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FORUMS Post Processing, Marketing & Presenting Photos The Business of Photography 
Thread started 05 Mar 2013 (Tuesday) 13:35
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AlanMura
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Mar 05, 2013 13:35 |  #1

Hey everyone.

I get many questions from members here, through my website and on FB. The questions dont necessarily pertain (though many do) to post processing, workflow etc, but many of them pertain to the business of photography. I am represented by an agency in Los Angeles. I started out learning photography through youtube videos, the strobist and here on the forums (and still do). I shoot for large clients such as Paul mitchell, Nestle, Arbonne, Black and Decker, among other notable commercial and fashion clients. I have been through the worst times as a freelancer. I just figured I would offer what ever advice I can to those who are interested.

Feel free to ask me anything.

PS: I found through my years as a photographer that most photogs dont like sharing information. Feel free to ask and ill answer to the best of my abilities.

Alan


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nathancarter
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Mar 05, 2013 13:43 |  #2

What are your most effective techniques for turning a casual "Oh, I love your work, we should work together someday" into a closed sale?


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AlanMura
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Mar 05, 2013 14:08 |  #3

Hey Nathan... thats an interesting question. Fortunately I have a manager now who does those things, but before that client conversion was extremely difficult. I first tried offering discounts to persuade them, that is until my accountant told me to never offer discounts. "Do it for free, do it for full value, or dont do it at all" Its great advice. Discounts hurt your brand so dont do that. Even for family.

From my experience I have had 3 types of clients:
1) Bands
2) Models / wanna bes
3) Start up business / fashion

What worked for me was actually having a large network of "we should work together someday" type people. What I learned quickly was that the best way to convert those people was for them to see work I did for someone else. For example, Person A is interested in working with me. They added me on FB to keep in touch. Person B actually hired me. I shoot for "B" and post to social media, prompting "A" to say, "Damn! Lets set something up!". Its a numbers game like any sales job. Maintaining your position as "photographer" at the top of your networks mind is crucial. When I started shooting full time I was overlooked by MY COUSIN! But thats because someone else held the position of "photographer" in their mind. The more work I post, even if its just test shoots of models, conceptual art, lanscape etc, the more I reside at the top of my potential clients mind and the more inquiries I get. Well, the more good work I post :)

At this point, for each photo I post to social media I get about 10-15 "lets set something up". 1 of those inquiries maaaay result in a gig if I am lucky, but the demand is there.

What you will see happen is the more quality work you post, the more people talk. Outside my agency I work almost elusively off of referrals. This didnt happen for me for about 2.5-3 years after I started shooting full time.

So I would say that patience combined with constant shooting (paid or not) is the best way to convert potential clients in to paying ones. Maintain the position as "Photographer" in your networks mind. And just remember, this is a business and it takes years to grow. I opened a FB fan page about 2 years ago. I dont have millions of fans or anything but I exponentially get more page likes. over the last week I received about 30 new unsolicited likes, and have 300+ people engaged or as it says on FB "talking about this". These are high numbers considering I have just under 1100 total page likes. In other words, 1/3 people who follow my work have engaged with my photography at some point this week by either commenting, liking, or sharing my work. The social media element is great because it puts a visual to the demand value of your brand. There is no formula for this, but its just a way to articulate the importance of maintaining the top position as photographer in peoples head.

I hope this helps. And I hope I didnt just flat out confuse you lol.

Thanks for the question.

-Alan


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Tigerkn
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Mar 05, 2013 14:29 |  #4

Wow... That is very generous of you Alan! Thanks! I will check out more of your work from home. BTW, your website frontpage is NSFW, maybe your could add a note next to it (on your signature).


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AlanMura
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Mar 05, 2013 14:31 |  #5

Good call @Tigerkn I will.


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nathancarter
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Mar 05, 2013 14:52 |  #6

AlanMura wrote in post #15680069 (external link)
I hope this helps. And I hope I didnt just flat out confuse you lol.

Thanks for the question.

-Alan

Thanks for the answer. Not confusing at all.

My wife and I run a video/photo house that targets small businesses (local TV advertising, web video, training videos, product photos, all the stuff needed by a small- to medium-sized business). Over the past four months or so we've really been pushing the person-to-person networking... "pressing the flesh," as it were. That's starting to pay off, and I can see it growing exponentially.

We get a lot of people that see our work and like it, but those people can't always envision how they would use our services in their own business - so that part is left up to us. We're getting better at really thinking about how our work can benefit their business, and presenting it in such a way that's appealing and worth their investment. It's a different kind of thinking than I've ever done in the past, but we're getting there. There's something for everyone: TV advertising, recording your seminars and selling them on DVD, training videos for your staff, or just the plain ol' business headshots.

One of these days we'll have an office manager and salesperson to do that stuff for us. :)


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huntersdad
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Mar 05, 2013 15:02 |  #7

Alan,

When you first began, what was your advertising model, what did you find to be the most effective method of bring clients in, and how did you sustain the flow of clients into your business? Strictly from when you first began photography.

Brad


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AlanMura
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Mar 05, 2013 17:06 |  #8

@huntersdad / brad

Hey Brad. I am not certain what area of photography you specialize in, but I always wanted to shoot people. So my advertising was based on shooting people. Also, keep in mind that I had many weeks without money, and my first year was absolutely brutal. This was the toughest journey I have ever embarked on, but I made it though somehow.

I surprisingly got many of my initial clients off of Craigslist. I am not sure what market you are in, but being in Los Angeles there are hundreds of creative gigs to bid on everyday (which doesnt make it any easier though). There are also neighboring markets in Orange County and the Inland Empire. So I was lucky in the sense that there was a market large enough for me to not only post my services but bid on gigs through the creative services section.

Other sites I used to advertise my services and find gigs on (with much less success):

Elance.com
Guru.com
backpage

I didnt have a social media following when I first started out (or any money for that matter) so I would literally do my rounds on the local ad boards as well.

Another method I used with some success was posting my business cards or small post card type ads in Starbucks (as well as other major coffee shops like Petes, Diedrichs etc if you have those in your area) on their community board.

My mindset behind all the ads I used when i started out was based on simplicity. I wanted to create one striking image that I can use everywhere. CL, Facebook, coffee shops, etc, and flood the local market with this one image I knew people would go gaga over.

IMAGE: http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m0lthtJtoE1qh4lvto1_1280.jpg

I used high quality everything. $1/card business cards on super high quality card stock. Everything I did was to create the idea that I was quality. There werent any images on my cards, just my name contact info and "photographer" ... Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication... I didnt want to look like a photographer to the world, I wanted to look like a person. I made sure that I didnt design my cards, site etc like any other local photographer. quality service, quality images, quality time was the mindset.

This is what I did. This is what I would have done much, much earlier on.

So my advice to you if you are just starting out is to push the social media realm like you would a traditional ad campaign. The fact of the matter is most poeple spend more time on facebook in a day than they do on TV. Figuring out a way to engage people online is the only way i currently advertise. 90% of my freelance work (outside my agency) comes from social media. Heres the kicker about social media and the best advice I can give you: NEVER sell your services to your social media network. This is a way of telling your audience that you are not friends after all you are targets and potential clients. I never make offers or request people to hire me as I truly believe it alienates your fan base, which is actually your pool of potential clients and referral network.

What you will notice this way is you will start to develop 3 types of "fans".

1) The Fan
They see what goes on, occaisionally participate by licking "like".
2) The Super Fan
They click like on almost every post you put up, every picture, etc.
3) The Brand ambassador
They actively promote your business for you by sharing your work and gaining you referrals.

The idea then is to convert fans into superfans, and superfans into brand ambassadors.

IMAGE: http://i47.tinypic.com/95wzmv.png

This all ties into what I was saying in an earlier answer about being THE photographer on your networks mind.

So at the end of the day, make sure you are doing all of the above things. Its practically a full time job managing it but with patience it pays off.

Again I tend to blabber quite a bit so feel free to follow up with me or ask me anything else.

To everyone. Please keep in mind I am not the worlds top photographer. I am not even close, but I do make a good living shooting commercial and fashion. I can only tell you what worked for me. It may not work for you, and there might be better answers. I can only tell you from my perspective.

Hopefully this is all helpful information.

If you do end up following my facebook page or friend requesting me just keep in mind I am very R-Rated. I post NSFW work all the time and curse like a sailor lol. If you can deal with that go for it :)

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John
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Mar 05, 2013 18:30 |  #9

Nice collection of work, Alan.

How do you meter a shot like this where you have the sun backlighting the subject but it's not completely washing out the subject? And did you shoot these with anything other than natural light?
http://alanmura.tumblr​.com/image/29879481377 (external link)
http://alanmura.tumblr​.com/image/38401428546 (external link)

Thanks!


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AlanMura
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Mar 05, 2013 19:11 as a reply to  @ John's post |  #10

Hey Alpha,

When i shoot outside I rarely ever use anything but natural light (for fashiony type pics). I also dont own a light meter so it takes a couple test shots to nail it. What I do (generally) is three fold... kind of.

1) I open up the aperture and use a 1 or 2 stop ND filter to compensate. This means youll have to jack up the shutter speed but thats never really an issue. I then shoot it under exposed looking only at two things: a) the highlight on the skin and hair (making sure I get a nice rim/hair lighting), and 2 checking to see if the detail is there in their face/clothing etc.

2) Its going to be dark since I shot under exposed so I raise the exposure slightly in post. I do NOT correct it though, just slightly raise it.

3) I apply a series of curves adjustment layers to tweak the coloring of the light, and remove true black from the image. What you will notice is doing this brings back a lot of the detail in the skin and clothes since the harsh shadowing is mow been removed by the curves layer.

The key is to not shoot too far under or too far over the right exposure. It takes some practice and some tweaking. Its also very dependent on where in the sky the sun is. You can only really get this with about 1hr-45 mins left of sunlight... well Im sure you can achieve it in other ways but thats how I do it.

But honestly the best way to do this is to just practice it and experiment as there is more than 1 way of doing it.

Another technique I use is adding a layer of haze I created with a brush and set to screen and adjust the opacity on the layer until the detail and haze hits the right balance.

So ya, there isnt really one way of doing it.

But as an FYI I always shoot 1 stop down. Always. The LCD display is not accurate and you can always salvage information this way. 1 stop over and you lose a ton.

Hope this helps!!!

PS: The easiest way is to use a reflector but again, I love the natural look of the light and the raw nature of it. Many dont.


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Dr.Monocle
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Mar 05, 2013 21:15 |  #11

Fantastic timing on this thread. I'm currently working on setting up my own side business. So far I have set up a Facebook page and am currently working on a website and some business cards. However what I'm having trouble with most is the legal side of things.

I've had a couple of other photographers I know tell me to set myself up as an LLC. Is this something you did at the start? Or is there a better way to get the ball rolling?


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AlanMura
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Mar 05, 2013 21:24 |  #12

Ohh. I dont know much about that stuff to be honest. I have an accountant take care of those needs for me. I started as simply filing under my SSN (and still do). I wish I had a better answer for you but im in CA and the benefits etc might be different.


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Mar 05, 2013 22:13 |  #13

oh great thread alan,

love your detailed responses!


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Bumgardnern
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Mar 05, 2013 22:54 |  #14

Do you do portfolio showings for advertising agencies? Do you get much work this way? I ask because I have a creative director that I work with a lot who has been pushing me to expand to more markets and show my work at other agencies. I just don't know if it is worth it.

Do you use agency access or something like it? Do people respond well to this type of marketing?

What is your experience like working with a rep? I have been aproached by several reps over the years and have always decided to not go with them.




  
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AlanMura
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Mar 05, 2013 23:47 |  #15

@Bumgardnern

Honestly I dont think its worth it (showing that is). I personally think time is better spent networking in other ways. I know an art buyer but she mostly goes through agencies similarly how I prefer getting models through them. Smallers boutique agencies will consider you port so that may be an avenue to look at.

If you can get representation i would do it depending on the terms of your contract. I love the fact that I don't need to bid for work. I just shoot. Cant beat that.


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