Please tell us about yourself, your background, and your main photography specialty.
The family arrived in Sydney, Australia, in the early 1970s. Always lived in inner Sydney and the CBD area. For the last dozen years based in Surry Hills, which is one of the creative hubs in Sydney. Well it used to be more so than now as it’s quite gentrified and a little posh. I was attracted to this area as it was creative, had a good dose of grunge, and most certainly colourful.
First real camera was a Pentax Program A in the 90s, obviously film.
The early days of the digital photography journey were at music events and many years of shooting festivals around our State of New South Wales and interstate.
Then gradually progressed into serving business clients with their photography needs. Such as trade shows, conferences and gala dinners, awards nights, and so on.
The last 2 years expanded to headshots, business portraits, and dabble in weddings when the right couple comes along. Not a big fan of shooting weddings unless I really dig the couple.
What are all the components of your online presence now? (personal site, social media, other profiles)
During the early years of photography, I was on the usual popular social media platforms doing what everyone else does. I was part of the 10 million et al. photographers looking for likes and comments.
Then one day, they announced the end of Google+. After investing some time into that platform and making many nice connections. I was annoyed with it and the other social platforms that were constantly changing their algorithms, reducing reach and visibility.
I had enough of others controlling the results of my efforts.
All my energies went into my photography website, a place I owned and could control without those limitations.
Having your own independent website is the only way for a ‘professional’ photographer to stand out from the millions on social media.
The first foray into owning my own digital property was on Squarespace. It was great for a few years, then out-grew the platform and started again on WordPress, twice. Which is the CMS I’m on now.
Spent countless hours, weeks, and months learning the ins and outs, redesigned the website over and over. Essentially did it the hard way. Then I had the basics of website layouts kind of ok. From there, I spent countless months improving site speed as I had learned the page builder I am using is fairly heavy with long page load times.
So the web knowledge and journey continue to evolve. As the web becomes more complex and at the same time more clever, constant learning is both stimulating and consuming.
At some point, I’ll get back to the crowded mass social media platforms.
How do you balance photography work between commercial/assignment and personal projects?
Even with the downturn of the last 2 years, I haven’t really shot personal creative projects and haven’t done so for a while before that. I miss it a bit, but with so much to do, that creative pleasure will need to wait a little longer.
What brings me great pleasure is helping our Indigenous friends at their cultural sharing events. The openness of the sharing, rituals, and customs of 40 000 years being practiced and taught need good documentation, so I help with taking photos. I offer these to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants to use however they like.
Also, when there are regular bookings, I tend not to pick up the camera at all for personal reasons preferring to rest the wrists and arms whenever I can.
Injury to hands, arms, or shoulders for any full-time working photographers will have serious repercussions. This may not be an issue for the younger photographers, but as the years roll by, it may.
What has been your business’s biggest challenge, and how did you overcome it?
Years ago, my thinking was that I could only compete on price. So after looking at many photography websites, doing a lot of research, I found no helpful guides on prices in Australia. I discovered that very few, if any, photographers offering similar services published any price guides.
In the early days, I was at a loss at what was a fair price for my work and effort. So I probably priced it too low myself.
The solution, of course, was to write a long article (4000 words plus) on local photography pricing, including suggested price lists.
Then I expanded the pricing transparency to a second page specifically for event photographers, this one with over 2000 words.
Feel free to check them out.
One of the pages has many thousands of visitors per year. So hopefully, it helps a few photographers not to price too low.
The result is now at least my new competitors have a price guide that will be close to my actual prices, and I win work on other value aspects instead of just price.
Where is the photography industry going, in your opinion? And what can photographers in your niche do to differentiate themselves?
Stills photography will be sought after for a long while yet. Video is a formidable competitor and ally all at the same time. At some point, I’ll drift that way and start experimenting but for now, just need to find a videography subcontract partner in Sydney that aligns at the same price / quality value ratio and leave the pro video work to them.
If you want to differentiate yourself, you need to be and do things a little differently. So keep collaborating but not necessarily with your photography peers.
I’ve been experimenting by collaborating with a tier-up in my supply chain. Stick your neck out occasionally, feel a little vulnerable, think big or bigger than you usually do. I’m not the first to say those words.
So one way I’ve followed my own advice about pushing the comfort levels the last couple of years is by pushing myself to write content for my website. (and the occasional interview post). Back then, writing an article of 300 words was difficult. Now, after a lot of practice, some of my articles are now 3000-5000 words long.
If most of your photography competitors are posting photos on their website. Then post more copy on your website. Be different somehow.
At what point in your career did you start using a website, and what effects did the websites have on your business so far?
My very first website was in the late 1990s. I made it using Microsoft Frontpage. It was for my first business unrelated to photography.
For photography, it may have been 8 or so years ago. A simple site to post photos and not many words. Most of the traffic came from google image search until they changed the Image Search page layout to have large preview photos. Then traffic dropped dramatically as people searching no longer needed to visit the site.
What role does your blog play in your business? Has it helped you in any way?
The website is integral to the business. It is the epicentre of brand visibility. It is one of the ways I can leverage my business in a scalable way without the overhead of extra headcount.
Doing manual outreach is consuming, lead funnels are costly, prospect pre-screening requires great finesse, brand building, and PR are also normally very hands-on. The website handles a good part of these business marketing functions.
In other words, indispensable.
How do you manage your time to write for your blog regularly?
Time management always has competing interests. During the rollercoaster of the last 2 years, I’ve had spells of only carrying out regular photography business duties followed by lots of time to write more than previous periods.
If there are no bookings or enquiries due to external factors, I typically post articles with about 10-12k words over the month of forced idle time.
What has helped me the most is by having a quick access list of article subjects I would like to write and publish.
It is difficult to start and keep the copywriting momentum without having a ready list. This has made a big difference to sitting down to start writing the next article.
My basic article writing process:
First, I start with the subject, then research and refine the key phrases. The last step is to see how hard that phrase will be to get any traction in organic search. Create the main heading, related headings, and subheadings. They are also referred to as H1, H2, and H3s.
The rest of the writing is pretty straightforward, and it usually flows and expands to thousands of words. One thing that I’ve improved in the last 6 months is if I don’t hold back in sharing tips or ‘good’ ideas, the copywriting flows better.
If you are rolling in money, you can also outsource the subject research and then add the meat to your articles.
Generally, my articles are researched, optimised, structured, and have somewhere between 1000 and 5000 words with original optimised photos. I add 10+ internal links, one or two carefully chosen external links. Finally, depending on the type of page, I might add 4 types of schema markup to help gain organic traffic growth in 6-9 months.
That’s a lot of work on a gamble for traffic and visibility. So far, it has paid off on some articles.
If you’re not sure how all this works, contact an expert in website design and build it right from the start. Page layouts can make a big difference in being a consistent writer.
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?
Not a big fan of social media, as mentioned. But I dabble in Twitter, LinkedIn and started spending a little bit of time on Reddit. Not really used for business leads but more as a secondary method of building the network and some distraction.
Many photographers are looking to transition more from services to products (prints, books, workshops, photo tours, etc.) Do you plan on creating such products?
During the last two years, I’ve broadened the range of services or types of photography I offer. So it looks like I keep moving in a different direction than the current trend.
No books, although live photo tours when international travellers arrive back in Sydney might be investigated to see if it’s viable as a new business service.
What is your least favorite aspect of managing your photography business?
Accounting, bookkeeping, and social media.
What inspires you? (now, in the industry)
The growing number of personal and business connections. Ability to help up and coming photographers with tips. The growing appreciation of creatives after the last 2 years from mainstream society is great to see. Typically it’s been about music artists but have seen similar attitudes towards photographers who’ve been disadvantaged due to external factors.
What do you think are the qualities of an effective photography website?
There have been so many books and millions of web pages written about this subject.
Clarity of the messaging. Contact details. My ability to determine if this website / information is what I’m looking for in less than 2 or 3 seconds.
If the page takes 3 seconds to load and I need another 3 seconds to make a guess, then the authority or positioning of the website starts sliding into the negative part of my mental scale.
For example, above the fold of the home page should have; What do you do / provide, where do you provide it. Why should I continue to look at your options instead of moving on. And finally, is it easy to make contact? All above the fold.
If I want to browse lots of pretty photos, I’ll scroll or go to social media and endlessly scroll 100 photos per minute.
Websites for working photographers need to sell, not endless scrolling to find the basics.
In your experience, what mistakes are people usually making on their photography sites?
For the time being, search engines favour words, yet photographers feature photos instead. If you want to be found via search engines don’t swim against the tide. Give them what they want, words.
If you’re not getting much visibility yet on search, narrow down your niche more and when your rankings change, expand the subjects that your website covers.
What website metrics do you track, and what informed decisions do you take based on them?
Mostly use Google Search Console to track and measure.
What are your plans for improving your site and growing your photo business in the next year?
Add more articles and stay helpful to both my target audience and local newbie photographers.
In this crowded market, how do you avoid getting stuck in the “background” and start reaching the “foreground” of your audience?
Create a good personal and business brand and do lots of outreach. Support others wherever possible on their journey while staying on course with your own plans.
Old fashion one-on-one phone calls and emails still work really well.
Quick-fire round (shorten answers as much as possible):
Your favorite sources of reading material?
Newsletters, Websites, Books on marketing, branding, behavioral science, and trusted major and niche news sources.
What’s in your camera bag right now?
Not sure, Nikon gear. Favourite photos are usually from 20mm and 300 prime lenses.
What’s one thing you’re deeply proud of — but would never put on your résumé?
The close relationships I have with Mum, daughter, and sister.
What is your ideal morning routine?
Make a 1 litre pot of herbal tea, brew for 15 minutes or more, pour slowly into my favourite mug, sip slowly, check email and prepare for the day. Best way to start.
What’s something you’re still actively learning or struggling with?
Never stop learning, but photography wise actively improving image processing and styling abilities, writing skills, and ways to streamline the business processes.
I ‘struggle’ with the term “professional photographer.”
Do we ask for a “professional accountant,” a “professional event manager,” “Professional bricklayer,” “Professional Marketer,” etc.? No, not the way we do it in photography.
I also dislike company’s like Canva that sell a different product to photographers but yet publish so much content about photography that they compete directly with photographers for online visibility. Such companies will not get my money. By the way, it’s not just Canva; there are many others. Can you pick them?