Basic Systems for Commercial Photographers

hunts-tombMy recent Lighting Essentials post on “Systems” (Don’t Be Afraid of Systems) was an overview of some simple checklists that I use to keep focused and create content in an overwhelmingly busy world. The amount of people, information, education, entertainment and sheer braincell killing stupidity that competes for our attention at nearly every turn makes it hard to stay on task.

I have a few larger systems that work for me, and of course they are constantly being challenged by the fact that day to day, my days are usually not the same.

Being a photographer and a designer means that there are all kinds of distractions, and a constantly changing landscape of what must be done that day.

A shoot day usually means no design gets done. A heavy design day means lots of ass sitting (and you know how I feel about that). A day on the road kills creation for both the photography and the design. Getting any design done while transferring planes and flyint through bumps is not gonna happen, and the constant shift of attention makes a 30 minute time frame better for reading than actually designing or editin images. Most of the time.

I do get a lot done while traveling, but most of that output is directed to writing, reading and catching up with correspondence. (Once in San Francisco I was so intently working on a page design that I missed the boarding call. At one point I looked up and there was nearly no one in the area. I had to wait another 2 hours for a flight… it was a crazy evening.)

So my system has to be big enough, flexible enough and ‘open’ enough to encompass those wild swings of priorities.

The post on Lighting Essentials talked about checklists and systems for packing/unpacking gear and how to focus time through the day.

But focusing through the kind of days that photographers have is more difficult than a cubicle gig.

I use a ‘system’ that allows for serendipity.

Part of this system is to be very, very careful on promising delivery. I build in time, double check my schedule and make sure I can deliver when I say I can. Editing and post takes time, and we can sometimes find it takes longer than we thought it would. Finding a design problem may lead to more complex changes than were expected, and I want to be able to make sure that I always under promise and over deliver.

It is so much better to tell a client you will get it to them in two weeks and deliver it in a week than it is to promise it in a week and deliver it in two.

Trust me.

None of us like it when the promised due date goes by without nary a word.

MY SYSTEM IS FLEXIBLE AND ONLY HAS FOUR STEPS

1. Handle all emergencies as they spring up… UNLESS they are not really emergencies. If they are truly an emergency, we take care of it RIGHT NOW. Putting off the challenges only lets them stack up. Make sure you have room in your schedule for the occasional burning house.

2. Keep clients apprised. Nobody likes surprises – especially delivery surprises. If it is going to take a bit longer to get those files edited, let the client know as soon as you realize it. Tell them why it is going to take a bit longer and then under promise / over deliver.

3. Be prepared for all contingencies. Just as it is necessary to have a backup camera or two, it is necessary to have backups to your planning/productivity. Do you have someone who can step in and take some of this work off of your desk and let you handle a higher level priority? I hope you do, otherwise long, sleepless (and not nearly as productive as you think they are) nights await you.

4. Stay on top of marketing. No matter how busy you are, there must be time set aside for your marketing work. Don’t let the week go by without that scheduled email to go out to local ad agencies. If you have scheduled it for that week, make it a priority to get it out. We can be very busy, but if we do not keep the marketing forefront, we can then have the roller coaster of no business / lots of business.

If we are not marketing while we are busy, then we end up getting slow, and then we market like crazed banshees amped up on Red Bull till we get busy again and stop marketing.

And that is nuts!

I would also recommend Steven Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and David Allen’s “Getting Things Done”. Both are go-to’s on my shelves. And the great thing is you can adjust to fit.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (Amazon)

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change (25th Anniversary Edition) (Amazon)

The most important thing is to make sure you have some simple systems in place to handle the bigger issues of time management. No, don’t go all nuts with huge spread-sheets and such. Just work it out so you have a ‘typical’ way of dealing with the rigors of running a small creative business.

Project 52 “The Catalog”

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In this assignment, the photographers had to jump through a few hoops. The previous week they had to submit a “Creative Direction” shoot showing at least two different approaches to doing the fictitious catalog.

Those approaches had to meet some criteria. First is that there are 200 similar items, and the art director wants the catalog (traditional paper and online) to be as consistent as possible. The second is that there is a limited budget, and while the money is pretty good for a two day shoot, it dwindles fast past that point. Shooting 100 items in a day, and having them all be matching takes some planning and a stylistic approach that will allow them to be shot quickly and efficiently. (NOTE: In the fictitious brief all items are similar in size.)

So the photographers have to show a creative direction that also makes it possible to do this catalog in two days, not a week.

The students did a bang up job of it as well. The creative direction shots were reviewed and we assigned that look. This is the finished catalog page in that creative style. The layout was delivered to them as a layered PSD and they could not change anything on it – just insert the photographs. Understanding how to work with a layout, and shooting to that layout is a very important part of commercial photography.

The results are wonderful.



It’s A Numbers Game: Part Two

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“The Numbers”: Part Two

It’s a numbers game… part two of our series.

Find Part One here.

Last time we discussed the numbers of getting people to see your work, and how that is so important to build a business. It’s been two weeks since that post.

How many of you:

1. Made the minimum commitment to getting to 6 people per day for three days (Tue/Wed/Thurs)?

2. Exceeded the minimum commitment and got to more than 18 people in those three days. Which means you have contacted 36+ people about your work at this point.

3. Found excuses and other things more pressing to get done.

No judgement here, only asking you to face resistance in the eye and either kick its damned ass or continue being acquiescent to it.

Resistance is NOT your friend… and if you found every reason under the sun not to do the minimum of 3 emails and 3 calls over 3 days, then you know what you have to work on.

Today’s discussion is on the numbers of contacts you make to individuals who you want to work with. We need a number of people to see our work, but we also need to touch those people more than once to get that work.

It is a process. A journey. A vision quest.

OK, so it may not be a vision quest, but it is still a process.

“Only 2% of sales occur at a first meeting

People in business often hope and expect to do business the first time they meet a prospect. Yet studies reveal that only 2% of sales occur when two parties meet for the first time.

The 2% who buy at a first meeting tend to be people who have already looked into the subject matter, and already know what they’re looking for. If they meet someone who ticks all the right boxes and they get on well, then business may well be transacted. But that is far from the norm. The other 98% will only buy once a certain level of trust has been built up.

Why 8% of Sales People Get 80% of the Sales.

Read through the link above. Giving up because there is no sale is counter to what you want to achieve. Remember, the people they are discussing above are selling something the client needs or wants.

We are selling ourselves to be considered for something the client can get from a whole host of other talented competitors. We aren’t really ‘selling’ in the traditional meaning of the word, we are promoting ourselves, sharing our work, becoming acquainted with the AD/PE/CD… not ‘selling’ them toner cartridges or accounting.

We cannot really ‘sell’ our work anyway. If there is no gig at the agency that is right for us, or no gig that is requiring photography, no amount of sales techniques or tricks or secrets can get us into a purchase order.

There is NO work that day for us.

So why go?

Because we want to be top of mind when a job DOES come in to the art department. When they think of a photographer to shoot tractors, we want to be the one that comes to mind since we shoot farms and farming equipment so dang well it makes cows give more milk.

THAT is the purpose of the meeting. The touch point.

Top of mind and becoming the one they think of when the time is right.

To do that takes more than one showing of your portfolio.

(Right about now someone is sitting out there saying “Yeah, you ain’t seen MY portfolio… I will show it and get the gig.”)

Yes, you are probably taking the reigns of your unicorn and heading out over the rainbow freeway about now too.

That rarely happens. Really rarely.

Instead what happens is that there is a slow and steady courtship of sorts. You show your work, they ignore you (or seem to) and you keep on showing your work. They may keep on ignoring you… or not.

That ‘or not’ moment is the first of several milestones.

They call you in to see the book. And to size you up.

Are you fun to work with? Are you neat and orderly about your work? Are you trustworthy? Will you be on time and on budget and not insult their client or get drunk with the models and run off to Bermuda with all the cash in hand.

Hey… it happens.

So you go. Show the book. Meet the people.

Entering phase two:

Now there may be more showings in the works, some email contacts, some phone calls, coffee meetings for new work… all kinds of direct mail.

“Once a response form has been filled out, now is the time to engage in peer-to-peer discussions with the prospect. Start by building a relationship. Launching immediately into the BANT questions (Are you the purchaser? Do you have approved budget?) is a turnoff. First leverage the digitally collected information as a bridge to determine where the prospect is personally. Open-ended questions (rather than buttons on a web form) will accelerate this qualification process. What problem is the prospect trying to solve? Where does it hurt? What is going on in their world that triggered the need? What would be their perfect solution if they could describe it? Are they collecting information for a team? What’s their timeline they are working with? What information would you need from us to be considered as your solution? Great phone/social skills are a huge plus here. And for most Sales teams, the earlier your prospect is in the buying process, the better—it gives your team a chance to be consultative and influence the specs, thereby gaining the inside track. Once you have enough data to determine BANT, try to move the prospect toward meeting with a sales rep. As a result of this process, most real prospects will see the meeting as a mutual best next step, and that’s where most Sales teams want to be.

Read more:

The article above is relating to traditional sales, but there are some great points to be made in there. Read it.

Some say it takes 7-8 touches by a photographer before you get called back. Some say it takes ten or so.

I say it takes more than five and less than 1,247. (Note, if they haven’t contacted you after about a hundred, it may be time to pull them from your list and move on. But for those of you really, I mean REALLY committed, 1,247 is the magic number.)

So what counts as a ‘touch’ for a client?

  1. Portfolio review.
  2. Thank you note.
  3. Direct mail.
  4. Email.
  5. Phone call.
  6. Promotional item.

What may not count are tweets or RT’s, facebook “likes” or pinning their latest designs to your pinterest boards… seriously?

This is why making the process INTO a process makes sense. Have a way of working that allows you to think about the amount of touches you make with a prospective client. And keep them coming, as there can always be new images and things to share.

NOTE: Spamming them is as bad… no, it’s worse, than seeing them once and never going back cause you are all butthurt over not getting that $100K gig you wanted.

Consider what you think of as being too much.

Yeah… don’t do that.

Sales tools and automated sales software. I don’t use it. I still use a simple spreadsheet in Excel. And my trusty notebook. That is not to say you shouldn’t, only me confessing it takes so long to learn all the things about those software solutions that I lose interest too fast.

Been doing it my way for way too long… heh.

So let’s get real here for a moment.

You make a contact with an art director… this means you have a conversation with them. Whether email (OK, but not best) or a personal review (best) and then you start the count.

Show the book, leave a piece for them at the showing, send a thank you card (print?), send a follow up email (2 weeks or so) with another photograph attached. Then wait 6-8 weeks and send another email, and a direct mail piece. Repeat that until you have some new work to show. I count four ‘touches’ there… five with the follow up a few weeks out.

Numbers. Then…

Call for an appointment to show the new work.

Show new work. Send thank you card, follow up email… you know the drill now.

You are making new work, right?

Right?

Especially you guys who didn’t make the lousy 18 touches per week… it is because you were heavily shooting… right?

Riiiiigggghhhttt… :-)

Look, this is not the easiest profession you have chosen to go down. Not sure what that would be unless you like delivering pizza in your Nissan, but this one will wrap you up, chew you to a nub and spit you out in the time it takes that pizza to get cold enough to deliver free.

The winners fight for it. The winners put in the hard, droll, and sometimes messy work of doing what others don’t.

92% of sales people quit after the first ‘no-sale’ show.

Pathetic.

Be the 8%… it’s a numbers game.

It’s a Numbers Game, Part One

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How to Play “The Numbers” Game Part One

We have all heard the words, “It’s a numbers game” before. And most of us know what it means. In order to get to a certain level, more attempts than successes must be used.

Selling door to door is a numbers game. The more people a sales person talks to, the more they sell. It may take 10 “No’s” to get to one yes. So the goal is to get through those ten as fast as you can to get to the one yes. Knocking on ten doors a day nets one sale. Knocking on 50 doors nets 10 sales.

A ‘numbers game’.

Not much difference in photography, you know.

The more art directors you show your work to, the more chances you have of closing an assignment. The more times you interact with a specific art director, the higher the probability that a gig is forthcoming. The more gigs you complete with excellence, the more excellent gigs you get.

And yet…

I chat with photographers who do none of the above.

They don’t show their work. They don’t ever go back to someone who didn’t immediately hire them. They don’t get enough gigs to make delivering excellence count.

It is… a numbers game.

Of course there are a few givens.

Your work must be top notch. This is a given. All the door knocking and emailing in the world will not work as fast as good work will.

(Now this is where it gets crazy a bit. I think a mediocre photographer who has mad skills at marketing will do better than an ultra-talented photographer who sits in the studio waiting for the phone to ring.)

Why?

It. Is. A. Numbers. Game.

If your work is good, it all falls on you to do the work to get it in front of people who would buy it.

A lot.

Of people, that is.

We have discussed the ways we can find clients before, and how to think about marketing, but in this dispatch, I want to play with numbers.

I recently read where fewer than 80% of photographers spend more than an hour per week marketing. And only a few percent spend more than 15 hours a week marketing.

If we apply the 80-20 rule (20% of the businesses in a niche make 80% of the money) we can see that there may be, just may be a connection between not marketing and losing out on the bulk of the revenue.

We know this stuff works, and yet few of us can ‘find the time’ or ‘get ready’ or ‘bite the bullet’ or fight off whatever last minute resistance pops into our heads that prevents us from moving on this magnificent factoid: it’s a numbers game.

Let’s stop procrastinating and get to it.

The book is as good as it is gonna be for next week. The site is done, and the images up there are up there. Changes can be made tomorrow, but it is what it is and we move forward. If this is too fast for you, set a date. April 1? June 15th?

It doesn’t matter… set a date and keep that date.

We are going to begin by making three contacts per day, and sending out three emails per day. Three days a week.

We can pass on Mondays and Fridays as these are not traditionally good days for marketing. People are either planning for the weekend or recovering from it. Let’s give them some air.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday.

Three contacts and three emails.

Six contacts per day x 3 days equals 18 contacts per week, 72 contacts per month, over 950 contacts per year. To see how that may affect your current status, figure out how many potential clients you contacted last year. Chances are it is less than 950… substantially less.

And yet we can do that with minimum effort. Three emails per day and three contacts per day is cake! It will take less than an hour – a lot less.

So what happens if we double that?

Six Contacts per day, and six emails. Just imagine.

Six contacts and six emails is 36 contacts per week, is 144 contacts per month. Nearly 1500 contacts per year.

What would that do to your business? What impact would that have on your income?

And how long would it take? Less than an hour a day for three days.

Go ahead, tell me how that won’t work for you. Go ahead and tell me that you are so busy not being busy that it is simply not possible to spend an hour a day MAKING YOUR BUSINESS successful.

I am not listening, but go ahead and try. You are only trying to convince yourself.

And really, you are the only one you must convince in order to get this change implemented.

At this point, I will sound a bit rude to some, and I really do not mean it to be rude. However, only you have the control over whether you play the numbers game or do not. Change from non-engagement to being engaged – or not. And in the end, it only affects you.

There are still lots of gigs to be commissioned. Lots of look-books to be shot. Thousands of pages of editorial and thousands of ads both local and national.

And here is another numbers game for you.

While the chances for getting a gig may be lower than they used to be due to the sheer numbers of competition, the fact is that there is a 100% probability that you will not get hired if they do not know you exist.

So here are a couple of questions for you.

Will you commit to 18 contacts per week?
Will you commit to creating an environment that will help possible clients find you?

Or will you simply let resistance take you off the grid?

I hope you never let resistance win. I really do.

Just remember…

It’s a numbers game.

DO THE MATH.

What Do You Charge For… Part Four

canyons-trip

wall

What is the value of a photograph?

(What Do You Charge For...   Part 1Part 2 Part 3 /)

Seriously… what IS the value of a photograph?

If you need a calculator, go ahead and get it… I’ll wait.

What’s that… you need more information to make that calculation?

OK, sure… well, let’s see… it was taken on an old Nikon, with a manual focus lens on black and white film. I am not sure of the shutterspeed, but the aperture looks somewhere between f-5.6 and f-8, and the image is a bit blurry in some parts. Oh, and it was taken in a little village somewhere.

How’s that?

How about this one then… a color photograph of a martini glass in the sand with a pyramid upside down in the reflection of the liquid. Shot on location with a MF camera on a tripod at a bit of a wide aperture, normal lens, natural light. Shutterspeed unkown.

What… you cannot tell the value of the photograph from all that information? And you think it was a trick question too?

Oh come now, gentle reader… would I trick you?

One more… color shot of a baby laying on a maroon towel in window light taken on a P&S camera from above. Not sharp, not remarkable. (BTW, the value of that one is priceless. It simply is.)

There is value to a photograph. And finding that value means we have to take important considerations in mind when making that call.

A photograph generally carries two values. One is given to it by its creator – you, the other by its value to others. A photograph can be priceless to you, but of little value to others. The baby shot I described is the first photograph I made of my first born on her first day at home. Priceless to me – meh snapshot to you.

Eddie Adams

A grainy black and white shot taken in little village may mean little, unless it is THE grainy black and white shot taken of a South Vietnamese Policeman executing a captive with such a seeming cold bloodedness that it could be considered one of the seminal moments that turned a nation away from war.

One single frame on a roll of Tri-X. And a nation was sent reeling.

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Bert Stern:

An up and coming photographer was hired to do some creative work for a small, very new company wanting to introduce a Russian drink made from potatoes to America during the height of the cold war.

Stern wanted the image to be iconic of the “Driest of the Dry” indicating the very dry Vodka Martini. He also insisted on shooting it on location, in Egypt. And he held his ground.

The ad is considered to have opened the doors to the little Vodka company, Smirnoff, a $5.5 Billion dollar company today.

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So let’s see… at the time it was taken it was a single image on a piece of Ektachrome, value $.40, then it became an ad shot which launched a new product worth billions. It is now an image that stands alone and is for sale at Christies for $4000.

Pyramid shot at Christies

Valuable photograph? Or still a frame from a roll of film.

The value our work has is many times dependant on the value it represents for someone else. Can you imagine Stern considering his shot worth $4? That is serious markup for a 40 cent image (materials). Let’s say he throws in travel and such… and it comes to $1500.40. Tacking on a comfortable margin of 50% he adds another $750.20 to the image.

Silly?

For a shot that helped a company increase profits by millions?

Silly for sure.

The value of our work is tied to the values we place on it and the values our customers place on it – combined.

Take one of your favorite shots and find an out-take from that shoot. Is it of much value to you? Perhaps you don’t like the expression of the subject, or the background is a bit out of focus… whatever, you did not choose it.

Cool… now let’s say I see it and ask if I can use it.

You ask me what I am going to use it for and I answer I want to blur it and use it for the background of a banner for my new personal website.

What is the value of that image now?

Well, it’s a personal website, and we are friends (we are friends, right?) and I let you know that I am happy to pay you $50 for it. Do we have a deal?

Probably. From a value of 0 to $50 – not bad.

How about if I exclaim that I am knocked out by that image… that it is the most perfect image I could have ever thought of for launching a new line of Jimmy Choo shoes. In fact, I want to build an entire campaign around that image, and our ad budget is $17,000,000 for North America alone.

Still worth $50 to you? We are still friends… so why would it be worth more than what you quoted me for my personal use banner?

BECAUSE IT IS!

It will be representing a 17milliondamndollar ad campaign. If they are thinking about spending $17M on ads, they are planning to make a BILLION.

And that image is key for that to happen. It has value. A lot of value.

A hell of a lot of value.

Now how do we understand that value as we begin working with people who want to give us their hard earned money for our hard earned photographs… and create a win-win situation?

(HINT: Win-Win situations make happy photographers and happy clients that like to work together.)

We research and learn. What is the image being used for? How will this benefit the client? How much is the client worth? How much will this image mean to them at the bottom line?

Hard questions… made harder by a lot of people in business who don’t have any idea how important good photography is, and how it can help their bottom line. We can try to educate them, and we can look for clients that do indeed know the value that great work carries.

Educating the client to great work, and why it matters could be done in person, or in the proposal you make… showing the value you think great work provides by demonstrating it.

Clean, neat and professionally presented proposal.
Clean, professional logo.
A professional website.
A professional portfolio.
A professional set of working documents (Rights/Releases/Business Forms)
A professional demeanor and being professional in your presentation.

I have seen proposals on dull, uninteresting emails. I have seen websites that are subdomains of the same website my 10 year old daughter used for her “My Little Pony” website. I have seen slovenly produced books and business forms that were right out of Microsoft Word.

And they want to tell me that the visuals matter? Apparently they have not understood their own message. Walk the talk, folks. Visuals matter… to us as well as them.

I think that mood boards are also an important tool when working with clients who may not understand the value of the work and how it relates to the bottom line effectiveness of the communications you are working on.

(What about the people who don’t want to meet with us, or only want an answer via email? Well – then send them a well designed email with some links to previous work, a set of links you have for similar work (high end) and a justification for them to use you OVER and above the dollar sign attached. You know, most others will never do that… help the client understand the value and you stand out. Even if you are too expensive for them now, they remember the value you added, and the fact that you are a premium brand.)

A mom and pop simply may not have the big bucks to spend that an ad agency would spend for a franchise. They will also see much smaller gains in real dollars, although the percentage of increased value may be the same. You must price accordingly.

Scenarios:

Author calls you for a headshot for his new book. The book, an E-Book is his first, and he is putting it on Kindle at a price point of $2.99. A schoolteacher by day, he is a hopeful Science Fiction author with a new blog and big dreams. He lives in your area and would come to your studio for the shot.

Author’s Public Relations firm calls for an author headshot. They need it for the back cover of his 10th novel, and want North American and European rights for a usage period of two years. Paperback rights will be negotiated when the time comes. He lives in your area and will come to your studio for the shot.

Same bid? Not hardly… one could be a $150 – $200 shoot and the other a $10,000 shoot. You will have to figure out which is which.

A local pet groomer (two stores) wants some photographs of happy owners and their pets for her website, and possible use on some ads in the local / regional magazine. You would be able to be totally creative with the images, as long as they would fit her vertical format. Estimate 4 hours for four portraits. You are on your own for the shoot.

A national pet store wants some shots of happy people with their pets. You can be totally creative with the people you shoot, but must stay within their vertical layout. You will be joined by the Creative Director, Art Director, copywriter, and Client Rel from the agency as well as a VP of marketing and his assistant from the client side. You will need a stylist, a MUA and a digital tech. Oh, and each of the talent is coming with their ‘handler’ as they animals are well trained. Estimate 4 hours for the shoot.

Will these shoots be priced the same?

Of course not. But where they fall will be as much research and ‘gut’ feelings as you can muster for the first one, and a bid program like BlinkBid or assistance from someone like Agency Access for the latter.

Welcome to the wonderfully nebulous world of foggy inaccuracy, gut decisions and seemingly pure guesswork – pulled from thin air – that is bidding commercial photography. I have seen bids vary by tens of thousands of dollars… and one time the bids ranged over a hundred thousand dollars difference.

So we are back to that question?

What is a photograph worth?

Depends a lot on you and your client reaching a mutual understanding based on the knowledge that the image will help do what they want to do.

Sell more stuff.
Get more clients.
Increase awareness.
Recruit better employees.

It is up to you to make a photograph that does what it needs to do, striving to make it the best it can be and comfortable that you are doing the best job you can for your client. And the true value is derived from doing just that.

I hope you have enjoyed this set of posts on bidding and charging for your work.

ALL FOUR INSTALLMENTS IN ONE DOCUMENT:
If you would like a PDF copy of this entire series, you can download it here: What do you charge for… a PDF Ebook. Please do not copy the information in any way, but be free to share the document without changes or modifications.


“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.



Does the Best Photographer Make the Most Money?

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Have you ever thought to yourself that as soon as you get to be the best photographer in your area, town, city, state, region, country, universe or whatever, you will be the highest paid?

You may be in for a shock – but that ain’t how the game is played, my friend.

The “Best” photographers are not necessarily the highest paid. And for now, we will not approach the obvious question of who defines “best”.

Here’s our thought process:

  1. We get some awesome gear.
  2. We learn to light very well.
  3. We take pictures that are pretty good.
  4. We start out business.
  5. Our photographs become instantly “professional”.
  6. We get more money because our work is better.
  7. We get huge accounts because of our outstanding portfolio
  8. We have to hire people to take care of all our cash.
  9. Choosing the right Grecian tile for our mansion foyers is time consuming.
  10. Celebrity friends invite you to lavish parties.

Yep. That’s it right there.

Except its not.

In a perfect world, we would be hired on our work alone. If we show what the client likes, we get the gig.

The plain truth is that while the work indeed matters, other considerations may actually take the lead and determine your ability to get higher paying gigs.

Considerations like;

  1. Can you deliver the job correctly?
  2. Can you solve the problems the job presents?
  3. Will you be needing more handholding than the other photographers?
  4. Do you understand the concepts?
  5. Can you communicate your vision and link it with the clients?
  6. Do you focus on the job at hand?
  7. Can you make it happen – no matter what challenges come your way on the gig?
  8. Are you personable and helpful?
  9. Will your work, attitude, personality, ethics and reputation be something the client will like?
  10. Will you make the art director / creative director look good because they chose you?

There are more, of course. And for individuals, some of these considerations matter more than others.

If we can focus the client on the work that must be done, how we do it and how well it will benefit their project, we can possibly win the job and get paid more money. Because we are not putting ourselves into the mix – we are putting the job first. The client first. We are there FOR THEM.

Other photographers can bid and send in lovely drafts and colorful PDF’s (as we can as well) but we add that extra/different approach of personalizing the response to focus on the job, project, assignment. We move the needle from being one of a group of people bidding, to THE person who is on board to help them sell their vision.

Yeah. It’s subtle, and it is not a guarantee – but it is something that will differentiate you from the pack when asked for a bid.

Some bids go out and they are looking for the cheapest ‘vendor’ to make the photographs.

We want to change their intension from going cheap to getting the best visual solution they can, and that means US. And US costs a bit more than the average ‘vendor’.

Being the “best” photographer is no guarantee of success. Best is an illusion, or a whimsical attachment at most. Being RIGHT for the job – in the clients mind – is far more of an important goal. One we should focus on at every opportunity.


“In The Frame” is my weekly dispatch covering lots of tips and interesting points of view for emerging photographers. Some articles end up on Lighting Essentials, and some of them are only for my newsletter subscribers. No Spam, and we never give names to anyone.