Archive

Posts Tagged ‘photography business’

The Juggling Act: Time Management Tips for Busy Photography Moms

To celebrate moms, we took time to chat with a couple of our favorite photographers, Natalie Licini of Je Revele Fine Art Photography and Chrysta Rae of Chrysta Rae Photography, about how they juggle successful photography businesses with raising their family. They’ve shared a little insight into how to get the kids to the dentist and  invoices in the mail, all while keeping their clients happy. Like all moms, keeping all those balls in the air is a struggle. But one that is rewarded with the best of both worlds – time with their children and paying the bills doing a job they love.

Today we’ll see their top five tips for getting everything done like a pro. 

Photo by Chrysta Rae

1) Make – and Stick to – a Strict Schedule

One of the biggest advantages to being your own boss is setting your own schedule. But that doesn’t mean that work has to slide into family time and vice versa. Find a balance between the responsibilities of your business and your children no matter how tough it is, especially when your office is at home and you’re truly never far from work.

Natalie Licini:

I try to work Monday through Thursday and keep weekends free. Each day I wake about 8am, spend time with my children, check email, drink coffee, and then drive to our New Jersey office by 10am. We have two photo shoots per day on Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday with Tuesdays reserved for client viewings (sales appointments), usually late in the day to accommodate working clients. Fridays I reserve for accounting at home. Every day I handle client inquiries and questions and head home about 5pm. Every other Saturday is date night with my hubby and every single Sunday we have dinner with my parents, brothers, aunt, and cousins. It’s my favorite day of the week. We just relax, talk about life, and enjoy the company.

Chrysta Rae:

I drop the kids off at school, then I’m off shooting. I can book 1 to 6 shoots a day (once I did 9, but I almost died). While I’m out, I have to find multiple addresses and deal with realtors, homeowners, builders, and managers on location. I help stage, clean houses, make small talk, shoot, and then I scoot to my next booking. I pick up my kids and take them to hockey, or go grocery shopping, or pick up their friends, etc. Both my kids love it and thrive in hockey. And in my schedule, hockey is non-negotiable. They are members of a team, and that has huge value. Nothing interferes with that. And as much as I can, I’m at each practice and every game cheering them on.

Photo by Chrysta Rae

2) Stay In Focus, No Matter Where You Are

Focus on the job at hand. Be present in the moment, and with the people you’re with at that time. Give all your attention to your clients when you’re working with them, and to your family when it’s their time for your attention.

Chrysta Rae:

My main focus is always my boys. Their needs come first. Work is always there, so I just make sure when I’m with my kids, they know they’re my priority. I’m lucky they understand how hard I work, and that I’m doing it to better our lives. And when I’m at work, I build a true bond with all my clients. Simple things like not bringing my phone into a client’s home—it’s easy, but important. They know they’re the only focus I have while I’m with them. I ask questions and talk about my personal life; my clients truly know me and, in the end, they know they’ll get my best effort AND that I truly care about them.

3) Don’t Be Afraid to Outsource

Whether it’s help with the kids and the house, or with the non-photography tasks of your business, know when to hire an extra set of hands or two. Relinquishing control can be hard, but you’ll save that much more energy to focus on the things only you can do.

Natalie Licini:

We have an au pair who lives with us. She helps with the children during the day while I’m at the office, feeding, dressing, playing with the kids, and getting them to and from school. In New York City having an au pair is more economical than day care, which costs 35-50% more. My team helps with editing, printing, writing, and preparing our clients’ orders for pickup. I’ve hired additional staff to write for Je Revele, and we have an in-house editor.

4) Love What You Do

We hear from photographers all day, every day, that they love their jobs. Keeping your heart in line with your hands is the best way to guarantee success, and that you’ll wake up every morning excited about the days ahead.

Chrysta Rae:

The biggest perk of doing photography for a living and raising my boys is they SEE daily that if you love something, you can find a way to make a living doing it. Work should be something that gets you out of bed in the morning, not something you press the snooze button on while dreading the day ahead of you. The bottom line is I do what I love and have found a way to make money doing it, and I also have balance with my family. Being a mom is the most important job in the world, and the most rewarding. I truly think I’m giving them a very big life lesson in finding their passion and empowering them. With enough persistence and passion, anything’s possible—it’s there for them to grab.

Natalie Licini:

If you love what you do, and can pour your heart and soul into growing your business, do it! Don’t let fear hold you back. I’ve had photography mentors over the years who’ve really helped me grow and establish my business. Attend workshops with some of the masters in our industry and you’ll find your skill level improve dramatically.

Photo by Chrysta Rae

5) If  You’re Just Starting  Out

Making the leap to start your own photography business can be the most exciting step of your life, especially if you’re coming away from being a full-time parent, or a more traditional job. Here are two final tips to keep in mind if you’re looking to go pro.

Chrysta Rae:

Set a timeframe. I gave myself one year: if I could pay my bills and still afford a few luxuries at the end of it, I would continue. It started up quite quickly for me; I posted on Facebook that I’d offer $50 photography sessions for families while I was still in school. It was truly just to give me things to shoot and learn “in the field.” From that one post I did hundreds of portrait sessions and, after I graduated, I was confident enough to even shoot weddings.

Natalie Licini:

Network! I suggest networking with your community, business owners, moms, and dads. Always gently mention you’re a photographer and be prepared to hand them a brochure of your work. I have little accordion brochures in my purse that I give out by the dozen, thanks to a suggestion I heard on creativeLive from Sue Bryce. Rather than having someone lose my business card, I give them a brochure so they can see my work immediately. It makes a good impression that helps them make a call to book a session with me.

Do you have your own secrets to running a tight family ship? We’d love to hear them! Add your comments at the end of this article.


About Chrysta: 

My name is Chrysta Rae. I’m a professional interior/real estate photographer working full time in the Edmonton, Alberta area. I have 2 amazing children, Tyson (he’s 11) and Grayden (he’s 10). The boys are in grades 5 and 4, and both play in high level hockey all winter, and both play spring hockey as well. My kids are exceptional people. They’re funny, kind, thoughtful, dorky, and loveable. I love being their Mom.

My family was first. I started photography professionally when my youngest went into grade 1. I have always been a very self-empowered business person. I previously owned a closed captioning business that ended when my youngest son was about 2. With the recession and new technology, the business just slowly died. I was a stay-at-home Mom until both kids were in school… then I needed to fill my days back up again! I had always loved photography and decided to focus my attention on it on a “professional” level. I enrolled in the New York Institute of Photography and devoured everything I could to learn every single thing I could about every aspect of it.

About Natalie: 

I was born and raised in New York City. I reside there with my husband and 3 children. We have 2 girls ages 5 and 4 and our son is 11 months old and already walking. Yay! My daughters are in dance, piano and have singing lessons. It’s busier than it sounds, but we have a manageable schedule.

I opened my business 6 months after my first child was born in 2008. I started photographing clients using backdrops in my basement in 2008. In 2011, I left my full time job and moved to my first studio. Then in 2012, I rebranded and opened our flagship studio in a historic New Jersey Castle.

Pro tip: Sell Downloads and Don’t Leave Money on the Table

February 25, 2014 4 comments

Hey there, Portfolio and Business photographers: We’ve heard that a lot of you didn’t know that you could make money selling digital files on SmugMug. And maybe there are those of you who did know, but still weren’t sure about how to get  going.

Your photo clients may not always be looking for just traditional paper prints. So we’re here to show you that with just a few extra clicks, you can start selling digital photos and videos in addition to your usual physical print items.

Our latest pro article spotlights this commercial conundrum. We discuss why digital sales are essential to most any photographers’ businesses… and how you can get set up so that you’re not leaving money on the table.

Read the full article now on SmugMug Academy >>

7 Rules to Keep You In Business for 7 Years

April 22, 2013 17 comments

At SmugMug, we’re all about supporting your business and we love to help you succeed. Today’s guest post is by our longtime SmugMug customer and successful full-time professional photographer, Kathy Rappaport. She is CEO (Chief Everything Officer) at Flash Frozen Photography Inc. in Woodland Hills, California. For many years she kept her pencil sharp as an Accountant and honed her Marketing and Operational skills as a VP in Bank Management. She’s a QuickBooks Certified Advisor and consults with photographers on best business practices when she isn’t photographing families, children, dogs and women in lingerie (though usually not all at the same time). So, we were thrilled when she shared her tips with us, and we wanted to share them with you.

By Kathy Rappaport

The US Small Business Administration says that 80% of small businesses fail in the first five years. So what are some good business practices for photographers so they don’t fail? Or better yet, so they succeed? Here are a few of mine!

1) Good Accounting!

If the reason you work is to make money, then you’d better track how much you make, how much things cost, who owes you money and how much you owe the government. My favorite solution is QuickBooks. It comes in Mac and PC Flavors and even Online and mobile editions now. My personal favorite is the Premier Edition (which is for PC) because you can track your costs and customers in detail. There are many good features to the program like customized invoices, sales tax tracking, customer tracking, inventory and product sales. It’s pretty easy to learn and maintain. Take care of your money and it will take care of you! There are other solutions, but, this is reasonable and comprehensive. And way better than a shoebox.

2) Good Pricing!

“My camera is paid for and I love to shoot so anyone who pays me something is my client.” Well, just because people pay you doesn’t make you a professional. A Professional has a business license, insurance and charges money for their products and services. You have to have good accounting to figure out good pricing. A good place to start is to figure out how much a fair hourly wage is for your skill level. Then multiply that times three or four. Why? Your camera will need replacement, your lenses will surely need service, your cost of business (like insurance, props, gas, supplies, your phone, printer , software, internet) are a part of price you charge. Don’t forget some of your time is spent on editing and finishing your work. You need to include saving for your future. Your retirement, taxes, and replacing your equipment. You can add up your costs and figure out a daily/weekly/hourly rate plus time to arrive at a price that will keep you in business.

3) Good Customer Service!

I hear over and over from some so-called professional photographers that it’s not necessary to call customers back or that they wait weeks to deliver work. If they have some miscommunication they send an email. The best thing you can do is be omnipresent to your clients. Respond NOW. Call if there is a problem. Knock their socks off and they’ll tell their friends. Disappoint them and they’ll tell the world. Underpromise and overdeliver. Find something special to say thank you. Maybe an extra print from the merchandise selection of your SmugMug catalog. Even a handwritten greeting card says you care.

4) Have a Good Plan!

Don’t just have an idea and implement it right away. Think about it. Plan it out in the form of a business plan. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Plan your marketing efforts, your customer service initiative, and your business goals. Make a calendar and a task list. Plan out the amount of money you want to make, how to get there and budget it out. It’s like taking a cross country trip without having a road map if you do things by the seat of your pants.

5) Delegate!

As a solopreneur, you shouldn’t do it all. You do need to get legal advice and accounting advice. You can get contracts online, but, they might not be right for your situation. Same with accounting. You should never take everyone’s advice when it comes to accounting and taxes. They are really personalized. Find out what kind of entity you should be. I hear S Corp and LLC all the time as advice but they really might be wrong for you and cost you big time in the tax department. You might have some graphics skills, but, a good printer and graphic designer will present your work to make you stand out. Maybe you even need to hire someone to train you in how to do something so you can do it properly instead of guessing. I don’t know the first thing about HTML and having an expert handy makes me sleep better at night knowing that everything is right.

6) Do Things the Official Way!

Don’t be a scofflaw. Get your location permits, business license; your DBA, carry liability Insurance, your Sales Tax License, your tax Identification number. Go to your local chamber of commerce or accountant and see what you need to do to be a real business. Not having those things can cause you to have penalties, interest, fines, or expensive legal and accounting fees. If people pay you to photograph, then the end result is you have a business. The IRS says you have to file a tax return if someone pays you as little as $400.00.

7) Market!

Practice your craft. Up your game. Take care of yourself. In your marketing plan you should be out there meeting people both inside and outside the industry. Learn about business just as much as you spend time learning about the latest lighting techniques. Up your game and keep improving and learning. Read good business books. You will never know everything, but don’t stop adding to your bag of tricks. Challenge yourself to reach for the stars. I know you can do it.

How to Stay In Business by Varina Patel

April 8, 2013 10 comments

Landscape photographer and pro educator Varina Patel is one of those people we all aspire to be. From the mountains to the deserts, she travels around the globe chasing the light and enlightening photographers near and far. We’ve long been inspired by her incredibly varied and inspiring blog posts, eBooks and workshops, as well as her ability to keep her photo education company running smoothly and in sync with her husband, Jay PatelWe talked with Varina about how to keep your photo business blooming year after year.  Here’s what she suggests.

By Varina Patel

Take your business seriously.

Jay and I may be a husband and wife team – but we are running a business together. It’s so easy to lose sight of the goal in the face of the day-to-day requirements of running a business… especially when you have lots of other responsibilities that require your attention. In order to keep things running smoothly, we have monthly meetings where we discuss our plans for the upcoming month. We decide which projects are worth extra time, and which ones need to be scaled back. We look at our sales and financial data and decide where we should focus our efforts. We make sure we are working towards the same goals – and that we are never working at cross-purposes.

Don’t be afraid to change your plans.

Of course, having a solid business plan is important… but plans should be fluid. Don’t be afraid to change your plans as your business opportunities shift. Jay and I are constantly re-establishing priorities as we navigate the ever-changing world of photography. Stock photography was a productive business for us at one time – but as the market became more and more saturated, we found that our efforts weren’t paying off as well as they had been. So, we tested new waters. We taught workshops, wrote eBooks, photographed events, submitted images to magazines… and as our business grew, we found out where we could make the most of our limited time. Right now, our focus is on eBooks and short workshops – and as times change, we will continue to refine our goals and shift our plans to meet the ever-changing needs of our business.

Know your own strengths – and your weaknesses.

I can’t emphasize this enough. It’s important to know what you are good at – but knowing your weaknesses is equally important. Heck – maybe it’s even more important. When you are aware of a weakness, you need to focus your attention on it. Nobody said running a business is easy. If you aren’t good at handling your finances, do some research, take a class, or hire someone to do it for you. If you want to write eBooks but your grammar and spelling is terrible – hire an editor. Need a good website, but you don’t know a thing about design or ecommerce? Call on the SmugMug Support Super Heroes. ;) Ignoring the problem isn’t a solution… and it can cause all kinds of headaches in the future.

Use social media to build a relationship with your clients.

Social networks are incredible marketing tool that offer small businesses like ours an opportunity to be noticed among corporate giants with enormous budgets. We don’t have to spend a dime to connect with millions of people who are interested in what we are offering. Our foray into social media began with our blog. I spent more than a year writing regular blog posts before people really started to pay attention. There were lots of times when I thought maybe my efforts were wasted, but I knew that quitting was the surest way to fail… so I kept plugging along. Over time, more and more people began to comment and subscribe. During that time, I started posting on Facebook too. Pretty soon, I had a pretty solid collection of “fans” who would leave comments and share my photographs. When Google+ came along, I didn’t hesitate. This was a whole new experience. Suddenly, photographers were having in-depth discussions about everything from composition to marketing – and people were adding us to their circles at a fantastic rate. Best of all, we were really getting to know some of these people! They were becoming our friends. They were recommending our work to others, signing up for our workshops and webinars, and buying our eBooks! We met some of them in person, went shooting with them, and got to know them on a personal level. Those experiences took social networking beyond marketing. Now, we are a part of a dynamic community of photographers who exchange ideas and inspiration.

Look for ways to minimize content creation and maximize content consumption.

So yes. Social media is a great tool. But it can be your downfall, too. Don’t let it consume you! The trick is to find ways to minimize the amount of time you spend creating content for social media – while maximizing the consumption of that content. What does that mean?

Well – we only have a limited amount of time to spend writing blog posts, updating our websites, posting on Twitter or Facebook or Google+. And yet – we want to be sure that the content we create is seen by as many people as possible, right? So, if I write one blog post, I want to make sure everyone knows it’s out there. I need to get it to my followers on Facebook, my fans on Google+, my subscribers on Twitter – in short, I need to make sure it’s as visible as possible.

Right now, we create almost all of our new content on my blog or on Google+. Content from the blog on my website is automatically syndicated to Jay’s website and our other social media platforms. (Ideally, a single source of content would be preferable… but Google+ doesn’t provide means for automatic syndication yet. In order to share with our very large audience on Google+, we need to manually share a link or copy and paste content to our streams.) Automatic syndication lets us send out our content to twitter, facebook, and our RSS subscribers without an additional effort on our part. So we create the content once, and everyone knows it’s there. The process takes discipline and forethought – but you can make social networks work for you.

Know your target audience.

Take some time to decide who your customers are. Are you selling prints to art collectors? Writing eBooks for budding photographers? Teaching beginners to use their cameras? Look at your strengths, determine what you want to be doing – and then decide who you are targeting. Jay and I know that our primary audience is other photographers – people who want to learn how to use their camera. So, we target our posts to appeal to those people. We include brief tips in every blog posts. We speak in a variety of forums – sharing knowledge with large groups of people so they can get to know us and our teaching styles… and share our names with their friends. And we are always looking for ways to reach out to the photographic community – even this article is part of that effort.

Make sure you are valuable to your customers.

Maybe this is obvious, but it’s absolutely critical. If you purchase one of my eBooks, I want you to come back and purchase another, right? And the only way you are going to do that is if you really feel that the eBook was valuable to you. So, we work hard to make sure that we pack those books full of information. We regularly go back and review older books to make them better, and we are constantly looking for more knowledge so we can share it with others. Workshops are no different. We want our students to go home feeling like they are better photographers than they were before they arrived… and more importantly, we want them to be confident in their ability to repeat the techniques we’ve taught. As nice as it is to come away from a workshop with some amazing photographs – what we really want to do is teach people to take amazing photographs when they are on their own and we’re not around to help out. So, figure out what your customers want, and work to make sure that you are providing that. Doing so will translate to more clients, more sales, and more word-of-mouth advertising.

Act like a professional.

I think too many photographers forget how important it is to present themselves as professionals. I’m not talking about business suits and corporate accounts. It’s really not that difficult. Start with a well-designed website that works well. Design a simple logo and print up some business cards. Respond to emails and queries in a professional manner – it’s ok to be casual, but don’t be sloppy or rude! And perhaps most importantly, present only your very best work! Don’t just stick photos up there to fill gallery space. It’s better to have a small collection of really great shots than a huge collection of mediocre ones.

Learn More about Photography from Jay and Varina Patel

If you’re looking for more inspiration, photography tips, education and webinar workshops, visit Jay and Varina’s blog over at Photography by Varina. And use this exclusive discount code to get 10% off any eBook order over $20: SMUGMUG314

Happy learning!

The Business of Love: Getting Intimate with Je Revele Fine Art Photography

January 15, 2013 2 comments

We’re so excited to debut this guest post from the two lovely and incredibly talented ladies over at Je Revele Fine Art Photography, who we featured as a Success Story last summer. Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches, pros fill their wedding calendars and winter engagements blossom into summer nuptials. So with the “Business of Love,” we’ll feature insights and tips related to planning, shooting and selling those beautiful photos you’ll take in the coming weeks. Enjoy this behind-the-scenes look into what goes into crafting the stunning images you see at New Jersey boudoir photographers Je Revele!

Insights from Natalie Licini and Cate Scaglione

When Cate and I joined forces, it was based on a love and a shared vision for Intimate Portraiture. From the beginning, we had a common passion about the kind of work and client experience we wanted to create for our clients, which we believe has been the foundation of our success.

Our business is a fusion between photography, a luxury spa, and an art gallery. We make more than beautiful portraits. Our clients cherish the wall art we make for them… but beyond that, they remember the experience of the day, how they connected with Cate or I and how our stylists made them feel. Ultimately, their memory is about feeling beautiful and special. That translates very powerfully into the portraits we create for them.

Cate and I have different personalities and approaches when it comes to working with clients. We sometimes find that one of us may be more compatible with a certain type of shoot or client, but the one constant is the final product our clients receive. Our end-to-end client experience is something we both take part in, regardless of which of us photographed the client. Cate often handles pre-consultations whereas I often execute the sale. We both handle editing and post-production. Our common ground is in our aesthetics, editing style and a mutually unwavering commitment to the quality of our product and studio experience.

The Value of the Pre-Consultation

Our process always starts with a pre-consultation, which is a critical component to the shoot and its subsequent sale. We believe this first step is a major component to our success. Our clients are surprisingly open during our pre-consultations, which enables us to know them on a highly emotional level, upfront. We like to hear what the client is envisioning and learn who they are to plan the session of their dreams. The pre-consultation serves a two-way purpose; we get to know them intimately beforehand to effectively plan a shoot and they get excited about it. Both of these factors lead to higher sales.

As a result of our pre-consultations, we’ve found ourselves planning era-inspired sessions of the 1920s, 30s, 40s, or 1980s. Some sessions are based on specific milestones, like one client’s 50th birthday where we planned a “past present and future” theme incorporating various themes of her life. Other clients find art as a healing mechanism, to recover from the death of a loved one, a double mastectomy or to regain confidence after a divorce or breakup. And yet other times, our sessions are to mark a celebration, such as remission from breast cancer, bachelorette parties or a special anniversary. On one occasion, we even held a Ladies Day of Glamour, a fashion-inspired day where we served lunch, champagne and a private chef who prepared a special dinner on the terrace of the castle in between their individual photo shoots and styling sessions.

No matter what type of session, their day with us is about comfort, convenience and luxury. We furnish them with everything they need to relish in their beauty, which includes in-house stylists, delicious hors deurves, chocolates, champagne, an in-house wardrobe to peruse, or our concierge-approach to designer gown rentals. We often find that the more we do to create a great experience, the more engaged they become with their images.

The pre-consultation is truly step one of putting clients at ease for the shoot. They feel they have a pre-established connection with us and they know what to expect. In addition, we put ourselves at ease through a consistent routine of scheduling, either as a 10AM or 1PM session appointment daily. We don’t waiver much and clients are OK with that.

Fluidity and Confidence During the Shoot

On the day of the shoot, women can initially feel nervous, shy or self-conscious… or all of the above. Cate often jokes that there is a “nine minute factor” in which clients find the joy and liberation of the session, a point at which the nervous excitement goes away. After those first nine minutes, we feel them come to life. We always give them authentic feedback and compliments early in the session. We do our best to make them comfortable, happy and show them a sneak peak of an early photo to build confidence in themselves. We don’t always show them the images, but sometimes we find that it enables clients to let go and embrace the experience. This approach can often be reassuring.

We hear a lot of consistent comments from women, regardless of her age, body type or overall appearance. One of the most common phrases is: “I’m not not photogenic at all”, almost as a warning. We often say: “Have you ever had your photo professionally taken? {often the answer is no} Many of your photos may be taken by friends and family under challenging lighting conditions so you may think you’re not photogenic. But beautiful light and proper direction by a professional photographer can definitely make you look your very best. If you’re photographed in darker light some clients feel they look wider or older. Let me show you a posing example”.

At this point, it’s a great example to show them how I’d look straight on flat-footed. I’d look wider, static… almost bored. With some adjustments, bending my knee, pushing my weight on my back hip in beautiful light and suddenly, I look thinner and prettier. The clients instantly feel more confident!

The pre-consultation is always a guide to how we pose our clients. The direction will vary depending on the styling and theme of the session. Our intimate portrait work may include high fashion photos, fine art nudes, boudoir or all of the 3 in one session. I feel the best approach is to pose my clients from the feet up, posing them standing, seated, leaning or laying and guide them so they look and feel beautiful, slim and elegant. The wrong pose can instantly add 10 pounds to any client. We do our best to ensure the opposite is true with every photo. The last step is to ensure they look relaxed and their hands are relaxed. Little adjustments with hands and encouragement can make your client shine brightly from the inside and you see that in their eyes.

For our intimate portrait work, we shoot both indoor and outdoor at our studio. Our studio has over seven acres of picturesque grounds at the castle, with brick and stone, old classic architecture, thick woods, beautiful gardens and trees, etc. We shoot indoors using both natural light and strobes. We love variety, but we photograph our clients truly in accordance with the pre-consultation we planned. At all times, both Cate and I each shoot with our own two cameras. Cate uses her two Canon 5D IIs using a 85mm and a 24-70 or a 70-200, depending on the session. Cate likes fluidity and tries to incorporate with a single new idea each shoot. I always photograph my clients with my Canon 5D Mark III with my 85mm 1.2 on the right of my rapid double strap and my Canon 24-70 II on my left. We love both perspectives for intimacy and storytelling. The dual-camera approach is important to the flow of the session because changing lenses causes delays, which breaks your clients’ enthusiasm. It’s important to keep a rhythm and energy going… for all parties involved in the shoot!

Exquisite Marketing

One thing we noticed was that clients booked us because they are attracted to our fine art work and they wanted to hang a piece of art in their home. We’re always excited to do what we love, but from a business perspective it was limiting. Cate always tended to shoot intimate close-ups for her fine art. I liked to shoot wide for maximum storytelling. So we made adjustments on both our parts and begun offering a variety of posed beauty portraits, creating the variety and “bigger picture” story for our clients. This enabled us to sell both wall art and albums or image boxes with each sales session, doubling our revenue instantly. It changed and reshaped our business.

This past summer, we created a marketing plan which cross-promoted with venues, stylists and clients. We offered gift vouchers enclosed in a gorgeous black box with thick white satin ribbon. Targeting our class-A clients and vendors was a great way to attract our ideal clients for intimate portrait sessions.

Pricing is an important part of the brand. Our brand is about a premium experience and making woman feel special and important. We are priced accordingly and our brand look and feel helps us communicate that idea. One can never underestimate the importance of being well branded and well priced for your target audience. You attract what you put out there in the market.

Working Together as a Team

There are two of us in our studio and naturally, we work a little differently than one another. However we maintain a very structured workflow for the consistency of the client deliverable and final product.

First, we download our images from our cameras and with Photo Mechanic do a “sort by capture time” and rename the RAW files. Then, there is a culling process in Photo Mechanic which we reduce the gallery selections to 75-100 images. We then import everything into Lightroom 4.

Cate and I process images a little differently, but generally maintain the same aesthetic with our custom-created presets and actions Cate made from our most inspired looks. I label about 40% of the images in LR using the star rating, which I make black and white. I use the same style black and white throughout for consistent styling and branding. I take the remaining 60% and edit them with a desaturated vintage color. I don’t cherry-pick which images are black and white, I randomly choose. Cate really enjoys the editing process and tends to like to look at each image individually and decide with each image what should be presented in color or black and white. Our editing aesthetic can vary a little from session to session depending based on the styling and theme (example: 1930s era), but in general there is about a 40/60 rule for bw/color (unless we know from our pre-consultation a client has a penchant for a style). No matter what, we always try to ensure that our post-processing maintains that signature Je Revele look.

We typically decide before the sales session which portraits would have the best potential as a fine art wall portrait. Rarely do we edit any fine art work before the viewing appointment. Instead, we show several beautiful fine art portrait samples to clients during the viewing appointment. This explains what their portraits could potentially look like and it usually illustrates the idea quite well.

From the beginning of our Je Revele adventure, we decided that our Intimate Portraits were about creating intimacy with the client and helping them see their beauty. It was never about the wardrobe like lingerie or boudoir-style setting to define our genre. In this sense, our Intimate Portraits are very much the same vertical as our other portrait work. With this philosophy in mind, we price our Intimate Portraits the same as our other portrait sessions including families and high school seniors. Our newborn photography structure and weddings have a different pricing structure, however to accommodate the very specific needs of those life stages.

At the end of it all, we simply want our clients to look and feel their most beautiful self. That’s incredibly important to us… we feel it’s what differentiates us. We listen to their needs and understand why they are doing the session… and we deliver according to that. That’s intimacy.

All photos by Je Revele Fine Art Photography

Wedding Boot Camp: How to Leverage SmugMug to Make the Most Money

August 13, 2012 3 comments

Pssst, wedding pros! Whether you’re a veteran Smugger or you’re just trying us out, we thought we’d share a few tips today on how to use the powerful features you already have to make your business an astounding success.

You’ll find these tools (and more) baked right in to every SmugMug Pro account, so let’s get started.

Tip 1: Don’t Make Them Think. Or Hunt. Or Search.

It’s important that you do as much as you can from ONE place (your gallery!) so your clients don’t get distracted or lost. Here’s how:

Use a Custom Website URL. You can already pick pretty much any SmugMug nickname that you want, but take it a step further and grab a custom domain to match your brand. SmugMugDomains.com gets you one in just a few steps.

Funnel, Funnel, Funnel. Our Events feature corrals errant wedding galleries into one link that you can share with the bride. This way she doesn’t have to hunt and peck around your vacation pics from 2005. Best of all, she can pick her Favorite photos, put them into a separate gallery and buy prints.

Shorter is Easier. Don’t scare fans away with long links. You can drop any size gallery or photo URL into our Smu.gs link shortener to get a bite-sized link… which is mentally easier to share, too.

Show Them Samples. To tempt their palates, order a few of your best photos in a few of your favorite formats. Showing your clients finished examples of your work and letting them touch, feel and see the quality for themselves makes a world of difference. Don’t forget SmugMug’s 100% guarantee.

Tell Them What to Do. The gallery description is an untapped resource. You can enter info about the photos in that space, but save your visitors a few brain cells by giving them step by step instructions on how to place an order, any limited-time coupons you’re offering, and which sizes and products you like best.

Tip 2: Create Urgency.

Everybody loves a deal, and limited time promotions are the sweetest to cash in.

Limited-time Coupons. Look in your Account Settings to create five different kinds of promotional coupons that get clients buying now. You can create one for each client, or one for your event. Don’t forget to set an expiration date so they can’t procrastinate forever.

Close the Loop: Order Branding. It’s not over even after they buy. You can upload any design or message to be included in the delivery box as a 5×7 Thank You Print. More ideas? Incorporate your contact info, heartfelt thanks, referral details for an upcoming event or even a discount code for their next order. The sky’s the limit!

Tip 3: Be Serious.

Charge a Fair Price. We’ve covered this before but it’s always worth reminding you Pros to be sure you’re charging enough. The more you value yourself, the better your business will be.

Prove Your Work is Mag-worthy. Who wouldn’t hire a published photographer? Our friendship with Two Bright Lights can make all the difference. Sign up for an account, upload some portfolio photos and let them do the heavy lifting.

Marketing: Never Settle. Leverage the power of Facebook and Twitter every time you get published, have a great photo shoot or just want to share a few pics. Carry business cards wherever you go so you’ll never be unprepared.

Tip 4: Resources. We Have Them.

Blurb Books. These make perfect guest books, and let you put your photos into their hands in a way they won’t forget. Blurb’s easy-to-use book building software lets you drag and drop your images into templates, and you get your choice of stunning covers and papers. There’s something for every budget. And every bride.

MOO business cards. Don’t get caught without your contact info in-hand. MOO cards are affordable, portable portfolios you can keep in your pocket, so you’re always ready to show off and share your details. Talk about multitasking!

Photo Albums. Busy? We understand. Our friends at zookie pro and KISS are ready and waiting to slurp your photos and design and turn them into beautiful, perfect albums your clients will cherish forever. All while you sleep, shoot, and get on with your life.

We hope this info inspires you photographers to get out there and be the best wedding pro you can possibly be. And as always, stay tuned for more tips coming your way.

Link roundup!

The Great Pricing Hoax

February 15, 2012 41 comments

No sales? Hard time hooking clients? Your deep-discount pricing could be choking your reputation.

It’s not uncommon to offer your services at cut-rate discount with the hope that you’ll snap up eager bargain-hunters. But is this really the right approach?

Successful Pros agree that raising your pricing may not necessarily scare away potential clients – in fact, it’ll do a body good. Here’s why.

That sounds backwards…

Photo by Adriana Klas Photography

“Cheap” sets bad expectations for your clients. If you’re a cheap photographer, clients wonder how you’re cutting costs so much, and if it’s worth it for them to take the risk. They question your ability to manage expectations and communicate with them. Will you effectively guide them through an important experience, or will you simply fire a few snaps, hand over a CD and call it a day?

“Cheap” makes you look as though you don’t think you’re any good. Any business owner who doesn’t think their brand’s the best is probably in the wrong business.

How to Not Be Expensive

Photo by Adriana Klas Photography

Right about now you’re probably worried about scaring away clients by being too expensive. How do your clients really know what “expensive” really is? It’s all about pricing and a concept called anchoring – meaning that they have to compare the value of something new with something familiar.

In English: Clients will be able to better grasp the value of your work by judging their interaction with you.

Here are some tips to help you prove that your work is worth every penny:

  • Create a unified brand.  A clean website. Clearly placed information. A custom domain and email address goes a long way, too.
  • Be professional. Be prompt, cordial, and friendly. You provide a quality service, which is worth paying for.
  • Look and act the part. No one is going to pay $5k to a schlup wearing ketchup-stained t-shirts, particularly if they show up late and forget to bring the paperwork!

How to do the “Free” Thing (the right way)

Photo by Sphynge Photography

Just because you should be paid fairly for your work doesn’t mean you can’t cut clients a break, or even do the “free” thing once in a while. Samples are a great way to give clients a nibble of what you do do without giving away the whole farm. Some quick ideas of how to work this into your model:

Model 1 - Waive your session fee, but be sure to charge for prints and digital downloads.

Model 2 - Apply the sitting fee towards the purchase of digital downloads, making the first (X number) free.

On SmugMug, it’s so easy to offer a few deep discounts by creating a custom Coupon to hand out. There are five different types, making sure that you can keep changing it up and keeping it interesting. How to use Coupons.

Get it? Got it? Good.

Calculate Your Costs to Avoid Going Broke

Photo by Sphynge Photography

The reason most photography businesses don’t survive is because their owners didn’t properly calculate their costs. And as the old adage goes, time is money. Don’t forget that your time and expertise are more precious than replaceable objects like paper and gear; you can hire assistants but they aren’t you. (Yes, it’s our mission to make you feel like a million bucks!)

Here are our suggested guidelines for calculating your costs:

  • For prints: Your pricing should be not less than 4x your hard costs, including packaging and shipping. Seem like a lot? It’s not – about half of your balance goes towards taxes, 1/5th of goes towards the base cost of the item and the rest goes towards (ta-daa!) your profit.
  • Albums and multi-photo goods: Your pricing should be no less than 3x your hard costs, which may include design work as well as the physical cost of the product.
  • For Downloads: Price your larger-than-web-sized digital downloads at no less than the cost of ten prints. Giving away images at any printable size means you have to make it worth your while: They will use that file to print lots of prints, and you also run the risk of having your brand diluted if your client opens Photoshop and makes their own digital adjustments. Check out our resolution chart to find out how big they can print.

The Bottom Line

Don’t be afraid to charge a fair price for your work. By understanding your costs and charging more, you’re sending a stronger message to your clients and ensuring that they value you, too.

If you’re already in business and think your prices needs a kick, remember that it’s simple to adjust your pricing using Pricelists. Look here to see how they work, and don’t forget to ping our Support Heroes if you get stuck.

Wanna keep talking about pricing? Never forget that our photo forum, Digital Grin, has a whole section dedicated to the art of turning your photos into money. Check out our Mind Your Own Business section here and post away. Or just voice your thoughts in a comment below.

Good luck and stay tuned! We’ll be sharing more tips and “best practices” for you, soon.

—-

Links you’ll love:

Love Your Work Again on the Power of Passion Tour

March 29, 2011 1 comment

One of our own Smuggers, Dustin Bess, is on the road with Sandy Puc and Gerry Ghionis on their Power of Passion Tour. Here’s what he’s got to say about this incredible experience.

As photographers we are constantly called on to draw on our creative process to create compelling images. Being in this position where so much creativity is needed, one can often experience burnout and fatigue and start to wonder,

“Do I really love what I am doing anymore?”

As part of my work for SmugMug I have been traveling the country with Sandy Puc and Jerry Ghionis as they take their Power of Passion Tour across America.  I joined up with them on March 13 in Phoenix, AZ, and caught my first glimpse of the show.

I was completely blown away by the power of this event.

The Business of Photography

I have been following Sandy since January of 2010 when I started shooting with the charity Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, which she cofounded. After meeting Sandy at WPPI last year and getting a chance to know her, I was even more impressed with all of her accomplishments and immense knowledge.  Sandy isn’t just a photographer, she is a true business woman and it shows in even the shortest of conversations with her. In Phoenix, as I listened to her talk about business and marketing, the things she was saying made so much sense, yet one is left with the thought “why didn’t I think of that?”.

Photographers often neglect the business side of their photography business.  I personally know amazing photographers who still struggle with bookings, not because they lack skills in the camera, but because they lack skills of getting people through their doors in the first place.

Sandy knows how to get people into her studio and this is what she is teaching at the event (among many other things).

Passion and Emotion in Photography

I had heard Jerry’s name before joining him on the tour, but must admit that I didn’t know much about him or his work.  I really didn’t know what I was missing.  As I sat through that first show and watched his images come up, I was in complete awe.  I watched him pull random strangers from the audience and evoke emotion out of them that I have never seen from even my closest clients. I knew I was sitting in the presence of a true master of the craft.  Jerry has this ability to connect with people through simple words and it is truly remarkable to watch. One minute you will be crying, and the next you are experiencing side-splitting laughter. Jerry is also a master at posing shots to create not just photographs, but true works of art.

What Photographers Had to Say

I asked my friend David Terry for his thoughts after seeing the Tour in SLC and this is what he had to say:

Two years ago I had the opportunity of attending one of Sandy Puc’s seminars in Salt Lake City.  It was so good and so worth the price I paid, that I felt bad last year when I was unable to attend due to prior commitments.  So this year, I signed up for the event as soon as it was announced.  At the time I did not know who Jerry Ghionis was, and so that did not affect my plans.  But I attended his class at WPPI a month ago and came away saying to myself that I would ‘pay anything to see him again’. And wow, what a ‘one-two punch’.  The two of them last night were awesome.  Sandy served up business and marketing tips while Jerry both taught and inspired us.  His techniques for getting the image AND the emotion are truly inspirational. I would gladly pay to see him again.

Another friend of mine, Jeremy Hall, wasn’t sure if it would be worth his time to attend because he doesn’t focus on weddings. With a little encouragement he decided to come and this is what he said to me afterwards:

After some friendly prompting from fellow photographers, I decided to attend the Sandy Puc & Jerry Ghionis workshop in Salt Lake City. Though my focus is not wedding photography, I was looking for some great inspiration I could apply to all my photography. Sandy and Jerry were excellent. I enjoyed their presentation style, the simple techniques and ideas they presented, but most of all getting the inspiration I was looking for. I now have new motivation to approach my work with more emotion, sincerity and purpose.

And here is what SmugMug’s President and Co-Founder, Chris MacAskill said:

From a purely selfish point of view, I know I’m not a specialist in any form of photography and have much to learn about each kind.  But I leave most talks feeling like I learned very little and where are the Annie Leibovitzs,  Anton Lorimers, Michael Soos, Trey Ratcliffs, and Scott Robert Lims in this world who give you something that makes a big difference?

Jerry’s evoking emotion spiel was one of those times for me when I felt like I just learned something you should have known long ago.  I was wishing I could shoot my weddings over again.  Where have I been? It’s so obvious once you hear it.

See the Tour in Your City

There are still 11 cities to go in the tour and you can save $20 by entering the code SMPP11 on the registration page.  After seeing the show that first night I have encouraged every photographer I know to get out and see it.

Because SmugMug is sponsoring the tour, I have the unique opportunity of being able to travel from city to city with these great people.  Can I just tell you: I think what truly makes this event wonderful is how much fun these two have all the time.  Whether it is getting stuck in a snowstorm and Jerry whips out his iPhone to produce Death at Pollard Flat or an impromptu Dance Party on Sandy’s bus. It is easy to tell that these two really love what they do.  They exude passion for photography and for teaching others also.  And if you thought Jerry was a good photographer, check out his basketball skills.

Simply put, if you only have time for one educational event this year, this is the one to see.

You can register for the event by going HERE.

- Dustin

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,843 other followers

%d bloggers like this: