Please tell us about yourself, your background, and your main photography specialty.
I’m an Australian photographer who has a background in photojournalism specializing in sports. I started my photography career around 2010 and have been shooting sports of all levels for the last decade. In the last 5 years I’ve transitioned from professional sports to more volume work at a local level with junior and semi-professional teams.
What are all the components of your online presence now? (personal site, social media, other profiles)
I have a front-end WordPress site which I use for marketing to my main audience – now sports clubs and school sports administrators. I use Netlife Photosuite for my volume sales and Sunshine Photo Cart for some action galleries.
How do you balance photography work between commercial/assignment and personal projects?
A lot of my work just seems to blend into one. I find that when a job comes up where I can try something new or explore a new lighting setup or scene, I will take the opportunity to conceptualize something different. Compositing has also become a big part of my product offering and stems from my company’s ‘why’. LookPro is shortened from the term look professional. My aim is to bring professional looking sports imagery to everyone, no matter your age or grade. Currently I am providing junior teams with professional composite style imagery that is usually associated with professional leagues.
What has been your business’s biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
- Staffing is always a constant challenge. As my work is quite seasonal it’s hard to find good casuals that can keep consistency in your product.
- A sales platform that caters to post-pay volume and gallery driven sales. There are a couple, but not available in my region.
- Balancing being creative and offering a great looking product while still being able to operate as a volume photography business.
Where is the photography industry going, in your opinion? And what can photographers in your niche do to differentiate themselves?
That would depend on the type of photography business you’re in. We all know that the advent of the mobile phone camera has changed the industry forever, but I don’t think it stops there.
Traditional photojournalism for professional sports is on the decline. The quality of video stills you can pull from broadcast cameras these days is incredible. I can only imagine the ease of access and resolution of these images in the near future. Cameras are also dual purpose now which is another sign that video is on the incline. That’s not to say that the power of a still image is lost. I just think that how publishers access these images will be a lot different in the future.
In volume photography being able to view and purchase imagery online (believe it or not) is still gaining traction. There are a lot of old world systems still in place, not just in my region, but around the world. My business is about giving customers choice and pre-paying for something you haven’t seen to me these days just seems ludacris.
How do photographers differentiate themselves? By doing just that – being different. I think having a niche helps but still pushing yourself within your specialty. I push myself to learn or figure something new out on every assignment.
At what point in your career did you start using a website and what effects did the websites have on your business so far?
It was the first thing I did, next to taking photos. I’m an ‘early adopter’ of most things and the website was the first logical step to getting a brand up and running. It’s my main selling platform, so without it I have no business.
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?
- My work is referral based and most of it comes from someone recommending me.
- I believe you need a proper social media strategy for it to be effective otherwise it’s just ad-hoc and there are better uses of your time as a business owner.
- That’s not to say it’s not an effective tool for other photographers. Plus it’s a full-time job to get it right these days and when my business has a need for it, I would employ an expert to take care of it.
You offer both services and prints/products on your site. Most people obviously start out with just services, so how did you transition to also offering products and how did you come up with them?
Prints are our biggest seller but I like to create other products, test the market, and see what works for my audience. I’m as much a salesman as a photographer these days. Selling to parents of school and sports kids means that you have to offer a product, so I’ve always been a big believer in something physical. I think the novelty of a print or a tangible product is something that will always be valued, but catering to a digital world is also top of mind.
I know a lot of people struggle with digital sales. Digital is perceived as a cheaper option. Not just in our industry but with most things these days (think music). It’s the opposite in photography because you’re giving away your master copy without a licensing agreement or royalties in most consumer sales. It should be your most expensive product because of the possibilities.
Because of this, we only sell digital alongside products. Digital is the carrot and depending on the amount of money spent, other products purchased can almost be given away for free or upsold as an incentive.
What is your least favorite aspect of managing your photography business?
Printing and packing. We print in-house and it can become a chore at times, especially with larger orders. Luckily I usually get others to stuff envelopes!
What inspires you? (now, in the industry)
- Customer service – Sounds strange, but I’m really big on making sure that my customers feel like their money has been well spent – not just on the final product but the overall customer experience
- Technology and how it’s disrupting industries – even ours.
What do you think are the qualities of an effective photography website?
- Knowing your core audience and talking to them.
- Simple but effective UI.
- Good SEO and ranking for all the right keywords
- Less is more (more or less!)
- Robust sales platform if needed
What website metrics do you track and what informed decisions do you take based on them?
Popularity of products, time of sale, incentives.
I’m a big believer in test, measure, learn. Try things out to see what sells what doesn’t and adjust accordingly. If your business is predominantly a digital one, there’s nothing you can’t change on the fly.
What are your plans for improving your site and growing your photo business in the next year?
I would like to be able to offer a more seamless customer experience across mobile and desktop. Currently it feels a little disjointed but we are constrained to off-the-shelf solutions at this point in time.
We’re growing, but the challenge is to not grow too big too soon, but not too slow either. I think it’s a problem that any business faces.
In this crowded market, how do you try to differentiate your work and reach your audience?
In volume photography, there’s two audiences you need to cater to.
- The administrator – who is usually the decision maker. Our communications are targeted to their needs. They then open up the door to:
- The end customers – the people who buy your product. We focus on customer service and a great looking product they’ll cherish for years to come.
Quick-fire round (shorten answers as much as possible):
Your favorite sources of reading material?
Websites, blogs, Facebook pages.
What’s something you’re still actively learning or struggling with?
Mixing natural and artificial light sources and keeping a consistent WB across multiple stations.
What’s one thing you’re deeply proud of — but would never put on your résumé?
My wife and the support she provides in business and life. She goes above and beyond to make sure that she’s always there whenever I need her.
What are you BORED of?
Nothing really, I’m always on the go.
Do something you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.
Great having you on ForegroundWeb, thanks for taking the time. Where can people get in touch with you if needed?
Featured image of Paul – credit: Max Mason-Hubers