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Thread started 25 Apr 2008 (Friday) 16:40
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What advice would you offer a new pro phototgrapher?

 
HighPlainsPhotographer
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Apr 25, 2008 16:40 |  #1

After losing my job of 22 years and unhappily bouncing between positions in my field of expertise (manufacturing management), I have decided it is time to try photgraphy on a full time basis. I have been shooting sports for my local paper for a few years and have a few wedding and portrait sessions under my belt so I do have some experience but I'm by no means an expert. I'm going to concentrate on weddings as that is what I enjoy doing. My question; What one piece of advice would you offer to a "new" photographer in relation to achieving the goal of having a successful wedding photography business?

Thanks for your input,
Shaun


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cooperjai
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Apr 25, 2008 17:01 |  #2

do a small business course.




  
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Strayz
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Apr 25, 2008 18:24 |  #3

I am nto trying to be negative, or a smart a$$ but I am being rather down to earth.

Don't quit your day Job. Seriously, today is a lot like the pre-dot-com crash with everyone is a web page developer. Every other person is a photographer. Case in point how many hear do a thriving business on the side in addition to there day job?

Not to dash your hopes but 70% of all business go under, and I bet it is even higher for photographers/studios.

I would love to be able to quit my day job and go and live doing photography all day but with the market where it is, I am not leaving my job right now. (I can remember what my parents went through in the 70's and 80's and how tough times were). Don't stop looking for a job and don't give up on your old occupation. Use the cash you make from weddings too keep the bills at bay until you find a job.

Remember that to start a business you have to start up cash, business plan, Customer base, and some idea what as a business you are going to do, or where you want to be in XXXX years.
***************
Sorry I missed the 22 year lay off, but I think this may still apply for the most part...


Back to learning after a 5ish year break from photography

  
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NZDoug
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Apr 25, 2008 18:43 |  #4

http://www.blinkbid.co​m (external link)
UUse this from the start. :p


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LETS GO!

  
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Coastie72
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Apr 25, 2008 18:45 |  #5

I am just starting out myself. I still have a good day job, but I am building this business for my retirement. First I would say, believe in yourself! Don't give up easy. Try to be the very best you can and eventually the rest will take care of its self. Listen to your customers and try to make sure you are giving them what they want, but without comprimise to your own better judgement. Good luck Shaun!
Henry Ford said, "If you think you can or you can't, you are right"



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SuzyView
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Apr 25, 2008 18:56 |  #6

I would also recommend to have a day job. Even the initial investment is significant. I would not start without at least an upgrade of $10K in gear and business advertising, etc. If you don't have that right away, you are already behind. I know a lot of people trying to get into this gig full-time, but it's so seasonal, you can't raise a family on it. If you are set to move forward, take a course and seek advice from local business. Having connections is half it. And Good Luck!


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My children and grandchildren are the reason, but it's the passion that drives me to get the perfect image of everything.

  
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sfaust
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Apr 25, 2008 21:17 |  #7

Business capital. Without it, you are destined to fall behind the curve, run out of money, and give up or slowly die due to lack of capital. Put away 6 months of your operating expenses at minimum, which includes your salary, advertising, insurance, phone, expenses, etc. You can forgo things like retirement contributions, profits, etc, for a short while, but eventually you want to make sure those are part of your overhead as well.

Advertising and marketing. Crucial. Not only will it cost money, but suck up a tremendous amount of time. Pay a good designer to help you with your marketing materials and web presence. Its worth it.

Business courses. Run it as a business from day one. Count everything you do with any link to the business as your overhead. From the paper clips you buy, to the time you spend doing research on your competitors. Its all time and expense the company needs to cover, and not come out of your pocket. If you don't count it as overhead, it will come out of your salary, and you'll end up wondering why are aren't making any money.

Price according to the market, your cost structure, and your target clients budget. If you costs are higher than what your clients are willing to pay, change your clients, not your prices!!! There are hordes of people out there willing to pay $2,000 for a portrait sitting and some large prints. If you target your marketing to them, and have reasonable photography skills, you'll eventually carve your stake in that end of the business. If you just lower your prices and cut your costs, you could end up forever struggling with $50 portrait sittings and $15 8x10s.

Match your skills to the market segment you want to work in, go after them and ignore the rest. If you determine you should be the $250 sitting, $45 8x10 print range, don't accept the $50/$15 jobs that fall in your lap. Instead, use that time to continue marketing to bigger fish, rather than spend your time reeling in a smaller fish you will eventually throw back in. Its time wasted on a short term client.

Make sure you cover yourself as a business. Register as a business legally. Make sure you have liability insurance so when you drop a 800ws light on a toddler, you won't lose your house and life savings. Pay your taxes, keep on top of the financial and legal aspects of the business. Register your copyright for all the images you shot over the last 90 days, and do this every 90 days.

Understand the market and how it conducts business. Each segment is different. Creative fees, contracts, and usage/licensing are common in commercial work. Booking/Sitting fees and print prices are traditional in portraiture and weddings. Day rate vs space rate, one time serial rights, reprint rights, etc, are common in the editorial market. Don't make assumptions, rather take the time to understand and make informed business decisions.

Join organizations, forms, and networking groups where photographers in the same market segment are abundant. You will learn a lot. Photographers and creatives naturally tend to share information, more so than in other business segments. Don't know why, but its true. So take advantage of it.

I'll think of more later, and try to revist. Time to share a Manhattan with the wife and watch a movie :)


Stephen
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Stephie
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Apr 25, 2008 21:21 |  #8

I am doing weddings part time as a SAHM. So I'm by no means an expert. BUT

Is there a local florist/wedding planning business you can team up with? What got me into doing a few is my best friend opend a florist/wedding planning business. I have a few photos in her store and some of my photography decorates her store with some business cards.

Another friend of mine converted her garage into a studio and her business is thriving. Her advice to me was to offer something no one else does.

Good luck!


Stephanie Powers
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Ledrak
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Apr 26, 2008 09:55 as a reply to  @ Stephie's post |  #9

I agree with the above ^^

I'd advise finding a mentor in the industry. Hook up with someone who's successfully doing what you want to do, and learn as much as you can from that person. If you can learn how to do it the right way and avoid the mistakes and pitfalls that await you from people that have already been there, it will greatly benefit you in the long run.




  
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HighPlainsPhotographer
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Apr 26, 2008 10:53 as a reply to  @ Stephie's post |  #10

Thanks for all of the input! I'm taking your ideas to heart and taking actions to get the ball rolling.

A few more notes about me that may spur additional ideas;

I do have some operating capital and the ability to maintain my personal finances for a few months, maybe through this year if I budget properly. I have most of the camera and computer gear I need with money budgeted for another body and a few more lenses if needed. I do need to purchase (and learn how to use) a studio lighting set up.

As far as the job goes, my choice would have been to maintain a day job until the photo business was up and running, but I have not been able to find a job that is fulfilling to me. I will keep looking and jump on something if the opportunity presents it's self. But in the end, I have yearned to enter the full time professional photo biz for years - photography is my passion and I'm ready to give it my all!


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Stephie
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Apr 26, 2008 12:03 |  #11

HighPlainsPhotographer wrote in post #5407960 (external link)
Thanks for all of the input! I'm taking your ideas to heart and taking actions to get the ball rolling.

A few more notes about me that may spur additional ideas;

I do have some operating capital and the ability to maintain my personal finances for a few months, maybe through this year if I budget properly. I have most of the camera and computer gear I need with money budgeted for another body and a few more lenses if needed. I do need to purchase (and learn how to use) a studio lighting set up.

As far as the job goes, my choice would have been to maintain a day job until the photo business was up and running, but I have not been able to find a job that is fulfilling to me. I will keep looking and jump on something if the opportunity presents it's self. But in the end, I have yearned to enter the full time professional photo biz for years - photography is my passion and I'm ready to give it my all!

Go for it then. ;) Another thing i did was i did a wedding for free...not my intention, but it kinda just happened that way. A friend of mine was getting married and I did the wedding. I wasn't stressed about it too much b/c i wasn't getting paid and she knew my skill level. I learned a LOT from that, and built my portfolio.


Stephanie Powers
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LBaldwin
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Apr 26, 2008 12:11 |  #12

I have a few,
1. Never quote over the phone, get the clients info and meet in person or do your homework first. keep a basic set of questions by the phone.
2. Pass out business cards as much as possible
3. Always use a written contract, any changes -put them in writing.
4. Never sell all rights to your images
5. Do an accurate CODB every month
6. Keep every receipt for items you purchase.
7. Set aside time each day for the business part of the business.
8. Return phone calls promptly
9. Handle negative issues quickly.
10 Don't lower prices to get work. Raise them!!

11 and most important - PAY YOURSELF FIRST!!


Les Baldwin
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sfaust
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Apr 26, 2008 15:34 |  #13

I also agree with Les, with the exception of number 1.

Not only is nbr 1 time consuming, it will take a lot of time out of your weekly schedule that could be better used in other areas of your business. And it's a complete waste of time when you spend 45 minutes traveling to a clients site, 15 minutes waiting in the lobby, 20 minutes meeting with the client, and another 45 minutes traveling home, only to find out the clients budget is $700, about $1,000 less than your bottom end price was. And its just not practical for commercial photographers, unless they have a lot of frequent flyer miles, since their clients are usually scattered all over the US along with their local clients.

What I do for any incoming request for a quote is get as much infomration as I can on the initial phone call, then advise them I'll call them back once I work up a price. This gives me time to soak up the info and make sure I haven't forgotten anything in my pricing. Then I call them back, and give them a ball park price based on how I would approach the project. Usually there are several ways to approach a project, and thus I can come up with a pricing range. Usually from a basic shoot with the low end quote, to something more elaborate with a higher end quote.

If they find the range acceptable, then I'll make an appointment to travel to them and discuss it in more detail and firm up the final estimate or bid. This allows me to pre-qualify the client as someone with a reasonable budget, and worth spending additional time with. Doing this has saved me countless trip to clients that were looking for something priced far less that I could offer them.

I would also put items 3, 9, 10, and 11 very high on the list of priorities. Handling any issues promptly, and to the clients satisfaction, has won me many loyal clients. Everyone makes mistakes at one point or another, and its how they handle the mistakes that can make or break a business relationship. Those that go out of their way to resolve problems quickly, efficiently, and with little impact on the client wins a clients trust. The client then knows a glitch will be fixed quickly without any fuss on their part. I've gone as far as taking some good sized losses to resolve a clients problem, but they clients have rewarded me with loyalty in the long run.


Stephen
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T2000
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Apr 27, 2008 14:26 |  #14
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Get liability insurance.




  
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airfrogusmc
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Apr 27, 2008 15:53 as a reply to  @ T2000's post |  #15

Figure out now what you want to do and do it with everything you've got. Try not to be everything to everybody. Any chance you could get a job with a high end guy in your area? You would learn more about the business of photography in a few months than you would ever learn in any business course and it would be specific to what you would be doing.




  
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