Providing your customers with legal invoices

In Europe, it is required you provide your customers with invoices for their purchase, and these invoices must include specific information. In the UK, VAT invoices for VAT-registered businesses must for example show the VAT rate and amounts.

Enters the new PhotoDeck Invoicing module

In addition to the payment receipt that your customers already get after payment, you can now also deliver PDF invoices right from PhotoDeck — less paperwork!

The PDF invoices will automatically include the full order details, including Tax breakdown if you use PhotoDeck’s tax module. You can also customize the header and footer to include any additional information your local legislation might require.

invoicing_settings

The PDF invoices can be automatically emailed to a customer after an order has been delivered (delivery is what counts when it comes to invoicing). Alternatively, you can send invoices manually from each order’s page in your admin space via a simple button.

You will find the new module under My Business / Setup / Invoices Settings.

What will you do with the time this new feature will free up for you?


Posted in PhotoDeck News, Photography business | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Tips for an effective (portfolio) photography website

Zoe_WhishawZoe Whishaw is an independent commercial photography consultant and mentor. She works with photographers on a one-to-one basis and runs seminars and workshops in and around London.

Your website is your greatest marketing tool. It should be a reflection of your brand and your professionalism and should be a way for others to easily reach and interact with you.

As you will undoubtedly have experienced yourself, when you visit a website that is slow, visually or functionally over complicated or perhaps feels dated, your instinct is likely to be to move on and look for something else. Your website will frequently be the first occasion that a prospective client interacts with you and first impressions are crucially important, just as they are in face-to-face meetings. The last thing you want to do is be remembered for an irritating, slow, stagnant website.

The uncomfortable truth these days is that your imagery alone may not get you the jobs you want or deserve. The edit, design and navigation functionality of your website is vital when it comes to attracting and keeping the attention of a prospective client for long enough for them to be impressed by your offer.

From my years critiquing and helping photographers update and create effective websites, here are some essential considerations:

First things first: Establish what type of photographer you are – is it fine art, corporate, commercial, editorial, social, etc? Equally important is understanding your intended client base. If you struggle with this, think about the intersection of what you like to shoot, what you’re good at shooting and where the commercial opportunities lie for someone with your skills, interests and expertise.

These considerations are essential before you embark on marketing in any way as they will have implications on the messaging, design and gallery categories you will chose to emphasise and clarify your offer. You need to be able to ‘speak’ to your clients in a way they relate to, connect with and would expect.

So in essence, your website needs to be clear, fast and instantly give the right message as to what sort of photographer you are and provide an insight into your overall brand. Confusing a prospective client is tantamount to closing the door on an opportunity.

Images:

  1. Let’s talk about image size – it really does matter! Your website is an opportunity to celebrate your work. I come across too many sites where images are shown far too small, almost apologetically. Display them big – people are more easily drawn in. This applies to the individual image as well as thumbnails.
  2. Make sure individual images load quickly and transitions between images within a gallery are instant. Remember, art buyers/editors, reps, etc have very little time on their hands and will need to make decisions within very short time frames; their tolerance is very low.
  3. Rotating show reels personally put me off and I would much prefer to decide when to see a different image myself. I find that if I am talking to someone or contemplating an image it is both distracting in my peripheral vision and annoying if that image changes.
  4. Ensure large thumbnails are easy to access so the whole contents of a gallery can be seen at one go. Informed decisions can often be based on images at this scale as it can help to show your consistency over a gallery or project.
  5. While you may shoot different subject matter (such as food, travel, landscape and interiors) so long as these subject areas are your passion (and not just what you’ve been commissioned to shoot) and you have a similar, consistent visual style and identity across everything, it can still makes sense to place these different galleries on your website. If however, you shoot food and medical it may be that you need to make a choice as to which you really want to pursue as it would be difficult to reconcile these two very disparate areas in one website.
  6. Edit your pictures tightly; less is more. It is better to leave people wanting more than they grow tired and bored with what’s in a gallery. 20-30 images per gallery is about right with perhaps 2 to 3 themed galleries. More smaller series will also work if you shoot documentary stories.
  7. If you are a commercial photographer it is particularly important to name your galleries/categories so it is clear what they contain. For example ‘Food’, ‘Lifestyle’ and ‘Portraits’. For documentary work or fine art photography you can afford to be more inventive with the naming of your projects. Be sure that it is clear which gallery you are in at all times.
  8. While the page layout doesn’t need to look the same each time, be consistent with how you display your images. For example it’s fine to show parings of vertical images but don’t have the odd vertical image on its own or it may look as though the layout is somewhat random.
  9. Try not to repeat images in different sections. It makes it seem as though you are padding out the content.
  10. Get an objective professional eye to review the work you propose to have on your site.

Navigation:

  1. Make sure navigation between different image galleries is clear. While you might prefer to have a more minimal design, its crucial that finding your way around the site is unambiguous.
  2. Have as few clicks as possible from the home page (ideally no more than 3) to get to the finest level of detail.
  3. Make sure it’s clear which section/gallery you are in at all times.

General:

  1. Make sure you are able to regularly update your website yourself – you’ll want to refresh the contents several times a year. Returning visitors will want to see new work otherwise they will assume you’re not busy or experimenting with new ideas.
  2. If you have a blog ensure you update it regularly with inspiring and informative pieces.
  3. Use Google Ad words to elevate your website by using relevant keywords and expressions that are meaningful to the market you are targeting.
  4. Make sure your contact information is easy to find and immediately accessible. In some markets your location can enhance your chances of being hired so assess whether being specific is indeed a bonus in your circumstances.
  5. For your Bio/About section, please don’t give a long explanation about when you were first given a camera – this is a trap that so many photographers fall into. Clients really aren’t interested in this. What matters more is something about how you see the world and what inspires you to shoot. It doesn’t need to be a long essay – in fact a few sentences is perfectly adequate. It can take time to write this and an objective opinion can often help. I prefer it written in the first person rather than the third as it feels more personal and I like to see a photo of photographers themselves. Again, this is not essential, but personal preference.
  6. Don’t have music – personal taste varies and you don’t want someone to wish they’d never opened up your site in a busy office.
  7. Avoid contact forms. Instead make it as easy as possible to contact you: include your mobile phone number, your email address and social media preferences.
  8. Avoid black backgrounds. While this my personal view, experience tells me that it is only in exceptional circumstances that black shows off your pictures to their best.
  9. Check and check again for any typos; you need to show attention to detail in all areas to demonstrate your professionalism.

Posted in Photography business | Tagged , , , ,

Selling downloads / stock to EU consumers after Jan 1. 2015

On Jan 1, changes in the EU VAT law comes into effect: regardless of whether you are VAT-registered or not, for digital services (e.g. image/video downloads) sold to consumers, VAT applies and the VAT rate is the customer’s country’s rate. Previously, if you were VAT-registered, your own country’s VAT rate was the one to apply.

These changes don’t apply to sales within your own country, nor to sales of physical goods (e.g. prints).

UK members will find more information about this change on the HMRC site. The full details can be found on the EU website.

What should I do now?

If this change applies to you and you haven’t done so yet, it is important that you register to the Mini One-Stop Shop (MOSS) system, that allows you to report your EU VAT sales to a single portal in your country. If you don’t do that BEFORE THE END OF THE YEAR, you’ll have to report sales to every country you’re selling to, which is obviously something you’ll want to avoid.

In addition, you should also create a new, separate tax profile for your downloads/stock sales (downloads and stock) to the EU, and apply it to the relevant pricing profiles when the year changes.

How does PhotoDeck help?

  1. We’ve created for you a new tax profile template with all current VAT rates pre-filled. You simply have to de-activate the VAT exemption for companies in your own country (as previously, companies with a valid EU VAT number shouldn’t have to pay VAT except if they are in the same country as you). If you’re not VAT-registered, you probably want to completely remove the VAT for your own country.
  2. As part of this law change, to avoid abuses the seller (the photographer) is required to keep 2 pieces of proof of the customer’s country, and these 2 pieces should agree. These 2 pieces can be the billing address, and the buyer’s IP address, which we’ve now added to your admin space for each order. Note that if these don’t agree, we don’t block the sale — you will simply have to followup with your customer to have him confirm his location.

PhotoDeck is not qualified to provide tax advice: for more information and to make sure you comply with the law, please contact your accountant or your local tax office!


Posted in PhotoDeck News, Photography business | Tagged , , ,

Why You Did or Didn’t Get That Job

Tricia ScottTricia Scott is the owner of MergeLeft Artist Agents, an agency representing amazing photographers for 20 years in New York City.

You knew you were perfect for the job, it was right up your alley, the work spoke for itself, finally someone sees your brilliance! Why didn’t you get it?

When you look back at the jobs you’ve estimated this year, do you think about why you got the work, or why you didn’t? Do you think about what you could have done differently to ensure you were awarded the project? There are many reasons you win or lose a job, some simple, some not so much. Although budget is a big factor in awarding most projects, it’s not always about the bottom line and more likely a combination of factors. Here are the main reasons in my experience.

Why you get the job

  1. Great work
  2. Enthusiasm for the job
  3. Good communication during phone call or meeting
  4. Good attitude
  5. Good treatment (for advertising)
  6. Friends with client
  7. Right time/right place
  8. Budget
  9. Easy to work with
  10. Knowledge of client and production needs/confidence

Why you didn’t get the job:

  1. Hard to work with
  2. Too expensive
  3. Too cheap
  4. Bad meeting/call
  5. Too shy
  6. Too pushy
  7. Bad work
  8. Not understanding the client/ the scope of the job/poor production

I asked a few of my clients why they hire or don’t hire and their answers expanded on my lists. For the sake of brevity, I included just a few gems.
Following are some insightful thoughts.

Jeff Cooper, ACD at RedFuse in NYC had this to say:

I have 3 things I look for, beyond the obvious talent, that determines who I’ll award a job to.

First, passion. I need to feel like they’re excited not just about the potential job but about what they do for a living. I’ve no desire to spend the day with a burned out asshole who’s only interested in paying the mortgage.

Second, creativity. All things being equal, I’ll award a job to someone who asks a lot of questions and comes to the table with their own ideas over a photog who takes the job at face value and is only interested in shooting what’s on the page. They’re the experts, and I get excited when they’re an active, creative partner.

Finally, I look for professionalism. This is not about how they dress or act (although those are important), this about how they prepare for the shoot and run the day. Have they thought through every shot? Are all eventualities planned for? I can think of two examples of this that are burned in the back of my mind. One was a director who winged the entire day…no shooting board, no plan of action, it was a disaster, and we were scrambling to get footage without going into overtime. The second was a director who presumed he was getting the job, so his treatment was half-assed (at best). He was probably the most experienced and talented, but the job was going to go to someone else who knocked the treatment out of the park. It just showed that they cared more and were willing to work harder.

Hannah Wolfert, art producer at GSW Worldwide had similar feelings, as well as some others.

There is the typical reason, budget. Even if a team has really liked and wanted to work with a photographer, I’ve had photographers price themselves out of a job because they can’t meet the budget. Some have bid so high above our actual budget there was no way to pull enough out of an estimate to meet our needs. It’s especially frustrating because I typically include what our general budget is so the rep & photographer know what kind of funds we have to spend and what level of production we’re looking for. If I’m providing information on our budget, you should be able to bid to the level of production that will meet our needs.

I’ve also advised teams not to hire photographers because of a lack of confidence in the bid. I’ve had photographers so underbid a job or provide very little information on how they arrived at the bottom line that I was wary that they could meet our needs for the cost that they were proposing. I was worried that once we started production there would be additional costs that the photographer or producer didn’t build into the bid. Having to go back and ask the client for more money due to poor planning is just not acceptable. If I can’t see all the numbers, pieces and parts that are going into a bottom line, I can’t trust it – especially if it’s way under bid. It makes me wary that the photographer can’t meet our needs.

The creative call is really where it’s at. It really gives the creative teams an idea of what the photographer is like and if they “get” the client and what they are trying to communicate. This is SO important. A team may love a photographer’s work but if they have a bad creative call or if the photographer doesn’t communicate well with them, it pretty much kills their chances of working on the project. Even if the photographer’s bid comes in on or below budget, if they don’t gel with team, it’s highly unlikely
they’ll get the job.

I’ve been on a creative call where the producer did all the talking and the photographer said 5 words on the call – even after trying to coax him into talking about his thoughts on the project. He just wasn’t bringing anything to the table. The art director called me afterwords and asked what they heck was going on, “did the photographer not want the job?”. I was baffled myself, especially since he had been really trying to work with our agency. Maybe he just thought it was “in the bag” and he didn’t have to
contribute, but he lost out and I doubt I’ll recommend him again.

It’s important for the creatives to know that whomever they hire to help them in communicating their ideas understands what they’re trying to do, has a vested interest in it and has a good rapport with them. It’s a collaboration. The team wants the photographer to bring their expertise and ideas to the table to make their concepts the best they can be. To bring them to life! If the team doesn’t have confidence in the photographer to do this, he/she won’t get the job. If a photographer has great work, listens, works with my team to create great imagery, and offers a fair price that is a perfect combination.

In a perfect world, all the stars align and you land a job easily and quickly. Sometimes there are many factors that contribute to why you do or don’t get that job, but as illustrated above, creativity, budget, production knowledge and problem solving are key. Above all, be an awesome person.


Posted in Photography business | Tagged , ,

Turn your client meetings into jobs – the ultimate checklist

Zoe_WhishawZoe Whishaw is an independent commercial photography consultant and mentor. She works with photographers on a one-to-one basis and runs seminars and workshops in and around London.

If you read my last posting on creating a portfolio of images, you may soon have a well thought-through body of work to show potential commercial clients. It should be one that really represents you now: what you love to shoot…your specialisms, your stand-out signature style and would give a client a pretty good idea of what could be expected of you were they to hire you.

The next logical step would be face-to-face meetings. These are a great way to begin a relationship with a potential commercial client and create an impact. But let’s be clear: this goes both ways – leave a poor impression and you’ll not hear from them again.

It’s harder than ever to get in-person meetings mostly due to lack of time rather than lack of desire to meet new photographers, so tenacity and patience is essential. While you should consider this to be the equivalent to a job interview, it’s also important to be yourself and be relaxed and to go with the flow so that your true character can shine through.

Advance preparation

  1. Make lists of prospective clients; research the names and contact details.
  2. Make sure these people are the creative decision-makers.
  3. Do your homework – they will expect this of you: research your client by checking out their blog and social media sites as well as their website so you are in a position to demonstrate your knowledge of their clients and recent work, campaigns, etc…
  4. Make sure your work is compatible with these prospective clients.

Initial request email

  1. Send out an email around 7-10 days before you’d like to meet your contact. Too far in advance and you risk them forgetting or cancelling. Too little time and they may be already booked up.
  2. Make your initial email personal to who you would like to meet.
  3. Don’t’ be pushy. Keep it short indicating how your skills and interests match their needs in a single sentence or two.
  4. Include a link to your site.
  5. Give dates/times when you’re available. Give the impression you are in town for other meetings – you don’t want them to feel pressure and that you’re making a special trip for them.
  6. Never request for too much of their time – ‘a few minutes’ is all you should ask for.
  7. There is no need to include many (if any) images in this initial email. Your email may get through a spam firewall better without them.

The chase

  1. If you’ve not heard anything after a few days, follow-up with a phone call.
  2. Being proactive is part-and-parcel of running a successful business and while it can be an intimidating prospect, it’s good practice to speak directly with a client.
  3. Keep your chat brief and friendly and rather than implying they haven’t read your email, reiterate that you’ll be passing by next week and wonder if they have a few minutes to take a look at your book.
  4. If you don’t get any traction after this, you have to assume they don’t want to meet with you at that point in time. Move on to the next client rather than lamenting the situation…and certainly don’t be a pest and chase them further.

The meeting

  1. Be charming and engaging, relaxed and focused.
  2. Ask how much time they have available for the meeting at the start so they can sense you are aware of their pressures.
  3. Leave the page-turning to the art buyer/art director/editor. You can always slow them down by a quick, relevant anecdote about one or two pictures. Otherwise, leave the images to speak for themselves or wait for questions.
  4. Don’t expect the client to give you a critique on your work – that’s not the purpose of the meeting.
  5. Don’t ask them if they have a job for you to work on. Have faith that this is at the back of their minds at all times.
  6. If appropriate, ask which photographers they have used recently. This may give you a clue as to the calibre of who they are currently hiring and against whom you may be competing.
  7. Never suggest the photography that the company has used in the past was below par as you may be insulting the very person who was responsible for it.
  8. At the end ask respectfully whether you can add them to your promotional email list.
  9. Never appear desperate for work – it will be a real turn-off.
  10. Remember to have a ‘leave-behind’, which has your name and contact info on it.

From the client’s point of view

  1. They don’t have much time and certainly won’t appreciate chatterboxes.
  2. They won’t want to be overwhelmed with impressive lists of past clients, which may make you appear arrogant. A more subtle approach in mentioning a few names at the appropriate time would be more appropriate.
  3. They will expect you to ask incisive questions about their business and campaigns.
  4. They don’t want a sales meeting with you pushing your work and telling them how great you are.
  5. They will want to feel you can be collaborative: a good listener and able to be part of a team.
  6. They will love a photographer who has a can-do attitude, is resourceful and is a problem-solver.
  7. By meeting you, they will want to have got a glimpse into who you are, what you’re like and how you work.

It might be useful to take an iPad, along with you also if you want to show additional images from a series they showed particular interest, or perhaps you also shoot motion.

As a follow-up, a courteous acknowledgement of their time is respectful and might help you to stand out. This could be in the form of an email or perhaps a hand-written note or postcard.

Remember that you are your brand. It’s not just your work that may get you an assignment; your sense of professionalism and your personality are also determining factors.


Posted in Photography business | Tagged , , , ,

Your (almost) perfect portfolio in 11 steps

Zoe_WhishawZoe Whishaw is a independent commercial photography consultant and mentor. She works with photographers on a one-to-one basis and runs seminars and workshops in and around London.

Marketing your work needs a variety of approaches. Depending on who your end clients are, a physical portfolio will be a must-have in your toolkit.

We are all accustomed to the fact that social media is a very powerful means to get noticed, get connected and to garner information. But given that this all-absorbing digital environment envelops many of us much of the time, nothing touches a potential client quite like a physical portfolio to disrupt this new norm. This may sound a little old-fashioned to some, but it’s true to say that many art buyers, art directors, gallery curators and photo editors crave the tactile and immediacy of beautifully printed pictures on high quality paper given how commonplace the more speedy and practical nature of iPads has become.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a place for a range of platforms to show your work and indeed it may well be that for your particular photography business where you want to demonstrate your skills in motion or you want to show an alternative group of images to those in your standard portfolio, or a more in-depth look at a project, the iPad or a printed book may be preferable. If you’re shooting mainly editorial work, your website is likely to do most of the work.

Whether you are a wedding photographer wanting to impress your clients with an unforgettable, cherished item or one wanting to demonstrate the potential and perfection in enlarging your prints to an advertising agency, a physical, tangible book will be a priority.

It will represent you and be memorable.

A portfolio is an investment – be realistic from the outset about what you can afford to spend. Determining what the design, materials, size, etc should look like will depend on your budget, overall brand and is of course a personal decision. The choices available enable you to create on the one hand a striking, sophisticated yet classic leather-bound book or something that is more characterful and unique and speaks to your own approach and genre of work….and everything in between. Think about what describes your style and consider materials and design that support this element of your brand.

But what of the contents…the all-important lure into you and where your creative passions lie?

Your book needs to have a focus and consistency. If you shoot a wide range of subjects you might decide you need to have more than one book to separate your specialties.

When defining a gallery of work, many seasoned editors like to use both editing software (at the start of the process) as well as tangible small prints (in the latter stages).

Here’s my outline guide to getting to that all-important tight selection of work.

Incidentally, this will be just as relevant to you if you are creating an online portfolio or series of image galleries.

As a starting point, get yourself in the right frame of mind: know it’s going to take time and that you’ll need several breaks away from the process to keep your mind fresh and as objective as possible in what can be an emotionally draining process. These breaks may vary from an hour or two to entire days.

  1. Gather together your favourite images from the last few years of shooting into one master gallery. This group may be as large as 500 or more images. Try to gather images from your personal work, with a sprinkling from commissions if you believe them to be amongst your best.
  2. Whilst I take for granted that you love all these images, now you have to start the ruthless process of throwing out the ones you love least. If you find there is repetition, delete the least strong shot…if you’re keeping in a few to show your range, but you know they aren’t the strongest and you aren’t particularly keen to develop this area, take them out. Try to get your gallery down to around 300. Now take a break – perhaps even wait until the following day.
  3. Do the process again and cull your images down to 100 and then finally to between 40 and 60. Keep the core of a series if you feel you need a sequence. Remember, you’re not trying to show all your work, you’re trying to show the essence of your vision.
  4. Print out these pictures using an inexpensive printer – perhaps 4-up to an A4 page and cut them out.
  5. Find an area you can use to stick these pictures to a wall or lay them out on a large flat surface – that you can leave and come back to and doesn’t need to be cleared away.
  6. Can you identify your 2-4 strongest, most striking images? These may form the start and end of your folio.
  7. Get some perspective and step back – decide which pictures sit naturally well together in terms of colour, style, composition, subject matter, short series. Which images seem to stand alone and not ‘fit’ with the rest? You’re now trying to get to a final set of between 20 and 40 images…so some of these are going to have to be let go.
  8. Start to rearrange the pictures so you start to feel a flow from left to right. Look for pairings of pictures that work together as spreads. Even if you decide to show your work as loose prints, there needs to be a beginning, middle and end to the sequence you present.
  9. Keep removing the images that simply don’t fit or jar with you. You will need to grit your teeth at this point and just do it. I said it would be tough and this is the hardest part! It is better to have an edit that is short and sweet with every page having the ‘wow’ factor that risk a potential client skipping past a great shot.
  10. Try to get some honest feedback at this state from people who have a level of objectivity you can trust and may even provide professional insight. Listen to what they say however painful that might be. Hear common threads from different people and make the changes you now know you need to make.
  11. It’s unlikely to feel perfect – the gaps will tell you where you need to focus your activities going forwards.

The portfolio at this point should represent You and where you are now. You’ll need to revisit the contents several times a year and not feel precious about keeping it as is.

Now that you have your portfolio, you need to get it out there and for it to be seen.

Nothing beats you being present with your book – a potential client can get a much better measure of whether you are likely to be able to help solve their imagery needs. I’ll be talking about those all-important client meetings in my next blog post.


Posted in Photography business | Tagged , , , ,

The importance of Personal Work

Tricia ScottTricia Scott is the owner of MergeLeft Artist Agents, an agency representing amazing photographers for 20 years in New York City.

The first time you took a photograph and said, “I love this, I want to do this for the rest of my life” was probably when you were quite young. It may have been when you saw the way the light hit an object or a face, or took a photo of the mountains. It was personal to you, it inspired you and left you wanting to do more.

Personal work is the fuel that allows you to keep moving forward, experiment, make mistakes and push yourself.

Busy photographers can get caught in the circle of jobs; pre-production, shooting, post production, repeat. You can’t let this stop you from thinking about new work, personal work that will continue to help you grow. When you were a child, play expanded your creativity and mind, and you should continue that even as adults.

Great personal projects are born out of a passion for something.

Take the time think about what will really push you to create new work that means something to you. What do you love to do when you aren’t shooting? Do you dance? Find a project with dancers that interests you. Do you have a charity that is important to you? Team up with them to create a project that you can get behind and have creative freedom. Set a goal for a certain amount of personal work per month and stick to it. It can be hard with commercial work, life and family, but it’s necessary to keep your momentum moving forward.

So many of my clients say they love to see the photographer’s personal work as well as commercial work.

It allows them to get a glimpse into what is important to you, what your personality might be like, and what you may have in common. That common interest can translate into them wanting to work with you. You want to be around people with similar passions, why wouldn’t they?

This work can be the catalyst for many opportunities in your photography.

Because you allow yourself to simply create, take risks and make mistakes, you learn. You may find a new style or interest that you didn’t know you had or never explored. It might be the opportunity you need to make a change and create a new client base. You might collaborate with art directors, illustrators, stylists, or film-makers that you have been wanting to work with.

Create something that is long term that you can go back to between jobs that keeps you shooting and fulfilling that personal need in your photography. It’s also a great opportunity for marketing, with new work to show via promotion and social media. Updated work keeps you present in people’s minds.

Don’t sit around waiting for someone to hire you to shoot that perfect job, create it yourself! And with the myriad of ways to promote it – get it out there!


Posted in Photography business | Tagged ,

Describing your Personal Vision

Zoe_WhishawZoe Whishaw is a independent commercial photography consultant and mentor. She works with photographers on a one-to-one basis and runs seminars and workshops in and around London.

How you describe your work and vision as a photographer to a stranger (who unbeknown to you may be in a position to buy your services) or indeed someone to whom you are pitching for work can make the difference between getting an assignment or not.

Even for those photographers with a clear creative vision, this task can seem daunting and many shy away from opportunities where they may need to speak face to face about their work and ideas. Indeed many photographers assume that their work can stand for itself and should be enough to bring in clients. Alas, this may well have been true in the not too distant past, but these days it is more important than ever that your talent and personality shines through your branding which will include any one-to-one contact you have with a potential client, either by phone or in person.

I come across many photographers who would rather walk over hot coals than have to describe their work and creative vision. Yet, who better than you, the photographer, to find the words to describe your excitement, passion and emotion about how you see the world and ideas you may be looking to explore through your work?

How would you feel and what would you say if someone (who might be a potential client) were to ask you what you do? Think about it for a moment…

It’s not uncommon for a sense of panic to set in accompanied by an inexplicable feeling of being exposed or confused about what to say followed by a jumble of words or indeed simply ‘I’m a photographer’. Others may have their ‘spiel’ fluently memorised and can reel it off no problem. These apparently very different responses may in fact have the same effect – switch off the interest from the person who asked the question who then feels none the wiser.

What would hook someone would be a genuine expression of enthusiasm, passion and excitement about your work – what you love to shoot and what you are trying to achieve or explore through your imagery. Remember, you are not trying to ‘sell’ yourself (as though you are a door-to-door salesman, selling something people don’t want), you are tying to express the creative value in what you produce and create a compelling reason for someone to explore your ideas and talent further.

So a compelling ‘pitch’ will be a genuinely motivated, heart-felt and enthusiastic expression of what you do combined with what you believe to be your unique vision and approach, who you aim your work towards and perhaps a current project you are excited by. So long as you are not trying to be theoretical, but genuinely think about what motivates you at best about the work you do, you are much more likely to transfer that enthusiasm on to the listener and provide a richer texture to your work and practice.

Remember, you are likely to have less than a 40 seconds to make an impression, so keep it tight, simple but above all an expression that feels true to life and not akin to something you might have lifted from a text book. Try to explore your own visual language for your work – it may be helpful to get other photographers or professionals in the business to talk to you about your work to help tease out some phraseology that best describes your vision that you may not have thought of.

This is always going to be a journey – what you feel comfortable saying that best describes your work will be constantly changing with time… not least as you get closer to what you feel is the real You photographically-speaking, but also because you are likely to be taking twists and turns in your creative direction. Expect your pitch to change as you discover more about your work and what excites you about personal projects you are exploring.

Try to find occasions to practice your pitch – and expect it not always to be perfect. Each time you say it out loud expect there to be something that can be bettered or expressed in a more compelling way next time. Be critical and ask yourself – would you ask for a business card from this person if you were in a rush and running to catch a train? If not, what would change your mind?


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The importance of partners

Tricia ScottTricia Scott is the owner of MergeLeft Artist Agents, an agency representing amazing photographers for 20 years in New York City.

Recently, my photographer Dustin was on a podcast called Full Time Photographer. Josh Rossi interviews photographers that are working, making a living, doing what they love. Somewhere in the conversation Josh asks Dustin about having an agent. His response was something along the lines of, I’ve worked harder than ever since signing with MergeLeft.

It reminded me that we all need help, a partner, or partners that move us forward. As a photographer, the end goal is to be the very best you can be, creating work to share with the world that fulfills you. Sometimes you need someone to share in that responsibility. You don’t need to have an agent, but you should have someone that holds you accountable, a sounding board, an idea sharer, or someone to help you keep it all organized. It could be a studio manager, an assistant, a spouse, an intern, or all the above. All photographers work differently, some want more outside involvement than others.

The result of people working together is more successful than working alone. Great professional partnerships are based in communication, trust and respect. Disagreements are fine so long as your end goal is the same. Find people who believe in you and your vision. The best photographs are made as a collaboration between the photographer and the subject, your work behind the scenes should be that way as well. Hard decisions should never be solo decisions. Your work is incredibly personal to you, you may need an outside opinion to be objective about your work, and having a sounding board is helpful and necessary.

Photographers can be a isolated bunch. Many freelancers get up, make coffee, make lists of all the things they need to do, get paralyzed and read Facebook all day. Kidding aside, with the myriad of things that need to be done in a day for a person who owns their own business, it can be daunting and paralyzing. Some photographers are so busy shooting, the other important tasks get swept by the wayside and then become enormous if there are slow times. Either of these types can benefit from a partner or partners. Using a project management system with your partner, such as Google, Evernote, Basecamp, can keep you on track and moving towards goals efficiently.

When you aren’t shooting, you should be researching new personal projects, new clients, and expanding your knowledge of your art and craft. As well as accounting and billing, marketing and social media, meetings, reaching out to new people, interacting with your fellow photographers, and taking care of your health and well being. Some companies have teams of people who do this, you have you. Find someone who can help you make these things less of a chore and more of an everyday occurrence so you are always moving forward.

Having a creative partner to talk ideas through is extremely helpful. Have conversations about ideas for future projects or stories or current projects that need a little stimulation. With a creative partner that has no judgment, when all ideas are on the table for discussion, an amazing solution can be the reward. For some photographers it’s so personal that to hear the ideas out loud, and work through the positives and negatives with an objective person is the most essential part of this relationship.

Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, who encourage you and push you to be a better photographer and person, it’s one of the best business decisions you’ll ever make.

To quote Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”


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What’s your specialism? Styles and Signposts

Zoe_WhishawZoe Whishaw is a independent commercial photography consultant and mentor. She works with photographers on a one-to-one basis and runs seminars and workshops in and around London.

Aside from being functionally efficient, those looking to commission photography will want a photographer’s website to clearly indicate areas of speciality so they can more easily decide if you’re right for their job.

Are you offering uniqueness based on a specialty (eg adventure travel), access (eg the celebrity world), a skill (eg lighting) or a style/technique/treatment of photography? If possible try to make this brand differentiation based on something that is not easy to replicate. Limiting the scope of what you photograph will help you become more effective at penetrating your markets.

When you start out as a photographer, it often takes time to really work out what you want to express through your work and for your signature style to be evident. In fact your whole life as a photographer could be thought of as a journey spent honing and developing the essence of your visual language. It is this personal vision that demonstrates your love of the medium that ideally you want to be hired to express.

Art Buyers and Photo Editors who are actively commissioning photographers will want to know not just what you can shoot but what you really like to shoot; where your passion and excitement as a photographer lies. They will be looking through dozens of websites every day and if there aren’t clear signposts as to what’s on offer you will be easily overlooked.

In my work it is not uncommon to come across websites that feel muddled and cluttered with too many different image galleries alongside a mixture of styles, treatments and themes. In the end I am left wondering what this photographer’s specialism actually is and, given the confusion, who would want to risk their money hiring them. Today, more than ever, you need to stand out from those who try to be a jack-of-all-trades and show your difference. If you can’t differentiate yourself you’ll be competing on price…and then it’s a race to the bottom.

Ideally you need to show off the work you feel passionate about and aim your marketing towards those who are likely to want to hire you for your style and approach. Here are some thoughts on how to get there:

  1. To define your style, shoot loads and then shoot more. In the early days, don’t stop at a single theme or genre. Experiment with your angles, themes, cameras/lenses, lighting and subject areas. Your preferred area will emerge through this intensive process. Allow for many small mistakes and failures and use them indicate new directions.
  2. Don’t let your website galleries be guided only by what you are being commissioned to shoot especially if much of this isn’t your own personally-motivated speciality area. This can be a big mistake and inadvertently you can mould your offering into something that lacks true passion and self-belief.
  3. Ensure you always have a variety of personal projects on the go at any one time. These may range in scale from very short term almost playful daily explorations to more deeply-researched ideas you feel excited by that last months or even years. Show the best of the work from these projects if you feel it shows a creative progression or successfully demonstrates ideas you have explored.
  4. If you are aiming yourself towards the commercial marketplace give your image galleries clear labels so it is obvious what someone should expect to find (eg Lifestyle, Landscape, Portraits, Travel, etc) and keep the number of galleries to a handful (3 or 4 max). If you are more of a documentary photographer you may choose to show a broad range of tightly edited images from a range of different stories each with their own title accompanied by a short statement explaining the ideas behind each of the projects.
  5. Don’t use your portfolio as a dumping ground for all your work – nobody wants to wade through layers and layers of archive content, not least because of time constraints. Less is more. If you choose to host an archive on your site, make sure it is clearly separate from your portfolio galleries as it has a different purpose. It is still worth ensuring you edit and sequence this older work as you may be judged on its contents also.
  6. Do update your site regularly (2-4 times a year) to showcase strong new personal and commissioned work.

In essence, know what you’re good at; show what you’re good at.

 


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