What do you love about photography? Maybe you’re fascinated by the equipment and consume all those technical charts? Perhaps you’re more artistically minded and spend a lot of time creating interesting compositions? What about all the amazing things you can do in Photoshop – fun, eh?
We all have our strengths and weaknesses and there’s no right and wrong. It’s who we are.
I always recommend that people focus on the area of photography that fits best with their natural strengths. You’ll never make a good wildlife photographer if you’re not patient. You’ll struggle at wedding photography if you’re too shy.
OK, so you’ve picked the area of photography that suits your personality most. However, there will still be some skills that you’ll need to learn that don’t come naturally. A patient wildlife photographer that loves the solace of solitude will still need to learn how to sell. A charming wedding photographer who oozes charisma still needs to understand marketing.
So, here’s my list of 8 things photographers are often poor at and are suffering because of it.
Snoots, sync speed and slaves can all get a bit overwhelming if you don’t persevere. Many of the finest advertising and wedding photographers differentiate themselves from the masses using their consummate understanding of artificial light.
Buying all the gear can be expensive and there’s a steep learning curve, but that’s the point. Anyone less than 100% committed won’t invest the time or money. The harder you make it for beginners to compete with you and the more you differentiate yourself, the more difficult it becomes for them to reach your level.
Invest the time and money and it will pay you back, so long as you have a solid understanding of…
I spend more time reading about photography marketing than I do about photography. A lot more! I’ll soon be making some radical changes to the website and blog based on what I’ve learned recently – but that’s for another day.
Once your photography is ‘good enough’ marketing becomes far more important to any photographer wanting to make more money. Of course you should always be improving your photography, but it’s your marketing that makes you stand out. There are thousands of excellent photographers in every market segment, so it’s immensely difficult to stand out through the quality of your photos alone.
This is one of my weaknesses! I’ve spent a lot more time on this part of my education recently because your website can only achieve so much. If you learn the right sales techniques you’ll out-perform your website sales process, many times over.
Write down the biggest and most common objections you receive from your customers and write down the best possible answer you can for each one. Here’s a tip: photography is sold on emotion rather than logic. Steer people away from talking about prices and sizes and show them their photos on a projector or large screen TV so they can see how spectacular they are at a decent size. Most people think an A4 print is big because they’re used to seeing photos at 5×7. You need to subtly educate them. Again, more on sales in a future post.
Learning how to use Photoshop can be just as daunting as learning how to use photography lighting. Most photographers know how to use the basics, but you should dig deeper. Get a profound understanding of layers, blending modes, actions, channels and masks and you’ll be able to create stunning photos that your clients can’t reproduce.
See, that’s the trouble these days; everyone has a camera and most people, at one time or another, has taken a lovely photo. Therefore if you don’t show them photos that are consistently better than their best ever photo, then you’re going to struggle to impress them. Using Photoshop is a great way of producing something they can’t. It also helps make your photography look different from the low cost photographers who are competing on price.
I wonder if all these wedding photographers that prefer reportage only prefer it because they don’t have the confidence and knowledge to pose people in interesting compositions. I put my own hands up here – this is an area I’ll be focusing on more over the coming months. www.dmitrimarkine.com does a lot of posed wedding photos. Are they dull? Personally I think they’re spectacular, creative and ground breaking.
Photographers are losing the art of posing, so anyone who can create clever scenarios will do well.
Just look at the sumptuous photos you see in advertising and fashion – it’s all posed. Take inspiration from it.
Do you spend hours taking your photos, even more hours in Photoshop and then plonk your beautiful creations onto a plain CD, or hand the prints over in the bag Snappy Snaps gave you them in!
Give a great deal of thought to how you present your photos. I know you’ve already got the sale at this point, but it overcomes ‘buyer’s remorse’. Buyer’s remorse is when a customer buys something and then regrets it afterwards. If you present your products in an attractive way it shows you care and in the client’s mind it reinforces that you provide a quality service. It could be the difference between getting a referral, or not.
Venture has high average sales for their family portraits for many reasons, but it’s partly because they never sell photos without a frame. Frames add value in the eyes of the client and if you provide frames that are works of art in their own right then they become valuable sales and customer service tools. I’ve seen customers get just as excited over frames as the photos.
8. Customer service
One of my copywriting clients is an accountancy firm. I recently proof read one of their blog posts which commented on the poor service they got when looking wedding suppliers.
Here are some of his complaints:
“Nearly every company took longer than a day to respond to my email. Some never replied.”
“I have had to chase the information I’ve requested and even argue with about what we want as “they know best”. I’ve even struggled to find out how to PAY them!”
In many cases it takes a matter of seconds to improve your service to each customer:
Customers like to be kept informed. We all hate the builder who doesn’t tell you he’s had to change the spec, or the taxi driver who turns up late. Manage their expectations, acknowledge their comments and keep them in the loop.
If I’m communicating with a customer on email I rarely let them have the last word! If they say “Thanks”, I say “No problem – happy to help”. Small things make a big difference.
I’ve emailed three framing companies this week. One emailed me back within hours and called me after my second email. The other two took two days to email me and didn’t respond to my question properly. Guess who I’ll be using! You snooze, you lose! You ignore, you bore! You vacillate, you irritate! You get the picture…
There are many other things we all need to improve, so let me know what you’d like to get better at. If I know anything about the subject I’ll write a post about it.
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