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Please tell us about yourself, your background, and your main photography specialty.

I’m a father, husband and professional photographer balancing life. I’m based in Lake Tahoe, CA and feel like I’m living the dream nearly every day.

I’m originally from Vermont, but I moved to Lake Tahoe in 2002. I moved here because I’m a snowboarder and I will stay here because I’m a snowboarder, climber and outdoor enthusiast.

Because of my background, my snow (mostly skiing and snowboarding) photography is what separated me from most of the competition. My second year as a full time pro I took a photo that won the Powder Magazine (biggest ski magazine) Photo of the Year award. I knew where my advantage was and I hit it hard, specializing in ski and snowboard photography.

Specializing and separating myself from the competition is what’s been critical to my success. The athletes and brands who sponsor them lead to more and more commercial work and my work kept diversifying in all aspects, particularly among clients and outdoor sports photography.

What are all the components of your online presence now? (personal site, social media, other profiles)

My personal site, which you built, is a key platform to display my work to clients, but most important for my income stream is the online store which is automated. While the sales are still small, it’s an important new revenue stream that will continue to grow at minimal cost. I use social media for personal reasons, but it’s very important for my professional career as well. Other profiles I have, but don’t seem as important. Instagram is my most powerful marketing platform.

How do you balance photography work between commercial/assignment and personal projects?

I’m always working on personal projects and always trying to think of creative shots to pull off with friends and family. Lately, I’ve been shooting photos of my family, especially my son who was born in June. As for commercial work, I’m always pitching, but mostly the work comes from being more established now. Repeat clients, friends of friends, sponsors of athletes, people I work closely with who moved from one company to another, etc is mostly how I get commercial jobs and they keep coming.

As long as I get more and more every year, continually increasing my client list and revenue, I’m happy. I also focus on working with good commercial clients, those that align with me personally, both ethically and morally. While I’d love the money from an oil client, I wouldn’t take the job unless there was some good that could come out of it for the environment, society, etc.

What has been your business’s biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?

Biggest challenge is probably COVID and my son born in June. Both have been challenging, providing new limitations and effecting my income streams.

Where is the photography industry going, in your opinion? And what can photographers in your niche do to differentiate themselves?

That’s an interesting question. I used to think towards more video, which is probably still the case, but I’ve had more work coming in the form of still photography work. I think my portfolio is stronger in still photography work, but most media production companies like mine get more video work than photography. Both have their place and can be powerful for brands like those I work with and I think it will stay that way.

Photography is so focused on one moment. I like that, but video can serve marketing purposes and messaging that often photography cannot. I think they both have their place for commercial marketing and both will continue to be important.

At what point in your career did you start using a website and what effects did the websites have on your business so far?

I think I started in my first year, but it was a joke. It was a terrible site, my portfolio was weak and I’m sure nobody visited it. It wasn’t until I connected with Alex when I really started driving people to my website for portfolio viewing as well as e-commerce (very important). So far, so good, and I only see it growing. It has enough potential where I will continually invest time, money and Alex’s help to build it out and continually grow my income stream from it.

What social media platforms do you use, and how do you find time to manage these accounts? How have they helped your business so far?

I use Instagram mostly, but I also have Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and some others that are not important and small now. Honestly, I don’t make enough time to properly utilize them. I’m constantly learning more and evolving my skills to use them as marketing tools. Instagram certainly has given me more following and jobs, but I think I’m only in the beginning.

I see it providing me a great platform to advertise and really grow e-commerce and get more commercial and editorial work from them. It’s all about awareness and spreading it to as many people as possible. All of them can be useful and have a place, but I put the most focus into Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter (in that order).

Your site offers multiple types of prints & photo-based products. What’s your experience with selling them and what feedback have you received from customers?

So far so good. The quality control has been great. Service, great. Automation, great. It’s evolving and I continually built it out, offer more photos, print mediums and products, etc. I plan to continually build it out.

COVID really jumped up focus on e-commerce, it probably brought more users to e-commerce this year that would normally have taken it 5-10 years. I always had plans to increase my e-commerce, but now I’m really eager.

What is your least favorite aspect of managing your photography business?

Computer time and customer service calls to fix things like computers, NAS, networks, etc.

What inspires you? (now, in the industry)

Creatives and athletes pushing the limits.

What do you think are the qualities of an effective photography website?

Clean, eye catching, interesting, more material to dive into the person , business etc. For people like me, maybe most important, highlights what you want to highlight clearly and great e-commerce (must be automated).

In your experience, what mistakes are people usually making on their photography sites?

Not sure, but I didn’t find the best person to help me for a while. It took me years of looking to find Alex. There are plenty of people who can help and do the work, but I think Alex was the right fit for me and my business. We will do more together. I think it’s important to keep building on that professional relationship as well as building your portfolio so the website can grow properly together.

What website metrics do you track and what informed decisions do you take based on them?

Google Analytics, but I don’t track it too closely, about once a month. As of now, my traffic is still too small. I’m more focused on building out portfolio, e-commerce and marketing to push people to website. For holiday sales or any bigger marketing “campaigns” I will track the analytics more closely specifically for that time period.

What are your plans for improving your site and growing your photo business in the next year?

Better social media marketing to push people to the site. More promotions. Build out newsletter and contacts/clients (maybe most important). Continually improve portfolio(s) and e-commerce by updating the best images and adding more options to the “store.”

In this crowded market, how do you avoid getting stuck in the “background” and start becoming top-of-mind for your audience?

Most importantly, continually doing great work that is always getting better.

Social media is another component that is constantly keeping me relevant and informing people what I’m doing and the quality of work. Newsletters I hope to create will also help.

Quick-fire round (shorten answers as much as possible):

Coldest temperature you shot it?

-30 degrees fahrenheit

How many countries have you visited? And which one did you like the most?

Maybe 30ish? Sri Lanka might be the top of the visited list. Pretty amazing. If for snow, one of my constant pursuits, Antarctica is the best. Japan also high up on list.

What was your first camera?

Disposable cameras and my mom’s minolta film camera.

What’s one thing you’re deeply proud of — but would never put on your résumé?

My family.

What are you BORED of?

I don’t get bored. Too much to do, not enough time, only one life to live.

Great having you on ForegroundWeb, thanks for taking the time. Where can people get in touch with you if needed?

ming@mingpoonphotography.com
Instagram: ming.t.poon
Facebook: MingPoonPhotography
Twitter: MingPoon

And of course through my website!

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