Changes are coming

Discussion in 'The Aspiring Professionals Forum' started by TreeofLifeStairs, Oct 27, 2020.

  1. TreeofLifeStairs

    TreeofLifeStairs No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Hey guys, we are planning on moving into an RV full time to travel around the US for the next 5-10 years. I’ve built a business as a stair builder (TreeofLifeStairs.com) but it’s not a profession that I can take on the road; at least not in the capacity that it currently is. I’ve always enjoyed photography as a hobby and think it would be something that is better suited for traveling but I would like some insight as to what may or may not work for making it a profession in my situation.

    I’ve had numerous thoughts about what might be possible from aerial photography to portraits to landscape and even product photography. I thought of landscape just because of all the places we’ll be traveling but I think this would be the least feasible as far as making a living from. Product photography could work but it’s what I find least interesting and I still don’t think it would make much. Aerial is new to me but there seems to be a fair amount of demand and it is interesting and more niche. Portrait photography also has a good amount of demand and I enjoy it.

    All of my current stair business comes from online leads and is specific to my geographic location. How would I go about finding clients if I’m moving every month or two? Is there a form of photography that I can do remotely?


     
  2. crf8

    crf8 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    For whatever it’s worth, I have a nephew that does product photography. His customers mail him the items, he has a studio set up in a spare room. He emails the images to the customers and gets to keep the products. I am not sure how that would work for you moving all the time, and not having a fixed studio.


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  3. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    We've been "Part-timers" for many years currently in a 5th wheel. Prior to some health restrictions last year and this year COVID, we stayed on the road about 6 months out of the year.

    My first thought would be "space available". We have a large rig with slides but even so there's not an excess of floor space or storage. My studio equipment would fill the heated basement storage area of our rig, leaving little room for anything else. Last year at a craft event there was a landscape photographer who was doing quite well selling canvas prints from $50-$150. He had a very nice booth that was reminiscent of a rustic cabin in the woods, with LED spots strategically aimed at the prints. He also had a specially outfitted 20' enclosed trailer to transport booth and inventory. In talking with him, he said "online print sales were a waste of time for him. His business was based on impulse buying that was the reason he spent so much on staging, and display."

    Second thought would be "meeting customers" where and when do you meet potential customers? If you're living the RV lifestyle, one of perks is changing scenery. How long are you willing to be confined to one location? I've run across a few pet photographers/artists in RV parks that make a few bucks on off other RVers but it's not all that lucrative, because most don't have excess cash to spend on luxury items. Still others sometimes follow show or event circuits. Horse people don't seem to mind dropping hard cash on a good shot of their horse in action, but you'll also find a lot of competition from others doing the same.
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2020
  4. TreeofLifeStairs

    TreeofLifeStairs No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    That’s exactly what I had in mind and why I thought it would be viable. I’m sure I could create a small studio area that I only set up when I need to do shoots. I just think I would be so bored doing it.
     
  5. TreeofLifeStairs

    TreeofLifeStairs No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Storage is always an issue in an RV but as of right now I don’t have much in the way of gear; at least bulky gear. My largest piece of gear is my backdrop stand, but it collapses down to about 36”x8”x4”.

    That’s a great idea about doing shows. I had not thought of that. I know that is something that many full timers do. And you’re right; a nice booth set up will take up some room. :/ Still something to consider though.

    We’ve been thinking that we’ll be staying in one place from two weeks to two months at a time. I would hope to be able to take advantage of the local clientele both RV’rs and people that live in the area. I see some potential problems to work out though.

    First, finding customers on short notice. The best solution we have at this point is that we’ll know when we’re going to be in new location and we can start posting in Facebook groups to let people know ahead of time.

    Second, is the type of customer. Like you said, other full time RV families don’t have a lot of available money, but I would expect there would be a number of families that would be on vacation that would like family pictures taken for memories of the vacation (especially in the summer time).

    Lastly, would be scheduling. Not staying in one place very long limits the time available to meet with customers. The shoot is the one time that is 100% necessary to see the customer in person. If I had a studio I would want to have as much face time as possible both before the shoot to build the value of the product and after to be able to sell more. Those times aren’t essential though.
     
  6. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Yes but as mentioned in the other post, impulse purchases are the way. Just about any vacation spot you go to has a multitude of "Old Time Photo" places. You walk in and walk out with your print. The guy I mentioned with the canvas prints, buys a limited number of prints in large quantities (he was very meticulous with records of what sold and didn't), makes 40% on the sale, and the customer walks away with the purchase. Over the years I've seen a lot of "Pet artists" at RV parks. RV people love their pets, and for $25 to $50 and 30 mins they'll do a sketch/watercolor of your Fur Kid. Again impulse buys that don't require a lot of thought.

    One of the reasons I do very limited commercial work anymore is that every Mom with a camera is on FB advertising to do Mini Sessions for $30, then you have a few moderately professionals, and even fewer really good professionals. Why would someone want to spend more than a few dollars with a transient person????
     
  7. NancyMoranG

    NancyMoranG Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Not much help I am afraid, but wanted to comment anyway..
    Hubby and I have been traveling in RV since 2008.
    Boy are you in for some incredible sights. :)

    We have met people who do jobs that are internet based, traveling nurses (wow $$) and others that follow shows and sell items.
    Some have a huge trailer with their stuff and that always looks a hassle in some campgrounds.
    Can you take the 1st year to travel, scope it all out and then get ideas on how to decide?
     
  8. cgw

    cgw Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Have you thought about doing good quality photo restoration?
     
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  9. TreeofLifeStairs

    TreeofLifeStairs No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I wish we could spend the first year just traveling but I’m pretty sure my family will want to eat. ;) We don’t have the savings to be able to do that at the moment.
     
  10. Grandpa Ron

    Grandpa Ron No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Your idea sounds wonderful. I love RVing and the wife and I have towed our trailer 40,000 mile in the last 5 years. However as mentioned space is at a premium. If you have a motor coach you could pull a cargo box trailer.

    Also while we like to travel, I need a home and workshop for two reasons; extended travel is fun but coming back to the home nest is a mental necessity for us and many of the things I do require work space.

    I think you might also consider that the skills of a custom stair builder are not easily acquired vs. every starry eyed camera owner with a post processes program; that dreams of becoming a professional photographer, who will be your competition.

    This is not to discourage anyone but rather to remind people to take a long look before they leap. Many decades ago I left the city to move to the country to take up farming. You could do those things back then. I farmed for several years, until the money ran out. So I took my engineering skills to a small town, bought a 20 acre hobby farm and enjoyed the best of both worlds. I learned that this is America, so you are free to succeed or fail in the occupation of your choice.

    Best of luck to you.
     
  11. SquarePeg

    SquarePeg hear me roar Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Seems to me that the only people making any real money from landscape photography these days are those making it from other photographers - conducting workshops, selling presets or offering tutorials - either paid on a platform like Creative live or kelbyone or for free with ad sponsors on YouTube. Good luck I hope it works out for you. It’s a dream of so many. Looking forward to seeing your photos of all the beauty this country has to offer.
     
  12. smoke665

    smoke665 TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    @SquarePeg hit the bullseye above. I've often thought the same thing.

    @Grandpa Ron hit on an idea as well. I know you said earlier that taking your previous profession on the road wasn't necessarily an option, but why not your skill? Having done a fair bit of woodworking in my life, I know the skill level in this type of trim work isn't something that just happens. Have you considered creating video tutorials, or instructional seminars with builders?
     

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