Category Archives: Craig’s Comments

Comments from Craig

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.

When Will Normal Return?

2020 has been a challenging year for so many industries across the world. The cancellation of sports events has had a major impact on my business. We can see light at the end of the tunnel with junior sport recommencing in July 2020. But the recent outbreak of coronavirus in Victoria has cast doubt on those dates, and left many people wondering, when will normal return?

Right now there is a lot of preparation for the return of sport. But will the recent second wave of coronavirus put back those plans?

Surviving the Coronavirus Shutdown

I have spent most of the last 4 months shooting stock images, family portraits, personal projects or organizing my images and filing systems for a time when we return to normal. It has been a challenging time and not one I’d like to repeat soon! (see background Shooting Stock Images During the Coronavirus Shutdown)

I’m eagerly looking forward to the return of sports events, so that we can get back to photographing live sport. Like many sports fans, I was optimistic that time will be in July 2020. Now that date looks not so likely.

Although pro sport has re-commenced, Melbourne’s major stadiums remain empty with crowds not allowed

We are experiencing a spike in new coronavirus cases which looks likely to delay a return to normal.

Contingencies

I wish we did not need to think about contingencies! However, it now seems the global health concerns may be with us for some time. We may need to consider our short term plans more closely, and focus less on ‘when will normal return’.

What are your plans? Are you hoping for a quick return to normal? Or an extended time of implementing contingencies?

Shooting Stock Images During the Coronavirus Shutdown

It is very challenging times right around the world as we deal with the coronavirus. Here in Australia the government is encouraging people to stay at home and only go out when absolutely necessary. I recently wrote a post called Coronavirus Realities for this Photographer. Today, it’s shooting stock images during the coronavirus shutdown.

Background

We had a small amount of advance notice that there will be restrictions in daily life as the world tries to ‘flatten the curve’ in growth of coronavirus cases. During this small window I was able to do one outdoor coronavirus themed stock photo shoot. I also made a visit to the craft shop to stock up on supplies which I could use in stock photo concepts.

Shooting stock images in the coronavirus shutdown. I was able to do one outdoor themed shoot recently.

Early Feedback

There are currently a lot of coronavirus themed images being added to microstock sites. To date, I have been concentrating on local themed images like the one above. Why? Firstly, because it is relatively easy for me to shoot this style of image, and secondly there is very little competition. Encouragingly, there have been immediate sales on each of the microstock sites where I submit images.

From Here?

Now, with daily movement restrictions increasing, I’m not expecting to be able to do outdoor shoots in the near future. The increasing requirements around ‘social distancing’ are going to make this impossible in the short term. So where will I focus? I built a small home studio several years ago and am planning to shoot a series of simple stock images there.

There is strong demand for coronavirus themed stock images right now

What Can You Shoot?

Right now is a unique time to be able to shoot specifically themed images. The whole world is reporting on the virus, and there is high demand for relevant images.

You don’t need a studio to shoot coronavirus themed stock images. With the large push to stay at home, work from home, social distancing, and ‘flattening the curve’ there is real opportunity to use your own home surrounds to shoot relevant images.

Final Thoughts

In a world turned upside down I am grateful for the small amount of revenue coming in through stock photography. All my booked jobs for the next 2 months have cancelled, with no current time line for when normal activities might resume. In the meantime I’ll be staying home, keeping safe, and doing what I can with stock imagery.

Social Distancing is a theme to consider for your stock photo shoots

Thanks for reading Shooting Stock Images During the Coronavirus Shutdown. Good luck!

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!

Common Sense, Real World Experience, and Practice

Thanks for being a reader of Beyond Here. I’ve just taken an unannounced 6 month break from writing this blog. A visit to the bookshop and the library this week have been enough to kick me back into action! Why the sudden return? At both the book shop and the library there are no resources for people wanting to learn the business side of photography. Literally I couldn’t find a single book. I’m not planning to write a book anytime soon, but I can add to Beyond Here regularly. So today I’m back, and here is common sense, real world experience, and practice.

Why the 6 Month Break?

I started Beyond Here 5 years ago, thinking it would be relatively straightforward to write at least one post a month about the business side of photography. Most months it was, even though I am not a natural writer and the words don’t always flow. But mid last year I finally missed one month, and soon realized that became 2 and 3 and 4 months. I enjoyed the break, and spent a lot of time shooting and working in my sports photography business.

Writing a blog, it’s not always easy to know how well (or not) received it is. Readers don’t tend to comment on blog posts anymore. They are more inclined to add comments on Facebook than to bother commenting on the blog. Even though Google Analytics makes it easy to see how many people are visiting and what they are reading, that doesn’t always equate to knowing the information is valuable. So in one of those months where I felt like I might be the only person reading what I was writing (!) I took a break, and here we are 6 months later.

Consistency of effort is key in sport – perhaps in blog writing too!

Common Sense, Real World Experience

One of the reasons I sometimes doubt the value of the content here is that it is not rocket science. It is not brilliant insight which no-one else in the world could possibly have. Common sense and real world experience make up most of the content. It is trying things in my own business, and sharing what works and what doesn’t. If you are expecting amazing insight, I’m going to let you down! But if you are looking to speed up your learning, and apply that to your own creative business then I might be able to help.

I do like the saying – common sense is not so common – so maybe I can add some value there. I can certainly add my real world experience from the ups and downs of my own business.

Sport is a great example where you can’t perform without practice. Are you practicing your photography skills?

Practice

And now for today’s dose of common sense! We are very lucky today that it is easy to start a photography business. It is literally a matter of some basic equipment, a few clients, and you are away.

While it is easy to start that in no way means your skills are at a professional standard. In fact, they are likely not to be when you are starting out and your portfolio consists only of family portraits taken of friends. It takes time and practice to build skills so that you can meet different photographic briefs, and produce high quality images in a variety of lighting conditions.

So what’s the answer? The answer is really a question – are you practicing and building photography skills? For much of this blog I assume your photography skills are strong and we focus on sales and marketing and other topics. But I see too many photographers who have not built their skills and are not practicing. I’m a sports lover, and to draw a sports comparison, can you imagine a pro sports person who doesn’t practice? They are not likely to last too long. Are you practicing enough?

I wrote a post called Photographing Different Commercial Jobs. Sometimes we get in a rut shooting the same types of jobs in the same way. Doing those commercial jobs was challenging, and helped me build new skills. Sometimes it’s best not to take on paying jobs to learn new skills, the key questions is are you taking on different challenges?

Thanks for reading common sense, real world experience, and practice. I hope it has given you food for thought. Invest in practice, and go ahead and comment on the blog. Happy shooting.

Turning Negative Experiences to Positive

I recently wrote a post for Beyond Here called Choose Your Photography Jobs Carefully. It outlines my experience doing some interesting sports photography work but having issues with payment. In this post I have an update, it’s called turning negative experiences to positive.

My recent experience, like this basketball player, had me down but not out

What Happened?

I was dealing with a reasonably well known business, but having issues getting paid. I remained polite through all communications and provided details of which invoices were outstanding, when they were due, how long they were now overdue, and copies if requested. There were a series of reasons provided about why payment had not yet been made, and then steadily, one by one, each was paid over a period of weeks. So there’s the good news – payment came through ok.

Ready to rise again

A Choice to Make

I’d committed to shooting another job for them, but hadn’t received payment for the earlier jobs. What to do? I considered what was my best course of action, and perhaps they anticipated this as payment was made a few days before the job.

Turning Negative Experiences to Positive

So with a degree of uncertainty I shot the additional job – a 5 hour sports photography assignment shooting a cross country event. I was shooting alongside the owner of the business. How did I go about turning negative experiences to positive? It turns out I had many things in common with the owner of the business. Perhaps the biggest and most important was a common enjoyment of photography and sport. We got along reasonably well, and were able to put aside the slow payment issue and focus on doing a good job photographing the cross country event.

What Is the Positive?

There were three clear positives which came from this experience.

First was that I enjoyed the cross country photography assignment and made stronger industry contact in the process.

Second, while on the job I was asked if I could help with an additional job. This is the sign of a good relationship.

And third, payment from the cross country assignment came through 4 days after the invoice had been sent through. I am expecting that prompt payment will be the norm in the future.

There it is! Thanks for reading Turning Negative Experiences to Positive.

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.