Photo Tip Tuesday

Photo Tip Tuesday – Staying creative during a crisis

If you’re a photographer stuck at home due to the coronavirus pandemic, there are plenty of things you can do to keep yourself busy (and creative) during self-isolation. Check out the list below that will help you grow your business and your creativity.

Update your website
As a photographer, your website is one of the most important parts of your brand identity. It defines how clients see you and determines whether they contact you. While photographers are amazing at creating compelling images, that skill may not translate into web design; but you don’t have to view the task as daunting. Creative website providers like WordPress, Squarespace, PhotoFolio, Pixpa and Photoshelter offer all-in-one portfolio pages with hosting, email, page building tools and a collection of templates. Plus, if you want to experiment with coding (or use what you learned on Myspace many years ago), you can set custom CSS. After creating the base for your website, you can work on your focus/theme, gallery titles, “About” page and more. Just make sure you showcase your best work to portray your aesthetic accurately.

Update your contracts
There are several reasons to have a legal photography contract in place for your clients. Misunderstandings can arise – many of which may be honest mistakes – that can cause headaches and profit loss. Contracts also set the stage for a legitimate and professional business transaction. Seeing that you are a licensed business with contracts to protect you & them will help your clients take the process more seriously. It also solidifies your image as a professional photography business owner if you have a set process for them to go through detailing the terms and consequences. Ultimately, having a photography contract strengthens the trust between you and the client. There are no surprises and the client will know what to expect.

Watch training videos online
Education has drastically changed in recent years (a perfect example is the number of students partaking in online learning during the quarantine). One of the best sources to learn from online is YouTube, especially for something visual like photography. The topics are endless (composition, off-camera flash, lighting and composite images are just a few) and you are only limited by what you chose to learn. If there has ever been a style of photography you wanted to learn (for example, newborn photography) or you want to learn the specs of a piece of gear you’ve had your eye on, just type the subject in the search bar and beginning the learning process at your own pace.

Take free online classes from the Professional Photographers of America (PPA)
The trade association has made all of its 1,100+ online photography classes free until April 1st. To get started, simply create your free account (no email verification is required) and once you’re in, you’ll have all the educational material at your fingertips. Just like the aforementioned training videos on YouTube, you can learn everything from how to make money in wedding photography to printing in-house to developing a target audience.

Backup images
Every mobile phone, laptop and personal computer stores your photos, documents and other data on a small memory chip or a spinning hard drive (and it is not uncommon for these to fail). Due to the nature of how hard drives operate, they are guaranteed to wear out over time; it’s just a question of when. Anyone concerned with making sure their digital files are safe and accessible years from now needs to have a solid backup strategy in case the unthinkable happens. One problem with creating a backup strategy is that it can seem so complex, it’s difficult to know where to begin (whether it be the cloud, a hard drive or a waterproof, fireproof safe). One of the best ways to approach backing up your data is the 3-2-1 strategy: 3) have three copies of your data, 2) keep them in two separate places, 1) at least one must be offsite. This might seem like a lot of hassle, but once you get over the initial setup of utilizing a backup strategy it becomes a habit that you’ll hardly notice. When it comes to losing thousands of photos thanks to computer failures and hard drive corruption, it could be the difference between having to re-edit the raw photos from a session and having to refund a client hundreds (if not, thousands) of dollars due to the images being lost or corrupted forever.

Purchase photography insurance
The risks photography businesses face can be significant, so camera insurance is a must (regardless of whether you’re a hobbyist or a professional). At the very least, camera insurance will help you replace a cracked lens; but photography insurance can also protect you from potential lawsuits. When you buy photography or camera insurance, use a company that specializes in photography, like PPA or Hiscox (general insurance brokers may not be able to tailor the policy to your requirements). Understanding what your needs are will help you determine the best photography insurance. For example, equipment insurance will be an option that you can choose as part of your DSLR camera insurance package (the damage caused to a dropped lens may cost you thousands of dollars if it isn’t insured). When speaking with the photography insurance company representative, be specific about what you need and every piece of equipment you use; it may influence the final price of your policy. Another tip to remember: be careful about making small damage claims (making a claim can cause your premium to go up). You’ll save more money in the long run by paying out of pocket for the cost of minor repairs. Save the camera equipment insurance for bigger claims such as theft, fire, flooding or extensive damage to your camera or lenses.

Create an email marketing list
As photographers, we often think of email as a way to communicate with clients or potential clients. However, it is also a tool that can be utilized in several different ways, including marketing. Starting to build an email list is important as your business grows. Sending out generic, regularly-scheduled emails can help to boost your workload as well. You can set up a mailing list signup form on your website through an email system like MailChimp or MadMimi (which would help attract potential clients). It’s also important to entice people to join your email list. You might do this several ways: a popup on your website where you talk about what people will get with your emails, give away a coupon for a photo session, or offer a free desktop wallpaper each month. At the top of the email, you’ll want to write a greeting (with an attractive photograph) and you’ll want your logo somewhere near the top as well. You should also mention any specials going on (for example: you might advertise your upcoming mini sessions). Depending on your content, you might send out a newsletter every other week, monthly or quarterly. If you have an active blog, you might find yourself needing to send out a newsletter more often. Regardless of what schedule you choose, it’s important to stay consistent. By generating an email list and regular newsletter, you can help to keep in touch with your clients and make sure they’re thinking of you on a regular basis.

Offer editing services on Fiverr
If you’re looking to make some extra funds during these financially uncertain times, you may want to search for gigs online that you can complete from home. One of the most popular websites to find these jobs is Fiverr. Fiverr is an online marketplace for freelance services which provides a platform for freelancers to offer services to customers worldwide. There are a variety of services you can sell that can utilize skills you may not have used in years. From graphic design to photo & video editing to copy-editing, the options are virtually endless. You can even offer services outside of the photography realm such as voice overs, logo design and translation (especially if you are fluent in more than one language). From setting the price for your services to expanding your talents and clientele, this is a great way to make money during (and after) the coronavirus pandemic.

Determine your Cost Of Doing Business (CODB)
Before you can even think of putting a number on any of your services, you need to have a solid grasp and understanding of your cost of doing business (referred to as CODB). Your cost of doing business is the result of an equation: non-reimbursable expenses (rent, computers, phones, internet, insurance, gear, office supplies, etc.) + your desired salary = your total annual costs (your total annual costs divided by your number of billable days equals your cost of doing business). Billable days is exactly what it sounds like. As photographers, we don’t really work a “normal” week; we work early in the morning, late at night, weekends and everything in between; but that doesn’t mean we don’t need time off. There are going to be plenty of days where you can’t work or simply don’t want to. Being able to set a number of billable days is important to setting your fees and maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Instead of thinking in terms of “billable days”, you may find it easier to think in terms of your number of shoots per month. You can download a basic Monthly Cost of Doing Business Worksheet here: Monthly CODB Worksheet. It requires taking a long, detailed look at your monthly expenses, both professional and personal, and it is by no means an exhaustive list; everyone’s list will be different. You may find it useful to spend one full month accounting for each and every expenditure and seeing where it falls on the worksheet. Once you have a handle on your expenses, dividing that number by the total number of photo shoots you can do each month determines your monthly cost of doing business. Once you’ve properly calculated your CODB, you are in a must better position to do the same for your creative and photography fees.

The most important thing to remember is that, though it seems like there is no end in sight, this (hopefully) will not last forever. This is uncharted territory in the age of social media and every day presents new information. However, once the world gets back on its feet and the social distancing orders are lifted, you can emerge well-educated with new skills, new clientele and a more streamlined business. Use this time to your advantage and you’ll be able to see the silver-lining through the dark clouds. If you need any more quarantine-based ideas or want to share photos & skills you’ve learned recently, let us know in the comments and remember: we’re all in the together!

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