Ed started PhotoVision, a bi-monthly DVD sent straight to your home, so that photographers could improve their craft and business from the comfort of their own couch. PhotoVision features an unparalleled roster of industry leaders teaching on a myriad of subjects. You might recognize many of them from our ad campaign (see Beth Forester video below). You can get a 75% discount off of PhotoVision when you use the Animoto promo code: ANIMOTO
To commemorate Ed’s inclusion in our ad campaign, we interviewed him for our January Pro newsletter. Having been in the industry for 30+ years, Ed has insights on planning for success in the New Year, the importance of marketing, and common traits he sees amongst the top-named photographers he features in PhotoVision. And the image from his killer ad, in case you were wondering, was from a PhotoVision shoot with Joe Photo.
Your educational DVD series, PhotoVision, helps provide photographers with a “game plan for success.” How important is planning for success and what advice can you give to photographers for doing so in the New Year?
The most important part of your game plan for success is actually setting up a game plan as opposed to flying by the seat of your pants. You must make your own opportunities vs. waiting for them. Take the time to make a plan.
You must be organized. Many I know aren’t. You should be looking at last year and think, “what can I do better?” Set goals. All successful people set goals and targets. Concentrate on the 3 primary parts of your photography. They are:
*1. the art/craft of photography
Plan on the business side and decide what you’ll do differently. You must take the time to plan each facet of your photography business. They each need their own game plan. January and February are slow parts of the year traditionally for photography businesses. They are great times to make a calendar for the rest of the year.
Through PhotoVision, you meet and interview dozens of successful photographers every year. What qualities do you continually find amongst photographers who run a successful studio?
Lots of things… One of the common threads seems to be that successful photographers outwardly appear to have a very narrow specialty – meaning that they become known for a very specific type of photography (i.e. children, wedding, senior, family etc).
The people we filmed for 2011’s PhotoVision, as a matter of fact, all fit that model. For example, Beth Forester is known as a senior portrait photographer. She also does family and children photography though. Drake Busath specializes in family photography, but does engagement and senior portraits as well.
Despite doing different types of photography, they become known as a specialist in a given field and that’s what drives their business as a specialist.
A great analogy is that if you have heart surgery, they you go to a cardiac specialist, not a general practitioner.
Another common thread is that they practice their craft. They always engage in creative explorations of their art. That doesn’t mean they practice or experiment on the next client that walks in the door. In fact, the truly successful photographers don’t even launch a product or new style to the public until it has fully matured. However, they do experiment nonetheless.
A great example of someone who does this is Kevin Hudson. He is a highly regarded high school senior photographer, but he practices his art often. In fact, he has a second photography persona that is almost under-raps with his senior portrait clients. He works with fashion models a lot and experiments new techniques and styles with them. That experimenting he does outside his successful senior portrait business helps ensure he continues to evolve with his craft.
Just to play devil’s advocate, I could see a new photographer wanting ANY kind of business that can come his/her way. Does specializing limit who will walk in your door?
I haven’t found that to be true. When I was an active photographer prior to doing PhotoVision, I always had a specialty.
The key is to find out what you’re really good at and enjoy the most and put that out there. The other things will happen. If you make the decision about specializing in newborns because you know you’re great at it and have a real passion for it – that will show in your work. Your clients will then go off to all their friends and spread the word about you. People will think of you for other photography as well.
That shotgun approach of showing a little bit of everything doesn’t attract clients. You need to show what you’re most passionate about. You’re not going to be great at everything and that’s okay. Show your best work and specialize.
Should photographers spend more time on their craft or the business side of things?
It needs to be a good blend of both.
However, probably the reality of it is that you should speed 65-70% of your time on marketing vs. actually shooting – especially in the early stages. What tends to happen when your business matures though is that you can find out what you’re really good at it and focus on that.
In some cases, it might not be the actual photography. You can bring on other photographers to shoot while you focus on networking, marketing and working with other vendors to help drive new clients in the door. The opposite might happen as well – where you can bring on that businessperson who can specialize in marketing while you focus on the art.
What are some of the trends you’ve noticed in the industry recently?
I’ve noticed a focus in untraditional studios. Doing sales and client interaction in a coffee house – not in your typical studio space.
The shift from studio spaces to untraditional studios is mainly due to overhead. Traditional studios are becoming more and more difficult to sustain. For new people, it’s becoming harder to start up a new space. With the advent of the DSLRs, many people are claiming to be a photographer and competing with true Pros. So, many photographers are not able to maintain the overhead they previously could – even veterans.
We’re in a really challenging market. Being smarter is what it boils down to.
You alluded to competition coming up with people buying expensive DSLR cameras and competing with professionals. What are your feelings on that?
The people who are shooting and giving away files won’t be around for long. Their clients won’t be around for long. It hurts the industry, but we’ve seen it before. I recall the days when “fast photo” places came along and made digital processing of files possible in an inexpensive, fast way. All professional photographers were convinced that this was going to put us out of business. Anyone with a 35mm camera could conceivably compete with us – not dissimilar to the people using DSLRs do today.
Improving the craft and spending time practicing is really, really important. That is ultimately what your clients will expect of you – a higher caliber of work.
You also have to spend more time with getting new clients and developing relationships. However, the craft is becoming more and more important. Staying current and being on top of things is key. Get out of your environment and see what other successful photographers are doing. This will prove invaluable in today’s market.
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