Getting Serious About Your Photography Business - Part 2

DIGITAL IMAGING

Save yourself a whirlwind of trouble and establish what is included in the price and what isn’t in your quote and in your contract. Unless it’s a large scale advertising shoot of just a couple images our price covers cropping, color correction, color balance nothing else.  Additional work such as removing objects costs additional money. Also make it clear again on the shoot right away. Every shoot we do someone from the client side will make a comment on the first shot “oh he can just Photoshop that out” and yes many things are possible with Photoshop. I politely correct them right away to manage expectations.  There is a huge difference between changing someone’s hairstyle in 200 wedding pictures compared to changing a white sky to blue and removing a dust spot.

Most people don’t understand how much work goes into retouching, they think there is just a button on your computer that says “Photoshop” and you press it and it just fixes things. They don’t understand it’s an art and time consuming. It’s not their fault for thinking like that and we can’t change that way of thinking but what we can do is clear up those misconceptions in our contracts and on the shoot. For our wedding work we include color correction, we don’t do smooth skin toning or removing of objects. Yes you see that in our portfolio but you also see that in our contract .  We’ve had small commercial clients put 30 retouching notes on a single image and gigantic global clients get the first round of edits and not ask for anything else, they were perfectly satisfied. It’s all about educating your clients from the beginning on what is possible and what’s not and what’s included in their price and what’s not. Set the tone early (pun intended).

KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT YOU ARE AS A BRAND

Learn how to sell yourself and believe in what you do. Understand your product and the market for your product. Don’t market yourself as a guy who sometimes will do food shots or weddings if he’s asked to. Do you want to hire that guy/gal?

GET ORGANIZED

I’m not an organized person but we started using Dropbox and it simplifies my life. All of our company documents  there and are accessible no matter where I am. Every job has a job number and relevant files in a dedicated folder so it’s all right there when I need to access it.

TRADE AND BARTER

I typically avoid barter deals for things I don’t need like luxury purchases such as a nice hotel room or whatever it is. Don’t get caught in that trap of a potentially large client not valuing your work and your time. They might want to trade you few nights for some hotel shots but then they will never hire you for a paid job. I’ve traded with a client at a hotel before and will do it again but only have I’ve worked with that hotel on a paid job and only if I see true value in staying there. I’m not saying don’t trade, just be strategic about it.  For example trade with a lawyer, take their company profile shots in exchange for  some advice and contract work. Just be clear, make them understand your true value from the start. Make a proper quote so they see your prices and then it will be a clear trade. I traded a wedding shoot with our graphic designers Croc and Plover. I couldn’t afford them at the time and it proved to be an amazing deal I hope for both of us.

WHAT IS YOUR BUDGET?

Ask your prospective client “What It Your Budget?”. This is probably the best piece of advice I can give you. You’d be surprised how many clients will just be upfront with you. This isn’t an opportunity to overcharge but it can help a ton with assessing your quote. If the budget is higher for a video for example we can rent a crane or use our drone, if the budget is smaller then we might need to skip these things and shoot less days. For a photo shoot it could be a matter of terms and usage of images. The commercial quoting system is the wild west, just ask their budget and then work from there on how to give the client the most value and best product for that budget. This question will also save you time and effort if the two of you aren’t even close on pricing.

PORTFOLIO

Have a professional site, Facebook or Flickr don’t count and never show your work to prospected client on your phone.

DRESS THE PART

Rolex and an Armani tailored suit for every shoot and meeting, no exceptions. Just kidding, but something between that and board shorts , T-Shirt, and flip-flops should suffice. 

CROWD FUNDING

I don’t knock you for trying and for some it works well but the key word there is “some”. When I hear this at panel discussions to new photographers as a viable solution to how to make a living in photography it kills me. The people talking about doing this in panels have a huge number of followers and at some point even those followers will get sick of donating money. Before I get angry looks at the next documentary photography festival and shunned from the scarf totting community that I feel like I’m a part of, I get it that it works for some of you but it’s not a realistic business plan for most. I have a few friends who make this work and I respect them for it but even they will admit it’s a struggle.  Try it out, but don’t rely on it as a way to be a professional photographer.

GET OFF YOUR ASS AND GO GET IT

Work isn’t just going to flow in because you are a talented photographer or because you won a big award. You have to be proactive and go get it yourself. I get shit for OP(Over Promoting)  and at times maybe I can OD on OP’ing but I’m fine with that. I like getting paid to take photos for a living and promoting on social media helps me do that. It works for me, it helps clients remember our diverse business and hopefully they think of us when they need visuals because they remember that picture we posted on Facebook that is relevant do their business.

Most photographers don’t want to talk business because they feel it takes away from their art or their vision. I’ve personally had multiple photographers angry or weary of me for being a businessman. Not a shady business, but just a businessman. This doesn’t mean I’m lurking down alleyways making shady deals and trying to trick people and rip them off, ha ha gotcha!!!  I sell other photographers for weddings and commercial assignments and guess what I take a percentage just like an agency does. We both make money, to me this is a good thing.  My business has employees, offices, marketing expenses etc. and all that costs money but that’s what generates assignments. I’ve had people try to belittle my work as a documentary photographer because I also shoot weddings and commercial work. Shooting weddings and commercial work doesn’t somehow magically make you a bad photojournalist; I’d argue it makes you a better photographer.  My background as a photojournalist and as a documentary photographer helped created who am I today as a photojournalist, wedding photography, cinematographer, and commercial photographer. I personally love weddings, resort shoots, editorial assignments because I love photography.  I realize not everyone is like this and this is just what works for me personally. My point isn’t that everyone out there should shoot weddings, commercial, and editorial work , my point is that if you want to make a living as a photographer you need to start thinking like a business owner. You don’t have to be rich but you do need to survive long term financially. Don’t be ashamed of being a businessman or businesswoman(politically correct points) in whatever path of photography you choose. Embrace it and you perhaps you won’t have to Crowd Fund your retirement plan.

I hope this advice was helpful and please post your own useful tips in the comments section and yes I’ll accept a few wise-ass comments.

Check out more photography tips! Look for #AskMott across social channels and tag your posts with this hashtag to ask me any questions you have about being a better photographer