Community Discussion Topic: Pre-shoot Preparations

What’s your pre-shoot ritual? Sure, we all charge the batteries, format the cards and clean our lenses, but what else do you do to prepare yourself and your equipment for a shoot?

There are some who can’t feel prepared unless they know that they have been through a rigourous set of equipment checks: is it all working, is everything packed?

If you have a list you complete before each shoot share and discuss it with us over in the Ready Steady Pro community

In the usual way I’ve posted this video to kick off the question / discussion:

The idea behind these videos and scenarios is to encourage us to discuss what we would do if they were to happen to each of us as a photographer in business. Discussing as a community is sure to conjure up a vast array of responses, each of them different from one another. There may not always be one correct answer, but by talking about it I sincerely hope it will encourage us to give thought to our actions and better-equip us to deal with the things that this industry and our clients throw at us.

Community Discussion Topic: Increased Albums Costs

This is the first of a new series of videos I’ll be posting to the Ready Steady Pro community, asking questions and setting pretend (albeit very feasible) scenarios that we as working photographers could possibly have to contend with. The idea behind these questions and scenarios is to get every one talking about how they would handle the situation. The discussion, I hope, will stimulate us to think about our actions and will better-equip us to deal with what this industry and our clients will at some stage throw our way.

The first scenario I have for you is relating unexpected increased costs from your album supplier:

The question for those not able to view the video is this:

You’ve not sold an album for a short while now, but your most recent client has just placed an order with you. You then find that the album supplier has increased the cost of their products by 10%.

You speak to the supplier who tell you they’ve been communicating the price increase for months. You check your email and the updates from your supplier are in your Junk folder.

How do you deal with this scenario?

The idea behind these videos and scenarios is to encourage us to discuss what we would do if they were to happen to each of us as a photographer in business. Discussing as a community is sure to conjure up a vast array of responses, each of them different from one another. There may not always be one correct answer, but by talking about it I sincerely hope it will encourage us to give thought to our actions and better-equip us to deal with the things that this industry and our clients throw at us.

Put your questions to Neil Buchan-Grant

On Saturday 14th June  I’m going to be heading down to Winchester in the UK to meet the supremely talented Neil Buchan-Grant to record an interview for The Ready Steady Pro Photography Podcast.

(You absolutely must check out Neil’s work)

Copyright Neil Buchan-Grant
Copyright Neil Buchan-Grant

Neil is the British Press Travel Photographer of the Year, so for those of you interested in travel photography this should be a great interview! In addition to Neil’s work as a travel photographer he is also an Olympus Ambassador, a prize winner for his photographs and an astute businessman. I’m going to be talking to Neil about all of this and much more.

I didn’t want to hog all the fun though and just ask the questions I have, so I wanted to provide you guys – the Ready Steady Pro Readers, listeners and community members – the opportunity to put forward your own questions for The British Press Travel Photographer of the Year!

Neil Buchan-Grant
Neil Buchan-Grant

So, if you have questions about what it takes to be a travel photographer, how to win awards, mirrorless cameras, working with models, or anything of that nature please do drop a comment below, send me an email to michael@rammellphotography.com or complete the contact form:

Don’t be Afraid of the Numbers

Since I was 13 years old I’ve had a job. Initially, I started out working weekends cleaning vehicles for a company who sold plants, before doing other bits and pieces through school, including cleaning and labouring. Then I entered the world of IT after leaving school and rapidly worked my way up to where I am today – an IT Manager of the UK operation for a large firm. It is a job I thoroughly enjoy and I’m proud of where I am.

My passion though, is photography, which requires an almost completely different skill set!

During all these jobs and careers I’ve never had to once sell anything. I’ve never had to convince people that what I was offering was worth what I was charging, or show them how something was worth more. It’s just not been part of the skill set required for me to fulfill any of my roles. Of course in the last few years in particular I’ve spent a lot of time working with vendors & suppliers, asking for prices. But before setting up shop as a photographer I’d never been on the other side of the coin (excuse the pun).

I know that this is the same for many people who are turning their hand to photography, so today I want to talk about not being afraid to talk about money with clients.

Becoming comfortable talking about money

So, how is it then that after all these years of being cultured in internal roles and not having exposure to sales in jobs, I have arrived at a point where I’m perfectly happy to speak to a client about the price of their wedding photography, the cost of prints or how much the investment in an album will be? Well, I’ll tell you: it took time and practise and lots of talking into a mirror!

lace my palm with silver
lace my palm with silver

Hearing what people say, as opposed to listening

The reason I bring this up is purely because I met with a lovely couple today who’s wedding I’m shooting in late July. We got on wonderfully and they truly are kind people. When we got to talking about price and payment terms I was clear about the price and stated the payment terms as per my contract. The oddly common response though, is “So, what’s best for you?” (in terms of payment).

I used to read into this statement as “What are our options when it comes to paying you?” and so my answer to the initial question was never straight forward. Instead of telling them what actually worked best for me I’d instead provide them with lots of options for payment. I’d usually also then say that there was no pressure to pay now and tell them to relax about it.

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You may think that this is fine, but all I was doing was telling them to not pay me there and then and putting up road blocks and complicating the path the payment.

It took me a long time to realise that when they asked “What are our options when it comes to paying you?” what they actually meant was exactly that! So, after some time I came to realise that if you skirt around the subject of payment, if you don’t answer the question in a straight forward manner and if you offer lots of alternatives – You’re not going to get what is actually best for you.

So, today my response was to say that the full balance as soon as possible is best for me. (What could be better than being paid in full and on time?!) Behold – They did a balance transfer immediately for the full balance.

Steve Saporito – The Studio Portrait Doctor

On this same subject, Steve Saporito was a guest on Episode 17 of the Ready Steady Pro Podcast (you can listen to the interview here). In the conversation Steve talks about a time where he sat in with one of his photographer clients who he was working with, whilst they interviewed a potential client: Steve went on to explain how the photographer in question was doing exactly as I was and not really giving the couple the chance to book or pay right there and then on the spot, even though from where Steve was sitting that was exactly what he was hearing the couple wanted to do: the photographer just needed to make the move and be straight.

SteveSaporito

So, my advice today is this:

  1. Listen to Episode 17 of the Ready Steady Pro Photography Podcast with Steve Saporito
  2. Listen to what your client asks, instead of just hearing it and giving the answer you think they want, or the answer you’re comfortable with
  3. Don’t be afraid of the numbers.

Your clients know they’re going to have to spend money to book you. In the UK finances can be a taboo subject, but when someone has invited you to talk to them about shooting their wedding, or portrait or whatever – they like your work and they just want to know how much it’s going to cost.

If you’re looking for a window cleaner or a gardener and you ask for a price and they tell you not to worry about it at the moment, or that you can sort it out closer to the time – do you feel more relaxed, or more stressed? Are you going to just cancel the whole thing and go with someone else, or would you just go with it and hope it’s affordable

Tell them the price, and tell them straight.

Your Thoughts and Experiences

Does this sound like you? Are you afraid to talk about the price when meeting with clients, or, have you overcome a fear and are not confident when it comes to talking numbers? Drop your thoughts in a comment below or head on over to the Facebook community to join the discussion.

Working for Free – Good or Bad for your Photography business?

Today on the blog we have talented photographer and Ready Steady Pro Community Member, Joseph George talking about working for free and whether that’s a good thing, or a bad thing for your business. At some stage as photographers it seems we’re all asked to photograph something for free. Here’s what Joe thinks.

Originally featured over on Joe’s website

I’d been thinking about this for a while and it’s a debate that occurs in the photography world on whether, in trying to raise your portfolio and profile, working for free or offering some of your services for free is a good idea?

Portrait Portfolio - Joseph George Photography
Amy Brook – Modelling Portfolio

Certainly anyone who picks up a camera and gets the photography bug will soon be hassling friends and family for portrait shots and to practise and learn techniques that you can’t just do out there in the paid photography world and so you’ll generally start off by doing a lot of “free” stuff – but mainly for your own benefit and not for others.

There then comes that time when further down the photography road where you have made a significant investment in your time and equipment, are far more confident in your ability, that you can offer professional looking portrait sittings and shoots that anywhere else would be charged for. But wait, the people who still want you to shoot for them have always had the work for free, or their friends had it done for free and perhaps still expect it all done, for free. This can make you feel bad when you then can’t do it or quote them as you would any other potential client.

Joseph George Photography Charity Work
Cancer Campaign in Suffolk – “It’s all about you makeover”

I’ve been down the road, and still am in certain situations, of offering my services for “free” and hoping that in doing so the exposure and potential for referrals would always outweigh the initial “free” sitting offering.

In reality though it very rarely does and although that may sometimes be a reflection of the photographer I think it also mainly falls down to the expectation of “well he’s always done that for free for us and I don’t want to now pay for that”.

Managing that expectation is a tricky balancing act and from my experience my advice would be – do the “free” stuff to build your own portfolio and get your own experience, help other Photographers for free, be their assistant or their bag-man / woman but absorb all that experience you get for the benefit of yourself – look at local photography clubs where again “free” work can be used to your benefit and not just others,  look at national organisations such as the guild of photographers who have some amazing resources and people willing to offer their advice to you, check out pages such as “ready steady pro” which is full of excellent “free” advice and information.

But don’t, and I must stress DON’T expect to gain any big bucks or massive thanks by offering “free” work. Don’t just sit back and wait for the referrals to come in, it won’t happen. Don’t expect any favours from anyone, remember –  you have offered your service for free and perhaps they never asked for it in the first place!!

Joseph George Photography Studio Portfolio
Studio Portrait Portfolio Session – Ipswich, Suffolk

But also don’t devalue yourself and your work by doing everything for “free” in the hope that someone will put a good word in for you somewhere down the line and it will possibly lead to a paid commission – you have to chase the business yourself and charge a fair but competitive rate for your service – if that rate is too much for some people then ask yourself – are they the type of client I would want to work with anyway?

Be warned that it’s a very delicate balancing act and from experience my advice would be – do the “free” stuff to build your own portfolio and get your own experience but when doing bits and pieces for free,  make sure that you adjust your mindset accordingly so that you are not expecting anything back in return, you have to expect zilch. You have offered a “free service” and that’s just what you have to deliver.

I certainly used to anticipate that a good word here and there after some “free” work would lead onto bigger and better paid things, just be careful as it rarely does and you don’t want to be stuck as “that photographer who does most work for free” – it can be difficult and disappointing to then shake that label.

Does this sound like a rant against doing free stuff and that I’m advising never to do so? No – I hope not, because I continue to do some work for free and support organisations such as cancer campaign in Suffolk  and the Citizens Advice Service with promotional material they can use as I’d struggle to support them with a regular monetary commitment. It’s just about getting the balance and expectation right to start with and if you’re trying to turn your photography from a passion into a business then you have to think seriously about your charging structure and how that will work for you.

Good luck! Joe

www.joseph-george.co.uk

Black and White Suffolk Landscapes
Alton Water – Suffolk Landscape Photography

About Joe

“Joseph George Photography is a professional Wedding, Portrait and Events Photography business located in Ipswich, Suffolk and providing services throughout the East Anglian region. With over 10 years of digital photography experience – our local photography work includes not only private wedding shoots but also work with John Lewis, Work featured in Suffolk and Norfolk Life Magazine, Work for Cancer Campaign in Suffolk, Work for Ipswich Town Football club and work featured in the National Press”

Be sure to check out Joe online in all the usual places:

Website: http://www.joseph-george.co.uk/
Twitter: @JGeorgePhoto
Facebook: josephgeorgephotography
Email: enquiries@joseph-george.co.uk

Selling is not Evil

Photography is great fun. It can appeal to both the creative side of the brain and the technical side of the brain. It can be a real headache when things don’t go your way and a real joy when things go perfectly. Photography gives me a lot of pleasure and I know it’s the same for many other people. One thing I’ve found though is that there is a common path for many people who pick up a camera. Whilst some people just enjoy making photographs and don’t want to to go any further than that, others have a lightbulb go off: “I can become a photographer and make money from this”. The problem with this thinking is, and I’m sure you’ll agree, that being a working photographer means you’ll spend about 10% of your time actually shooting. The rest is about the business side of things.

So, here’s how I see the path for many photographers (and we can talk about some of these other stages another time):

A large proportion of photographers just starting out fall down the hole of thinking that having a great camera and being able to use it well is all you need to become a successful photographer making money.

Eventually though a number of these new photographers start to learn, either naturally or through their photography communities, that success in the industry has a lot to do with marketing & advertising too. You know: SEO, Facebook Ad’s, Google Adwords, flyers, business cards in florists & bridal shops. etc. Getting your name and brand out there.

So now they havea  camera and they’re telling and showing people what they can do. Good start!

Then (and this step can sometimes come before the realisation of the importance of marketing), I find that a smaller number of these photographers find that socialising & networking is also an important part of this process to start monetising their skills. Things like wedding Fayre’s and the like: Face to face interaction.

So now they’re making photographs, sharing them and they’re getting out there and meeting people. Good!

For most of those photographers who have got this far their learning about business ends there: They’ve got the camera and they know how to use it. (check!) They’re putting business cards in shops and flyers through doors (check!), they’ve possibly even got a website (Check) and a Facebook Business page too (Check). The result of all of this is that a very small number can end up with a slightly successful ‘business’ or one that is exhausting to run (most likely both). These photographers run out of steam, get bored and some even give it all up. It can just seem as if there is no money in photography or as though it isn’t worth the effort you put in. This can feel very true for even the most successful of photographers at times, I’m sure.

For others, and this one isn’t too uncommon, the belief is that to make more money they have to make even better photographs. Whilst this is completely true to an extent, the next mistake I often see that the misconception that to make this progress to take them to the next level they need to buy even more gear to replace what they have: a better camera, more lenses, lights and modifiers etc. They can end up in debt with too much gear, most of which is never used and again, some end up bored and give it all up. So even if they do start making a regular income much of it is eaten away by the debt they’ve incurred to get to where they are in the first place.

Whilst this isn’t always the case, it’s one I see far too often.

However, even for those who continued on in their pursuit of a career in photography after buying more gear and then started to make some respectable money the missing component and the forgotten element in their business skill set is usually one of a few things. Quite often: Sales.

And that’s it. people spend thousands and thousands to get all the gear they’ve got. Some people invest in training (well done to those people. Great investment!). But if you’re marketing and shooting well, but you can’t then sell what you’re producing, it can be hard to make money!

So you’ve got someone interested. They’ve got your business card or your flyer and they’ve seen your work and they’ve got in touch. They may have even booked you. But without wanting to sound too harsh or too corporate – how do you ensure you sell to that person as much as possible? How do you up-sell? How do you maximize revenue? You may be asking yourself; “Maximise revenue? This is photography, this is not a call centre or car sales!” Well, I believe that sales is the step that many people fail at because they say things like “I’m an artist, not a salesperson” or because “I’m a photographer, not a businessman” or because they believe that they let their work and products do the talking for them.

Well, artists as they may be, we all need to remember we are in business and that selling and the art of sales is not a criminal activity. Making more money from a client is not evil and selling is part of the process of being profitable. Selling is part of being in business. Sales is a requisite of making money. Making money is required to make profit. If you’ve got bills to pay then all this is true.

The final stage that many photographers seem to fail to get to is to realise that they’re not JUST photographers: They also need to be businessmen & businesswomen. As well as making good photographs and marketing those photographs to people looking for your services – you then have to sell to those people too. More pages in the album. Larger prints, more premium frames, a better quality canvas, more hours of your time on the wedding day. Sales is not evil. It’s part of business.

You are in the business of photography, right?

If you’re uncomfortable with selling, or you don’t believe you have ‘the knack’ for it, don’t give up. Go on training, speak to other photographers who are good at training. Do some research. Selling can be the key to success. If you work out that you need to shoot 55 weddings per year at your current average booking fee…perhaps try selling more during client meetings to increase that average. Sure, work harder and work smarter; sell more.

Sales is something discussed regularly over in the Ready Steady Pro Facebook Community. Come ask us a questions about anything and join the great group we’ve got going on.

Roundup: Black Friday Discounts for Photographers

We’ll be updating this page throughout the day, rounding up all the best and the biggest deals for photographers for this Black Friday period. eBooks, Video’s, Products, Gear, Training…if there is a big sale going on we’ll try to link to it here. (If you know of a sale and we’ve not yet listed it let us know!)

Craft & Vision – 50% off everything(except the PHOTOGRAPH Magazine)

C&V Black Friday - 50% Off Everything

Calumet Photo – Various Deals, bundles, tradeins, cash backs and more: Click here for discounts on Calumet Photo

Calumet_BlackFriday
Peach Pit Books: Save up to 60% off eBooks & Videos. Click here for deals from Peach Pit

PeachPit_BlackFriday
Thanks to Simon Dewey for pointing out the ‘Cyber Weekend’ from the great guys over at KelbyTraining.com. $40 off an annual subscription:

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