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Author Topic: Do you need to specialize for your business to succeed?  (Read 3309 times)

Rob C

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Re: Do you need to specialize for your business to succeed?
« Reply #20 on: November 27, 2017, 07:27:43 AM »

Perhaps unkind, but unless you are absolutely driven to be a pro snapper, which to me can't avoid the genre that makes you feel like that, you are wasting your time.

Sharon touches on wedding people; in my time, much as Joe suggests about today, wedding photographers and high street snappers as a bunch doing hatches, matches and dispatches didn't rate on the advertising agency radar. You had to hang out your shingle as an advertising photographer, which might or might not include a fashion photographer.

If you first chase the money, forget it. You have to chase the dream, and then, only then, if it's viable, the money follows. Putting money first is fatal for your soul and without soul, why try to make it in one of the arts, or at least, quasi-arts?

You have to have the mindset for this game, and asking around isn't a route: you just gotta do it; cut the umbilical and try 100%. In my own case, already an employed photographer, I had to find the wherewithal to support self, wife and two kids first, for at least six months with zero coming in. In the U.K., many advertising agencies would only pay on the third month following month of invoice. Cool.

Rob

KLaban

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Re: Do you need to specialize for your business to succeed?
« Reply #21 on: November 27, 2017, 09:16:16 AM »

Perhaps unkind, but unless you are absolutely driven to be a pro snapper, which to me can't avoid the genre that makes you feel like that, you are wasting your time.

Sharon touches on wedding people; in my time, much as Joe suggests about today, wedding photographers and high street snappers as a bunch doing hatches, matches and dispatches didn't rate on the advertising agency radar. You had to hang out your shingle as an advertising photographer, which might or might not include a fashion photographer.

If you first chase the money, forget it. You have to chase the dream, and then, only then, if it's viable, the money follows. Putting money first is fatal for your soul and without soul, why try to make it in one of the arts, or at least, quasi-arts?

You have to have the mindset for this game, and asking around isn't a route: you just gotta do it; cut the umbilical and try 100%. In my own case, already an employed photographer, I had to find the wherewithal to support self, wife and two kids first, for at least six months with zero coming in. In the U.K., many advertising agencies would only pay on the third month following month of invoice. Cool.

Rob

Same experience here, at least until I signed up with an agent who stipulated payment within 28 days and interest added thereafter.
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Slobodan Blagojevic

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Re: Do you need to specialize for your business to succeed?
« Reply #22 on: November 27, 2017, 09:39:14 AM »

And not only specialization, but sub-specialization matters too. At one point, while I was trying to break into architectural photography, I had a web-site focused on that, with further division into residential and commercial. A potential client called and said they visited the web site, but didn't see any examples of a commercial architectural photography they are interested in: office space. I had plenty of examples of larger commercial properties, like malls and government buildings, but no office space. That was the end of discussion.

Rob C

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Re: Do you need to specialize for your business to succeed?
« Reply #23 on: November 27, 2017, 10:20:56 AM »

And not only specialization, but sub-specialization matters too. At one point, while I was trying to break into architectural photography, I had a web-site focused on that, with further division into residential and commercial. A potential client called and said they visited the web site, but didn't see any examples of a commercial architectural photography they are interested in: office space. I had plenty of examples of larger commercial properties, like malls and government buildings, but no office space. That was the end of discussion.

As a fashion photographer I wouldn't have felt very comfortable doing beauty - in the sense of make-up. That sort of lighting is pretty tricky, and I was far more at ease working outdoors on location with mainly natural light. So Slobodan's right: it gets fairly specialised out there, and if you accept a gig that may be beyond your abilities, you never recover from the fallout when it bombs, as it probably will. Be careful what you pray for in the pro life!

Rob

pearlstreet

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Re: Do you need to specialize for your business to succeed?
« Reply #24 on: November 27, 2017, 11:52:26 AM »

Some wedding photographers here make multiple 6 figures. It is a huge business here, but not one that I do, want to do or could do.
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Rob C

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Re: Do you need to specialize for your business to succeed?
« Reply #25 on: November 27, 2017, 12:00:57 PM »

Some wedding photographers here make multiple 6 figures. It is a huge business here, but not one that I do, want to do or could do.


I can understand completely!

:-)

Rob

pearlstreet

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Re: Do you need to specialize for your business to succeed?
« Reply #26 on: November 27, 2017, 09:23:47 PM »


I can understand completely!

:-)

Rob

Yeah, I'd be drinking heavily if I had to shoot a wedding.
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Rob C

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Re: Do you need to specialize for your business to succeed?
« Reply #27 on: November 28, 2017, 10:40:10 AM »

Yeah, I'd be drinking heavily if I had to shoot a wedding.

That's the best reason for folks even going to a wedding, a situation fraught with hidden dangers for everyone. Even the band.

God preserve young Harry next year!

;-)

Rob

Colorado David

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Re: Do you need to specialize for your business to succeed?
« Reply #28 on: December 03, 2017, 12:31:37 AM »

People occasionally ask if I do weddings. I say no, I don't do dangerous work. I can work with bears and moose, but the mother of the bride is another story.

Rob C

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Re: Do you need to specialize for your business to succeed?
« Reply #29 on: December 03, 2017, 07:20:51 AM »

People occasionally ask if I do weddings. I say no, I don't do dangerous work. I can work with bears and moose, but the mother of the bride is another story.

That's a very good line! Wish I'd thought of it in the day - better than having to be rude and wrnkle up the nose that little, identifiable bit that could never be disguised! I just couldn't help it. It was never about the money, though heaven knows I needed some.

Rob

Harold Clark

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Re: Do you need to specialize for your business to succeed?
« Reply #30 on: December 12, 2017, 09:45:38 AM »

A couple of things to consider, what interests you and where you are located. A large population base will provide a greater variety of possibilities than a small town. I started in photojournalism, and diversified into architecture and industry. I concentrate on mainly medium sized clients, I do their corporate portraits but also do their buildings and manufacturing processes. If the CEO wants photos of his daughter's wedding or his first grandchild, I refer them elsewhere. I would say I specialize within a narrow but related range.

One of the most important factors in your success will be your sales ability. Mediocre photographers have thrived because they were good at sales and the business end of things, and excellent photographers have failed because they lacked those skills. A good accountant is a valuable asset. Keep expenses down by resisting the urge to buy the latest gizmo, leave that to the wealthy amateurs. Buy only what you need, look for deals and used gear, rent/borrow something you only use occasionally.

Don't price yourself too cheap, otherwise you will be pigeon holed as the budget photographer, you will starve while the better assignments always go to someone else. Keep in mind that the actual making of photographs is a minor part of the business. Marketing, planning, quoting etc. will take a lot of your time. Unlike being an employee, there is no pension plan, vacation pay, sick leave, or corporate support services. Your business plan has to include funding for these things.

Now entering my 43rd year in the business, I have seen drastic changes in the industry and I am glad I am not starting out today. Like Prince Philip, I am on the Freedom 95 retirement plan, I hope to keep going as long as I am able and clients keep calling.


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Harold Clark

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Re: Do you need to specialize for your business to succeed?
« Reply #31 on: December 12, 2017, 10:35:21 AM »

People occasionally ask if I do weddings. I say no, I don't do dangerous work. I can work with bears and moose, but the mother of the bride is another story.

Excellent explanation. I had an assistant a few years ago who had also assisted in the wedding business. One photographer he assisted priced himself such that he only attracted the top end of the market. He said those wedding shoots were a pleasure, the guests took care of themselves, were immaculately dressed, well behaved and respectful. Another photographer he assisted went after the budget end of the market and constantly dealt with slovenly and poorly dressed attendees, excessive drinking, brawls and family feuds.

I suspect the mother of the bride from hell could be encountered at either venue, but would be less likely to punch you in the mouth at the higher end event.
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Ranski

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Re: Do you need to specialize for your business to succeed?
« Reply #32 on: March 01, 2018, 10:06:40 PM »

New to LL and this is officially my first Forum post.

I worked in Marketing for Architects & Engineers for 17+ years and 7-years ago I must have bumped my head because I quit my job to become a professional photographer. (Background: Degree in Marketing but took a photography class every semester in college - I was a Zone VI disciple...anybody remember Fred Picker)

Before making the jump I attended a Workshop in Telluride w/ a very successful commercial outdoor lifestyle photographer that I respect very much.  We spent the better part of the morning discussing this very topic.  The consensus was that it is best to move towards a more specialized approach, especially if you intend to work in the commercial world. The "Dr." analogy mentioned above is spot on if you intend to work with Agencies. With that said it was understood that you may need to shoot other types of subjects to pay the bills.  The important part is to only show on your website and portfolio the types of work you truly want to get hired for.

In the beginning I shot editorial projects for a local business magazine and local lifestyle/fashion magazine, executive portraits, senior/family portraits and architecture. Basically not specialized at all. The senior/family portrait work was low hanging fruit as all my friends had kids and wanted me to photograph them (low marketing effort) The editorial work came from a friend who was the AD for the publications (again low marketing effort) These two areas paid the bills and allowed me to hone my skills even more and refine my workflow.  My longterm goal was to focus on Architecture, Corporate Lifestyle and Executive Portraits. Why?  First and foremost it was what I was most passionate about. Second, in my previous life those are the types of images I used and hired photographers for - this gave me an intimate understanding of what my clients would be looking for since I had sat on their side of the table. And finally, I had an established network of decision makers that hire photographers. It took me about 3 years before I could start saying no to the editorial and family portrait work.  So the question is am I specialized because I serve a particular niche industry (Architects & Engineers) OR do I need to continue to narrow it down to where I am only an Architectural Photographer? Again, moving towards only ONLY showing Architectural work on my website while still shooting executive portraits/lifestyle when asked by my existing clients.

This is something I continue to juggle in my brain.

Here is what I have personally learned as benefits as I have moved along this path of narrowing the types of projects I shoot.

Streamlined workflow - when I was shooting a diverse range of subjects each demanded a different approach to equipment, shooting, processing and delivery. Now working in 3 areas I have a more streamlined workflow.
Streamlined kit - it was driving me crazy having to assemble my kit each day to respond to the diverse assignments, at times forgetting a bit of gear.
Quality of Work Improved - by focusing I am better able to stay current on trends in those areas and deliver better images to my clients

And finally you must ask yourself, what will make you happy.  If you are the type of person that thrives on diversity and have the market to support that approach then do that.  If you are like me an perform better within a narrower scope and/or in a market that demands specialization then do that.

That is my 2 cents...

Really enjoying the content offered on in the forums and on on the LL website.  I have learned a ton.
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Randy B

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Re: Do you need to specialize for your business to succeed?
« Reply #33 on: March 01, 2018, 11:06:21 PM »

New to LL and this is officially my first Forum post.

Welcome!
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Phil Brown
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