Business of PhotographyOnline image sales with Smugmug

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Duck
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Online image sales with Smugmug

Postby Duck » Mon Oct 10, 2016 1:17 pm

Earlier this year I changed from Photoshelter to Smugmug for my image hosting and fulfillment. The change was motivated by Smugmug's site layouts and their lower fulfillment price levels. I took the opportunity of the change to rebrand and revise my working model for client interaction. While I feel I made it easier for my customers to purchase images, I think there's room for improvement. When dealing with the more traditional client, getting them to the website is easy. The harder part is when I shoot events. I have been taking a more proactive approach to get the word out at the events I shoot by handing out special business cards with directions on how they can find their images.

The scenario goes like this; I walk around early getting vendor shots (setting up, etc) and leave a card with the vendor. I'll then walk around and get overall shots and then I'll bounce from event to event getting shots of the various things going on. If I photograph a participant and I can get to them (usually I can) I'll hand them a card with a quick, "I got a great shot of you. You can find it here later," and I move on. On occasion I'll have a spectator approach me and ask about how they can get access to the photos I'm taking but that doesn't happen all the time. I thought about just randomly passing them out but that's time consuming, takes away from shooting and I can't track if I'd given someone a card or not. I also don't want to appear to be an 'ambulance chaser', if you know what I mean.

Once I have processed the images I'll post a notice on my Facebook page and any page or profile associated with the event I just shot. I found this has led to immediate sales as I'll start getting sale notifications for two to three days afterwards. Unfortunately the sales aren't many and I would like to increase sales without getting ridiculously expensive on my print markups. I started this new program end of June and to date these are my stats;

Total Orders: 10
Total Items Sold: 41
Avg. Items/Order: 4.1
Avg. Profit/Order: $8.93
Total Profit (est.): $89.34

While it's exciting to see that sales are being made, the return on investment is ridiculously small. Yes, I just started and have not built up a following, SEO or any kind of reputation but I'd like to increase my sales. Any thoughts, ideas, suggestions, comments and critiques are welcomed. Thanks in advance.
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Re: Online image sales with Smugmug

Postby Steven G Webb » Mon Oct 10, 2016 6:25 pm

Can you describe the events, what it takes to get there, the equipment required and the labor requirements for shooting and the processing. Putting an extra $80 in the bank now and then could be great; Only making $80 once a week or a month isn't.
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Re: Online image sales with Smugmug

Postby TomCofer » Tue Oct 11, 2016 2:57 am

1. Instead of saying "you can find it here later." Perhaps give an approximate date.
2. Perhaps wear a shirt or t-shirt at the events that says who you are or advertises a bit for you.
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Re: Online image sales with Smugmug

Postby Duck » Tue Oct 11, 2016 5:01 am

Steven G Webb wrote:Can you describe the events, what it takes to get there, the equipment required and the labor requirements for shooting and the processing. Putting an extra $80 in the bank now and then could be great; Only making $80 once a week or a month isn't.

I shoot several Jeep events and am getting more into Ren Faires and ComiCons. Most are within a three hour drive and I travel light (2 bodies/lenses, extra batteries, monopod, water) with any extra gear in the truck should I need it. The figures posted are total since June so it's rather pitiful.

TomCofer wrote:1. Instead of saying "you can find it here later." Perhaps give an approximate date.
2. Perhaps wear a shirt or t-shirt at the events that says who you are or advertises a bit for you.

Interestingly enough, the last event I did I was given an official "MEDIA" staff shirt and people kind of left me alone. When I did that event last year I had my photo vest over the t-shirt so people didn't see it and I had people coming up to me asking about how to find my pics. Of course, last year I was not as prepared and a different arrangement had been made with the venue. Needless to say, I lost money last year and while I did sell a bunch of photos from this year's event it's not near enough the volume I would want. Unfortunately people expect the immediacy and "free"dom of the internet now days.
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Re: Online image sales with Smugmug

Postby Steven G Webb » Tue Oct 11, 2016 5:56 am

Events are a tough gig, especially these days. Before a photographer can get to a computer to download a picture someone with an phone or tablet can have an image online. Will it be a good one? Will the photographer's be of better quality? Neither question matter because that phone or tablet picture is NOW. We covered a lot of horse shows and it was a real selling point that we could deliver prints on the spot. Once the social media craze kicked in nothing else mattered. You have identified a huge problem the "now" and "free now" culture.

It's very important that a photographer considering an event looks at the potential: Will there be enough volume in paying customers to generate the level of gross sales dollars to make the event worth covering? It is not enough that there is a huge interest in photographs or an official photographer, sure lots of people are interested their interest alone will not pay the bills. I've stopped taking photos at some events simply because they do not make enough money to be worthwhile. A couple of approaches we've worked with are: Having the event organizer's pay us a per diem in return for photos used in web sites or publication and providing us space and opportunity to sell to attendees and participants as the exclusive provider. We've also offered to work for our daily rate, and allow the organizers to reap the sales dollars from the photos. Essentially we'd set them an account with a hosting and fulfillment site (for those organizers who are under the false impression that the photographer is making bank on their little event).

We've really turned the corner with our business and are moving away from spec events because they just don't pay the bills anymore. Fun, enjoyable yes but just not profitable enough.
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Re: Online image sales with Smugmug

Postby Duck » Tue Oct 11, 2016 3:52 pm

Currently, Cosplay is big at ComiCons and Steampunk Festivals. I noticed one photographer decided to go old school by providing analog portraits taken with a view camera and developed on premises. This now becomes a unique selling point since they are selling an experience and product that is far from the point and shoot immediacy of digital. A little more work but like the Old Time Photos, people are prequalified by the act of requesting a portrait rather than having a picture taken and told they can download it at http://www.com later.

I have had an interest in doing direct positive paper photography for a while. Since Ilford's Harman Direct Positive is no longer being made I thought I was out of luck. Fortunately I found a kickstarter campaign that decided to fill in the void left by Ilford's decision to abandon DP paper. Galaxy is a small company currently producing small batches of DP paper* at a ridiculously unheard of 120 ISO. Their processing is the four step Developer/Bleach/Clearing/Toner process and takes about 10 minutes to do. I bought a starter kit to give it a try (I'll post results here when I get that project going). Doing 4x5 paper portraits with an 'antique' camera may be a good selling point at some of these events, specially if priced right. While not as easy as walking around with a digital camera, it may be a fun alternative at Ren Faires, Steampunk Fests and maybe even some Comic Book Conventions. I can't see it at a Jeep Rally though. :-)

* Although Galaxy has referred to their paper as direct positive, in reality it is a reversal process paper.
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Re: Online image sales with Smugmug

Postby Duck » Tue Oct 11, 2016 4:00 pm

Oh, before I forget. On the same note...

One other idea I've had was to rent a booth area at car shows that allow car owners to drive their car into a large tent with a nice nondescript background and get their portrait taken with their car. Again, people are prequalified by filling out a form and paying for the service prior to having their portrait done. This would be a major setup and lots of equipment but, again, if priced right it may be feasible. How often do these car owners get the chance to have a really classy photo taken of their car?
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Re: Online image sales with Smugmug

Postby Steven G Webb » Tue Oct 11, 2016 5:50 pm

I love your idea about the steampunk camera. I don't know anything about the people who participate in cosplay or comic conventions so I don't know if you have customers. I do know the contraptions they come up with are interesting and there ought to be no shortage of subject matter to photograph. I don't know much about car shows but I have talked to a few photographers who tried and gave up on them.

Make sure you are approaching shows that are large enough and prestigious enough to draw in the exhibitors / participants who can support you. It's always a numbers game in photography.
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Re: Online image sales with Smugmug

Postby Duck » Tue Oct 11, 2016 10:08 pm

I enjoy photographing at these events. It would be great to make money off them but it seems that the challenges far exceed the benefits. I'll have to rethink some things. I'm going to pursue the analog photography thing as it's 'gimmicky' enough to be a 'thing' for a while. If it proves to be too much of a hassle then I'll revisit it at that time. We'll see what happens.

I appreciate your input, Steve.
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Re: Online image sales with Smugmug

Postby Steven G Webb » Wed Oct 12, 2016 1:12 am

I really hate it that I often sound like the voice of a wet blanket on the flame of exuberance. There are a number of things that I enjoy photographing purely for pleasure or self-fulfillment there are some things out there I could photograph for monetary gain that I won't because they just don't suit me (dangerous, excessively labor-some). And there are many, many things that would be pleasurable work but they just don't have enough money potential to make the pursuit worthwhile. I tend to be judgmental about money projects based on my income needs and my worth calculation. Often I fail to recognize that others do not require the same level of either money for profit jobs or enjoyment for fun jobs.

I can really see the appeal business wise of the comic convention portrait thing like your already mentioned old tyme photo studios. It is Kitschy and that is a huge selling point. Some sort of decor in the Steampunk genre and the photographer being of the mad scientist Dr. Halide, or the like would be marketable I think. But you know what, if the atmosphere, the roar of the grease paint and smell of the crowd is enough then it doesn't matter if it makes a dollar.
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