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06/02/2009 04:07:04 AM · #1
Hey everyone, I know that there are TONS of REAL, experienced, educated, and talented photographers on this site, and I wanted to get some feedback from you all about your businesses.

I've noticed lately that there are so many people out there that claim to be professionals and yet I look at their pictures and there is no attention to detail, DOF, or composition. Does this discourage you? How do you stand out and get work among all of the "photographers" with their cheap deals!?

I was looking on craigslist (a website where anyone can post ads toward their community) and clicking on one ad after another of 'photographers' and almost laughing and crying at the same time as a looked through their portfolios, how are these people getting paid for that?

What are you tips for advertising and getting work in this economy when some people are charging $25 a session and giving away the pictures on a CD?

06/02/2009 04:15:01 AM · #2
The key is not to try and compete against the cheap prices but to market yourself as a quality photographer rather then a cheap one. People are still paying good money for good photography and you need to advertise to these people.

That's the hard bit!

But fortunately a lot a work is still word of mouth and once you've got happy customers you start to get a network of people that have seen your work for them. Then if they need a photographer they'll call you rather then risk the cheap and nasty ones.

It's a very slow process and only now 2 years on am I starting to get a good flow of work through this.

For Weddings the wedding fayres and shows are best I've found and for portraits I've put flyers and ads in schools and other family focused areas.

Hope that helps :0)
06/02/2009 04:33:05 AM · #3
You can't educate a blind audience, so if they are looking at the work of cheap and bad photographers and enjoying it, then you don't want them as clients anyway! Kevlp6 is right, its very much a business based on word of mouth - do lots and lots of freebies for people that you know, and they will talk. I started my business up just over a year ago, and the freebies that I did early on took 6-9 months to really kick back towards me - but now I can't keep up with the work, its gone crazy.
Advertise wherever you can on the internet - google has a good service for free, just type in your specialties, such as the town you're in, what sort of photography you do, and it will give you a free listing.
Also the school brochures are a good idea, although don't spend a lot, they don't bring a huge amount of work, but they do get your name in their minds. Putting a sticker on your car is a good idea too, people will see it and remember it, depending on the size of your city. Internet advertising, for free where possible, and word of mouth really do work a treat. If you're good, they'll want you.
Donating your services for worthy fund raising functions is also good, its free advertising and you only have to give an hour or two of your time, plus pp of course.
Re weddings, I have filled my books till the end of the year by advertising in the local newspaper's magazine devoted to weddings, and through organising reciprocal links from other wedding suppliers on their sites.
Your job as a photographer is to be a personality, a friendly face, and someone people want to trust to take their photos on important occasions, so networking is extremely important, provided you back it up with professional quality work, which I'm sure you will! Don't worry about the competition, they are nothing, its your personality and your style that people will be drawn to. And if they're not, who cares, you didn't want to shoot those people anyway, you wouldn't have clicked with them and it would show in your shots.
06/02/2009 08:58:43 AM · #4
Chilis and TGI Fridays are doing just fine and there are lot more McDonalds/Wendys/BKing's out there that sell almost the same food for 1/2 price.

Isn't a quarter pound burger with lettuce and tomato, fries and a Coke the same thing everywhere?
I can make the same food at home for 1/2 of even McDonalds prices but restaurants around here are just as busy as ever and more keep opening.

It usually starts with a hobbyist who's half decent at something - landscapes, bugs, flowers. A coworker says 'you're pretty good - can you shoot my wedding or son's senior pics? I'll pay you!'. Since these hobbyists do it for free and for fun, getting paid is just bonus. Us pro's as a group suck at advertising our product so no one really knows what it costs. They'll see the walmart/sears photo studio come-on ads ($30 for a session and 100 prints of one pose) and aim to be cheaper because of inexperience, no overhead, etc.
They get the idea that 'hey, i can turn this into a side business!' and find out it's not as easy as it first looked. Few are willing to give up their day job anyway. What first looked like easy money, to take pictures and get paid, turns out to be a lot like work if you want to make any real money at it. Because if you get enough business to make it worthwhile you find out it's real work like any job, and owning and running your own business is a whole 'nother job that has nothing to do with photography.

Most CL'rs won't be around in a year, and when the economy picks up most will go back to a day job - the security, the paycheck and the benefits. Perhaps they'll become the educated consumers we pros are looking for as clients!
06/02/2009 09:07:28 AM · #5
There is a guy near me that is a genius at marketing. He is well known, and shoots a lot of the sports events around town. He also charges a lot more than me (I am one of those soccer moms with a camera that is the bane of Prof_Fate's existence -- though I truly don't bill myself as a professional, and I don't seek to have this as a "business").

His workflow seems to be -- take the pictures, dump them straight to the website for ordering.

No cropping, no culling, no post processing. Yet he probably has something like a 800% markup on his pictures. People will pay because they perceive the value.

You just have to decide which one you want to be.

As an aside, his shots make mine look really good. (and that takes some doing).
06/02/2009 09:30:43 AM · #6
Originally posted by karmat:

There is a guy near me that is a genius at marketing. He is well known, and shoots a lot of the sports events around town. He also charges a lot more than me (I am one of those soccer moms with a camera that is the bane of Prof_Fate's existence -- though I truly don't bill myself as a professional, and I don't seek to have this as a "business").

His workflow seems to be -- take the pictures, dump them straight to the website for ordering.

No cropping, no culling, no post processing. Yet he probably has something like a 800% markup on his pictures. People will pay because they perceive the value.

You just have to decide which one you want to be.

As an aside, his shots make mine look really good. (and that takes some doing).


With event photography, that is the only way to do it. Unless you know you are guaranteed an order, do you wanna sit and spend all that time editing tons of photos? I sure as hell don't. Plus if people are willing to pay your prices, then why not.

Thats always been my thing. People advertise $250 weddings on craigslist...what the hell. Why would you do that if you know that the industry average is something like $1500 to $4000. If people are willing to pay, then get what you can.
06/02/2009 09:36:31 AM · #7
Originally posted by ajdelaware:

Originally posted by karmat:

There is a guy near me that is a genius at marketing. He is well known, and shoots a lot of the sports events around town. He also charges a lot more than me (I am one of those soccer moms with a camera that is the bane of Prof_Fate's existence -- though I truly don't bill myself as a professional, and I don't seek to have this as a "business").

His workflow seems to be -- take the pictures, dump them straight to the website for ordering.

No cropping, no culling, no post processing. Yet he probably has something like a 800% markup on his pictures. People will pay because they perceive the value.

You just have to decide which one you want to be.

As an aside, his shots make mine look really good. (and that takes some doing).


With event photography, that is the only way to do it.


Editing, etc. perhaps. But, unless you are really close to perfect, at least go through and cull the ones that aren't good. What mom is going to want to buy a picture that shows the umpire's back and their kid's foot?
06/02/2009 09:58:58 AM · #8
Event photos are all about turn around time. I mean a cursory edit for oof shots wouldn't kill him, but I bet most business happens within the first 48 hours after the event, so any delay is a potential sales killer.
06/02/2009 10:01:19 AM · #9
Originally posted by karmat:



Editing, etc. perhaps. But, unless you are really close to perfect, at least go through and cull the ones that aren't good. What mom is going to want to buy a picture that shows the umpire's back and their kid's foot?


You come up with a business plan and part of that is your workflow. Images are your product, just like mcd's sells hamburgers or duncan does donuts or shell does gasoline.
You find a niche in the marketplace, a price people will pay, and a workflow/product that you can make a profit on.

So he could cull the bad ones. That obviously takes time which costs money. The only way this makes sense is if the work increases sales (price, number of sales). Would it?

There is something to be said for only showing your best work, etc, but that applies to the increase in sales bit. I've seen some businesses that look like ghettos, or nearly abandonded, some have dirty half empty shelves. I'd be embarrassed to to be the owner, but apparently they're making enough money to stay in business.

Action images are a high volume low margin business.
For example...I shoot 1100 images at a wedding to deliver 450 and get $2200. (general averages here). ($2/shutter press - price per total shot images)
I shoot 250 shots to show 90 to a senior and get $750 ($3/image)
I shoot 150 to show 50 to get $300 for a baby/child. ($2/image)
I don't shoot action shots, but my former editor/assistant does. He'll shoot 1000 at a game and 4 games on a weekend to sell 6 if he's lucky ($40 or so). He used to cull the odd/bad images but found out that the OOF shot of Aiden on the sidelines picking his nose is what Aiden's mom bought, not the one of him making the touchdown. go figure. I have another friend that pushes images at games on CD only - 3 for $25 and sells about 6 disks a game. He shoots 300 images a game. So 300 shots, perhaps more to make $200. The first guys' making pennies, the second one gets 66c for every shutter push. There's not enough money there to edit all the images.

66c vs $2-3
06/02/2009 10:14:05 AM · #10
Originally posted by Prof_Fate:

Originally posted by karmat:



Editing, etc. perhaps. But, unless you are really close to perfect, at least go through and cull the ones that aren't good. What mom is going to want to buy a picture that shows the umpire's back and their kid's foot?


You come up with a business plan and part of that is your workflow. Images are your product, just like mcd's sells hamburgers or duncan does donuts or shell does gasoline.
You find a niche in the marketplace, a price people will pay, and a workflow/product that you can make a profit on.

So he could cull the bad ones. That obviously takes time which costs money. The only way this makes sense is if the work increases sales (price, number of sales). Would it?

There is something to be said for only showing your best work, etc, but that applies to the increase in sales bit. I've seen some businesses that look like ghettos, or nearly abandonded, some have dirty half empty shelves. I'd be embarrassed to to be the owner, but apparently they're making enough money to stay in business.

Action images are a high volume low margin business.
For example...I shoot 1100 images at a wedding to deliver 450 and get $2200. (general averages here). ($2/shutter press - price per total shot images)
I shoot 250 shots to show 90 to a senior and get $750 ($3/image)
I shoot 150 to show 50 to get $300 for a baby/child. ($2/image)
I don't shoot action shots, but my former editor/assistant does. He'll shoot 1000 at a game and 4 games on a weekend to sell 6 if he's lucky ($40 or so). He used to cull the odd/bad images but found out that the OOF shot of Aiden on the sidelines picking his nose is what Aiden's mom bought, not the one of him making the touchdown. go figure. I have another friend that pushes images at games on CD only - 3 for $25 and sells about 6 disks a game. He shoots 300 images a game. So 300 shots, perhaps more to make $200. The first guys' making pennies, the second one gets 66c for every shutter push. There's not enough money there to edit all the images.

66c vs $2-3


Then I must really be doing something wrong.

For a day of football (4 games), I take close to a 1000 shots. I go through, cull the ones that I don't want to be seen and post around 200 for sale. I don't do a lot of editing. I might crop, and if it was a night game, bring the brightness up some. I go very quickly, and may spend 2 hours max on editing. (the time killer for me is uploading, but at least I can be doing something else while that is happening).

For a baseball game, I take around 50 shots (it's little league, not a lot going on), cull and post 10 - 15.

I sell substantially more than the first guy you mentioned. Out of 200, I probably sell around 25. (That 25 different shots -- not 25 total prints -- many of them will order 4 or 5 of the same shot).

The difference I am seeing (and hearing) is that (they think) I have really good shots at a reasonable price and the other guy is really expensive for shots that they could take themselves. Like I said, he is a marketing genius, and he gets access to a lot of games, but his reputation as a high quality is spotty -- (his videography is much better, I understand). He probably is a good photographer, but he puts everything out there for everyone to see -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But, again, my opinion is not one of a full-time professional. I take pictures at my little boy's games, and the other parents offer to buy any I take of theirs. :)

As usual, it boils down to what works best for you as an individual. (and take my opinion with a grain of salt, because as mentioned, I'm not a "real" professional).

Message edited by author 2009-06-02 10:15:37.
06/02/2009 02:49:12 PM · #11
Originally posted by karmat:



Then I must really be doing something wrong.

For a day of football (4 games), I take close to a 1000 shots. I go through, cull the ones that I don't want to be seen and post around 200 for sale. I don't do a lot of editing. I might crop, and if it was a night game, bring the brightness up some. I go very quickly, and may spend 2 hours max on editing. (the time killer for me is uploading, but at least I can be doing something else while that is happening).

For a baseball game, I take around 50 shots (it's little league, not a lot going on), cull and post 10 - 15.

I sell substantially more than the first guy you mentioned. Out of 200, I probably sell around 25. (That 25 different shots -- not 25 total prints -- many of them will order 4 or 5 of the same shot).

The difference I am seeing (and hearing) is that (they think) I have really good shots at a reasonable price and the other guy is really expensive for shots that they could take themselves. Like I said, he is a marketing genius, and he gets access to a lot of games, but his reputation as a high quality is spotty -- (his videography is much better, I understand). He probably is a good photographer, but he puts everything out there for everyone to see -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But, again, my opinion is not one of a full-time professional. I take pictures at my little boy's games, and the other parents offer to buy any I take of theirs. :)

As usual, it boils down to what works best for you as an individual. (and take my opinion with a grain of salt, because as mentioned, I'm not a "real" professional).


You are getting paid, you are a professional. In the eyes of the client, law and IRS.
You shoot 1000 and cull to 200...2 hours per game? 4 games and 2 hours editing..10 hours of work. For how many prints sold, or more accurately, money in. My CD selling friend says he's gotta get at least $200 a game or it's not worth his time (meaning he can make more money doing something else, or the work/hassles of sales and money made are not worth leaving his screen porch and beer :P ).

You are a genius! I guess from the math you're selling 8 shots per game and up to 5 prints of each shot? Well done - I don't know anyone that manages that unless it's the playoffs. See, my son will play in about 22 baseball games this year, and here are 12 kids on his team.
I don't think I'd buy more than 3 shots a season. Times 12 parents that's 36 shots over 22 games, or 1.6 shots a game.
06/02/2009 03:18:12 PM · #12
How much do you charge for .6 shots? Im on a budget and can't afford a full shot.
06/02/2009 03:24:40 PM · #13
i foto 4 fud
06/02/2009 03:50:46 PM · #14
Originally posted by Prof_Fate:

Originally posted by karmat:



Then I must really be doing something wrong.

For a day of football (4 games), I take close to a 1000 shots. I go through, cull the ones that I don't want to be seen and post around 200 for sale. I don't do a lot of editing. I might crop, and if it was a night game, bring the brightness up some. I go very quickly, and may spend 2 hours max on editing. (the time killer for me is uploading, but at least I can be doing something else while that is happening).

For a baseball game, I take around 50 shots (it's little league, not a lot going on), cull and post 10 - 15.

I sell substantially more than the first guy you mentioned. Out of 200, I probably sell around 25. (That 25 different shots -- not 25 total prints -- many of them will order 4 or 5 of the same shot).

The difference I am seeing (and hearing) is that (they think) I have really good shots at a reasonable price and the other guy is really expensive for shots that they could take themselves. Like I said, he is a marketing genius, and he gets access to a lot of games, but his reputation as a high quality is spotty -- (his videography is much better, I understand). He probably is a good photographer, but he puts everything out there for everyone to see -- the good, the bad, and the ugly.

But, again, my opinion is not one of a full-time professional. I take pictures at my little boy's games, and the other parents offer to buy any I take of theirs. :)

As usual, it boils down to what works best for you as an individual. (and take my opinion with a grain of salt, because as mentioned, I'm not a "real" professional).


You are getting paid, you are a professional. In the eyes of the client, law and IRS.
You shoot 1000 and cull to 200...2 hours per game? 4 games and 2 hours editing..10 hours of work. For how many prints sold, or more accurately, money in. My CD selling friend says he's gotta get at least $200 a game or it's not worth his time (meaning he can make more money doing something else, or the work/hassles of sales and money made are not worth leaving his screen porch and beer :P ).

You are a genius! I guess from the math you're selling 8 shots per game and up to 5 prints of each shot? Well done - I don't know anyone that manages that unless it's the playoffs. See, my son will play in about 22 baseball games this year, and here are 12 kids on his team.
I don't think I'd buy more than 3 shots a season. Times 12 parents that's 36 shots over 22 games, or 1.6 shots a game.


I can't tell if you are being sarcastic or not, but I can assure you I'm no genius.

As far as "professional," yea, to the IRS I am. I even have a business checking account and everything. Compared to you all that do it to put food on the table, no I'm not. I do it to pay for my equipment and if anything is left over, so be it. Great. I'm not in it to replace my job, my husband's job or to even supplement an income. That perspective is a bit different than what the OP was asking for. Which is why I used the phrase full time professional.

My workflow works for me, and what I want shown, etc. It may not work for everyone. My initial point was that the fellow down the street is making himself look much worse than he actually is because he lets EVERYTHING be shown, sans editing/processing to everyone.

And another difference between me and your friend -- I don't have to have a minimum sale to make it "worth my time." I would be at the games anyway, shooting or not. If I sell anything then it is more than I would make by just watching my son play. :)
06/02/2009 06:11:46 PM · #15
Originally posted by Strikeslip:

i foto 4 fud


i foto 4 brewskis
06/03/2009 10:19:14 AM · #16
Originally posted by karmat:


I can't tell if you are being sarcastic or not, but I can assure you I'm no genius.

As far as "professional," yea, to the IRS I am. I even have a business checking account and everything. Compared to you all that do it to put food on the table, no I'm not. I do it to pay for my equipment and if anything is left over, so be it. Great. I'm not in it to replace my job, my husband's job or to even supplement an income. That perspective is a bit different than what the OP was asking for. Which is why I used the phrase full time professional.

My workflow works for me, and what I want shown, etc. It may not work for everyone. My initial point was that the fellow down the street is making himself look much worse than he actually is because he lets EVERYTHING be shown, sans editing/processing to everyone.

And another difference between me and your friend -- I don't have to have a minimum sale to make it "worth my time." I would be at the games anyway, shooting or not. If I sell anything then it is more than I would make by just watching my son play. :)


Based on your sales per game you are a genius - or carry a large gun or something. Perhaps you just live in the right market. You say you're getting 5 sales a game and some are multiple prints - that's outstanding. The only thing that might sell well is tournaments, playoffs, state championships. Regular season games are just too routine for folks to buy any images, at least around here.
If you're gonna be there anyway and like to shoot, then it's not really an issue of time, but IME you can't make enough money to at it to make it worthwhile.

My friend that sells the CDs claims to have sold well at a few games last fall, but he's not quit his day job or anything - and he's shooting with a 1d3 and 500F4IS lens - a large investment to get the really good images.

I'd love to shot up at a game and make a couple of hundred dollars. I just don't know how.
06/03/2009 01:13:28 PM · #17
There are a couple themes going here between what the OP asked and what Karma and Prof have been discussing.

To answer the OP, no, it's not discouraging when I see Uncle Bob or Momma Betty out there trying to be Ashton Kutcher. That's because I'm not competing with them. For every team I cover, there are at least two parents with half-decent gear out there, trying to do what I do. But it's rare that they end up getting their graduation gifts from Uncle Bob and not me ;-)

As to the mechanics of it, it really is a matter of numbers and efficiency. If you really enjoy what you're shooting, you'll shoot enough to get good at it, to not just capture "the moments", but to also wind up with great numbers of keepers. It really comes down to workflow.

Originally posted by skip's Shooting High School Graduations:

After reading my cards and backing up my originals, I run a Photoshop action that sizes, sharpens, color-corrects, and watermarks my images. Next, I go through them, deleting the ones I donít want to upload. The trick to making this all worthwhile is efficiency. If you get it right in-camera, you can usually rely on batch processes to handle almost all your post-processing. There might be a handful that require special attention, but you really donít want to have to spend a lot of time in post-production. The main thing is to get the proofs online as quickly as possible.


This process really doesn't take that long, maybe an hour per 1000. Next, I upload to Exposure Manager (yes, that is an affiliate link. I'm a HUGE advocate, especially considering you can upload low-res images, among many other benefits.) The only thing I'd spend any additional time on is if a particular parent requested me to take specific photos; then I'd pull them out into a separate gallery, just to make it easy for them to find what they know they're looking for.

The main thing is for people to know that the images are available. It's good to use standard marketing practices, such as coupons, etc, to motivate people to buy now, but it's more important for people to know that they can buy at all.

One last tip about sporting events. If you follow the action in a burst, don't necessarily weed out whole plays. I have enjoyed selling a number of sequenced events, like following an outfielder's throw all the way to the play at the plate or a pitcher's move to pick someone off first or a receiver pulling in the ball for a touchdown reception. The point is, you never know what people are going to buy, but, I do know this: if they never see it, I will guaranty that they will never buy it.
06/03/2009 04:48:44 PM · #18
Originally posted by kevip6:

The key is not to try and compete against the cheap prices but to market yourself as a quality photographer rather then a cheap one. People are still paying good money for good photography and you need to advertise to these people.


I agree...I have been shooting on a semi-professional level for about a year now. My prices are very reasonable but not too cheap to be a waste of my time...I think what also helps me is I visit clients homes for the shoots. This has proved to be very successful for me, as I primarily shoot families with young children or pregnant subjects.
06/04/2009 03:31:16 PM · #19
Just came across this article on shooting baseball games with a link to a tutorial (which I haven't checked out yet).
06/04/2009 03:41:49 PM · #20
Really, just don't pay attention to them. Have a NICE website (pay for it, and get rid of other company logos, get your own domain name), interesting business cards (using Moo at the moment, but there's some REALLY cool ideas on this blog here //creativebits.org/cool_business_card_designs ) and just do some neat promotions. Be creative, and really go for high quality. People DO notice.
This is my main advertising plan, granted I'm in a small town and it works a lot better than it would in a large city, (though it does work). Put a lot of work into my website, carry cool business cards with me. Dress nicely. (If your doing a wedding, rock the suit.) Be friendly. When your shooting an event, talk to people, get to know them. Hand out cards. Add them to Facebook. EVERYTHING gets linked back to the website. Word gets around.
Quality really does speak for itself, it's just a matter of grabbing people's attention and getting them to look.
06/13/2009 02:56:53 AM · #21
thanks everyone for the input!

:)
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