Quite a lot the posts that I’ve uploaded to this blog in the last few months have been related to the business side of photography. For those who want more of the old dg28 – your time is coming soon. In the meantime I wanted to post my thoughts on what you should agree with your client before undertaking a commission. This is taken directly from my own outline terms and conditions which are posted on my website. I have absolutely no objection to any photographer copying and/or adapting these seven points for use in their own terms and conditions because, in my opinion, the more of us who do this the more likely it is that potential clients will be used to the concepts and it will require less pushing to get them to negotiate. (more…)
I spent some of my day yesterday adapting a 2013 Keynote presentation with lots of my work in it ready to go and give a talk to a local camera club. I removed two thirds of the pictures and added a lot of different and newer ones and the thing that I had in the back of my mind at all times was that I had to have something interesting and/or witty to say about each one. That rules out just showing your current portfolio – although a good percentage of the photographs are the same ones – and means that you spend a lot of time remembering and fact-checking those stories too. It is actually a really good feeling to go back through pictures and smile about them even though they were mostly taken for money and not for the love of taking them. What a great way to make a living!
The promise to do this talk came about after a chance meeting in a cafe last year. (more…)
I had a phone call call this morning from a potential client who had found me via a web search. That doesn’t happen very often and when it does the calls are normally from people trying to sell me something rather than commission me to do some work for them. The very pleasant lady who had called asked me if I did ‘corporate head shots’ and when I replied that I do and that I have done lots of them over the years she asked why there were none on my website. Wow… she’s correct. There are no easy to find samples of one of the most basic and important parts of my professional work on any of my folio sites.
During the call I promised to stick fifty varied images into a gallery and send her the link. I also explained that head shots weren’t the sole preserve of the corporate world and that some other sectors used them well and that the gallery that I’d prepare would have teachers and actors and other professionals too. (more…)
The eleventh of September will always be remembered for the tragic events in New York in 2001 but it also has another, altogether more positive, place in my calendar. Today is the seventh anniversary of my first commissioned job as a freelance photographer having spent fourteen and a half years in a staff job. In those fourteen and a half years I had shot assignments in thousands of schools and it was somewhat ironic that my first freelance outing came from a Picture Editor with whom I had previously worked and was back in a London school. So much was exactly the same – only the end user of the pictures was different. It wasn’t even an educational publication, it was a specialist magazine for facilities managers.
It should have felt like the kind of job that I’d been doing for so many years. I was using the same cameras that I had been using for four years and the same lights that I’d had for at least eight years. I even arrived in the same car that I’d been driving for the previous couple of years but I was nervous in a way that I hadn’t been for a very long time. It didn’t help that I had been on ‘gardening leave’ for a month by then and so I had actually just gone through the longest period without shooting a job since I had left college twenty-two years previously.
The brief was to get pictures of the school, it’s facilities manager and his team. I like to think that I always go beyond the brief where I can and on this job that involved lugging my lighting kit onto the school roof to shoot a portrait as well as waiting for ages for people to walk through my carefully set up building shots.
Everything went well and I shot some nice pictures. The magazine used them very well as a cover and across five pages inside and, best of all, the publisher started to give me a sizeable amount of work over the next couple of years. Most importantly – I was off and running.
I find it remarkable that all of that was seven years ago. A lot of water has passed under a lot of bridges in the meantime and I have experienced those same nerves on more than a few occasions as I try new things, work for new people and take very different sorts of pictures.
Thank you to those friends and colleagues who helped kick-start my second freelance career. I’m still here and I’m still loving taking pictures.
Technical stuff: Canon EOS1D MkII cameras with Canon EF 16-35 f2.8L, 24-70 f2.8L and 70-200 f2.8L lenses. Lighting Lumedyne Signature Series 200 w/s pack and head.
Getting photographs to the client has always been one of the less glamorous aspects of being a professional photographer. From sticking a pile of prints into an envelope and handing them to a courier to scanning negatives before using clunky slow modems to deliver them right up until today’s relatively painless methods nobody in their right mind would list this part of the process as either satisfying or easy.
The arrival of social media and the realisation amongst better clients that using our work rather than their own smartphone snaps has meant that we have had to speed things up a lot. I’ve always liked Eye-Fi cards but more recently I have been working with clients and with projects where something even more reliable and configurable is required. The worst part of it is that there isn’t actually one simple solution or workflow that will satisfy all of them in all circumstances. For a lot of jobs transferring the pictures from the camera to a smartphone or tablet before captioning and shifting them to the client is quick enough and I’ve written about that workflow before. New software appears all of the time and I am always looking at ways to make things smarter and quicker by introducing some automation and cutting steps out.
I’ve discussed zooms versus primes far too many times in far too many blog posts to rehearse the old arguments again and at the end of my recent post about zooming with your feet I mentioned investing in some new gear with a promise to follow it up with a blog post – so here it is.
The great New York press photographer Weegee is supposed to have said “F8 and be there” when asked how he got such great pictures. I’m not remotely interested in the debate about whether or not he actually said it but I am interested in the idea of apertures and, more importantly, maximum apertures.
For as many years as I’ve been shooting with zooms I’ve owned and used lenses pretty much exclusively with f2.8 maximum apertures. (more…)
A couple of years ago I wrote about how, as a working photographer, I make purchasing decisions. The formula is simple: assess the actual need against the purchase price and proceed accordingly. On that basis I own Canon full-frame digital SLRs (the cost of switching to another brand would be too high – even if I wanted to) and about ten Canon lenses. My last crop-frame DSLR was the EOS7D which was lovely to use but utterly useless to me above about 640 ISO and I shoot at 1000 to 2000 quite a bit these days. I’m always interested in new kit but rarely do I buy something just because I want it.
The chances are that all three of the cameras in the picture are nearing the end of their model lives. The rumours of an EOS5D MkIV and even an EOS1DX MkII (or whatever they choose to call it) are already swirling around the web and it cannot be long before the EOS6D gets an update either. That doesn’t make them bad cameras – far from it, they are all exceptional bits of kit.
I was asked the other day by a talented amateur photographer that I happened to be shooting a portrait of whether it was worth his while “going full-frame”. There’s never a right or wrong answer to questions like that: (more…)
It has been a little while since I last posted on this blog; apologies for this but sometimes life gets in the way of blogging! Anyway, I thought that those who are interested in the business side of photography might be interested in something that came into my thinking on a long drive back from a job listening to a business programme on BBC radio. When I got home I produced a couple of reports from my invoices using the wonderful Billings Pro application on my Mac. The one that caught my eye was one that gave me the raw data to work out how the bulk of my work (based on turnover) in the last six years as a freelance has come in.
Conventional wisdom says that a photographer gets out there with their folio after making cold calls and arranging appointments with potential clients. When I say ‘conventional wisdom’ I mean ‘what they taught me in college’. It is the classic sales tactic: research potential customers, show them what you have to offer and then (hopefully) close the deal at a mutually acceptable price. 99% of photographers and probably 88% or all businesses will probably tell you that it is neither that simple or that straightforward.
I started by working out some categories for the way I have initially got the work:
- Cold calling and portfolio viewings
- People finding me via the web
- Referrals from family and friends outside the photography business
- Referrals from other photographers
- From colleagues I knew before going freelance
- Sub-contracted work via other photographers
- Other odd sources
I then quickly added up how much work (monetary value) each of those six sections accounted for and got the following results:
The monetary value for each client is based on that initial method of contact. Some high value clients have been very loyal to me and I hope that I have, in turn, given them the photographs that they need to keep those excellent two-way relationships going. On the flip side, most of the work that has come via the web has been one-off jobs for clients who don’t have a lot of work to commission.
Now I don’t know about you, but I found that to be quite a shocking set of results. Only 5% of my income has been generated by getting out there and trying to make sales in what you would call a ‘traditional’ way yet more than twice that figure came from referrals from other photographers. The sub-contract figure at 27% is also a lot higher than I thought that it would be but the biggest surprise is how low the figure for income generated via work from pre-freelancing colleagues. In my first year as a freelance that figure was considerably higher but it has been eclipsed by the friends and family percentage which, at 44%, is somewhat higher than I would have thought. People finding me through the web includes not only those who have found my website through searches but also the various social media platforms that we all spend so much time working on – 4% isn’t a great return on all of that effort either.
If I had the time, I’d like to work out how different the chart would be if I based the figures on the amount of time spent on the jobs rather than the money invoiced. My strong suspicion is that the cold calling and portfolio section would be a fair bit bigger as would the one for pre-freelancing colleagues because those are both news and editorial biased sections whereas the friends and family one is far more corporate and commercial.
So what conclusion should I draw from this? Maybe I should spend less time trying to generate work from cold-calling and spend a lot more time with family and friends? I suspect that the true answer is that I need to change my targets for the cold calling to more corporate and commercial ones simply because they have a higher value per job.