the Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs list indicates, Beyond Here has been publishing an average of 2 posts per month. I’m aiming to increase that to 4 posts per month.
  • More emphasis on featured photographers. I find the featured photographers session interesting as it gives me insight into what other photographers are doing. It takes a lot of effort to organize and that’s why there haven’t been many posts to date! Look out for an increase in 2018.
  • Keep gear guides to a minimum. There are many good photography gear websites and blogs. Beyond Here is not one of them! I like to post about new or interesting gear from time to time, but am conscious that our focus is the business side of photography.
  • Share the journey of Melbourne Stock Photos. In January 2018 I launched an image library featuring lifestyle images of my home town. I see photographers setting up image libraries as a real alternative to the small returns offered by the major players in the microstock industry. I’ve had lots of questions about Melbourne Stock Photos already this year, and have committed to sharing the ups and downs of that journey.

I hope you will find plenty of content that is relevant to you and your business. (That way we can feature higher up the list of the Top 100 Australian Photography Blogs next year!) Thanks again for being a reader of Beyond Here. If you have specific business issues you would like addressed by Beyond Here, please add a comment to this post or send an email. Thank you.

5 Stock Photography Predictions for 2018

As 2017 draws to a close I have been giving thought to what the new year will bring in the fast changing world of stock photography. Stock photography makes up a considerable portion of my business, and it’s a part of the industry which has changed significantly in the last 5 years. It’s now possible to shoot stock images on your phone and upload them to your image library immediately. There’s options to shoot news worthy current events and upload them while the event is still happening. And there’s the inevitable decline of studio shots on a plain white background (thank goodness!). I’ve wrapped up my thoughts into 5 Stock Photography Predictions for 2018 and outlined what we, as photographers, can do to make the most of these trends.

Prediction #1. The Major Image Libraries are going to Continue to Compete on Scale and Price.

When I say the major image libraries, I’m referring to the big microstock players like iStockphoto, Shutterstock, Dreamstime and Adobe. Their business models are built around offering a huge number of files in one place.

SelfieFor customers, this can be good as they can get all of their image needs in one place. For photographers, it can be very difficult to make your images show up in this vast sea of high volume and low quality images.

Photographers who want to compete using the major microstock libraries to distribute their images will need to keep production costs low and volumes very high. (That sounds like a path to hard work and limited creativity to me).

Prediction #2. Subscription Programs are Going to Continue to Drive Prices Down.

Subscriptions have major benefits for image libraries. With the customer paying the same amount per month, the image library can accurately predict their income in future months. And of course if the customer doesn’t use all of their subscription for the month, most libraries are keeping the customers money and not having to pay a royalty to photographers for that month. That can make it a profitable business for the image libraries.

Subscriptions are very attractive to image libraries and they compete aggressively, particularly to win large clients. Unfortunately subscriptions have also driven down the royalty received per download by photographers.

For the photographer to do well financially in this model – again they will need to keep production costs down and volumes very high. Urrrggghhh.

Prediction #3. Customers are Going to Demand a Better Solution

Predictions #1 and #2 are an extension of the current trends in the stock photography market. It is leading to an influx of ‘low production value’ images. And that influx is in high volumes. Photographers are adding more images in the hope of making up for the reduced royalty per download.

santa hat

Customers are no longer looking for generic images

So where’s this all heading? It is making it harder and harder for customers to find the type of image they need in a short time period. They are getting frustrated with the amount of time it takes to find the image to meet their needs. It’s only going to get worse as the large libraries pass 15 million, then 20 million, then 25 million files.

I’m predicting we will see continued frustration for customers, leading to them looking for alternative solutions.

Prediction #4. There Will be Growing Demand for Authentic Stock Images

What do I mean by ‘authentic stock images’? Several years ago there was a time when a ‘generic’ stock image was enough for a buyer. A generic image would help tell their story. We are seeing those days rapidly pass, with much less demand for studio shots on a white background. What are we seeing instead? We are seeing demand for ‘real life’ settings and ‘real life’ people. We are talking about much less of ‘beautiful models in studios’ and much more ‘everyday people in everyday situations’. I recently heard a saying which sums up this trend – less perfection, more authenticity.

What can photographers do to capitalize on this? Shoot images which communicate ‘less perfection, more authenticity’ and you’ll see your downloads grow.

Prediction #5. The Rise of the Niche Image Library

Prediction #3 says customers are going to look for alternative solutions to their image buying needs. They no longer want to wade through thousands of images to find the one they need. And unfortunately, the major libraries have a lot invested in their current solutions. I predict we are going to see customers, in growing numbers, rejecting those solutions and looking elsewhere.

And where will that be? It will be with niche image libraries. Libraries which don’t offer every image type – but they do offer high quality, relevant images for their niche.

What type of niche am I talking about? It could be anything. It could be country specific. I have started uploading my own files to a library which specializes in Australian content – you can read more about my rationale for moving away from the microstock sites here. It could be industry specific (like tradespeople, or mining, or healthcare). It could be content specific (like wildlife photography).

And these libraries will charge higher prices than the large microstock players do.

Coffee shop

Less perfection, more authenticity. Real people in real situations.

How will niche libraries justify higher prices? By saving customers time in looking for the images they need. Customers will save time using multiple websites from niche libraries. They’d rather do that than spending hours wading through pages and pages of images with the large microstock players. And with higher prices come higher royalties for photographers. And with higher royalties comes more money to invest in shoots, which leads to greater creativity, which leads to better images.

Ultimately it will lead to niche libraries having unique and superior content to the big volume libraries.

How can photographers benefit from this prediction? I’m convinced that niche players and higher prices are the way forward. Photographers would do well to research who those niche libraries are and begin a relationship with them. If you shoot wildlife images, start looking at the niche wildlife libraries. If you shoot urban lifestyle images, look at niche libraries that specialize in this content. You get the idea.

As an aside – how might the major microstock players benefit from this trend? They could be the source of disruption to their own business! Rather than wait for a niche player to grow and get traction, the major players could start niche libraries themselves. Much like the major airlines launched ‘low-cost’ off shoots in the late 1980’s, the major image libraries have the expertise and resources to start the niche libraries themselves. (If you are a Getty Images executive reading this – remember you heard it here first! From one bloke down at the bottom of the world in Melbourne, Australia. Your choices are to watch others do this, or lead the change. Be bold. Disrupt your own business model).

2018 is going to be another challenging year in stock photography. Thanks for reading 5 Stock Photography Predictions for 2018. We’ll check back in 12 months and see how accurate they were! Happy shooting.

 

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!

 

 

Pretty Cool Personalized Camera Strap

This week I celebrated passing a milestone in my stock photography work. I started contributing to iStock in 2008. At that time there was a limit of 15 uploads per week. A lot has changed in stock photography and for iStock itself since then, and this week I had my 10,000th photo added to the collection. So what has that got to do with a pretty cool personalized camera strap? I’ll get to that!

For the last 10 years I’ve been able to average 1000 uploads per year to my stock portfolio in addition to other work. This year I’ve really knuckled down, and have gone from 9,000 to 10,000 photos on iStock in just 5 months.

How have I done that? These 2 posts from Beyond Here helped me make a step change in my stock photography output. Check out How to Drive Change in Your Photography Business and Two Great Sayings Photography Business Owners Should Know.

camera strap

The personalized camera strap arrived in a funky branded box

So where does a pretty cool personalized camera strap come in?

To celebrate the milestone of reaching 10,000 stock images I splashed out on a personalized camera strap from Luckystraps.

I’ve always disliked the branded camera strap which comes with Canon camera bodies. I particularly dislike that the strap has the name of the model on the strap. For potential thieves it makes it very easy to know which camera to try to steal. As a user of full frame camera bodies I’d prefer those potential thieves don’t know the model and value of my camera.

camera strap

Luckystraps are based in Australia but ship worldwide

So this week, I checked out the leather camera straps from Luckystraps. They have an interesting range, and I particularly like the classic look of their leather camera strap. They offer a service to emboss the strap and so I had my name added. It’s a pretty cool personalized camera strap.

Even more impressive was that I ordered the strap on the Tuesday, and it was delivered on Thursday. Nice work.

If you are interested in a personalized camera strap – check out Luckystraps.

Note: It turns out that Luckystraps is run by a guy called Justin in Bendigo, Australia. Bendigo is one of my favorite places in regional Victoria, so I have an instant liking for Justin and his business! As I read more on his website, Justin runs a wedding photography business. Not only is he living in a pretty cool place, he’s involved in a pretty cool business. Good job Justin. Check out the Luckystraps website and get yourself a pretty cool personalized camera strap. (I have no affiliation with Justin or Luckystraps – although I’d like to! It would give me another reason to visit Bendigo!)

 

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!