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02/22/2006 01:49:17 PM · #126
Anyone registered with PartyPop.com? They're the worlds largest event planning site and you can register yourself as a vendor in their searchable database. I registered myself today in both event photography and portrait photography. PartyPop
02/22/2006 05:59:04 PM · #127
hey thanks for the link Cindi, I added myself today.
02/23/2006 06:16:21 AM · #128
I was thinking about this last night when I couldn't sleep. I know some of you are further along in this then me but how did you get your name/business going? Did you advertise and if so where or how? I think that would really be a big help. I have been going w/word of mouth and I did just place my first add in one school newspaper but things aren't as quick as I had hoped for. I would love to know more about that. Forgive me if I missed it.
02/23/2006 09:27:20 AM · #129
Hi Allison. I haven't done much advertising yet, because I'm still enjoying a full-time paycheck from my full-time job and I'm afraid my photography business will overwhelm me if I advertise much. At this point I've bought ads through my kids' school events (fence at a softball field, sponsoring local beauty pagent, etc) and have gotten a few jobs from those - but by far most of my work has been through referrals.

This year I hope to start ramping the business up a bit more though, now that I have all of the equipment I need. I've already booked 3 weddings and plan to network BIGTIME during/around each of those events. I've also started working with a local DJ and am getting some referrals from him.

I'm intentionally taking this slowly, thank goodness I can because my full-time job is very secure.

Edit to mention I probably just jinxed myself with that last sentence! lol

Message edited by author 2006-02-23 09:27:45.
02/23/2006 09:29:37 AM · #130
Just thought I'd add - my project today is to research government grants for small businesses. Everyone says they are out there - and free if you find the right ones..... I'm going to be reading....

Will report back with findings later.
02/23/2006 10:07:02 AM · #131
I'm just trying to contribute to the group here. My statements aren't meant for comparison but in the intent that you will get a broader basis from which to make your business decisions. Our results shared aren't meant to imply that anyone else will achieve similar (either good or bad) results if they do similar actions.

Advertising:
We spend between $500-600/month in advertising including direct mailings to 350-600 brides/month. We also advertise online and have looked at magazine ads but based on our evaluation just felt the money would be wasted.
We just attended a bridal fair for which our outlay was over $2,000 in both rental and material.

I've been doing this over 3 years now (not very long at all but at least I have some idea of the results I've gotten between word-of-mouth and paid advertising). In my experience, word of mouth advertising beats paid advertising in every imaginable way. The one up to paid advertising is legitimacy. I'd stronly encourage you to give away some work just to get some good word of mouth but always ask the person to give you referrals (or pay them for a referral if you think its worth it) and always, ALWAYS show them in some manner how much of a reduction in your work they are getting. If you don't start off showing people how much of a break they're getting BECAUSE you want referral business from them then they will tell people about the terrific, awesome, fun-to-work-with photographer who COSTS NOTHING and that's what the referred party will expect, too. Make a small but noticeable point of showing what prints and time would have cost them but then happily give them the package and remind them that you're excited to give their friends and family the same kind of service and products you got.

Referral business is not only more lucrative (hey, you didn't have to pay over and over for it), its also more steady. Paid advertising brings in people who have no reason to like you over anyone else and they expect to either be WOW'ed throughout the process or to get some kind of great deal. Referral work is still feast or famine but once you start to build up a clientele you can really tell as your calendar (especially if this is a side business to your regular profession/career) will quickly become full a few months into the future.

Finding students in your area:
www.studentlist.com
You do have to pay for a list but at least its a way to get in touch with those families and target your marketing.

Hope this helps some of you,

Kev
02/23/2006 11:48:39 AM · #132
thanks for the advice, I agree Kevin on paying advertisment vs word of mouth. I have been doing lots of freebies which have helped me work on my portfolio and skill. I just wanted to make sure I was on the right path.
02/23/2006 12:38:17 PM · #133
I registered with partypop - can't hurt i suppose.
wedj.com is still the best, got another wedding referral from them yesterday and the bride emailed me. free site too.

There was a similar trhead over at FM about doing work for free or cheap to get started and most everyone (established folks anyway) are mucho against it. The wedding pros are also against starting cheap and raising prices. Not sure the logic in this other than they all state 'charge what you're worth' but assume that to be what they are charging. Some sane folks poitn out that if you are giving it away cheap, you are not getting the same clients that that are willing to pay, and appreciate, photography. I feel that there is a large market for photography between walmart/sears/jcpenney and traditional studios that charge top dollar.

On a good note...and a fearful one, I suppose I can go full time anytime i want...saw my accountant today and he tells me our taxreturn should be a bit over $5000. With my wife's promotion and salary increase, and if i don't have to pay babysitter and gas to work (and lunch, etc) I can 'stay at home' and we'll still get our bills paid. that means the photography income (i mean profit) is pretty much above and beyond what we need to live. The only issue at this point is my outflow still exceeds my income. Have to sit and do some hard figuring. i feel that if i can devote my energies to only one pursuit then I'll do better at it.
03/01/2006 05:05:56 PM · #134
This week's update:
Shot a wedding saturday, my first solo. had a hard time sleeping the night before ;) This was their second marriage each, I wangled my way in to do this for my portfolio, and practically no one took photos except one kid that had his video camer running the whole time. They were nice enough and I think they'll love the photos, but they were not too keen on the formals. Outside ones were terrible - 35 degrees and windy, and sunny, and everyone was dressed as if it were a July wedding LOL.

Learned a bit - small churches are their own challenge. I need to be more assertive in getting images, but some of that is lack of enthusiasm on the part of the couple in this case. The last 3 weddings I participated in this was not an issue. I still hate flash - experimented a bit more and got better results, but stil not happy with some of the pics. Shot the ceremony with no flash and a 50 1.8 - that worked well. The 24-135 worked well, and with flash it was fast enough. I did much better at getting properly focused pics! Still deciding what mode to use. Couldn't get the flash into eTTL so it ran in Auto all day (which works better that eTTL anyway). Used mostly Av, but M may be teh better choice...Argh.
I need to have a huddle up for the next wedding - give directions about how to walk down the aisle, how to kiss (length!) and things of that nature. same for garter and bouquet toss at the reception.

Next - a wedding prospect will be in town this weekend and I get to shoot engagement shots..i practiced this 3 weeks ago with friends and the pics are OK, nothing outstanding (hard to get that in 24F weather with it snowing LOL. I found a good website to study up on for posing - so I'll be ready on sunday!

see how cold they look? spaghetti strap dresses, sandals...silly.
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03/02/2006 03:26:07 PM · #135
I agree Chris they look cold. I shoot my first wedding this Saturday and worry because I don't have a great lense to bump my ap down for low lighting. Good luck w/your prospect. I think this is a great addition to your portfolio!! Thanks for sharing what you did and learned. I can't wait to hear all my mistakes.
03/02/2006 03:41:08 PM · #136
I shot most of this with my 24-135 3.4-5.6 lens and the flash. i always seem to fight the flash. your 28-135 should be good, the 18-55 for some shots, it's s decent close up lens from what i recall.

the 50 1.8 is great - The preacher let me do whatever, so i tried to behave LOL.
I did get a few shots like this one with the 50 1.8 and no flash. Problem now is hte flash shots are a different 'color'. Perhaps I shoudl jsut b&w all of them and be done with it! I've done that before due to color casts from a large purple window...but everybody does b&w , and i gotta be different...

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03/02/2006 06:41:27 PM · #137
Chris did you shoot in raw and if so how much memory do you have? Will either way how much memory did you use? I might do the more formal pics in raw and then switch to jpeg during the reception. I need to remove my 50mm lens off my list or buy it again. I dropped it sometime ago. I plan on bringing both my cameras and having a lens on each of them that you mention. Then use my on board flash and the other my 420 flash. Will see. I am the second photographer so the pressure is off me.
03/02/2006 07:41:11 PM · #138
I can hardly wait till I get a second body (30D!!). I plan to run my 24-135 and flash on the 30D and either the 50, 18-50 2.8 or 70-200 2.8 on the rebel and no flash.

I shot 420 exposures in 5 hours, 370 or so in RAW. I have since added a 2Gb card (from b&h, or BestBuy - the sandisk Ultra2 2gb is $89). I will probably get another one before my May wedding. I have 3.7Gb plus the new 2Gb card and i filled 3.5Gb with images.

I figure later this year to get a 12-24 tokina and a tamron 28-75 2.8. I'm not sure if i'll use it much, but everyone recomends it, so why not, it's only money LOL.

I used 2 camera batteries (may not have had to, but could change them so i did) and 2 or 3 sets of flash batts. Again, i changed them before they died. I have a tenba wallet thing that hangs on my belt - holds 8 memory cards, 8 AAs and 2 camera batteries - enough to last a while LOL. I also have a pouch on my belt that holds a lens (the 50 or the 18-50...not both - have to fix that I suppose so i can carry them both) I picked a spot up a the front on the dies of hte church ans laid out my lenses so i could swap quickly. I need a toploading bag for wedding as my backpack doesn't allow fast enough access. I am tempted to color code my lenses too LOL.

I have an old manual flash for backup. I think I want a 580 but that'll have to wait awhile. I want eTTL2 so the 550 is out.
03/05/2006 09:51:03 PM · #139
Thanks Chris, I charged my two spare batterys but didn't use them. I did swap our my batteries for my flash (way before it died too). I learned quickly that my 420 wasn't cut up for the job. But since I was the second shooter I dealt. I am actually shooting another one as a second and plan on saving towards some glass or another flash. I filled on 1 gig w/raw and then about 1/2 of the second 1 gig w/some raw then switch to jpeg for the ceremony. I did go through my images a lot and got dumped the bad shots and the ones w/out flash. I have way to much to edit since I had another gig today. Back to work on Monday. Glad the boss is in Guam for a week!
03/05/2006 10:38:20 PM · #140
From what I have seen (and others too apparently) RAW images are about 1 stop under exposed compared to JPGs - give the same histogramon teh camera. I did some filed testing on this today but have not had a chanvce to check the images.

Get Canon's DPP and go thru some of their tutorials - it makes working with large numbers of files go pretty quickly.
03/07/2006 02:03:40 AM · #141
Biz up (and down) date:
These posttings keep this thread alive, and we can be a mutual support society for motivating or problem solving. It might be nice if we each give an update on the good or bad of the previous week or two. if you have no news in 2 weeks than can you say you are in business??

Good: I have cut back my job to 1 day a week. With my wife's promotion (and raise) and some careful planning this is financially possible (and emotionally necessary) and very good for the business. (and family).

I have another wedding booked! A college friend's niece. I am getting old, i rememeber her when she was 2.
I did an engagement shoot on sunday - photos posted on line, awaiting the bride's thoughts. She has not booked me for the wedding...fingers crossed that she likes the photos. (or can't get another photogapher on short notice ;)

Ordered my studio strobes today - 2 300ws paterson stellars, 2 umbrellas, stands, 1 24x24 softbox, gels, 20 degree grid, barndoors - i think that's all.

Bad: not much, just an email from a prospective bride "My fiance' walked out on me last night. Sorry, but I won't be needing your services" I guess better now than 10 minutes before the ceremony!

Other progress:
Studio coming along - got the paint and a few odd bits of hardware. I have 2 clients lined up for when it's ready.

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this was it about 2 or 3 weeks ago. Electrical is all in now except for the track lighting on one wall (portrait display wall). I hope to paint the walls wednesday and be ready to play with my new lights late this week!

Ideas
- for HS seniors - a questionaire of sorts asking about hobbies, favorite charracters, books, etc. collects info for creating a personalized photo shoot. Ask some open ended questions too - 'i wasnt to be remembered for...' or 'my best feature/worst feature' etc.

-wedding correspondance - I have sent out contracts to prospective brides. So far I use regular paper and a plain #10 envelope. I include a price sheet and a sugggested shot list. I want to include a few sample 5x7s as well. So my wife suggests that this info be assembled into a wedding invitation type thing - move upscale a bit, show come creativity, etc. Any thoughts to move this idea along? i was thinking tissue paper over the prints...3 prints - a color, a b&w, and a sample album page (i do collage type pages). Input??

Message edited by author 2006-03-07 02:09:05.
03/07/2006 11:37:55 PM · #142
I'm getting more concerned about posting here. As we pick up increasingly larger contracts I'm worried about potential clients running across this and using anything they find to try and use it against us in negotiations. I've already had some of my postings here mentioned to me by someone.

We recently photographed a profitable event. In fact while I'm open to trying to help fellow small business people I'm greatly concerned that information that might prove helpful to some of you might be detrimental to my own business interests.

Here's a principle that I'll lay out there:
Business is like family members - you can't always choose what type of photography is lucrative. Of all the photography services we perform we've found a particular niche is EXTREMELY more profitable. Wrapping my mind around the concept of shooting for a particular group and pursuing that business model never would have occurred to me but I'm at the place where we just earned enough to go buy any body we want in a weeks time and those kinds of results are hard to discount.

I've tried the Jack-of-all-trades and honestly I find that its refreshing insomuch as you're always getting to shoot something different and if you find one particular set of subjects boring then all you have to do is put a lot of effort into another arena and you'll probably land some business there and you can be rejuvenated. Neither my wife or I find this more profitable business idea artistic or rejuvenating but we both find that it to produces dollars that can be used for new equipment, debt reduction or as spending money on vacations and thats a whole other type of incentive. I don't want to stop trying to shoot all kinds of work but in a more mature view of business I think its important to be objective and while I can nickel & dime a business that keeps me running my butt off for a few hundred dollars here or there I could devote all my focus on a particular group of clients, pursue them with all my drive, market our business to them and travel up to 500 miles to attend any of their events and our net income for the business would increase at least triplefold at the same time that our marketing and time commitment would decrease. Its not sexy but it is business.
03/08/2006 10:13:59 AM · #143
Just don't do it for the money, you gotta like it too. Burn out is the result of working for the money and not the art/love/what have you.

I was into cars and motorcycles and have worked in both industries in several capacities - i lost the love. Some has come back, but nothing like it was before. This is one fear I have with photography, but I have more control over it than when i worked for someone else so hopefully it won't happen.
03/08/2006 11:44:25 AM · #144
I agree on keeping the thread moving and sharing ideas w/out giving away information for some. I guess I am not on that level but my clients could easily google my posts here. Since I work full time and some over time and I am the breadwinner my business would have to be doing really well for it to be my main vocus. Right now I just would like to do 500 a month or more, leaving it as a part time thing. I do want to branch out to more profitable gigs that require less time ie weddings, seniors, announcements, boudior.

Good for me: last weekend I shoot a free portfolio building wedding and still need to edit and add the pics to my site and to the bride. I shadowed another photographer and learned tons and also that my style or hopeful style is different but still eager to learn from her. She has asked if I will continue to work for her and my answer is yes if I am free. I shoot boudior on Sunday and she has already placed her order and I have already spent the money from that gig on an external hard drive that I so needed and some other supplys. Today my free sitting fee twin shoot ordered their birth announcements and I already have them ready for me to return in 4 weeks. Just need to make minor adjustments to color, buy the envelopes and upload to the lab. I got a gig from my job for a head shoot for someones retirement and in return I am getting a 512 gig memory stick. Hey I will take it. I have a coffee meet set up for a wedding next year and need to get my portfolio ready for that and work on paying for a little advertising on the wedding side of the house.

Bad: I really only have two future paying gigs booked. Both in April and one is as a second photographer for a wedding. I find it hard to market and work full time. I paid for an add in a local high school and not sure if it has run yet and if I will get a return.

So if anyone has ideas of where to go from here I am open.
03/08/2006 06:45:46 PM · #145
I am thinking and rethinking my business model. In this ever changing world, one has to keep a step ahead. You never can tell when a winning idea will pop out. $4 for a cup of coffee? Starbucks gets it. $99 photo quality printers? Sure, the consumeables get ya. eBay? Google? Microstock? I may have the next bid idea or you might...

Since people want prints (that IS our product) and they will gladly steal them (buy 1 print and make copies) I am rethinking my business model - see the biz 1 thread for the details, but if i can get $27 an hour for my 'labor' then i make my money. i can literally give away CDs of the images and not be financially hurt.

So, what does this mean? Not sure, still thinking it thru. Currently I re-did my pricing strategy- i give a print credit and the client can choose whatever mix of prints they like.

Not sure what to do for events though, like my valentines day thing or the pet portraits, or the like. Still working on this, the 'breaktrhu' is not quite here yet...
03/08/2006 06:48:17 PM · #146
Originally posted by Prof_Fate:

.... but if i can get $27 an hour for my 'labor' then i make my money....


Ack! Raise your rates. You can easily charge $50/hr or more - especially if you don't plan to make profit from the prints. :)
03/09/2006 12:15:42 AM · #147
Don't get me wrong. I might more accurately have said

Originally posted by KevinRiggs:

. . . its refreshing insomuch as you're always getting to shoot something different . . .

but its also true that when you work a full-time career, make yourself available for family functions and THEN try to do creative and artistic work like my nude back series that I'm working PLUS try to market and build a business you may find like I have that simplifying your business strategy lets you focus on one main area and you can get more bang for your buck. When I work editing photos between when my daughter goes to sleep and when I finally pass out (say an average of 3 hours a night) I can get more consistent results if I'm not spending Tuesday and Wednesday clearing up pimples on bride's chins and then turn around to try and squeeze the best black & white out of a 4 year old's portraits on Thursday. I'm not saying that the variety isn't fun; just that sometimes it can be more wearing when your harried and if you can find a single style that supports the amount of dollars you want to pull in then spending the majority of your extra time (after all the "have to" stuff like career and family) to do the paying work isn't necessarily a negative. I just edited 110 photos in 2 nights and got a tidy sum of money. No albums involved, everyone was at one location, no having to deal with MoB syndrome. Considering how much time I've not had to work on my business during the day since the start of the year (work has seriously gotten busier) I'm happy to find a niche and settle into it. I'm still shooting some TFP work and some portraits along with an artistic session every now and then and if this other opportunity doesn't pan out then we're continuing to market to brides and children (I'm not ready to close any doors just yet).

Its taken almost 4 years to get to this point where I have a decent idea of what we can do and the technical expertise to be confident that we can walk into any situation and have both the equipment and experience to handle the situation. I'm ready to stop chasing the "bigger, cooler" thing and just settle for a nice, quiet niche that allows me to work less strenuously and pull down more dollars per hour.

If you could continue to make $30/hour or you found something that took less work and paid off at around $400/hour what would you do? It doesn't take too many times of "selling your soul" to realize that you can buy more toys and shoot more "fun" shoots in your spare time with the extra money.

Referrals, referrals, referrals. You never know when someone who needs a particular service will mention their need and someone you've worked with may just put you in touch with a great deal.
03/09/2006 12:18:51 AM · #148
Chris,

I will say this much. We shot events as a loss leader for over 2 years.

It was worth it. Our service reputation paid off.
03/09/2006 12:36:54 AM · #149
Originally posted by idnic:



Ack! Raise your rates. You can easily charge $50/hr or more - especially if you don't plan to make profit from the prints. :)


Depends on where you live, your market. Your stage in your career - I am not worth more (be that in my mind or the customer's) at this point.

Can I charge $100 for a 45 minute portrait session, in my basement? I doubt it. Depends - one of those or 2 at $50 grosses the same, but the second option is twice the work for the same money. So many things say charge more and work less. Reality may not agree with theory though.

What is my market? Who is my competition? What will the first pay, what does the second charge? Is there a market that is untapped, in other words, easy pickens? Is there a type of customer I want to work with?

Around here the average house is $150 grand, a new 4 bedroom 2.5 bath home in a subdivision is $240 grand. There is money around, but the biggest employer is about to fold (USAir - 5 years ago employed 11,000 noe employs 3800 - and new hires get paid $6.50 an hour). Factory work here pays $9-10 an hour if that. This area is #2 in people over 65 (florida is #1). Don't know about where you live, but the retired set here isn't splurging on children's photos, weddings and marternity shots. Photography is a luxury item, so one can charge like that, or make it an affordable luxury. I bet 30% of the weddings here don't have photographers - too expensive.

Besides, i said my cost was $27/hour. that is not necessarily what I plan on charging. In theory, i could charge $50 an hour, pay someone $23 an hour to do the work of photographing and processing the images and I'd still get my $27 and just be sales and management, never even take a photo.
03/14/2006 01:43:46 AM · #150
Printing companies:

I just ordered over $1000 worth of prints @ my cost. I'm paying an average of

$ 0.59 for 5x7's
$ 2.38 for 8x10's
$11.xx for 16x20's

Anyone have any better pricing structures?

These are all printed on either Kodak Professional Endura paper or Fuji Crystal Archive paper depending on the printing company I select.

Also, does anyone else use ROES (pronounced "rose") to place orders with a professional printing company?

Finally, I'm moving my proof review and ordering operations to collages.net. It's incredibly easy for the client to order off their site and events only stay up for 60 days unless the client pays to keep it on the site longer; it create a time constraint for ordering (if anyone remembers I just had 4 albums + reprints ordered and they were all at least 4 months old).

Anyway, thought I'd share and see what everyone else is doing for printing/processing. Oh yeah, I also color correct them on my machine and don't pay to have them color corrected at the processing company.

One of my processors www.cpq.net

Kev

Message edited by author 2006-03-14 01:44:14.
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