Business Trends
Back To Basics Part II
Finding Images To Shoot That Clients Will Buy

For a photography business to be profitable, there must be a client base that you can work with and that has an interest in the type of work you do. Getting started or expanding your business involves shooting a lot of images for these clients. The most important question for you is what the best self-assignments for you might be. You will need to identify what direction to take, what images to shoot, and who will buy them. Your big break is just around the corner; it is up to you to take that walk.

As a photo rep and a marketing consultant, I divide the business of creating images and finding clients into two areas. One is the commercial client and the second is the consumer client. This distinction is based on how the photography is used. You are never really selling photography; you are selling the use of the photography (basic copyright usage law) or you are selling the original art (prints or albums).

So one of the considerations when deciding what you will shoot is how your photos will be used. A commercial client has a business or "commerce" reason for the use of your images. It could be low-end usage such as an exhibit or high-end usage such as advertising. A consumer client (often called the wedding and portrait market) has a strictly personal and non-commerce usage for your images.

Stock & Fine Art
Stock or fine art photography can be either a consumer or commercial market! If the stock or fine art photography is for display in the home of an individual for non-commerce purposes, then it is a consumer client. If the stock or fine art photography is for display in the office and lobby of an individual's business, then it is a commercial client.

It is also important to recognize that the subject matter is not an issue when finding images to shoot and sell successfully. The determining factor is how the photos will be used, not the subject. For example, any portrait subject can be a consumer client (family portrait to hang in the living room) or a commercial client (executive portrait for an annual report).

So, to determine what to shoot more of, take a look at the images you have already done. What is the common theme running through the images that you feel are your most creative work? What type of work do you want to be known for? All this has an effect on how you approach making the images, what usage a client has for your work, and who the client may be.

Your Approach
This is all about taking a direction and creating images based on your personal style. Style is the way you see people, places, and things. It usually has a unique look to it that is rare or unusual. Style is usually called "high-end" photography because it is the most valued by clients and they will pay the most money for it. Whether the clients are consumer or commercial, you are making images that are distinctly and uniquely "you."

Client Usage
This direction allows you to work for many different types of clients based on the specific way the photos are used. For example, if you are focusing on catalog usage of your images, you will be shooting for the broad range of companies that need to use catalogs to sell their products. This will include beauty products, toys, electronics, gifts, and office supplies, to name a few. Another example would be to focus on portrait usage. This will give you a broad range of both commercial and consumer clients. For the commercial client, they use portraits for annual reports, advertising, and promotion. For the consumer client, they use portraits to commemorate occasions and special events.

Who The Client May Be
This industry specific direction is based on who the client is and this will have you shooting for many different usages. For example, if you are concentrating on fashion clients then you will find yourself selling to the fashion companies directly, their ad agencies and design firms that do the fashion catalogs and fashion magazines.

Putting The Images Together
Once you have identified the common theme or direction for marketing your work, your next step is to build a body of work or images for that specific client base or market. Out of this body of work you will put together portfolios based on each specific situation. Consider portrait work as an example. You may have a very extensive collection of images, but you'll pull together portfolios of images that will relate to the specific client of the moment. The images you select for an annual report portfolio will be very different from the images you select for your family portrait portfolio; yet, they are both in your "portrait" target market.

Next month, we will show you how to develop, write, and implement a "plan of action." Our goal is to take the first part of this new year to refresh and renew our commitment to being successful in business!