Okay, we all know it’s tough out there at the minute; it’s tough for most everybody. What does that mean as to you as a photographer? Well it means you have to work a little harder to keep the work coming in and you have to look for opportunities to maximise your earning potential from any given job.
Exploring ‘alternative revenue streams’ for your images is something you’ll hear a lot about on business blogs etc and it is good practice whatever the state of the economy – but I rarely see any nuts-and-bolts examples of how it’s done, so that’s what I want to do today. I’m going to reference a job I did recently and show you how I maximised the income potential of that job.
Now, I’ll confess upfront that this is not a bog-standard everyday job I’m using as an example. However, all the techniques I’m about to discuss are ones that can be used on a normal job too – I know that because I use them. The reason I’ve chosen this particular job is because it’s more glamorous, so the post will be more visually interesting.
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Right then, with that out of the way, I’ll begin in earnest.
Recently I was hired to take some pictures at a Yoga retreat in Italy. The job involved spending four days at the retreat photographing the yoga classes and capturing the general feel, so that the images could be used to market other such retreats further down the line. Here’s a few examples of the kind of shots I was taking (if you want to see more Yoga Holiday in Italy images feel free to click on through, just make sure you come back!)
These pictures are all fit for purpose and, without asking for model release forms, I couldn’t use them for much other than that purpose. An unenlightened photographer may well just show up, fulfil the brief, enjoy the weather, collect his payment and give himself a pat on the back.
That’s totally fine if you’re confident you can secure a bunch of other jobs relatively quickly – but if not, then there are ways to put your time to better use.
I’m a B2B photographer, I do that on purpose because I don’t like selling to the general public, so selling prints is not normally something I go in for, but in a situation like this its an obvious choice.
It pays to be friendly and show anyone who’s interested, the pictures on the LCD display on the back of your camera. This has worked for me plenty times when photographing a conference; during a refreshment break I get chatting with one of the speaker’s whose presentation I enjoyed, I’ll tell them why I enjoyed it and I’ll thank them for letting me take some pictures (there are some speakers who ask you to not to shoot).
Can they see some of their pictures? Why yes, of course! Before you know it, you’re exchanging email addresses and letting them know how much you generally charge for a print or digital download (but of course you’ll do it for less because you’re already being paid to shoot anyway – everybody wins). Sometimes word gets round and other speakers will ask for their shots too.
In this case, the kind of prints orders I took were more tourist and landscape shots like those below:
Even if you’re not somewhere as glamorous as Rome, you can still look out for opportunities like this. I photograph conferences and exhibitions mainly, and very often the attendees are not from Newcastle (or London, or Birmingham, or wherever I’m shooting), often they’re not even from England – so the opportunity to make some extra sales by taking a minute or two to do something touristy is still there.
This is another one you can use anywhere! Seriously, all sorts of imagery goes up on stock sites. granted, it’s hard to make a killing without putting in a lot of time and effort but, if you’re just taking a couple of minutes out of a day where you’re already being paid to shoot anyway, then it’s no skin off your nose if the pictures you took in those few minutes only earn you a few pond on the stock sites – and if you chance upon a good seller – bonus!!
Obviously I took some time out during the day trip to Rome to get a few good shots of the tourist landmarks but this trick works in any
major city anywhere in the world; there are photographers who live and work in Rome after all and I’m sure they don’t turn their nose up at the earning potential just because it’s on their back door and too familiar (well, maybe some of them do, but you and I know better!)
Now, admittedly, you have to take bloody brilliant shots of well known landmarks if you want them to sell as stock or art prints etc, simply because they’re so often photographed and competition is tough. This sort of thing might be difficult to do in your lunch hour while photographing a conference in Coventry, for example, but the beauty of shooting for stock is that it’s prospective work; you can shoot almost anything! As long as you get an image with a definite concept, object or potential usage, then it’s worth taking a punt.
I didn’t stop with Rome either. On a quiet afternoon I left the Villa Palazzola, where the retreat was held, on foot and took some photographs of nearby, picturesque Italian village: Rocca di Pappa. You don’t have to work so hard to get stand-out images when you go a little further afield from the major landmarks and these shots will likely do well on stock sites for people searching for more generic images of Italy to use in marketing material etc.
And remember, the more shots you have on any given site – and the longer you’ve been around – the more likely you are to show up in searches, be found and sell pictures; so there’s nothing to lose from uploading a couple of shots as and when you have them.
Cross Sell Your Photographs
This one is a real pro tip for you and, in essence, it’s really simple. The trick is to try and find a secondary market for the photographs you’re already being paid to shoot – so, for instance with those photographs above, I could try and sell them to the Italian tourist board, to a British company (perhaps here in Newcastle) who organise excursions to Rome – or Italy in general, I could contact postcard and calendar vendors etc.
It comes down to creativity and lateral thinking as well as confidence in your work, your selling abilities and your perseverance but it can be done! Try and be specific though, tourist boards and postcard companies may well get a lot of prospective photographers trying to hawk their wares (which is why you need to be persistent), so try and marry your images with someone who will be looking for exactly those shots.
It’s easier said than done, I know but if you’re shooting a wedding, for example, then you can market the shots to the shop where the dress was bought or to the wholesaler or designers of the dress (assuming you have a cracking shot and a model release from the bride of course). Alternatively, if you’re photographing an Exhibition and you happen to catch something interesting going on at one of the stands, then there’s nothing to stop you from selling the same images you’re shooting for the organisers to the stand owners or designers (provided you’ve worded your contract correctly and haven’t signed away copyright – NEVER, EVER GIVE AWAY COPYRIGHTS *unless they’re buying you a Maserati or something*).
In this instance I took some architectural photographs of the grounds and the gardens of Villa Palazzola. When I got home I edited them and sent some lo-res, watermarked samples over on the off chance that they might want to licence some.
Well, if you’ve read my testimonials page, then you’ll know I got better than I bargained for. If you haven’t read it, then let me save you the trip; here’s what they had to say:
Daniel recently visited our private hospitality villa outside Rome and did some shots for us to use for marketing purposes. The results were stunning and all the shots were taken from angles which no other photographer had even thought to capture. We were over the moon with the photos, we have just asked him to come out and do a full portfolio for us! Happy, precise, helpful, willing, obliging and talented. Thank you Daniel!
So, not only were they interested in the shots I took whilst out there, but they’ve also booked me to come back over in October and do some more. That’s the beauty of prospecting, it may take a while to find gold but when you do, it’s a rewarding experience.
That’s right, you heard me; shoot everything! Okay, well not really everything and obviously, it’s *essential* to make sure your primary client gets your best service but within the bounds of practicality, creative nuance and reason – shoot everything.
If you’re staying overnight while working on location, take a nice shot of the room. If you eat out while your working; take your camera. If you spot something interesting happening, take a picture. if you’re using public transport to get to work, find a way to get some shots you can market to their publicity department. And so on, and so forth.
Here’s some examples of me shooting ‘everything’ whilst on assignment in Italy:
Prospecting is the key to maximising your long term earnings from any given assignment. The limit is your skill, imagination and tenacity – and those are all things you can continually build and improve on. Guess how you do that? … That’s right, you do it by prospecting! Just keep practising, keep shooting, keep honing your camera and negotiation skills and the path will open up in front of you.
Good luck in all your endeavours, I hope you found this tutorial helpful. If you did, you might want to donate. 🙂
When I take on an assignment, whether that be an architectural booking, a conference photography assignment or a model portfolio refresher, I always, always give the client my full undivided attention. My natural creativity and curiosity means I’ll produce images that will surprise and delight you and, as a by product I may also end up with images that I can use as stock or sell to other interested parties. Far from being a bad thing, bringing this level of passion to my work can only benefit my clients here in Newcastle as well as anywhere else in the UK (or the world).