Getting a great picture is as much good fortune as anything. I know many great photographers that understand their camera inside and out but they do not get any really great images. I know other photographers that struggle to understand ISO and shutter speed but they get lots of great images. So why the difference???
So you hired a photographer and you now have bad photos, so is it the photographer or is it you????
Over the years being in the photography industry I have taken many photos and have talked to many clients and photographers. I have heard many times from clients that they had hired a photographer before coming to me and they were really unhappy with the photos (never heard from most after I took the pictures what they thought of the work that I did), I have also talked to a number of photographers that have told me they heard that one of their customer’s were unhappy with the work they did. So after a recent incident a client of mine had with another photographer it got me thinking of some of the problems that I have heard about, or experienced, in the past with photographers, is it really the photographer or could it actually be the client that caused bad photos?
It is a sentence that I don’t often use. “Yes I am the boss (owner, CEO, cleaner,repair guy, marketing guy, etc). I am the guy you are looking for”. Mostly I use it when someone does not expect that I am the person they have come to see. In fact I think that the only times that I have had to use it was like today. When I was washing the floors and cleaning the bathroom and a customer stops in. There I am doing my daily & weekly janitor work.
What is most surprising to me is that some people think if you own your own business that you don’t do the dirty jobs. It may come as a shock but I do more housekeeping being the “boss” than most employees do at their jobs. That involves cleaning the floor, toilet, sink. Taking out the garbage, filling holes, painting, replacing light bulbs and a lot more. Being the “boss” does have some advantages. But at the same time it also means that there is no one else above me to do the work or look after the problems.
Great Customer service, it has been a while since I was able to add to my list of companies that give exceptional service but today I did find one. On the weekend I was on my way back from Waterton and got a rock chip in the windshield. Called Benchmark glass and was told that they could fix it, and would take about 30 minutes, he told me to swing by around 10:30 and they would see what they could do. Unfortunately I was not able to make it then but decided later when I had to drop off some items close by that I would stop in and see if they were busy. Found that they were booked solid and I told them that I would come back tomorrow. Well to help stopping the chip / crack from spreading they have little stickers that you can put over the rock chip to keep water from getting in and hopefully stop the spread. What a GREAT idea! I may not be able to get in to get the chip fixed (as much my fault for not having time today to do it as anything) but at least with the sticker (I call it a Band Aid for my car) that I can prevent further spread. It may not cost a lot to provide these but it is a great idea for the customer. I would suggest to anyone that has a good windshield to stop by and get a set of these to keep in the car, they are free and can prevent a lot of extra costs. Funny how great customer service can be provided by the littlest things!
When you are taking pictures are you shooting enough images of each pose? I have the privilege of seeing a lot of AMAZING images that people bring to me to print. I have seen pictures from just about all the local photographers and many national and international photographers. I have to say that some of these pictures are beyond amazing! One thing that I am seeing more and more with photographers is the lack of shots of various poses, a photographer will set up an amazing photo making sure everyone looks perfect and that the lighting is perfect then they will only shoot one or two images of that pose. Now in reality there is nothing at all wrong with that, it is the way we did it when we shot film, we did not have the freedom to shoot 5 or 10 pictures of each pose so we would only shoot one or two. But with digital it costs no more than a few seconds to fire off a couple extra frames of each pose. Now before I go further I am not talking about setting your drive to warp speed and taking 200 images of every pose, that is going to the extreme the other way. What I am talking about is taking 4, 5 or even 10 pictures (if you have a large group) to make sure that you get perfect expressions.
Last week I had a lady bring me in her daughters images on DVD as she wanted some prints. To say that they were good is an understatement, the worst ones on this disk were better than 99% of photographers best images – I would have loved to add any of these images to my portfolio except for one thing. The posing was perfect (ZERO room for improvement), lighting was amazing (On the entire disk I saw 1 with lighting that was not 100% perfect), lens selection was fantastic and the expressions were okay – and this is where the problems were. Just about every image the expressions were off, like the people were caught before they had a chance to smile or they were caught just after smiling, and the worst part was that for each amazing pose there was only one image to choose from. Every picture that this lady wanted printed she asked “Is there one with better expressions?” And there was not. It was sad seeing this as I know that a couple more images shot of each pose and they would have been 100% perfect, and the prints would have been amazing.
This is not an isolated case as the same day I got to see another photographers work that was also great. The client had over 100 images to select from but there was only around 25 images in total, the photographer made a B&W, a sepia, color and a color with reduced saturation of each image. So the client kept asking me if there were better smiles and I had to say that sorry they only had 25 images from a huge family shoot to chose from and the rest were the same just different colors.
This is also something in shooting nature images that I see a lot. A photographer goes out and finds the perfect location for a picture then waits and waits for the perfect lighting to happen and they only shoot one or two images before moving one. If you have taken the time to do all this why not try different angles, lenses, crops and exposure settings instead of only a couple images.
Again don’t go overboard when doing this but make sure that you are getting a selection from weddings, families, nature and wildlife so you get the best image possible!
Well now that you have gotten through part 1 of the business of photography and my less than encouraging comments lets move on to something a little more encouraging, Marketing.
This is a overlooked area when starting a business. People think that if they take some okay pictures that word will quickly spread and clients will come beating down the door. Well in some industries that is what would happen if you have a good product, but in photography it does not happen. Why? Just look on advertising web sites at the number of people that are doing the same thing as you are. So what should you do?
1 – Display Prints: First you need to set yourself apart from the crowd. If you want people to call get some amazing prints and start showing them around. Put them on web sites, find display space, show them to every potential customer. Now when I say AMAZING prints I am talking about the best of your best. Don’t show okay prints. Don’t have any amazing prints? Get some. Start shooting pictures that take time to set up, use great lighting and great subjects. For the nature people that means get out first thing in the morning or late at night to get the exceptional light. Everybody else is showing prints shot at 1 in the afternoon with flat light, go for the amazing!
For the wedding and portrait photographer find poses that will blow the clients away, work on lighting and shoot, shoot, shoot. As for the size of your display prints? A good saying to go by is “You only sell the sizes that you show”. I have proven it time and again to people that if you only show 8×10 prints that is the maximum that you will sell, show bigger sell bigger. People do not want to buy a large print if they do not know you can print that size.
2 – Get a web site and a real E-mail: I am not talking about a Facebook page, but a real web site that you can design and modify as you like. Facebook is not a real web site and limits a lot of what you should be doing. Nothing wrong with having a Facebook page and your web site but you need to show clients that you are serious and not just a fly by night operation that did not even bother to spend on a real web site. (Whoops sorry about the honesty again 🙂 ) In addition to a web site get a real E-mail address, not email@example.com but one that advertises your web site and shows people that once again you are a real business, one like firstname.lastname@example.org shows people that you have a web site and you have taken some time to set up a business. Whenever I get an E-mail from a company trying to sell me something the first thing I look for is do they have a real E-mail address, if it is Yahoo, Gmail or Hotmail (now Outlook) I am VERY cautious about the company.
Question – Should you spend money at this point to market you web site? I have to say at this point no. There is a lot more to do before you should be spending money on SEO and other marketing for your web site. I would make sure that ANY thing you send out about your business has your web site address on it and you are letting people know about the web site but wait on the marketing of it.