If you’ve ever wanted to start your own photography business, then you won’t want to miss this interview with Peter Oliver, Professional Corporate Photographer and Author. Peter Oliver is an accomplished photographer based in Sydney, Australia and is available for assignments throughout Australia and Overseas. hde has just written his new ebook “How To Start Your Own Photography Business”.
1. Hello Peter. Thank you Very much for joining us today. Your book is very comprehensive and goes over the finer points of business for photographers. How long did it take you to set up your business?
It took me about three months to set it up properly, once I had decided I wanted it to be a business and was viable. That ranged from bank accounts to equipment and eventually a business premises.
2. And how long did it take you from when you first started setting your business up to actually being able to live off the income you made as a photographer?
I first started working part time, then pursued Photography as my full time primary business, after I decided to leave the corporate environment. So from the outset till I had built enough income took approximately 12 months. That involved experimenting with what I enjoyed photographing, to testing the commercial viability and doing some market research of some of the niches I enjoyed and was good at, and going out and marketing myself, pounding the pavement and networking at every opportunity.
3. What do you contribute your success to? Do you find it is a combination of good marketing and good service? Or something else?
First you need a vision and to focus on what you want to achieve, what your market is, and what makes you different from your competition, and there is plenty out there who want to underquote you. You need to target your market, sell them something they are wanting to buy, differentiate yourself, and use that to establish relationships.
Once you have a client, you need to take really good care of them, because new ones are expensive to acquire, and happy ones will keep on spending with you. Provide GREAT service and look after your clients, and they will look after you by coming back and more importantly referring business to you.
Always carry cards and flyers with you, everywhere, always look for ways of marketing yourself. Always talk to people about what you do and look for ways you could help them, or at least leave them with enough information that they may refer colleagues and friends to you.
4. Can you share with us your most memorable experience as a photographer?
I photograph some top end Real Estate, and there is nothing like being in a famous person’s property, meeting them and photographing their home and some of their prized possessions. I can’t name names but I was pretty stoked and they were really a great person to meet and chat with, pretty much just like you and me, it restored my faith in the fact that many famous people are quite down to earth.
5. And what has been your most humorous experience as a photographer?
Maybe I have a strange sense of humour, but I was hired by a private label magazine publisher to photograph the cover and two features for a magazine. It was a great day’s work and I produced great images for the magazine. The funny bit is that I am a bit over 100kg, so not the slimmest, and the magazine is about a well known weight loss program’s success stories. I just smiled about the experience and it did motivate me to lose a few Kg.
6. What are the key elements of success to making it as a photographer?
First you need to make up your mind that this is what you want to do.
Then you need to have a plan of action, I go through that in my book and some of the free bonuses that come with it. There is no rocket science to it, and it is common to planning for success in any business.
Then there is the focus, determination, and hard work, to put your plan into action. Also you need to just keep on going, when you have a bad day, just get up and do it all again the next day, focused on your goal. Do it day by day, and never lose faith in yourself, or sight of your goals.
Perseverance is essential to any business. Plenty of photographers come and go, but that is common to most businesses. Be good at what you do, provide great service to your clients, charge a fair price and don’t undersell yourself, and keep at it, and you will succeed.
Also network and get to know other photographers, we are all competing with each other, but many of the photographers I have met have given generously of their time and advice, and given me plenty of tips, also work comes in from other photographers once they know you, when they have too much on, they are looking for freelance help, so keep networking, particularly at things like AIPP events.
7. Do you have to specialise in advertising or commercial photography to make money in photography? Or can a nature and landscape photographer lives just as fruitful as the above?
These days I specialize in Commercial Photography, including Real Estate & Interiors, Products/Catalogues, Magazine & Features, Corporate Portraits etc. I also do some Event photography and Portraits, typically portfolios for models & actors. These provide the main cashflow of my business. I also do landscape photography when I travel and make some income from selling stock images, but have not focused on making that a large income item yet. It is very competitive with the large number of microstock libraries and the “dollar shots” pricing levels by some major players that I believe devalues the photographer’s work, so looking for niches is the answer in my mind, and identifying yourself with those niches to make money from landscape work. There are those photographers who are very successful in this area and it would be best to ask them for advice.
8. What kind of photography equipment to people need to get started as a professional photographer?
You need a good reliable camera, and a backup for when it breaks down, and good quality lenses appropriate to the types of photography you will be doing. At first you will be able to survive with 2-3 lenses, but you will soon add to that. You also need at least one good flash.
If you are doing portraits, invest in your own studio lighting, there are some good entry level strobes available as package deals out there. You will also need backdrops and reflectors.
If you are working with other photographers it helps to be using the same brand of camera if you want to share lenses, I use one of the two major brands that most Pro’s use and I love what I use, but the same will be said by my colleagues that use the other brand.
You will then be spending lots of money on more lenses, memory cards, rechargeable batteries, camera bags, wireless flash triggers and the list goes on. Don’t spend too much up front, improvise and gradually add equipment as you can afford it.
Also plan to replace some equipment like camera bodies, because you will want the newer bigger faster ones when they come out, and with professional use they do end up wearing and need repairing or replacing. My number 1 body has over 60,000 frames on it, is going strong but I expect that some things will not last much longer, so I am planning for a replacement and to make it number 2, and make number 2 number 3 etc.
9. How has digital photography impacted your business as a professional photographer over the last 10 years?
The purists argue that film is still superior, and in some cases that is true, but for most commercial purposes the top end professional full frame digital bodies we use now provide as good as the old film bodies did.
The great benefits of digital are that the cost of taking the images is greatly reduced, with no film and processing costs (except retouching but that was always there with film), plus a faster turnaround time, you can deliver images to clients the same day, rather than a few days or so out. Sure prints take a little longer. Also you can take more images as memory cards are cheap, the downside of that is that you’ll sit longer at the computer deciding which ones are the best, experience will balance your practices, plus digital workflow.
And you can see the image in the back of the camera, and avoid many of the reshoots that were caused by not seeing problems until the film was developed. All in all digital is a great step forward, you just need to manage your workflow efficiently.
10. Can you describe your average day as a photographer?
Every day is different, that’s what I think is great.
I always plan my next day the previous night. Where I need to be, all the job sheets in my day folder, calendar with addresses, contacts etc synchronized into my iPhone. Also batteries recharged and camera bag(s) packed and ready to go. If there are some times open during the day, what will I do, make some calls to clients or prospect for more clients, go buy some photographic equipment, or have a coffee with some friends or colleagues to look for networking opportunities.
If I have a full day of Real Estate, it’s a matter of loading the next address into the GPS, arriving there, seeing what the Agent & Vendor want to feature, walk around and decide on all the shots, then get into action and capture great selling images. Watch the clock and make sure I have enough time to fight the Sydney traffic and get to the next one. At the end of the day it’s into the office and process all the day’s images, get them all to where they need to be, store them on my server and back them up, and plan the next day.
I always try to stop for a break a couple of times during the day to recharge my batteries and make sure I don’t lose my creativity by being too tired or rushed. Remember you are as good or bad as the last images you supplied a client, so you always have to be on top of your game.
11. What are the key elements you need to succeed in this business? For someone who is just starting out what advice or recommendations would you give them?
You need a plan, and a vision, and write it down with your goals, and of course a will to succeed.
Then you need to stick to the plan, and work hard at implementing it. If things don’t work, figure out why, test the feasibility. Talk to others, have a mentor or coach – a third party’s realistic input is invaluable.
Above all retain your vision that you are going to be a success, and every time you fall down, get up and keep going again, eventually you will be successful.
Thank you very much Peter! It has been wonderful to have you.
Peter has just released his beand new ebook “How To Start Your Own Photography Business”. Peter gave me a copy to review and I found it incredibly comprehensive for anyone starting out in this fabulous field. In his ebook he covers everything you need to know to set up your business including: How to find customers quickly, Three things that make customers come back time and again, Easy to follow, step by step instructions, Helps you build a plan for your business, You will find out how to pick your specialist niches and much more.
Just go to www.startmyphotographybusiness.com