Category Archives: Business Tips

Tips for your photography business

Timeless Business Reminders for Surviving Tough Times

Around the world photographers, and many other industries, are feeling the business impact of the coronavirus. Where I live in Melbourne, Australia we are currently living with a curfew between 8pm and 5am, a limit of one hour out of home per day to exercise, and restrictions on the distance you may travel from home. Difficult times. It’s been a time to reflect on these business reminders for surviving tough times.

Many photographers are feeling the financial squeeze due to the coronavirus pandemic

Reminder #1 – Keep Overheads Low

It is now 6+ months since the coronavirus meant social gatherings and sporting events are cancelled to protect the health of the community. This has been impacting all types of events and photographers. While we hope the coronavirus is not with us for long, it’s a great business reminder to keep overhead costs low. We never know when business revenues will turn down, and I’m grateful to not be struggling with an expensive studio or office space when revenues have dropped.


Reminder #2 – Be Careful with Debt

Right now is a difficult time to have debt. Revenues have dried up, but debts still need to be repaid. Given the widespread impact of the coronavirus, many lenders are currently being flexible with loan repayments, but this will not last. Eventually, those with debts will need to repay them. Be careful with debt. In tough times, it is better to be operating with reliable old equipment than to have just borrowed money to buy the latest camera body or lens.

Many piggy banks are empty as the economic impact of the pandemic continues

Reminder #3 – Cash Reserves Provide a Buffer

Having some cash in reserve provides greater ability to survive tough times. Remember this when times are good, and tuck some cash away to help survive when times are not so good. While these business reminders for surviving tough times are not rocket science, it’s only in the tough times we find out how well our businesses are really running.

Reminder #4 – Be Flexible

In good times, it is wise to focus on the work you are best at. In tough times it’s smart to be flexible. My business mainly shoots sports. In Melbourne, there have not been community sports events for 6 months now. We are surviving be being flexible – selling prints, doing baby photo shoots (when restrictions allow), redesigning client’s websites, shooting stock images, and generating income outside photography. While it’s not easy, we will survive and sport will return. Can you be flexible and find new income sources?

Reminder #5 – Stay Connected to Your Customers

It is difficult times for everybody. Now is a terrific time to show you care about your customers, and connect with them. Can you generate reasons to be in contact with your customers? Are there ways you can assist them right now? In my own business we continue speak with sports clubs and update via our blog even though there is not a lot to say at the moment! Check out our blog over on Melbourne Sports Photography.

Thanks for reading these timeless business reminders for surviving tough times. These times will pass. Keep going.

Coronavirus Realities for this Photographer

Wow, we are living in interesting times! Right now many events and activities around the world are facing cancellation or suspension as we try to halt the spread of coronavirus. This is already having a major impact on all industries and is clearly impacting photographers. In my business, all my jobs for the next 2 months have been cancelled or are likely to be cancelled. Here are the coronavirus realities for this photographer.

Coronavirus is having a major health and business impact around the world

Immediate Impacts

The response from health officials and governments has been significant this week. Here in Australia, gatherings of over 500 people are being discouraged. This is causing the cancellation or postponement of major events. As the majority of my work is in sports, the cancellation of many sports has meant my pipeline of jobs for the next 2 months has disappeared.

How Long Will this Last?

I wish I knew! With 2 weeks left in the local school term followed by Easter holidays I can’t see any change being likely until at least the end of April. I really don’t know what to expect from there. I am now planning for an extended period without major sporting events.

What to do in the Meantime?

The cancellation of sports events will have a significant impact to my business. To keep busy I am planning to shoot stock images and upload them to my online portfolios. My income from stock is well below what it has been in previous years but it is steady and comes in every month. Unfortunately I don’t know how long this challenge is going to last, but for the next few weeks I plan on creating stock images relevant to the current health crisis.

What will that look like?

I am conscious of helping to reduce the spread of coronavirus by limiting social interaction. For me that will mean shooting stock images in my home studio. I can see I’ll need a break from that at some point (!) and plan to visit wildlife areas close to home.

Do you have an action plan in place to get through the next few months? These are the coronavirus realities for this photographer. What are they for you?

Helpful Resources

If you’d like to look into stock photography please check out

Lessons from Pricing this Photography Job all Wrong

Last month I was asked by another photographer to assist on a shoot. I like helping other photographers and appreciate the opportunity to expand my contacts in the industry, and to learn from the way they shoot. The shoot was great, but I badly misjudged the pricing. Here are my lessons from pricing this photography job all wrong.

What was the job?

The photographer was looking for assistance on a shoot for his sports wear client. The client is a large international sporting brand pushing hard in the Australian market. The photographer has worked with this client on several shoots, most of which he has done on his own. For this shoot he was looking for someone to assist on action shots.

money

What Happened

The intention was for the main photographer to lead on both studio stills and video, and for me to be an extra pair of hands to assist and to shoot action images. Straightforward – or so I thought!

When the shoot got underway the client had very specific requirements for the video component. That meant shooting video in a different part of the stadium away from the studio area and the court we used for action images. Can you see what’s coming? Yes, instead of playing a support role, I am now leading all studio and action photography while the ‘main photographer’ is elsewhere shooting video. (Note, I’m not blaming the main photographer. He did a great job meeting the client’s needs, and is clearly talented with both photography and videography.)

It was a terrific, enjoyable shoot and the images are currently being used by the client in a national campaign. Great. The drawback – I hadn’t priced this job in a way which reflected doing the majority of the photography on a major national campaign. So here they come! The lessons from pricing this photography job all wrong.

Lesson 1 – Be Clear on the Brief

I should have been clearer on making sure I understood the brief and based my pricing on delivering those services. That would have given me room to renegotiate the price given I delivered a very different set of services.

The job was a success, but mis pricing any job is not a “slam dunk” towards financial success

Lesson 2 – Put the Quote in Writing

I had assumed this would be a straightforward shoot and didn’t provide a written quote. The business side was simply a discussion and a verbal agreement. Again, that makes it very difficult to renegotiate should the brief change. While I could have tried renegotiating, that didn’t seem like ‘good form’ after the shoot was completed.

Lesson 3 – Industry Contacts are Valuable

Despite getting the pricing for this job badly wrong, I got on well with the other photographer and know that, should our paths cross again, we have the foundations for a strong working relationship. He has already been in touch with me to see if I could help on another shoot, which unfortunately clashed with one of my own. Such is life! When the opportunity comes, you can be sure I’ll price it more appropriately.

Lesson 4 – Working with Others is a Learning Opportunity

Many photographers, myself included, often work alone or with the same people. In this case, we had never met before and it was a great opportunity to see this experienced commercial photographer in action. Most impressive was the way he was able to move effortlessly between video and photography, while also managing the needs of his client who had 4 people on set. Nice work, and valuable lessons.

Lesson 5 – Don’t Undervalue Your Services

This job was at a quiet time of year and I was keen to take on the role. Combined with being interested in this type of shoot, I may have undervalued the skills I could bring to the role (despite the brief changing). I feel like I’m too old and too experienced to make this mistake, but don’t undervalue your services!

Thanks for reading Lessons from Pricing this Photography Job All Wrong. I’m determined to take the lessons and make them into a positive – much like in this post Turning Negative Experiences to Positive. Happy Shooting!

Do Photo Prints Still Sell

One year ago I revamped my website and refocused my photography business with an emphasis on photographing junior sport in Melbourne. I have been shooting juniors to elite level across a variety of sports with a specialty in action images. In many cases it has been a thrill to see the look on kids faces when they see themselves as the subject of high quality action images. When I started shooting junior sports I expected the strongest demand would be for digital images. A year on I am in a better position to answer the question do photo prints still sell?

Action images of junior sports games have been very popular

What Did I Expect?

The first major event we photographed was a large junior basketball tournament. You can read about that in this post Photographing 1000 Junior Basketball Players.

We photographed more than 100 junior teams over 2 days. I expected the majority of demand from players and families would be for digital images. Social media is driving communication and shared experiences, and I imagined a large number of the digital images would appear on social media. I wondered whether it was worth even offering prints as it is straightforward to purchase the digital images and make your own prints.

Since then we have been shooting many sports including more basketball, netball, dance, cheer leading, volleyball, and football.

What Has Been the Reality?

Interestingly, across a wide variety of sports, the trends have been similar.

  • Action images of junior sport have been very popular
  • Two thirds of all sales have been digital images
  • One third of all sales have been prints
  • Almost no-one orders both prints and digital images
One third of all sales have been prints

Key Learnings

When starting out selling action images of junior sports I expected most sales to be digital images. That has been the case, though I have been surprised that one third of all sales have been prints.

Offering prints does come with some challenges. I fulfill my print orders through an external supplier, and ship direct to my customer. Every now and then I have an issue with quality where I may end up having to organize a reprint for my customer.

Despite those occasional challenges there is still a very strong market for photo prints. Do photo prints still sell? Yes definitely.

Thanks for reading Do Photo Prints Still Sell. I hope you can use my experience to benefit your own photography business. Happy shooting.

Choose Your Photography Jobs Carefully

When you are starting out in a photography business it is exciting to pick up new clients and new jobs. In time, you learn that it is important to choose your photography jobs carefully. Some jobs are definitely better than others, and some clients are better than others. I’ve had a reminder of this in the last 4 weeks.

What’s Prompted the Reminder?

I’ve had a busy start to this year. I like being busy and shooting a lot, so this is the best ‘problem’ my photography business can have.

In the last 4 weeks I have shot a series of sports events (not related to the images in this post) and a wedding. The wedding was at short notice as the photographer was unwell. I took a risk by taking on a client I didn’t know very well. As it happens they are a lovely couple and had a beautiful outdoor wedding in a local park. The entire experience was enjoyable.

My sports photography work was shooting for another photographer to cover several events in different locations. The work is varied, challenging and enjoyable. The problem is that payment has been slow. I have done a series of jobs over February, March and April. Payment has been made on one invoice, but remains outstanding on the others.

What is the Lesson?

This experience has been a good reminder to choose your photography jobs carefully. A job which does not pay is not really a job at all. And a job which pays slowly can mean I spend more time following up payment than I did creating images! That’s a scary thought.

How to Choose Your Photography Jobs Carefully

This depends on exactly the type of work you do but I suggest:

  • Be sure the client’s expectations are aligned with your photography skills and experience
  • Agree and confirm the time commitments to create and deliver the images
  • Make clear the price which will apply and the time frame expected for payment
  • Be prompt in your invoicing and reconfirm the expected payment date
  • Where possible, collect payment in advance
  • Follow up to ensure payment is made

What’s Going to Happen with My Payment?

The business and people I am dealing with are reasonably well known. I am confident that I will get payment, but am not sure exactly when. It’s certainly not going to be in the time frames I expected. This has been a healthy reminder to choose your photography jobs carefully. I’ll be continuing to follow up until payments are made.

5 More Things to Like About Zenfolio

Earlier this month I wrote a post about the positive things I’ve experienced since moving my website to Zenfolio. This solution delivers full transaction capability through my website. If you wish to read that post it is here – 5 Best Things About My Zenfolio Website Solution. Since then several readers have contacted me with questions. While there are some things I don’t like about Zenfolio, the majority work well for me. So here are 5 more things to like about Zenfolio.

1. Excellent Sales Reporting

In rough numbers three quarters of my sales so far have been digital images, and one quarter has been print products. The reporting provided by Zenfolio is excellent and updates immediately a sale occurs. In addition, I am notified by email when (a) a new customer registers (b) a customer makes a purchase and (c) when the customer downloads their images. As a result of the excellent reporting it is very easy to calculate the profitability for each event. Good job Zenfolio! (For frustrated iStock contributors, Zenfolio is light years ahead of iStock in delivering timely reporting which helps photographers run their business).

Zenfolio’s transaction capability is helping me sell a high volume of sports images

2. Timely Funds Transfer via Paypal

My customers pay for their purchases with credit card or paypal and Zenfolio tracks the balance in my account. When I wish to withdraw funds this is done by paypal. To date, the transfer has been very timely – as quickly as the next day and as slow as 3 days. I am impressed with how quickly the transfer occurs and appreciate that I can request a transfer at any time.

3. Support from Zenfolio

There have been several instances when I have had questions about Zenfolio. I have found there is a very comprehensive only database which has nearly always answered my question. Outside of that, there is both web chat and email support. In all cases the responses times have been good, and generally the quality of support has been good. I appreciate that which is why it makes the list of 5 more things to like about Zenfolio.

While not everything has been perfect, there are plenty of reasons to smile using the Zenfolio solution

4. Adding Custom Watermarks is Easy

I display images with a large watermark across the centre (the watermark is removed when a customer purchases). Setting up and adding the watermark is straightforward, and can be done with one action to apply to the entire gallery. This is great as I don’t need to remember to do it for each image, I just do it once for the gallery. Nice.

5. Zenfolio Look After the Financial Transaction

By this I mean that the Zenfolio solution comes with the transaction functionality to accept credit card or paypal. In one of my other businesses I found setting up the transaction capability with the bank to be a slow and drawn out process. I like that Zenfolio look after this.

So there are 5 more things to like about Zenfolio. There are other solutions available, but I suggest checking out whether Zenfolio will meet your needs.

5 Best Things About My Zenfolio Website Solution

When I began my photography business in 2008 I set up a simple website to display my images and advertise my services. Apart from changing the images from time to time, I had not got around to updating my website until recently. 6 months ago I made the switch and am now using Zenfolio as my website solution. (To check it out head over to Craig Dingle Photography). I like many of the features which Zenfolio provides. Here are the 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution.

1. Simple Templates

I’m not an expert on the technical side of websites, so I need a solution which keeps things easy. Zenfolio is in the business of providing websites for photographers and they have really kept things simple. There are a series of templates to choose from. From there it is just a matter of adding your images and you have a professional looking website. This is the first of the 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution.

If you are not sure, Zenfolio offers a 14 day free trial. Check it out and experiment with the templates to see if they meet your needs.

junior basketball
The Zenfolio solution has made it easy to sell high volume digital images directly from my website

2. Password Protected Galleries

I shoot a lot of junior sports so it is important to me to have password protected galleries. Zenfolio makes this straight forward with simple settings for each gallery. I set up the gallery, add my watermark, make the settings private, add a password, and upload the files. It is a very easy and effective system for password protected galleries and takes just a few minutes.

3. Selling Images Online is Simple

While I have listed this as point 3 in the 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution – it is the one which makes all the difference. Regular readers of Beyond Here will know that my background is in stock photography. Based on that experience I know the power of selling and distributing images digitally. Zenfolio has given me the ability to sell directly from my own website in much the same way that stock photography sites do.

(For more information about stock photography please see Starting in Stock Photography).

female gymnast
I’m glad I made the leap to Zenfolio. It’s made a huge difference in digital sales of my sports images.

4. Partner Providers Make Print Products Easy

Within the Zenfolio solution is the ability to sell prints (and other products). This can be done through partner providers which Zenfolio puts in place, or with your own providers. When I use this feature I’m doing high volumes in a short time frame. So far, I’ve used the partner providers and found this an easy way to fulfill print sales.

It is a great, low touch solution. My customer places their order and makes payment. I receive notification during this process but don’t need to take any action. The print order is automatically sent to the partner provider, who print and ship direct to the customer. I have full visibility of the process, without having to intervene in the customer order. Nice.

5. I Set My Own Prices

Now that I’m using a Zenfolio solution for my website, setting up price lists and establish my own prices is a simple process. Making changes to prices is also straight forward and takes just a few minutes.

Conclusions

I find Zenfolio very easy to use. I’ve quickly made the leap from having a very old fashioned website only displaying images, to one with fully integrated purchase capability. If you are considering selling images from your website, check out Zenfolio as a possible solution.

Thank you

Thanks for reading 5 best things about my Zenfolio website solution. Best wishes.

What to Do in Quiet Times for Your Photography Business

Every photography business has periods when things are quiet, and most have times when they are crazy busy. This month is a quiet time for my business. Most sports are having a break over the Christmas / New Year period, and it will be another few weeks until I am really busy again. Here are 9 suggestions for what to do in quiet times for your photography business.

Suggestion 1 – Get Away for a Break

Everyone needs a break from their business from time to time. Physically getting away is a great way to refresh mentally and physically. I’ve just spent a week away near Geelong in Victoria, Australia and have come back refreshed and ready to tackle the new year.

You don’t have to fly, but getting away for a break is a great way to refresh physically and mentally

Suggestion 2 – Learn a New Skill

When your business is quiet is the ideal time to invest in yourself. Photography is a big field, and no-one knows it all. I’ve been working on simple editing skills while my business is quiet. Last month one of my client’s wanted a collage print. I’ve been working on adding borders to images in Lightroom so that they look great as part of collages. It’s very simple stuff, but often it is hard to spend the time when you are busy. Take advantage of quiet times to learn a new skill.

Suggestion 3 – Shoot Personal Projects

I don’t know about you, but when I am busy I have very little time (or inclination!) to shoot personal projects. What to do in quiet times for your photography business? Obviously, tackle some personal projects. I enjoy wildlife photography, and have set aside time to shoot wildlife images in the next 3 weeks.

Quiet times for your business are ideal for personal projects. I’ll be creating wildlife images in the next few weeks.

Suggestion 4 – Make Your Quiet Time a Health Break

When I’m really busy I struggle to make time to exercise and eat well. It makes complete sense to use that extra time while business is quiet to get some exercise. This month I’ve been playing tennis with my son and walking the dog a lot more!

Suggestion 5 – Review Your Business

Quiet times are the ideal time to review how your business is going and to set goals for the year ahead. Last year was a very good one for my business. I’ve shot fewer weddings, and a lot more sports which was the plan. While I’m pleased with the year that’s gone, I’m focusing on making sure I’m producing more printed products for my clients next year. They are really the thing that keeps the memories alive – and I’ll be aiming to produce a lot more albums, canvas prints, and standard prints.

I’m planning to produce a lot more albums, canvas prints, and standard prints next year

Suggestion 6 – Get Your Gear Serviced

When times are really busy I’m reluctant to get my camera bodies and lenses serviced as I don’t want to be without them. Quiet times are the ideal opportunity to have this done when you are not likely to need them for a short notice job.

This year I’ve bought no new gear – so it is very important that my existing equipment is serviced and ready to produce high quality images. Get that equipment serviced while things are quiet.

Suggestion 7 – Organise then Clear Out Digital Files

I pride myself on being well organised and having digital files well organised and easy to access. Quiet times are ideal for making sure those files are well organised. It is also the time that I check my back ups are all in place, and then I move the images to external drives.

While I do this activity all year round, quiet times are ideal to make sure my digital files are organised and backed up, and my main working computer has capacity for the year ahead.

Suggestion 8 – Explore Your City or Town

How often do you get to explore your home town when things are busy? For me, it’s almost never as I seem to be finding my way through traffic and looking for a parking space! Quiet times are ideal for exploring your home town. Find an interesting subject to photograph. Find a new area. Shoot like only a local can shoot. Explore your home town when things are quiet.

Get out and about and explore your home town when things are quiet

Suggestion 9 – Write Your Blog!

Blog post ideas don’t always flow easily for me! Do they for you? Either way quiet times are great times to write or to put together a content plan for the year ahead. When things are quiet, dedicate some time to your blog.

Thanks for taking the time to read What to Do in Quiet Times for Your Photography Business. Wishing you a successful year ahead.

One More Photography Business Contingency to Plan For

Running a photography business I find myself planning for all sorts of contingencies. What will I do if a camera body fails? If there is a problem with a lens? What if my second shooter doesn’t turn up? What would I do if my computer hard drive fails? Or if my customer doesn’t pay? This week I’ve found one more photography business contingency to plan for.

Couple St Kilda

I wouldn’t be able to do an outdoor lifestyle shoot today given the state of my back

What Happened?

Yesterday afternoon I went for a run. It was a nice sunny day and I enjoyed the break in the middle of the day getting some exercise. When I got home I do what I normally do after a run – absolutely no stretching, a glass of water, and resting on the couch. When I went to get up suddenly, my back didn’t like it at all.

Where I’m At?

So today I’m immobile, but feeling grateful that I haven’t got any jobs in the next few days which can’t be rescheduled. I am pleased that I don’t have a wedding to photograph this weekend. If I did I would be in trouble. So I’ve been lying around the house today, doing whatever jobs don’t take much physical effort and thinking about one more photography business contingency to plan for.

Contingency Planning?

Have you planned for this type of contingency? I generally enjoy good health and so haven’t done much planning for a scenario when I might be out of action. If I have a big shoot when I have the flu, I generally fill myself with cold and flu medicine and carry on with the shoot. Perhaps through good fortune I haven’t yet had a scenario where I physically couldn’t do a shoot I had committed to.

stretching

I’m going to do a lot more stretching in the future, but nothing quite like this

Today has been helpful in prompting me to think about what I will do if I have a shoot which wouldn’t be possible to move. It may be a Friday night basketball game? It might be a weekend wedding? Or it may be like the shoot I did last weekend, where we shot family portraits as the grand parents were visiting from overseas. In these scenarios I would need to find another person to tackle the job at the agreed time, as there is no way to reschedule.

First Choice

So what am I thinking about? First, I am fortunate that I have several second shooters and other photographers I know who could step in for me at very short notice. That would be my first choice.

Second Choice

My second choice would be photographers I’ve worked with before but don’t know so well, or haven’t been in touch with for some time. This is less than ideal, however, I will try all options so my client gets looked after.

If I Am Struggling to Find Someone

My third choice would be to call on my professional membership colleagues. I am an Accredited Professional Photographer through the Australian Institute of Professional Photography. It has a very active (and very helpful!) Facebook group of AIPP members. If I am really stuck I will ask for help in that group. I will outline details of the job to find someone willing to help at short notice.

exercise

Sports will not be possible for me for at least the next few days while my sore back recovers

Can My Experience Help You?

Have you planned for contingencies in your business? Considered what you would do if you were physically unable to do a job? Has this scenario happen to you? I hope my back gets better soon because I’ve got a commitment I can’t break in the middle of next week. In the meantime I’m trying to strengthen my business by considering one more photography business contingency to plan for. Thanks for reading. Happy shooting, and good health to you! I might do some stretching exercises more regularly in the future!

Photographing Different Commercial Jobs

This year I have been growing my business in sports and stock photography, and winding back slightly my wedding photography commitments. Over the last 3 weeks I’ve been asked to shoot two different commercial jobs, one for a bathroom renovation business and one for a cookie business. I often find myself in a dilemma about whether I should be photographing different commercial jobs.

Where Do These Jobs Come From?

I get these requests from personal relationships or referrals. The bathroom renovation business came across me at a recent sports shoot. You can read about that shoot in More Win Win Win Photography Ideas. The owner’s son attends that gymnastics club and made contact with me after the event.

The cookie business is run by an old friend of mine. He was visiting Melbourne and we caught up for breakfast. In the course of discussion he outlined that he needed images of his product as they have new packaging. Naturally, he asked if I could help.

product photography shoot

My simple set up for shooting boxes of cookies on a white background

Why the Dilemma?

I know that these clients want to deal with someone they know and trust. That’s why they’ve asked me to help.

The dilemma is twofold. First is that my business plan is to grow in sports and stock photography. Work outside of that is not helping achieve my business goals. Second is that I don’t regularly shoot this style of content. While I can produce acceptable results, I’m sure they could achieve stronger images by working with a photographer who specializes in the type of work they need.

What Did I Do?

For both of these jobs I decided to go ahead but for different reasons.

For the bathroom renovation business I considered that they will have ongoing work and need those jobs completed at specific times. I like clients like this, as most of the work is mid week when my team and I have availability. On top of this, they were nice people and make payment promptly. I like doing business with people like this.

For the cookie business, I took this job as it was for an old friend. So I’ve ended up photographing different commercial jobs for 2 clients this month.

Cookies

This is the type of image produced for the cookie business.

What Do I Expect for the Future?

The bathroom renovation business will need images each time they complete a job. I expect ongoing work from them. I am planning that I won’t shoot all of these myself, but will outsource some to other photographers depending on the location of the property, the time frame for the job, and my own workload.

The cookie business I expect to be a one off job and don’t expect any ongoing work. My friend lives in another country so it was just chance that he was visiting Melbourne and had his products with him. That might be a good thing as I wouldn’t want cookies and photos to mess up a great friendship!

What If I Don’t Want to Shoot this Type of Job?

If you are a regular reader of Beyond Here you’ll know I have a simple mantra of making sure the customer is happy. If I didn’t want to shoot these jobs, or was not able to, I would refer them to a photographer who could help them. In that sense I would help solve the customer’s problem even if it didn’t benefit my business. You never know when goodwill generated by helping a customer will generate additional business.

What Would You Do?

Do you face the dilemma of photographing different commercial jobs? Are they a distraction to your main business? What do you do?