Author Topic: How's Business?  (Read 432 times)

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Offline Todd Muskopf

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How's Business?
« on: October 30, 2016, 08:50:30 AM »
Just checking to see how everyone is doing.

For me, it's my best year ever.  I've actually been able to cut back a little and give myself a weekend off here and there and still make more money. 

How are things for you?

Offline Jeff Behm

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Re: How's Business?
« Reply #1 on: October 30, 2016, 05:31:04 PM »
Up until July it's been my best since relocating to Maryland. Then it slowed more than I like and continues slow.  Until July, however, 2016 was blowing the doors off the past 10 years. 

Offline Todd Muskopf

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Re: How's Business?
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2016, 07:09:27 AM »
I've found that the last month or two has seen a significant slowdown in new inquiries.  I think it's because everyone is nervous about the election.

October was the first month that I did not beat all previous years since March. 


Offline Darren Cassese

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Re: How's Business?
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2016, 06:34:15 AM »
Maryland has been very, very slow for the wedding business and 2017 isn't looking any brighter thus far.

Just down across the entire industry, although I'm sure that means that some people are lucky and have been up. But not a lot of love to spread around.
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Offline Jenny Gavin-Wear

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Re: How's Business?
« Reply #4 on: November 01, 2016, 05:18:44 PM »
Last year was great, this year started out very well, and then it got really slow.

I think the actor business is generally slow with many worry (unnecessarily) about Brexit and their just haven't been as many projects running locally, and what is happening is even lower budget than normal.  I'm finding actors outside London are not updating their shots as frequently as I expected so I'm having to wait for the repeat business.

There is a lot more competition than when i started out and it is competing on price, not quality.  My work has got a lot, lot better than a couple of years ago, the reviews are still great, but actors are not generally an uneducated market (as far as photographs are concerned) and many of them don't appreciate quality.  I'm pricing at 140-180 and the competition is coming in as low as 30-50.

Because things were going so well previously I got used to the business coming to be and I need to be a lot more proactive.
I need to get into new markets.  Business portraits for certain, which I'm doing a bit already, and probably general commercial photography, perhaps product photography (so I'm putting some time in to learn the skills). 

Bottom line, I need to refocus and get on with it :)

I can just imagine how the US election is making people nervous over there.  Crazy stuff. 

Offline Jeff Behm

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Re: How's Business?
« Reply #5 on: March 04, 2017, 10:36:08 AM »
This may be a 6 month old thread, but I happened upon this video and found it very informative.  The quality of the videographer is poor, but get past that and listen.  This is the real truth about the mindset required of our business, how to make a living.  He proselytizes for Sony and mirrorless, which may offend some but consider the content and think ahead.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3RjCWsohxE

Offline Jenny Gavin-Wear

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Re: How's Business?
« Reply #6 on: March 05, 2017, 06:28:44 PM »
This may be a 6 month old thread, but I happened upon this video and found it very informative.  The quality of the videographer is poor, but get past that and listen.  This is the real truth about the mindset required of our business, how to make a living.  He proselytizes for Sony and mirrorless, which may offend some but consider the content and think ahead.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s3RjCWsohxE

i can't stand the guy, but I made it to the end of the overly long video. 

It was a rather ridiculous Sony commercial and from the nature of it, Sony are getting desperate to gain market share.

Offline Sbuchanan

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Re: How's Business?
« Reply #7 on: March 05, 2017, 08:23:04 PM »
Jenny,

You're better than I - 'cause I couldn't get all the way through it.

On a related note re: Sony -  I keep seeing social media posts about people adapting lenses to fit their Sony.  Are Sony sensors all that, and a bag of chips?  Or is it just paid posting to try and alleviate some of the fear about a relatively new player in the camera market? 

Offline Jeff Behm

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Re: How's Business?
« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2017, 08:38:14 PM »
Good question Steve.  I've heard they're VERY good sensors with enormous range and little noise.  What gets me is the lens question.  Basically, there's Leica quality and Leica priced glass in the FE mount, glass converted from other manufacturers with the commensurate manual focus issues and a bunch of little known Sony brand lenses.  That's a hodge-podge and a concern for long term pro use.   It was still good to hear him talk about the facts of the business to a crowd that might not know the risks of low prices.

Offline Duck

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Re: How's Business?
« Reply #9 on: March 05, 2017, 08:50:43 PM »
Yes, he's a Sony Global Imaging Ambassador (think Canon Explorers of Light or Nikon Ambassadors) but, as Jeff pointed out, he speaks very openly about the current state of the industry, how it's rapidly changing and how those who refuse to change will be left behind. You have to listen past the advertorial to get to the heart of the message.

Personally there is something about Jason I like. I've been keeping tabs on his YouTube channel for a while and he's definitely made a name for himself. He's very candid and openly shares his commercial experiences online. The one thing he's been pretty consistent is his mantra that in order to survive the changes happening in the photo industry you have to adapt along with it.

Change isn't that hard to do, you just have to be sensitive to the current needs and have the courage to implement the necessary changes to meet those needs. The funny thing is that I hear about this all the time with photographers bitching and complaining that so-and-so is undercutting services, or that such-and-such customer is requesting some ridiculous video thing-a-ma-bob or that they'd never sell their soul to the social media devil or, worse still, "it's worked for me in the past so why should I change?" Then when they can't sell a photo album because the bride wants a video they get all huffy puffy.

In that respect I share Jason's philosophy; it's not the client's fault or the fly-by-night undercutter or even Uncle Bob with his kit lens camera outfit. It's their own fault for not changing their business structure to meet the new trends. The biggest resistance I see in the photo community is the hesitation to use Facebook, Instagram or SnapChat to help grow their business. It seems to many that even mentioning these names is taboo. Personally I don't get it. It's a great marketing tool and one I am trying to learn how to take advantage of.

Yeah, keeping up with changes is tough. It requires resources and time and effort, but that's all part of being in business.

Anyhow, that's my little soapbox stance. Sorry for the long dissertation.
My name is Charles Unitas but friends call me Duck

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Offline Duck

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Re: How's Business?
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2017, 08:58:14 PM »
I don't think Sony is desperate to gain market share. That's starting to happen organically specially with Nikon and Canon refusing to meet consumer demands. For the past five or so years they've (Canon and Nikon) been really pushing more and more expensive gear with lenses and bodies well into the thousands. Both Fuji and Sony are taking that opportunity the two giants pretty much handed to them. Just look what Fuji is doing with medium format sensors.

While Jason may be overly zealous, and if we are to believe what he says about the future push by Sony to increase their lens offerings, they are definitely working to place themselves in a firm position as a top contender.

My studio partner is a videographer and he has several Sony cameras he uses. He swears by them. From what I've seen, they have great image quality. I'll have to borrow one of his cameras and take it for a test drive one of these days.
« Last Edit: March 05, 2017, 09:00:43 PM by Duck »
My name is Charles Unitas but friends call me Duck

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Offline Darren Cassese

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Re: How's Business?
« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2017, 06:55:41 AM »
So if we need to use lights to separate us from the everyday iPhone photographer and now we can have cheap mobile, lithium powered lights to do what the "high paid pro" can do, then what is the high paid pro supposed to do to stand out?

Climb a building with a roofer, I guess.
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Offline Jeff Behm

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Re: How's Business?
« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2017, 09:22:45 AM »
Funny Darren, but actually, image quality, difference and pricing savvy are what I took as his key points from the original video.  Step up to the plate, learn to use the new tools available, price for the 10% who get us and constantly improve your imagery.  Yes, the videographer was crap, and not getting distracted by that took effort.  The content around the advertorial is the reason I posted it.

This debate is a heathy one for those of us making a living at this, whether that's full or part time.  If you look back to the start of this forum in 2009, I was much more inclined to bemoan the changes. Digital had really taken off since 2003 when the Canon 10D, at around $1400, had come on the market. It supplanted their EOS D60 and was a ground changer. I didn't trust it yet for the bulk of my work, but I bought the first one available in the tri-county area at the time.  Now, in 2017, it's been 10+ years since I shot a roll of film.  What we're experiencing with the Sony is the advent of the app driven camera, which as Duck points out, Canon and Nikon are avoiding.  As stated in the video, they have tremendous inventory and production investment in the traditional DSLR.  At best, they're taking half measures while Sony, Fuji, Olympus and even Pentax jump in fully, and look outside the box. 

In 1984 when I hung out my full time shingle, I was all about 4x5 view cameras and medium format (By the way, the very best MF camera in my mind was my Fujica GX680 and lenses.  They still make high quality gear.)  19 years later, I took the first step toward what we do now, and this past year I'm trying to adapt as fast as I can, yet am totally amazed at my inner self's resistance and balkiness.  Saturday I was teaching a 30 something peer how to use Wordpress.  Sunday, my 30 something daughter and her VP of the IT department husband were showing me how to integrate Instagram into my marketing. 

It's all part of the same evolution that's been swirling through the industry for 15 years now.  In 1977 +/-, one of my film mentors, Les McLure, bought an Hatari.  I remember being in his living room, bored stiff,  as he fiddled with this thing, looked up at me and in all seriousness said "One of these days this is going to replace all our cameras."  I literally thought he'd lost his marbles.  App driven phones becoming app driven cameras, Baby.

Offline Darren Cassese

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Re: How's Business?
« Reply #13 on: March 06, 2017, 05:25:49 PM »
Funny Darren, but actually, image quality, difference and pricing savvy are what I took as his key points from the original video. 

Agree - that was his point but I'm only half kidding because of his emphasis. And it got me thinking...if you're a talented available light shooter doing portraits or weddings, this is not as easy since that's the new standards. Plus I'm not so sure lighting is something that portrait and wedding customers actually care much about when it's all said and done.
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Offline Jeff Behm

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Re: How's Business?
« Reply #14 on: March 07, 2017, 08:41:52 AM »
But that customer-not-caring aspect is well covered in a couple of stints, and has always been true.  No one wants to know how the sausage is made, they just want good sausage.  Lanier's point is, look different AND better.  OCF is part of that equation, GOOD OCF more important.  With a long career starting with film in studio, what's now treated as a specialty niche is old hat to old guys like me.  The trick has been getting small, powerful, battery operated lights in the field.  After some reticence on my part for lack of confidence in the gear, I'm now pretty well vested in OCF with speedlights and wireless remotes.  All of which I almost always use in manual mode with a Minolta flash meter, etc.  Cutting loose with TTL is still against the grain, tho I've done it more and more, lately.  The appeal of the Godox/Flashpoint AD600's is the combination of studio lighting juice with speedlight flexibility.  Honestly, if I wasn't so invested in studio monolights and such, I'd switch immediately.  But I'd like to replace at least 4 of my 10 lights, and I'm not certain they'd yield the requisite return on investment at this stage of my career.  Instead, I may buy 1-2, but that remains to be seen.   

Offline Duck

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Re: How's Business?
« Reply #15 on: March 07, 2017, 06:42:43 PM »
Years ago I remember the argument was against the many 'instructors' giving away free learning videos on YouTube, running workshops for camera clubs and so on. Many pros were saying that they shouldn't be making this education so readily available as it would be "educating the wannabe's", or as one person put it, "training your competition."

Having gone through a similar phase in the tattoo industry I knew that would never be an issue. For one, there are only a very small percentage of the public interested in developing their photographic skills past the occasional point and shoot. Of those who become hobbyist photographers, there is an even smaller percentage looking to advance to the point where they would compete at a pro level. And of those there is an even smaller percentage willing to invest in the necessary time and equipment to be considered true competition. It was refreshing to see someone else echo my exact sentiments.

Soon after I opened my shop a second one opened down the street. Five or so years later a third shop opened around the corner. People always ask me if I am worried about the competition with these two other shops being so near and my answer has always been, "they are no competition to me." I work my butt off to provide better quality and a nicer experience than all the shops around me and it has paid off. I don't have to worry about the competition because in all honesty they can't compete. That's because there is more to it than just providing a product, you have to sell the whole experience.

That is the other side of the equation to take into account. Many hobbyists who may be able to produce pro quality may not have the desire or time to fully invest pursuing clients at a level where that client would be willing to spend the big bucks. Usually because that would encroach on their 'day job' too much, so they aim for the 'low lying fruit' jobs such as the sub $500 weddings, cheap headshots, occasional non-paying events and other jobs a well established pro would turn away anyhow; or should I say should turn away because they should be pursuing the jobs that can't be done by the average guy with a camera.

I have no problem sharing my knowledge with all the amateur photographers in my area. I run a photography group on Meetup.com, am involved in a few others and have even taught through the local Adult Ed programs. Of the hundreds of students only a very small handful have expressed desire to be a pro photographer. Of that small number I have only seen about 1% of them even make the attempt. Oh, and none of them want to do what I do. They're heads are in the low lying fruit stuff; pets, portraits, events, art photography, etc. Not to say that retail photography is low lying fruit, but these people are not actively pursuing these kinds of jobs. They're happy with whatever comes along.

I can not possibly classify these types of photographers as competitors. It's a waste of my time, but, as Jason says, you have to be willing to produce imagery on a higher level than these advanced hobbyists can produce in order to survive in this business. I agree with that statement. If I needed to hire a photographer and my local pro did the same kind of work as Uncle Bob from the camera club, it only makes good business sense not to hire that pro.
My name is Charles Unitas but friends call me Duck

"If you didn't learn something new today, you wasted a day."