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World-renowned studio photographer, Mary Fisk-Taylor, M.Photog.Cr., CPP, ABI, API, is set to
Mary Fisk-Taylor has been with PPA since 1998 and has been the recipient of numerous awards including Photographer of the Year in 2007, Best in Show, Kodak Gallery, and Fuji Masterpiece awards.
Mary will deliver her #BeMoreSuccessful program at ImagingUSA 2015, where she'll illuminate us on her effective marketing, sales and public relations practices. Consider this AMA as a chance to get to know an IUSA speaker before you get to the big show.
For the uninitiated, an AMA is a simple online conversation where you will have the opportunity to ask Mary anything you'd like (mostly photography stuff) and she'll be able to respond at her own pace! It's an awesome way to really get a sense of who someone is, and an even better way to ask a true professional anything your heart desires (mostly photography stuff). After the success of Booray's AMA we're extremely excited to see where this one goes!
On September 22, just start asking your questions, and let the conversation begin!
7 Questions to Ask Before You Start a Business
Most people think that the barrier to entering the photography business is low. All you need is to buy a camera, create a Facebook page, and start taking pictures. But consider the odds: 25 percent of new business start-ups close in the first year, and another 25 percent fail in the next four years. How do you beat the odds? You have to set your business up to succeed by asking and answering the following critical questions:
1). What products and services will you provide?
Your business plan should clearly define what you are offering in terms of products and services and how that compares to competitors in your market. It is important for you to carve out a piece of the market to make a profitable and sustainable business.
2). Who is your target client and how will you reach them?
In other words, it's not only important to identify your target client, but you also need to reach them through different marketing mediums. Your integrated marketing strategy should include a blend of marketing mediums such as print, digital and interactive and social media. The results of these efforts should determine if you have an adequate population of potential customers to reach your sales goals.
3). How does your business stand out?
Your one unique selling proposition is YOU. It's who you are that makes all the difference. It's the reason that the one product or service you provide is different from and better than that of the competition. This is where you need to shine through your art, product offerings and customer service. You must be distinguishably different from your competition.
4). Where will business be conducted, and how many employees will you need to provide the level of customer service your ideal client will expect?
It's important for your physical presence, the way you present yourself, where you conduct business and how you conduct business to be an extension of your brand and should resonate with your ideal client. Initially, the number of employees you need to deliver the level of customer service you want to project might not be ideal, but don't compromise. Find ways to outsource workflow in seasonal times so customer service isn't neglected.
5). How much start-up money will it take to open the doors and keep them open until you turn a profit?
I mentioned the barrier to a photography business is relatively low; however, after answering the first four questions, I'm confident you have realized that the barrier is misleading. It requires an investment of money and time to set up a photography business to achieve profitability. Prepare a conservative five-year projection of income and expenses, and re-evaluate yearly to confirm you are on track as most businesses are to show a profit in the in the first year of business.
6). What will be the source of the funds needed for start-up and sustainability?
Consider how much you are willing to invest and potentially lose, how much is needed from outside sources and how much you can generate in profits to reinvest in the business. Clearly identify these sources and include in your five-year projection a plan to pay back yourself and anyone else.
7). What type of business structure will you choose?
What forms do you need to file, and which licenses do you need to obtain to assure compliance? The type of business structure you have will depend on two factors: liability and taxation. PPA recommends when you are just starting out and you have substantial personal assets to be a LLC.
Your business can also benefit from business advisors and mentors. You should develop relationships with a banker, an accountant and an attorney before you start. Additionally, as a PPA member, you can get malpractice insurance, up to $15,000 of free equipment insurance, free education, connections to industry mentors, certification and other vital resources to help you run a profitable business. The Benchmark Survey and its principles are also helpful when setting up prices and measuring your business' growth.
There are no assurances that a business will succeed, let alone be profitable, but setting yourself up for success through planning certainly can help.
It's a shameless plug, but after all, we're here to help: Join instructor Jen Basford, Cr.Photog., November 15-16 in Atlanta for PPA's Business Basics Workshop. You'll learn strong business principles that will help you create a solid foundation for your business. The class will give you the information and confidence you need as you plan for a profitable and sustainable business.
Say hello to your newest guest column! It comes to you from none other than Bridget Jackson, resident guru for all things numbers and profitability. Bridget is the manager of PPA Business and also a CPA. She's helped hundreds of photography studios be more profitable and will address some common questions each month. Heed her advice folks--this lady knows her stuff!
What do all entrepreneurs need to know?
By Bridget Jackson, CPA
This is a question I receive frequently, and see it all over the place on other sources of photography advice. Some of it is good, but some, well, you know...
I've read through multiple columns on what it takes to be an entrepreneur, and here I present you an abbreviated list of often-overlooked qualifications. It's not a be-all-end-all list by any means, but these are some takeaways that seem relative in light of the fact that I am a numbers person and a consumer.
1). If you don't know your numbers and how to read them, you've got one foot in the proverbial grave of a failed business.
That might seem harsh, but did you know that according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), only 2/3 of small businesses survive two years? The reason they flop is poor accounting.
Let me take that one step further and say that it's not enough to have your tax return prepared once a year. You have to understand what your numbers mean.
PPA is here to help you understand the principles of sound financial management, and it starts with managerial accounting. PPA provides resources to members to help you implement, understand and manage your business based on these principles. If you are not practicing, I encourage you to follow in the footsteps of what many successful studios have done before you and embrace managerial accounting today.
An added benefit of visiting the Benchmark Resources is participating in the current survey. Not only will you feel an overwhelming sense of community knowing that you contributed to the only industry-wide financial survey, but that you helped shape the results of the survey. PPA will release preliminary numbers at Imaging USA 2015.
2). Company culture drives a successful business
As the boss it is your job to define, provide the resources and participate in the implementation of your company's culture. Businesses that succeed in this area have an increase in overall employee satisfaction and retention.
For those of you who don't have employees; don't feel left out. I have one for you too!
2A). As the sole employee of your studio, you need to be prepared to "take out the trash."
That's right, although you won't have a boss to answer to, you will be left with the potentially unwanted tasks of answering the phones, cleaning, etc. So prepare yourself mentally for these roles. It's up to you to take care of the dirty work too!
3). Know your competition and treat them with respect.
Just because someone is a photographer doesn't mean they are your competition. Continue to evolve yourself as an artist by entering print competitions and by continuing to update your product offerings. Cultivate a professional relationship and level of respect among your peers. Their opinion of you and your business often outweighs others. As a consumer, negative comments by one entrepreneur about another actually have detrimental effects on the business owner making the comments. One way to rise above is to become an industry expert in your market and lead by example.
Of course, it takes much more than this to create a successful business. But taking these small steps can make a huge difference along the way!
We love hearing stories from our members, and this is one we couldn't resist sharing. And seriously... what's cuter than baby ducks?!
But before you get your ducks in a row (ha! duck pun!), make sure you read about Georgia photographer Judith Ann's first time using ducklings in a portrait session. Hilarity will ensue!
Baby Ducks Don't Swim...
By: Judith Ann
When I say baby ducks don't swim, it's partially correct and incorrect at the same time, because they do, they just didn't swim in the conditions I provided for them.
What am I talking about you ask? Let me back up and tell you about the large class I attended by a well-known photographer that taught how to build detailed sets for children. I was particularly interested in the set that included an indoor pond with live baby ducks that swam around at the feet of a child sitting on the end of a pier. I had to try it out myself!
So here's my story...
The day of my sessions, my mail-order ducks arrived at my post office with a morning call from the postmaster telling me to come pick up the little quackers immediately. He said he was not sure what I had ordered but they were screaming their little hearts out and wanted to know how fast I could get there to pick them up.
I returned to my studio baby ducks in hand with a short time before my first child client would arrive. I was totally pumped to get my photography shoot into motion. I had four 8-foot, 2 by 4's nailed together with a piece of pond liner that held the water in with plants, reeds and a pier that jutted out into the water, along with a basket and cane pole for "fishing," which made my set look "pond authentic."
We began the session by putting a three-year-old boy near the edge of the pier with a cane pole in his hand. My assistant was standing by waiting for my order to release the baby ducks onto the pier. I readied my camera for an adorable moment and with the nod of my head the ducks began their march toward the child.
The chaos erupted in a matter of seconds.
The little boy was freaked out by the ducklings heading his way and started whipping the cane pole at them. The first little quacker panicked and jumped into the water with the other five following him off the end of the pier.
As the ducks entered the water, some turned belly-up in reaction to the cold water. Others frantically tried to climb up the plastic reeds to escape the obviously too cold water and the cane pole that had become the boy's weapon as he attempted to save himself. My assistant frantically tried to pull the ducklings out of the water, while I ran to grab some towels and a blow dryer to hopefully help them recover from their unexpected hypothermia. The flurry of activity caused me to point toward the shocked mother and give non-understandable orders to apprehend the weapon and secure her ballistic son.
Miraculously, no ducks were harmed (other than being cold).
So what did I learn from the experience? First off, after you build the set, have playtime and a practice run. Warm the water with an aquarium heater at least 24-hours in advance of your photography session. Allow the child to warm up to the ducks and get to know them before sending them in his/her direction. Buy a dozen ducks and rotate six at a time to give them time for recover.
Oh and pro tip: Ducks by nature love to jump into baskets, so put a basket on one side of the pier so they will cross over and jump into the basket or put them in the basket and allow the child a moment of surprise (or horror) as they open it and find these adorable, fuzzy little quackers greeting them.
Despite the early chaos, by the end of the day I felt like I was a baby duck whisperer and did get some truly great images.
*NOTE: Please make sure you are in compliance with all state and local laws when using live animals during a session.
About Judith Ann:
Judith Ann is originally from Texas but calls Georgia home. A full-time photographer, she owns and operates Judith Ann Photography, with two studio locations. A self-described "photo-storygrapher," she brings her own unique flair and energy to the mix that keeps her clients coming back for more. Her personal journey into photography has been an eclectic gathering of lifelong experiences from many different artistic mediums, including painting with oils and pastels to set design and handling black tie galas. When she discovered photography over 20 years ago her instincts told her she would make this her lifelong passion and career.
What to do when your clients don't want you to use their photos online
By Mariah Ashley
The conversation was going so well. Jenny, the bride, wove her vision for her wedding day into a photographer's dream before my very ears.
No expense would be spared to get us to her exotic location. Photographs were of the upmost importance to her she explained, so she had taken great care to choose the timing of the day to coincide with the sunset. She had scouted locations for portraits to insure turquoise seas and fuchsia bougainvilleas as our backdrop. Her dress, she promised, would be like nothing I had ever seen. As we spoke, I pictured her gliding across a sandy beach with me, her photographer, clicking away and making her dreams and mine come true.
That's when a
rogue wave Jenny's next comment
slapped me out of my stupor. "So of course, I am going to need a clause in
the contract to protect my privacy," she causally added.
"Huh?" I stammered.
"I don't want any photographs of myself, my family, or my guests on the internet. I don't want to be on your blog or on your website at all."
Oh no! Mayday! Think brain think, I thought as my beautiful sparkling turquoise vision and coinciding bragging rights faded to a fuzzy dull grey. Not knowing what to do I defaulted to my emergency response, "That's an unusual request. Can I think it over and get back to you on that tomorrow?"
When we hung up my initial feeling was of disappointment, which turned into annoyance and then quickly spiraled into indignation. Hadn't she told me she spent hours looking at all the photographs on my blog? Hadn't she said that she knew right away that we were the photographers for her because of our online gallery? It's not fair that she should benefit from viewing all my other clients but not give me the opportunity to attract new clients with images from her wedding. Sure, I want to travel to an exotic location and take beautiful photographs, but if I can't show them to anyone what's the point?
I remembered reading about a similar situation once on another very popular photographer's blog. Someone had written to her for advice on this very subject. Her response was that since her business model was through referral and not paid advertising she attributed most of her bookings to potential clients viewing her online portfolio. For this reason she would feel inclined to refuse the booking if she could not share the photographs on her website and blog. That seemed reasonable to me. Decision made, I would not be accepting this bride's wedding, no matter how dreamy she made it sound.
That night after a veggie stir-fry dinner, I settled on the couch with a glass of wine and an episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. I know, I know. What's a vegan like me doing watching a greasy lipped carnivore like Anthony Bourdain traipse around the world munching on animals? For some reason I find this entertaining and I close my eyes when he meets the critters that are about to become his dinner. It's a paradox. Anyway in this episode Anthony was in Copenhagen talking with a chef about Denmark's Law of Jante.
A colloquial term used in Denmark, Sweden, and most Nordic countries, Jante describes a condescending attitude toward individuality and success. The term refers to a mentality that de-emphasizes individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Jante)
This all sounds decidedly un-American doesn't it? Well that's because it is. It goes against everything we have ever been taught about business never mind life in 'Merica. But let's consider this: Denmark is consistently ranked one of the happiest places to live in the world. In fact of the top five happiest places to live, Nordic countries take up all five spots. The United States doesn't even make the list. (http://unsdsn.org/resources/publications/world-happiness-report-2013/)
Please, don't anyone take this the wrong way I'm as patriotic as the next girl. My favorite song of all time? America the Beautiful. Let's move on.
Maybe just maybe there's something to this "thinking of others before ourselves" jazz and not believing the "I'm all that and a bag of potato chips" philosophy.
The next day I called Jenny and told her I would be thrilled to be her photographer and would happily include a clause in our contract to protect her privacy. I told her the clause would include the use of any identifying photographs of her, her family or her wedding guests. However, I asked that detail photos such as the dress, flowers, reception, atmosphere and scenery photos would be fair game for me to use. She asked to include in the clause any identifying photos of the outside of the property that belonged to her parents and I agreed. We had a deal.
This is when I started "Gettin' Jante Wit It" (gratuitous Will Smith reference). If Jante deemphasizes the individual and emphasizes the collective then I would pump up my collectives, mainly the wedding planners, band and videographers traveling with us to the wedding from Boston. We had never worked with these particular wedding planners before and surely if we could make them look good it would mean some nice referrals for us in the future.
At the wedding we made sure to take as many photos of our fellow vendors that showcased their hard work and efforts as possible including photos of them working over the course of the weekend. We even got creative with some photos that showed the bride and groom but didn't reveal their identities. When we were finished we had more than enough images to put together an effective blog post to help our vendor friends strut their stuff.
If we had turned down this wedding because it didn't
afford us the opportunity to brag about ourselves we would have missed out on
the chance to do some serious networking with vendors who could potentially
give us some excellent referrals (never mind some excellent rum punch). The
restraints that our bride Jenny put on us forced us to think outside the box in
the way we use our blog for marketing. As it turns out, with blogging and marketing
there is more than one way to skin
a cat an onion. (Skinning a cat is a sticky
prospect best left to Anthony Bourdain, I'll stick with onions).
To see how we pulled off a "faceless" blog post check out our post here: http://www.snapweddings.com/blog/dominican-republic-destination-wedding-photographers/
About the author:
Here are the 10 photography blogs from May 11 - May 16, 2014 that we hope will inspire you and professional photographers around the web to be more!
Yeah, that Walmart. We haven't seen a case of copyright infringement bullying like this since... nope this one is a first! Read more on how the world's largest retailer is trying to push around a small Arkansas studio.
This video from Silber Studios features two well-known PPA Members: Bambi Cantrell and Anna Kuperberg! Watch them discuss their careers, as well as the role women play in photography. Do you agree with them?
The announcement that Amazon has patented a commonly practiced studio arrangement for its products has created quite a buzz in the industry. Even Stephen Colbert weighed in on the matter. We chatted with PPA attorney, Stephen Morris to see what it really means for you photographers. You might be surprised by what he says!
If you struggle with Layer Masks in Photoshop, or just need a refresher, this tutorial from PhotoFocus will help you become (way) more comfortable with this process
Landscape Photographers will find the points raised in this Digital Photography School post interesting. When you're taking photos of the natural environment, what is acceptable to alter in post-processing? One landscape photographer weighs in. What do you think?
We all need a little encouragement every now and then. This inspiring post from Photography Concentrate points out the most important way photography can impact people's lives. It may not be what you think!
Trying to build engagement with potential clients on your Facebook page? Well, it should come as no surprise that you should be using images on your page, but how exactly should you use them? This video from the H&H Color Lab blog provides some tips for working with images on Facebook that could help your page out!
How to Photograph Using Reflective Light
Do you shoot using natural lighting? Check out these tips from Sigma on using reflective light. It can help you get the natural lighting right, even during a time of the day when it's not at its best.
We all want our photos to be sharp and in focus. In this post, Digital Photography School reviews the different focus modes and how they affect an image. It's great if you're new to the industry, or if you just need a reminder!
The dreaded "About Me" page of your website. What on earth should you write? Psychology for Photographers shares some ideas that should take the stress out of creating an About page.
There you have it, the favorite blog posts of the week from your PPA team! Don't forget that you can share your own posts, or other stories you have enjoyed, on theLoop.
- Mix it up. Increasing sales and cutting costs is on everyone's mind. Most people think that in order to grow sales you have to increase prices. That's certainly one way, but you can also offer add-on services and products that complement your current offerings, in turn increasing your sales average. Also, to cut costs see what processes you can automate or outsource.
- Separate yourself from your competition. Find ways to differentiate yourself. Whether it's entering print competitions to refine your craft or finding ways to increase your social media presence or maybe it's becoming known for working with a specific charity. Be mindful that YOU are the differentiator in your business.
- Streamline overhead costs. Workflow tracking and assessment needs to be done regularly to assure maximum productivity and to identify inefficiencies. Unfortunately tracking productivity is often overlooked but it's a great way to identify opportunities to reduce costs.
- Rent killing your business? Explore options for co-leasing a space with a like-minded business, whether that business is photography related or they attract a similar clientele. There has been also an increase in the number of owners that have brought their business in-home. Bottom line, if paying rent is sucking up your profits, find an alternative.
- Keep them coming back. It is easier and less expensive to keep current clients coming back than it is to gain a new client. Consider a referral program to incentivize referrals. Also evaluate your client touch points and create new ways to take your customer service to a whole new level of hospitality.
- Selling every step of the way. Selling begins with your first point of contact. Your sales strategy should be clearly defined. Anyone in the studio who comes in contact with a client is a sales person and needs to understand the businesses' unique sales strategy as well as be well-versed on all of the session and product offerings.
- Make it easy to buy. Keep it simple, simple, simple from the client experience to the product offerings to collecting payments. Remember the ordering appointment is not a viewing appointment. Consider incentivizing your clients to make their purchase at the ordering appointment. You can also set up a session fee structure that includes a print credit or allow for payment plans to make it easier for your client to make larger purchases.
- Understand your cash flow challenges. Due to the cyclical nature of most photography businesses, consider promotional offerings during off-peak times, perhaps ones with charitable connections. Not only can they generate some cash flow when it's much needed but these promotions can also increase your presence in your market. Build reserves during peak season to help smooth those months when cash flow is challenged. This way you can avoid using credit cards and incurring high interest expense charges.
Here are our 10 favorite photography blog posts from the first full week of May. In this week's round-up, you'll find some egregious errors to either laugh at or learn from (heck, or both!), helpful tips and of course just some flat-out beautiful imagery. Enjoy!
That's not an error. Someone stole photos from the site that shames people for stealing photos. Like, seriously. Hopefully you don't see anything of yours on there that looks familiar, but better check!
Destination weddings make for remarkable backdrops. We're jealous of anyone who has the budget to just go to these places, let alone spend the bucks to bring a talented photographer along! Take a look at this gallery of envy.
We love these! Photographer Leo Rosas put together this video of some clever tricks he uses. If you've been looking for easy ways to add artsy elements to your shooting or even create a moving timelapse, check these out!
Have you heard of Spaceport America? It's the world's first purpose-built spaceport for commercial passengers, and it's set for its inaugural launch later this year (for just $250,000 a ticket, you could go on a sub-orbital flight too!). The spaceport is located just outside a town called Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. Reuters photographer Lucy Nicholson got to check out this little slice of America. Take a look!
Jenika over at Psychology for Photographers dishes out all kinds of advice, but we dig this post in particular. If you're tired of digging through Facebook comments and emails for some testimonials to use in your marketing, you need to read this post and test out Jenika's ideas. Bring in those rave reviews faster!
There's one thing you're probably forgetting that you need in your camera bag. Tripod socks? Sure... we'll bite. For the slightly OCD photographer who wants to keep their sticks (look at us using industry slang!) clean, try out this easy cheat to keep your gear fresh.
Take a trip back in time with these breathtaking photos taken during World War I. The black and white always seems to make the harrowing effects of war more haunting, but there's even an early experimentation with color photography in this collection. Can you imagine lugging around the camera equipment of the times during a battle?
For your "behind-the-scenes" needs, iPhone cameras are great and all, but one area they lack is long exposure functionality. Well, not anymore. There's an app for that! Check out the latest from Interealtime, the NightCap Pro.
Think you can just step out on the street and take pictures? Well, you can, per se, but expert street photographer Blake Andrews is here to give you 10 "rules" to live by when you're shooting guerrilla style. It's our kind of list! Very tongue-in-cheek and with a cardinal rule of have fun!
It's hard to call this an "average day," but for timelapse photographer, Joe Schat, of Roadtrippers, that's exactly what it is. Jealous is an understatement!
There you have it, the favorite blog posts of the week from your PPA team! Don't forget that you can share your own posts, or other stories you have enjoyed, on theLoop.