Category Archives: Portraits

Great Location Great Options

If you are shooting weddings, portraits, or stock – the venue you choose will have a significant impact on both the style and variety of images you can produce. Some venues only allow for one style of image, while others will allow for multiple different styles. For maximum variety and impact, I’m looking for the double – Great Location Great Options.

Winter portrait

Take time to research your venue. It will lead to more successful shoots.

For this shoot with Ayona we were shooting with a dual purpose – the images were going to be used on her fashion blog (Her Style Saga) and also in my stock portfolio.


Woman on stairs

Large stairways always provide options and the leaves add to the wintery feel

I had wanted to shoot at this venue for some time, as I love the old architecture and building facades. I visited the venue twice before the shoot to check which locations would be suitable, and to see how the light would fall in the late afternoon when we were shooting.

That research made me realize there were a wealth of different options within short walking distance.

There were areas which showcased archways and classic architecture, others with beautiful building facades, some with park backgrounds, and yet others with fallen leaves which highlighted the late autumn, early winter time of year.

This was a venue with lots and lots of options (I liked it so much, I’ve already done another shoot there!)

So, what should you look for in locations?

Point 1 – Backgrounds which will add impact. I look for buildings or landscapes or architecture which will give a real sense of presence to the image. I want to add to the impact. This set of images was about a young woman and her passion for fashion. It could be shot in the studio, but there was more impact shooting outdoor. And in an outdoor venue, I wanted to be able to create a set of different images in a short space of time. That leads us to point 2.

Woman walking

Arches, classic architecture, fashion, and an overcast day are a great combination

Point 2 – look for venues with variety. I don’t want all my images from a shoot to look the same. This is particularly the case for wedding photography and stock photography where I am expecting to shoot and use a large number of images. So I don’t want all the same backgrounds.

I want to be able to easily move (ideally walk) between different areas which will give me different looking images. In this case, all the venues we used were within 5 minutes walk of each other. For me, that is perfect! The entire shoot lasted for less than 90 minutes and we produced a wide variety of images.

Point 3 – the location needs to be free from over crowding. To be able to shoot in a public space, you need a venue which will not be overcrowded. I didn’t want people wandering through the background of my images, so we chose to shoot on a Sunday afternoon on a fairly cool early winters day.

It was cool, but the wintery conditions meant we didn’t often have to pause for people to walk through the background where we were shooting. All the people were inside keeping warm!

Boots

Fallen leaves and leather boots added to the wintery feel.

Point 4 – choose venues with good accessibility and parking. This venue is about 25 minutes drive from where I live, which I would call fairly close to home. It is in a built up area and parking can be difficult during the week. So we chose to shoot on the weekend when we both had availability, knowing that the location would not be too crowded and we wouldn’t have much trouble finding a car park.

If you haven’t been putting much time and research into choosing locations, perhaps you should take a lesson from the advertising industry. In planning for TV commercials, ad agency staff spend hours and hours researching the perfect venues to support the story they are looking to tell. If you are a photographer shooting weddings, portraits or stock, perhaps you should spend more time researching venues to help you produce really strong images?

Architecture

Architecture can add impact

As well as Great Location Great Options, you need a good model to work with. Thank you to Ayona who was a very easy person to work with, and the shoot was a lot of fun.

If you would like to check out the images Ayona selected for her blog, or if you just love fashion – visit her blog out at Her Style Saga.

Thanks for taking the time to read Great Location Great Options.

Use Recognizable Backgrounds to Add Impact

There has long been a place (and a market!) for images shot in a studio on a plain background – just ask any established studio photographer. Studio images on plain backgrounds help to focus you entirely on the subject. But what if you are looking to bring a more contemporary look to your images? Have you tried to use recognizable backgrounds to add impact? And by backgrounds, I don’t mean studio backdrops – I mean real locations.

Why do recognizable backgrounds help to make a strong image? Recognizable backgrounds add location and meaning to an image. They create a connection with the viewer who will often know the exact location the image has been shot at, and may have even stood in the exact same location.

Flinders St Station

People who know Melbourne will instantly recognize this location

In this image, people who know Melbourne, Australia will instantly recognize this as the front entrance to the Flinders Street Railway Station on the corner of Flinders Street and Swanston Street. The location adds a distinct local flavor, and creates a connection with the viewer. Many people have stood in this exact location.

Why is this an opportunity for your photography business? Demand for images shot in the studio and isolated on white is falling, and demand for real people in real locations (including recognizable locations!) is booming. It is about creating genuine images which the viewer can relate to. Real people, real locations.

Parliament buildings

It’s possible to shoot in a variety of locations in a single shoot

Here are seven quick reasons why you might want to catch this wave.

  • clients love to shoot images which connect them to the location. Whether it’s permanent residents or travelers, people have an emotional connection to their home town, whether it’s a permanent or temporary home town.
  • locations look different at different times of year. Use the seasons to your advantage and shoot different styles in different seasons. Think how you could use this to shoot different images of the same client at different times of year?
  • if you are starting out, you can shoot this style of image with minimal cost. You may want a reflector or two, but you won’t incur the costs of setting up a studio when you shoot this type of image. This can be a very cost effective way to build a portrait business or stock portfolio.
  • demand for ‘local’ stock images is growing rapidly. Stock buyers are moving away from images which could have been shot anywhere, to images which clearly have context and location. If you are interested in driving your stock photo sales, shoot local and make it clear that the images have context and location.
  • shooting images on location is fun. I find it really enjoyable walking around my hometown finding new locations and shooting interesting local images. Often you can generate a very wide variety of images in a short period of time.
  • there is an almost limitless range of possible locations. I am shooting a stock photography series using locations in my home town. I started by writing down some locations to use, and ended up with a list of ideas three pages long! You won’t run out of locations to shoot at. Think creatively and you will be able to generate a huge range of shoot locations.
  • clients love to share location images on social media. This can only be good for business.

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you can use recognizable backgrounds to create some cool images and benefit your photography business. Happy shooting.

How to Find Models to Work With

Making the step from working with friends and family, to photographing clients, through to working with models are big steps in a photographers career. They are also challenging steps unless you have a network of appropriate people to shoot with. This post – How to Find Models to Work With – details ways for you to source models for your shoot.

basketball

Facebook groups and specialist sites are great places to connect with other creatives

Facebook. If you are a Facebook user and live in a place with a reasonable population, there is likely to already be a Facebook group set up which will help you.

As I’m writing this post I’ve gone to the Facebook search field and entered “Sydney models” and it has proposed a series of relevant groups.

As I scan down them I can see one called ‘Sydney Models / Photographers / HMUA’ which currently has 3716 members. So what is this? It is a group of models, photographers, and hair and make up artists (HMUA) who participate together in the group.

They make requests for relevant services, share work, put forward their name for shoots, and use the Facebook group as a place to find other creatives to work with.

Specialist Sites. There are also specialist web sites which create communities of creatives. The two that I am most familiar with are Model Mayhem and StarNow. Go ahead and check them out. It is free to set up a profile on each of them, and like the Facebook groups, they are a place for creatives to come together.

How should a photographer use these communities? Start by setting up a profile and include details of what you are looking for from people visiting your profile. I am a stock photographer, so my profile includes details to let people know the projects I am working on, and the type of creatives I would like to contact me.

Secondly, there is the opportunity to share your work. Add images to your profile so visitors can assess the style and quality of your work.

Thirdly, each of these communities have the ability to post a ‘casting call’. That is, you put forward details of your shoot, and ask people who are interested to get in contact with you.

Pilot

Include all relevant information in your casting call to help get qualified responses

What information should you include in a casting call? The short answer is – as much information as possible. Consider these points as a minimum:

  • when is the shoot? Include the date and time
  • where is the shoot? Be specific. A suburb is better than just the city name.
  • how long do you anticipate the shoot will go for?
  • is it indoor or outdoor? Studio or natural light?
  • is the shoot paid or TFP (time for print, or time for portfolio)?
  • what is the shoot concept?
  • what special requirements do you have? (for example, if you are looking for a model of specific cultural background and with long hair, be sure to specify that in the casting call)
  • who is doing hair and makeup? A HMUA? or do you want the model to do their own?

If you were not sure how to find models to work with, I hope this post has helped you.

If you already use these sites or others, what is your experience? Which sites generate the best response for you?

Thanks for reading – how to find models to shoot with. Happy shooting.

How to Reward Repeat Customers

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

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

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

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

client

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

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

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

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

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

save time

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

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

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

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

5 Tips for Photographing Models

Working with models is different to working with non models. Models are used to being in front of camera, and have often worked with a wide variety of people. They are generally not self conscious or shy, and they want to keep shooting until the right look has been captured. It is very different to shooting portraits or weddings for non models. Here are 5 tips for photographing models.

Tip 1 – Provide a Pre-Shoot Briefing. The model wants and expects to be a part of a creative team fulfilling a brief. Don’t expect the model to understand the look you are trying to achieve without discussing it with them first. Take time to explain the shoot and the desired outcome, and be open to input from the model.

Business Woman

Providing a briefing about the look you are trying to achieve

How do we do this? If this is self commissioned work, its about being able to explain the look you are wanting to capture. If it is client work, it is about being able to translate the clients brief into a vision for the model to understand. Take your time. Share sample images. Discuss what you are, and aren’t looking for. Allow time and space for discussion.

Photographing models is different than photographing non models. Tip number one, provide a pre-shoot briefing to the model. Share your vision with them. Let them add their good ideas to yours.

Shopping

A relaxed and confident persona will be picked up by the model

Tip 2 – Be Confident and Genuine. Reality check! This tip is the same whether you are working with models or non models. Being confident means being well prepared. Your gear is in order. You equipment is laid out near the shooting area. You have practiced before the shoot and are not making it up as you go. You know what you are doing, and the shoot is going to be a success.

Being genuine is about treating people with respect. If you are starting out and have limited experience, don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Tell your model. We have all been in the same position and 99% of people will treat you well. Some will even go out of their way to help. Be confident. Be genuine. People respond well to these traits.

Tip 3 – Work in a Collaborative Way. Working with a model is having a partner in a shoot. It’s about working together to achieve strong images. It’s not about you working alone and achieving results despite your model.

I like to make sure the model is well briefed and it is clear we are working as a team – one (or more) in front of the camera, and one behind the camera. I like to share images during the shoot. That’s reviewing images together and discussing what’s working well and why, and what’s not working well and how to fix it. This works really well when we have ‘nearly’ got the look we want and just need some minor adjustments.

It’s a team effort. It’s about achieving strong images together. Tip number 3 work collaboratively.

Female portrait

Provide sincere feedback about what is working and what’s not

Tip 4 – Provide Sincere Feedback. Tip 4 goes along with tip 2. It’s about the relationship of different parties working together for a common goal. Models are not camera shy and don’t need insincere praise of everything they are doing. Everyone enjoys some positive feedback, but remember you are working with a professional. Give feedback on what’s working well and what’s not. Be specific. Work together to achieve the results you are looking for. You’re there to achieve a result, not to be a cheerleader. Tip number 4, provide sincere feedback.

Tip 5 – Relax. All people being photographed will be influenced by the mood and behavior of the photographer. If you are uptight, tense and irritable – expect the model to pick up on that. Your model will feel and look uncomfortable. If you are positive, confident and relaxed that will also translate to your model. Work on preparing well, so  that everyone can relax and enjoy the shoot. You’ll produce better work this way.

Thanks for reading 5 tips for photographing models. Happy shooting!

 

 

Featured Photographer Janet Hastings

Today’s featured photographer on Beyond Here is Janet Hastings. Janet lives and works in Melbourne, Australia and operates her business as Janet Hastings Photography. Read on to learn more about Janet, her business, and how she operates.

Janet, tell us about Janet Hastings Photography ….

Janet Hastings Photography was born through the encouragement of my family following the birth of my twin grand daughters. I have always had a camera in hand, and have honed my skills over many year producing stock photography. This had always been a hobby and a way to fund my photography equipment. When my grand daughters arrived, my love affair with newborn photography began. Within a few months I was following this new dream of developing a photography business specializing in newborns, maternity, and baby’s first year. To get my dream off the ground I went back to study to gain qualifications in photography. I never want to stop learning.

I am never happier than when I am creating beautiful memories for new parents of their newborn’s earliest days.

Baby

Janet aims to capture the essence of a newborn. Image copyright Janet Hastings Photography.

How do you describe your photographic style?

I love to capture the pure essence of a newborn baby. For me, this means minimal props, with a focus on simplicity. I love to capture real memories of these earliest days – the serenity of a sleeping newborn, the unexpected facial expressions, right down to the tiny squishy lips, little toes, fingers and the tiniest fingernails. I also love to capture the essence of the relationship between new parents and their tiny baby. I know the images I create will become treasured family keepsakes.

While you use minimal props, what are your favorites?

My main props include a large variety of backdrop throws – soft and snuggly blankets in various colors and textures which set the color palette for each part of the newborn shoot. I then select complimentary wraps, bonnets, nappy covers and sometimes a special keepsake that the parents would like included. I have a variety of wicker baskets and tubs that I layer with faux furs and other fabrics to make a snuggly nest for baby. Prior to the session, I discuss with my clients their color preferences and home decor to ensure that the color palette of the blankets and props compliment their style as well as my creativity.

How do you prepare for a new born shoot?

I have a home studio dedicated to newborn photography. It has a large posing pod, backdrops and continuous lighting using soft boxes to soften and diffuse the light. I shoot with a Canon 7D which is ideal for my style of photography. I particularly enjoy using my Sigma Art Series 35mm lens for newborn photography, but will swap around with my other lenses for variety.

Mother and baby

It is important to have a studio environment where parents and baby feel at ease. Image copyright Janet Hastings Photography

It is so important that the parents feel relaxed and at ease during the photoshoot. I have a comfortable couch in my studio where parents can relax and generally feel at home while I photograph their baby. I provide a feeding cushion and privacy during feeding times. I do request that one of the parents assist when I am posing and photographing baby. I will never force a baby into a pose that they don’t seem comfortable with. Every baby is different as some are more flexible than others. Some curl beautifully while others like to stretch their little legs and my role is to work with the differences and still create memorable images. Baby definitely sets the pace and flow of my sessions which can last 3 hours or more.

Newborns have difficulty regulating their body temperature so I always heat the studio. While it can become uncomfortably hot for the adults, baby will be cozy and more likely to drop off to sleep for those beautiful, serene, sleepy images I hope to capture. I also use white noise which helps an unsettled baby to relax and drift off to sleep.

What is your most memorable session?

I have had many memorable moments, both fun and challenging. With newborn photography you need to expect the unexpected. I let parents know that ‘little accidents’ are bound to happen, and when they do we simply clean up and move on. It is just a part and parcel of newborn photography. I remember, during one of my early photo shoots, when a dad ended up with a handful of the ‘unexpected’. He didn’t know what to do for a moment but handled the situation so well. After the clean up we moved on with a very successful session. I’m sure that will be one of the stories that comes to mind when his daughter turns 21!

The challenging moments usually relate to fractious babies – the newborns that love to be cradled in their parents arms and instantly become upset when laid down. The greatest asset during a newborn session is patience and time. I am a naturally patient person which assists greatly when I am working with an unsettled baby. I usually succeed in settling a newborn to sleep during their shoot. I employ techniques I have learned through being a mum and more recently a grand mother. I have often been asked by a new parent if they could take me home after their session! Have you heard of the baby whisperer?

newborn photography

Image copyright Janet Hastings Photography

What are your keys to an efficient work flow?

My work flow commences before I even meet my clients. The first contact is usually by phone or email. I then provide information regarding cost and preparing for a newborn session. I ask my new client to complete a pre-session questionnaire which gives me insight into their style, their home decor and what they are hoping to achieve from their session.

After the session I use Lightroom to rate and short list the images to 30 to 40 of the best images which I present to my clients. I make basic adjustments to these images in Lightroom, and then export to Photoshop where I edit for skin tone, blemishes etc. My aim is to present images that truly reflect baby’s earliest days, so often I will leave flaky skin which is so typical of a newborn. The end result is a dreamy, serene style that parents love.

The parents return for a Portrait Preview Session approximately 3 weeks after the shoot. I use ProSelect software to conduct this session where parents choose the images they wish to use for their end products. That may be framed or block prints, canvases, keepsake albums and image boxes. Often clients will order enlargements or mini albums as gifts for grandparents.

How do you generate new clients?

Word of mouth is the best advertising – a happy client is always willing to refer you. I run a referral program so that the referring client receives a voucher for a future session if someone they refer books and completes a session with me.

The importance of social media cannot be understated. My website showcases my work, generates business and includes my blog (which is linked to social media). My facebook page is also an important aspect of my advertising program. With my clients permission I post one or two preview images on facebook following a shoot which my clients happily share with their facebook friends. I always watermark these images so that my business name is shared as well.

I occasionally offer model calls via my facebook page which are very popular. Participants receive a set number of prints for their time. During these sessions I can be free to work on new concepts and ideas and I use these as my professional development time. Model call sessions often result in further portrait sales and I make sure that my models and their parents enjoy the experience. These assist with word of mouth advertising too.

If you had 3 tips for photographers starting out in new born photography, what would they be?

Never stop learning – become a sponge to soak up all the information you can about your equipment, newborn posing techniques, editing software and marketing.

Don’t be discouraged if obtaining clients is slow at first. Persistence is vital to build your brand and your business. Be prepared for slow times at first, and use these times to develop your skill, learn something new, or develop advertising ideas.

Value yourself and your time. Make sure that you charge appropriately for your services. Take into account your time and talent for the photo shoot and the hours you put into post processing. You also need to cover your costs for website hosting, affiliations, public liability insurance etc. Most importantly, don’t sell yourself short.

What does the future hold for Janet Hastings Photography?

In January 2015 I gained accreditation with the Australian Institute of Professional Photography (AIPP) which has opened up a whole new world of inspiration and opportunities. I plan to continue to grow my business, to be a life long learner and an inspiration in my field of newborn photography.

Thank you Janet for sharing your story and your tips.

To see more of featured photographer Janet Hastings work please visit her website at Janet Hastings Photography.

newborn

Image copyright Janet Hastings Photography

What Do You Need for a Mobile Photography Studio

Producing high quality portraits in different environments can be challenging. There can be issues with lighting, backgrounds, even models! So, how do we have the best chance of creating strong portraits – we take our equipment with us. What do you need for a mobile photography studio? Read on.

Single light portrait

This portrait was shot with a single light to the right of camera

Here I have outlined the minimum gear you will need to have a mobile studio. Sorry, if you were hoping I’d give you reasons to buy thousands of dollars worth of new gear! I have taken the opposite approach – and will show you just how affordable it can be to have simple mobile equipment which will allow you to shoot strong portraits in different locations. As you will see this set up is best suited to indoor conditions where you are trying to generate professional quality light with the minimum of fuss and effort. First, we need a light source. The simplest way is to have one external flash unit. Not the pop up flash on the top of some cameras, but a separate flash unit. This will enable us to control the level and direction of light in any situation. Most readers of Beyond Here will already have an external flash unit, but if you don’t, you should consider getting one. You really can’t produce excellent quality portraits using pop up flash. Once you do have an external flash unit, you will have flexibility in how you light your subject.

flash photography

A flash unit and radio trigger mounted on a light stand

Once we have a light source we need to know how to use it! For simple portraits we want just one light, but we will need a light stand to put it on. Once we have a light stand we can position the light anywhere relative to our subject. At the online camera store I use, you can currently buy a 1.8m light stand for $30. Light stands are very handy, and pack up to a manageable size to carry. Mine fit inside a small bag, making them easy to transport.

Ok, we have a flash unit and a light stand. What’s next? The light produced from a single flash unit will be harsh. To create high quality portraits we need something to soften the light from our flash unit. For this, I mainly use a shoot through umbrella. A 33 inch umbrella at my favorite online store is currently $35 (though they are often much cheaper than this. Bring on the sales!) When we fire the flash through the shoot through umbrella it will produce a soft, flattering light.

flash

The umbrella fits into the swivel adapter

To mount the camera and umbrella we need a simple adapter which fits on the end of the light stand. If you haven’t done this before, it is this piece of equipment which often gets overlooked. It is often referred to as a ‘swivel umbrella adapter’. The current price at the online store I use is $34. Look out for them in your camera store.

The final piece of the lighting puzzle comes with having something to fire the flash while it is off the camera. A simple option here is a radio trigger (I wrote a separate post here about how to use flash triggers). To make radio triggers work you place one in the hot shoe of your camera, and attach your flash unit to the other one. When you press the shutter button the trigger on your camera sends a signal to the other trigger, and fires the flash. Cool eh? A pair of radio triggers is currently just over $100, though you can get them for half this price when they are on sale.

With this small amount of equipment you are now ready to go. The equipment is easy to carry, with the light stand being the bulkiest item.

(If you want to be able to control your background as well, you can buy a ‘pop up’ background. I have one of these which is black on one side and white on the other, cost $100. It is useful, particularly for shooting corporate portraits on a black background. If you are not ready to buy one, look for a plain wall to use as your background and position your subject 2-3 meters from the wall.)

So there you have it – what do you need for a mobile photography studio – in a few easy steps. Note, this set up works very well in indoor situations. If you are using it outdoors, be careful with the shoot through umbrella. Even a small amount of wind will catch the umbrella and blow your light stand over. Not a good look!

Thanks for reading ‘what do you need for a mobile photography studio’.

6 Alternatives to Price Discounts for Family Photographers

I follow a range of family photographers and their portfolios via Facebook. Commonly I see many of them offering price discounts to encourage new clients to book now. Do you take this approach? I am going to offer you a different approach and will show you 6 alternatives to price discounts for family photographers.

But first, why might price discounts not be a good idea for your family photography business in the long run?

Sale

Continuous price discounting will attract very price sensitive clients. Is this the type of client you want?

As photographers, our skill and the quality of our work increases over time. Typically our costs go up over time as well, as we upgrade to new equipment, new computers, and costs for insurance and other necessities rise. So, unless we want to work a lot longer hours in future, our prices need to increase over time as well.

So why is price discounting not such a good strategy?

  • Price discounting focuses your clients on your prices and not on the quality of your work. I don’t know about you, but I want my clients to be excited about the quality of the work, how it will capture the moment of their child’s early steps, and how a large print might hang on the walls of their home for a lifetime. I don’t want them thinking about saving $50 off my usual rates. If the quality of the work is strong enough, the $50 will not matter.
  • If you are a habitual price discounter you can be sure that any clients that have paid your full rates will not be very happy. If your usual family portrait rates are $500, the client who paid $500 last week will not be very pleased when she sees the same package advertised on your facebook page this week for $350.
  • And further to that, any potential clients who follow your work will never book at your full rates as you are conditioning them to wait for your regular “Hey world! I’m on sale” posts on your facebook photography page. If you regularly discount, you are essentially cutting your rates. Is that what you want in the long term?

So how do we attract new clients now, and fill the gap in our shooting schedule, without constant price discounts?

Here are ‘6 alternatives to price discounts for family photographers’.

1. Add Value. Instead of offering price discounts, make offers which add more value for your client. If your basic package is $500 offer a ‘Summer Special’ which includes a large canvas print valued at $150 for a package price of $575. The idea here is to present a ‘value offer’ not a ‘cheap offer’.

2. Solve a Client Problem. This is one which can be adjusted for any “hard to buy a present for” family member. For example, “What do you buy your partner for his birthday? He has everything right? Surprise him with a photo of you. Booking available from now until the end of the month”.

3. Build a High Value Package. Building a high value package works in a similar way to the ‘add value’ alternative. But here we add lots of extra things to the package. Let’s show you an example – “Looking for presents for the entire extended family? And would like prints to decorate your own home too? Complete you family portrait shoot before 15 June and receive a 36 x 24 inch canvas, two 12 x 18 inch prints, five 8 x10 inch prints, and a USB of your images, all for $695”

Idea

Here are 6 different ideas for promoting your business without positioning yourself as cheap

4. Guarantee turnaround times. Most people have busy lives and often leave things to the last minute. This alternative recognizes that and helps make your client’s lives easier. “It’s not too late for the perfect personalized Christmas present! Complete your family portrait session before 30 November, and receive your prints and images by 18 December. Book now!” Note, that in this alternative there is no mention of price. It is all about recognizing people are busy and solving their Christmas present challenges. (I have found that clients who like you to solve the problem this year, will also like you to solve the problem again next year. They are time sensitive, not price sensitive.)

5. Make tailored offers to previous clients. Your previous clients are a fantastic source of future business. You have a relationship with them and they like your work. This makes them ideal to approach for tailored offers. Here is a sample email “Hi (existing client), I was looking back over my work from last year and realised that it is nearly a year since I did your family portraits. I wonder if you would like to make a record of your family’s images a year later? I currently have a gap in my shooting schedule on (XX date). Would you like to book an anniversary shoot?”

6. Discount only for your special clients. And the final alternative is for those people who just can’t resist offering a price discount. If you feel you really must do this – don’t broadcast it to the world. Don’t create the impression that you are a cheap photographer who is always offering discounts. Keep your clients focused on quality. So what do we do?

Go to your ‘special’ clients or repeat clients who you know will respond to the offer. A sample email might look like “Hi Amanda, I’ve got a booking time available next Wednesday morning at 10am. I know it is short notice, but wondered if you would like to bring the kids and do a 60 minute shoot? My normal price is $500, but for you as a loyal client I’d be happy to take 20% off this.”

Continually offering price discounts will lead you down a path of attracting clients who focus on price. There is another way. Thanks for reading 6 alternatives to price discounts for family photographers. I hope it has given your some tools to escape the trap of constant price discounting. If you would like to receive updates from Beyond Here, please add your email address in the sign up area on this page.

 

Why Photographers Should Keep Great Client Records

This month I have been working with a photographer who is running a successful family portrait business. She has been busy booking and shooting local family portraits very consistently for 18 months. It’s a good news story. She is enjoying creating images for local families and is running a healthy business. Right now she faces a slow down in her bookings, and has asked me to help. It has reminded me again why photographers should keep great client records.

To help her, together we have been working through each aspect of her business reviewing what is working, and what is not. Overall it is a very positive picture. She has been busy for 18 months and has a large group of happy clients.

Thinking About Clients

Thinking about clients? Good record keeping will helps generate new work from past clients.

In our discussion, her first question was ‘I’ve never had a slowdown in bookings before – how do I generate more clients?’ My response was – maybe you don’t need new clients. Maybe you just need to contact your old clients to see if you can help them again.

As an example, one of her first clients had a 4 year old and a new born child. It was the arrival of the baby that prompted the family to have the first portrait shoot. My suggestion was that she re-contact this client. The family’s 4 year old will be just over 5 now and is likely to be starting school – what a great time to do another family portrait session. And then we realized – the photographer hadn’t kept contact details for each client. She didn’t have a way to easily contact the family to explore a second shoot.

So that leads us to, why photographers should keep great client records. I have summarized it into 5 key reasons:

(1) Past clients should be future clients. If a client is happy with your service once, they are more likely to be your client again – but you need to have kept their contact details and relevant information. Only a small percentage of past clients will spontaneously contact you years after the original shoot. Collect relevant client information, so you can use it in future.

(2) Times change, but the photographer doesn’t need to. In family photography there is natural change as children grow up. If you have a client with a new born baby, it won’t be long until there are toddler pictures to shoot, birthday parties, and then shots as the child starts school. This progression continues through primary school and into high school. If you do it really well, you may end up shooting their high school graduation images, on to their wedding, and their own children. Think of your client as a relationship you will nurture, not as a one time ‘job’.

Baby in hat

In family photography, there is a natural on going demand for images as the child grows

(3) Clients will send you referrals – make it easy for them. All photographers find that happy clients send them referrals. This is easier for clients if you have kept in touch with them. I sure don’t want a client I worked with saying ‘we’re really happy with the images, but I can’t remember the name of the photographer’. Keeping good records helps you stay in touch. And staying in touch makes it easy for clients to send you referrals.

(4) Past clients are a great source of ‘short notice’ bookings. If you have an opening in your schedule for a shoot next week, past clients offer great potential to fill that gap. Here is the main part of an email I sent to a past client 4 weeks ago “Hi R, I hope you and P are going well. I have had a client cancel their session next Sunday, so I wondered if you would like to do a mini family shoot before the kids go back to school? My normal price is $XXX but as you are my existing client I can offer it to you for $YYY. If you are interested, we can do it in the park near your home. What do you think?” If you have kept your clients email and mobile phone details this is a fast, effective way to fill your calendar.

(5) Happy clients will write testimonials. Social media has made it very easy for word to spread quickly. As photographers offering a service to our clients we need to make the most of this. Keeping good client records makes it easy to ask for testimonials and feedback, which helps to generate more clients.

The photographer who asked for my help now has a system for recording client details and a plan for how and when to contact them. She came to me with a short term business problem, and now has a plan for long term success. I hope this has been helpful to you too, and that you understand why photographers should keep great client records.

 

What are Continuous Lights

In an earlier post on Beyond Here, we discussed How to Build a Home Photography Studio. In that post, I provided a brief overview of the requirements for space, backdrops, and lights. Once you have decided to set up a home photography studio, the decision on lighting is the most complicated and expensive decision. Your choice is between strobes and continuous lighting. Many photographers are familiar with the concept of strobe lighting – they work like large flash units, emitting a short burst of bright light. In this post we look at the question, what are continuous lights?

Very simply, continuous lights are always on. Rather than emitting a short burst of bright light, they emit a continuous stream of light.

Continuous lights

An example of continuous lights in a home photography studio

So why use continuous lights? Continuous lights have several advantages over strobe lights.

  • What you see if what you get. With continuous lighting the effect on your subject can be seen before the shot is taken. If you want to alter the way the light appears, you can adjust your lights or subject and see the impact before taking the shot.
  • They are easy to use. If you are new to studio lighting, strobes can be daunting to learn to use. With continuous lights you literally turn them on and then position the lights and subject to achieve the desired look. They are very straightforward to use.
  • Continuous lights can be used for video. It is increasingly common to shoot video with a digital SLR camera. Continuous lights can be used to shoot video – meaning you can shoot both still images and video in your studio using one set of lights.
  • They are fairly affordable. The exact price of continuous lights will depend on your location, the number of lights  you want, and the power of those lights. It is worth checking with your local photography store or online shops.

To assess whether continuous lights are the right choice for you, it is worth knowing that they have some disadvantages in comparison to strobe lighting too.

  • Continuous lights are not as bright as strobes. If you want to ‘freeze motion’ in the studio you will be more effective in using the short, bright burst of light from strobe lighting.
  • Continuous lights need a steady power source. If you are planning to leave your lights in your studio, then continuous lights work very well. But if you want your lights to be portable, strobes will be a better choice.
  • Strobe lights give you a lot more options in terms of power. With strobe lights you have greater control of the power output from each light, giving many more lighting options in your studio.

I hope this post has been useful in understanding what are continuous lights.