Sunday, 4 October 2009
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
What an amazing day I had yesterday photographing the first X Factor auditions in front of a live audience. The buzz at London's ExCel centre was incredible, it felt like a concert as thousands of fans watched the first round auditions. Simon, Cheryl, Dannii and Louis watched hundreds of wannabes strut their stuff all hoping to be the the next X Factor winner. The auditions were divided into two shows which each drew crowds of 2,000 spectators! It was a fantastic way to start the new series and I for one, cannot wait to travel around the country to see the rest of the auditions. Who knows maybe I'll see you there too!
Thursday, 18 June 2009
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
You want to be prepared when you finally get that golden opportunity to sit across from that art buyer or fashion editor that you’ve been dying to meet. Here are some rules of the business to remember when meeting the art buyer/client:
- If you don’t feel confident, don’t see them. If you aren’t feeling 100% the day of your meeting, it’s better to postpone it than go in with a less than confident attitude. It’s seems to not only be a rule of the business but an overall Universal Law: People can smelldesperation a mile away. Don’t give off that aura or they’ll never hire you or you will be undervalued.
- Silence is Golden. Another Universal Law perhaps, but a definite one in our business. Don’t sit there in your meeting, and out of sheer nervousness, start blabbing away about your personal life or the history behind every damn photograph in your book. If they have a question about a certain picture, trust me, they’ll ask about it. Otherwise, just let them go through your book and sit quietly.
- Do NOT ask them: “What did you think of my book?” unless you are absolutely prepared for the truth.
- Do your homework. Find out what accounts they are working on and what art directors or editors are responsible for what tasks at the company before your meeting. In other words, don’t ask them what accounts they’re working on. It shows you didn’t do your homework and thus, don’t really care if you work for them.
- Do not ask them “Is there anything going on”. It’s a safe bet there is, which is why it took you so long to get an appointment.
Okay, so I’ve given you some helpful tips on tact and etiquette when you go to a meeting to show your portfolio. Now let’s say that you’re in that meeting and the art director or art buyer starts talking about an up-coming job and wants you to bid for it. Here’s what you do at this point:
- Ask a lot of questions. Get as many specifics as possible. No question is stupid in this case
- Put together a spec sheet: what is the usage, description of the shots needed, who is doing the casting, location scouting, etc. etc. etc.
- Make absolutely sure you understand exactly what they are asking you to do.
- It’s absolutely okay to give yourself time to think. You can say, “Let me get back to you.” Give yourself some space and crunch some numbers back in your office. Even get some feedback from other photographers or blogs, etc, so you are absolutely confident in the number you come up with.
- NEVER give ballpark figures. If you come in low, they think you’re not qualified. If you come in high, they think you’ve never done this before and therefore not qualified either. Plus, you never want to lock yourself down to any number until you’ve gotten all the facts and taken some time to really think about the estimate you want to give them.
- Do not give up something without getting something in return. Example: If they want you to come down on your day rate, then they get shorter usage on the images.
- Be willing to walk away from a crappy deal. I do it all the time now, and boy does it feel GREAT. It only makes way for bigger and better gigs.
- Do not be afraid of the money. Get what you need. Make sure you have estimated correctly and all needs anticipated are provided for.
- Pre-production is the most important part of the job. Casting, permits, putting the crew together, figuring out the catering. All of this takes time. Time is money. Did you include that in your bid?
This is one reason a good agent is really nice to have. They have all the current information on what media usage fees are going for, etc. Like, how much DOES an album cover pay now? What are the media usage rates going for? What about usage….is that shoot you’re doing for the album cover going to be considered for billboards and Point of Purchase sales? I have to be honest and admit I’ve always been weak in this area. Always being one to just be happy to be shooting, I”ve probably often times underbid myself. Which is why I am definitely someone who needs an agent. Other photographers are really good at this end of the business. I am not. I admit it. I’m pretty good at self promotion and nailing down the meeting with the art buyer. But I totally flub the estimating part which is why I have an agent do it for me. I’ve learned the hard way on this one, blowing jobs and totally underestimating the bid, thus myself. So now, even if I don’t have an agent when I’m asked for an estimate, I “borrow” one. I call someone up and ask if they’ll help bid on this one off job. I’ve gotten to the place I can actually do that now. I know when you’re new or just starting out it might be a bit harder. But hey, everyone likes the possibility of earning money. If the job is a big one, get someone to help you with the bid if you’re not really confident in this area.
My only last bit of advice is this: the business side is difficult and not the most fun part of what we do. My advice is to always keep shooting! Retain the enthusiasm you had when you first started. Your work not only evolves, but the buyers around you can smell that enthusiasm just as easily as they can smell desperation and believe me, which personality would you rather be around? I thought so!
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Sure, the cost of your services is important. In fact, it’s critical. But it’s critical to you, not your clients.
Your rates are important because they need to cover your own costs, plus provide additional profit to feed you and do all the other things you need money for. Things like growing the business, advertising, equipment, training, staff, etc. Far too many small businesses fail because the owner, in setting fees, underestimates not only the cost of goods and services to be delivered, but ignores tacking on extra profit to fund the important aspects of business maintenance and growth.
But the biggest problem many new business owners have, is that they don’t understand how to sell their services based on any criteria besides price. Many photographers and designers striking out on their own (full time or freelancing part time) enter the marketplace and try to get work by undercutting or matching the low price end of the local market. You can certainly do that, but a low cost business model means that you’ll need lots more clients buying lots more goods and services, to match the net profits of someone with fewer clients and fewer jobs but with higher rates. So if you’ve decided you want to be in the low price, high volume end of the business, then this article is not for you. Thanks for stopping by, tune in again next time. If, on the other hand, you would prefer to have a few high-paying clients, then you’ll want to know how to compete in the marketplace and not use a low price as your selling proposition.
What’s Your USP (Unique Selling Proposition?)
Start by being different or unique. If you provide something that no one else does, then there is simply no competition. There are lots of ways you can be different, beginning with your finished products as shown in your portfolio. You can offer add-on services that your competition doesn’t offer. You can stay current on the latest design techniques, or hot “looks” and trends, and then show them off to your clients and prospective clients. Done properly, this kind of thing lets your clients know that you’re always on the cutting edge and if they see something they like, they can be confident that you can recreate something similar for them.
Keep in mind though, there’s a common thread among those who charge a premium price… it requiresthat you also deliver premium service. You can’t just have unique designs or photographic treatments, and be a slacker when it comes to getting back with your clients or meeting their deadlines. Do your best to meet or beat promised deadlines, and then, if you really want to blow them away, put in a little extra effort and deliver some extra treatment of their project. Maybe it’s a bonus design. Maybe it’s the photos they requested but you throw in a few samples of what their shots would look like with a bleach-bypass treatment or a high-pass filter.
Another thing to remember about being unique is to make sure you don’t name your special effects, designs, or image treatments using terminology used by others in the industry. Use a descriptive term that makes sense to amateurs but that is not something everyone else in the industry uses. Let’s say you’re a photographer and you offer high dynamic range (HDR) imagery. You might be surprised how few “pros” are doing this, so that alone might be enough to set you apart from other local shooters. But, even though it’s the industry-standard term and your customer probably doesn’t know what it is, if you call it “HDR,” then they can (and often will) contact other photographers and ask, ‘can you do HDR photography?’ And lots of photographers receiving a question like that, would answer ‘yes,’ do some quick research, and take away your customer. Instead, if you refer to your HDR photography as wide gamut exposure blending, or the graynar technique (or any name you make up) then it will remain unique.
One of the most important things about commanding a good fee for your work, is to never be afraid to say no, and another is to never reduce your price without taking something away. In your early meetings with your client, find out what they want. Listen hard to what seems to matter most to them. If you’re a good listener, you’ll walk away with a bullet list of job requirements and you’ll come back with your proposal and price. If they try to talk you down from that price point, you can say, ‘Sure. I can do it for your price, but I won’t be able to provide you with as many designs as I normally would.’ Or, ‘that rate would work if we cut the photo session down from 2 hours to 45 minutes and we delivered fewer proofs.’ And keep in mind, if they won’t come up with your fee and refuse to reduce their requirements, you must walk away! No matter what they promise you’ll benefit by being their vendor (extra customers, exposure, etc.) it doesn’t matter. Set your price and stick to your guns. The clients you lose are those you don’t want in the first place.
How many clients do you recognise?