According to London photographer David Locke, photography is not just about being a good photographer. In this dog-eat-dog world, where Instagram has made photographers out of everyone, (including your neighbour’s great aunt), professional photographers need to have a steady head for business, along with a steady hand for shooting. To help point your business in the right direction, here are a few basic tenets followed by photographers who have made the cut in this fiercely competitive field.
Photography is not a hobby, it’s a business.
Even though photography may have been your hobby first, it is now your business, and you need to make sure other people see it in the same light. In a bid to score more clients and build an impressive portfolio, many rookie photographers offer their services free of charge, especially to friends and families. Soon, they are established as a ‘by-the-by photographer’ in the eyes of the world. If you indiscriminately offer free services, your business will soon be staring down the barrel of a gun. Choose clients wisely in the beginning, and offer free services only when you think a project can significantly up your marketing quotient. Also, instead of offering free services, carry out free photography sessions, but offer prints and digital images at a discounted rate.
Since photography is a business, make it pay.
One of the chief conundrums creative people find themselves in is how much to charge for their services. Compounding this problem is the fact that most creative folk are constantly racked by ‘artistic guilt’, wondering whether they ‘deserve’ to get paid well for their services. The good news is – you definitely do. The tough part is convincing yourself of your worth, and being bold enough to ask for more. Says photographer Rosh Sillars, “Every time I raise my rates, I lose clients who take too much of my time and don’t want to pay for it. I find new clients who believe quality photographers charge more and are willing to pay the price for the best. I like these clients, you will too.”
Bottom-line: There is no ‘right or wrong price’. Ask for what you believe you are worth and stick to that. In fact, what is wrong is underselling yourself.
Be a purple cow – do not follow the herd.
When you have just hung out your shingle, you may give every photography project the nod, for that ‘extra bit of money and experience.’ While that may see you through in the beginning, it will not help you carve a niche for yourself. Like Seth Godin has put it, you will get eyeballs only if you are a purple cow in a field full of ordinary cows.
So observe your strengths and weaknesses, think hard about what kind of photography you really like to do, and build on that. Take the case of Anne Geddes, the iconic photographer, who started photographing babies because she found them to be deeply inspiring. Jeff Cable, another world-famous photographer has said, “I’ll shoot stuff that most people wouldn’t shoot in ways that most people wouldn’t shoot it. I’ll lay on the ground, I’ll go up high, I’ll even dance sometimes with the kids while I’m shooting them.” (source: PicturePerfect:)
Find out what makes you a purple cow, and then hone in on it.
Give your business maximum exposure.
‘My business doesn’t need a marketing plan’, said nobody ever. Every photographer, however brilliant, has had to market his/her skills. However, the crux lies in efficient marketing; and not just a ‘spray and pray’ technique. So how do you stand out from your competitors? The secret lies in not marketing yourself, but in marketing how your client wins by choosing you. Make your website, your social media page, every piece of communication all about what the customer will get and how they will get it, rather than about how great you are. Remember to delve deep into the distinctive benefits of your service, or your unique skills. So if you are a portrait photographer, avoid making blanket statements like – We bring out your best. Nobody ever hires a portrait photographer to bring out their worst, so an obvious statement like this is no help for your business.
The next step is to identify exactly what kind of clients you will be targeting (brides, pregnant mothers, performance artists?) and then formulate a plan that knocks specifically on their doors.
Most seasoned photographers swear by the efficiency of email marketing as a means of establishing personal, meaningful ties with clients, while blogs and social media channels help create general awareness about their work.
Network: When not behind the lens, take the spotlight
For most start-ups, business comes through referrals from happy customers. But how do you get customers in the first place? That is where networking and people skills come into play. When not behind the camera, try networking with a wide variety of people through different channels. Join forums, clubs, participate in start-up meets, hold workshops on photography, attend workshops on photography, even befriend your competitors. You never know where the next project may come from.
As photographer Lauren Lim puts it, photography is a people’s business. The more effort you put into connecting with people, the more success you get.
What has helped you grow your photography business? Chip in with your advice in the comment section below and let us know.
deAsra Foundation offers end-to- end support and counselling to emerging entrepreneurs in the small-mid scale sector. To date, we have helped 52 entrepreneurs grow and nurture their ideas into successful businesses. Thinking of starting out as an entrepreneur? Reach out to us at 020 – 65365300/11 for personalised guidance and help.