by Skip CohenWith every program since I started my new company four years ago, I've never "shotgunned"
the market looking for sponsors or partners. I've always been very selective, wanting to support my readers and attendees at programs like Skip's Summer School and now SCU's Summer Session with great products and the support I know would come from good solid partners.Meet a relatively new partner who we met at WPPI, Venice Album. My wife, Sheila, fell in love with several of their albums and both of us spent a lot of time with some of the staff. Since then they've come on board as SCU's partner in the album category and thanks to Skype, the world has become a much smaller place! I've spent time with their marketing team, customer service staff and US sales team and I couldn't more proud to have a partner with quality products to set you apart from the competition.
Venice Album might be relatively new to the US market, but after forty-five years in business, they're not new to the needs of wedding and portrait photographers to have quality craftsmanship and great service. They've put together two different programs, giving you a chance to take them out for a "test drive".
First, use "SCU70" at checkout and receive a 70% discount* on a sample studio set. You need great samples to capture business and nothing works better than showing a finished album with fine craftsmanship to make your point with a possible client.
Second, they're so confident that you'll like what you see, they've added a second level discount on your first order. Use SCU50 at checkout and you'll save 50%*. Venice Album is giving you two different ways to "test drive" their performance with a great discount on a sample studio set and then helping add profit to your bottom line with a huge savings on your first order.Right after WPPI I published a post about the trade show. Even then we were impressed with everything Venice Album had shown us. And if you're still skeptical, take a trip to their partner page and watch the video from their factory. There's something special about the pride in workmanship that comes out in this short film.
Special SCU Summer Session Attendee Bonus
Here's one more special offer exclusive for this year's SCU Summer Session attendees. When you register for this year's Summer Session, you'll receive a short form to set up your Venice Album account. The minute you're fully registered you'll receive a $200 credit* on your Venice Album account. This gives attendees an exclusive benefit and a substantial savings and it's good until the end of the year.
Remember one of SCU's primary goals - we want you to THRIVE, not just survive as a professional photographer.
* Please note: These special offers cannot be combined. The $200 credit on your account can only be used towards future purchases and does not have a cash-in value. All programs are applicable to Venice Album's entire product line. Both the 70% sample set discount and 50% first order discount are good until August 31. The SCU Summer Session attendee program is good through the end of the year and is under exclusive control and ownership by Venice Album.
You'll find me right here at least once on every trip to New York!
by Skip Cohen
Every year or so I run a similar spin to this story. It's something my good buddy Jim Morton found years ago when we were at Hasselblad "dealing with a tough economy". At least that's what we thought at the time. It's so relevant and it's become one of my favorite business anecdotes. So, as we wrap up the first quarter of the year and many photographers start to come out of hibernation, it'll definitely give you things to think about!
Challenges in technology and the economy are touching everybody. Just when we thought "Uncle Harry", who’s at every wedding with his high-end digital SLR, was under control, the economy threw us a curve ball, and now 20-year old scotch and 91 octane are the same price. (Actually, who even uses 91 octane anymore?) So what’s the key to surviving as a professional photographer in 2013?
At the risk of being overly anecdotal, there was a great story put in circulation by the advertising community in the early '90s. I’ll save you from the long, original version and summarize:
A very successful hot dog vendor is hitting record sales. He’s advertising, cross-promoting, staying open longer each day and business is fantastic. His son comes home from college for the summer and says, “Dad, don’t you know we’re in a recession? You need to watch your spending and be ready for business to slow down.”
The father, concerned, stays awake all that night worrying about what his son has said. The following day he pulls down a lot of his signs and puts the money he would have spent on advertising and promoting in the bank. By the end of the month, business is terrible and all he can say to himself is, “Wow, it’s a good thing I listened to my son. There really is a recession.”
I’m not minimizing the challenges of today’s economy, but I’m frustrated with hearing photographers cry the blues when they haven’t made an effort to evaluate and restructure their current business model. Those photographers whose businesses were solid last year did new things to reach their audience. Nobody is working any less, just smarter. Every photographer who has told me they're doing okay always follows with, "But I've NEVER worked so hard in my life!"
There is no secret to surviving as a professional photographer today—survival is all about marketing, promotion, hard work and utilizing every aspect of new technology. But there are some aspects of running a photography business that everyone needs to make a decision about... Diversification:
Are you hitting the same old target or developing new markets? If you’re a wedding photographer, how many of your brides in the last few years now have children? If they loved the wedding album you created, how about photographing their young family? If you really don't want to stray from your core business then at least develop a relationship with a children and family photographer and then cross-promote with each other.
Years ago—sorry I don’t remember where—there were statistics suggesting that 95% of brides under 30 have a baby within three years of their wedding date. Every bride you’ve ever photographed is a potential customer for family portraiture.
The demand for professional portraiture still runs in this order: brides, babies and then pets. So if business is down, take a look at your client database and find opportunities to create new clients or new applications. Market and Promote:
Our hot dog man, in an effort to stave off the recession, stopped reminding people he was there. What are you doing to promote yourself? Are you involved in the community? Are you advertising in local papers? Do people recognize your presence? Do you own your own zip code?
Years ago, one of the country's leading senior photographers, Larry Peters,
told me about one of his best marketing tools. At the time, he was photographing a half dozen seniors each year at no charge. They, in turn, became his ambassadors and helped spread the word among the various high schools in his area. Today there are ambassador programs all over the place, because they work, but the concept doesn't have to be exclusive to senior photography.
Well known pro David Ziser,
in a program also many years ago, talked about tracking anniversary dates of his clients and did a first anniversary sitting at no charge. Think about it...the younger the bride, the more friends she has who will soon be getting married—it’s a publicity manager’s dream! The Internet and Social Media:
You can’t be in business without a website, but how about the message you’re presenting? Look at blogs, for example. Everybody wants to have a blog, but only a handful of photographers are doing it the right way.
The key to a successful venture into social media has so many facets, but two that are critical are relevant content and consistency. Check out yesterday's post
from Scott Bourne on ten tips for making blogging, podcasting and tweeting more effective. If you're going to do it, at least do it right.Attitude:
When was the last time you did an attitude check on yourself? I am reminded of the unspoken oath we all took when we fell in love with photography! That oath, we all share, is about quality, service and responsibility. It's everything I've been writing about since my first blog post almost four years ago. Your clients trust you to be their eyes at a wedding. At a portrait sitting they're trusting you to see them the way they see themselves. They're trusting you to deliver a product far better than Uncle Harry could ever dream of!
Think about how much you love the craft and all the excitement in our industry today. I’ll go anecdotal one last time—we’re living in our own version of Who Moved My Cheese? It’s a business parable that was on The New York Times Best Seller List in the late 1990s and well worth a two hour investment of time to read. If you’ve read it, you’ll understand that the only thing that’s changed in our industry is that the “cheese has been moved,” and we simply have to work harder to find it!Photo Credit:
© Julie Feinstein
Make it easy for visitors to your site to find the information you feel is most important. For a photographer it has to start with your galleries.
by Skip CohenH
ow much time and money have you invested in your website? Let’s assume you love it and it’s doing everything you want it to do. Assuming everything is wonderful in your Internet world how many clicks does it take for a visitor to get to the most relevant information on your website? If it’s any more than two, then you might be missing the boat and losing opportunities. Don’t make your visitors mine through your site to find what’s most important.
They may not break out in a sweat, but navigating through your website shouldn’t be aerobic! As a photographer, grab your visitors with images first and your bio, background, contact information, pricing etc. later. Looking for what's most relevant on some websites is like trying to talk to a live body at Comcast! And when you do finally get a live body, it’s rarely somebody who can help you.
Your website is your storefront. It's an introduction to your business and especially your images! What good is building up the greatest content in the world if people have to work to find it?Illustration Credit:
© Amaviael | Stock Free Images
& Dreamstime Stock Photos
You're working too hard to build your skill set to then hear you're losing potential customers because of your presentation!
by Skip CohenWARNING---SARCASM ALERT!
Every day I look at dozens of websites and I keep running into people who are "two tacos short of a combo!" The result is an entire recipe book on ways to totally confuse your audience and lose business. Follow these guidelines and you just might develop a new income stream of royalty checks...from your competitors!
· Don’t give people a way to talk to you!
I keep seeing websites where photographers refuse to share a contact phone number! Come on people, I can understand if you work out of your home and don’t want to post an address, but give your potential clients a way to talk to you personally! I’m tired of template designed web email forms that allow me to contact the photographer, but don't list a phone number. Even worse is they take forever to respond.
· Show your clients everything you’ve ever photographed.
There are certain categories that work well together and others that don’t. I was on a site recently that had weddings, babies, children, family, commercial, landscape and macro work of bugs, birds and flowers! It’s great to have multiple skill sets, but let’s hone in on the categories.
Here’s the challenge as an example – a commercial client looking for a great table-top photographer is going to walk away from wedding and baby galleries on the same site. They might be drawing a terribly wrong assumption, but it won't matter. They won't spend time mining for the images they want most to see. Put your images in categories that make sense together and give your clients different paths to choose from. Personally, I like multiple sites that focus on different specialties when the categories are just too far apart.
· Use your about me section to talk all about your awards and how you got started!
That’s sure to have people beating down your door. NOT! Seriously, awards are wonderful, but people want to know why they should hire you – they want to hear about your heart, your passion to capture their personalities in a photograph. They don’t care that you’ve won awards. They don't care what you shoot with or that your grandfather gave you your first camera when you were twelve. There’s nothing wrong with listing some of your accolades, but don’t waste the About Me
real estate on a bunch of things that people don’t even understand unless it’s the Pulitzer Prize!
· How about listing every testimonial you can think of?
Testimonials are like references. Has anybody ever read a bad one? There’s nothing wrong with a few of them, but choose the ones that are the most relevant and show the actual images you captured of the subjects giving you the testimonial. Personally I wouldn't list testimonials, but if you are, at least make them more relevant.
· Don’t take the time to proof read anything you’ve written!
I’ll be the first to admit I spend a lot of time in an editorial mode so I’m more sensitive than most of your clients. However, God made punctuation and spell check for a reason. You’re talented artists. Work to make what you’ve written sound intelligent. Stay away from disjointed thoughts, spelling errors and run-on sentences. (side bar - a big thanks to @dcharlesphoto who suggested I do a closer check on my own proof-reading this morning...what can I say? It's hard to get good help! LOL)
· Confuse your audience a little more by calling yourself a professional and show mediocre images anybody’s Uncle Harry could create!
Your website should only show your very best work. Don’t compromise your reputation just to fill up space!
· When people do contact you, don't bother to call them back right away. After all, it's the weekend and you worked hard all week. Seriously, if somebody has sent you an email inquiry or called you, then they've got the bug. They saw something they liked. Your response has to be just as enthusiastic as their need to contact you. Don't let inquiries sit with potential clients waiting to hear back from you.
Years ago people used to say you couldn’t be in business without a yellow pages ad. Today, you can’t be in business without a website, but you have to use your Internet real estate wisely. It’s your potential client’s very first stop and just like shopping in your favorite retail store –you’ve got to focus on making it a great experience.Photo credit:
© Melis82 | Stock Free Images
& Dreamstime Stock Photos
Photo by Scott Bourne
By Scott Bourne
Pricing photography is the second hardest thing you will ever do as a professional photographer. (Finding the right clients is the first hardest.)
It’s very easy to make mistakes when pricing and once they’re made, it’s hard to recover from them. So start out right.
One disclaimer: Not every pricing method works for every photographer. Much depends on the current state of the market and the genre (i.e., wedding, commercial, fine art, food, etc.) I’ll try to stick to some universal ideas in these posts.
Start at the Beginning
You can’t effectively price your work until you understand what it is you’re selling.
You are not selling square inches of paper for the cost of printing them. For some reason, the first element that seems to enter some photographers’ minds when making a pricing decision is the size of the print. This “brick wall” has cost many photographers money. The most important thing to keep in mind is the value of your work, not the size of the print. You build this value by evaluating ALL the factors that go into making a salable image.
So what are you selling? How about your creativity and unique ability to capture something that others do not see? Anyone can buy a camera, but can they capture the image exactly the way you do? How about the time you have invested in training for the moment when you captured the image? That time needs to be taken into consideration. Your mechanic, doctor, accountant, and lawyer all get paid for the time they spend doing the work. Shouldn’t you be paid too? You also have to consider the level of your present technical ability. The casual amateur should not be able to get the most out of the same equipment as an experienced professional. And speaking of equipment, you must also take into consideration the value of your gear. So, as you are deciding how to price your work, make sure you take into account and charge for your logistical skills, experience, time and your ability to translate your client’s desires into a visual statement.
Know what you’re selling before you try to sell it. This will help you avoid many mistakes later.
In order to price something well, you must know the economics. Here are some key things to keep in mind:
B) Profit margin
C) The market you are serving
Calculating your overhead requires that you consider all the costs that are associated with being a professional photographer. This includes:
A) Equipment depreciation
E) Legal fees
F) Accounting fees
G) Payroll fees
O) Office supplies
Q) Professional dues
Calculating your profit may be a bit easier. You consider your cost of doing business by allowing for a percentage of your overhead to be applied to the cost of each job. From there, mark up your price to include a standard profit margin. This can be based on any number you want but a good starting point is to double the cost of your product (100 percent profit margin).
Now you also need to adjust this figure based on the market type you are serving. Is the image being used in a small or large market? Will thousands of people see it or just a few? What is the perceived value to the client? How does the client plan to use your image? Who is your competition and what choices does your client have besides you for this type of image? Are there 50 photographers in the mix or only two or three? Consider these factors to calculate your fee.
When you sell or license an image, it is likely that you will have to negotiate the price with a savvy photo buyer. Knowing how to negotiate can save you time, money and help you close profitable deals. Remember that negotiating is just problem solving. Both parties have something they need to accomplish and the negotiation makes it happen.
You must not take ANY of the issues that arise during a negotiation personally. The buyer is supposed to try to get the best deal that he or she can. That’s their job. Your job is the same.
The essential steps in the negotiating process are: establish rapport, gather information, do research, ask questions, and let the buyer do most of the talking. In any negotiation, the person who listens most is likely to gain more. In any negotiation, it’s always very important that you do more listening than talking. Otherwise, you will miss important clues, both physical and verbal, that will help you resolve the deal.
Before quoting a price, you must try to educate the client and build the value of the image you are selling. Make sure that the client understands the effort, time and expense you invested to make this image. If the image is truly one-of-a-kind or was made at personal risk, those factors translate directly into the value of what you have for sale.
Try to encourage the client to place an opening bid. If the buyer is the first one to name a price, I believe you will be rewarded with a higher fee. A good way to open the negotiation process is to ask a question like, “What’s the most you would be willing to pay to use my image or purchase my print?” If you are forced to begin the negotiation process by offering a figure, an alternative is to begin with a number that is twice your standard price plus 10 percent. Once this figure is given, you can work down from there.
But remember that if you give a number first, you run the risk of quoting a price that is much lower than the buyer was willing to pay, and you’ll never know what figure they were willing to pay. So, let your clients do the talking. Then, you should listen, take notes, and preferably wait for them to tell you what they can afford.
If the client has pricing objections, be sure to return to the rapport building and value enhancement stages outlined above. Usually, a price objection really means that there is another piece of information you have not uncovered. It is likely that there is something else you have not offered that the client really wants or needs. This is why it’s crucial to listen more than you talk and ask plenty of questions to uncover hidden needs.
Once you have taken all the necessary steps, be sure to ask for the order. A surprising number of photographic sales don’t happen simply because the seller has forgotten to ask for the sale.
(NOTE: Negotiating with magazines is not possible unless you are a famous photographer with images that are in great demand. When you approach magazines, understand that you will only get paid their standard rates.)