W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me me

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W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me me

Postby emspace » Wed Apr 25, 2012 5:49 pm

I’ve been wanting to take my photography down more serious (& frankly, more profitable) roads for years and years. I’m holding myself back because I don’t think I’m strong enough artistically/creatively in an increasingly over-saturated market of amateur/semi-pro/pro photographers. Intellectually, I know that it doesn’t matter what I think, that I should just build it and they will come—albeit slowly. I also know that many people have managed to become paid, if not well paid, photographers even though their work was pretty average when they started.

I also don’t know where to start. I don’t know who to market my services to. Problem is that I enjoy documentary photography the most, but that’s the least likely genre of photography to get paid doing. I could do family and lifestyle photography, also high school seniors, engagements, but I don’t think I can handle weddings.

Really, though, I know it comes down to my own blocks.
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Re: W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me

Postby Elaine Glimme » Thu Apr 26, 2012 11:15 am

Is there anywhere on the web where we can see your work?

I know next to nothing about the photography business. That said, documentary photography sounds really intersting. With my little digital camera, I can get a beautiful photo of a sunset or an oak tree. I probably can't get a photo of a human rights demonstration in Africa or a shrinking glacier. The logistics are too difficult. Do you have a way of travelling to all the places where news is happening? If yes, that puts you one step closer to doing what you want. If no, can you figure out a way to do a lot of travelling?

There is a photographer, Gary Braasch, who has a web site devoted to global warming. ( I hope I spelled his name correctly - he does have two a's in his last name.) Environmental concerns might be a starting place since they are not as time sensitive as a war or an accident. Government environmental organizations and environmental non-profit groups might be interested in buying your work. (An aside - I used to publish a newsletter for Contra Costa County and, when I was doing an article about global warming, I bought some of Gary Braasch's photos. So it is possible.)

Would you enjoy doing family portraits, high school graduations, etc. as a way to get your foot in the door??

Do you have friends - camera club, etc - who are serious about photography and can give you some information about logistics?

You said that your obstacle is "me me me". Which I take to mean that you don't want to quit your job, and fly to a mountain top in the Himalayas until the money runs out. (Excuse my sense of humor - I like to exaggerate.) If that's the case, could you do something after work or part time or as a vacation project? Is there some way that your photography could benefit the people you work for? I'm a big believer in "start on a small scale."

Or is your dream to show up at NBC News with a folder of your work and ask them to hire you? And have them fly you to Singapore and Madagascar?

Also, you might check with your local chamber of commerce and find out all about the business end of what you want to do. There is a lot to know about running a small business.

Someone else reading this thread might have more ideas and tips for you.

Those are my thoughts. Please take what's helpful and leave whatever isn't. I hope you get your wish.
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Re: W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me

Postby emspace » Thu Apr 26, 2012 3:48 pm

Hi Elaine. Thanks for your response.

First, you can see some more professional work here at margauxyiu "dot" com. My more personal work is at photos "dot" brightmedusa "dot" com.

As you see, I do get to travel a fair bit already. I don't always have a chance to take “serious” photos, so I end up with more travelogue images than story-based imagery.

Luckily, I work in an environment where people are encouraged to step in wherever they think they can improve things, so I’ve done that with the photography. I already train people at work on how to shoot head shots and video interviews, and I’ve become the main photography expert and lead shooter. Unfortunately, photography isn’t a full-time job here. Yet.

I can’t quit this day job because it pays for all my gear and traveling (never mind my apartment). I've been trying to get in touch with local charities to see if I can do some photofilm documentaries for them. These consist mainly of still images in a slideshow, sometimes with video, with voice-over audio from interviews with subjects. I’m trying to set up shooting with a group that works with teenage moms, but it’s been hard getting scheduling to match up.

I’ve tried contacting other groups I'm interested in, but I don't usually get a call back or email response. I know it's a matter of getting in front of people, making introductions, establishing relationships. I have to decide what might make a good story and approach those people or organisations without coming across that I'm exploiting them just to establish myself. The approach is the hardest part for me, because I'm not a naturally charismatic salesperson.

After sending my initial post, I decided to sign up for a continuing ed class on feature writing for newspapers and magazines, hoping that this would give me some help with how to find a story, how to approach people, and how to get access. I do have photographer friends, but most of us our non-pro, or early pro, and it's still a mystery to all of us how to get noticed. Some people are more “activator” than I am, so it goes back to me being in the way of myself, thinking what I do isn't good enough or creative enough to be noticed. I also tend to think everyone already knows fifty people who are “photographers” so why would they refer or hire me?

So, I am do a lot of things already. I don't want to go too far down the road of planning how a business would look. I just need a kick in the pants to “just do it” — where “it” is shooting my projects, making contacts, letting people know to spread it around that I want to shoot families and kids, portraits & lifestyle, album covers, anything, but for money! Another idea I had was to find out how hard it is to be a stills photographer on a film set. I live in Toronto, and they shoot here all the time. I don't know how realistic that is, even. Who do you have to know?

Thanks for your suggestions, Elaine. I’m going to mull over what you’ve written and check out Gary Braasch. Appreciate your chiming in!
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Re: W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me

Postby Elaine Glimme » Fri Apr 27, 2012 10:55 am

I like your photos. The picture of Maria really spoke to me. There's something about her expression.

You could move your story from "Wishes and Obstacles" to Success Stories" and wanting more. You're doing what you love, and you have a job that supports your photography.

We could cheer you on and encourage you when you face another hurdle.

Good luck.
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Re: W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me

Postby emspace » Thu May 10, 2012 4:02 pm

Elaine Glimme wrote:I like your photos. The picture of Maria really spoke to me. There's something about her expression.

You could move your story from "Wishes and Obstacles" to Success Stories" and wanting more. You're doing what you love, and you have a job that supports your photography.

We could cheer you on and encourage you when you face another hurdle.

Good luck.


Thanks, Elaine. I don't think of these as successes, though. Strange. I'm moving so slowly in the direction I want that I can barely see the progress. How do I move the post? Or just start a new one, I suppose…
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Re: W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me

Postby Elaine Glimme » Tue May 15, 2012 9:08 pm

emspace wrote:
Elaine Glimme wrote:I like your photos. The picture of Maria really spoke to me. There's something about her expression.

You could move your story from "Wishes and Obstacles" to Success Stories" and wanting more. You're doing what you love, and you have a job that supports your photography.

We could cheer you on and encourage you when you face another hurdle.

Good luck.


Thanks, Elaine. I don't think of these as successes, though. Strange. I'm moving so slowly in the direction I want that I can barely see the progress. How do I move the post? Or just start a new one, I suppose…


You probably don't need an answer to this anymore, but, yes, just start another thread ... and you already did that. I wish you lots of energy and motivation.
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Re: W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me

Postby rsterbal » Tue Oct 16, 2012 7:33 am

What is your current status on this?
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Re: W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me

Postby emspace » Thu Nov 08, 2012 2:46 pm

rsterbal wrote:What is your current status on this?


Status: moving forward. By fits and starts.

My (in essence) sister-in-law asked me to shoot her wedding in January (in the Dominican Republic), and I said yes, despite my misgivings about shooting weddings. But I’m a researcher/fact-finder, so I immediately looked for books and online video courses to teach me how to pose people as this is not something I’ve had to do much of. My style is much looser, based on more natural moments — basically, journalistic.

Now, I’m sorry it took me so long to read up on this stuff! I’ve learned so much in under a month, just looking at other people’s images and reading or listening to their processes.

I’ve asked three couples and a single to pose as models for practice sessions, and I’ve shot two of those couples already. With the help of great advice and guidance, I can now see that my fears of posing people were only rooted in lack of knowledge on how to, not because I can’t do it. It turns out to be easier (and harder — sorry to contradict myself) than I thought, but I can do it, and it is very interesting. The “harder part” is seeing the mistakes (how the posing could’ve been better and what I should’ve said to my subject to make it happen) in the moment instead of afterward, when reviewing the photos. But that’s part of the process and there’s no way to avoid making mistakes in order to gain experience; 10,000 hours and all that.

One couple, that was married two months ago, was thrilled with their photos, in which I shot them in their bridal wear. To me, they’re not bad, but could’ve been better. I realised I should make a shot list so that I cover all the bases. Learning!

But these shoots and everything I’m learning are making me believe I should make the leap into wedding photography! My partner thinks it’s a great idea and is already planning to be my assistant.

I’m already asking around to be a second photographer at some weddings, though I’ve shot weddings on my own already, so I’m familiar with all the inherent issues and processes. I just think I should have more experience at different venues and different types of weddings.

I also have ideas to advertise myself to shoot two wedding at cost and as soon as possible so that I can put together some albums and enlargements for a booth at a wedding show. I’ve got lots of ideas.

Lots of fear, too. More along the lines of “what if it works?” more than “what if it doesn’t work?” Because if my plans work out, I could have far more complexity in my life, meaning I would have to get far better organised lickety-split! If they don’t work out, well I still have my Good Enough job and my life is pretty copacetic already.

The problem with being a Scanner is that I want it all to snowball right now and right away, because if it doesn’t, I’m bound to move on to something else and this ball will roll under the couch and stay there a while longer.

***

The original plan with the documentary work is still moving forward slowly. I had a meeting (finally) with the chief exec of the charity and we talked about getting started at the end of November. In the meantime, she wants me to join her women’s artist collective and shoot for exhibiting work in March — for which I’ll have to start producing some work!! I need to come up with a theme/idea for a series and then produce enough for 10-15 enlargements. This exhibition will be in support of women artists in developing countries.

So that’s me lined up in the photography work. I’ve got some great opportunities, so it’s really up to me to make momentum on them.
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Re: W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me

Postby tender » Mon Feb 11, 2013 12:36 pm

Hi,

I recently watched an incredibly clear and useful video providing business advice for photographers and other creatives.

You can easily find it by googling: Dec 22, 2011 – Chase Jarvis Interview with Ramit Sethi.

Jarvis is a successful photographer, and Sethi is a bestselling author/business advisor whose ideas I have used and found to be very sound.

They sit down together, and Jarvis asks Sethi the key questions in front of a roomful of photographers, who also ask questions.

Doubt you will find anything more directly applicable than Sethi's advice.
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Re: W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me

Postby SquarePeg » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:39 pm

I had to leave off the date when I Googled that. Here's the link I cam e up with:
http://blog.chasejarvis.com/blog/2011/1 ... e-rewatch/
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Re: W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me

Postby emspace » Fri Mar 08, 2013 6:10 pm

SquarePeg & tender: Thanks for the link. I’ve started watching it, but haven’t got all the way through. So far, I’m in familiar territory. This is the kind of thing we teach our entrepreneur clients, too.

But of course, we’re talking about Specialists in the field, and not Scanner photogs, as evidenced by Chase himself saying (I’m paraphrasing), “we’re going to take off the table any inexperience with the technology and the craft, assuming everyone here is more than reasonably qualified. We’re not talking about people who can’t get it done because they don’t know enough.”

He also made mention of the advice going not to the folks who already have a tonne of experience and not to those new folks at the bleeding edge without any presence in the industry, but to the ones in the middle. He’s talking about people who can’t make headway with BIG corporate clients because they don’t have a reputation, not because they’re new.

So, although I’m soaking it in because I love anecdotes, really this advise won’t so much apply to me right now because I have so little experience.

Thanks for sending anyway because now I can subscribe to Chase’s blog and see what else he’s got going on. I have heard of Chase Jarvis — he’s everywhere — but haven’t really looked at his work or his business.

+++++++

Still unanswered is how to market yourself as a Scanner photographer. This is highly discouraged by nearly everyone in the photography and marketing industries. The only advice there is to separate your different genres of photography into silos that don’t talk about each other. But that just compounds the amount of marketing and social media, never mind website management and bookkeeping, when you split everything up. That’s what I’m doing now, and I can already see it’s not going to work for very long. I can’t get into blogging and tweeting regularly in one place, let alone two or three.

We need a new business model for Scanners!
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Re: W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me

Postby Elaine Glimme » Sat Mar 09, 2013 5:01 pm

I watched part of the documentary. Fascinating!

As I understand it, a photographer should specialize to become well known, but you want to do it all, and that's the dilema.

Would it work to pick one genre and market that one as your good-enough job, and then do the others on the side - on photography vacations or special projects?

I know next to nothing about photography as a business. If the following makes sense, take it; if not, forget it.

You said that documentary photography was your favorite, but it's hard to make a living as a documentary photographer. To me, it seems that there is a niche there. Not everyone wants to fly around the world and get stuck in the middle of war zones and riots. So maybe there's an oportunity there for you. Contacting a few employers should be easier than marketing to the general public.

In your first posts, you said you didn't want to do weddings, and later you were learning about weddings and it sounded like you were enjoying them. Would you be willing to do weddings, proms, etc. as a full-time job (or almost full-time job) and do other projects on the side?

Or does the idea of doing anything almost full time sound boring?
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Re: W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me

Postby emspace » Thu May 23, 2013 5:10 pm

Elaine Glimme wrote:You said that documentary photography was your favorite, but it's hard to make a living as a documentary photographer. To me, it seems that there is a niche there. Not everyone wants to fly around the world and get stuck in the middle of war zones and riots. So maybe there's an oportunity there for you. Contacting a few employers should be easier than marketing to the general public.


You’re quite right, it’s a niche market all right. And nicheier every day! The magazine industry has been decimated, not to mention newspapers, and these were the traditional avenues of documentary photographers to sell their work. Sadly, there are more documentary photographers these days than people who want to buy their work. It’s incredibly difficult to get work as one, thus how hard it is to make a living. Even famous doc photogs who’ve worked in the industry for 20years and are known by virtually every editor in the world barely scrape by. Most spend a lot of time working on personal projects, waiting for the occasional assignment. The other place to get doc work is with non-profits, who by definition aren’t able to pay more than minimally (if at all) for it.

Nope, this is not a viable living. It’s a hobby—like poetry. You do it because you have to (in the way Barbara puts it, because it’s your talent), not because you’re hoping to pay down your mortgage faster.

Elaine Glimme wrote:In your first posts, you said you didn't want to do weddings, and later you were learning about weddings and it sounded like you were enjoying them. Would you be willing to do weddings, proms, etc. as a full-time job (or almost full-time job) and do other projects on the side?

Or does the idea of doing anything almost full time sound boring?


This is what I’m working towards, but it’s a slog to get a foot into any specialty. I’ve been dabbling at weddings, portraits, children & babies, events, travel, dance, fashion, music, and even real estate. So far, every commission has been a one-off. No referrals, no momentum. Lots of requests for quotes. I’ve had one woman ask me to photograph her wedding and her friend’s baby and pulled out of both requests. Lots of people who love my photos and want me to give them to them for free. But not a lot of people who are offering to pay.

But why should they? Everyone has a camera and everyone has at least one friend or relative who is an advanced amateur who can take a quality shot. No one really wants to pay, or if they do, they don’t want to pay much. I understand completely.

Absolutely there are still people out there paying for professional photography at professional rates, but I haven’t managed to tap any of those wells yet. I’ve got to get on top of marketing. And building my portfolio at the same time. Which I’m doing, but as I’ve probably said, it’s a huge slog. Once in a while I think I’m starting to roll and then it stops. My parents would say it’s like playing soccer with a square ball: you have to do all the work for it to get anywhere.
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Re: W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me

Postby SquarePeg » Fri May 24, 2013 9:44 am

Have you done any exhibits? Libraries, banks and municipal buildings have space to exhibit artwork.

A photographer recently photographed all the students in the high school musical for free. We got a lovely, free 8x10 of our daughter, plus the opportunity to buy more from his online site.

It might be worthwhile to get feedback from those whom you provided quotes to. Did they choose a different photographer? Or did they hire no one? Why?

BTW, I used to play in the wedding band. The drawback to working weddings is that you might be reluctant to plan a vacation in the summer because you need to be available for weddings, most of which occur in summer. And your Saturday nights are (hopefully) filled, meaning that your social life is out-of-synch with that of your friends. It's Sunday night, when nearly everything cool is closed and you want to kick back and party, and your friends are saying, "No way, man, I got to get up early to go to work (or school) tomorrow." OTOH, you get to see a lot of people having a great time, which does wonders for the mood.

Good luck!
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Re: W: get my photography business off the ground | O: me me

Postby emspace » Mon May 27, 2013 9:24 am

SquarePeg wrote:Have you done any exhibits? Libraries, banks and municipal buildings have space to exhibit artwork.


Nope. Have to get a set of photos together that are anywhere interesting. I’ve been working on a personal project photographing my SO’s great-grandmother’s house. Not sure where that would play well. Will have to think about it.

Also have another series shooting the trail scenery (in b&w) that passes near the house. Not really focused though, and frankly, not terribly interesting or good. Have to work on that series more.


SquarePeg wrote:A photographer recently photographed all the students in the high school musical for free. We got a lovely, free 8x10 of our daughter, plus the opportunity to buy more from his online site.


But did you order any more? So far, though people say they will, I’ve only had one couple purchase images (3) after the free session. I’ve also had someone else take advantage of my free 8x10 offer and ask for 4. The free-as-in-beer model only works in certain situations, and in photography, hardly ever. People just tend to take advantage and ask for everything for free or really cheap.

Like anything,getting real paid work in photography is about getting quality referrals. I don’t want referrals from people who got my work for free because their referrals will want free work, too. That’s not sustainable. It’s great if you’re a hobbiest and don’t mind that you’re not making much money at it. But I’m hoping to make a full-time living from it eventually, so this route doesn’t work for me.


SquarePeg wrote:It might be worthwhile to get feedback from those whom you provided quotes to. Did they choose a different photographer? Or did they hire no one? Why?


That’s the thing. People who just ask for quotes end up falling off the face of the planet. I never hear from them again. In other cases, I hear they got a “friend who is also a photographer” to do it for free. Hence, my anecdotal evidence that there are plenty of people around willing to photograph for free that it makes finding clients who are willing to pay that much harder. Photography is so democratised, it’s no longer respected.


SquarePeg wrote:The drawback to working weddings is…


I hear you! I’m fully aware of this downside already as I know lots of wedding photographers. I can’t say this is my main concern yet since I haven’t booked a wedding since January. At the moment, I have plenty of free weekends to spend with friends and family. Even if I booked 12 weddings this year, this still wouldn’t be a concern. That’s a bridge I’ll cross if I ever get there.

It may turn out that if I ever book 12 weddings in one season, I’ll realise I was right in the first place that I’m not cut out for shooting weddings. So far, in my limited experience, I’ve found them more draining than energizing. These are incredibly long days (6-10+ hours) with no breaks except travelling and barely any time to eat. OTOH, real estate photography is incredibly easy, takes about an hour at the average location, under an hour for editing and processing, and is far more energizing and far far far less stressful.

At this point, I’m a beggar so I’m not being particularly choosy!

Thanks for the suggestions and encouragement, SquarePeg! I appreciate it!
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