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What To Look For In Your First Photography Studio

Are you ready to look into having your own studio? Do you know what you want and don’t want? I know I didn’t when I was ready. What really helped me is to look at other photographers studios and see what they have so I can decide what I want for my studio. This video is tour of my studio. I hope it helps you figure out what you want for you.

3 Things To Look For When Photographing Events

In the past 12 years I’ve covered over 500 events from music festivals to nightclubs to Christmas parties, to corporate functions. Barring the “look at me” photos (I will discuss this topic in a later blog) I can safely say 90% of the images can be put in one of 3 categories. These categories are what you should look for when covering any wedding, Christmas party, corporate party, or any other type of function .

What I’m Bring To The Philippines

Some of you have asked what I will be bringing to my trip to the Philippines. Here you go!

How To Prepare For Your First Wedding As A Second Shooter

Through my networking I have built a network of friends in the Photography industry. We all share ideas, tips, videos, etc. all in an effort to help make each other better. One year ago to this day, a friend asked me to second shoot a wedding. I had never shot a wedding before. As nervous as I was I knew that if I wanted to take my photography skills to another level, I had to put my insecurities aside and say yes.  Then my friend asked me, “What are you going to do to prepare?”  Here are the steps I took to get ready for my first wedding…


Wedding Clients: The First Meeting

Meeting with a potential client can be nerve wracking. Knowing the right things to say before, during and after your meeting will make you stand out from the other photographers they might be interviewing and land you the business. 

Before the meeting: Establish a rapport, & make sure they have seen a sample of your work.

During the meeting: Take control by knowing what questions to ask. The easiest way to get the appointment in full swing is to start off by asking the following questions:

  1. How did you meet
  2. How did he/you propose?
  3. Who is in your bridal party?

Every bride and groom loves to talk about their relationship! Ask the questions and be quiet.  Let them talk.  Take notes of important details.

  1. Ask questions about the place they are getting married at. Are there any special things they will be doing there? Is there a theme?
  2. How many guests will there be? Sometimes there will only be immediate family at the ceremony and then a large number of guests for the reception. This question will help you guide them in choosing the appropriate package for their wedding at the end of the meeting.
  3. Where are they going on their honeymoon?

These questions will often give you insight into the personalities of the bride and groom. Are they going to Disneyland or biking through Italy? The more you can find out, the more you will have to talk about when you get to selling yourself and telling them what you plan to do to capture their day and make it special.

So now you know about them, it’s time they know about you…Ask them…

  1. What are you looking for in a photographer? They may know exactly what they want or don’t want. For example, they may want someone to run the timing of their wedding, or they may want you to just stay in the background and capture moments as they unfold.  Knowing their expectations will help you figure out how you will work with them going forward.  Are they relaxed and casual about their day or are they specific about how they want everything to go. You will need to adapt your personality and your style in order to work with the varying personalities of brides and grooms.

Now that you know what they want in a photographer, tell them why they should hire you.

Here is what they should know about you:

  1. What makes you different from other photographers?
  2. What happens if things don’t go as planned? What if it rains? What if there are last minute changes? What is your Plan B?
  3. How do you work? Are you going to be posing them throughout the day or will you be in the background taking candids?
  4. Help them understand your packages! This is the time to bring out your price sheet. You should have copies for both the bride and groom. This is where you will sell them on the value of your work.   The beginning of the year is when most of us revamp our wedding packages and prices. Know exactly what your packages include. If you offer packages that have add-on choices, make sure you clearly communicate this so that both bride and groom understand what you are offering and what they are paying for. For example, if your packages include an assistant or another photographer, make sure to explain what the differences are and what the value is to them will be.  Do the packages include a DVD or an album? Make sure this is clear.

More guests usually are better handled with two photographers, however, the bride and groom may not have the budget for that package, or, they may not care about images of all of the guests. In either case, you will need to let them know that regardless of whatever package they choose, they will be getting your best work.

Wrap it up

Always have an album to show them that shows off your best work. Don’t assume that BOTH bride and groom have seen your work before your meeting. Make sure the images show off your creativity, your use of light in different situations. Show posed, group shots and candids.  Include shots that show what some of the “extras” in your packages look like, ie.  a Trash the Dress session or an engagement session.

References!  Giving your potential bride and groom the name of one or two of your past customers to call will allow them to do some selling on your behalf.   Don’t be afraid to ask a past bride and groom if it’s ok to use them as a reference for potential clients. Remember, not only do engaged couples like to talk about their wedding plans, but just married couples like to talk about their spectacular wedding day as well! A reference from a happy client may make the difference between you getting hired, over one of the other three photographers they are interviewing.

Written by Jessica Ford

Basic Sales Skills are Essential to a Successful Business

Is there a bridal shop you would love to shoot for? Is there a gallery you want to get your work into or a wedding you want to shoot? Although I’m new to photography, I have been in sales my entire life. If you want increase your business, you need to know some basic sales skills.

Preparing for the sales call
Getting a new client is like making a sales call. Just because your friend referred someone to you, don’t assume that you have the job. A traditional sales call involves showing your prospect the features and benefits of why they should use your service. Your presentation materials are you and your portfolio. Don’t be afraid to tweak your portfolio so that it showcases your best work for the job you are “applying” for. For example, if you are going to talk to a potential client about portraits, showing them images of landscapes and flowers won’t show your client what you can do for them. If you want to shoot for a business, find out as much as you can about the business before you meet with them. Who are their clients, what is their style, who have they been using and why are they no longer using them, how do you see yourself fitting in and what can you do for them that no one else can. Do your homework. Find out who the decision maker is. If it’s a wedding shoot you are trying to get, it won’t help to make your sales pitch just to the bride if you didn’t know that the groom will make the final decision. If possible, make your sales presentation in person. You’re more likely to get the job if your client sees you face-to-face.

Find out what the client really wants
Seems simple enough, but if you don’t ask the right questions before hand, you could end up with an unhappy customer and some great images that no one will ever see. Find out what they want to use the images for. Is it to decorate their house? Do they want albums? Is it for advertising? What is the “look” that THEY want? You might think that the cool graffiti wall downtown would be perfect for a family photo session, but they might want something traditional, at home, with the family dog. If it’s a family portrait shoot, ask questions about their kids, how they met, what the kids like to do, what will they use the pictures for…Make a list of questions before you talk to them and take notes when they give you the answers. Getting to know your client will help you understand the job they are hiring you for.

Sell yourself
Be prepared to talk about yourself, your experience, your training. Tell them how you work, and what to expect from you the day of the shoot. In many cases you will have to sell them on the rate you are charging so make sure to explain why you are worth every penny. They are not just paying you for your time! You will have to explain that they are paying you for your experience, your knowledge, and your talent. This would be a good time to show them some comments from your past clients. If you don’t have anything, ask a few of your past clients to write a few nice things about you and your work. When they do, ask them for permission to post their comments on your website and other marketing materials you have. Accolades from vendors are also a nice touch because it shows that you work well as a team with other companies.

Ask for the order!
Often times this is the hardest part. You’ve researched the client, you’ve made your sales pitch, and you’ve proven you can do the job, now it’s time to ask for the order. Something simple like, “So, what day works best for you, Saturday or Sunday?” is one that I like to use. If you’re going for a high-end job, you may have to be more direct in your closing technique. For example, acting as if the client is ready to to hire you is an assumptive closing approach. The “Yes” close is another technique designed to bring out any objections the client might still have. Questions like, “Do you like my work?”, “Is it what you are looking for?”, “Can we book the shoot?”. If all goes well, the client will answer yes to all of your questions. If not, then you will need to keep your sales cap on and get to the real reason why they are not comfortable hiring you. Figure out what works best for you and get out there and practice it! One thing is for sure, you’ll never know where your business will take you unless you ask for the order. You have nothing to lose and you just might be surprised at the results.

Written by Jessica Ford

Part 4: How to create a simple image ad on Craigslist.

1. Create multiple email accounts – CL is going to need a phone # for EACH email address so they can verify your not a fake. Again they only allow about three DIFFERENT postings per email address so if your posting the same ad (even in different cities) they will figure it out. I’ve tried changing the words to be creative in my ad but they seem to figure it out so having multiple emails just makes more sense.

 2. Create an image that you want people to see – this is self explanatory. If your going to add words to your add I would recommend embedding them within the photo or add image. It just looks more “pro” than typing them in CL. I wouldn’t recommend using the stock font that CL offers. It just doesn’t look professional.

3. Post your image somewhere on the net – your image has to live somewhere on the net. I would try photobucket.com. It’s free.

 4. Once uploaded get the direct link to the image – You can get this once the image has been uploaded.

 5. Enter your info here. RED = your web address, BLUE = your direct link to your image

<center><a href=”http://www.yoursite.com” target=”_blank”><img border=”0″ src=”http://www.yourwebsite.com/Banners/832659180_tqnnX-XL.jpg” ></a><center>

6. Input all your search words you want people to find you with on Craigslist in GREEN. Please just use the relevant words to photography and not the entire industry (i.g. wedding, wedding DJ, wedding cake). I personally hate it when I’m searching for something and other things pop up that’s un related to my search. If I feel that way I’m sure other people feel that way.

<h6><center>Portland event photographer, bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah, corporate event, Christmas party, Sacramento event photographer, birthday party photographer, Luau party, New years party, nightclub party, after party</span></center> <h6>

7. If you wish to ad bold icons here are some icons you can place before or after your subject. Don’t forget to add the semi-colon. WARNING: Craigslist, will (sometimes) block your ad from showing if you ad icons like this.

#9668;    #9733;    &hearts;      #9658;      &#9619;     #9608;

8. Location – Use an actual location (i.g. greater Bay Area, all of Portland, etc) because CL spiders will  eventually  figure it out if you don’t.

9. Make your “posting title” and “specific location” in capitol. It just stands out more.

10. My preference is to click “hide” in the Reply to option for one big reason. If you click, “show” or “anonymize” your ad will get SPAM mail. People can get your email on your website, but it’s up to you.

It should look like this (you can keep it all black in color if you wish). You can create different ones (with words mixed around). All you have to do is paste the whole thing in the “posting description” and just cut the things you need to move to the specific location and posting title. That way you don’t have to go back and forth from another window. FYI the “<br>” means break. It brings all the search words lower (just a personal preference).

&#9608;&#9658;MY NAME PHOTOGRAPHY&#9668;&#9608;   GREATER PORTLAND&hearts;

<center><a href=”http://www.yourwebsite.com” target=”_blank”><img border=”0″src=”http://www.yourwebsite.com/Banners/banners/CL-ad-events/832659180_tqnnX-XL.jpg” ></a><center> <br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><br><html><h6><center>event photographer, Portland event photographer, bar mitzvah, bat mitzvah, my name photography, after party, corporate event, Christmas party, birthday party, Luau party, New years party, nightclub party</center>





Part 3: Top 7 Things Your Craigslist Ad Must Have

So you know what people shopping on Craigslist are thinking, and what their life situations are. You also know a few things to leave out of your ad. Let’s take a look at what your ad must have.

1. Your info – This might be common sense, but you would be surprised how many ads don’t have any way to contact the photographer. Your basic company name, email, and phone number is all you need.

2. Quick and to the point – People on average spend 2 seconds on print ads. At writing I couldn’t find info on the amount of time people spend viewing CL ads, but I bet it’s not to far from 2 seconds.

3. Professional – Here is a sample ad I found. It didn’t come with any images. Not one.

I have over 10 years of experience in photography and would be happy to give you my resume, but I believe that my photographs speak for themselves. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I hope that these photographs tell you stories that engage and interest you enugh so that I can help you tell YOUR story and memorialize it for you in print. Ultimately, I want the photographs that I take for you to make you feel as much joy as I feel when I take them. I spacialize in infant/children/senior/family and wedding photography. Enjoy the site, (….photos.com) and please let me know if you like what you see and want me to capture an important moment in your life.”

When your in a visual industry and not add at least one image in your ad, miss-spelled words, and a boring story your going to get passed. This ad screams amateur! Also, the body of work on their website didn’t match the “10 years of experience” claim (that’s another story).

4. Enticing enough – No one seals the deal with just a CL ad. Your ad just needs to be captivating, simple, and enticing enough for a potential client to see more, and to ultimately contact you.

5. More impressive than the 10th guy – This goes back to people looking at at-least 10 other photographers. If your ad can be better than the 10th ad you have a shot at a potential client wanting to see more. Of course the better your ad can be the better your chances are.

6. Call-to-action – Here is what the Businessdictinary.com definition.

“Words that urge the reader, listener, or viewer of a sales promotion message to take an immediate action, such as ‘Write Now,’ ‘Call Now,’ or ‘Click Here.’ A retail advertisement or commercial without a call-to-action is considered incomplete, and ineffective.”

7. Why hire you? – The number one concern you need to answer is “Why should I hire you over the other guy? This is the Elephant in the room.  This question is on the back of each potential client.  Being cheaper is not your answer. More accolades is not the answer. Being more arrogant is not the answer. Dissing your completion is not the answer. You will find the answer within you.

Coming soon, Part 4: How to create a simple, compelling, and professional Craigslist ad.




Part 2: Top 9 things you should leave out of your Craigslist ad.

Now that you understand what’s going through the minds of people who are looking for photographers on CL, and what your ad must present, lets look into the things you should leave out of your compelling Craigslist ad.

 1. Boasting – When you boast about how good you, and your services are is that really what kind of photographer your client wants to hire? Lets look at a few.

  • “ Great photos from a top rated photographer for all dates in 2012” I thought “great photos” is up to the client to decide. If your “top rated” why is your calendar wide open for 2012? If I’m questioning your statements then you better believe a potential client will be questioning your statements too.

  • “Top Rated Photographer” According to who?  I didn’t know we had a rating system.

  • “The best wedding photographer around” – You’re just setting yourself up for failure with this one.  It should be re-written, “Hire the most arrogant photographer around” because that’s what you’re asking them to be around for their wedding day.

  • “Best of Craigslist” I’ve looked all over CL and I’ve never found a way to vote on who’s the best on anything.

2. Clichés –  Of course you’re “passionate.” Of course you’re “artistic.” Of course you’re “creative.” I wish I had a dollar for every time I saw these words. Sorry for the cliché phrase, but you understand what I mean. Be more creative to express your uniqueness, and personality. 

3. “Award Winning” – In a nutshell, NOBODY CARES. It’s merely a powerless marketing phrase.  As Scott Bourne said, “If you gotta rely on awards, keep your day job.”

4. I’m Cheap – Stay away from words like: low budget, affordable, inexpensive, etc. You’re just asking the potential client to look at one thing and one thing lonely, price.  Is being the cheapest the reason why you got into this business? I hope the reason you got into photography is because you believe you have the talent, skill and professionalism to handle the job not because you’re cheaper than everyone else. Price yourself with the value you provide, not what you think people can afford.

5. A novel – If you can’t entice a potential client within the first screen shot then your saying too much. Remember your goal with your CL ad is to be captivating enough for a client to contact you via email or phone call or want more info via website.

6. Hide Email – That’s the auto email link at the top of your ad. Spam spiders contact you this way. If you opt “hide” email then you won’t get spam.  We’ll talk about email contact on Part 3.

7. Showing your price – This is a tricky one. I understand one of the main reasons to include a price is to qualify people, but again is price the only factor to hire you?

 8. You do everything – There’s an old saying, “jack of all trades, master of none” We all know that we as photographers can photograph more than just weddings, sports, kids, etc., but clients don’t feel that way. They want to know they are hiring a “master of one.” Would you feel comfortable hiring a “general mechanic” to fix your Ferrari or a person who specializes in Ferrari’s?

9. Criticizing your competition – This is just wrong all around. I’ll spare you examples of this one. It should just be common sense.

Coming soon, Part 3: Top 6 things your Craigslist ad must have



Part 1: Top 4 things to understand about people shopping on Craigslist

This will be a four-part blog on creating a strong, enticing, and effective ad on Craigslist. I’ll cover understanding the people who will look for your ad, what to leave out of your ad, what to add in your ad, and finally how to create a simple effective ad.

I have advertised on Craigslist since the beginning of my career (has it been 12 years already?), and over the years I’ve seen a lot of great ads, and a lot more bad ads. Let me start with a fact that Craigslist has a reputation for having inexpensive, and beginning photographers. That’s not a criticism on the photographers that advertise there, that’s the stereotype that the general public, and the press have created. That being said, that doesn’t mean all advertisers on CL are beginning or inexpensive. On the contrary, there are a lot of really good photographers there.
You just need to take that stereotype and use it to our advantage. A great example of taking advantage of your position is Avis. Hertz was the leader in car rentals with Avis a distant second. Instead of trying to fight for first place they admitted Hertz as number one, and Avis second, so they focused on being second only makes them working even harder for your business. Their slogan, “We Try Harder” is celebrating its 50 year anniversary.

Another way the CL Stereotype works to your advantage is if your work is of good quality then the “beginning” and “amateur” photographers will help make your work stand out. They actually serve a great purpose for you.

Many times people looking for a photographer (no matter their financial situation) start looking on CL. They just want to see what’s out there. Also, many people who look for photographers on CL, it will be their first time looking for a photographer. The key is crafting an ad that’s eye-catching, creative, thought provoking and positive. While sculpting a powerful Craigslist ad keep in mind these four things about potential clients looking for you.

1. Viewing at least 10 other vendors – Sadly, no matter how amazing your ad is people are shopping, that means they are comparing one vender to another. That’s why it’s critical that your ad follows the tips in part 2, 3, 4 of this blog. If your ad is better than 9 other vendors then you have a chance that a client will contact you. Of course the better the ad the better chance.

2. They are busy – This is understandable, the people that have the money to spend on you no matter how little it is either have a job, a life, a family to attend to, or all the above.

3. Don’t want to read a novel – I’ve seen so many ads that spill their guts on a photographer’s history, approach, pricing, and any other thing that they feel like adding. Really!? I’ve yet to find an ad that was amazing enough to read a full page of their services, history, approach, etc. Frankly, people don’t care enough to invest that much time on any ad.

4. Looking for the best value for their money – That’s why they go to Craigslist to see what they can get for the least amount of money, and to use it as a measuring stick if-and-when they look beyond CL. It makes sense for people with a budget to start at the “bottom” and see if they can find something that suites their needs at the economical level.

Ashton Boni