Getting into the business - Need advice!

xyphoto

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I've been on the Photo Forum for about a month now and certainly enjoyed all the discussions. Since there are many pros here, I would like to get some advice and suggestions on starting my own business.

First, I want to point out that I do have a full time job. My intension is to start small and if things go really well, I may consider doing this more and more for some extra income.

Right now, I mainly shoot people and landscape. However, as I mentioned, I want to start small with product and food photos. I feel I have more control over the subjects and studio environment.

My equipment includes Nikon D700, 24-70mm, 105mm VR Macro, Sigma 85mm 1.4 and Elinchrom D Lite 4 set.

Below are some sample shots I took today with 105mm lens. The lighting set up is fairly simple with two softbox on each side.

Any advice you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

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bigtwinky

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have you ever run a business?
running a semi successful photo studio is 80% business, 20% photos. marketing is key, as with all companies. networks, contacts...
do you have a professional website that displays your work? you need some place to send your clients to. this would include secure galleries and such. no need for online payments unless you start selling your landscapes as art through there
get a business plan together to know where you want to be in 1,5,10 years
insurance is a huge thing when running a business

but really, if you have the gear, the knowledge (which is an ever growing thing for all of us), its all the basics of running any other type of business.
 

orljustin

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Jeff_Franklin01

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The first thing you need to do is gain publicity. I bought my website from Squarespace.com for $22.22 a month and a registrar from GoDaddy.com for $5.00 a year. Bigtwinky is exactly right. You need to market your photos. You've got the equipment (some really nice stuff I might add) so you don't need to worry about that. If you don't want to pay for a website you can always make a Facebook page. Marketers LOVE Facebook. My business classes stress every day the importance of social media and how much it benefits small businesses and large corporations. So basically, get your photos out there some how some way. I wish you the best of luck as you find you niche in photography and in the business, once you get through all the tough stuff, you'll love it! Those photos look great btw!
 
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xyphoto

xyphoto

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The first thing you need to do is gain publicity. I bought my website from Squarespace.com for $22.22 a month and a registrar from GoDaddy.com for $5.00 a year. Bigtwinky is exactly right. You need to market your photos. You've got the equipment (some really nice stuff I might add) so you don't need to worry about that. If you don't want to pay for a website you can always make a Facebook page. Marketers LOVE Facebook. My business classes stress every day the importance of social media and how much it benefits small businesses and large corporations. So basically, get your photos out there some how some way. I wish you the best of luck as you find you niche in photography and in the business, once you get through all the tough stuff, you'll love it! Those photos look great btw!

Bigtwinky and Jeff, thanks a lot for the info. I understand there are many requirements to start a business. Totally agree Marketing is the key. Been in the business for many years (non photography of course), I have great understanding on the difficulties when you want to start something new, something fresh. Thanks for the words of encouragement.
 

MLeeK

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Facebook is about as unprofessional as a website as you can get. Yes, you should have a presence on facebook-IF you can keep up with it every day and actively market it as well as your website. Same with Twitter, google, youTube etc... Social media is incredibly important as an ACCESSORY and only if you can maintain the pace and marketing of it.
You don't actually need a website-it is nice and certainly makes you visable! I do not publish a website for my portrait work, nor do several of the other photographers in my area who are more than filling their appointment book. I do NOT want to do 30 weddings a year or 10 sittings in a week. I do not want the average Joe as my customer. My customers for portraiture are a very upscale crowd and word of mouth is enough to keep me at the level of work I want. I also use that no website to my advantage. You very rarely if ever see one of my client's photographs on the internet. Now my sports work is a whole different story. EVERYONE needs to be able to find the images of their kid's sports in order to purchase them, so I am out there with those! You have to figure out what works for you and what is best to meet your goals and what your abilities are.

You do have to have a marketing plan. In order to have a marketing plan you have to define your target market. Who are they? what are they reading, seeing, doing? Where do they shop, eat, play? You need to know everything about the person or business you are marketing to. Then you have to figure out how to make them NEED you. Once you know how to make them need you, you then have to figure out how to make them SEE you. Are they searching for a food photographer on the web in your area? Maybe! Where can you get them to see your work and NEED it?
After you figure all of that out, it's pretty easy from there. You actively market to that ideal customer in whatever way you can get seen!
 

Jeff_Franklin01

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You're very welcome! If you need to know anything else, I'll be glad to lend you some information (at least what I know) to help you.
 
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xyphoto

xyphoto

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MLeeK said:
Facebook is about as unprofessional as a website as you can get. Yes, you should have a presence on facebook-IF you can keep up with it every day and actively market it as well as your website. Same with Twitter, google, youTube etc... Social media is incredibly important as an ACCESSORY and only if you can maintain the pace and marketing of it.
You don't actually need a website-it is nice and certainly makes you visable! I do not publish a website for my portrait work, nor do several of the other photographers in my area who are more than filling their appointment book. I do NOT want to do 30 weddings a year or 10 sittings in a week. I do not want the average Joe as my customer. My customers for portraiture are a very upscale crowd and word of mouth is enough to keep me at the level of work I want. I also use that no website to my advantage. You very rarely if ever see one of my client's photographs on the internet. Now my sports work is a whole different story. EVERYONE needs to be able to find the images of their kid's sports in order to purchase them, so I am out there with those! You have to figure out what works for you and what is best to meet your goals and what your abilities are.

You do have to have a marketing plan. In order to have a marketing plan you have to define your target market. Who are they? what are they reading, seeing, doing? Where do they shop, eat, play? You need to know everything about the person or business you are marketing to. Then you have to figure out how to make them NEED you. Once you know how to make them need you, you then have to figure out how to make them SEE you. Are they searching for a food photographer on the web in your area? Maybe! Where can you get them to see your work and NEED it?
After you figure all of that out, it's pretty easy from there. You actively market to that ideal customer in whatever way you can get seen!

Thank you ma'am. This is extremely helpful. I definitely need to do more detective work. I do not want to just rely on social media and website.
 

Jeff_Franklin01

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If you're wanting to do food products and stuff like that, you should check out some stock photography websites to see what companies are looking for and to get some ideas. Stock photography is a pretty fierce market but could give you ideas on where to start.

And most companies hire social media writers to keep up with their Facebooks which means bigger companies (and maybe a few smaller ones here and there) don't keep up with it themselves. But since Facebook lacks a lot of features a full blown website has, it makes a little quicker to make updates since you don't have much to work with. You could also use Photobucket or Flickr to post your pictures without having to pay for a website. I've been using Photobucket for years for my photos and occassionally slideshows. MLeeK is right too, you don't NEED a website, it's just a very nice thing to have esspecially if you're super serious about photography of any kind. You might also consider newspaper ads or some sort of local magazine if you want to start small.
 

imagemaker46

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You have to determine where the product market for you is and then produce images that are different. The images you posted are clean, but, they are simple boring images that any first year photo student has learned how to shoot. You could use facebook, or photobucket or flickr, or any other free site to post your images, but they just tells potential clients "this person is cheap" Web sites may not always be the answer to generating work, but they are the way to showcase work, same as a good portfolio used to.

You have to separate yourself from the thousands of other amateurs that are trying to enter the "pro" market every year, having a full time job allows you the advantage of playing at being a pro on the side without the risk of losing the farm, while you work on developing your skills.
 
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xyphoto

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Thank you all for great advices. I am starting to draft my business plan by identifying potential markets while continuing developing my portfolio. Wish me luck!
 

c.cloudwalker

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Let's start with the images. Clean light but no life. There is a huge catalog market out there that doesn't require much more but what you are showing us is black and grey on white and objects that don't have much nasty reflection problems. Try shooting glass, try shooting jewelry, try shooting chrome car parts, try other colors and come back. As it is, it really doesn't tell what you can do. If you were to show me a portfolio with these images, I would thank you for coming in and that would be the end of it.


Now, business. I really don't know how much of a market there is for landscapes but if I was trying to sell those it would be by doing craft shows. There is a member who does. You may want to do a serch for "craft show set ups" to find his posts. And, btw, craft shows do not mean junk and cheap prices. There are all kinds of craft shows including some very high-end ones were prices are way up there.

If your day job does not include weekends that may be a good way to go for you. Of course you would still be limited by how far you can go in one weekend.


Commercial work, the product and food you mention.

I once assisted a photog who shared a studio with a food shooter so I got to watch a couple times. It ain't easy. And the guy had a full kitchen in the studio. Just do a search on the subject here, you won't find much of quality. Of course, you can probably find a couple restaurants who don't want to pay much so won't expect too much which may allow you to do it on the cheap. Only problem with that is that people tend to expect a whole lot more than they are willing to pay for. Especially people in small businesses.


Product is the same kind of animal. You can probably get away with doing small products for some smaller company if the clients never want to show up in your studio, which I imagine is your garage or your basement.


The big problem with commercial is that shooting time is not all the time you spend on it. I do product photo and I spend about 25% of my time with clients and potential clients although I have a studio manager/rep who handles most of the client interaction. I only work with large companies/clients because they are much easier to deal with than the small ones. They know the costs involved and we don't waste time arguing about pennies. But they want service for their money that a part-timer could hardly give them.

It doesn't happen very often but clients do change their mind after the shoot and will ask you for a emergency re-shoot for tomorrow. How are you going to handle it?

Other times, something will come up and they will need you to fit them in for an extra shoot. Again, tomorrow. Not next weekend.

Just food for thought. I don't see doing commercial work on a part time basis. For one thing, gear is expensive so it needs to bring in money. Gear that sits around doesn't pay for itself. 90% of the time if I need new gear for a shoot I can buy it/have it made knowing it's going to pay for itself within a few shoots. I only rent things that are extra special, the client knows this is not a part of anyone's regular gear and pays the full rental price.

Frankly, I don't see doing commercial work on a part-time basis.

You say you mainly shoot people and landscape. Landscape, I covered earlier. People, how about retail photo? portraits, weddings and such. It is much easier to books those shoots only on the weekends. It is also easier to get away with not having a professional space.


One last thing, I don't have a website or Facebook page because I don't want clients who find photogs that way. Plus I show print portfolios. Although this is the age of the web and electonics, most of the buyers/editors working for companies that I want to work for are of a generation that deals better with prints. Last but not least, after the shoot, I sent prints to my clients until they get what they want and sign off on the print. Only at that time do I send a digital file.

Good luck to you.
 

MLeeK

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MLeeK said:
Facebook is about as unprofessional as a website as you can get. Yes, you should have a presence on facebook-IF you can keep up with it every day and actively market it as well as your website. Same with Twitter, google, youTube etc... Social media is incredibly important as an ACCESSORY and only if you can maintain the pace and marketing of it.
You don't actually need a website-it is nice and certainly makes you visable! I do not publish a website for my portrait work, nor do several of the other photographers in my area who are more than filling their appointment book. I do NOT want to do 30 weddings a year or 10 sittings in a week. I do not want the average Joe as my customer. My customers for portraiture are a very upscale crowd and word of mouth is enough to keep me at the level of work I want. I also use that no website to my advantage. You very rarely if ever see one of my client's photographs on the internet. Now my sports work is a whole different story. EVERYONE needs to be able to find the images of their kid's sports in order to purchase them, so I am out there with those! You have to figure out what works for you and what is best to meet your goals and what your abilities are.

You do have to have a marketing plan. In order to have a marketing plan you have to define your target market. Who are they? what are they reading, seeing, doing? Where do they shop, eat, play? You need to know everything about the person or business you are marketing to. Then you have to figure out how to make them NEED you. Once you know how to make them need you, you then have to figure out how to make them SEE you. Are they searching for a food photographer on the web in your area? Maybe! Where can you get them to see your work and NEED it?
After you figure all of that out, it's pretty easy from there. You actively market to that ideal customer in whatever way you can get seen!

Thank you ma'am. This is extremely helpful. I definitely need to do more detective work. I do not want to just rely on social media and website.

I know this is a second income or side thing for you, but you really need to set some goals for yourself. How often do you want to shoot? How much do YOU want to make after your costs are covered for shooting for an hour/session/week/month/year, whatever. How much time do you want to invest in this endeavor per day/week/month/year...
That will be really key in determining MUCH of your other elements such as your expenses-they go up as you shoot more; your marketing-it costs more to make more and requires more work; your equipment needs will be different based on how much you shoot-things wear out at a certain rate; computers are not infinite and if you shoot more you'll replace them and your back up more often... MUCH of your business will revolve around your goals.
Step 1 Business plan outline:All of your needs to be in business as someone covered in the noob's guide to business somewhere here.
Step 2 Goals
Step 3 determine your cost of doing business
Step 4 refine the business plan with a plan to meet your goals
Step 4 develop your brand
Step 5 develop your marketing plan to meet your goals
Step 6 implement
Step 7 Refine again... constantly.
 

2WheelPhoto

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Tax id, business license (and preferably some insurance).

This is not my career either, but I'm going through those 3 things as a hobbyist thats been busy on the weekends. I need to get it done before the man slams me where it hurts the mostest.
 

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