The Banks

DSCF6477

Just a little bit of a rant here.

I was watching the BBC news the other day and the item about the Royal Bank of Scotland being up and running and – “Aren’t they doing well?”

In 2008 the world of professional banking came crashing to its knees mainly due to the sub-prime mortgage chaos in the USA. This is where banks offered huge mortgages to people who couldn’t possibly ever pay them back and then it all went pear-shaped.

The world financial institutions just were not prepared for this and it created a domino effect that changed the financial world forever taking with it thousands of small businesses, SMEs, sub contractors and the self-employed including sole traders.

In the wake of this financial upheaval there were tragic repercussions with many of the small businesses going under. Some were made bankrupt others simply closed down with owners losing their life’s work along with houses and families and some, even more tragically, their lives.

During this time many bankers received bonus payments. Yes, bonus payments for allowing the financial world to collapse. If small business owners had run their operations in the same manner as the bankers they would have found themselves in court or imprisoned yet the bankers were given bonuses.

We now hear that banks are doing ok and many more bonuses being paid out to bankers.

Well what about the thousands of small businesses all over the UK and further afield that lost everything? Some have bounced back but some haven’t. Is it not time that these businesses were offered, at least, an apologie?

For some, however, even that may be too late!

Advertisements

Working Today

cropped-camera

Working in today’s difficult environment can cause many problems for business people looking to expand their operations.

When a slip of the tongue or a wrongly worded advertisement or document can cause offense how do you tell the world the things that you need to say without upsetting anyone?

Even more difficult than this is how to employ the right personnel without the law coming down on you like a ton of bricks because you have worded your advertisement incorrectly or you have offended a potential employee by expressing an opinion that does not reflect their view of life?

 

When setting up and running a small business the rules are laid down by the Department of Work and Pensions and the HMRC and government legislation. Your talent is yours alone and cannot be derided by those with none but the real concerns of running the modern business are ones of perception. Perception by the customer of the quality of product and service before it is provided and a perception by the supplier that the customer will be pleased with the product and service no matter how it is delivered.

 

Shopping in the present day is all about the experience. You, as a trader, are responsible for that experience. After all you want the customer to return. Believe it or not when a customer has a great shopping experience they will return.

 

You also need to attract as many customers as possible and that is where the purpose of this post lies.

 

When advertising your services or recruiting you must be ultra certain that your facts are correct and that you have not affected anyone’s sensibilities.

 

Homemade adverts never work and can be offensive and deriding to other traders in your area and can be counter-productive. Always hire a professional to write your adverts and, if possible, create the content of your website. We have seen so many awful websites containing appalling English grammar with bad spelling. Nothing puts high paying customers off more than bad grammar on your website.

 

What I’m trying to say is that when you express a personal view within your business you may be jeopardising the very business that you are trying to build.

 

Many years ago I shared a studio with a lovely lady who ran the art side of the premises which was a gallery and very successful it was too. She was also a local councillor and during a general election displayed a “Vote For …….” Poster in the window of the studio. With almost immediate effect the number of people visiting dropped by half. There were all sorts of repercussions and some very bad press. Although all the customers knew of her political allegiances the fact that she had chosen to advertise them had angered the local population. A mistake she was never to repeat.

 

Showing political preferences or religious bias in any business will, almost certainly, result in diminished sales and ultimately lowered profits.

 

I have found that the old adage; “Don’t talk about politics or religion” is spot on.

 

You are there to provide the general public, all of the public, irrespective of colour, creed, gender, sexual orientation, religion or political persuasion with a product and services.

 

Respect all your customer as they are the very people that will pay your wages and provide you with a living. It is hard not to express personal opinion but that is just what you must do. Do not alienate part of your potential customer base with inappropriate advertising or biased remarks on your website. It is all too easy to let this happen.

 

One of the biggest concerns is how to recruit the right people to help you improve and take your business forward. You really don’t want staff that might not suit the profession or may be difficult with communicating with the public. In these days of uber political correctness it is too easy to offend and end up with the wrong reputation. For this reason many small businesses tend to rely on family members even if their skills may not match those of others.

I can only offer a shred of help here and say if you are thinking of recruiting then ensure that the new member of staff enhances your reputation and not takes away from it.

 

Training your staff is vital to ensure that the right results are achieved and that you are taking the business in the right direction.

 

When your customer arrives they should be made to feel special and looked after. Ensure that the studio is clean and well organized. Offering drinks or snacks should be avoided at all costs. You are a studio not a café. Unless you have a food handler’s license you may be breaking the law anyway. Offering prepared drinks can be a nightmare if the customer falls ill. It may be acceptable to hold a small amount of bottled water but you should check with your local authority first. Be polite and avoid remarks such as, Luv, mate, guys or darling. All men should be addressed as Sir and all ladies as ma’am. I know it sounds old fashioned but until you are invited to call customers by their name this is the agreed procedure. If this feels too formal then Mr or Mrs and surname.

 

When shooting a portrait I would encourage sitters to bring their own music with them. A silent shoot can seem very lonely, but these are how I make the customer feel comfortable. It is down to the studio to develop their own methods. However you do it avoid contentious issues and keep the chat to small talk. As I have said if you unintentionally upset a customer they won’t be back.

 

As we have mentioned before the rules for running your business are pretty universal so making your studio a great place to shop is down to you and your staff and the quality of your work. If you are charging high prices, which you should be, then it is vital that you make the studio comfortable, warm and inviting.

 

Politeness and good manners are not an outdated concept but a means of telling your customers that you are a professional and they will be treated correctly no matter who they are.

 

The whole point of this post is to try and get the idea over to photographers that its not just the business, not just the equipment, not just the talent but the way in which you treat your customers. Don’t upset them or try to impose your beliefs and ideals onto them. Make them feel special.

 

I always found it helpful to have a chat with the local Trading Standards people to get an idea of what other businesses are doing wrong. I invited a local Trading Standards officer to my studio to give me an idea of what we may be doing wrong. The feedback I received from her was invaluable. In fact the post I’ve written is almost a direct response even though her visit to our studio was almost twenty years ago.

 

These are the points that I would make to new businesses with regard to the dealing with the general public:

 

  • Ensure that the customer enjoys the experience of visiting your studio
  • Be politically and religiously neutral
  • Employ the right staff
  • Treat your staff as well as you treat your customers
  • Take time to train your staff
  • Ensure your customers and staff enjoy the working environment
  • Keep up to date with government legislation
  • Pay your staff the same rate of pay irrespective of gender
  • Be polite and respectful
  • Make sure that you have a full complaints procedure in place and stick to it.

 

 

We will adding to the HELP page soon to assist in the building of great websites. Please keep looking.

 

Here’s hoping you have a great month of photography ahead of you.

 

 

Marketing your Work

LEONIE 02

We have just added the third part of our on-line business help. The section we have just published is the area of getting your work out there. It must be seen by the people you want to be customers.

Have a look and see if we can help you with your business. As always if you want more help or details please give me a call

Pricing your work

 

WP15 ImageHere we are, just added the next part of the business course here on the Blog site so that anyone thinking of going pro or already have can just get an idea of how to price your work and how to charge for it.

It’s not rules but a guide from someone who has been in the business for 24 years.

Please remember, keep your prices as a reflexion of the quality of your work

Any questions just give us a call

Model Portfolios

LAUREN JOnce again we read in the press of studios that offer model portfolios with a view to getting work. Singers, actors and models are being targeted by studios who promise work from the portfolios that they create.

The image shoots that these studios offer are, on the whole, very expensive with a basic portfolio costing anything from £1’000 upwards and the model being pressured into buying the images immediately after the shoot with no cooling-off period.

We have advised prospective models and actors many times before that agencies do not search the internet for photography sites to find new faces. It just does not happen that way.

The process is much more simplistic than that. Would-be models should contact the preferred agency directly and if photos are requested by the agency then those photos should be amateur snaps taken in the house or garden or whatever by a family member. Agencies will not normally concern themselves with professionally taken images as these can be enhanced or manipulated. The agency wants to see potential in the model and not the skills of the photographer.

If a model is taken on by the agency they will organise a professional shoot with a preferred photographer or studio. This will be done at the cost to the studio not the model.

When a model turns up for a shoot he/she should know the following before starting the session:

  • What are the images to be used for?
  • Who will see the final images?
  • Can I have a copy of the session?
  • Can I sign a “Model Release”?
  • Is it going to cost me?
  • What will the photographer get out of it?

I love my profession and I really don’t like those who set-up as professionals to rip-off naive young models with promises of work simply to take money from them.

Let’s keep professional photography nice. Yes we can make money from it but not by telling lies and giving false promises.

If you want to know how to shoot models just give me an e-mail and I’ll happily tell you for FREE.

Business

DELEGATEJust a quick post to say that we have added some content to our Business page here on the blog site.

We will be adding the rest a little later.

Shoot for Free?

camera

I have been reading about photographers shooting for free. They are shooting for free to build up a portfolio of work to advertise their skills. Well that’s ok if you have planned this and you have scheduled this into your work time and budget and you are not actively losing money and you are not shooting actual customers for free. The reason most new photographers will run photo sessions without charging is to build a portfolio for as little money as possible. Digital photography is great for being able to take loads and loads of images at a relatively low-cost but producing a portfolio must never been seen as cheap. Your portfolio is your way of showing the world what you can do. The general public aren’t daft and they will see right through a cheap, badly produced portfolio.

Producing a portfolio is advertising. Just take a look at magazines and the advertising in those. None of it is cheap and nasty. Advertisers use the best looking models and the best locations. You MUST do the same. Simply asking one of your customers to model is wrong. Sorry, but it is. Look at the quality of the models advertising perfumes, or hair products, they’re stunning. It’s because subconsciously the manufacturer hopes that the prospective customer will see themselves in the same light as the model on the front of the packaging. That’s how advertising works.

Great photo studios work the same way. Go for the best and it will attract the best. Simple as that. It’s the old adage: Speculate to accumulate.

As I have said if you want to do free shoots then that is up to you.

Its ok if you have planned this and you do not propose to then charge, in the future, the people who have benefitted from shoots for free.

Photographers have for years offered TFP or TFCD images in the model industry but trying to do this in the wedding, portrait or baby sector is a lot more difficult.

TFP/TFCD or “time for prints/ time for images on a cd”, was a very common way for new photographers and new models to get together to mutually benefit from a creative photo shoot. This meant that neither party needed to hand over any money and both walked away, hopefully, with a good set of images that could then be used to further the careers of the respective budding professionals.

It’s a bit different when working in the social photography genre as the only party that actually profits is the customer.

Budding professionals must do what they think best to further their careers and offering free shoots seems to be the way with some of them. All I am saying is that you are then actually working for no profit which devalues what you are actually doing.

Once you have done a FREE shoot for a customer don’t think that you can then get them back into the studio at a later date to get them to pay for another shoot. It just doesn’t happen.

In the dim and distant past I too have been guilty of giving away free images. I learnt the hard way that this is counter productive. Building a portfolio to advertise your work takes a long time which is why we tell prospective new pros to not give up the day job until you have a good portfolio. I also found that using “customers” as models really is not the way forward. If you want to create a portfolio, especially in the portrait world then you really do need to hire great looking models who know how to pose and react in front of the camera. Sounds like cheating? You bet. But I wanted to show prospective clients fantastic shots of beautiful people and get them into my studio so that I could create great images of them also, and do you know what? It worked.

Sometimes you get to shoot beautiful who are not models but it is rare. If you do get “modelesque” customers then keep hold of them and treat them like royalty. They will recommend you to all their friends. They are the best advertising that you can get.

Some new photographers who have attended one of our courses have often said, ” its easy for you to get models as you are a professional”. Well, yes I am professional and I do know how to get models to photograph for portfolio shoots, but it’s not rocket science.

I built a register of models over many years but when I started and needed to build my portfolio I took advice from an old friend who had been the chairman of qualifications with the MPA (Master Photographers Association) Derek Avery. Sadly, no longer with us he explained that the best way to find new models is to run a model competition with the local newspaper. This I did and all the images taken from about fifty models filled my portfolio for a few years until we needed new images and we repeated the whole process. With weddings it was a bit harder but we advertised for newly married couples who still had their wedding outfits and gave them the chance to have sensational images that could never have been taken during the wedding itself. You get the picture. None of our models were asking for payment or were required to pay me but they were not customers. They were ordinary people who wanted to have great images of themselves.

Later in my career I was able to hire professional models and take the photography to another level. I never shot customers for free. Why would I? My work is expensive but its work that has been honed over many years and so is the business.

If you want to shoot for free that’s fine but just remember how much you are actually giving away.

If you want to know how to get the local newspaper to run a model competition just get in touch with me and I will be more than happy to tell you.

 

Happy snappin’