Yes – We are still on Summer Break and I am working on my next book so for now DO get to nearest newsstand and get your copy of September issue of @shutterbugmag and check out my Business Trends article on “Turning Portraits into Profits”. Special thanks to our contributing photographers: Rick Dahms, Omayra Espino-Vázquez, Robert Houser, David Neff, Sara Press, and Michael Schmitt – you are all my heroes! Don’t miss the portrait photo assignment “war stories” they have to tell – love it!
Maria Piscopo: What business changes have you seen in the last few years in your event photography assignments? Chris Rakoczy: Speed of delivery is not an option anymore. It’s a requirement. People are so accustomed to sharing life instantly from their mobile devices, they expect similar speed from the professional photographers they hire. Whether they’re a non-profit using social media to stay in front of their audience while memories of the event are still fresh or a corporate client posting to their intranet Monday morning to foster employee engagement and recognize achievement, the client expects to have at least a representative selection of images within 24 hours (or sooner!). I’ve been delivering about two dozens of images representative of the overall event to the client the following day, with the rest of the images following no more than a few days later. My newest branding to target the event market specifically includes these “FlashBack” images as a guaranteed deliverable.
Maria Piscopo: How do you market and find clients – using the traditional marketing or newer marketing tools? Chris Rakoczy: My web sites are http://www.hartfordeventphotographer.com and
http://www.rakoczyphoto.com. I’ve primarily marketed through networking groups and social media. Not only have traditional B2B (Business To Business) groups led to some work, but even networking with other photographers has proven beneficial. My membership in ASMP has connected me with other shooters. We all have our specialties and I’ve been able to take on clients a colleague wasn’t available for or suited to handle. I’ve hired photographers to be my subcontractors on larger jobs, who have in turn hired me back to help on their gigs. So many of us operate as one-person businesses yet so many events, especially larger corporate ones, need a crew of 3, 4, 5 or more people. It’s great to have a strong network of trusted peers to draw on. For social media, I tend to use Facebook a lot. In fact, it’s through a Facebook Group of photographers that led to working with several of them. Even if you never see someone face-to-face, you get to know and trust them through their posts, comments, shared work, and peer referrals. Also, I post on Facebook and Twitter before and after shooting an event. I don’t make the posts “about me” instead I research the client’s social presence first and then leverage the @mentions and #hashtags to put the attention on them and their event. I also try to give shout-outs and public thanks to the people I worked with, whether an event coordinator or my vendors.
Maria Piscopo: What “war stories” from your event photography assignments can you share with our readers? Chris Rakoczy: A new event planner client asked me if I could shoot and print photos on site at an event. For several subsequent events on-site printing became a common add-on so perhaps I got complacent. I didn’t test one of my two printers before this rather large corporate event and I forgot my spare pack of paper. After the cocktail hour, while my digital tech Kris Orlowski printed, I and two other shooters roamed the venue capturing the gala event. That’s when we discovered the clogged print heads and missing paper. For the next three hours, I was sweating bullets hoping we’d not only be able to print fast enough with half our intended equipment, but have enough paper to not short-change any guest. Kris earned his pay that night, finishing every print, on time, with just 2 sheets left over! Next time, not only will I be sure to test the printers but I’ll bring a head cleaning kit (swabs, alcohol) and extra paper!
Maria Piscopo: What skills or knowledge (other than photography) do you think an event photographer has to develop for a successful business model? Chris Rakoczy: The biggest thing has been developing a managerial skill. Very few corporate events I’ve done have been one-man jobs. I’ve needed to build and maintain a quality network of vendors and colleagues. So I charge for Production Management, because it takes a lot of time to coordinate the resources needed to provide a crew of, say, four photographers, two assistants, multiple portrait and printing stations, transportation, and whatever else the client requests. You have to have backup people, not just backup gear. You have to know and trust those people will work to make you look good, and know when to give specific directions even if their own approach would be different, or seek their input because it IS different. And when it all works, you will get the next job.
Visit this month’s online column for an educational and inspirational interview with R.J. Kern, a successful and creative Minneapolis-based wedding photographer! http://www.shutterbug.com/content/wedding-photography-fun-and-profit-r-j-kern-how-be-creative-and-competitive-wedding#cH84fdWQheqIrAle.97
In this week’s post, we will send you to the Business Trends column for a look at some of the marketing aspects of fine art photography: getting established, finding clients, looking for gallery representation, marketing techniques, and finding your style and direction. Special thanks to these photographers: Sean Bagshaw (Outdoor Exposure Photography, LLC), David Bowman, John Granata (John Granata Fine Art), Robin Hill, and Cheyenne L Rouse. Read more at http://www.shutterbug.com/content/how-sell-your-fine-art-photography-tips-photographers-making-living-your-art#HUKOtTVUbTaL8hIb.99
After hundreds of years with a single business model, the book publishing business is experiencing huge upheavals and transformations. Publishers are facing a possible future where the only people that matter are the authors and their readers! Traditional publishing does have the expertise and resources for book production, distribution and marketing no individual can hope to match. But with a great graphic designer and maybe a freelance editor, you can break into the publishing field. Let’s talk with Bret Edge, http://www.bretedge.com, http://www.efotoguide.com
Piscopo: How did you get started self-publishing books?
Bret Edge: I co-developed a series of iPhone apps and when sales of the apps plummeted, I decided to re-purpose the content into an eBook. I thought that the eBook would be more successful since it wasn’t device dependent.
Piscopo: What are the biggest changes you have seen in the photography book market in the last few years?
Bret Edge: The most noticeable change I’ve observed is a transition from books that cover a topic in very general terms to eBooks with a much narrower focus. Just a few years ago there were dozens of books that covered the fundamentals of nature/landscape photography, but now there are many excellent eBooks covering topics like using a tilt/shift lens and implementing flash for outdoor adventure photography. These are very specific niches that simply weren’t covered not long ago.
Piscopo: What have been the biggest problems or obstacles you have run into when shopping for your eBook or print book production services?
Bret Edge: Cost. It is not an inexpensive venture to create a well-designed eBook. There’s no shortage of companies and individual designers capable of producing very high quality eBooks but the associated cost is huge. I would start by finding a talented designer but it is tough. There are a handful of large companies who specialize in eBook design and they’re generally a good place to start, although their prices are often higher. I prefer to give work to people I know and trust. Ask friends and fellow photographers who they use for design/production and then contact them. Take a look at their portfolio and compare rates. I like to do this because friends aren’t going to recommend someone with whom they’ve had a negative experience so I think you’re more likely to find a good match.
Piscopo: What seems to work best to sell the books given the different marketing tools available?
Bret Edge: I’ve found limited success with social media marketing, specifically Facebook and Twitter. What seems to work the best is getting the eBook in the hands of other bloggers and influencers for review. Also, there’s very real value in honest to goodness, objective user reviews.
Piscopo: What recommendations can you add to help our readers be successful in this particular market?
Bret Edge: Focus your energy on really good content and design with a logical, easy to use layout. Make it very simple for people to download and use your eBook. Develop a marketing plan BEFORE you invest in design and production. Start by doing some research to determine if there is a big enough market for the topic you want to cover.
Jeff Colburn has been a published writer and photographer for over 40 years. His photographs and writing have been used by over 100 publications, businesses, organizations and websites. One of his photographs, showing a rainbow in the Red Rocks of Sedona, was part of a special exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum. Currently, Jeff maintains a Fine Art and Stock Photography website (www.JeffColburn.com) a website for his many ebooks (www.CreativeCauldron.com) and a blog for those who use and create photographs (www.TheCreativesCorner.com). You can see his Fine Art prints in person at the New State Motor Building Gallery, Jerome, Arizona. With this interview, hopefully you will be inspired to give self-publishing your best effort. Jeff has written seven e-books:
- How To Find Models, Anywhere
- 25 Places To Sell Your Photographs And Photography Skills
- The Vanishing Old West – Jerome
- How To Assemble And Show Your Portfolio
- The Writer’s Resource Book Of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror And Mythology
- The Writer’s Answer Book
- The Youngest Ninja
Maria Piscopo: What have been the biggest problems or obstacles you have run into when shopping for your eBook or print book production services?
Jeff Colburn: The problem is the number of options, and deciding which one is best for you, your book and your potential customers. You have two options when it comes to printing your book; go through a book printer or use a Print on Demand Company.
Printing a book is cheap, until you add color photographs, so it’s imperative to find a printer that has great quality and prices. Finding a reasonable priced printer requires a lot of e-mailing and calling to get prices. This is especially difficult since some of the best printers are overseas.
In my search for a printer I contacted 33 companies around the world. Most didn’t respond, others were too expensive or their print quality was poor. A few had good prices, but the shipping fees offset the savings. I only found three printers that came somewhat close to my needs and prices, but never really found one that could do everything I wanted for a decent price.
Traditional publishers keep prices down by ordering at least 5,000 copies of a book, or they have their own printing company. But when a photographer has five or ten, or even one hundred copies printed, the cost is very high. This upfront cost can prevent many photographers from printing their books, and the high price of each copy makes them difficult to sell. I read about a photographer that had a coffee table book printed, and it cost him $75 per book, which he sells it for over $100. He’s only sold a few copies.
Print on Demand (POD) companies may be an option, but they will try to upsell you until you find the initial price has doubled or tripled. Their base prices range from about $700 to $2,400, and they will usually print your first 3-5 books for free. And you have to read their contract very carefully, and understand what you’re reading. If you are using ABC Company for POD, and decide to switch over to XYZ Company, you may have to pay ABC well over $1,000 to leave them.
For eBooks you have two options: sell the book yourself through your own website or a place like Kindle, or use an eBook publisher. EBook publishers will assemble your eBook and send it out to places like Kindle, but like POD and book printers, they will try to upsell you to services that you may not need. I can’t stress enough that as a consumer, you must educate yourself. If you don’t, you’ll waste time, energy and money. When I’m deciding what services to pay for, and what to do myself, I always ask one question, “Do I have more time or money?” If I have more time than money, then I do it myself. If the opposite is true, then I send that part of the project out. As a beginning self-publisher, you will undoubtedly have more time than money. And since most eBooks won’t sell a lot of copies, having more money than time probably won’t be an issue.
Another problem with ebooks is that they are easy for people to give away to friends, or to offer on a Torrent site. Torrent sites often illegally post ebooks for people to download. One of my ebooks wound up on several of these sites, and based on the download counter on the pages, there were over $1,000,000 of illegal downloads. That really hurt.
While my books are PDFs, there are companies that publish your eBook in a special format that can’t be put on Torrent sites, but then you’re back to paying setup and annual fees.
Expect to do everything yourself, from writing the book, to design and layout and getting the book ready to print or upload. You will also be responsible for all marketing and promotion. It’s not easy, so you really have to love your book.
Maria Piscopo: What is (or are) the biggest changes you have seen in the photography book market in the last few years?
Jeff Colburn: Self-publishing has allowed photographers to publish books that they couldn’t have done just a few years ago. Small runs, even as low as one book, can now be done with no problem.
And by self-publishing, photographers get to keep all the profits, if there are any. This flood of self-published books allows niche topics to make it into print or e-versions that never would make it past a traditional publisher because there isn’t a large enough audience. This gives the buying public a much broader choice of topics to meet their interests.
There’s also more standardization in eBook formats. Kindle and other similar companies now make it pretty easy to get a book ready for their system. The key is to read their specifications before putting your book together so that it meets their requirements. It’s a real pain to put an eBook together, then find out you have to completely change the layout so it can be uploaded to a distributor.
Maria Piscopo: What recommendations can you add to help our readers be successful in this particular market?
Jeff Colburn: Don’t write a book just because you’re interested in it. The key to success, and sales, is to find a need and fill it. Do research to see if there is interest in your book, or better yet, research to see what books people are looking for, and write those books.
Educate yourself about all aspects of eBook publishing and self-publishing before you even begin working on your book. A lot of businesses have grown up around the eBook and self-publishing industry, and they all want your money. If you go into this endeavor blind, these businesses will make a lot of money off of you, and you will wind up broke.
You have to be willing to do all the needed promotion for your book, and be happy with only a few hundred sales. If you have more sales, that’s great, but don’t expect it or you may be setting yourself up for a big disappointment.
Look at self-publishing as only one of your revenue streams. And be prepared to write several books, not just one. If it suits your book, every so often release a revised edition.
As one of the most respected visual storytellers in the world, Michael Grecco’s conceptual vision and signature dramatic lighting create distinctive images that are evocative, sophisticated, and comedic. Photographing intimate portraits of entertainers, boxers, rappers, scientists, and business leaders, Grecco’s images captivate our attention and imagination. Grecco, talked with us about how to build a business as a portrait photographer, read more at http://www.shutterbug.com/content/how-build-portrait-photography-business-marketing-tips-one-world%E2%80%99s-leading-portrait#lrqWT0J8DKI1uU27.99
Photographers doing pro-bono work for charities is a long-time tradition. With social media platforms, this marriage of photography and doing good for others has some interesting potential for business. For this post, I want to introduce you to Miguel Pola, www.miguelpola.net and his work for Project Cuddle, www.projectcuddle.org
Piscopo: How did you get involved with the Project’s photography?
Pola: Project Cuddle is a non-profit organization that provides safe and legal alternatives to pregnant teens and women considering abandonment of their newborns. I got involved with Project Cuddle by photographing their annual Dinner by the Bay Fundraiser Gala. Another photographer who originally was to be there contracted me. The following year I asked him if he wouldn’t mind me taking over the event altogether. I felt that was the least I could do for Project Cuddle’s cause.
Piscopo: How do you think a photographer’s commitment to charitable organizations or non-profits can benefit, expand or promote his or her business?
Pola: Supporting a non-profit community organization builds your company’s credibility. Since we have been a part of Project Cuddle’s organization we have been able to increase our target clientele. Many supporters of these organizations are business owners or are involved with corporations that will need services that you may offer, whether they are headshots, a family member who may be getting married or even product photography for a product that they may solicit. In the past we have created fundraising opportunities for Project Cuddle that have raised money for their cause but also increased our bottom line. Affiliating yourself with your organization to give back to them shows you are human and you have compassion. People like doing business with companies who have similarities to themselves.
Piscopo: How do the non-profit you work with best use your photos for their cause?
Miguel Pola: Project Cuddle uses the images that we photograph for them to help build awareness for their cause. They use them for their websites, Facebook page, articles in magazines, slideshows, videos that get presented to thousands of people. They have even used them on several talk shows, “The Talk”, “Jeff Probst Show” to list a couple. With social media being such a part of everyone’s lives, images that get posted to Project Cuddle’s Facebook page get lots of views and become viral when people tag themselves in the images.
Piscopo: What is your best piece of advice for photographers before they start working with non-profits?
Pola: My best advice for someone who is interested in getting involved with a non-profit organization is be yourself, love what you do and pick an organization that you can relate to. If you pick an organization that you connect with, you will be more passionate about the work that you do for them and it will translate into great relationships. Their supporters will notice that. Be sure come up with a mutual agreement of how the photos are used. Having your logo on images should be a must in your agreement.
Piscopo: How do you run a business, make a difference, perhaps even be a photography activist, and still pay the rent?
Pola: Get involved, give back and give it your all. But remember that you are still running a business. Be generous, but also understand that you need to be fair to your business and most of all your family. Even when it comes down to your time!
To help figure out how to succeed in advertising, I want to thank the following photographers: Jake Armour, Astor Morgan, Nick Nacca, Dan Root, Casey Templeton, and Chris Winton-Stahle, http://www.shutterbug.com/content/how-sell-yourself-advertising-photographer-ad-photographers-need-re-examine-everything
This is my favorite topic and currently my Business Trends column post on www.shutterbug.com. The article is “How To Help Others (While Helping Yourself)” and talks about donating your services to non-profit and charity organizations. I talk with four photographers about how this works for them (and can work for you). Thank you AGAIN to: Luke Copping, Tim Courtney, Cathy Greenblat, and Isaac Howard…their web links are included in the column, enjoy! http://www.shutterbug.com/category/business-trends