Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Starting a photography business!

Whoa there, Nelly. What do you mean you're starting a photography business?

Where are you getting your clients?
No - didn't think you could answer that one! Most people make the mistake of thinking that because somebody tells them they're good at photography or that there's money to be made from photography, they can go out there and be a professional photographer. Even if a close family member is pushing you to get out there and do professional photography and telling you you're going to make a mint, pause and step back. Who the Hell is going to hire Joe Blow to do photography? What do you mean, "do photography" anyway?

Do you mean portraits? When was the last time you had a portrait done? I know my last portrait was taken in a Walgreens by a minimum wage employee with a cheap compact camera for my passport. As far as posed portraits are concerned, most of the portrait studio chains went bust because nobody wanted photos - they are happy doing them themselves with iPhones etc.

Do you mean wedding/engagement photography? Wedding photographers have been the hardest hit by the digital revolution. Time was when people would hire a wedding photographer. Now pretty much everybody has a good digital compact or a digital SLR or perhaps they have a relative who has a digital SLR, wedding photography has become more of a casual affair as indeed it should be. The biggest hurdle to photography before digital was each photograph had a cost and people could only carry so many rolls of film. Normally that was the roll that was in the camera only. Photography was much more selective. Now because the cost per photograph is nil, people can take hundreds of photos and enough should be good enough that a professional is not needed. Even the dwindling number of professionals take hundreds or thousands of photos in the hope of getting a good photo. Sad to say but wedding photography is a dead end. People are getting out of wedding photography because there's no money in it any more.

Do you mean product photography? This is taking photos of small things for websites and catalogs. Isn't this exactly what people do for ebay? Just about everybody takes photos of baubles for ebay then tidies up the image with photoshop or picasa (because it's free). Sad to say but you're barking up the wrong tree there!

Do you mean photos for newspapers as a newspaper photographer? Didn't the Chicago Sun Tribune just sack all its photographers and teach its reporters to use iPhone cameras? Seems to me like a fast road to nowhere.

Do you mean sports photography? That's not exactly thriving either. Who will buy sports photos? Magazines, newspapers perhaps? Well, yes but only if you can get a press pass to the games and have long enough lenses, liability insurance and luck as well as a market. That's not somebody that says "yeah, ok. Show me the pics when you're done" but somebody who has a signed contract to buy at least X of your photos when you're done taking them. If you don't have that, you're just taking snaps for your personal photo album.

How much are you going to spend on equipment? Ah - you have all the equipment you think you'll need? Where did you learn what equipment you would need? Did you find out on some scurvy little forum? What makes you think anything written on some scurvy little forum is worth reading let alone contains any worthwhile information? One of my friends described forums as "maximum noise, minimum factual information while wasting maximum time". He was dead right.

Don't have the equipment? Don't bother buying it. I can personally guarantee that if the professionals are all going out of business that you will follow very shortly after, having wasted maximum money getting minimum clients.

How are you going to reach out to your market? Advertising? Advertising will soak up maximum money and provide no return on investment. That, I can guarantee. Marketing - handing out knick-knacks with your name and logo? That's nothing but a scam. Anybody handing out those has been scammed by the people flogging them. I smile politely and take the freebie then scrape the name and logo off when I get home and use it if it's a useful thing. Otherwise it goes into the garbage.  Somebody gave me a mug with advertising stencilled onto it. A good soak in hot water and a scrub with a brush got that crap off it and now I have a reasonable coffee mug.

How about joining the Chamber of Commerce? Nice idea if you want to sit and listen to the sound of people patting each other on the back. Not terribly effective for selling photography.

How about joining a camera club? Great if you want to brag about your prowess as a photographer then to get your ideas and photos picked to pieces. Not so great for selling photography because they're all trying to do the same thing.

So, start a photography business? If anybody tells you that you need to start a photography business then you have my permission to smack them around the head until they come back to their senses. There may have been business in photography a hundred years ago but there certainly isn't any now. Even videographers are having a hard time now that most cellphones will do very good quality videos.

You don't want to see this sign on your door!

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