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.

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.

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.

Preparing to Shoot Gymnastics

This week the Australian Gymnastics Championships start here in Melbourne, Australia. This is the national champs and is the highlight of the Australian gymnastics year. I’m shooting a big football job tomorrow, and at the same time am preparing to shoot gymnastics. Here’s a run down of the gear which will be in the bag from Monday.

Gymnast on Pommel horse
Gymnastics action is fast so we need gear that can keep up

Gear Considerations

I’ll be carrying all my equipment for this event, so gear selection is a balance between taking everything (!) and being able to carry it. One thing which is non negotiable is having backups in case of a gear failure. There will be a minimum of 2 DSLRs and 2 lenses in the bag. Unfortunately I won’t know the access my media accreditation gives me until I get to the event. This makes planning tricky. Last year I had full access to the gym floor, meaning close access to the athletes. I hope that is the case this year!

Lens Choices

My go to, and most used, lens is the 70-200mm f2.8. It will definitely be in the bag and will likely to be the lens which gets the most use.

Canon 70-200mm lens on dslr with red background
The 70-200mm lens will definitely be in the bag

I will likely only take one other lens to minimize the weight of my bag. That will be the 24-70mm f2.8.

Shoot Planning

Shoot planning is a key part of preparing to shoot gymnastics. At this stage I’m planning for access to the floor area like last year. I’ve studied my images from the previous national champs, planning for some I want to repeat, and some which I want to improve. This year I’m planning to shoot plenty of fast shutter speed “action freezing” images, more multiple exposures, and also to experiment with slower shutter speeds.

Minimal Weight

My key driver in preparing to shoot gymnastics is having enough equipment to get the job done, but also to minimize weight. The event runs every day for 2 weeks (though I’m not planning to attend it all) and so minimizing weight becomes even more important. The bag will have 2 lenses, 2 DSLRs, plenty of memory cards, back up batteries, battery chargers (to use between sessions), a cloth to clean lenses, food and a bottle of water. Thanks for reading – preparing to shoot gymnastics. Here’s to a great 2 weeks!

Gymnast in mid air above the beam
I’m looking forward to the spectacular action of the gymnasts

For more on photographing gymnastics please see Thoughts from Photographing a Major Gymnastics Competition.

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 Tips for Photographing Basketball

I photograph a lot of basketball. Over the last 5 years this has mainly been kids basketball, and in the last 12 months much more senior basketball. Basketball can be tricky to shoot – it’s fast moving, players movements are unpredictable, and often it is in dark stadiums. Here are 5 tips for photographing basketball.

Tip #1 – Use Fast Shutter Speeds to Freeze Action

Basketball is a fast moving sport. In the junior age groups there is lots of running and dribbling. As the players get older there is more passing and shooting. Whether you are shooting juniors or seniors you’ll need to shoot at 1/1000s as a minimum to freeze the action and have sharp images.

Use fast shutter speeds to freeze the action. This shot is 1/2500s.

Tip #2 – Shoot Close Ups AND more Distant Images

The first image in this post shows a close up of the player as she drives to the basket with a defender right in her face. These make interesting images as they show what spectators can’t see in a fast moving game. Shoot plenty of close up, and don’t forget to shoot images which show more of the game, the court, the spectators and the scoreboard. Look to shoot a variety of images which show all aspects of the game, not just player close ups.

Shoot a wide variety of images at different focal lengths

Tip #3 – Look for People Interacting

Action makes great images, and interaction between people makes great images. Look for interaction between team mates, between one team and the other, between coach and players, and particularly between referees and coaches. Tip number 3, look for people interacting.

It’s very common for the referee and coach to have a discussion. Look for that interaction to create strong images.

Tip #4 – The Bench is a Great Source of Images

You may not always think to look to the bench, but ironically this is where you’ll find a lot of players. And where you find players you find interaction, communication and emotion. Take time to shoot the emotions you find on the bench.

Take time to shoot images of the bench. Here you’ll find a lot of interaction, communication and emotion.

Tip #5 – Shoot Close Up Details

My final tip is to shoot what a spectator can’t see from the stands – the close up details. It might be a player lacing up their shoes, the facial expressions in a timeout, or the moment before a free throw is attempted. Zoom in to see what a spectator can’t see – shoot the close up details.

Thanks for reading 5 tips for photographing basketball. Happy shooting.

Thoughts from Photographing A Major Gymnastics Competition

Last week I was photographing a major gymnastics competition, the Gymnastics World Cup competition held in Melbourne, Australia. I’ve shot a fair amount of gymnastics in the last year – from recreational gymnasts through to some of the world’s best. Here are 5 thoughts from photographing a major gymnastics competition.

Thought #1 – Subject Matter Matters

Photographing a World Cup event is very different than shooting recreational gymnasts at the local club. The strength, flexibility, and balance of the top gymnasts is quite amazing and leads to unique images that can’t be produced with less capable athletes. So, thought number one from photographing a major gymnastics competition is that subject matter matters. If you want to shoot really unique images, it helps to start with subjects who can do unique things.

Gymnast doing back flip on beam
To produce unique images it helps to start with subjects who can do unique things

Thought #2 – Be Different

In the women’s beam competition there were 9 photographers located to the right and back of the image above. They were literally on top of each other shooting the same subject from the same angle (I took a photo of them to amuse myself). While there is an argument that there is a “best position” to photograph each apparatus, be brave enough to be different. I stood on the opposite side of the floor. It meant I didn’t have a great shot of the women’s beam competition, but I was the only photographer shooting the men’s vault. Vault is difficult to shoot so many photographers decided not to. I like the opportunity to shoot unique images. Be brave. Be different.

Men's vault competition. Gymnastics.
I know the images I shot of the men’s vault competition are unique as I was shooting all alone. All the other photographers were together shooting women’s beam

Thought #3 – Look for Bold Colors

Gymnasts wear unique clothing for their competitions. They range from simple all black or all white, through to multi colored and patterned designs. Looks for bold colors to help create strong images. Particularly look for reds and blues. Bold colors will help your images stand out.

Male gymnast doing rings
Bold colors (especially reds and blues) will help your images stand out

Thought #4 Shoot a Range of Apparatus

At some gymnastics events there are multiple apparatus going at one time. In that case you have to choose which one to shoot, or get lucky and find a position where you can shoot multiple apparatus from one location. At this event, there were only 2 apparatus operating at one time. That made it easy to make sure you created variety in your images by shooting different activity. It reminded me to shoot a range of apparatus so your images don’t all look the same. That’s thought number 4 from photographing a major gymnastics competition.

If you stay on one location your images will look similar. Move to different locations and shoot different apparatus

Thought #5 Interesting Images Aren’t Only of Competitors

At a big sporting event there are lots of people and lots of activity. There are many compelling images waiting to be made from people other than competitors. Keep an eye out for judges, coaches, spectators, and other people involved in the event but not directly competing. Shooting these images well will guarantee you produce unique content.

Keep an eye on judges, coaches, spectators and other people to produce unique images

If you’d like more tips on shooting gymnastics please see:

Thanks for reading Thoughts From Photographing a Major Gymnastics Competition.

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.