50 things that will help you become a top professional photographer
Do you really want to become a professional photographer?
I’ve collected together these ‘business tips’ and advice based on my own experiences and observations of what some other photographers think are good ideas
Note – Do read the section at the end, as to why they are really tips for my competitors!
- It’s really only about the photos – great photos are what will sustain your business as a working photographer.
- Your creative vision is what counts – this is the main thing clients look for when hiring.
- Remember – enthusiasm trumps all else.
- Most of your time as a pro photographer should be spent taking photos.
- Clients appreciate the technology – it’s always important you mention all the camera and lenses you will use.
- When looking at your marketing, emphasise the features of your business – clients are interested in how your business works.
- Have you thought of film? – clients will value your artistic integrity.
- Qualifications are essential – clients always check this out and many love to chat about your final year exhibition.
- You only need a business plan if you are going to a bank for a loan.
- Price is everything – undercutting competitors is key to getting more work - cut your prices to win.
- Deals – a discount on initial work will lead to full price work later.
- More business always equals more money – Groupon and its ilk are your friends.
- People really do value free work – just make sure your name is mentioned.
- A bit of free work makes it much more likely that a client will come back and pay proper rates in the future.
- Potential clients read picture credits – get your work seen, picture credits are money in the bank.
- Clients usually know exactly what they want, and will always tell you if there were problems – wait for feedback.
- You’re important to clients – Good work means that clients will remember you and come back for more.
- Restaurants are a great place to sell your prints – no-one is really thinking about food, or who they are with.
- Cut your print prices – they will sell more.
- The web site – a place for your art and vision, not to sully with business matters.
- You are the photographer – you know best about what’s important when showing your work.
- Write a general blog – you’d be surprised how many clients also want to know about your cat/baby/new car.
- Look for ways of saving money – host your blog on a generic blog host.
- Your pictures speak a thousand words – clients can see the quality of your work without tedious explanations.
- Value and promote your artist’s statement – never underestimate the benefits of a detailed explanation of your vision, motivation and influences.
- Flash is the future – make your web site different. Artistic integrity is vital – make your site fun to use.
- Big bold splash screens are essential – start your web site as you mean to go on.
- Choose your web site music to impress.
- Features, features, features – potential clients love exploring your web site.
- Pictures, pictures, pictures – Flickr/G+/500pix/FaceBook are the places for your professional work to be seen, and free.
- Every day, unknown photographers are getting big paying jobs via their Flickr/Google+/Facebook pages.
- Fame will pay the bills – get your work ‘out there’.
- SEO – don’t worry about it, your pictures should speak for themselves.
- Advertise – it’s the new customers that matter the most.
- Marketing works best if carried out at the same time every year.
- Now it’s all digital, not much is changing in the business of photography. Find a niche that works and stick to it.
- Try lots of different advertising formats – covering all the bases is vital, since there is no way of knowing what works.
- There are lots of business trade directories, that don’t charge much – no-one ever uses Google these days.
- The business side of things is really just about getting your accounts prepared.
- Cashflow is something for accountants to worry about.
- Business insurance is a costly rip-off.
- Don’t worry about terms and conditions for your work – everyone understands buying photos.
- Look for the popular areas of photography – standing out from the crowd will do you no good.
- The market for photography is expanding – get the right equipment and you are made.
- Anyone can run a business, it takes real vision to take good photos.
- Try a bit of stock photography – a great little earner for those ‘spare’ shots you’ve collected.
- Licensing images is outdated – keep clients happy by assigning copyright.
- Keep it to yourself – your knowledge is valuable.
- Be a perfectionist – clients really value that extra work you don’t bill them for.
- Remember that photography really is different, it’s not like other businesses.
Why this advice is strictly for my competitors…
I’m hoping that not that many of the tips listed above have left you thinking, ‘yes, I should do that’.
Whilst some are (I hope) quite obviously dreadful advice, others are more nuanced and represent things that are not necessarily a bad idea, but just something that needs seriously thinking through to make it properly relevant to your own business.
I hate to say it, but almost all these things are what I’ve seen other photographers do, or suggest is a good idea…
Remember, that I’m basing this list on an assumption that you want to run a profitable and sustainable photography business – if that’s not your aim, then some suggestions may even be a good idea.
Many of the tips are based on doing the kinds of things I’d generally advise people not to do, or to be careful about – I’ve looked at a lot of this in the short photography business articles I’ve written elsewhere on the site.