Learn how diversity is the key to running a thriving photography business in a small town!
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In this PhotoProfit episode, I interviewed Joseph Linaschke. He calls himself Photo Joseph. You can go to photojoseph.com to find out more about him. He runs a photography business in a small town in Oregon. Today, we discussed what it’s like to run a successful photography business in a small town and how you need to diversify to make it successful.
He’s also sponsored by some very big brands. He’s an educator. He’s got some courses on lynda.com and he’s a very interesting guy. You are going to love this podcast.
In this episode
(2:16) – Specialize in not specialize
(2:32) – Photographic storyteller
(3:52) – Everything I do is photography related
(5:52) – I’m not really good at disconnecting
(6:42) – I never once went out for the purpose of shooting
(7:13) – You hit it with referrals
(7:40) – The elevator speech
(9:04) – Get to know your competition
(10:38) – Take photos of your surrounding (Landscape)
(12:26) – I don’t have a specific technique
(12:48) – I’ve learned to not waste my time on the “looky loos”
(14:26) – I value my time
(16:40) – The biggest reason for change
(18:37) – Using LED lights for shoot
(23:06) – Shooting raw JPEG
(27:23) – Discounting a price, discounting the service
(31:00) – Software from DXO
(34:00) – Go work for another photographer
(32:50) – 90 percent is business and 10 percent is photography
- You are an artist and you need to show people that. Saying you can do it all might come across as you don’t really master anything.
- It is good to know a number of things but you have to have something specific that you can communicate to people about what you do. Something that will interest them.
- When you’re trying to attract clients, do not treat your competition as competition. Be friends with them and know what they do.
- Find the gap and fill it
- Make connections in your area. Be out there not to talk about yourself but to know what people do, what is lacking and fixing the lack
- In a small town, everybody knows everybody so if you gave one a bad impression; the word will travel and will cause damage to you. Be political
- Knowing when to pull away is vital and can save you from burning out
- Do something that increases your creativity. Find a hobby.
- There is so much in the business of photography than photography itself.
- To learn it, be willing to work for a photographer who’s been in the business for awhile
- Learn everything and anything that you can learn in the business side
- Once you’re ready, go to another place and do your own. Do not compete with the person who just taught you everything
- Remember that in the business of photography, 90 percent is business and only 10 percent is photography
- The beginning stage is always the toughest. Be willing to plow the ground.
Brent: Hey Guys, Brent Mail here and welcome to another episode of Photo Profit, the business of photography. And today my special guest is Joseph Linaschke. He calls himself Photo Joseph. Go to photojoseph.com to find out more. Joseph runs a photography business in a small town in Oregon and we discussed what it’s like to run a successful photography business in a small town and how you needed diversify to make it successful. He’s also sponsored by some very big brand. He’s an educator. He’s got some courses on Lynda.com and he’s a very interesting guy. I’m sure you’ll going to love this podcast. Just remember all the show notes and all the links to things that Joseph talks about goes to photoprofit.net. Alright let’s jump right into this podcast, enjoy.
Brent: How are you doing Joseph?
Joseph: I’m doing very well Brent. Thanks for having me on.
Brent: Tell me where are you from?
Joseph: I am from, well “from” is a big word. But I currently live in a small town called Ashland in the state of Oregon, United States. That’s at the very bottom of the state just north of the California border.
Brent: Oregon, that’s a beautiful part of the…
Joseph: It is. We call this the Pacific Northwest. That’s a region up here. It’s sturdy. We really liked it.
Brent: Right, so let’s talk about the business of photography Joseph and I know you said you’re in a small town. Probably so much small town than I am on the East coast of Australia here. And you do all sorts of things in your photography business. Tell me a little about what you actually do.
Joseph: Certainly, so from the pure photography perspective I do mostly commercial and portraiture. So locally commercials, that’s just means local businesses whether it’s a photo for their website or their print ads, product photography, food photography, hotels, rooms, those were the things. Just any local business whether it’s a tiny little bit that they need or a big Ad that’s the kind of work that I go after here. And I have a studio here so I do a lot of studio portraits. Those could be family portraits, might be corporate headshots, just basically anything where someone needs portraits made. So that’s the kind of stuffs that I do locally. And you know really focus on from a pure photography perspective.
Brent: Good, so you’re quite diversed. Sounds like you’re doing if someone actually takes a photo for money sounds like you’ll do it.
Joseph: Totally, anything for money. You know it’s funny. I used to say I specialized and not specialized and that was kind of my tag line. You know people ask “What do you shoot?” then “I do this” “I do that” “I can do landscapes”, “I can do pets”, then you sound like you know what you’re doing. And that tag, I dropped it out a while ago and I adopted the tagline of “A photographic storyteller”. And people really jive with that. They really understand that. They get “Okay, well I’ve got a business and you’re going to tell a story of my business”, “Okay, I want you to tell a story of my family”, “Tell a story of my product”. People get that and that works out much better for me than I specialize and not specialized. But you know at the end of the day it’s the same thing. I can shoot anything. And honestly my favorite thing to shoot and they ask me like “What’s your favorite thing to shoot?” My favorite to shoot is something I haven’t done before. I love a challenge. I love doing something that I’ve never attempted before. That I’m going to have to look and figure it out and learn if I have to do it or learn something. Learn a new lighting technique or new editing technique or just some challenge that I’m going to have to overcome. And that to me is awesome. I love that. And of course you know once I figured out I’d do that and go “Okay, I’ve done that”. I know that a lot of people say and I know this is valid for a lot of people that you really should specialize likely let’s say weddings, you’re going to be a wedding photographer. If you’re going to be a wedding photographer live it, breathe it, love it, do it. That’s all you do and you will be the best wedding photographer that you can possibly be. Frankly, I’d probably make more money. If I did things that way but I just don’t think that way. I am not inspired that way. I need to bounce around a lot. So this is just the way I’ve set things up for myself and it works out for me.
Brent: Sounds good. Okay, so sounds like diversity is the name of the game for you. So you like to do a lot of different things to keep yourself inspired and you know not bored I guess and I know it’s a challenge, sounds like it.
Joseph: Absolutely and it’s not everything that I do is photography related. But everything I do isn’t just photography like I do a lot of education. I teach workshops. I teach on Lynda.com. I worked with schools around the world helping them to integrate digital storytelling into their curriculum. I run a website photoapps.expert.com which was formally apertureexpert.com. Photoapps.expert is a website about photography Apps whether you’re talking about Apps on your phone, or Photoshop on your computer, or a new App on your computer. It’s all about how to use those Apps. So that’s a big part of my business as well. I do video production, producing and directing sort of thing for video projects for clients. So it’s really all over the map but it’s all about the image. It’s all image related.
Brent: So tell me how many hours a week do you work?
Joseph: I don’t know. We don’t count.
Brent: I have 40 hours.
Joseph: Yeah for sure but you know I have a family. I do try very hard to work with reasonably normal hour. A work day coming to the studio usually starts at 8:00. I really try to get home by 6:00 and that’s normal. And I really try not to work on weekends. Obviously it doesn’t always work out that way. For instance, I’m not doing a wedding that means I’m not guaranteed to work weekends so that’s nice but I do really try to work relatively normal. Obviously you know I’m really up early every morning. And I do some email things in the morning from home. Then check the emails in the evening; social medias that you’re always on and that’s work technically. I mean unless you’re just reading friends’ post. But if you’re posting stuffs even if you’re just surfing and looking at pictures and getting inspired you know that really counts. That’s part of what you do. So you know if you’re just always on.
Knowing When to Switch Off
Brent: You’re just an inspiration. Okay, so how do you switch off from doing all of these projects? Because I know for me sometimes I had a little bit of a burn out or just get overwhelmed but too many things are happening and you’re kind of running in all sorts of directions and then for me I had burn out. I need to go away for a weekend or somewhere and disconnect for a little while and get my creative energy flowing again. What do you do when you’re refilling over?
Joseph: I’m not really good at disconnecting. That’s something I’m not terribly good at. But my big passion outside of photography or has nothing to do with photography is cooking. I love to cook. I mean food in general. But both my wife and I really enjoyed cooking. And so we tend to cook a lot at home. And we’ll do pretty big elaborate meals. I love barbeque and smoked. So when the weather is permitting I’m always outside doing that. And then when we travel which we do as much as we can, it’s always about the food. We are just in Tokyo earlier this year, well last month of July is pretty humid time in Tokyo but it was quick. That was our family vacation. Took the kids out and had a blast out there. And for all of us, it was largely about the food. It was just so much fun. Exploring different types of food there and eating all kinds of wonderful delicious things. You know I took some pictures and post it on Facebook or whatever but that trip wasn’t about photography. I’m sure I had my camera with me everywhere but I never once went out and shooting for the purpose of shooting. The camera is always there to take some photos and document what we were doing. But I didn’t go out to shoot just to shoot.
How to Attract Customers
Brent: Cool, alright well let’s jump back into your photography and how you run your studio. So you got a studio in your small town. You diversify, so you basically connected with a lot of calls and sounds like you get a lot of referral work. How do you attract your customers to you? What’s your main system for getting people to call you and getting work at the door?
Joseph: Well you hit it with referrals. Referral is the key. That means you got to get out there and get seen. And there are two ways that I’ve done that. There is the local Chambers of Commerce that I’m a member of. And we have a weekly what they called Greeter’s Meeting. Every week there’s a meeting. Every Friday morning there’s always somebody else’s business. And then you gather with some other local business owners and you know have coffee and chit chat and there’s a presentation time and everybody gets 30 seconds or 40 seconds to talk about their business.
Brent: The elevator speech.
Joseph: Yeah the elevator speech. You go out there and you’ve got 30 seconds and give your speech and tell what it is you do. What kind of business are you looking for, that sort of thing. And when you do that on a regular basis you do that every week or every other week or whenever you can commit to. Then people get to know you. And being in a small town I can’t walk down the street without seeing somebody that I know. I love that. And majority are business owners. And they may never hire me. It may take years before they do hire me. But once they get to know me and they get to like me from hanging out and chatting out in these meetings. They see my work and they see that I’m a reasonably capable photographer. They start referring me. And I was just at a spa the other day. It’s kind of a hair salon/spa. They got a massage and all others stuff. I was in there and the owner walked by and he goes “Joseph” and I already knew him. “Joseph I need to talk to you. I need a new photographer for the entire spa. Two different people told me to hire you so I guess I better hire you.” That’s pretty awesome right. That’s only going to happen because my name is out there and people are seeing me. And obviously at some point somebody’s got to hire and it just goes from there. And it’s about the referral.
Brent: Okay, so for someone’s just starting off, they are starting off in a small town. How do you get known as the photographer? You know, what did you do to get known? Obviously you got the Chamber of Commerce meeting and get to know people but is there something else that someone can do like right away? An action step they can take to get known in their town as the photographer?
Joseph: I would say get to know your competition. And know who else is out there. Make friends with them. In a small town if you treat your competition like competition, you’re done before you even started. Right there they’re just going to shut you out. And where troubles pass and if you’re a jerk, people are going to talk and that’s not going to work out for you. But get to know who else is out there and what they’re doing. Make friends and not really fake about it you know, make friends. We’re photographers. All photographers are cool. People like to hangout and chat. Find out what is it they’re doing and try not to step on their toes and try to come up with your own thing. So I do a lot of portraits right, but I almost never talked about doing portraits especially at the greeters of Chamber of Commerce. I never talked about portraits because there’s other portrait photographer in town who’ve been here longer than I have and they get up in the exact same meeting and say “I’m such and such and I do portraits” and they show their work and you know if people want to hire me for portraits that’s great. They’re going to hear about it one way or another but I don’t need to get up there and say “Well, you could hire me instead” You’re just like a jerk and that’s not okay. But I found from the beginning like I’ve said I do a lot of different types of photography. I found out that there was really nobody focusing on the commercial side of things and I’m one of the few photographers here with the studio. So I’ve got a space to do that kind of work and that’s how I differentiate myself. Figuring out what other people were doing and weren’t doing and filling that gap. If there’s no gap to fill then obviously you’ve got to figure out what you’re best at and push that. But as much as you can try to find the gap that’s not been filled in and fill that one in.
Brent: That’s a great tip Joseph. I did the exact same thing in my small town where I live. So we moved here and I noticed that there’s no one had produced a landscape photography book in my area for tourist. There’s a big town tourist here. People come up from the big cities. Sydney which is 2 and half hours’ drive away and they come and stay here over the holidays over Christmas and everything. It’s really beautiful. So I actually went out and you know photographed landscapes every morning before work. And this is when I was working in another job also. I get out and photograph landscapes you know and then go work my engineering job and then come back and then do the same thing photograph more landscapes until I actually put together a landscape photography book and a little A5 or you know what is it in inches but it’s small. An 8×10 which is what 6×9 or something. And I produced that book. Hard covered book and that’s what got me noticed in my area as the photographer to go to. And also the local tourist authority actually paid for me to go up in a helicopter and take photos of the area which I landed up in my book. And they also use for the local businesses to help promote the area. So that’s one thing I did. I also started up the real estate photography industry in my area too. Because I saw that there’s a gap. I look around and there’s another gap, the real estate photography. And here in winter nothing happens too much in the photography space. So I wanted to find something that keeps us going through the winter. And people still sells home in winter and need photographs. So I started that in my area too. And did that for a number of years until it became too competitive and then I jumped out and focused on where I was making the most profit which was family portrait.
Converting from a Lead to an Actual Client
Brent: So that’s a great tip. So that’s how you attract you client. And then once you got someone interested in your photography, in your studio or let’s just say you commercial photography. What do you do next? How do you convert them from a lead or someone interested into a natural client?
Joseph: I mean I don’t have a specific technique or workflow that I go through. If someone calls it always going to depend on what their level of interest is and their level of commitment at that point. Sometimes when some calls and says they’re basically pre sold right. They called, they know that they’re going to hire you and all they need to know is how much.
Brent: How much okay.
Joseph: Then there’s the “Oh I need to get these pictures and I’ve heard of you and a bunch of other photographers calling around trying to figure out”. I have learned not to waste my time on the looky loos right. There are always those people who say they want to hire you and will talk to you for hours and hours and tell you what they want and then come out to you with a budget that is 10% of what it should be. And I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying those clients or non-clients. So when they do come and say “Oh I want to do this. How much it is going to cost?” And then often you find out that they don’t want to spend money until you’re way committed for hours already. You’re like “What you only have is $300? It’s a $3,000 shoot. What are you talking about?” And figuring that out is hard but I’ve gotten pretty good at identifying those so that I can tell when someone is serious enough and worth continuing the conversation. And when it’s worth something or just ask them straight up “Do you have a budget in mind?” or “This is probably going to cost you know around this and is that in your budget? If not then I’d be happy to refer you to someone else” and that’s something nice to be able to do and that goes back to becoming friends with the other photographers in town. Some people would be more expensive than you. Some people will be less expensive than you. Know your market. Know your competition. Who else is out there? And if someone comes to you and says “Oh I want a portrait” and you go “Great, I do portrait.” And say “How much is it?” “Well, $500” “Oh someone says only $200. I’m only ready to spend $100 on portrait” “Okay I’ll be glad to direct you to a photographer who will be your partner for that, there’s plenty of them around. But that’s not me. I’m not going to do a $200 portrait.” You know you can joke about it but simply say “I would be happy to refer you to another photographer who fits your preference.” Sometimes they say “Thank you very much” they’ll say their name and go. Sometimes they say “Oh wait a minute you’re not going to lower your price?” “No”. “Why do you charge that much?”
Brent: You value your time.
Joseph: I value my time. I’ve been doing this for a very long time. You know there’s this side of things where obviously you have to charge a certain price to make a profit. And we as photographers have a lot of expenses. Just ignoring the experience but the amount of time you spent to learn what it is that you can do today. The simple fact that cameras are expensive, lightings are expensive. If you got a studio you have to pay the rent in there. You hopefully have insurance. Insurance are expensive. You know you still have to drive a car to work. You have all these expenses. You can’t explain that to a client. They don’t care. You can’t say “Oh I have to charge $5,000 my insurance costs this, my car costs this”, and they don’t care.
Brent: But you can actually say that in a way that their point of view you can sell it to them and say “Ook this is why it’s valuable to come to me. This is the value you get from actually coming to me and this is why I charge.”
Brent: But I think of someone else Joseph, if you actually gave someone a questionnaire like a list. Send them over like a PDF or something and they fill out a few things that could tensionally overcome that embarrassing conversation of saying you know “Actually your budget doesn’t even get close to what I charge” you know but you can actually ask them questions like “What do you want me to shoot”, “How many days or how many half days is it going to be?” You know “What kind of lighting and do you need any talent in that type of stuff?” and then you can come back and say “according to what you’re giving me, the information you’ve given me this is the approximate charge of what it’s going to cost.” And once people actually think or once they give you that information they actually realized that they are asking for a lot more than what they I think they are asking for, if you know what I mean. Now that’s awesome; great tips there. So once you’ve done the shoot, well let’s go to photo shoot now. Let’s say you’ve got a commercial shoot for one of, or someone that you’ve met in the council.
Joseph: Chamber of Commerce.
Brent: Chamber of Commerce, what do you take to shoot? What kind of gear are you using? How do you go about it by getting the photo shoot done?
Joseph: Sure, so these days I’m actually sponsored by Panasonic. I’m a Lumix Luminary, so I’m shooting all Lumix gear. Just surprising, for all commercial photographers because its micro 4 thirds, it’s a smaller sensor but I switched over from Cannon a year and a half or two years I think and I love it! I just love it for a million reasons that we go into but that’s not the show is all about that.
Brent: Okay, I’m just going to what’s the one big reason that you changed?
Joseph: The biggest reason was the technology in the gear. You pick up your top of the line Canon camera or Nikon camera and obviously those are great cameras. They produce great image but they’re lacking in technology. These are 5 and 10 year old ideas that are in these cameras. The mirrorless cameras, the Lumix micro four thirds cameras are packed with the gears that are absolute latest intel and I love that. I love having all kinds of crazy features that I can access directly in the camera. I love the electronic viewfinder and I can get things connected to my iPhone and look through the camera via my iPhone screen and I can control it if I need to get the camera somewhere where I can’t be or I want to set up the shot while I’m in the shot. I can do that and that’s not something you can do with the other cameras without having to add all kinds of massive accessories and major expense.
Brent: What are the lenses like and the quality of the images?
Joseph: They’re beautiful. The top ones or the better lenses is the higher lenses for the Lumix line are Leica lenses. So everybody knows Leica. They make a decent thing or two and the way it works is there’s Leica engineers. They’re the staff at Panasonic factories I guess the R & D or the engineering facility and so they’re helping to engineer the lenses, they’re overseeing the manufacturing and essentially making sure that they meet like a specification. So, they’re manufactured by Panasonic but under Leica oversight and advisement or whatever you call it. These lenses are built to Leica standards but they cost a lot less like a Leica lens does . So, especially if you’re looking at those lenses, you got some seriously good glass.
Brent: So you got rid of all your Cannon, you’re shooting Panasonic Lumix cameras, on the photoshoot what else do you take along?
Joseph: So lighting wise it’s all going to depend on what the shoot is you know? I can do everything from small strobe if that’s what’s going to be needed, small strobes, big studio strobes, I’ve got pro photo lights mostly in the studio but I can always take those on locations if needed and I’ve most recently start working with LED lights quite a bit. It’s a small light kit and these lights are, they’re not cheap but these are some seriously good quality LED light. Excellent color control, excellent color quality, the quality of the light; you know they say I got pro photo light, it’s beautiful light compared to a cheaper light. There’s something intangible. You can’t see in it but that’s the same what the feel is like. The Pro Photo LEDs are just really, really high end lights.
Brent: So, the LEDs are continuous lighting. It’s not a strobe?
Joseph: Correct. Traditionally you’re thinking “Okay that’s for a video” which is great because I do videos as well and I can use those in doing videos but I’m actually finding that I’ve been using it more and more for still photography as well. If you’ve got a good example is if you’ve got an environment where you’re shooting the existing lighting. It’s available lighting and you need to enhance it. Not overpower it. I don’t want to create a new light. The lighting here is good. I just need more over here, a little color change there or whatever. That’s where LED can really, really shine because you can take advantage of the existing lighting but supplement it without having to take your strobes down to 64th power and try to figure out how to gel it and get it in the right position. It’s just with the LEDs it’s easier. You can dial in the color temperature live. You can literally twist the dial and see how the color lighting or the color coming from those lights balances with your scene. And then of course you see that in the back of the camera to the viewfinder or in the case of Lumix cameras with my iPhone in my hand looking at what my camera sees when I’m walking around is just the lighting and that’s…
Brent: Wow that is a cool thing. I think you’ve just convinced me.
Joseph: Yeah that’s incredible. So, I really enjoy using LEDs in the set. They’re not as bright as strobes for sure. So if you need a big light or a lot of lightings. So you need to go strobe but they have their place and so it’s a big enough job and I really don’t know what I’m getting into, I’ll bring everything. Put that in a car or small truck.
Brent: So, with the LED lighting, I’ve just got one more question about that. So it sounds like it’s really good if you’re doing like a commercial or indoor shoot or the interior or something like that but maybe not the best for portraits because people move around and you need a faster shutter speed and a brighter light. Is that correct?
Joseph: Yes and no. If you want to do your traditional portrait, you want to shoot it fast, you got to get a good chunk of field; you need to freeze the action. In your indoor studio environment you’re probably better off going with strobes but if you are wanting to do something dramatic and more moving than the LED lights are going to be great for that or if you want to shoot really shallow then the field. Now, I found that with my Pro Photos. Even with the dimmest settings I want to shoot. My favorite lens on the Lumix lineup is a 85mm equivalent of F1.2 lens so that’s 42.5mm of 1.2 is 85 equivalent and I love shooting like that you know, with F1-2, F1-4 obviously really shallow depth the field. It’s one of those that you’re getting the eyeballs in focus and your ears out.
Brent: Yeah, I’m a big fan of shallow depth the field. Actually there would be lens that I can totally wide open and the minimum or the widest for sure.
Joseph: Right. So, if you’re doing that with studio strobes you will find that you literally turn the lights down far enough and the LEDs come in for that because they’re not as bright and so now you’ve got a light that works for that type of lighting or that type of camera setting.
Brent: That’s great, awesome. So back to the actual photo shoot so you brought LED lights, you adjust them to the correct white balance to enhance the scene a little bit, you shoot looking at your iPhone, looking at your camera, what camera’s working while you’re actually in front of the camera because you’re attached to it by Wi-Fi or Bluetooth or whatever it is and you’ve got the scene perfect. Now, what do you do next? Do you take a couple of shots raw?
Joseph: Yeah! I actually shoot 2 raw JPEG almost all the time unless I’m in the studio that’s the only time I’ll switch to straight raw and the reason for that is something we call preprocessing. We all know what post processing is but preprocessing is the idea that you’re dialing the look in camera and that might be high contrast, high saturation or low saturation, low contrast to be black and white but whenever I’m dialing that look in the camera and this can be helpful when you have a client over your shoulder and you’ve explained to the client that your vision for this is to shoot black and white. You can’t show the client the color image on the back of the camera and say “Imagine it in black and white” if you’re not a photographer you can’t imagine that in black and white so being able to show them the black and white image in the back of the camera is very useful and with the Lumix camera and this goes for all mirrorless cameras since you’re not looking through or the V finder you’re looking at is electronic. It’s not through the glass on an optical path then you could adjust the image that you see on the V finders. You can see the black and white image in the viewfinder when you’re shooting. Like live not after but while you’re shooting and so I find that to be very handy so I will shoot raw plus JPEGs so that I have that JPEG view as a reference point but then of course I have the raw that I can work with but often, if I can get away with it, you know I’ll just deliver them the JPEG . If I got the look the way that I wanted in the camera and all I needed to do is lower retouching or remove blemishes or whatever then I’ll just deliver the JPEG. Why not? It saves time.
Brent: Definitely! So once you’ve got the shoot done. We’ll jump into the delivery part now. So, when it comes to people paying you, do you ask for a deposit before the initial photo shoot; maybe 50% then 50% after once they’ve seen the images?
Joseph: It depends on the client and the size of the job if it’s just a portrait I never do, I just bill at the end and you know, they pay before they get the pictures. That’s always but yeah portraits I never bill anything in advance. If it’s a commercial shoot or if it’s going to be I don’t know over a couple thousands of dollars I will bill 50% in advance. It just, it depends on the client really and sometimes the client is someone you know well enough you trust him well enough I don’t worry about it. Sometimes though there’s a lot of pre-production work that you’re going to do and you’re going to want some of that cash up front so then I will. It really depends on the job and the client. 50% up front, if you’re going to get something up front it’s normally out of a deal.
Keep it Simple Stupid (KISS)
Brent: Okay. Do you have some kind of licensing agreement with the client? When they can use the images, how long and that type of thing?
Joseph: I do. Yeah, I keep it really simple. When I first moved to the small town I tried to do some kind of big license if you will and be really specific about it and very restrictive in terms. I’m just very precise and I found that people not that I’m belittling the little town but it’s kind of a small town mentality of “Keep it simple”. I don’t get it, I don’t want to get it, I just want you to take a picture and I’m going to use the picture and you realize okay I don’t really need to explain to you that you need a licensing to billboard in Moscow because you’re clearly never going to do that so, you know, you’re a local pizza joint and not Pizza Hut so I don’t bother getting into it. I usually stipulate that it’s licensed for a certain amount of time but I’ll include that in the fee. I’ll just make it a flat fee and I have played with different methods of delivering estimates that are completely broken down. Here’s my fee, here’s the equipment rental fee which is really not rental because it’s mine but I have to pay for it, the insurance and I’ve done that, I’ve done the simple one line for what you’re talking about. Here’s the rate and this is going to give you a day of shooting and collect your images that you can use for three years and it’s just simpler and people seem to like that. It works here. It’s not for everybody and every market. I get that but it works here.
Brent: Okay so don’t answer this question if you don’t want to but what is your daily rate? What can someone expect you to charge in a small town in America?
Joseph: I don’t think that you can expect these charges everywhere but my kind of standard baseline for a day shooting for commercial job is going to be $1500 and that’s really low if you’re talking LA, San Francisco and New York but it’s really high in a small town like this. So I know, you got to find your middle ground and that works for me. I certainly don’t get every job. People come to me and say “Oh that’s too much” and that’s fine. I’ve got plenty of other work I can do so I’m not worried about it. Now, I’ve got a job potentially coming up next week. Someone called me up a couple days ago, quoted them a price, they wanted longer terms. They’re fine with the $1500 but they said they wanted longer terms. I said I’d give them three years and they said forever and I gave them a speech you know, most clients would prefer to spend money their additional money in three years on getting new photos but if you want to license these and typically at the end of three years I would re-license them for the same duration as the original so another three years for 50% of the original price so that it will be another $750 in that case and I said if you want to do that in advance now I’ll give you the extended 3 year price for indefinitely. I’ll give you an indefinite license for that 50% and now they are thinking about that and they haven’t confirmed the shoot. You know if that is the difference and the money is the difference, they have a solution. They can use them for 3 years and then pay the extra money if they still want to use them which they probably won’t because they will probably want new pictures or they can just give the money now. But anyway, it’s not a huge difference and frankly if they don’t want me to shoot the job I’m not going to lower the price. I’ve got plenty of other things to do, that’s not going to make or break whether I’m going to make that rent that month or not which is obviously a great position to be it and I totally get it that not everybody’s in that position, I certainly wasn’t always in that position you know? I’ve been in a position where I would say “Oh okay how about maybe $1200? How about a thousand? Okay I’ll tell you, I’ll do it for $800 but only for this once.” You know, I’ve been there and it’s not good.
Brent: Yeah, you don’t really want to negotiate like that especially before a shoot because if you’re discounting a price then basically you’re discounting a service and I’ve said this to a few people that I’ve actually coached in the past, photographers and then say “Look I’ve photographed a friend or a family member what should I charge? You know? You charge them what you normally charge them. Are you going to give them a discounted service or are you going to give them your full service?” So it’s a really interesting way to think about it. You know when it comes to the daily rate, mine is pretty much where yours is because I’m in a small town and I’ve tested it but here’s something that listeners might find interesting. When someone wants you to quote and let’s say a commercial job and you give them the fee and they come back and they say “Yes, let’s do it” and you go “Oh shit, maybe I should’ve gone higher?” Because there needs to be a little bit of resistance you know? If someone needs to come back and say, “Oh you’re kind of hitting the high end about budget. Let’s just do instead of one and half day let’s do one day.” then you know that you’re pretty close to the mark. When someone comes back to you and say “Yup that’s fine. Let’s go here. Can we shoot tomorrow?” I’d go “Oh, damn, I should’ve made it a little bit more” because the job always take longer than you think. Always! I mean, that’s my experience you know? So you quote one day and it ends up being two and a half days of shooting. That’s really interesting and I like that 3 year licensing and 50% for the next 3 years I mean, that’s awesome and that’s one of the biggest mistake I made when I first started doing commercial photography in my area. I still got one of the big results here using some of my work 10 years later and yeah, anyway I learned the hard way.
Joseph: Yeah, absolutely and it’s tough to keep an eye on it. You know to track it and you’re busy and you’ve got thousands of photos out there or even dozens you know? It could be tough to track them all and keep on but you need to. If you’re going to do the license and everything you need to and you know, you come back to them when their license is expiring and say “Hey just want to remind you that your license will be expiring in 2 months. Are you interested in relicensing them or should we talk about new photos?”
Brent: So, it’s really been interesting talking to you, Joseph just a couple more of questions. Some of the tools that you use what are your favorite 3 tools that you use either a software or hardware?
Joseph: Well I’m cheating if I say my GH4 or G7 cameras because it’s sponsored by them and that’s kind of cheating.
Brent: For sure, any other tools?
Joseph: Well okay, so those Philipps lights that I talked about those are my new favorite toys. I’m often looking for a reason to use them just because I really enjoy shooting with them so much. My only complaint in them is that I wish there was more lights you know? Brighter lights but that’s just the technology and obviously it will get better and better. That’s something that I just love, my iPhone you can’t go anywhere without that. That’s part of staple of the business. I got the 6 plus, the big old screen. The big guy there, yeah!
Brent: You put that in your pocket or not?
Joseph: Sometimes. Usually I carry a little bag. A man bag or purse or whatever you want to call it. I carry a little bag and I put my wallet and my keys and all that crap in there and my phone also goes in there. I got the apple watch so I kind of when it rings it ring in your wrist you know that’s kind of cool. It’s ridiculous! It’s totally unnecessary but I dig it! I love it!
Brent: My co presenter with the Share, Inspire, Create show Johny he’s got one of the watches that sends him notifications every time someone mention something or whatever and the phone is definitely super important when you’re running a business I mean there’s no way you can run a business without a phone because that’s the way to communicate with clients and leads and you know, get things done. Any other tools that you can’t live without?
Joseph: I’ll tell you an interesting story. I used to as I said I ran website apertureexpert.com and that was the big aperture user and I love the aperture and I still love it but now it’s gone. Apple drops fork for that so I have switched over to Lightroom and that’s what I’ve been using. I’m still getting my head around it but you know that’s working out pretty well. I haven’t explored a lot of other tools and one of the things that I haven’t really looked at before was the software from DXO and DXO labs. Again, they’re in full disclosure, they are a client and I do a lot of work for them but I absolutely love their software. The favorite thing that they’ve got that I love so much is that it’s filmpack, the DXO film pack. It’s an incredible tool for making a film look applied to your photos and it comes with 170 or something like that presets and these are film stock so it looks like Fuji Velvia, it looks like Tmax 3200, it looks like Agfa and whatever all these different and you got all the presets to starting point but then you can completely modify them. So you’re in this whole Instagram vintage look or whatever, you can go that far but a lot of the presets are very subtle changes but what they tend to do is take that overly sharp hyper real digital edge off of your photos so it doesn’t look like it was ran through Instagram but it’s got something a little bit more organic to it. The feel of it is a little bit natural, a little bit organic.
Brent: Cool, are those similar to like the nice color effects or plugins for Photoshop?
Joseph: Well, similar in the sense they are plugins but I mean it doesn’t. These are doing different things. I love the nik filters. I absolutely love those things and so the first pro is by far my favorite black and white all in all but the film pack is more when you open it up, you open an image, you’ve got a bunch of presets down the side and you just click on a preset and look through them and look for kind of what you’re after or if you don’t know you just look through the filters until you feel inspired and then you double click on that and you can start to tweak it and you can literally choose the different film stock for it. So let’s say that you started with Kodachrome 25. That was the look. I love the color, I love the contrast. It’s just beautiful. I really like green. I really like green so I’m going to chose the green stock of TMAx 3200 which is crazy green. Alright, I put that on. I like the look but it’s too much. I’ll dial back the green low and now it’s the color, the contrast and the green pattern that makes me happy. Perfect! So mix and match the pieces like that that you obviously can’t do in the analog world and I love it. I think it’s really cool and you can clearly overdo it. “Oh let’s put scratches on and light leaks” It’s cool. Now it looks like an Instagram.
Brent: I’m actually looking at an image of yours now, your pics on the website and it looks like maybe this is what you’re talking about. It looks like a film stock. It’s got borders, it’s got you know, light leaking and is that the DXO?
Joseph: Probably not. That might be Instagram or something.
Brent: Oh okay. It’s a portrait, a black and white portrait.
Joseph: Oh those black and white portraits. That’s a fun little series. I kind of slacked in doing that but that’s called the guest book series. So, people that are coming in to my studio, Clients, potential clients, friends, whatever, the electrician, I take a picture of them with my iPhone using hipstamatic.
Brent: Yeah it is cool. Alright!
Joseph: But yes, DXO film pack. Those are really cool ones.
There’s so much more to the business of photography than photography
Brent: Alright, thanks for that and what’s the best advice you can give someone who’s living in a small town wanting to get into photography and they’re really good at what they do and they want to start their own business. What’s the one thing you can give them that’s really helped your business.
Joseph: Well, the basic advice I can give if you’re just a good photographer and you don’t know anything about business is to go work for another photographer. Go intern, go assist, go spend time with successful photographer and then once you put a couple of years under your belt, go to another town. Don’t compete with the guy that you’ve just learned from but that is so important. I think people want to jump in and you know I get it. You wanted to do your own thing “I know how to do this”, “I can do this” and sure, maybe you’ll be successful but the odds are against you. There’s so much more to the business of photography than photography. Anybody who has a successful business in photography knows that we do not spend majority of our time shooting or even editing. There’s so much that goes into the business side of it and frankly not all of it are exciting.
Brent: 100%. hat’s what I figured out in my portrait studio because I sold it. 90% of the time is actually the business and 10% is actually photography.
Joseph: So, spending time with someone else, you can help them the other side of their business. Help them to do the business things that they don’t want to do. You are therefore learning the things that need to be done, how to be done and then when you’re on your own you have to do it yourself because you can’t afford to hire someone else. You’re going to do all those things but you already know how to do it. You know how it is done then after a number of years when you’re ready you’ll be able to hire someone and you turn towards that road. You can get a student or a young graduate or whatever to come in and start working for you and do the same thing, just keep that cycle going.
Brent: Yeah by giving back. I think that’s going to be our action step that we get out of this Podcast is that if you’re thinking of getting into the business of photography, go work for someone first, get them to pay you to learn and then do your own thing once you’ve actually figured it all out preferably not in the same space as competition to the person who just taught you everything.
Joseph: Yeah and the reason I bring that up and actually it hasn’t happen to me but a friend of mine here, he’s a local photographer. He’s semi-retired now. He’s in his 70’s but he told me once he had so many assistants coming through and then goes and competes with him. He ended up coming up with a contract. You have to sign that you will not work within 150 miles from here. When you’re done working for me, you’re leaving and if you violate that, I’m shutting you down because it gives me a headache. People think “Oh why are you worried about someone competing with you if they’re younger and not as good or whatever?” Well, because I just taught them so much and you’re going to go out and make him do it cheaper because they have less overhead. They have less experience, they have less. They don’t have a family to support. They can do things for cheaper and I don’t want to be undercut by somebody that I just trained.
Getting Started is a Challenge
Brent: Sounds good. Alright, so last question. What are the biggest challenges you’ve had setting up in a small town your studio and how did you overcome that?
Joseph: I think getting started, getting those first clients. I mean that goes whether you’re in the biggest city or the smallest town and it just comes down to what we’ve said earlier going out and getting to know people. Get involved with the local community. You know, it can’t only be about selling your business but you’re just that cool guy getting out there getting to know people and oh yeah, you’re the photographer. You got to get known. You just have to get known.
Brent: And I think we’re getting some really good tips on this Podcast of how to get known you know. With you going to the local chamber of commerce also meeting other photographers in the area you know, having coffee with them, seeing what they’re doing, see what you guys can help each other, collaborate with each other instead of compete and on my side going out and photographing the landscapes, creating a book and also going to real estate agents and say “Hey I can photograph that house better than you can with your iPhone” So, that’s how we got started in our small area so that’s awesome! Thank you so much for being on the show. Now if people want to find out more about you, do you have any lessons or courses that they might like?
Joseph: Well sure, I mentioned earlier Lynda.com. I’m an author in there. If you go to Lynda.com there are all kinds of photography education there from me. If you go to my photoapps.expert website you’ll find all sorts of training there. We’re going to start the Lightroom training course for aperture users so for those who are trying to figure out how to transition we’re going to work on that. There’s going to be a lot of training in there and just in general photojoseph.com is my website but the one link to remember, the one that’s easy enough to get to. It will take you everywhere else it’s just joseph.info. Go to www.joseph.info and that links to everything else. That’s my kind of vanity page that’s just talking about all my different projects that I’ve got going on.
Brent: Awesome! That’s sounds good. Okay just some summary on what we’ve actually spoken about today. Joseph is not specializing in a small town. So being the go to person for any kind of photography, any kind of commercial photography where someone’s going to pay you to take pictures and that way you can actually not get bored and servicing the whole community.
Joseph: Just don’t come off as the guy who goes “Oh I shoot anything”.
Brent: Yeah, so you’re the photographic storyteller and not the “Not specializing in anything”. We talked about your other passion which is cooking and then we went through the process of how you attract clients, how you get known in your community, how you convert your leads to clients, how you do your photo shoot, I really like the preprocessing where you can show the client what the image look like on the back of your camera or on your iPhone the way they want it whether it’s black and white or whatever they envisioned and we’ve spoken about pricing, the prices being profitable and then some of your favorite software or equipment and then action steps at the end. It’s been a great Podcast. I’ve learned a lot and I really like the way that both of us have kind of made it in small towns you know, and in different parts of the world so that’s awesome. One last question, I’ll give you my experience on this but what can someone expect to make you know running a studio in a small town.
Joseph: How much money?
Joseph: There’s no easy answer for that. It all depends on how good you are and how much you can hustle. You could work your butt off and barely be able to pay rent or you can easily bring in six figure income if you know what you’re doing and you do hustle. It really comes down to the referral, contacts, constantly getting out there and getting known. Getting people to see you but you can make six figures income. That is not impossible imagination. You can actually do that. You just got to work at it.
Brent: When I got started and I really focused on my photography I wasn’t working the other job anymore. I quit the other job and I started focusing within two years I was earning six figures in profit and I thought and I’ve done that ever since and I’ve just sold my business six weeks ago and I sold it for a pretty good dollars so you can do it in a small town even though in some says you can’t because you don’t have the people, you don’t have the enough businesses around but you can, definitely! Well everyone with that and yeah to be able to get the show notes us just go to www.photoprofit.net and we’ll have all the links to Joseph’s stuff. So, thanks for being on this Podcast, Joseph I really appreciate it Man! Any last words you want to leave the people?
Joseph: Yeah, actually I’d love to just throw out one more plug out there for the workshop. I’ve got this workshop coming up in January next year it’s in Oaxaca, Mexico and it’s a cultural experience/photography workshop and it’s going to be a pretty small group. Nine or ten maximum and we are not yet selling seats. We are taking names of interested parties, if you go to www.photojoseph.com/workshop you’ll see full itinerary everything on there. There’s a sign up for the mailing list and hopefully in the next couple of weeks we will announce the tickets are for sale and you’ll be able to jump on them so if you like workshops, if you like cultural tours, if you like to get going somewhere warmer in the middle of winter, well our winter. I guess it’s your summer. If you want to go somewhere warm in January then check that out www.photojoseph.com/workshop the Oaxaca tour it’s going to be really, really fun.
Brent: I’d love to go there and like I said in the SIC Show, I love to go to places where we are seeing the real culture and not the tourist style culture you know what they show you sometimes and places are awesome that’s going to be a great workshop! Awesome! Thanks, Joseph and have an awesome day!
Joseph: Bye! Well, it’s six in the evening here, I’m going to go home and make some dinner.
Brent and Joseph: Bye!
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