How To Get Great Help For Your Busy Season

In the heart of your busy season, wouldn’t it be nice to have an extra pair of hands around?

Yet for many photographers, the thought of hiring a full time employee can be daunting. Can you really afford to pay them 12 months of the year?

Why not hire an intern instead? Internships can be a great benefit for both you and the intern if you approach it in the right way. An internship for a high school student can begin giving them career goals, and showing them how to own and operate their own business. An internship for a college student can provide work experience as they move towards their dream job. And for a photography student, it can show them real world experience and how to apply their coursework towards building a lifestyle.

While internships can be a valuable asset to your business, it can also be a miserable experience for both you and your intern if you don’t approach it the right way. Here are a few tips to running a successful internship program.

1. Start with a plan – The biggest mistake you can make is hiring an intern and retrofitting them into work. Having them sit around watching the clock, or making coffee and copies won’t do. Instead, look at your workweek and determine where they can help. Can they create a system for your office to get you more organized? Use the skills they are learning at school.

2. Find great interns – Interns can come either on a free or a pay basis. Keep in mind that you’ll have more of a selection if you are willing to pay them something. Start with your local school, colleges and art institutes. Talk with career counselors and find out more about the process. They usually know the school well, and can offer you tips for finding great interns. We actually found an intern in her senior year of high school that was a great photography assistant. She worked with us every summer all through college.

3. Set challenging goals – Use their knowledge and experience to help you move forward with your own business. Because your intern will probably be a teen or in their early 20’s, use their knowledge of social networking skills. Can they help you develop marketing ideas for their age group? This is a great tool to have, especially if you are targeting the younger generation for senior portraits or even weddings.

4. Don’t become the babysitter <– If you interview and find the right intern, you should be able to give them a project and walk away. Remember this is a way for you to get twice as much work done in half the time. If you are micromanaging, it’s as if they aren’t there.

5. Provide more opportunity along the way – Show trust throughout your time together. If they do one job well, build on that concept and give them a harder task. Don’t expect things done your way – learn from them too. This is a way to get second opinions on ideas you’ve been planning. You can even move them into more complex tasks – how about cold calling, and offering them bonuses if they bring in sales? We had a booth one year at our local Parade of Homes, and had our intern work the booth throughout the event. We offered a bonus on any portrait client she brought in to our business.

6. Treat it like a job – Make sure your intern realizes this is a job. Set up regular hours, and abide by rules and deadlines. If you let them head off to the beach one day, they’ll continue to slip away every chance they get.

7. Make sure you know the rules – If you pay your intern, they may be considered employees. But if you offer an unpaid internship, you have to abide by the US Department of Labor rules. Make sure you meet the six criteria for unpaid interns.

Workflow, Backup and Security – What Every Photographer Needs

It’s easy to shoot one photo session. It’s easy to burn a CD/DVD and hand it over to the client.

But what do you do when you have one shoot per day, 5 days of the week? What if one photo session turns into 10, and 10 turns into 100? What do you do to make sure your files are safe, secure, and easily accessible in the future?

Welcome to the wonderful world of workflow. When you have one client, it’s easy to control. But when that number grows day after day, it’s easy to get completely overwhelmed.

Before that happens, take the time to setup a workflow system within your studio, and put all the pieces into place to make sure your data files are safe and secure, and accessible no matter what.

Organize your shoots

Start out by creating a system on your computer for you to store all of your client work. For me, I find it easiest to build client files by date and by name. I have a main file titled “Client Files”; then I have subfiles listed by year: 2011, 2010, 2009, etc.

Within each year, I further divide my list so every company gets a folder. I only have a few major clients each month, so subdividing it by year works for me. If you have dozens of clients per month, it might make more sense to further divide your folders by month, or even by week.

Spend some time thinking about a system that works for you, and set it up as you are working on your first client. Yes, you will probably adjust it over time as you find things that work and things that don’t. But starting off in a good position will make it that much easier down the road. [Read more…]

5 Work At Home Habits To Avoid – Are You Guilty?

Ahhh, the thought of working at home can be ever so appealing. In fact that’s why a lot of people go into business for themselves. What could be better than staying at home, earning money while you’re there, AND getting a few things done around the house as well?

However, working at home brings its own set of unique challenges. And in many cases, if you fall into the “work at home” trap, it can quickly cause you to lose productivity, and actually prevent you from creating a successful business.

Here are the top five habits I see that can stop you from building the business of your dreams.

1. Establishing work hours

Your home. It’s easy to slip into the office any time you choose. If the phone rings at 6 am, why not answer it? Production time at 2am when you can’t sleep – why not?

Working at home starts out with the best intentions. It’s easy to head out to lunch with friends, and shop during a mid morning when crowds aren’t as fierce. Yet if you don’t treat your business like a business, and set up normal hours built around what you need to get done, you’ll quickly get overwhelmed.

Do what’s best for you. If you are productive from 9pm to midnight after everyone else is asleep, by all means put that into your schedule. The key is to create hours that you can stick with day after day.
[Read more…]

Is Digital Cheaper Than Film?

What’s one of the most common misconceptions in the photographic industry today?

Digital is cheaper than film

At first glance, it sounds correct.

With a film camera, every time you capture an image, it costs you money. You have to buy the film, you have to develop the film, and you have to print the image on to paper. When we were shooting film, we found it pretty accurate to assume total costs for one image was $1.

But with digital, every time you capture an image it’s essentially free. You place the card into your computer, download it, put it online or a CD/DVD, and usually only print the images you are paid for.

So it seems like digital is cheaper than film. But the problem with that assumption is you are looking at output only. The real cost comes at the front end, or with the cameras and technology itself.

I read a great article over on Digital Work Flow, The State of Business for the Digital Photographer Preparing for 2011. In it states:

Today a basic digital set of two professional SLRs, several lenses, dedicated flashes, laptop, desktop computer, card reader, memory cards, color management and processing software, monitor, printers, storage and back up storage, will cost approximately $20,000 to $80,000 or more.

Comparatively, a basic film system would likely cost under $20,000 and would likely remain current and functional for 10 years or longer.

So here is the comparison:

$20,000/10 years = $2,000/year average cost if you’re shooting film
$50,000/5 years = $10,000/year average cost for digital

And if you’ve been in the industry for a while, you know how quickly you replace your equipment. My daughter received a point and shoot for Christmas that is more powerful than the professional camera we were shooting with 5 years ago.

Total costs need to calculate everything. It’s unrealistic to charge a client a few dollars for a print because it only cost you a dollar or two to print it out. You still have to pay for your equipment, plus other expenses like rent, salary, phone, Internet, marketing, etc. And for your experience as a photographer and as an artist.

The only way to charge what you are truly worth is to educate your potential clients on what it takes to be a professional photographer, and how to tell the difference between you and an amateur trying to make a quick buck. Will they be in business a year from now? Who knows? [We’ve had clients come back to us 8, 10, even 12 years later for prints because they know we are here.]

Selling Framed Photographs Increases Your Profit And Your Professionalism

How do your photographs leave your studio?

Do you pile the paper prints in a box or envelope?

Do you frame your images?

Or do you do a combination of the two?

It may seem like framing will actually put you into an entirely different category of business – you’ll end up with a frame studio AND a portrait studio. But in reality, it will actually turn you into a better photographer, and make your photography more valuable, and thus more profitable for you.

And its not just your large images – this can apply to every image, from a 4×5 on up.

Here’s why.
[Read more…]

Sell Your Photographs, But Don’t Give Away Your Rights

travel images

The digital era has made copyright protection more difficult. And as more applications and opportunities to place images online grows, the opportunity to lose out on revenue may seem to go along with it. But it doesn’t have to. It’s all about knowing and understanding your rights, and putting the proper photographs into the proper places.

Clients Images

If your client comes in for a session, sell to your client BEFORE you put them online. Or make them a part of your package deal.

For example, if you photograph a high school senior, they should come in and purchase their images and packages. After the order, you can place a few online to show off to family and friends. Don’t place all of their images online; just the images them purchased. This gives them more incentive to [Read more…]

Contract for Photography

When we first started our business, we kept everything simple. Not because we chose to do it that way – we simply didn’t know.

Over the years you learn. A client holds you to a clause in your contract, you learn and change it.

When we first started with weddings, we had nothing in our contract about multiple photographers. After one wedding where there were dozens of family members trying to take pictures, we made a change. Because we couldn’t get one family photograph without someone staring at another photographer, and what usually took 30 minutes ended up well over 60 minutes, we added a posing fee if we were continually interrupted during posed images. We explained it to our bride’s and groom’s, and never had an issue from that point on.

Another addition – an Internet option. Having a model release that also includes the option of placing a clients images online was a big necessity – especially because we would put up to 100 images from every wedding into our gallery. In all our years of wedding photography, we only had one couple opt out of putting their images online. We never had an issue because we covered it during the contract.

Other things to include:

  • Clients information, names, addresses, phone numbers, email
  • Description of service, inclusions, time
  • Place for signature and date – if it’s a multi page document, sign/initial all pages
  • Payment policies, including how long prices will remain the same. If you book a wedding a year in advance, you don’t want to have to hold your prices steady for several years. 90 days after the first viewing of the images is sufficient.
  • Copyrights and usage rights. What do you release to your client? What do they have rights to do with your images? Make it clear. 

It’s Not The Picture, It’s The Presentation

Can you sell a photo like this to your bride?

Well, maybe. It is a pretty cool photograph of the table se46-wedding-photographytting. But let’s face it; if a bride is making cuts, she’d much rather have an image of her family and friends than a photo of the table.

But if you show her how an album layout can be put together including the table image, and show her why it tells the complete story of her wedding, you’re much more likely to sell her that image.

That’s where 90 percent of all photographers fail.

They take their images, and hand over the proofs/CD/DVD of the images and let the bride choose.

The bride doesn’t have your vision. She doesn’t know what to do with the images. She only wants memories.

You need to sell her the story – not the images.

She wants a special way to remember her wedding. If you hand her a stack of “proofs” or 4×6 images, or a CD/DVD, they will forever remain in that format. And she won’t have a very good impression of you, her photographer.

But if you help her design a fantastic storybook of her wedding, one that she can share with people anywhere, anytime, she’ll remember you. And so will her friends.

People want the final product – not the process. Your job is to use your marketing to convince them that the other 90 percent of photographers are wrong – they’re only giving half the service!  

And the BIG fees come with it. Imagine selling hundreds or even thousands of images INSTEAD of handing over the CD.

Choice is yours. Which will you be doing?

[Check out my Album Creation to learn more about selling albums for hundreds – even thousands of dollars.]

Increase Photography Workflow In Your Studio

Adobe resently updated the newest product addition to their lineup called Lightroom. 

Lightroom enables professional photographers to import, manage and present large volumes of digital photographs helping them spend more time behind the lens and less time at the computer. Improvements in Lightroom 1.1 include a new image management system that allows flexible multi-computer workflows. A catalog-based system means photographers now can move images and information quickly between their computers. Lightroom 1.1 further streamlines the digital photography workflow with the addition of a convenient way to synchronize folders in the program with new or changed photos. Other changes include improved noise reduction and sharpening functionality, utilizing customer feedback and technology from industry-standard Photoshop.

If you would like additional information, here is a link for Abobe Lightroom.

Helping your photography business, how to start a digital wedding photography business and wedding photography business visit virtualphotographystudio.com and keep up-to-date with all of the photography happenings via our free newsletter.

How To Manage Your Digital Photography Business

What makes a digital photography business a success? How can you take your passion for creating images, and turn it into a full time career?

Get the most out of you digital photography businessIn today’s world, most professional photographers are photographing at least part time with digital camera equipment. And it’s making a world of difference not only in the way you run your business, but also in the way you sell to your clients.

Because digital is instant, there is no wait time for developing film, and processing the film into proofs. With digital, you can load your images directly from your camera into your computer, and be able to look at your images in seconds.

If you’re not using that to your advantage in your sales, you are missing out on a way to double, even triple your income this year.

Let me share with you one powerful strategy that can change the way you currently look at your digital photography business.

Imagine a client coming in for a portrait. The portrait consists of a large family – a mom and dad, their three children, and their children’s families. You have the potential for selling portraiture to four separate families.

In the days of film, you would photograph the portrait, and provide proofs to your client one to two weeks after the sitting. The families would circulate the proofs for a few days (or weeks, or months), and your sales would be low at best.

Now you can sell to these four families the day of the sitting. A few minutes after the sitting, you can bring all families into the sales room, and project the images onto a large screen. They can laugh (and cry) at the images, and help each other choose which are their favorites, and which they can’t live without. You can show the importance of having a large photograph above their fireplace mantle, instead of an 8×10 on their coffee table.

All orders are placed the day of the excitement, and the entire family is happy because they had a wonderful experience.

That’s the power of running a successful digital photography business.

Lori Osterberg owned and operated a high-end wedding photography business for over 18 years, and was one of the premier studios to have an online portfolio in the 1990’s. She understands the nuances of creating a successful studio, and how to build an online presence that will allow you to photograph anywhere in the world. Now she helps photography studios market their businesses, and helps create online tools to help photographers achieve success. Visit her site and sign up for her free ezine at www.VirtualPhotographyStudio.com