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Old 05-12-2011, 12:20   #1 (permalink)
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Business advice required

Hi I have been running my photography business for just over a year now and the last six months I am finding it very difficult to find paying customers, before this I had quite a bit of work coming in.

I specialize in the music industry side of things ie: gigs, band promo's, album cover artwork and posters etc.

I do realize that it takes longer than a year to get established and I believe my work is up to standard (although I am always open to constructive criticism on this) I was wondering if anyone could give me any advice on how to bring in more paid work from my photography?

Other than the usual advertising through social networks, flyers, word of mouth etc I am unsure how to bring more work in.

I have also found that a lot of bands will enquire about shoots, say they would like one but not give a confirmation date and then cancel or go with another photographer without telling me.

I would just like to know where I am going wrong and what I can do to rectify this and make a living from my photography.
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Old 05-12-2011, 13:46   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Business advice required

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stageside View Post
......and make a living from my photography.
That is the Holy Grail and please don't take that as a flippant remark. Unfortunately the photography profession/business is a victim of the rapid advances in techology and the manufacturer's desire to sell and generate profit at any cost, including to the cost of the professional.

Today, anyone can buy a half-way decent camera, set it to Auto and take the sort of shots that ten years ago they would have hired a pro to do. Ok, the images may not be up to the standard of the pro but they don't mind that, as long as they look reasonable. Why, it's possible to take good shots with a mobile phone. How many wedding photographers have gone down the pan because the bride/groom/best man know someone with a camera.

So you are up against it, and I greatly sympathise, but I don't have the answer other than to be better that everyone else in that sphere - to the point that people are coming to you. With regard to photography business in general there are a number of threads and articles on this site including this series of four tutorials by member, Gary Bagshaw.

I've not been a professional photographer myself so I can not criticise, only wish you well. HTH.
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Old 05-12-2011, 19:07   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Business advice required

Last week a Jazz Band just making a new Album approached a Club member about a shoot at a local Steam Railway station. Three of us took our cameras and other gear and they had already made a donation to the Railway so the station staff could not have been more helpful. The three of us are amateurs but very experienced and the band is delighted with the results. We get some competition shot from this and they get to use our pics for free (only have to credit us). We will follow up with another session where we can dictate the shots as their manager did last time. No money changes hands but both sides gain. This is part of what you are up against and believe me we do not try to pinch work from professional photographers.

On the other side of the coin, a professional photographer I know has recently retired after a career running his photography business. He always said that the reason for his success is that he concentrated on running a business (not photography as you can always hire photographers at low rates) and he also said he was very careful to stick within his limitations but nor turn down new opportunities.

I wish you luck!

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Old 06-12-2011, 10:35   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Business advice required

I am not in any way shape or form a professional photographer, in fact it costs me money rather than the other way round.....and that is the problem I think as demonstrated above.
Cameras these days are superb items of technology, that dont cost the earth, set to auto and away you go. Amateur or hobbyist photographers then look for something to take pictures of. Normally that goes along the lines of what their other interests are, and if thats music (and a lot of young people these days do seem to enjoy what passes for music now) then they will go and try and take pictures related to that.
People in that industry always know someone who has a camera, and thats the way it goes. I would imagine the real pro music stuff will still go to the select few at the top of their game.
Perhaps your trying to work in too small an area, you may need to expand to cover other, more profitable genres?.........but what do I know? Just my thoughts on it. Hope you can turn it around
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Old 06-12-2011, 11:47   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Business advice required

Thankyou for your replies and you all make very valid points, I have come up against one or two togs offering their services for free and I have just done a lot of research on mistakes photographers make when starting out in business and it seems I have made just about every one of them lol.

I started out by doing an abundance of free shoots (mistake 1) which when I started the business led people to believe that they could still use me for free.

my second mistake was charging too little (usually between 30-50 Ph plus travel) again people don't take you serious and expect cheap shoots.

my third mistake was listening to other people who don't really understand the photographic industry (ie friends) this was possibly my first one actually if i hadn't listened to them I wouldn't have started out doing free and cheap shoots.

Now I am trying to figure out a way to bounce back from these mistakes, I'm forever seeking out new clients and I have a good name as a tog around the local music scene but when a band would rather spend 30-50 quid on a **** up than on a decent set of pro quality promo shoots what can you do?

Ideally I would rather be doing album and ep covers but it's the same old story with technology anyone can use photoshop or similar I'm no quitter though and intend to fight to get where I want to this last year has definately been a learning curve for me and I am still learning new techniques and styles every day.

I'm thinking perhaps more dramatic and theatrical shoots will bring more work in. I would love some feedback on my work weather from pro's or amateur's just to see if there is anything I could improve on

there are several albums of my favorite work on google+

https://plus.google.com/u/0/11545334...9353200/photos

look forward to reading your comments and thank you again for your replies to this thread.
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Old 06-12-2011, 22:58   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Business advice required

I appreciate that your primary interest is in the music scene, but I think that you should be diversifying in order to get to a wider audience. In all walks of life people have to do what they have to do as well as what they like to do. From what you have said, bands don't appear to be reliable anyway if they go with someone else without telling you. No doubt if you charged a booking fee/deposit, you would not get them anyway. Aiming at the music scene is a limiting factor with few bands willing or able to pay the sort of fees that you would like until they become more established, and then it is too late as they will generally be tied up with a label or agent.

An acquaintance has signed up to have her new baby - along with the rest of her family - photographed regularly over the next X years. Not sure what the frequency of the shoots are or how she is paying, lump sum or regular payments, but a few of these will bring in some regular income. I wished that she lived near me!

Car clubs might be another thing to consider. National clubs tend to have local regions and local clubs are, well, local. Events, meets, individual cars/owners etc. Hardcore car nuts spend a fortune on their cars and like having records of them.

Company/industrial events, launches, black tie dos etc. Another friend has a deal at a hotel on the South coast that hosts a series of events over three or four days every year. He goes down there and stays in the hotel and does all of the photography for all of the events including printing on site and framing if required. Lots of work but also lots of dosh.

While you might well be able to get the occasional high value job, in the current climate you are more likely to be able to get more lower paid work. You just then have to step up the frequency.
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Old 07-12-2011, 16:59   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Business advice required

As Dave said, if you want to make a living out of photography, you need to be a businessman first and a photographer second. I made a reasonable living in the 'seventies, after doing a few years as a salesman and soaking up all the things that 'creative' people don't want to know about.

First thing: it's all down to the numbers. The first is how many prospects you see in a week and the second is how good your value for money is perceived to be. As so many have said, your value for money is squeezed like toothpaste by the advances in technology, but that's been true for fifty years or more. Since the first East German Praktica hit the counter tops, it's been possible for an amateur to outsell a tradesman.

So you have to find the niches where a businessman can outsell an amateur, because the amateur doesn't want to do the work. Taking pictures of musicians is unlikely to fit this description. Same applies to shots of unclad females (unless you're thinking of setting up your own porn website, in which case be aware that the competition is literally cut-throat, in every sense).

Wedding and portraiture is actually a growing market, though your technical skills must be as good as your salesmanship and that needs to be very good indeed!

Press is shrinking rapidly; too many cameras and an ever decreasing range of publications.

Illustrative imaging is quite boyant, so far as I can tell. but the skill demands are even higher. There are a substantial number of specialist magazines and other outlets. Pay isn't high but it can be a solid earner, if you are considered reliable.

That, by the way, is the nub of the matter. If you lose your reputation, you'll rapidly lose your business. The more specialised your area, the more important this last point is.

Don't let me put you off. It's possible to succeed at anything if you take on the dirty jobs along with the glittery ones, and smile while doing them!

All in all, I was lucky. I did fairly well.
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Old 07-12-2011, 20:26   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Business advice required

I don't wish to sound too negative but Dave is right. You won't make a living from solely music photography. I know, I've spent the last few years doing it!! Bands that aren't signed to a label just don't have the money to spend and you can guarantee one of them knows someone handy with a camera. If your shooting gigs - particularly well known artists, most images used with be by press or publication photographers. If you want to make a living out of music photography, you need to target the record companies and tour managers. I had a great time recently shooting the tour of an old 80's artist. Was great fun but jobs like that don't come very often. The images were used on the DVD and artwork. Another reformed band 'The Straits' - (Dire Straits but without the great Mark Knopfler) use my images for their promo stuff. But this kind of work isn't sufficient to make me a living and probably never will.
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Old 08-12-2011, 11:34   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Business advice required

Hi there, Just thought I would throw in my two pence worth to this. I have been taking photographs for money since I was about 16 years old. I simply love taking photographs. It does not matter what of I love it.
This has helped me stay in business for as long as I have. If it were up to me I would like nothing more than to spend every day in a nice warm studio shooting model portfolio's.
I did this for 2 years solid and then something in the industry went all of a dither and the work started drying up so you have to be flexible.
Honestly I have taken photographs of top models on location in exotic parts of the world and I have also shot Coins on my dining room table. I have had my work published on the front pages of magazines and newspapers accross the world and I still send stuff to my local rag.
I have had exhibitions of my landscape work shot weddings and christenings and I currently shoot a lot of stock.
The stuff you are into shooting is notoriously a massive pain in the ass, and if a band has a promoter or production team then they are really going to give you a hard time.
I gave a lecture to a class of university students last year about what it is like out in the real world and I upset quite a few who wanted to be fine art photographers. My reply of "good luck with that" followed by advice about how they may need to be a bit more versatile did not go down well.
Others on here have pointed out the biggest problem in my opinion and that is the fact that you can now buy a camera put it onto auto and take reasonable photographs.
So in todays world you not only have to sell your photographic ability, you have to sell yourself. I sell the "BAGSTA" experience, having me take your photographs is not just a photographer turning up and doing some shots. It is an experience that people will talk about. Be confident in yourself, your ability and your talent. NEVER undersell yourself or take a job on for less than you would normally.
Im rambling now, if you would like any further advice please feel free to get in touch and I will help if I can. Hopefully some of the above will make some sort of sense.
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Old 17-12-2011, 02:04   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Business advice required

My brother had a photography business before. However, it didn't turned out well. He is also into cars and decided to invest in buying and selling cars. And until now the business is still making money for him. He still does photography now but for leisure and fun. I would say, it is not a very good investment based on my brother's experience. Or maybe he hadn't managed it well before. Just think it through and assess if you need a shift of business or stick to that one. Best of luck!
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Old 17-12-2011, 18:47   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Business advice required

Nice work Phil, looked at your site.

You are wanting to get in a field that 1000's want to do and alot of ams do for free. Bands like said above that are not signed have no money and wna tit for nowt.

Big wigs in the music industry know who they want to do albums and promotion work. so what you are left with is gig work. NME and like and they have their own contacts and other work gets in as freebies.

I have been a pro tog for 25 years now. Started in arcaeology then went to London as i wanted to do fashion. Only reason I became a tog to do women. All the top 55 of togs did 977 of the work for the top mags and fashion houses. In the end it was who you knew not what you could do... And the fashion industry is full of ******s, like the music and film industry.

So ended up in the studio at Tussauds. did some celebs. then worked in some top studios doing product and adverts. Then got in with an agency in yorkshire and did Sport , red carpet and press calls/photo calls.

moved on from there to do Scenes of crime and then took then worked for a schools company and then went it alone......

All I ever wanted was a studio to shoot babes in.... Now shoot kids, not my fave but I have 4 staff and 5 freelance togs and next year looking at a mini lab and after that a commercial studio to do .

So you do have to diversify if you love photography. If you only want to shoot bands and hope for fame and fortune then it's about the photography.

It's down to you. find something like me thats makes good money and do the stuff you love on the side.

works for me.
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Old 01-01-2012, 11:18   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Business advice required

Music Business...

You are worried by those that enquire, then go with someone else....
Never EVER take an enquiry as a firm booking until a deposit is paid.
A Non refundable deposit at that.

I have done some work as Roadie and Driver with many bands in my years, as Heavy Goods, Irregular loads and dangerous loads are my main income, but I must say this, and I MUST say this now, with the Music business, its cash up front....
The people that employed me to be the driver made damn sure that the money was in the bank before the wagon I drove turned up on site.....
Checks can bounce better than a dropped guitar, and in that business, checks bounce MUCH more often than they drop the guitar....

I have witness more often than not the Driver of the band gear refuse to unlock the back of the wagon before he gets paid, in cash, for his work....

Back to photography...

Expecting "cheep deals" because they are not flash with the cash?...

Especially when they can get some budding "tog" who wants YOUR job to do the shoot for free, and thinks that they are doing no harm by undercutting you....

I am NOT a pro photographer, but have had my work used by Charity organizations who I dont mind helping out for free.
Whilst doing that, I have been approached by some people who want to know my "rates"....
When they find out I am not a pro and dont charge pro rates, they get even MORE enthusiastic about hiring me....

Now it just happens I know a pro photographer, and I KNOW what they will charge for a days work, and "50" for the day is exactly what he gets told when people say "I can get a better deal elsewhere" kind of thing expecting his rates to be the start of a bargaining session.....

Now one offer I had was the 50 quid for hiring me to use my camera, they would supply the card, I do the shoot, hand over the card, and they do the rest of the work....
For a possible 8 hr event...?

I dunno about anyone else, but I happen to think my work handed over for that is kind of undercutting my own worth as an amateur...?..?...

And as a comparison, if I turn up to drive a wagon with Dangerous Goods on, by the time I have checked the load, filled in forms, double checked the load, rechecked the paperwork, I get paid more than 50 before the wagon leaves the yard....

Now on to one request I had whilst doing genuine roadie work...
"Look, if you can borrow your works wagon, we have some work for you tomorrow 'on the side' to take the band to the next gig... its worth 50 to you if you can?..."
When I pointed out tat that wouldnt even cover the fuel costs, things kind of went sour.....

And no, I dont do that kind of work anyway.
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