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The Importance Of Having Your Own Website


Dallas
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One of the biggest hurdles that emerging professional photographers need to clear is that of getting a proper online presence, specifically by having and managing their own website on their own domain name.

 

So often these days I see photographers using Facebook pages or public gallery services like 500px to showcase their work and sell their services. Or even worse, those “free” Wix sites. While there’s nothing wrong with having a Facebook page for sharing your stuff and engaging social media, do you really want to be sending your clients to Facebook or some other company’s free website to see your best work?

 

When you get your own website you are doing two things at the same time. Firstly you are showing that you are professional enough to have your own domain name. This inspires confidence in would be customers. Secondly, if you do it right you are giving yourself the opportunity of finding customers by means of organic web searches. I have never paid to advertise my photography business anywhere. 100% of my clients have come from Google searches where specific keywords for the specialised work I do have put me on page 1 of the search results. You won’t ever see any individual Facebook pages popping up on page 1 of Google when you search for “Durban event photographers”. Also, sending prospective customers to a Facebook page (with all its other distractions) will not get you into the upper echelons of the market you are trying to capture. While I have a Facebook page for all my online activities (and there are a few of them) I have never received a single shred of business from any of them directly. They are there more to serve as a communications channel for those websites than anything else. I get all my photography business from my personal website that runs on WordPress.

 

Your photography website should be an extension of your brand, or a portal to discovering what it is you do, how you do it and why you do it. It is there as a digital brochure for you to showcase those things. However, just having a website is not the only thing you should be focusing on when it comes to marketing yourself. That is an entirely different animal altogether and the website plays only one part of your marketing mix. If you think about the sheer number of photographers in any given geographic area and the fact that probably less than 1% of people ever look at page 2 of Google’s search results, you will need to do some other marketing or a LOT of work to get on page 1 of Google. It’s not impossible, but it doesn’t happen overnight, so don’t rely on this as your only calling card, but at the same time don’t think that having a Wix site or a Facebook page is going to win the hearts and minds of your prospective customers. It won’t. You still need to be able to send customers to a slick, well laid out website that will show those potential customers what you can do for them.

 

Getting your own website can be a daunting task at first because it involves a lot of talk about things that initially make no sense. You’ll will hear words like “content management system”, “SEO”, “bandwidth”, “disk quota”, “cloud server”, etc, and not knowing what those things are could send you down the path towards being seriously ripped off by unscrupulous web developers. Happens all the time. My approach to working with people who need websites has always been one of complete transparency. I go to great lengths to ensure that my customers understand everything about their sites, the way they should be using email to avoid the spam traps and also how they should be presenting their work. These days you can have your own slick looking website up and running in a matter of minutes and at a much lower cost than you would ever have believed possible. None of the WordPress sites I have helped people create in the past couple of years have cost them more than $300 including hosting and domain name for a whole year. Many of them are even cheaper than that if you need less hand holding and can do your own configurations.

 

Over the next few months I will share some of my secrets to having a great website and getting yourself on page one for the things that matter to your business. If you Google “durban event photographer” or “durban product photographer” you will see where my site pitches (www.dallasdahms.com). These articles will give you a proper grounding in getting yourself aux fait with everything related to your own site, from choosing a domain name to hosting, optimising your content for search, getting your images to display at their best and proper content management using the systems I have used myself over the years. Keep a lookout for those.

Edited by DDFZ

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      View full article
    • By Dallas
      Nearly every other photography related video I watch on YouTube these days seems to have been sponsored by, or is used as an advertising platform by Weebly, Wix, or Squarespace. 
       
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    • By Dallas
      There’s so much I want to write about on the issue of pricing, but because it is such a broad subject, covering everything in a single article that might run a couple thousand words is probably not going to do it justice. Also, I don’t work in every facet of photography so I will have to limit myself to a single area where I do have a lot of experience, namely event photography. I’ve been working in this field for going on 8 years and in that time one thing has become very clear: my prices are under pressure.
       
      Why is this?
       
      THE UNDER CUTTING BASEMENT (A.K.A. “THE SWEATSHOP”)
       
      The market has changed in recent years and there are now lots of new photographers around, many of whom are also reaching for a piece of the ever-shrinking corporate event photography pie. Sadly most of the new-comers to this business have little business sense or even understanding of how to price themselves, so they go in cheap. This increase in competition means that if I want to carry on working in this business I have to be competitive and reduce my rates too. Or improve my value offering. Or take out contracts on all the competitors who undercut prices. Well, there’s no Italian blood in me (omertà) so I’m really only left with one choice. It isn’t reducing my rates.
       
      If I was to reduce my rates to compete with the under-cutters entering into the market all I would end up doing is heaping more pressure on myself. My rent doesn’t ever come down, nor do any of my other living expenses. I would have to work harder to make the same money I was making before. I’m old now. Working harder for the same things doesn’t really enter my thought space that much.
       
      I understand that everyone has a different set of living costs and mine may not be the same as the new photographer who just graduated from college and still lives with his or her parents. But why should there be differences in the way we price ourselves? We are doing the same job and probably giving a similar output. The only things differentiating us should be our individual style and personality.
       
      If you undercut your competitor’s prices to get a job the winner isn’t you, it’s the accountant working for your customer, because now they have leverage over you. They know that you’re a low-rent photographer and their exploitation engine kicks into high gear. Welcome to the world of the bargain basement photographer. If you’re undercutting on jobs because you can afford to charge less since you’re living in your parent’s basement paying hardly any rent, I hope you like that basement because you’re going to be spending a lot of time down there if your plan is to keep on doing cheap jobs for customers by undercutting the market. Those customers may keep you very busy, but you’ll never get any richer. You’ll just get worn out working for them. Trust me on this. 
       
      Once you set a price benchmark using basement living overheads, getting customers to move to a new benchmark outside of the basement (when your overheads inevitably increase) is going to require smooth talking from you on the intensity level of Spandau Ballet love songs to keep those customers. That is unless you have an X factor that they are prepared to pay more for. Not many photographers have an X factor, especially not in event coverage.
       
      Around the time I made the transition to being a full time pro I had a conversation with a guy who used to be a moderator on the ODP forums (and he was also a member here), the late Mark Thomas who worked in Pretoria as a commercial photographer. Mark mentored quite a few of us on ODP and his advice on turning pro has stuck with me. He told me this story about how after being a pro for a few years and not really getting anywhere he decided one day to double his rates. He lost half of his regular customers immediately but he managed to keep the other half by promising them more attention to their individual needs and turnaround times. He didn’t shoot events (that I know of) as he was a commercial photographer, so his work was already at a certain level that those customers had come to appreciate and were prepared to pay more for. He also had the X factor in what he did. As a result of this decision he subsequently worked fewer hours, but made the same money he did before. This move however, improved the quality of new clients calling on him. He wasn’t being seen as a low rent photographer anymore and he also then had more time to explore other photographic interests, one of which was to start selling fine art prints and copyright of stock he’d taken to corporate customers. Back then I recall he sold a photograph he had taken to a company for a lot of money. He would never have had that opportunity if he’d been grinding away day after day for peanuts as a bargain basement photographer.
       
      You have to think big picture if you want a long term career in photography. Trying to build up a business on a price offering is 100% dependent on volume and in these days of corporate cutbacks volume is fast becoming Unobtainium. Loyalty means nothing to customers who have made their purchase decisions on price. Don’t try and run your photography business like a supermarket, because there is always going to be somebody who will do it cheaper than you. You simply won’t last very long if your customers run out on you to go and use the next bargain basement photographer they find.
       
      SETTING THE PRICE BENCHMARK
       
      At a recent workshop I held for photographers looking to build their own WordPress websites we got onto the topic of price discussion amongst pros. How come so few of us publish our rates on our websites? We seem to have this totally unfounded paranoia about sharing what we charge with other photographers that doesn’t seem to exist in any other service industry. Plumbers and electricians are all pretty open about their rates and the medical profession have the Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMB) system to work from (in a South African context). They all know what the benchmark for charging for their services is. Some go higher, some go lower.
       
      If we professional photographers playing in the same markets set some PMB’s ourselves, we might make our lives a little easier. We will never get consensus on what that benchmark figure should be in an unregulated industry such as photography, but I reckon we should at least be looking to establish a minimum hourly rate for event photography, especially if we are to help new photographers avoid falling into the “bargain basement” trap and thus becoming a problem for the entire industry. Them being stuck in there hurts us all, so it would be better for us if they never went into the basement in the first place.
       
      So, let me be forthcoming and reveal my personal pricing benchmark for event photography (please note that these are based on the South African market, photographers in other countries will have different benchmarks, but the principals used should apply to all markets). 
       
      When I quote on an event I first look at the timing and location of the event. I have developed a hourly pricing model (labour only) that is based on weekdays or weekends, daytime hours or evening hours. If it’s a weekday and the hours are between 7am and 5pm I charge R1000 ($65) for the first hour and then R600 ($40) for every subsequent hour, or part thereof. If the event is after 5pm the first hour is R1250 ($82) and additional hours are charged at R750 ($50) each. If it’s on a weekend my first hour is R1500 ($100) and additional hours are R900 ($60) each regardless of the time of day. Please note that this is purely for corporate events and only covers labour. If there are any extras like prints or disks those are billed for separately. 
       
      I choose to charge more for the first hour and less for extra hours because it makes it worthwhile for me to do short 1 hour jobs and it also gives my customer the impression that they are getting better value by having me around on an event for longer. However, I find that longer jobs are not as plentiful as they used to be, so if I am out for 3 hours on a job I am getting at least R2200 ($145), whereas if I was charging (say) R600 ($40) flat rate per hour I would only get R1800 ($120) for the same job. If a customer wants me for a half day or a full day they can easily work out the total costs using these rates. I don’t offer half and full day rates anymore.
       
      For travelling costs if the event is outside of the Durban Metro area I charge R4.50 ($3) per kilometre from my starting point. I don’t charge for travel if the location of the event is within 30km. In light of recent fuel and insurance price increases I should probably re-look at that policy.
      Sometimes I might get a project in another city that requires me to fly there. It doesn’t happen often but when it does I charge an S&T rate that covers my meals and any other costs arising (like parking at the airport, which can be quite expensive long term). I try not to gouge my clients and base this on reasonable expenses. Usually my client pays for the airfare and overnight accommodation if it’s needed, otherwise I’ll just add it to the quote.
       
      I always ask for a 50% deposit on events, unless I have already got a long established relationship with the client. The balance of my invoice is due on delivery of the photos, not 30 days from delivery like how some customers (particularly certain ad agencies) like to pay. I make this very clear upfront for new customers. A new strategy I am adopting to avoid this “shoot now pay later” practise is to offer a 10% discount off my quote if payment is made in full upfront. You’ll be surprised at just how effective this has been! Solves a lot of admin and cash flow problems for me.
       
      There are many photographers who are charging more than I do for corporate stuff and if they are getting their price then that’s great. My rates are based on Durban events. I’m sure photographers in Gauteng and the Western Cape are able to charge much more than I do. I’m happy with where I am price wise, provided the work keeps coming. I don’t expect to be busy every day, but at least when I am busy I don’t feel like I am being molested by some corporate accountant who’s only motivation for living is to bleed every supplier he can totally dry. I at least retain my soul when I am working on events and I enjoy them rather than spending my time feeling resentful towards the client who beat me down on price.
       
      WHAT IS MARKET RELATED PRICING?
       
      So what about those photographers charging less than me? How much less is considered reasonable to charge for events these days?
       
      I reckon no photographer anywhere in South Africa should be working for less than R500 ($35) an hour for event coverage. If you’re going in under that price point you’re going to be in the low rent basement because these jobs don’t happen every day. You can’t rely on them for all your income, so you may as well make the most of them and charge a healthy hourly labour rate.
       
      “But what if I’m not good enough to charge that much yet?” I hear you say. Oh dear. If you want to do photography for a living you have to be good enough before you get in the game. End of story. Roll credits here. There is no room for hacks in this business so please get “good enough” before you set up shop and print your business cards. Skilled work requires skilled workers and you need to have those skills in order to be able to charge for them. Horse. Cart. Order.
       
      AND ON THAT BOMBSHELL…
       
      If you’re already “good enough” but you truly have no idea on how the photography business works, yet you want to be a part of it, find yourself a good mentor who isn’t shy to share their experiences and business wisdom with you. There are many successful photographers around, some of whom offer internships, assistant jobs or workshops. Seek them out and tap their knowledgebase.
       
      A good professional photographer will never be worried about you stealing business from them because they already know the value of their own ability and why their customers are happy to pay them for it. Don’t be afraid to ask and don’t be afraid to charge when you’re ready to call yourself a professional.
       
      If you're a pro working in the events market outside of South Africa, please share your thoughts on billing in the comments. I'd love to hear them. 

      View full article
    • By Dallas
      There’s so much I want to write about on the issue of pricing, but because it is such a broad subject, covering everything in a single article that might run a couple thousand words is probably not going to do it justice. Also, I don’t work in every facet of photography so I will have to limit myself to a single area where I do have a lot of experience, namely event photography. I’ve been working in this field for going on 8 years and in that time one thing has become very clear: my prices are under pressure.
       
      Why is this?
       
      THE UNDER CUTTING BASEMENT (A.K.A. “THE SWEATSHOP”)
       
      The market has changed in recent years and there are now lots of new photographers around, many of whom are also reaching for a piece of the ever-shrinking corporate event photography pie. Sadly most of the new-comers to this business have little business sense or even understanding of how to price themselves, so they go in cheap. This increase in competition means that if I want to carry on working in this business I have to be competitive and reduce my rates too. Or improve my value offering. Or take out contracts on all the competitors who undercut prices. Well, there’s no Italian blood in me (omertà) so I’m really only left with one choice. It isn’t reducing my rates.
       
      If I was to reduce my rates to compete with the under-cutters entering into the market all I would end up doing is heaping more pressure on myself. My rent doesn’t ever come down, nor do any of my other living expenses. I would have to work harder to make the same money I was making before. I’m old now. Working harder for the same things doesn’t really enter my thought space that much.
       
      I understand that everyone has a different set of living costs and mine may not be the same as the new photographer who just graduated from college and still lives with his or her parents. But why should there be differences in the way we price ourselves? We are doing the same job and probably giving a similar output. The only things differentiating us should be our individual style and personality.
       
      If you undercut your competitor’s prices to get a job the winner isn’t you, it’s the accountant working for your customer, because now they have leverage over you. They know that you’re a low-rent photographer and their exploitation engine kicks into high gear. Welcome to the world of the bargain basement photographer. If you’re undercutting on jobs because you can afford to charge less since you’re living in your parent’s basement paying hardly any rent, I hope you like that basement because you’re going to be spending a lot of time down there if your plan is to keep on doing cheap jobs for customers by undercutting the market. Those customers may keep you very busy, but you’ll never get any richer. You’ll just get worn out working for them. Trust me on this. 
       
      Once you set a price benchmark using basement living overheads, getting customers to move to a new benchmark outside of the basement (when your overheads inevitably increase) is going to require smooth talking from you on the intensity level of Spandau Ballet love songs to keep those customers. That is unless you have an X factor that they are prepared to pay more for. Not many photographers have an X factor, especially not in event coverage.
       
      Around the time I made the transition to being a full time pro I had a conversation with a guy who used to be a moderator on the ODP forums (and he was also a member here), the late Mark Thomas who worked in Pretoria as a commercial photographer. Mark mentored quite a few of us on ODP and his advice on turning pro has stuck with me. He told me this story about how after being a pro for a few years and not really getting anywhere he decided one day to double his rates. He lost half of his regular customers immediately but he managed to keep the other half by promising them more attention to their individual needs and turnaround times. He didn’t shoot events (that I know of) as he was a commercial photographer, so his work was already at a certain level that those customers had come to appreciate and were prepared to pay more for. He also had the X factor in what he did. As a result of this decision he subsequently worked fewer hours, but made the same money he did before. This move however, improved the quality of new clients calling on him. He wasn’t being seen as a low rent photographer anymore and he also then had more time to explore other photographic interests, one of which was to start selling fine art prints and copyright of stock he’d taken to corporate customers. Back then I recall he sold a photograph he had taken to a company for a lot of money. He would never have had that opportunity if he’d been grinding away day after day for peanuts as a bargain basement photographer.
       
      You have to think big picture if you want a long term career in photography. Trying to build up a business on a price offering is 100% dependent on volume and in these days of corporate cutbacks volume is fast becoming Unobtainium. Loyalty means nothing to customers who have made their purchase decisions on price. Don’t try and run your photography business like a supermarket, because there is always going to be somebody who will do it cheaper than you. You simply won’t last very long if your customers run out on you to go and use the next bargain basement photographer they find.
       
      SETTING THE PRICE BENCHMARK
       
      At a recent workshop I held for photographers looking to build their own WordPress websites we got onto the topic of price discussion amongst pros. How come so few of us publish our rates on our websites? We seem to have this totally unfounded paranoia about sharing what we charge with other photographers that doesn’t seem to exist in any other service industry. Plumbers and electricians are all pretty open about their rates and the medical profession have the Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMB) system to work from (in a South African context). They all know what the benchmark for charging for their services is. Some go higher, some go lower.
       
      If we professional photographers playing in the same markets set some PMB’s ourselves, we might make our lives a little easier. We will never get consensus on what that benchmark figure should be in an unregulated industry such as photography, but I reckon we should at least be looking to establish a minimum hourly rate for event photography, especially if we are to help new photographers avoid falling into the “bargain basement” trap and thus becoming a problem for the entire industry. Them being stuck in there hurts us all, so it would be better for us if they never went into the basement in the first place.
       
      So, let me be forthcoming and reveal my personal pricing benchmark for event photography (please note that these are based on the South African market, photographers in other countries will have different benchmarks, but the principals used should apply to all markets). 
       
      When I quote on an event I first look at the timing and location of the event. I have developed a hourly pricing model (labour only) that is based on weekdays or weekends, daytime hours or evening hours. If it’s a weekday and the hours are between 7am and 5pm I charge R1000 ($65) for the first hour and then R600 ($40) for every subsequent hour, or part thereof. If the event is after 5pm the first hour is R1250 ($82) and additional hours are charged at R750 ($50) each. If it’s on a weekend my first hour is R1500 ($100) and additional hours are R900 ($60) each regardless of the time of day. Please note that this is purely for corporate events and only covers labour. If there are any extras like prints or disks those are billed for separately. 
       
      I choose to charge more for the first hour and less for extra hours because it makes it worthwhile for me to do short 1 hour jobs and it also gives my customer the impression that they are getting better value by having me around on an event for longer. However, I find that longer jobs are not as plentiful as they used to be, so if I am out for 3 hours on a job I am getting at least R2200 ($145), whereas if I was charging (say) R600 ($40) flat rate per hour I would only get R1800 ($120) for the same job. If a customer wants me for a half day or a full day they can easily work out the total costs using these rates. I don’t offer half and full day rates anymore.
       
      For travelling costs if the event is outside of the Durban Metro area I charge R4.50 ($3) per kilometre from my starting point. I don’t charge for travel if the location of the event is within 30km. In light of recent fuel and insurance price increases I should probably re-look at that policy.
      Sometimes I might get a project in another city that requires me to fly there. It doesn’t happen often but when it does I charge an S&T rate that covers my meals and any other costs arising (like parking at the airport, which can be quite expensive long term). I try not to gouge my clients and base this on reasonable expenses. Usually my client pays for the airfare and overnight accommodation if it’s needed, otherwise I’ll just add it to the quote.
       
      I always ask for a 50% deposit on events, unless I have already got a long established relationship with the client. The balance of my invoice is due on delivery of the photos, not 30 days from delivery like how some customers (particularly certain ad agencies) like to pay. I make this very clear upfront for new customers. A new strategy I am adopting to avoid this “shoot now pay later” practise is to offer a 10% discount off my quote if payment is made in full upfront. You’ll be surprised at just how effective this has been! Solves a lot of admin and cash flow problems for me.
       
      There are many photographers who are charging more than I do for corporate stuff and if they are getting their price then that’s great. My rates are based on Durban events. I’m sure photographers in Gauteng and the Western Cape are able to charge much more than I do. I’m happy with where I am price wise, provided the work keeps coming. I don’t expect to be busy every day, but at least when I am busy I don’t feel like I am being molested by some corporate accountant who’s only motivation for living is to bleed every supplier he can totally dry. I at least retain my soul when I am working on events and I enjoy them rather than spending my time feeling resentful towards the client who beat me down on price.
       
      WHAT IS MARKET RELATED PRICING?
       
      So what about those photographers charging less than me? How much less is considered reasonable to charge for events these days?
       
      I reckon no photographer anywhere in South Africa should be working for less than R500 ($35) an hour for event coverage. If you’re going in under that price point you’re going to be in the low rent basement because these jobs don’t happen every day. You can’t rely on them for all your income, so you may as well make the most of them and charge a healthy hourly labour rate.
       
      “But what if I’m not good enough to charge that much yet?” I hear you say. Oh dear. If you want to do photography for a living you have to be good enough before you get in the game. End of story. Roll credits here. There is no room for hacks in this business so please get “good enough” before you set up shop and print your business cards. Skilled work requires skilled workers and you need to have those skills in order to be able to charge for them. Horse. Cart. Order.
       
      AND ON THAT BOMBSHELL…
       
      If you’re already “good enough” but you truly have no idea on how the photography business works, yet you want to be a part of it, find yourself a good mentor who isn’t shy to share their experiences and business wisdom with you. There are many successful photographers around, some of whom offer internships, assistant jobs or workshops. Seek them out and tap their knowledgebase.
       
      A good professional photographer will never be worried about you stealing business from them because they already know the value of their own ability and why their customers are happy to pay them for it. Don’t be afraid to ask and don’t be afraid to charge when you’re ready to call yourself a professional.
       
      If you're a pro working in the events market outside of South Africa, please share your thoughts on billing in the comments. I'd love to hear them. 
    • By Dallas
      For many the idea of making money from photography is a very appealing prospect. I have been a pro on and off since 2001, but eventually in late 2007 I went pro full time through economic necessity more than anything else. For me personally, nothing took the shine off the "glamour" of being a photographer faster than having to make a living from it!
      These days the bulk of my work seems to comprise covering corporate events, such as conferences, product launches, etc. It's a horrible genre to work in, but gradually, as more and more of these jobs come about I have found them getting easier to do. My confidence in approaching people to take their photo has grown dramatically and my overall results are better too. Ideally I would have loved to have been a sports photographer, which is where I ironically started shooting over a decade ago, but through lack of conviction as far as the commercial viability goes and lack of appropriate gear I never pursued this avenue.
      Professional photographers are having to adapt and come up with novel ways of making ends meet these days. From inventive licensing and pricing models to different kinds of services, if you aren't finding new ways to market and produce, you're going to be out of the picture very soon. The professional glory days of old are gone and they ain't coming back, no matter how hard you try to convince the world at large that what you do is worth the money.
      I was talking to a colleague the other day who has been in photography for over 40 years and he told me a story about how a commercial photographer he knows (who I have encountered locally too) was called by a client and asked if he could please come and help them out because they had purchased some studio lights and a cheap DSLR and needed some help on how to set things up to do some product work. This was a company that had previously spent a great deal of money using his product photography services. Did he do it? No. He told them to eff off. But I am not so sure I would have done the same thing? Maybe there is more money in training than there is in actually doing the work yourself?
      If you have been a professional at any point of your life in photography, what is your outlook for the future of the business? For the poll, if you aren't a pro, just tick the N/A box in the 2nd question.
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