HOW I TRIPLED MY INCOME IN ONE YEAR
My photo assistant came to me one day very frustrated. He could not charge big bucks for his photography because he was looked on by his clients as a junior photographer. His work was good and his technical skills were excellent (I had seen to that as his Mentor). Not only couldn't he charge decent day rates, his clients were beating him down to do outstanding photography for extremely low or discounted rates.
We sat down together and I explained how I had tripled my income in one year. Early in my career, I made a vow to do more shooting. They refer to this as "supply side economics". If you do more work and bring in more money, it solves most of your problems in your business and sometimes in your personal life also. Plus you have less time to spend your money because you are working more. I solicited all the model agencies in town and became one of the "in" photographers that all the models needed to shoot with. I helped the models by giving them a break on my fees. However I did require a total release for this discount. My style of photographing models looked like a real client shoot. So I got a lot of stock pictures while helping the models get updated photos for their portfolios. It was sort of like testing. Don't get involved with the printing of model's portfolios. There are too many ways for you to get burned and lose money. All the models got into the scene. It was also a good way to see how a model works with you before a real shoot with the client and art director looking over your shoulder. Some models are very difficult to work with. You want to weed them out, and work with the models who are great to work with and go along with the program. One primadonna can ruin your day and maybe an entire shoot. I had one model walk off the set and start demanding more money from the client when everything had been totally arranged in writing weeks before the shoot by her agent. Always have the models sign the release forms before you start taking pictures. Don't make it a big deal. It's just a formality, and they all know they have to do it. Some try to make a little game of it. You can't use the pictures if you don't have releases from every face or recognizable person, animal, or property that is in your picture.
My studio would do about five model composites a week at $150 per session plus film and developing. That is $750 per week...every week. Be gracious but not generous. Only give the models what you contracted for or they will drive you crazy. You also do not want rejects of your photography out on the street. Only give the model one perfect picture per session. Do not give the models the proof sheets; you need them for your files. Plus many rejects are among the good shots on a proof sheet.
Weddings and family portraits brought me so much income in one year that I paid for a suitcase full of Hasselblad equipment and a brand new BMW automobile. If I can do this, you can too.
Corporate photography and advertising is where the good fees are. Large companies are used to paying high prices for good photography. Every large corporation and ad agency in your city is a target for you to solicit. I had a bank that paid me $1,200 every month for a shoot, and a tugboat company that paid me $2,200 every month for photography.
Every professional sports team needs their own photographer, sometimes more than one. They need head shots of every player plus office staff. They also need action and static shots in B&W and color of every player. I was lucky in that the pro soccer team came to me and asked if I would be their official photographer. They found out about me because I had donated my time to do some probono photography to help out the Little Brother Program in Tampa.
I had no idea what I should charge or what would be expected of me. So I called the Nikon rep in my area, Victor Borod, and he introduced me to Sterling Clarke who was an instructor in the Nikon traveling school and he was also an NFL team photographer. He helped me a great deal to understand what my duties would be and how much I should charge. They paid my overhead. I also negotiated to get first rights on all color assignments and advertisements that came through the team office. I also retained my copyright on all my photography and must be given photo credit when an image of mine is printed. I was also the official little league photographer for team pictures. Stock photography as I mentioned earlier can be very lucrative. You can sell yours locally and by advertising like I did in the Stock Direct photo source book. I also advise getting several agents. They know people and companies that will license your images that you have no idea even exist. Also their clients are their clients and will never call you direct, why call one photographer when they can have access to 50 to 100 photographers by calling one stock photo agency.
These are many ways to increase your income. I advised this particular assistant to use another method as well. He liked to do architectural photography, but his clients would only pay $475 for a photograph of their building. I told him that what he was producing for them was usually $1200, but lets turn his opportunity into cash. His new approach would be to acquiesce to their price of $475 instead of $1200. However for a reduced fee he would receive the name, address and phone number of all the subcontractors that worked on each particular building. Make what you give up valuable. Don't just concede to something. Barter something or some rights for what you might be giving up or appear to be giving up. Remember the copyright of every photo is yours, not the client. They may pay for the plastic, but the image on that plastic is yours by law. If you work for hire, you may give up your copyright. However that is only if the contract you sign is worded so. I know staffers at several newspapers that retain the copyright on the pictures they shoot. The newspaper only has first right of publication.
The next step for my assistant was to go see everyone on the list that he obtained from the first client. There are about 25 subcontractors that work on a building and all of them refer to the building as theirs.
I instructed him to now produce a photograph, that the client would never do. Usually his images were used for a brochure or printed 16" x 20" on an office wall. I told him to have two 30" x 40" prints made of the best shot that the first client had ordered. Let me tell you that you don't even need an appointment when you carry in one of those 30" x 40" color prints to each of the subcontractors. If they are worth their salt at all, they probably will not let you leave their office with the 30"x40" photo of "their" building. Believe me it works! Don't expect to get anything going around to these subs and showing them a dupe 4" x 5" slide or print. They think they can do that with their own camera. Give them something they would never do and they will probably buy it. The price of the color 30" x 40" print mounted on one inch acid free board is $1600. They can't get their checkbook out fast enough to pay you...and with a smile on their face. Say "Thank you" and leave immediately to go see another subcontractor with the other 30"x40" print. Leaving right away does away with the natural human response of buyer's remorse where a customer starts thinking maybe they paid too much or really didn't need it. If you are gone, they are more likely to keep it and hang it on their office wall as an example of their workmanship. If no one else buys the last print, hang it in your studio as a sample of your great photography. This is a totally impulse sale and it works.
My assistant more than tripled his income from $13,800 to $47,000 in twelve months due to my tutoring. The key is reselling the same picture many times or doing more photography than you get paid for. If you are working everyday and have no time for your family or to get ahead you need to raise your rates, Shooting everyday keeps you from getting the real good assignments unless you have someone getting work lined up for you or you are famous. I actually did all of the scenarios mentioned in this Seminar and I know that they work to generate more income.