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  1. #11
    markbarendt's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wrench View Post
    Is this a crazy idea? I just opened my studio last summer, and at the time, it seemed like a good idea to run the gammut of offerings; color, black and white, weddings... whatever people wanted. As it turns out, my best work far and away has been the b+w jobs. I'm really not happy with my business as it stands right now, it's just all over the place.
    Focus is good for you and your clients. There are two types of clients, those that hire you to take pictures and those that hire you to make art.

    The questions are, can you find enough of the latter to stay busy and will they pay enough to make it worthwhile?

    I wouldn't write off color but I'd put my best work front and center. I'd even say "I do both B&W and color well, but my best work is done in B&W." You'll sell more of what you focus on because most consumers really don't know what they want.

    Quote Originally Posted by wrench View Post
    I don't feel like there's any focus and I really need to work on marketing, but I'm kind of stuck for ideas because the only thing I really want to do is b+w work, and I feel like marketing myself as an 'everything' photographer just isn't working. I happen to be the only photographer in a very isolated are with a relatively small population which seems to work both for and against me.
    If it isn't working, definitely change something. The isolation is irrelevant.

    Quote Originally Posted by wrench View Post
    People seem to think that my price is high (I start at $135), but they don't want to go 2 hours away to Sears who they're comparing me to. My feeling is that if I market myself as something totally different, then people will quit with the comparisons, but my potential market might shrink if I'm only doing b+w.
    If you are not turning away some on price you are priced too low.

    If your B&W work has more value to your clients because or it's quality the price can go up.
    Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO

    "We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin

  2. #12
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    Yes, I think it can be done, but it's not easy. I'm not a particularly good at the "business side" of things, and had very few sittings last year, but I only offer b/w portraits. I've been far more focussed on my personal work lately, and things have been happening there, so I've been letting the portrait side kind of go.

    All that said, I think the answer is "yes", it's possible with the caveat that you are in a larger city that has your target market, which will be people who a. can easily afford it, and b. have the good taste to want it. One thing in your favor through a recession... children and families will grow, and those families that value good photography will want to record the stages of their children's growth no matter the economic climate. It might be quite difficult to find your target in the small area you are in.

    I have to say that I've come to the conclusion that to make custom pictures takes a lot out of me, and most people don't really see how much work it really is, and just don't value it. You want to find those that value it, and understand what you are doing for them. I'm afraid so many folks have accepted crappy Sears photography as being good, and a they wouldn't know a finely crafted photograph if you hit them over the head with it. It's an uphill battle, but that has to be part of your marketing strategy. Detailing the value you bring. the archival and beautiful nature of the well crafted photograph. And charge more, way more than Sears. You do NOT want the Sears customer. They will bring you nothing but heartache.

    Oh, and a good idea for when you show the pictures... project them onto a wall, so the first time they see them, they see them REALLY big. Much easier to sell down, then to show 4"x5" proofs, and try to sell a 16"x20" print.

  3. #13
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    Last edited by SuzanneR; 02-12-2009 at 06:58 AM. Click to view previous post history. Reason: I keep getting double posts for some reason???

  4. #14

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    Great points from everyone here. I think it is very important to remember also that you are in the sales business. Words like archival, bespoke, silver gelatin, selenium and so on mean very little to the vast majority of people. You have to show them what this means through fantastic photographs, the best frames and presentation products, the clothes you wear, the stationary and sales materials you present -and perhaps most importantly, the price. Saying 'I am an artist' is not enough. You must convince them you are.

    This I think, is a major stumbling block for photographers who approach the profession with a hobbyist or artist mentality. We become too accustomed to pleasing ourselves and/or other photographers. Case in point: I posted a few lith prints in the gallery from a series I've been working on. I love them and they have been well recieved here... but my family thinks they are horrible. They don't appreciate the tonality, longevity and time that has gone into the work. Transfering your own enthusiasm into a marketable product is not easy!

    Suzanne is right on with a few points. Show prints in the size you wan't to sell. I will be buying a projector soon, and getting some large prints done professionally for display.
    You are also much better off in a city which has qualified leads, unless you can charge enough to travel regularly. I've only just started this professionally, so it will be interesting to see how I fare over the course of the year - and whether speculation and planning can be put into practice.

    Thanks for the comments Mike. I stumbled across the lighthouse darkroom website quite recently. I'm in Crouch End, so no distance from Finsbury Park. I've been looking for someone to handle 16x20's+ and will be needing a few for local promotion and show. I'll be in touch in the next few weeks. It would be great to touch bases.
    I too was suprised at the number of aspiring pro's. It is not a good time to be starting a business, but I guess that many fear redundancy and so on. I think that affordable professional gear also makes the pro transition appear much less painless to the unwary.

    Great thread,
    Ciaran

  5. #15

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    I think that if you want to start an all black and white portrait business why not do it under a different name and launch it online? You could then test the idea before you completely commit yourself. Market it as an on location service to seperate it from your studio get a decent template from bludomain or whoever, you could have the whole thing up and running for a few hundred dollars. Testing marketing and advertising is the key to success in any small business. If you can launch a website and do some adwords to gauge the popularity of an idea you can then apply that knowlege to your studio with a better idea of whether or not it will be a success.

  6. #16

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    Oh, and a good idea for when you show the pictures... project them onto a wall, so the first time they see them, they see them REALLY big. Much easier to sell down, then to show 4"x5" proofs, and try to sell a 16"x20" print.
    Suzanne,

    Are you projecting film or using a data / video projector? I should suppose projecting a 6x6 transparency should show substantially improved image quality compared to a practical data projector.

    Tom.

  7. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kershaw View Post
    Suzanne,

    Are you projecting film or using a data / video projector? I should suppose projecting a 6x6 transparency should show substantially improved image quality compared to a practical data projector.

    Tom.
    Tom, I'll confess I haven't done this yet, as I'm still working out just how to go about it.

    I have a friend who gets his film scanned at the lab, then orders slides from an online slide service, the name of which escapes meanow, projects with an old fashion Kodak Carousel projector. He even brings an empty frame to hang over the couch and project the image into it.

    I expect you could use a data/video projector as well, but I think you'd need very good scans. And this friend only shows 15 pictures from his sessions... something I need to do... I always show way too many! I've done mine mostly onlne, or with the client at my studio using my imac and aperture software.

  8. #18
    Gary Holliday's Avatar
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    Interesting reading and I can only echo the comments already made. I arrived in Cambridge about two years ago and launched my B&W portrait and wedding business. All hand printed and marketed as such. I found out exactly where my upmarket/ artistic target audience were living and actively promoted in those areas.

    Just do what you do if you have that audience. You have nothing to gain from targeting the budget amateur shopping centre (mall) market.

  9. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tom Kershaw View Post
    Suzanne,

    Are you projecting film or using a data / video projector? I should suppose projecting a 6x6 transparency should show substantially improved image quality compared to a practical data projector.

    Tom.
    I would not mess with analogue projection. Making trannies from negs, and then losing out on an interactive slideshow and the option to use sales software..... madness.

    The quality of a humble scanner and decent digital projector is enough. Most people will not appreciate the subtleties of analogue projection. Better is for the scan to set them in the right direction, and actual examples of prints to show how that translates into a product.

    Plus with a digital projector tethered to laptop, you can quickly show the effects of toning, vignetting, cropping and whatever other manipulations you apply to print. An analogue projection doesn't allow this interpretation.
    As photographers we can visualise what a high key rendition might look like, but a client can't. I use traditional means at whatever step is required to produce the best possible print - but from a business/sales point of view, not making use of digital technologies that benefit us is crazy.

    Ciaran

  10. #20
    Cheryl Jacobs's Avatar
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    I'm a B&W portrait shooter. I've recently expanded to commercial work, but it's handled exactly like my commissioned work. Yes, it's possible to make a living (and a good one) but it's a tough time right now. Where there's a will (and a lot of creativity) there's a way.

    - CJ

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