photography tips

Stop Destroying Your Business - 5 Tips to take out the noise

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Website design and user interface is something that I find interesting. There are so many different templates and designs from Squarespace to Flothemes and Wordpress to name a few, that it is interesting to see how people utilize them to look different (or the same). But there is one thing that can kill your site before your customer even begins their journey. Noise.

(Disclaimer: I am still working on this on my site. I’m not perfect, I just like to help others as I grow)

Donald Miller over at Storybrand talks about this in every podcast and hammers it home in his book Storybrand.

But what does this mean? For the most part, it means that you are confusing the customer before they even know what you do. I see this often enough with photographers. They are not clear on what it is they do. Sometimes they even start with the landing page on the about them section. Now, in all honesty, no one cares about you. What I mean by this is that when the first thing someone reads on your site is

“I love love; it makes me giddy to see two people walk down the aisle….”

No one cares, and worst of all you just made it all about you.

I am also not saying that you shouldn’t have an About page, just don’t let that be your hero. In your about show your personality in a way that describes you, but try to keep it short.

When you start saying “I photograph families, seniors, children, births, weddings, engagements, dog maternity, and boudoir.” They get that you are a photographer, but it really doesn’t set you apart.”

Now what I mean by this is think about it from you clients eyes. When they show up on your site and there is a gallery filled with a bunch of “random” images they might know that you shoot all that but at least be concise. Maybe lump it all in to family photographer.

For example, if you are booking a hotel room at a private resort, do you REALLY care about the detergent that they use on their sheets, the photos of the conference rooms, or the energy output of the sauna? (I know that there will be the small few that do) or would you care more about if your time there is going to be relaxing and stress free?

One of the best websites that I have seen recently is from Adventure Instead (Maddie Mae and her business partners rebranded). Let’s take a look at the first things that you see when you open the site.

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  1. The Navigation is simple. The first link is to provide more info then about the photographers, then pricing, then the planning resources.

  2. There is a Contact Us Button right at the top. The call to action that pushes visitors to hit them up about their elopements.

  3. The Main header calls out what they are and what they do

  4. Followed by another call to action (leading those that want more to dive deeper).

  5. Right under this they utilized a space above the fold to tell people about their style in simple words. Relaxed & Stress Free/Intimate & Meaningful/Unique & Adventurous.

Even on mobile the experience is the same, minus the Contact Us button. You still know who they are and what they do.

There is no question in my mind about what they do, who they are, and what the brand is about.

Now here is the big thing. Don’t copy them. Like actually think about your site and your brand. Maybe use elements, but the words and content is theirs.

The other thing that their site and brand does well, is that they make the client the hero, they solve the problems, and provide resources for their clients to have the relaxed and stress free experience that they claim on the home page.

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Get rid of the nonsense.

A majority of people are browsing on mobile devices, so when a newly engaged girl is looking for a wedding photographer on her phone while at her desk at work, will she really have time to read through why you shoot sony, or why you like pies, and then go searching for where you are located, pricing, and how to contact you. Might you have the same luck with a landing page showing some of your work, where you shoot and pricing? Especially if they came from a place like pinterest or instagram and have already seen your work?

What about a mother who is booking for a family session over the holidays, right now she is thinking about 9 million other things, and probably doesn’t care to read about your life story, She wants family photos, that look good, and she can send to family and friends and look like life is as put together as she portrays.

People don’t have time. So here are a few tips to cut down on the noise of your site.

  1. Make sure what you do is stated.

  2. Make sure your location (or where you serve) is stated.

  3. Make it easy to contact you

  4. Put at least a starting price on your site (In my opinion, you are wasting time if you don’t, yours and clients. And no one likes that)

  5. Make your site more about your client than you.

If you are looking for insight and brand mentoring shoot me a message. Or check out my page on brand strategy mentoring here. 

5 Ways To Destroy Your Photography Business

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While there are many ways that you can destroy your business, I have chosen 5 ways that may affect you negatively. These are either things that I have experienced myself, or they are things that I have seen in the industry.  

5. Having No Idea What Is Happening

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You like making photos. You start with a cheap camera, and then upgrade (maybe). People like the photos you take and some even say

"You have the eye..." and you have no idea what that really means, but you think you might be able to make a few bucks with this gig. So you take your camera, and you start charging money. 

Your downfall might be communication or expectations. It might be camera settings or quality. OR  it might be business in the long run. But you get started and you get burned out because you did not take any time to learn not only photography, but you did not take the time to learn the business. 

4. Trying To Please Everyone

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In the beginning we tend to take every job. We don't want to turn down any client because we think.

  • Its money
  • I need to shoot everything

In my first year, I attempted to shoot a newborn session. It was awful. I had no idea what I was doing, the baby cried for an hour. I realized after that, it was not my thing. I also realized that many things were not my thing. Figure out your brand, and what you want to shoot and work towards that. You do not have to specialize in; Weddings, Engagements, Families, Seniors, Cake Smashes, Birthdays, Commercials, Dogs, Births, Dog Births, and Senior Clown Weddings. 

ITS TOO MUCH.  Yes, you can shoot other things. But specialize in something. Your accountant is not the same person that fixes your car (unless you are married to that person). 

3. Pretending

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This follows along with the last part of number 4. Figure out your brand, if you are lost as a brand your customers will be lost with who you are. Yes, you will still get jobs, but over time you will become frustrated as people will ask you for things that you don't want to shoot. If you are defined as a brand you do not have to worry as much about people not knowing what you are. It is like when Coors tried to make "Rocky Mountain Sparkling Water." 

2. Dolla Dolla Y'All

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There are a couple ways to look at this

  • You are chasing money
  • You are not charging enough
  • You don't care

So quickly lets look at these. If you are chasing money, you have the potential to hurt your clients. Photography is not as about us the photographer as we would like to think. Yes, we have a vision, and that is what we hope we will be hired for. But the clients want us to preserve/provide something for us, and it goes beyond an image. They want confidence, memories, content, etc... This is beyond who we are as artists. If you are chasing money and don't care, that will come off and you will start loosing business because of it. 

When I first started I got $50 for shooting an engagement session. I thought I had made it. It took 2 hours and I made what usually took me 4 hours. But then I had to edit them, and it took several hours (at the time I was only using photoshop). As we all know $50 is nothing for a 2 hours session. If you want to last you need to price yourself as such. Remember you will probably have to pay approximately 30% to taxes. If you make $3000 for a wedding that is close to $1000 for just taxes. Price yourself to last. 

You are just shooting for the hell of it and your don't care about any of this. Well, if this is the case I am surprised you are reading this. 

1. You Focus TOO Much On Others 

Teddy Roosevelt once said "Comparison is the thief of joy"

This is probably the one that will kill you faster than anything else. Comparison.

Staying aware of what is going on in the photography industry is good, but comparing where you are at in your journey, your work, and your life will only lead to more failure. Use others as inspiration. But comparing your journey to others highlights is misleading. As creatives we all have rough times, we all doubt ourselves. There will be times where clients will destroy your confidence and times where others will try to tear your down. But focuse on who you are, what you are doing and keep on keeping on. 

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If you are interested in advertising and marketing tips and Q&A sessions follow me on Instagram where I do AMA's (Ask me anythings) and live broadcasts about marketing and advertising. @newhopephotography

15 Mistakes That Photographers Make - Complete with The Office Gifs

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Everybody makes mistakes. It is part of being human. They say that if you are not making mistakes, than you are not growing. Which is true. I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning of my photography career. But I learned and grew from them. When I am talking about mistakes as a photographer, I am thinking more about those that are operating as a business. Not the hobby shooter. 

I still make mistakes, but many times I have set up ways to check myself so that I do not. 

I sourced thoughts on this from a couple of Facebook photographer groups and just like myself, the mistakes range from stupidly simple things like forgetting to remove a lens cap before trying to shoot a photo to not backing up images properly and loosing something from a shoot. 

Easy Mistakes

As I mentioned above there are several mistakes that we all make, in the beginning. Sometimes we still make them as we grow, but practice and repetition can over come these. 

1. Lens Cap - When I start a shoot they come off and never go back on. Especially weddings. I have my lens hood on so the likelihood of my glass getting damaged is small. But that is just how I work. 

2. Not shooting RAW - in the beginning I had no idea what this meant. I shot my first few weddings in jpeg. Big mistake. Literally once you shoot RAW and figure out the benefits. You will never go back. Yes, RAW takes up a lot of space, but with how cheap back up is, it is worth it. With RAW you can control/fix so many things on an image. 

3. Shooting a large aperture all the time (f 1.2/1.4/1.8) - Yes it looks cool. Sometimes. But shooting a 16 person group photo at 1.4 may not work. Shooting a landscape at 1.2... why? Many times when we start our lenses are not capable of a shallow depth of field, so when we get a 1.4 lens we get all giddy and shoot everything at 1.4 because we can. Use the aperture that is needed for the job. 

4. Natural Light (or Auto, or any one specific lighting) - Starting out I think we tend to go with the flow. We shoot auto and if the pop-up flash happens then we roll with it. Once we move on, a speed-light is scary so we think natural light is the best. But, being a photographer is to understand how to control light. I use natural light for 90% of my work. But I also utilize a speed-light when needed. My signature shot at weddings is the backlit portrait. You can only accomplish this with off camera flash. (See the post here.)

5. Learning Gear - This one, I am putting this under the easy category because...it is easy in the sense that you just need to dedicate yourself and your time to learn your gear. Sometimes this feels hard, but do not learn gear on a clients time. Do not try to learn how to use a flash at a wedding. Do not take a new camera body out for the first time when you are shooting a paid session. When you get something new, or when you want to learn a new technique, ask a friend, give a free session to "experiment." Knowing what your gear can do and how to use it is invaluable. 

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This is my bridge mistake

6. Being Self-conscience - This one is hard, I struggled with it for a long time. being a photographer means that at times you are taking photos during intimate or life changing moments. Robert Capa is quoted as saying "If your photographs are not good enough, then you are not close enough." Getting close can be intimidating. I was scared for so long, but then once I found my voice and my style, I was not scared any longer. As a photographer we have a job to do. Sometimes we just have to get over our fear and make epic images.  

Middle Of The Road Mistakes

As we grow and learn as photographers there are still mistakes that we make. I would venture to say that once we move from the "amateur" to the next step we start approaching the business side. We start taking photos, and then either are asked to take someones photo or we start charging. Then we encounter a whole new series of mistakes. 

First thoughts on free sessions. 

7. Free Sessions - I am not going to say don't do them. Free sessions, when done right are some of the most lucrative sessions I have done. Recently, I did a styled session (slightly different) but as a result, I have booked over $10,000 of sessions and gigs. When all you do is shoot for free, you are not only hurting yourself both present and future, but you are hurting others. 

When you want to shoot free sessions for experience or to try a new technique, or a new piece of equipment, state the reason when you ask people. There is nothing wrong with saying "Hey! I want to try something new. Free____ session to the first person that responds." 

But what will lead to issues is a post that just says "Free engagement/wedding/family photos." By saying this you are telling others that you do not respect your craft. They will come to expect this and even demand it. 

8. Undercharging Sessions - Let me start this by saying You do you. But When you charge $50 for 2 hours for a family session. You may get people that respond, but you will not last at those rates. If you think of that in the bare minimum of hours, that may be

  • 2 hours for shooting 
  • 2 hours for editing  
  • Driving time

After this you are already at ~$12/hr, that is not including the cost of your camera, supplies, and other time. If you include taxes you might be walking away with $7/hr. You can make more at McD's, and possibly get benefits. Charge what you are worth. 

Build a lasting business so that you do not burn out. 

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9. Being unprepared - This can encompass many things. First there are simple things like, forgetting to charge batteries or not buying/bringing enough Sd/CF cards. This is just a simple mistake, go buy more and bring them. 

There are other mistakes like Overall Preparing and training. When I started out I had no file management system in place. I had files everywhere. My first external hard drive is such a disaster that I hate looking at it. My computer used to have images saved all over. There were .tif and copy files on my desktop. I had multiple files and folders all containing the same images. I think a tornado has more order than my file management did. 

So I buckled down. I made a system , and I learned it. I now know that my 2015 engagement sessions are in a certain external drive under 2015 engagements> Client name> raw & final folders. It may not be the best way, but it is how I organize and how it works for me. 

10. Contracts - Most of the time when we start out, contracts or not something that we think about. Someone asks us to shoot photos for some and money is exchanged and there is no contract. But, no matter what the shoot is, there needs to be a contract in place. If you are just starting out there are a ton of resources to help you get started. But the best option is to check with a lawyer in your area about what you need in a contract, or visit The LawTog

11. Sustainable business - As I mentioned above, to not burn out, you need think long term. Sure when you start out, you think that charging $1000 for a wedding is a ton of money. In my mind when I began I thought 

"Damn, 8 hours and $1000, I have made it."

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But it is more than 8 hours. You need to include so much more. If you shoot a wedding every weekend at $1000. You will burn out faster than watching Frozen 3 times a day. After taxes and cost of doing business, your profit may even be in the negatives. 

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12. Deadlines and Expectations - When I first started, I never really told people when their images were going to be finished. I just thought to myself

"They will be done when they are done." 

Clients would then message repeatedly about when the images would be finished. It would stress me out and I would get upset. Then I changed, I started telling people that their images would be done within a week. If I was a day late I would get messages. Then I read somewhere that you should surprise people. As in, tell your clients 3 weeks and deliver in two, or 6-8 weeks and deliver in 5. Make your deadlines reasonable. Don't tell them that you will get them the images in 12-18 months. 

This leads to setting expectations. I believe there is no such thing as over communication. I use nearly every client touch point as a way to communicate expectations. That way there are no surprises. I have a whole blog post about this, read it HERE.

Heavy Mistakes

So I say heavy mistakes, because these take time. You learn things as you grow, but some of them are more about a bigger issue. 

13. Standing Your Ground - This one is hard, because we want to make people happy. But when a session is supposed to end. It needs to end (this is a personal brand choice as well, if you want to be relaxed about session times then go for it). 

Stand by your contract. This is in place to protect you, not to give your client a way around something. 

Be bold. This is your business, make it work for you. 

14. Photographer/Business Owner - Many of us start out because we enjoy taking photos. Then we fall into a business and learn things the hard way. When I started, I did not have all these Facebook groups to learn from, it was asking friends, and trial and error and more error. I have learned many business aspects due to mistakes. But I have also researched and read and educated myself on the business aspect of this career. 

If you want to do photography professionally, take time to learn the business aspect as well as deepening your knowledge about the world of photography. 

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15. Focusing on others

This one is the last one and it is in bold because it may be one of the hardest mistakes. I am guilty of it, and I am sure that many of you are as well. But with social media it seems that every other photographer is rolling in cash, shooting epic weddings in epic locations, getting featured, and all around not struggling at all. 

I read this blog the other day and it said "Do not compare your life to someone's highlight reel." 

Social media can portray anything. People can be sitting in their underwear posting an epic image and stating how awesome it is. 

So happy to be writing this next to an amazing view.

So happy to be writing this next to an amazing view.

I can do anything through social media. I can be anyone I want. I can "achieve" self-actualization. But this will support me about as much as a birthday balloon supports an elephant. 

When you compare yourself, you experience doubt, you experience failure that has not even happened yet, and you can let jealousy overrun your mind. 

I had one photographer friend state "I do not have any competitors because my clients hire me for me". 

Jealousy and self-doubt can kill your creativity. Don't worry about what other are doing, but rather look at what you can achieve. 

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Feel free to comment with other mistakes so that others may learn. 

 

If you are interested in advertising and marketing tips and Q&A sessions follow me on Instagram where I do AMA's (Ask me anythings) and live broadcasts about marketing and advertising. @newhopephotography

Facebook Ads Part 2 - Thoughts, Strategy, & Ramblings

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So I recently published a post about how to create a Facebook ad. You can find that here.  

So let's start out with the simplest question. Do they Work? The short answer is yes. In the second quarter of 2017 Facebook Ads brought in $9.16 billion dollars (Adweek). So, yes they work. Digital marketing is taking over as the big player for companies when it comes to marketing. The long is is that they work only if you know how to use them. There are many nuances to Facebook Ads, and I still am learning many new things about the platform. The biggest thing to know to utilize them correctly is to do the background work. 

1. Know your target market. 

2. Know your objective(s)

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Target Market

Your target market is a group of people or buyers that have common characteristics, needs, or buying patterns. If you have not figured this out, there is no point to even starting to create a Facebook ad campaign. If you do, you are just blindly handing money over to Facebook. 

Crazy Egg has a great article here, with practical steps to define your target market. 

I also have a worksheet that may help. (It is very simple and still needs work) But here it is.  Taking the time to define your target market can be one of the most effective steps to building your brand and being profitable in your business. 

Think of your target market as if you were fishing for a specific fish, you can throw a net in that catches everything. This includes other types of fish, other types of sea life, rubbish, plants, and maybe a few other items. But if you know the patterns of the fish that you want to catch, you can fish in a way that specifically catches that type of fish. 

Do you think Tesla markets to people with a $25-40K income that shop at Walmart and eat at Del Taco? Probably not. On the flip side, do you think that Walmart markets to people who make $500K and Drive Tesla's and regularly eat at high-end restaurants? Probably not. Those would be wasted ad dollars. 

I would rather have my ad shown to fewer people with a higher likelihood to buy than have thousands of people see it with no action. 

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Objectives

Starting an advertising campaign without an objective is nearly as bad as starting one without knowing your market. You will approach the ad and copy within the ad differently if you are trying to build brand awareness vs. if you are wanting to build an email list. 

In the marketing world, the best way to build your objectives is to follow the SMART objectives.

  • Specific – If your objective is too broad it will be hard to know if you were successful. If you want to build brand awareness, how? What will you do? How will it be measurable?
  • Measurable – Can you measure in a quantitative or qualitative way? How?
  • Actionable – How will this improve your business. 
  • Relevant – This the objective relevant? Does it even matter?
  • Time – Can you set a specific time frame for your objective. 

An example of a smart objective for a photography ad campaign could be. 

I will gain 50 relevant email addresses for future mini-sessions within two weeks, and 100 relevant email addresses within 30 days. 

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By taking the time to figure out your Target Market and your Objectives you can save yourself not only time and headaches but also a lot of money. If you want to make an ad without taking the time to figure these out, then you are just throwing your hard earned dollars away. You can feel free to just Paypal it to me and I will make better use of it. 

Stay Tuned for Part 3 on Copy and Strategy