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Photo business advice for your competitors

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Photo business advice for your competitors

Business wisdom best avoided (Pt.5)

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Some time ago Keith compiled a collection of 50 rather poor business tips for working photographers.

This article rounds off his review of why they are just such poor advice – many have been widely passed on and almost every one has been repeated in forums or blogs.

Many have appeared under the guise of advice for using social media – simply forgetting many of the fundamental tenets of running a business.

Some of the tips may contain some useful advice -for some- but miss the point for many others.

It’s important to note that Keith’s observations are related to the running of a sustainable (from a business POV) photography business that makes a profit.

All our business related articles have their own index page


Photo business tips to avoid (pt.5)

From ‘50 photo business tips

Business insurance is a costly rip-off.

I wish more clients would ask about our business insurance – it’s one way we try to show we’re a a genuine professional business (that and VAT registration and working as a limited company).

Ok that’s a marketing angle, but in truth, the insurance is there for our benefit (and our client’s benefit) if things should go wrong. not just to cover me for dropping a camera off a tall building, but for the damage it causes on the way down.

Much like house insurance, it’s easy to put off – but I’ve been in a house fire, so I don’t

Shop around, you may find some good deals, but read the fine print.

Don’t worry about terms and conditions for your work – everyone understands buying photos.

signing papersT’s & C’s are another form of insurance.

Jobs will go wrong, clients will choose to be awkward or ‘forget’ to pay. Photos will get used in ways you didn’t think of.

Your T’s & C’s should go out with every quote and every invoice.

Remember too an important aspect of contract law (at least in the UK) based on the principle of duelling

‘He who fires last wins’ – or to put it more succinctly, the most recently accepted terms win, so mention yours every time

In principle this means that:

  • You send a quote, with a reference to your T’s & C’s
  • The client responds with a purchase order (PO), referencing their T’s & C’s
  • You accept the order referencing your T’s & C’s
  • The client accepts the pictures and you invoice the work referencing your T’s & C’s

It now doesn’t matter that their accounts department says that they don’t pay for 120 days, since your terms say 14 days…

Of course, in reality, the client is a much bigger company and you are dealing with an accounts department who regards any payment as coming out of their own personal bank account.

That’s why at the PO stage you checked their T’s & C’s and raised any problems at the time… 

It’s also important to be prepared to turn down work, since being legally in the right is not the same as actually getting paid.

See also:

Look for the popular areas of photography – standing out from the crowd will do you no good.

There are a lot of people wanting to make money from photography and the quality of images you can get from the likes of phones is constantly improving.

So, why should someone choose to pay for photography and even more, why should they choose to pay you for it?

You need to be able to offer something of value to clients – that means understanding their needs and meeting them. Get this right and you can make a living, even in popular and crowded areas.

See also:

The market for photography is expanding – get the right equipment and you are made.

Canon view cameraI’ve heard it said that a good photographer can produce good work with any camera.

If it said ‘some’ good work I’d be happier.

What it misses out are the occasions where you need a particular camera/lens combination for a particular shot, or the ‘better’ camera is needed to produce images of the sort the client needs.

If I know that a client wants to print an image at A0 size (~33″x47″) at high resolution (300 ppi), then I know that I need ~140 megapixels. This restricts my ways of creating the image and I’ll likely need to stitch images.

If I know that I can reduce the resolution down to 180ppi then I can do it with a single shot from my 50 MP Canon 5Ds (see also How many MP do you need? – a print comparison)

Hold on though.

Just because I can produce specialist images that others can’t does not mean that there is a market for this work.

Huge images are a product like any other, which needs a market for them and active marketing of the service.

Some markets are expanding – ideally, your work needs to be in this area, whilst you keep an eye on what is changing.

Anyone can run a business, it takes real vision to take good photos.

Most photographers I’ve met are really not that great at the business side of things. I’m lucky enough to have run and managed several businesses in the past, so I have a fairly good idea of my limitations and when I need to ask for help.

It’s also much easier to take good photos when you have a choice of whether to take them or not – to my mind, the real skill of a working photographer is being able to take great photos even when the subject doesn’t inspire you.

Sure, my interest in architecture and construction means I like going to new industrial estates, but if you think the tenth set of photos of what is in effect a large grey box inspires me…

See also

Try a bit of stock photography – a great little earner for those ‘spare’ shots you’ve collected.

bubblyAre you sure? Is there a market for photos like yours?

The bottom has dropped out of the casual stock image market – sure, some people are still doing well, but it takes a lot of work and research into what sells.

Just because you have people ‘liking’ your work doesn’t remotely mean people will pay you for it.

We license use of some of my photographs of Leicester, since it’s my home town and not that many sources are available.

See also:

Licensing images is outdated – keep clients happy by assigning copyright.

This is still a contentious area for some.

My own opinion is that I retain full copyright and license images – licensing is much cheaper than buying my copyright.

There is much written about copyright, but if you are asked for copyright I’d just say be very careful that you are being adequately rewarded for your work. Take care too that you don’t ‘accidentally’ end up licensing your work to others for free.

It comes down to wanting fair recompense for my work, skills and abilities – I need to put food on the table.

One of the services we use is Pixsy – I recent wrote up some details about why ‘borrowing’ one of our images proved expensive for one business.

Keep it to yourself – your knowledge is valuable.

I come across two broad categories of pro photographers – those who are happy to talk about the business, and those who give the impression that even talking to you will in some way harm their business.

Given the content on this site, I’d hope it’s clear I’m in the first camp.

Personally I don’t find any of the pro photography clubs in the UK of the slightest benefit to my business. I know opinions differ, but if you are thinking of joining one, ask a few members to spell out the tangible business benefit they get from being members.

Our business benefits far more from being active local members of the Federation of Small Businesses and RIBA

Be a perfectionist – clients really value that extra work you don’t bill them for.

A personal one here, but I’m very much a fan of that old engineering maxim

“Perfection is the enemy of excellence”

Running a business means that work has to be paid for and billed – I can experiment and tinker when writing my articles and reviews for this site.

Of course it helps that the site brings in an advertising revenue, so creating articles and the like, really comes out of our marketing budget…

Remember that photography really is different, it’s not like other businesses.

photographer for hireIf you balk at thinking of your photos as a product, it’s a sign that you might still be in the ‘Paying hobby’ phase of photography.

I’m very proud of many images I’ve created for clients – that’s great, but the fact that I was asked for and then paid for them is what pays the bills.

You need to be rather good at business to get to the point where you can adopt a single word name for yourself and talk earnestly about your art and vision, whilst earning a good living.

Of course you also need the personality to get away with it and keep a straight face.

Business tips for you

I hope this series of articles has been of interest – I don’t expect people to agree with every one of the comments I’ve made, but with many, the real point is to encourage people to think things through and not just go along with many of the myths.

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