Today we continue our Top Ten list! But before we get into it, I thought I might point you in few different directions to help you get started learning.
As you know we’re big fans of the library (I have books waiting to be picked up right now!). It’s a great place to dig deep and really get into research mode. See if you can browse your library’s shelves online and reserve books at your local branch. It’s extremely efficient to find books on your particular subject that way!
When you’re searching out new info you’ll obviously also want to check out Google. We basically taught ourselves everything we know about photography just using the internet (and a lot of practice of course!).
I can’t tell you how many questions people have come to us with that we don’t know the answer to, so we do a quick Google search, figure it out and send them the link. I think the trick to using Google is that if you can’t find what you’re looking for in the first few pages then rethink/rephrase the question/information you’re looking for. The answer is out there!
One final suggestion on learning: find a mentor. It sounds like a public service announcement, but having a mentor is going to save you a lot of time, money and frustration. Find someone who knows way more than you do about the subject you want to learn more about!
A mentor doesn’t have to be an industry leading professional (to be honest you probably don’t want the “best of the best” personally teaching you, it’s going to cost you a fortune). If you approach things skeptically (you’re learning for yourself after all), you should be fine learning from anyone who knows more than you.
Obviously finding someone who is willing to help you is a big part of that equation. It doesn’t hurt to grease the wheels with a bottle of wine or lunch! As educators ourselves that might seem like a bad thing to say, but I’m being honest about the give and take relationship of being a mentor. If all you’re doing is taking, the mentor relationship won’t last long, so do what you can to show you appreciate the time and effort someone is putting into you.
A couple random final points about mentors. Fill in your mentored education from other sources like the internet, books, and experience. And show initiative. A mentor isn’t there to hand-hold you through everything, rather they’re useful guides.
Finally, consider completing the sharing cycle yourself by mentoring others! Raise the bar for everyone!
Ok, with all that done with, let’s get back to the list. Here are the final 5 things to learn more about as a photographer.
5. Social Media
Like it or not, social media is here to stay. If you aren’t using Facebook or Twitter to promote your business you’re going to be left behind. While we both use Facebook personally, and have a Facebook page for our portrait photography business, we’ve barely scratched the surface in terms of marketing potential. I can’t even imagine how much business we’ve lost because we haven’t been diligent in pursuing our social media presence.
Photographers care about Google Page rank, and I think they should forget about it.
Four out of our top 5 (or 6 out of our top 10) Google keyword searches revolve around variations of “Rob & Lauren”. What that means is that people are finding us through word of mouth much more often than random Google searches.
Photography is a referral business. Social media tools like Facebook are basically automatic referral machines. People search out their friends’ photos, want photos like that for themselves, and can easily see who took them. They don’t even need to ask their friends who their photographer was, it’s brilliant!
Find new ways of using social media that make your business unique, and help your business stand out.
6. Marketing – Customer Service
You’ll notice that this is a combo category (almost a 2-for-1!). First off I should mention that we don’t do any paid advertising or marketing.
We actually launched our careers off of Google AdWords (we spent $30/month for a few months and booked a whole season of weddings), but that was when Google AdWords were a whole lot cheaper, and a lot less photographers were using it. We’ve experimented with it since and saw little to no return.
Print advertising is more about creating brand awareness than converting viewers into clients, so we haven’t spent any money there.
To be plainly honest I don’t want to invest any money in something unless I know it’s going to pay off for me – that’s kind of a fundamental principle of investing isn’t it? When it comes to marketing what I am willing to invest is time, because at the very least I’ll learn how difficult or easy something is to do. And what we’ve found is that it’s pretty easy to market for free using your brain.
So what do we do? (And this isn’t the one and only way you have to market, just what we have found to be the most successful for us). We focus on the client experience (read: great customer service).
I’m certain that the majority of our clients talk with their friends about us. I know this because they tell us, and their friends tell us. So we look for ways to take advantage of this, and we try to make each client experience exceptional. I feel like I can’t really get into detail about the specific things that we do because that’s not the important part, and it changes from client to client. The important part is caring about and being genuinely interested in your clients. This is something that we’ve learned to do all the time (not something you do once and hope it pays off). If you care, it will pay off.
Take-away: Learn more about customer service techniques that you can use all the time. Think about ways you can care more about your clients. Do this well, and your clients will do the bulk of your marketing for you.
Because your time is limited as a photographer and your business isn’t greatly scalable you need to think of and learn new ways of maximizing per client sales. I think this is something that artists have a huge problem with. They think they shouldn’t charge a great deal for something they love to do.
I want to share something with you. I love being a photographer so much that I want to do it all the time, forever. And I love my clients so much that I want to constantly be producing the highest quality work for them, and providing them the best possible experience. It’s going to cost me money, and it’s going to take time and effort on my part – so I’m going to charge accordingly for it. I’ll charge less when I lower my expectations for myself.
So the first thing you’ll need to learn is that you need to charge accordingly for the work you produce.
This varies for every person, so never copy another’s prices. That&#
8217;s a surefire way to fail.
The next thing is that if you want to make a decent living, or find a way to give yourself a raise, you’re going to need to learn how to increase and maximize your sales. A hint I’ll give you is that the ‘hard sell’ died a long time ago. Persuasion is a great thing to learn more about, but something that we use little of in our business.
We’ve learned that the best sales come from clients that we provided great experiences to, and produced the best work for.
Another huge hint in sales is that it’s vital to educate your client about the process (before, during and after the sale). Most people aren’t used to getting their photos taken, and doing whatever you can to help them through the process is going to create a better experience for them.
Finally: learn about pre-selling, up-selling, and post-selling – but always keep the clients’ best interests in mind. Pushing hard for the highest sale possible can mean a few more dollars in your pocket, but the loss of a great client (and referral source) as they leave with a negative feeling.
This is photography. Without it you may as well leave the lens cap on.
To become a better photographer, you need to become better at understanding light. And the best part is that light is (almost) always out there in spades, waiting for you to find it. So start looking!
Find new ways of describing it. Spend time pouring over fine art photography books, and take note of the light.
Now, of course, there is beautiful and exceptionally flattering light at certain times of day (golden hour!), but what we’ve learned is that you can create a great portrait in nearly every kind of lighting condition.
The best way to learn more about light is simply practice shooting in different kinds of light.
Push yourself to shoot when it’s tough. Get to know light, and love it. Talk so much about it that your friends get uncomfortable. Dream about it. Write love poems to it. Whatever it takes to really develop a relationship with light!
We recently purchased an Epson 3880, and I can’t believe how disconnected we had previously been from the printing process, and thus photography. Obviously we’ve seen our work printed regularly when clients order it.
But being able to quickly create a print, make changes if necessary, and then create more prints is an incredibly rewarding process.
We already feel way more connected to the output of our work. If that doesn’t convince you to learn more about printing (and there is a ton to learn!) consider that your printing options through a professional lab are limited to a few paper choices. If you do your own printing you have access to hundreds of different papers! You’re now completely in control of the quality of output – I’m sure I’m not adequately conveying how exciting that is.
Suffice it to say that since buying the printer less than two weeks ago, I’ve printed over 60 images, and given many to friends and family. Sharing your work with the people you love is probably one of the most rewarding parts of this job.
If you’re taking photos of people you NEED to be thinking about what your subject is thinking and feeling.
Obviously their emotions are going to be present in the photos, and if they feel awkward or uncomfortable it will be noticeable at a glance. A large part of what we do is coaching our clients into being themselves. We want to reveal their personalities, and spend the majority of our efforts during a shoot on this alone. All the technical stuff about photography really takes a backseat, in our opinion.
While Lauren and I both have degrees in Psychology, I don’t think we use what we learned in school much, other than realizing how important our interaction with clients is. If you want to learn more about interacting with people a great place to start is with the book How to Win Friends and Influence People. As Lauren often says, people who read that book have an advantage in life.
Now, even if you’re not photographing people, learning more about psychology will still help you in terms of identifying with the viewers of your images and dealing with clients! Heck, it will help you in dealing with friends and family as well. This stuff is important.
Well, that about wraps it up! Just a final note that this list is just my opinion. I’m positive there are dozens of topics photographers could be learning more about. These are simply the ones I find the most relevant and what I’m most interested to learn more about. You can view the first half of the Top 10 list here.
If you have any suggestions on topics you think photographers could learn more about then we would love for you to leave it in the comments :)