10 More Steps: A Sarcastic Business Plan

10 things to jeopardize your senior photography business:

Everyone always talks about steps to success. They are all over my twitter feed and other blogs especially with the New Year upon us. Some of them are excellent posts. But I do love some funny posts every now and then. Since I am iced in down here in Georgia and feel like being a little sarcastic I decided to write about  some great steps you can take to sabotage or stall your senior photography business. A recipe for NOT succeeding if you will. So take a look at these 10 steps and follow through with them if you want your 2011 to be a year to remember.

*Have fun with this post as it was written in a lighthearted manner. And note: I am not looking down on others from the top of my 70-200mm…just posting some funny topics. We have all probably done some of the steps if not all of them. Happy New Year and enjoy the sarcasm!

1. Wing it – Make sure your photoshoot with the senior has no goals or direction. Just show up with your camera at a location of your choice. Start shooting pictures at random places, titling the lens every other picture, and stare at the back of your LCD screen a lot. It is better to look at the screen on the back of your camera than at your subject. Oh and don’t talk much. Customers like it better when you give no direction. Do not give feedback to the senior. Keep her and her parents guessing as to how the image looks.

2. Buy the most expensive equipment, even if you don’t know how to use it – It is always a good idea to get a 1.2 lens even if you don’t know what Aperture or f-stop mean. When shooting a senior with a group of friends or her family as long as you are at 1.2 something in the picture will be “tack sharp” even if it is just an ear.

3. Shoot and show everything besides senior portraits – Nothing screams “senior portraits” like a website and blog filled with wedding images, landscape, and personal pictures. Always advertise everything you photograph. Make sure your website clearly shows that you have taken pictures of everything. Show weddings, bridals, kids, teens, maternity, events, pets, vacation sites, birthday parties, anniversaries, reunions, newborns, Real estate, headshots, trees, etc. If you want to solidify your specialty and expertise in senior work ensure that everyone knows that you can photograph everything!

4. Over-Edit in Photoshop – Manual exposure, ISO, Shutter, Aperture…are overrated. Photoshop is where it is at. Make sure you download and use every action you can find. Seniors and their parents love over processed special effects, extreme vintage looks, heavy textures, and wax museum skin. Eyes are everything… so over sharpen them. Forget about proper exposure. You can compensate for that in Photoshop. If it is blurry because you don’t understand shutter speed…turn it black and white.

5. Shoot for Facebook – Take as many pictures as you can and post them all on Facebook. In automatic mode, after shooting 500-600 shots, a few are bound to come out decent. Show them all. Volumes of images from a session convey that you did a lot of work. Even if 99% of them don’t turn out you put forth the effort and delivered a lot of images and that is what makes customers happy. As long as you have a logo on your pictures and a Facebook page you are a professional photographer and the phone will not stop ringing. Seniors and their parents don’t care about prints, wall art, books, or wallets. As long as they have a profile pic everything is ok. And the more friends that comment on it, the better you are as a photographer.

6. Try to be cool and make every senior shoot a “high fashion” shoot – Get someone to apply as much makeup as possible for the senior. More is better. Heavy smokey eyes for every senior no matter what. Seniors don’t want to look like themselves and their parents don’t even want to recognize them in pictures. Don’t ask for their feedback…assure them this is the trend, you are the artist, and get them to trust you as the photographer.

7. Don’t market – You don’t need a professional website or blog. A facebook page and logo are all you need. Just post pics every now and then and people will call and beg you for your services. If they don’t… just start flooding facebook with pictures of everything. (See #3) As a matter of fact don’t even think of yourself as a business. Think of yourself as an “artists”. Leave all that business “stuff” to the non-creative people wearing suits that carry briefcases. You as the “artist” are above all that. Bills, health insurance, taxes, gasoline, overhead, sales,…that’s all that business “mumbo jumbo” that a creative person shouldn’t have to cloud their mind with.

8. Be Cheap – True “artists” don’t charge for their work. People place a lot of value on cheap. Look around at the successful hotels, businesses, restaurants, automobiles, and clothes. These upscale brand quality products got their notoriety and success by being cheap and you can too. Nothing is more respectful than being chosen to take pictures because you are “cheap”. It helps attract customers that value what you do. The best solution is to do it for free and give away everything on a disc. People will really like you then! And it is a good way to stay in business and ensure your own bills are paid.

9. Copy other photographers – Find someone local that is successful and copy exactly what he or she does. Shoot at their locations, use their backgrounds and props, mimic their blog and twitter posts, and edit and pose your subjects like they do. Heck, call their customers too. Tell them you can do it cheaper! You will get a lot of respect from your peers and customers doing this and your business will grow. Everybody likes to use fake knockoffs and brag to others about it. This is the “word of mouth” advertising that you need.

10. Take short cuts – Camera skills, posing, customer relationships, business skills, lighting, editing, professionalism, consistency… etc. can all be found on a blog post of 10 steps. Don’t waste time trying to improve your skill and craft. Find a quick fix and start pressing the shutter… even if you are not yet sure what exactly the shutter does.

John Pyle Photography is a full time portrait studio in Columbus, GA specializing in High School Senior Photography. They are a three time national senior portrait artist (spa) winning studio.

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