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Photofocus Episode 83

Show notes by Bruce Clarke ()

Question One – Shooting vs. Selling

John Ellington from NY writes: I’d like to know what percentage of your time you spend selling and what percent you spend shooting? I’ve heard that to be successful you have to spend more time selling than you do shooting.

Scott: You are correct. You do spend more time selling than you do shooting. I have to spend everyday on the phone doing the smile and dial. I’ve been at it for awhile so it’s easier than it used to be but ultimately it’s your job to sell your photography. Expect about 80% of the time selling and 20% of your time shooting.

Question Two – Best Way to Sell Your Work

Tammy asks: What is the best way to sell my work or to get published?

Scott: You have to show your work. The people that do buy photography need to see it through somebody else’s eyes. Show it wherever you can: online, coffee shops, craft fairs, on your business cards. Eventually if you are showing it to the right person you will actually get a sale.

Question Three – Photography Contests

Steve Martin from Los Angeles asks: What do you think about photo contests as a way to get your photography noticed and what do you think about photography contests in general?

Scott: I like contests but not as much as I used to. They have become a lot more commercial. I won a photography contest back in the 90’s and that drove a lot of business. Most of the contests today are nothing more than a method for the contest runner to make money. My opinion is that you should not enter any contests that you have to pay to enter unless it is very prestigious and has a great reputation. Remember to read the rules very carefully and if you’re sending in physically prints or slides it may be difficult to get them back.

Question Four – Creating Customers

Alfred Mann from Toronto asks: how do you create customers? Is there a way that you can go into a marketplace where people are not used to buying photography and turn them into buyers?

Scott: The problem with creating customers is that it is expensive. That means you need to invest in marketing and in yourself if you want to create customers. The best thing to do is find those who you think are your targets and talk to them. Most people who have trouble selling their photos run into problems because they are not talking to the right audience.

Question Five – Selecting Photos to Show Buyers

Mary from St. Louis writes: When it comes to selecting photos to show buyers and publishers, what is the best practice? How do you know how many and what to show?

Scott: One of the best practices is to show fewer images and make sure that they are all rockstar images. You’ll be judged by the worst picture that you send. Be brutal when selecting those photos. Don’t fall in love with your babies is an old saying. It’s good to have a second set of eyes and seek some feedback from professionals.

Question Six – Pricing Your Work

Freeda Bennett from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil asks: I’m having trouble pricing my work. I realize this is a big topic but any help you can offer would be appreciated. I realize that pricing is a key component of selling and getting published.

Scott: It is a very big subject. The main thing when pricing your work is that you need to know what it is that you’re selling. What is it that you’re really selling – your creativity, your uniqueness, your vision. Understanding that your vision is at the core of this – don’t price based on the square inch. Professionals charge for their time, their skill, their experience, etc. Then properly value those things that go to the core that you are offering. If you turn yourself into a commodity then you’re not going to make a lot of money.

Question Seven – Economics of Selling Photography

Jane Sharke from Dallas wrote to us to ask: What are some of the economics involved when selling photography? What things should I factor in when establishing a price and setting a value for my work?

Scott: The basics are simple. Your overhead to be in business. You have electricity, insurance, business licenses, legal fees, equipment, rent, accounting, payroll, utilities, repairs, printing postage, professional dues, etc. All of that has to be factored in. Then you have to figure out how much money you want to make. My rule of thumb is that I like to make triple because unexpected things come up. All of this stuff doesn’t happen in a vacuum so you also need to know your market.

Question Eight – Negotiating

Joe from Burlington Vermont asks: I am having trouble with people who want me to lower my price. They want to negotiate with me and I don’t really know how to. Can you give me some tips on how to negotiate?

Scott: Make sure they win too. I’m not interested in getting everyone’s money. I just want my fair share for the work I’m doing. Establish rapport and don’t let it become adversarial. Before I talk price, I build up the value. I try to get them to understand that I’m not someone just selling pieces of paper. I talk up my experience. Demonstrating is the best part of negotiating. There are a couple of quick questions you can ask: For example, you can ask what would you typically pay for that or what is your budget for this project? Often the first person to say their price loses. Don’t people on the defensive.

Question Nine – Getting More Repeat Business

Corrine in San Francisco writes: I’m doing okay selling my work but I feel like I’m leaving a lot on the table. Do you have any advice on how I can get more repeat business from my customers?

Scott: Your existing customers are your best source of income. You can keep them for a lot less than it takes to get a new one. Start with the basics – a hand written thank you card. Make sure that you incentivize your current customers. Give them a discount and keep them in the loop with what you’re doing.

Question Ten – Promotion

Tammy Grove from Fort Walton Beach writes: I would like to know what method you think are best for promoting professional photography? I’m looking to do some self-promotion and I know that there are a lot of options available.

Scott: I think you should be everywhere. You have to be like a rash – tough to get rid of and easy to find. Volunteer to teach workshops, join your local business organizations. Offer a photograph as a raffle item. Volunteer in your school’s art classes. Become a mentor. Try to speak at local photo conferences and make yourself available as a source on photography. A lot of the social media sites offer you the opportunity to promote yourself. Having your own blog or website is a great place to be everywhere.

Question Eleven – Best Practices for Self Promotion

Ed Jameson asks: What are the rules for self-promotion? What are the best practices?

Scott: One thing that bugs me is that I can’t find people’s contact information when I’m looking around for new photographers. Make it easy for people to find you. Put your phone number on everything. You need to be really patient and persevere. Don’t be desperate and don’t sound needy. Stay positive. Find like minded vendors and partner with them. Try to get testimonials and try to feature them. Always try to use the media. Issue press releases when something important happens.

Question Twelve – Using the Telephone to Sell More

Louis from Mexico writes: I’m trying to use the telephone more in my business. What are some rules for using the telephone to help me promote my photography business with a goal towards selling more photography and getting more photography published?

Scott: I like to have a business line. It gets you listed in the Yellow Pages. What you don’t want to have happen is to have your kids or your wife answering the phone. Answer promptly or have voice mail. Be polite and smile when you talk on the phone. Use the voice mail to the full extent – tell them what you need and when you’ll get back to them. Always let the people talk and let them tell you what they want. Return your messages promptly. If you have a cell phone make sure it works well. Don’t take phone calls when you’re in face to face meetings with people.

Question Thirteen – Breaking Into the Local Market

Nancy Johnson from Indianapolis writes: I want to break into my local market as I think I stand a better chance of getting my work published there compare to something like the New York Post. What are some of the places I can go where there will be less competition?

Scott: Start with your local newspapers. Every little town has a newspaper. It might be daily, weekly, or monthly but it’s a great way to get published. Local sports teams at the high school might provide some opportunities. You won’t get rich or famous but it will give you some exposure and a little bit of money.

Question Fourteen – Editorial Submissions

Grover Klerch from Los Angeles asks: When you submit images for publication or purchase, what is the best way to do this? Particularly if you want to get published in a magazine or a book.

Scott: My first piece of advice is to get a book called the Photographer’s Market. This will give you the addresses, guidelines, etc for all magazines and publications. Include a cover letter about the images you are sending in. If you are sending in electronic submissions, make sure you read the guidelines and follow them. If you get anything wrong then they aren’t going to bother with your images. Be neat and send all your best stuff.

Wrap Up

We want themes and questions from you. Be sure to visit the blog at for articles, how-to’s, videos and more. E-mail us at [email protected] follow us on Twitter. Don’t just take pictures – make pictures.

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