by Chris Wunder, Cr. Photog. ASP
Do you NEED to earn $100,000 per year from photography?
Is photography your HOBBY? Or your LIVELIHOOD? If you’re only looking to supplement your family income with a little added revenue from time to time, maybe your current sales and marketing efforts meet your needs. But if you need to earn a good FULL-TIME income to support your family and secure your financial future, maybe it’s time to RADICALLY change what you’re doing…
It’s a fact. With traditional home or retail based studios, we often see a steep upward curve to build a base of business; and more importantly a REPEAT base of business. It can take years and your costs of operation, rent, utilities, marketing expenses and capital costs for equipment and props, continue to siphon away income your family needs.
Worse yet, with the influx of advanced photo hobbyists entering the market as “para” professionals, there’s more competition than ever. That’s because it has never been easier to learn the skills to be a professional photographer. There is a wealth of photography training available out there, more than ever before: online, in magazines, through organizations and labs, seminars, conventions, DVDs and much more. Anyone who wants to call them self a “professional” photographer can, and will. Plus, since their cost-of-operations is less than yours, they often charge less, which produces pressure to drive prices down. It sometimes seems that customers are driven more by price than quality. It’s a frustrating cycle even many “veteran” photographers are facing these days.
I can go on telling you why the photography business is a lot different (and immensely more challenging) today than it was even 10 years ago. Many well-established and quality-oriented studios have seen their wedding, senior and children’s photography business (the biggest segments of their income) shrink appreciably in recent years. Many are worried about their future and have a “doom and gloom” attitude – BUT THIS DOESN’T NEED TO BE!
Maybe it’s time to think outside of the box, push your comfort zone and try something NEW. Did you know that photographers who shoot VOLUME portrait and event photography promotions make some of the BEST money in the business and often enjoy a very enviable lifestyle?
For example, let’s take those who are successful doing school portrait photography. There are typically two busy seasons; August through November and March through May. The rest of the year is much slower providing lots of time for recreation and family travel. As a provider of school photography services you rarely work on weekends, get long breaks for the holidays, spring break and at least a month off for summer vacation. You start work early in the morning, but are often done by early afternoon allowing a lot of family time. Best of all, you can make a LOT of money per hour.
I can tell you much the same thing about other types of VOLUME photography promotions for youth sports leagues, church and country club directories, dance schools, preschools, yearbooks and much more. None of these require a studio, yet these on-location programs can be tremendously profitable. By working through a sponsoring group or organization, they provide you with
access to many more clients; often at a lower client acquisition cost per session than your current marketing. It makes great business sense!
The volume-based promotional photography markets also seem to have withstood the economic downturn much better than other types of “discretionary” photography. Even if Mom decides to put off that “boutique” portrait session, she probably won’t miss ordering portraits taken at daycare, school, church or for sports team picture day. It’s a fairly recession-resistant
Now, you might be thinking… How can I compete against large national and regional companies that come into my area? The good news is that YOU CAN! Many of these accounts would rather BUY LOCAL than use out-of-town companies. They prefer HOMETOWN service to impersonal, one-size-fits-all transient providers. Often, the problem is that LOCAL photographers don’t approach them about their business, nor do local photographers know what their customer expectations are
and how to service them. You might need some education to be a player in these markets but there are many resources out there to help you get started.
Frankly, I think there’s probably LESS competition for this type of photography business than in the traditional studio/wedding portrait segment. It requires some specialized skills to offer these programs, so it’s much more difficult for an amateur “shutterbug” to do them. Many times, the
sheer VOLUME of the opportunity scares away would-be local competitors. Many couldn’t fathom how they’d ever photograph 500 little leaguers in a day and do the required production work. The fact is, this can be done very efficiently with the right equipment, software and know-how. You just have to get the training!
If you are worried that pursuing this market might impact your local reputation as an “upscale” provider of imaging, please consider this. 1) Try starting a “division” of your current studio, maybe under a different name. Establish a different brand where you can promote yourself differently in this new market space. 2) Ultimately, if your high-end clients aren’t really paying the bills anymore, don’t you owe it to yourself to try something different?
If you’re interested in pursuing the high-volume, promotional photography market, here are some resources that can help.
- Attend my FREE webinar on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013 to find out more about why volume-based promotional photography programs might make sense for you, your business and your financial future. I’ll help point you in the right direction with great ideas, opportunities and some resources to help get you started. Webinar starts at Noon, Central Time. Pre-registration is required at http://www.marathonpress.com/webinar/1205217001/
- Check out the assortment of school, directory and event photography DVD programs offered through Marathon Press. These have helped thousands of photographers get their start in this lucrative business. http://www.marathonpress.com/school-events/dvd/
- Want a great introduction to the school and
sports photography market? Want to find out what’s trending, how to get started and learn “best practices” of the industry? Come to SPAC (the School and Sports Photographers Annual Conference) to be
held January 23-25, 2014 in Las Vegas, NV. There’s a one day “Newbie” program offered as well as two days of intensive, interactive programming offered from some of the leaders of the business. While the speaker line-up for this year hasn’t been announced, check out their site to find out more about SPAC. http://www.spac-usa.org/
- For the ultimate “hands-on” experience, attend the annual Boot Camp held every summer. Dates for this intensive five-day program are July 14-18, 2014 in Las Vegas, NV. Details will be released in spring, 2014, but you can review the program synopsis for the past Boot Camp at http://www.marathonpress.com/school-photography-bootcamp/
- Already doing some promotional programs, but want to expand and grow your business?
Attend my pre-convention program at Imaging USA 2014 in Phoenix, AZ on Saturday, January 11, 2014. The topic is “Super-Size Your Business & Take It to the Enterprise Level!” This all-day program
isdesigned for studios that already do at least $150,000 in business annually and want to take it to the next
level. Info at: http://imagingusa.org/schedule/
- Also watch for an announcement soon from Marathon about a special TWO-DAY Introductory School Photography program, January 9-10, 2014 right before Imaging USA in Phoenix, AZ. The first day of
this program will cover sales and marketing and how to acquire school accounts. The second day will cover high-speed photography techniques and automated workflow required when you’re doing a lot of images at a time.
- For all the printed and marketing resources you need to run your Promotional photography business, check out the Volume/School and Events product line from Marathon Press. They can also assist with your
direct mail campaigns, email marketing, websites, plus yearbook, directory and event book publishing. Info at http://www.marathonpress.com/school-events/
- Looking for a fast “turn-key” solution to starting your school, sports, directory, childcare center and event photography business? Maybe joining a photography franchise might be in your future. Check them out online, but don’t miss checking out my franchise program at www.portraitefx.com. We’re the fastest growing photography network in North America and we can help you JUMP START your business with proven programs, experienced mentors, hands-on training, promotional assistance and innovative programs that BEAT the competition. Join other experienced, well-established photographers who have joined us. Contact me for information.
Best of luck as you build your promotional photography business!
CHRIS WUNDER, Cr. Photog. ASP
President, PortraitEFX Franchising Corp.