As many commercial photographers
will tell you, it has not been such a great year for business. Though
the consumer (wedding/portrait) shooter seems to be still building sales
and finding new clients, the commercial shooters have been looking for
new avenues for revenue.
As creative professionals, commercial photographers have no "ceiling"
on discovering or inventing new avenues for revenue. From all the responses
I received, the only limit seems to be your imagination. I can sum up
many of the ideas in two overall recommendations for building new revenue
sources. One is to find a need and then fill that need. Second (and the
more difficult and imaginative) is to invent a "need" for
a service or product you can then sell. Here are some of examples from
the photographers we surveyed:
From The Pros
John Hildebrand at B 14 Studio (www.b14studio.com)
says, "In order to make money and stay alive we rent out our studio.
We have a full studio space that we rent out to other photographers, for
parties, business events, and other activities."
"LandSpeed" Louise Ann Noeth, LandSpeed Productions (www.landspeedproductions.biz),
says, "Lately I have found that selling archival prints of land
speed racing cars together with my book (now in a third printing) has
been a great source of new income. I am slowly shifting into more digital
output, but maintaining a solid photographic arsenal."
Speaking of digital, Randy Becker, Elite Photo Graphics, Inc., says, "In
Las Vegas, probably like many other cities, digital capture has had a
rough go of it. I thought my clients would embrace the new technology
immediately. However, because they had such terrible results themselves,
they actually insist that I shoot conventionally and scan their selections
and put them on CD. I thought buying a good scanner was a gamble but it
actually paid for itself the first day it came out of the box."
Jeff Colburn, Jeff Colburn Photography (www.CreativeCauldron.com),
does writing and consulting: "I do promotion through writing articles
for various publications, and for my web site, The Creative Cauldron.
Over the years I've also done consulting both for photography and
how to deal with printers to make the images reproduce properly and even
some tutoring of up and coming photographers."
Mundy Hackett, Mundy Hackett Nature Photography (www.naturaldevelopments.com),
says, "My largest success has been in a market traditionally devoid
of still photographic work, and that is the DVD market. Ralph LaBarge
of Alpha DVD International, LLC, as a result of his search on the web
for content, approached me. He saw my web site and the result is my own
DVD entitled `Natural Splendors Volume 2,' featuring 140 of
my best scenic and nature images set to relaxing instrumental mood music.
It is a great idea, and I hope to expand this area of my work through
the relationship we have established. The success of this new medium for
photography seems very promising based upon early sales figures!"
Christine Burgoyne, Christine Burgoyne Photography (www.wipi.org),
sums up her strategy: "I started out entering competitions and eventually
that evolved into many solo exhibitions. I have three fine art series
in process right now. I am finding additional income sources from: sales
of my fine art prints, trade of images for goods and services, images
in stock, portraits of families and pets, the occasional wedding, and
images for school calendars.
"I am always promoting myself by phone, talking to those I meet,
carrying business cards and promotional materials with me at all times--parties,
events, meetings, etc. Currently, I am working on a children's book
with a business partner who can fund the project. What has not worked
is waiting for someone to hire me!"
Some Case Studies
Bernard Mendoza, Mendoza Photography (www.mendozaphotography.com),
started his career in London some 35 years ago.
SB: How has the business changed for you?
BM: Until recently, I relied primarily on commercial and corporate
work but the business is very much about contacts and networking. Art
Directors and other creative people who I came through the ranks with,
moved on to become Creative Directors before moving on to the board of
their agencies or left the world of advertising and opened restaurants
or written books.
SB: How then has your web site expanded your networking and sales?
BM: The creation of a web site and the use of the Internet has
truly opened up new markets for me and enabled me to move to the planned
next stage of my career. Creating a web site is akin to opening a shop
where you can show your wares anywhere in the world, in any shape or form.
You are only restricted by your own imagination. The site has also had
additional promotional advantages by being selected for awards and articles.
This has enabled me to communicate with an entirely new and very exciting
Michael Sedge, The Sedge Group (www.thesedgegroup.com),
owned and operated the European stock photo agency, Strawberry Media,
for 12 years. He is a long-time columnist and has authored 20 books, including
"The Photojournalist's Guide to Making Money" and "Market-ing
Strategies for Writers."
SB: What new revenue strategies have worked for you in recent years?
MS: More and more photographers are supplementing their incomes
through writing and work-
shops. Writing, much like photography, is, generally, a "poor person's"
business. Studies by national writers' organizations indicate that
pay scales for editorial work has remained at 1980 levels, while the cost
of living has greatly increased. Too often, photographers fail to give
full consideration to the business aspect of these opportunities and,
as a result, make very little income and must be more business conscious.
The recent workshop I conducted was "sponsored" by the USO.
That means they provided financial support. In return, they were able
to brand the event with the USO name and logo. I, in turn, collected all
of the profits. So, photographers should always ask themselves, "What
businesses could benefit from my activities?" It might be a publisher
of photography books, a manufacturer of photographic materials, a local
tourist office, etc. Next, approach them with a business opportunity--which
includes their branding as part of your package--for a fee.
Nancy Clendaniel, Clendaniel Photog-raphy (www.clendanielphotography.com),
began work as a public relations/ theatrical photographer and got her
biggest break in 1982 when she was hired to work for legendary DJ, Wolfman
Jack. Through this connection, she landed the job as house photographer
for the Beverly Theatre in Beverly Hills.
SB: How are you finding additional or alternative income sources?
NC: My web site has been a huge help in marketing my work. It's
time consuming, but the best promo piece I've ever had (though it's
not the "cash cow" I imagined when it comes to selling images
from my archives). The other promo piece that's helped enormously
is 4x6 color cards, with photos on one side, and personal introduction/biography/
contact information on the back. I carry these with me everywhere, and
they've been a great means of securing work. In fact, these full
color post cards have replaced my business card!
SB: So, what advice would you give to a photographer starting in
NC: When I first began as a photojournalist, corporate work was
thriving and budgets seemed endless. With the current economy, I've
had to be more creative in my approach to a client. Try approaching more
local arts associations and arts commissions and groups like The Kiwanis--who
support community arts programs--that serve to educate, empower, and enrich
specific communities. I've found that senior's programs and
children's programs are most readily approached. In fact, I just
received a grant to teach a children's photography program this
summer from my town's arts organization. They want to establish
this as a yearly program for the community. Also, look for cross-community
program ideas, where you are serving two needs at once.
I think if you're beginning as a photographer today, your people
skills have to be genuine. Whether you're working with corporate
business folk or children who've never had their photo taken before--you
have to work really hard to establish a camaraderie or at least an interpersonal
spark that will allow your subject to show him/herself--in an unguarded
manner. Nobody wants to have their picture taken, so it's your most
important job, along with technical proficiency, to build immediate emotional
bridges with your client/subject. Know how to do business, be consistent,
and project yourself in a warm yet professional manner!
Author's Note: I would like to thank Michael Madole at Allworth
and Bill Atchison at the PhotoLinks Photography Network (www.photolinks.com)
for all their assistance in finding photographers to interview for my
articles this year.