July 8, 2020
Guest post by Angela Michelle Borras Perez
Let’s face the hard truth: pursuing a career in photography means becoming an entrepreneur. It means spending more time managing every aspect of the business from prospecting, marketing, accounting, web communication, and social networks than actually shooting. To be a successful photographer, and especially in the commercial realm, you’ll need a solid foundation of tools to sustainably price your services.
Commercial photography is any photography service where the images will be used to make the client money. In some cases, the photos will continue to generate income well after the project is completed.
Commercial photographers play a vital role in digital marketing. Often they are hired to create compelling visuals that appeal to the target audience of a particular product line or brand, which requires the photographer to understand a great deal about the business whose products they are shooting.
Commercial Photography demands a higher rate than photography for personal use because it generates income for the client. Consequently, commercial photographers are tasked with quoting based on more factors than simply how much time or effort the shoot and post process will take. The requisite steps for each job, target market, and other factors will vary. Let’s take a quick look at each of these factors:
The job could be product photography, behind the scenes photos, environmental office portraits, or something else commercial in nature. In any case, your understanding of all aspects of the project will give you a more balanced perspective of the requirements for an appropriate quote.
Understanding the job requirements will help you create a straightforward quote when you know the right questions to ask. Here are some basic questions you can implement into your client communication workflow:
If you haven’t already done so, figure out your Cost Of Doing Business (CODB): the expenses that need to be covered in order to run a profitable business. Generally speaking, these expenses typically include utilities, rent, business debts, hosting, domain, cost of goods, professional fees, insurance, and so on. Your unique CODB will be a key factor in determining what you need to charge as a minimum in order to sustain the business. Don’t forget to include a reasonable salary in your CODB analysis!
Your creative fee should cover your time in preparation, communication, travel, shooting, processing, and any additional expenses incurred for the respective job. Allow your CODB to be your guide, and ensure that your creative fee covers the base amount you need in order to cover all costs.
Now that you have established the cost of doing business and creative fee, you’ll need to figure out the fee for the usage license. In the commercial photography industry, licensing is both expected and necessary. When you deliver images to your client, you are not giving them copyright ownership, and it is your responsibility to provide a clear and well written agreement that covers the scope of their allowed uses of the images, as well as any limitations. For best results, you should consult a specialized attorney with experience drafting these kinds of licenses.
Base your license fee on the following factors:
In the final quote you should include your creative fee and your license fee. This sum will determine the quote that will be forwarded to your client as the rate for the job. Do note that the need to include legal documents or contract agreements to your process cannot be overemphasized. You stand a better chance of running a more successful commercial photography business when your engagements are governed by legal documentation as well as thorough communication. The recommended documents include:
Let’s now move on to the last, and perhaps the most important segment of this article, which is attracting commercial clients.
#1: Be intentional about your online portfolio.
Not only is marketing your photography services within your niche a stronger and clearer approach for reaching the right clients, it also builds trust and indicates your level of professionalism. A modern portfolio can be a Facebook page, an Instagram feed, a third-party hosted gallery, a website, or even a dedicated app. So if for instance you have an Instagram profile for your business and you offer an assortment of photography services such as food images, travels, and portraits, you should consider creating different accounts to serve as different portfolios for the services that you offer.
#2: Show what you want to shoot.
If you specialize in shooting products in the studio and outdoors, you would need to first show your prospects what you can deliver by having examples clearly indicated in both settings. This way, any prospect company that reviews your portfolio would readily see what aspects you specialize in or can shoot and will be more likely to hire you.
#3 Follow Up
Marketing action without follow-up is almost always doomed to failure. If you have met prospects on a trade show, in an association, etc. don’t wait for them to contact you. Reach out to them, send them a link to photos, or an article that might interest them, a brochure, etc. This way, you will foster a line of communication and a relationship with the client. And as a result, you’ll stand a better chance of landing more gigs.
#4. Make your customers dream
You need to stop selling photos and start selling solutions. Talk to the client about the experience they will have during and after a session with you, and the impact your photos will have on their product or brand. Inspire them to dream. Give a soul to your commercial photography services to reflect your vision.
#5. Be innovative!
Suggest what others don’t do! Take a fresh look at your services. What could be improved? What could transform the customer experience? If you’re not sure where to improve, you can always reach out to your clients after working together and ask for honest feedback.
#6. Be clear and at peace with your rates
Take the time to work on your offer — What you sell and price. Offer different packages: entry level, mid-range, high-end depending on the size of the prospect’s company. For each package, detail the benefit for the client. Feeling at ease with the prices and the benefits makes it possible to approach business situations more calmly.
Now that you have these tools to guide your commercial workflow and especially your pricing strategy, it’s time to redefine your photography business and take it to the next level. And remember that you are a digital marketing professional and brand specialist. You don’t just sell photos; you sell solutions.