business tips for photographers – how to run a successful business

Tips on how to run a successful photography business   First I would like to start  with one question Do you think that quality is the driver for success in a […]

Tips on how to run a successful photography business


First I would like to start  with one question

Do you think that quality is the driver for success in a photography business?

I will show you how this is not necessarily the case.

One of the reasons I have started a photography business was the dissatisfaction with low quality photos of others, especially professional photographers charging money for it. I have seen first hand.  one event I was attending a photographer taking photos and when I have asked how much he charges, I was shocked and surprised that his hourly rate was probably 6-7 times more than I was doing in a regular job. When I saw the results few weeks later, I said to myself, if this guy can do it, I can do better than him, as my photography was much better.

If you love photography, do not fall into the trap of believing that if your photos are better than others, you will be guaranteed success. Nothing could be further from the truth. The best tool for your success in photography is your phone, not your camera.

One thing I was lucky enough to realise was that I need to train my business and selling skills as taking good photos was not enough. I have never looked back and as any education is a good education, one favour you can do to yourself is learn how to detach yourself from your product and try to sell it like a salesman. You need to treat photography like a business and this is how you can set up foundations for business success.

I was shy at the beginning and I was feeling embarrassed asking for money. I had difficulties selling myself.

I have realised that I need to train myself into becoming a better salesman, so I have read the book of sales, or the bible of the salesman, and that is the best idea I had as I have learned how people, think, buyers perceptions and behaviours, what to say and what not to say, what questions to ask and how, when to shut up and when to press buttons. I started to apply slowly my techniques and all I can say that in 1-2 years I have built up reflexes and selling process is a walk in the park. I know when to expect and I know when to let go.

Today I would like to skim the surface. This is not new for those of you who have formal training in sales, but if you love photography and are watching this, it is more likely you have an artistic side which is in conflict with the pure and cold truth of money.

I have seen many movies where the salesman is portrait as a sleezy bastard liar, willing to say anything to take people’s money, but despite the fact I have enjoyed them, a good salesman is nothing like that.

Let’s go through few tips that might help you think:

–        Always be honest and professional, well presented. I have seen photographers in shoots dressed like after drunken parties and I thought that was the most unprofessional approach to business. People like people who look after themselves and appreciate true professionals. The most expensive photographer I know dress up in business suit with tie and all accessories. Don’t wear t shirt , jeans and shorts.

–        You cannot sell to everyone. Get used to the fact people will say no to you and there is only one small percentage of people who will say yes.  You need to see the word “NO” as a path to the next yes and you need to think in numbers. You need to speak to a certain number of people until you get the one who will be willing to employ you for your services

–        People are different and you can expect the unexpected. I have got clients employing me because I am good, my style, and my personality, but these guys are not the majority. Other people employ me because I am in the right place at the right time, in their way. Some people employ me because I am tall, blond and some other do not employ me because I am tall and blond. Some people employ me because I am expensive and some other because I am cheap…everyone have their own perception. I was amazed to discover clients employed me without seeing my work. I just happened to be in their way when they were ready to buy photography…and this is one of the core truths and valuable lessons leading to the next very important tip in business success:

–        make sure you talk to people wanting to buy photography. Talking with people not interested it is impossible and a big waste of time. I had a market stall for some time in a monthly local market and I had thousands of people coming by, but they were just people on the street having a stroll, a coffee or whatever. The rate was very low and I have decided

–        when trying to convince people to employ you, do not tell them how good you are. Ask questions and listen to what people want. You will be surprised that if they are looking for a super hero, you can say that you just happen to be one. The best selling interviews I had, was when I did not talk too much, but I let the potential clients to talk.

–        Never ask questions that can be answered with yes or no. For example is I want to establish a meeting my question is “ when is the best time for you to meet, this Friday or Saturday” I never ask “do you want to meet this weekend?

–        It is very easy to say no to a person in an email or an a phone. Learn from this and try to get people face to face as you will increase your chances to close a deal

–        Offer value, never discount. If someone want a lower price, let them go. Instead of giving them 10% you are better offer including more for the same price. For example I would rather include an enlargement valued of $100 which will cost me $10, than discounting $100 off your package. The client needs to have the satisfaction they have negotiated and that will satisfy this need rather than you de-evaluate your services

–        Always exceed expectations. Under-promise  and over deliver will have better results than the other way.

–        Be prepared for unhappy people. It is just a matter of time until someone is not happy. Make sure you are ready for it.

–        I have seen many things in my life and I have learned not to judge. I had modest people paying all my fees without question, and I had rich people coming down from very expensive cars coming to my studio trying to negotiate me down for $5.  There is no rule, you need to treat everyone with respect.

I will stop here and my best advice to you is to get a bit of sales training and read some literature about it.  This can make the difference between business success and failure.


About Christian Tudor

professional photographer, main editor at Academy of Photography and