Attracting & Retaining The Right Clients For Your Photography and/or Video Business

Finding and keeping the right clients is a key business strategy that takes proper planning and implementation. For example, do you know who your ideal clients are? What market are you truly trying to target?

Before creating a strategy to earn and keep the business of your ideal client, you must first know who your clients are.

Here’s an example:

I’m not a wedding photographer, but I’ll approach a real world example of how this getting your ideal client might work.

Jerry Ghionis – Ever heard the name? Here’s what the Google description says for his JerryGhionis.com: Widely regarded as one of the top five best wedding photographers in the world, Jerry Ghionis is based in Beverly Hills, California and Melbourne, Australia.

If you want to become one of the five best wedding photographers in the world and start getting higher end wedding photography business, you need to know what your target market wants and needs and work toward fulfilling their wants and needs. You cannot keep shooting $1,000 weddings and providing $1,000 quality if you want to get higher end weddings. The brides willing to drop $5,000+ on a wedding photographer (top guys are at $20,000+) are NOT, I repeat, NOT, as a general rule even going to talk to or seriously consider the $1,000 wedding photographer.

A friend of mine is a wedding photographer and absolutely loves doing weddings. He keeps a close eye on Jerry Ghionis and Brett Florens. I’ve seen two key things happen with my friends business over the last 18 months: 1) His work has drastically improved. 2) His pricing has increased.

It can be very frustrating in the early stages of capturing the attention of your target market especially if you continue to talk with potential brides that say $1,000 is too high and you keep hearing that over and over. But the market that you want does exist in every segment of photography unless you just want to photograph rotted trees and sell those images for thousands of dollars. Who knows? That market may even exist.

If you don’t want to have the client below, then do something to change that. I will say that my experience with higher end clients is typically much better than the days of working with those that are all about price, price, price and price.

Photography is a service business. If you don’t want clients like the one pictured above, you need to work extremely hard to provide service above and beyond. OK, I already know what you are thinking. You cannot please everyone, there is always one in every crowd, etc. etc. Yes, even if you offer the most amazing service on the planet, you may still have the occaisional client go a little crazy on you. You’ll have to come up with your own systems of handling that. One really good one is kill them with kindness and keep your composure.

Is the problem the market you are targeting or you? Before I move on with more info, I will also add that if you have screaming clients on a regular basis, you may need to look internally to see what’s up. There may be something deeper that you are overlooking.

Most career minded photographers and videographers want to do what they love and get paid doing it. However, so many photographers and videographers get frustrated with the price shoppers. They get stuck in a rut and attract the same clients over and over. They never seem to get beyond where they are and it can kill the spirit real fast.

I’ve found a few things that play into the scenario above which I’ll dive into below:

1) THE CHOSEN MARKET

For example, residential real estate photography in the Raleigh market (not sure about yours) pays just under $100 to maybe $150 per average size home as a general rule. Some photographers don’t mind that and to it based on volume: 3 houses per day for 15 houses per week at $150 per house equals $2,250 in gross revenue per week, so I get that a one guy/gal operation may do well with that. However, if a photographer wants to be more like Mike Kelley and command Mike Kelley prices, the photographer will have to start targeting beyond the average size home or even commercial properties, start doing better quality work and start charging more and more money. As long as the quality of work is there, charging more for photography can often not only attract a higher end client but keep attracting more and more of those higher end clients.

2) LOOKING FOR CLIENTS IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES

If you haven’t figured this one out yet, trying to post photography services on Craigslist and meet your ideal, high end client on Craigslist is generally a waste of time. Also, although Thumbtack.com is far better than Craigslist, you will typically not find high end clients there. They are few and far between. FYI, I have been on Thumbtack for about 3 years and Pass, Pass, Pass is one of my most popular buttons to click on. I’m there to be a troll and find the occasional needle in a haystack. However, if my business were dependent on Thumbtack, I’d go out of business pretty soon.

If you want to find the right clients, you need to find out where they are. For example, NOT every bride that visits a wedding show may be the client that you are after, but it may be worth considering to be involved in a wedding show to potentially find who you are after. Another example is finding an association that may have your target market as members. Often times, these associations have affiliate members for those that are not a core member.

The key point is to work hard to find out where your target market is and to not waste your time on places they are not.

3) YOUR ATTITUDE COUNTS

You can choose to be happy (most of the time) or you can choose to say, “poor me, nothing ever goes my way.” You can make excuses about not having enough time, enough money, enough gear, enough of this or that or you can say, “I will rise above it all and make it happen one war or another.

If you want to attract and keep the right clients, you need to have the right attitude. Yes, the quality of your work needs to be up to speed with client expectations which is a give, but your attitude will 100% play into attracting and keeping the right clients.

If you can stay focused on “Attract” – “Convert” – “Retain,” it will go a long ways in getting to the next level in your photography and/or videography business.

1) ATTRACT

What are you doing to attract the right clients? Do you know who your ideal client is? Do you know where to find your ideal client? Does the quality of your work appeal to your ideal client? What changes do you need to make right now, not next week in your business to attract the right client?

If you are serious about getting to the next level, don’t just read the questions. You should take immediate action and start creating a plan. But a plan without implementation is a waste of time.

2) CONVERT

What’s the #1 reason that you don’t convert new clients? I know mine. It’s price. I’m fine with that because I know how my pricing lines up with the market and I’m competitive for a commercial photographer and corporate video producer in the Raleigh market. If I were way higher than everyone else all the time and could never close any new business, then it would likely be time to look at adjusting my pricing or target clients in another area like New York City where Peter Hurley can get $1,200 for a headshot. Yes, he is well known and does a great job, but I don’t think he could get $1,200 in the most remote area of Montana. So there is something to be said for location, location, location.

What can you do to convert more clients? Assess past conversions and ask your clients WHY ME? Even if you only have 3 clients under your belt, learn from those 3. Oh and the ones that don’t convert can be helpful. How do I know price is the #1 reason? I ask potential clients WHY?

What does your conversion funnel look like? Funnels are all the rage these days. If you think about how a funnel is shaped and what it does, you can get the picture (pun). In other words, what is the process/path that you lead your prospects through to convert? For me, there has to be a process/path because I’m often dealing with very large companies. If I just say, “here’s the price, let’s do it,” that will not always work.

3) RETAIN

Retention is critical to long term growth. I have a lot of clients that keep coming back over and over and over. It’s so nice not to have to focus on attracting and converting. I’ve found that retention is much easier as long as I continue to provide a quality product/service and provide consistent service to my ongoing clients.

Retention also leads to referral business.

Retention is key to a successful business. One and done is not the way to go. I often mention to new clients that I’m hopeful that we can provide other services in the future. I want new clients to know that we don’t just do photography or videography, but we do BOTH photography and videography.

IN CLOSING

I hope that I have said something the will encourage you to go after the market that you really want to work in. This post is by no means a cure all, end all. It’s just a little something to get the ideas going in your head. The next step is to MAKE IT HAPPEN.

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Your Photography & Video Pricing Strategy For 2017 In The Raleigh NC Market

I specifically put “Raleigh NC Market” in the headline of this post because every market is not the same. If you are in the heart of New York City like Peter Hurley who charges around $1,200 for a headshot session, you have a better chance of getting that price. However, I think you’d be hard pressed to consistently get $1,200 for a headshot session in Raleigh NC. Whether your market is local to Raleigh or a different part of the country or world, my philosophy is “Know Thy Market!” In other words, know what price points will work in your market.

Although I don’t go into video pricing much at all in this post, you can still use the same ideas to help determine your video pricing rates.

Before I dive into further thoughts about pricing, I wanted to share a link to “How Much Should Photographers Charge In 2016?” Oh, but it’s 2017 as of this post. Well, “How Much Should Photographers Charge In 2017?” will likely have a new version out in the first quarter of 2017 (FYI, do a Google search.). If not, just use the 2016 one as a guideline. Notice that I said guideline because at the end of the day you have to decide what profitable pricing looks like in your photography and/or videography business.

Ah, PROFIT! It’s not a bad word.

Profit is how you stay in business long term. What’s profitable for you may not be profitable for someone else. Here’s a real world example: In my case, I have employee’s, overhead outside my home (studio), insurance for the business (every real business owner should have), a CPA that bills monthly for services and more. So what’s profitable for you if you work from home with low overhead may not be profitable for me. You may be able to do a couple of projects a week bringing in $500 to $1,000 per week and make a comfortable living. In my case, $500 to $1,000 per week would put me out of business. However, don’t price your services so low that you cannot buy the necessary gear ( needed not wanted ) you need with cash not credit and potentially become full time if that’s your goal.

I see too many wanna be photographers that have a primary job that want to make money on the side in photography treating it more like a hobby than a business. If photography is your hobby, treat it like a hobby and don’t charge for your services. If photography is a part-time sideline business ( keyword business ), treat it like a business and charge fair market rates.

How do you know what fair market rates are?

If I asked you the following, “Can you spend 2 hours at the local park with my family taking photos with that “nice camera” you have? Then, Can you spend some additional time cleaning them up before you give them to me ( you know that software stuff  – Photoshop )? Then, Can you burn all those images to a CD for $49 ( because I don’t value your time )?” ……….. Would you ( part-time, wanna be, photographer ) think that is a fair market rate? Will this type of pricing help you buy the necessary gear you need to grow? Will this pricing cover insurance costs for your gear/business? Will this pricing support your family? Will this pricing lead to being a full time professional? I’m guessing ( but I could be wrong ) that your answers are No, No, No, No and No. If you agree, then make a commitment right now to stop charging crazy low prices for what are supposed to be “professional services.”

Other professionals charge for their services, why undermine photography?

Would you hire a $10 an hour plumber to fix a major plumbing issue? My guess is that you’d expect to pay $80 to $100+ an hour for plumbing services and likely the same for a licensed electrician. Would hire a $50 an hour for attorney? My guess is that you’d expect to pay $150 to $250+ an hour for an attorney? So why can’t a photographer be expected to be paid fairly? Photographers can and do get paid fairly. The ones who don’t have a perception that people will not pay for professional photography services in the digital age. Stop thinking like that if you want to get to the next level in photography and/or videography.

How do you know what to charge for your services?

There are formulas online that can help, but I have found them to be somewhat complicated. Another way is to look at what others are charging, but that doesn’t mean you’ll come up with a profitable pricing model for you. However, at the end of the day, it will take a combination of research online, asking those you know, looking at your overhead, setting income goals and determining what the market will bear as well as other things to come up with a good, fair, profitable pricing model. I can tell you that a good baseline is referring back to “How Much Should Photographers Charge In 2016?” which is not a cure all, end all, be all, but it is a good reference point to put in the mix of your research. However, I will not leave you hanging and will share some of the ranges that I have found to be consistent in the Raleigh market.

In 100% of the examples below, there are exceptions. In some cases, the pricing can be much higher for full time veteran photographers. The pricing below is purely based on what I have discovered to be ranges in the Raleigh market.

Wedding Photography – $2,000 to $3,500+ 
Professional Headshots – $100 to $250+ 
Family, Pet, Engagement & Other Consumer Photography – $150 to $500+
Real Estate Home Photography – $100 to $200 (Average Size Home)
Commercial Photography Full Day Rate – $1,500 to $2,000+
Event Photography – $100 to $200+ an hour

It’s also important to note: The pricing above does not indicate what is included at the price listed. For example, let’s look at professional headshots. As of this post, I typically charge $150 for a standard, one outfit session, at the studio not on location that is 30 minutes or less ( but includes lots of variety ) and it comes with ONE final edited image.

On the general portrait side, I’ve found someone else in the Raleigh market ( pricing on the website ) that goes on location, shoots up to 60 minutes and includes 10 edited images for $100. I can almost assure you that those 10 edited images are not edited to our level. If so, this photographer is WAY undervaluing their services because 10 edited images to our standards would be an additional 2 1/2 to 5 hours of editing. As mentioned previously in this post, this is an example of a price point ($100 on site 10 images) that would not keep me in business long term. FYI, I think this photographer is talented and charging way too low for professional photography services. I’m also guessing that this photographer has very low overhead.

Photographers deserve and should make more than just a little over minimum wage. All photographers should do the math on total time invested divided into what they charge. For example, travel to location, shooting time on location, travel back to office (even if at home), time editing, time uploading/delivering, back and forth before, during and after with the client, time and/or money spent to obtain the client. With that said, let’s say it took 6 total hours for a $100 sale. That equals out to $16 an hour. If that’s where the photographer wants to be and that is a sustainable long term income, I guess that’s fine. But once purchasing new gear, taxes, insurance, cost of living and everything else life throws at us, it’s hard to make a living at that rate. However, what about the employee option.

Maybe working for someone is a better option

Not everyone is cut out to work for themselves. It’s not easy. It’s a lot of work to build a sustainable, profitable business. It not only takes MASSIVE amount of time, but it is also hard to build a business without some financial investment involved. There is no shame in doing what you love while working for someone else. According to some research that I have done, all of which you can do in 30 minutes or less, the average hourly wage for a photographer is about $18 an hour. That works out to a little under $40,000 per year on a full time basis. That may not make you rich, but photography is probably the wrong business to be in if you are looking to be rich. How do you define rich anyway? It’s in the eye of the beholder.

I hope that I have said something that may help you in your endeavors into the amazing industry of photography and videography. Please be sure to SHARE this post using the icons below and/or comment using the comments sections.

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The Magic of One Light with Joel Grimes

I’m a Joel Grimes fan. By posting this on my blog, it is as much for me as it is you because I want to watch it in it’s entirety. I have it playing now, but with it being 1 hour and 43 minutes long, I don’t have the time to finish it.

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Profoto D2 – The world’s fastest monolight with TTL

Interesting in buying the Profoto D2? Check it out on Adoroma.com.

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2016 Is Winding Down – Thinking Ahead To 2017

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This will not be a doom and gloom post, but I did want to start out as a reminder that none of us are promised tomorrow. I am reminded of that with my wife’s cousin who is several years younger than I am who is not expected to make it through 2017 due to a battle with cancer and nothing short of a miracle from God. However, we all still have to plan as if we are fortunate enough to go on living our lives and running our businesses.

As 2016 winds down, it’s that time of year when we all typically make resolutions which can be made at anytime throughout the year. However, I think with a new year on the horizon that it’s easier to ask ourselves what we can learn from the passing year and what will be different in the coming year?

I decided near the end of 2015 to write a blog post per day in 2016 which I did for about 6 months. But I began to realize that it was more of doing than being strategic. In other words, being able to say that I wrote a blog post everyday for a year vs. being strategic about the why and realizing the recommended length of a blog posts has changed over time. It is now recommended that posts be 2,000+ words. Although I can go on and on pretty well (just ask anyone who knows me), this blog post will likely break just over 1,000 words not 2,000+ words. I’m currently about 250 words into the post now to give you a feel of that. So should I not even bother to write a post unless it’s 2,000+ words?

Blogging is something that I plan to continue doing in 2017. It’s a critical part of our website, our business strategy and blogging also provides a nice outlet for me in the written word. I actually really enjoy writing especially when it’s on a topic that I’m passionate about like photography and video.

What will I do different in 2017?

I’ve learned from both mistakes and successes in 2016 that I plan to use both to my advantage in 2017.

For example, I ran Yelp ads for the first 6 months of 2016. I primarily did it because of two key reasons: 1) A key competitor was and still is running Yelp ads. However, although we cross over in some areas, this competitor targets a key consumer market that I do not. Maybe the ads are paying off in that area. 2) To shut Yelp reps up. Yes, I spent money to prove whether I felt Yelp ads worked or not to be able to tell any future irritating Yelp reps, “I paid for ads for 6 months. I was not happy. Have a nice day.” or something along those lines. Unless there is some very compelling reason, I have ZERO intentions of running Yelp ads in 2017 or for that matter, the next several years.

One of the key ah-ha moments that resonated throughout 2016 is all the potential business in under a 5 mile radius of our business location. It’s easy to get caught up in targeting the whole Triangle area when there is a lot of business in less than 10 minutes of our physical location off of Six Forks Road.

Another key take away from 2016 is doing more of the projects that I truly love in 2017. I’ve discovered the type of work that I truly love doing and want to do more of that in 2017.

One final mistake is camera mishaps. In both 2015 and 2016, I’ve had too many drops to the ground with cameras. It always has to do with something not being secure enough like the camera not locked into the tripod as good as it should be which recently caused $600 worth of damage which was discounted from $900 thanks to my Platinum membership with Canon Professional Services. I definitely need fewer mishaps like that in 2017.

A core goal for 2017 is…

Yes, I’ll admit it. I’m way behind on having an active YouTube Channel. Since we have all the elements built into our business like videography and video editing, it’s all a matter of setting priorities in 2017 and making it happen. Although I could write all the reasons (excuses) here, it would be a waste of my time and yours. Getting tutorial type videos and helpful client videos done within our company is a core goal for 2017 and it will happen barring anything unforeseen.

Here’s some advice to anyone who didn’t have the kind of year he or she wanted in 2016…

1) Prioritize – If it’s important, you’ll make it happen in 2017.

2) Find your why! Why do you really want to do what you think you want to do? Is it passion? Is it money? Why?

3) Stop letting gear stop you. If you cannot afford that lens you want, you’ll have to rent it and either take the hit on the project or pad the rental into your fee. Do the best you can with the gear you have. I have a friend in another market that has generated thousands of dollars off of headshots with cheap strobes that have more than paid for themselves. He also doesn’t edit to my wife’s level for headshots, but uses Portrait Pro to bang out a quick edit and keep his clients happy.

4) Stop whining and start marketing: Marketing is not easy and it’s not always free. You’ll have to figure out whether you want to beat the pavement and market your business or try to spend money to get the phone to ring. Marketing will cost you time at minimum and very likely money. The problem is that there is no magic bullet. So you may want to start with resources online about marketing like marketing blogs and free tips. Then, go out and do the low cost things.

5) Invest when you can. I’m not encouraging anyone reading this to go into debt and max out their credit cards. But I am encouraging anyone reading this to invest in training, gear, marketing and more as best possible when possible because without some kind of financial investment, it is very hard to grow a business.

If #1 to #5 above are not for you, it may be better to work for a company doing what you love than trying to build your own business. That’s up to you, but let 2017 be the year that you decide to get off the fence whether that is rocking your own business which will not be easy but is also possible or working with someone else.

FYI, this blog post is just over 1,100 words at this point. Congrats if you have read it to the end. Imagine how much longer it would be if there were another 900+ words to get it to the 2,000+ recommended.

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Comparing Prices: Profoto B2 & The Elinchrom ELB 400: There Are Differences!

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A wedding photographer friend and I got into conversation about the Profoto B2 and the Elinchrom ELB 400 over coffee this week. It was not a debate. It was simply a conversation that sparked me looking into the ELB 400 deeper since I shoot with the Profoto B2 on a regular basis.

Before I dive in, I don’t claim to know everything there is to know about both systems. I am very familiar with the Profoto B2 system since I own two of them and numerous other Profoto items. I have never seen the Elinchrom ELB 400 up close and I’m not going to make this a post about how I feel the Profoto B2 is better. I simply want to compare a lot of things along with the pricing and let you decide if either or neither system is a fit for your needs.

One key reason to consider either system is to have something that is portable and puts out far more power than a speedlite especially when it comes to overpowering the sun. If you have read to this point and think that a speedlite can do everything either of these systems can do, you need to do your research. If you have never shot with either system and are simply thinking, “These systems are expensive. I can do that or that or that with a speedlite,” please think twice before commenting. It’s true that there are some crossover things that can be done with a speedlite, but when it comes to certain things, a 50W speedlite will not do what a 250W or 424W system will do.

If the only thing to consider were power, the Elinchrom ELB 400 at 424WS wins by not quite a full f/stop over the Profoto B2 (500WS vs. 250WS is a full stop difference.).

Current Pricing Late November 2016

Profoto B2 250 AirTTL To-Go Kit, Includes B2 250 AirTTL Power Pack, B2 Head, Battery, Carrying Bag, Location Bag, Battery Charger $1,995.00 (Adorama)

Elinchrom ELB 400 Action To Go Kit, Includes Quadra Action Head, Quadra Grid Reflector 18cm, EL-Skyport Transmitter Plus $1,839.99 (Adorama)

That’s a $155.01 savings if you were to purchase the Elinchrom ELB 400 over the Profoto B2.

However………..

Although the Elinchrom comes with a Transmitter, it’s not the Elichrom HSS (High Speed Sync) transmitter which is $249.95 additional. But the Profoto B2 (learned the hard way) requires an Air TTL Remote that is $411. So this adds another $161.05 in extra cost if purchasing the Profoto B.

At this point, the two systems are $316.06 difference with the Elinchrom being the winner so far compared to out of pocket cost to this point.

However………..

The Elinchrom comes with a grid reflector and the Profoto B2 does not. The Profoto grid reflector (which you will need for certain shooting) is $172 (Adorama).  However, I have the older used version that I got off Ebay for under $100. But looking a pure new vs. new, this is another $172 in out of pocket cost when purchasing the Profoto B2 over the Elinchrom ELB 400.

At this point, the two systems are $488.06 difference with the Elinchrom being the winner so far compared to out of pocket cost to this point.

However………..

You’ll need a second battery for either system. The Elinchrom battery is $389.99 (B&H) compared to the Profoto B2 battery at $229 (Adorama). But the Elinchrom battery provides 100 (ish) more full power flashes than the Profoto battery. However, there are two other things to consider: 1) Size and Weight (Profoto wins). 2) The Profoto recharges from dead to full in 45 minutes and the Elinchrom from dead to full in 90 minutes. The Elinchrom may provide 100 more flashes, but the Profoto can be recharged twice in 90 minutes providing 100 more flashes that way than the Elinchrom.

The battery pricing puts the Profoto B2 $160.99 closer in total cost to the Elinchrom. So with the previous $488.06 difference – $160.99, that leaves the two systems just $327.07 difference.

Profoto B2 250 AirTTL To-Go Kit, Includes B2 250 AirTTL Power Pack, B2 Head, Battery, Carrying Bag, Location Bag, Battery Charger $1995.00 + $411 + $172 + $229 = $2,807

Elinchrom ELB 400 Action To Go Kit, Includes Quadra Action Head, Quadra Grid Reflector 18cm, EL-Skyport Transmitter Plus $1,839.99 + $249.95  + 0 (included) + $389.99 = $2,479.93 ( $327.07 )

There are numerous other things to consider like modifiers, other accessories, mount types, etc., but just like anything, you can find the knock off stuff for either brand if you are trying to save money. There will be differences in cost in this area that are likely to go either way when comparing when comparing alternative options or brand name to brand name, but I’m not going that deep.

Looking at one key spec: Does the $327.07 gap matter?

I hope you have stuck with me to this point, because for me, there is ONE key difference that matters to me that is worth the $327.07. That is TTL.

The Profoto B2 not only has HSS (High Speed Sync), but it has TTL. That takes out a lot of trial and error, guess work and even metering (optional). I love the fact that I can use TTL to get the exposure in line with the Profoto B2 and then lock it in by switching to manual if I’m staying consistent with the lighting.

Yes, I would like the extra power of the Elinchrom (Remember, it’s less than a stop.) compared to the Profoto B2, but for me, I’m not giving up TTL for less than 1 stop difference in power. For run and gun, on the go, portable shooting, the TTL has been a wonderful option with the Profoto B2. So for me, it’s not worth the $327.07 savings, but then again, I’m already heavily invested in Profoto at this point.

In closing, if you are considering either of these systems or any system that is going to cost you $2,000+, I would look far deeper than what I have included in this post because chances are very good that you will stick with whatever system you choose for years to come. I have no regrets on purchasing the Profoto B2 system, but that doesn’t mean that it’s the right system for you. It’s your money. Use it wisely.

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Happy Thanksgiving 2016

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Brenda and I are thankful for each other, our daughters, our family, our Golden Retriever “Tucker,” our health, our amazing team, our awesome clients and so much more.

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Commercial Photography: “I Love Being A Commercial Photographer”

My personality is a better fit for commercial photography than it is consumer photography. I like working with businesses (small, medium and large) as well as business professionals who will use the images that I create for commercial use often times in both print and on the web.

It’s true that as a commercial photographer that people skills are important, but unlike consumer photography of weddings, families, babies, high school seniors, etc, I find that commercial photography doesn’t have the emotional ties that consumer photography typically includes. Commercial photography is often very business focused: “This is what I need, when I need it, how soon can I have it, etc.” That is much different than all the personal emotions flowing on a beautiful wedding day.

With the above mentioned, have you ever thought about what your personality is a better fit for? Commercial Photography or Consumer Photography or Both? Don’t just randomly say, “I’m going to be a wedding photographer because there is good money to be made and people will always be getting married.” There is more to photography than randomly picking a genre especially if money is the motivator.

I’ve heard that there is a lot of money to be made in Fashion Photography. I have zero (almost zero) desire to do fashion photography. Again, don’t just randomly choose an area of photography without thinking through whether you like it and whether you can actually make a living doing it if you plan to be full time.

Images like the one below could be created for consumer photography use; however, consumers are not typically looking for an image like this one. This image was shot for a University to be used in print. It’s images like this one that motivate me as a commercial photographer. However, all commercial photography does not include creative style images. For example, a headshot of the company President to be published in a magazine article or on the company website can be considered commercial photography.

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There are numerous areas of commercial photography that a photographer can focus on like product photography, architectural photography, advertising photography, portrait photography for commercial use and much more. Commercial photography is not always lots of bells and whistles. Sometimes commercial use images are very similar to consumer images. The key difference in commercial and consumer photography is the way the images will be used.

There are a lot of photographers who still argue PRINT, PRINT, PRINT. Well, in the commercial photography world, clients are usually looking for a digital image to be used in print and/or on the web. Commercial clients are typically not looking for an 8 x 10 print to frame and put on the mantle. Although some commercial photographers may argue that PRINTS are still the way to go, I think there is a much stronger argument for this on the consumer side of photography which is one key reason that I am glad that I don’t cater to the consumer world. I had enough of 8 x 10’s, 5 x 7’s and Wallets in the 1980’s to last me a lifetime.

commerical-photography-behind-the-scenes

iPhone Image Behind The Scenes

I love the variety of things that commercial photography offers like getting suited up to do photography in a lab which is not the first time our team has suited up like this. Just like consumer photographers, commercial photographers get to meet new people, do new things and don’t always have to be in a studio environment.

For the commercial photoshoot pictured to the left, we were wireless with my two assistants serving as human light stands. I did use a tripod, but other than that, nothing touched the lab floor except our covered shoes.

Finding inspiration through the work of others is a key part of being a commercial photographer. One of my favorite photographers is Gregory Heisler shown in the YouTube video below. My guess is that you may have never heard of him. However, you have likely seen more of his work (especially if you are 40+) than you realize.

If you are new to photography, you should find a mentor or at minimum, someone who inspires you. It’s a critical element to growth as a photographer.

Photography is not simply about picking up a nice camera over the weekend, getting business cards printed and calling yourself a photographer. Some may get by with that for the $99 burn it to a CD consumer market, but try doing that in the Fortune 500 world and see what happens. That’s not to say that the Fortune 500 market is impossible, it’s just that commercial photography is typically not as easy to get into as consumer photography.

I like that fact that when I’m quoting a project that I’m likely quoting against another established commercial photographer.

The point to my last 3 paragraphs is that this can all keep you on your game and help you get to the next level. Don’t be complacent with your photography. Always keep striving to be the best photographer you can be.

50-portraitsBefore I move on, I want to mention Gregory Heisler’s book: “50 Portraits.” The book cover is pictured to the right and if you click on it, you’ll end up on Amazon where you can order it. It’s a good read for anyone seriously interested in photography, but it’s not a sexy read by any means. Yes, I did read it and plan to reference it from time to time as well as let the image style inspire me. One of my key takeaways is TECHNIQUE, TECHNIQUE, TECHNIQUE.

It’s important that any photographer who wants to get to the next level take time to shoot personal projects, read books, watch videos, spend time with others in the field and the many other things that can help.

Commercial photography is an area of photography that I am truly passionate about. It’s a blessing to be able to work full time not only in photography but in the market segment of photography that I really enjoy working in.

Taking a turn to direct some additional thoughts to you (the reader):

If you are new to photography, working part-time in photography, struggling as a photographer or even working full time in photography, you should do yourself and your clients and/or the photographer you work for a favor by not only being passionate about your work but striving to be the best you can be. If you truly want something bad enough, you’ll have to work hard to make it happen.

My definition of working hard is 6 days a week 10 to 12 hours a day ( 60 to 70+ hours per week ) until you achieve what you want to achieve. Even if you work for someone else and you are happy doing that, you should spend time outside of your regular employment to get to the next level.

You may be thinking that you just don’t have the time in the day. You have a spouse, you have children, you have other personal priorities and I’m not saying you should sacrifice any of that to get where you want to be, but I will say that I got up a 3:18 a.m. yesterday morning and I woke up at 2:24 a.m. this morning (got up before 3 a.m.). In both instances my wife was in bed for several more hours sleeping. Yes, it’s nice to wake up beside my wife, but if she is sleeping and I can get 3, 4, 5+ hours of work in, then what’s the harm? Actually, I have written this blog post while she went shopping. It’s over 1,300 words. Again, what’s the harm?

Do you want to be a commercial photographer? Go For It!

Do you want to be a consumer photographer? Go For It!

You don’t have to work for yourself to be happy as a photographer. Self-employment is NOT the right fit for everyone. So make up your mind what you want to do in photography and just GO FOR IT!

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Ripl – A Great App To Share Your Photography Images On Social Media

2 Commercial Photography Images From A Downtown Raleigh Photoshoot…

The animation above was created on my iPhone using Ripl. It appears the app is currently only available for iPhone users.

Although there is a FREE version of the app, I decided to do the $59 per year PRO version to get all the features. It’s also available for $9.99 per month which is twice as much as just paying outright annually.

It seems that animation works well on Instagram which is just one of the places that Ripl makes it easy to post to. It’s easy to schedule posts for Facebook (including business pages), Twitter and Instagram.

On the PRO version, the MP4 can be downloaded to the photos area of the phone which then makes it easy to upload to YouTube from the YouTube app like I did on the animation at the top of this post.

I plan to mix up the type of animations that I create with Ripl. For example, the one in this post is a little more call to action focused because I listed my phone number, but it’s also a great way to share some of my images. In this case, I shared 3 of my commercial photography images from a photoshoot in downtown Raleigh.

You’ll have to decide for yourself whether the Ripl app will be a fit. The nice thing is that you can try out the free version or even try a 7 day free trial of the pro version (as of this post).

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5 Tips For Better Photography – What’s Your Favorite Tip?

I created the short animation slideshow above on my phone using the Ripl app and uploaded it to YouTube from my phone. I thought that a blog post expanding on each of the 5 tips may serve as a helpful resource.

The tips are in no particular order of importance.

Tip 1 – Learn To Use Light
Light is a critical element to great photography. So many new photographers say “I’m a natural light photographer.” Grant it, natural light is amazing when used properly, but many new photographers don’t even know how to modify and use natural light to its fullest.

Getting into speedlites, constant lighting (artificial) and strobe lighting and using it properly both inside and outside can get complicated. However, any photographer can spend a couple of hours watching FREE YouTube videos to help get started in the right direction.

Whether you are a new photographer or a veteran professional, learning to use light will be the difference in getting paid or getting paid better as a photographer.

Tip 2 – Focus On Composition
Yes, you can crop in post. However, as a photographer, if you learn to compose in the camera, it will make a difference in your creativity plus save you time in post. In addition, there are some things that you cannot create in post like the use of a wide angle lens at a low angle that you could shoot with and focus on composing the shot in camera for a unique creative look. Professional photographers know composition.

Tip 3 – Get Off Auto Mode
To set the record straight, MANUAL mode is NOT the right fit for every photography need. As a full time professional, I typically shoot in manual mode or aperture priority mode. There are very limited times that I may turn the dial over to auto mode.

The key take away behind this tip is to not let the camera make the decisions, but to understand the dial settings enough to go beyond what auto mode will do.

Just like learning to use light, getting off auto mode can be scary for a new photographer, but there are also FREE YouTube videos available to help with this area of photography as well. The best way to get off auto mode is to use tip #5 “Never Stop Shooting.”

Tip 4 – Try Something New
It’s easy to become complacent and do the same type of lighting over and over and over. Never leaving your comfort zone as a photographer can cause you to stagnate and hinder creativity.

Our oldest daughter recently got married. I AM NOT A WEDDING OR BRIDAL photographer. So when my wife and business partner told me that she put doing our daughters bridal portraits on my calendar, I was definitely going to be trying something new and out of my comfort zone.

The shots below are what I came up with on location in 30 to 45 minutes of shooting which I think came out fine considering I was very much out of my comfort zone and trying something new.

bridal-portraits

Tip 5 – Never Stop Shooting
It’s nice to always have a phone along and always taking pics. However, if you are a photographer with a traditional camera (mirrorless or DSLR), you cannot afford to never stop shooting. Try putting your camera away for a month at the time and see what happens.

If you are a new photographer, you may not have the workload yet to always be shooting, but you should find something to photograph on a regular basis.

Even full time professionals likely spend more time doing other tasks than shooting which is why personal projects are important to do to hone skills and try new things. So whether you are part-time or full-time, never stop shooting because it’s likely what motivated you to pursue photography to begin with.

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Please use the comments section to answer: What is your favorite of the 5 tips?

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