Category Archives: Event Photo Business

Use A Facebook Page to Share Photos

We all know there after going to a dance competition, and taking several hundred awesome photos of the competitors it’s really important that the dancers get to see the photos. Facebook is an great way of doing this. Once the photos are on Facebook its super easy to tag people so they see the photos. Most of the time the dancers will tag each other,  so you don’t have to do even that bit – how cool is that? But should you upload the pictures using your regular Facebook account, or a Facebook Page?

The simple answer is that you really should be using a Page. Why?

Well, the first, and perhaps most important reason is that that is how Facebook want you to do it. That might not sound like a great reason to you, but you have to remember that with anything Facebook related, they get to make the rules. Facebook do have a history of changing the rules from time to time, and the best way to stay clear of trouble is to do things the way they want you to.

That aside, there are a few other reasons why its better to post photos as a page, rather than as your personal account:

  • You can keep friends and fans separate. By using a Page you photo fans can follow your photos without getting all your personal updates. Just because someone wants to see your photos, doesn’t mean they want updates about your holidays.
  • There is no limit on the number of fans. Facebook limits the number of friends you can have, but doesn’t place a limit on how many fans your page can have. If you post photos as your regular account there will always be a limit on how many people can see your photos.
  • You get better data. Facebook pages come with some pretty nifty “insights” on how popular your photos are. Things like how often they have been shared and how viral they are. This gives you great information on which photos are most popular. You can use that to work out which style of photos you should work on getting better at.

Creating a page is really easy. Just go to the Facebook page creator, and follow the steps. Before you know it you will have your very own page, and can start adding fans.

Triggertrap Mobile

For several months now I have been eagerly following the development of the Triggertrap. This awesome little devise promises to expand the options for taking a photo beyond the traditional few options of  pressing the shutter, holding the shutter down (for rapid fire), or pressing the shutter and running to get into the photo.

I’ve been particularly keen to give the TT a go at a dance competition, just imagine taking a photo whenever a dancer moves into your pre-focused well lit spot.  Once I get my hands on one (they are on the verge of shipping the first units) I will give that a go and let you know how it goes.

However, the clever people over at Triggertrap, have another trick up their sleeves. They have just announced Triggertrap Mobile. That’s right, you can now trigger your camera from your mobile! It’s a iOS app, so it can run on your iPhone/iPod/iPad, and with the help of a nifty little cable, it can trigger a real camera! How awesome is that? Just take a look at this video and see if you are excited as I am.

I was lucky enough to be one of the beta testers for this little device, which means I have had it on my phone for a while now. As I was asked to keep it a secret, I couldn’t go playing with it at any big events, but I did fall in love with the timelapse mode. This is so much fun. Just take a look at the video below I made using the TT Mobile connected to my 7d while in Spain the other week.

The starts of the video are Ryan and Ksenia – a pair of awesome dancers I was privileged to be able to work with. When I first started getting them to film this I’m pretty sure they thought I had taken leave of my senses :-)

How to start selling your photos

100B4140.JPG
Photo Credit: Charles Smith

Photography can be a very expensive hobby. Lenses, strobes, tripods, it all adds up. Like many other photographers, you are probably thinking of covering some of these costs by selling your photos. It’s simple, risk free, and can be very effective. Not only do you earn some cash, but the fact that people are parting with their hard earned money for something you created gives you a great feeling of doing something worth while.

However not everyone knows how to get started selling their photos. In this post, I’m going to explain one approach to selling your first photos. It’s by no means the only option, and I suspect I will write about other options in the future, so be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed to make sure you don’t miss that. In fact, if you started selling photos via another path, let me know in the comments below.

The approach I’m going to cover is how I first got started. It doesn’t require any special equipment (though that always helps*) and there is almost certainly a chance to do this in your local area: photographing amateur sporting events and then selling individual photos online.

(* for some action shots, especially indoor ones, fast lenses do make a big difference, but there are plenty of other photos you can go for)

Step 1 – Take some photos

Obviously you need to start with taking some photos to sell. Local amateur sports events make a great starting place, for several reasons:

  • They are generally public, so there are no issues with being allowed to take photos.
  • They are often uncrowded, so getting close enough to take photos is easy.
  • Most players/athletes, or the friends and family, are really keen to get good photos of themselves, so they make good customers.

I suggest you visit the local weekend league of whatever amateur sport is near you, and spend a few hours taking photos. Hopefully you are comfortable with your camera’s autofocus, and autoexposure. That means you can concentrate on trying to get well composed photos, and capture any emotion; there is normally plenty of emotion at any sporting event.  The first time you try this, expect to take something of the order of a thousand photos, and don’t worry if not many of them are good.

Do this a few times, you will find that you feel confident that you can always get a few good photos for any game you go to.

Step 2 – Talk to potential customers

After the game (or match/race/whatever) it’s quite likely that some of the players will approach you, and ask if you got any good photos. If they don’t, pick one or two of the good photos and approach the players in the photo. Don’t try and sell them the photos, just show them the camera and say “Hey, I got a good photo of you”.

Listen to what they think of the photo. It’s probably different to what you think of it. While you will be judging the photo by checking to see if it is sharp, well exposed and so on, they will be judging it based on how good they look, and if the photo shows them doing the right thing.

After you talk to a few people, you will feel comfortable showing people, even strangers, your work. You should start to have an idea what constitutes a good photo for whatever sport you are shooting.

Step 3 – Start to distribute your photos

It won’t be long before you start getting photos that both you and the subject agree are good. At this point you can offer to send them a copy of it. There are a few different approaches here, but I am a fan of giving them a small size JPEG, with your logo discreetly in one corner. Tell them you would normally charge $10 or so (or £10 / whatever local currency works for you), but as your still experimenting you are not charging yet.They will probably use it as Facebook profile picture, and if the logo isn’t too overbearing, there is no reason for them to crop it out. This establishes you in their mind, and in the minds of everyone who sees your photos, as a photographer.

Once you have done this, you will feel comfortable describing yourself as a “real” photographer (whatever that means to you).

Step 4 – Start selling your photos

Now is the time to start making your photos available for sale. No surprise that I’m going to recommend you use FrozenEvent for this. Just set your prices, upload some photos, and they will be ready for sale.

You will need to market your photos. It’s not an evil thing to do, it’s simply a fact that no-one will buy a photo if they don’t know its for sale. Tell the players about your album, send them a link, and use the Facebook Push feature in FrozenEvent. This will get visitors coming to your album, and some of them will start to buy.

Once you get a few emails telling you that your photos are selling,  you can start thinking about what lens to buy next.

That’s it. I’ve kept each step as brief as I can, though I could go into more detail in a number of places. I’m a big fan of learning by doing. The best way for you to learn more is to try and follow these steps, and see what you learn in the process. So pick up your camera, and  get started. Then come back and let us know in the comments how it worked for you.

 

What is the best price for a photo?

I just saw this post over on Pixiq about how much should you charge for a photograph. Naturally this is a really relevant topic here at Frozen Event.

While we let photographers choose their own prices, a number of our photographers have asked for advice on this exact question. They are asking for something more specific to their situation than “Your photo is worth only as much as someone is prepared to pay for it”. While that is the right answer the question – it does tend to lead the follow on question “what is someone prepared to pay for your photo?”

So I thought it might be useful to see examples of photos for sale, and what photographers are charging for those photos on Frozen Event.

The first type of event we started selling photos for was student dance competitions. You can see some examples here, here, and here. For this photos the target market consists of university students who don’t have much disposable income. After some trial and error with a few photographers, we discovered that the ideal price for small and large digital images is 99p and £1.79 respectively (that’s about $1.50 and $3). Not a huge amount, but when you consider there can be up to a thousand students at a single competition, it doesn’t work out too bad for the photographer.

As a second example, this album is selling photos for a theatre production. Here the photographer charged the same prices, and sold photos, but the small number of people interested in buying photos (basically just the cast) means it wasn’t so feasible. Next time I would suggest a higher price, to find out if they still sell.

Finally, this set of photos was taken for a dance show held the London Erotica Festival (NSFW). The prices were higher this time, at £2 and £3 for small and large photos (about $2.15 and $4.75), and again they sold. This time I personally thought the prices were way too low, and they would have sold just as well at a higher price.

This is just a sample of the prices we have tried here, and we are a long way from yet being able to answer the question of what people are prepared to pay for a photo. To my mind, the answer is that people are probably willing to pay more than you think.

Do you have an opinion on photo pricing? Let me know in the comments!

Are Free Photos Becoming the Norm?

Photo by Ludovic Bertron

You can’t deny the fact that the Internet has changed the landscape of the photography businesses. While cameras have changed a lot, it’s nothing compared with how the business of being a photographer has changed. The marginal costs, that is the cost of taking or selling one additional photo, are approaching free. Once you have a camera, you can take as many photos as you like, and as long as you ignore the wear and tear on the camera it costs nothing. Similarly, once you have a way of selling your digital files, it costs you no time or effort to sell the same photo to a second customer. Unsurprisingly, this has caused an explosion in the number of “professional” photographers out there.

In the first wave of changes to the photography world, we saw microstock sites spring up. The cost of buying a photo tracked the cost of taking a photo, and while they didn’t quite reach free, they were very cheap. This has opened up a whole new market. Blog authors now pay for photos to illustrate their articles.

Along side this, many photographers who made a living selling photos to magazines started to suffer. When a magazine needs photos for an article, it can do the same thing bloggers do. They can log on to a microstock site, and buy their photos super cheap. Even getting a cover photo from a stock photo site is not unheard of. True, some articles require specially commissioned photography, but, unsurprisingly the competition for these jobs is fierce, and only a few elite photographers can play this game.

The second wave of this change is now bringing free stock photography to the Internet. Flickr has for a long time now, allowed photographers to mark their photos with a creative commons licence. Setting this licence on a photo grants permission for other people to use your photo, even commercially in some cases, for free. But trying to find good quality photos on Flickr for a specific theme can take forever. A problem that is now partially solved by Compfight.

What I am starting to see now, are sites like FreeDigitalPhotos.net. They do exactly what they say on the tin: Free Photos! FDP is a microstock library that gives away its photos for free – but only a small sized copy. Great if you want to use it for a blog post, but no good for a magazine or other uses (though you can pay for a larger version).

The clever thing is that when you use one of their free photos you have to include a link back to FDP. It’s a great way for them to spread the word about their site, and one that Google particularly thinks is pretty cool. This trick has allowed them to get to the front page on Google for searches like “Free stock photos”. Take a look and see.

Naturally FDP are not the only guys with this idea. One look at the google search results page shows you a huge number of sites offering free stock photos. One of the big players, Dreamstime, are also starting to offer free stock photos. I can’t image that is will be long before you can get “professionally” taken free stock photos for just about any subject.

With so many photos available for free, there is a big question facing anyone who wants to earn money as a photographer: Who will pay for your photos?

Photographers photographers everywhere

The barrier to entry for photography used to be pretty big. You had to invest in a camera and lenses and a darkroom. Film was costly, developing was too. Becoming a professional photographer, earning money from making and selling photographs was reserved for the people who could do it well enough to pay the cost of doing business. You may have noticed that that’s just not true anymore.

Buying a digital SLR and a photo printer enables just about anyone to set themselves up as a professional photographer. If you need photos taken for a wedding, family memory, or just for vanity, there are many more people you can go to than ever before. Professional photographers think this is a bad thing, it’s getting harder for them to make a living – they keep getting undercut by the army of keen amateurs, looking to make a cheap buck on the side. Here is the kick though – whether you think this is a bad thing, or a good thing is irrelevant. It’s a fact.

What does this mean for the consumer? Some will pay the big price for a “real” professional. Most will decide to spend time rather than money, looking though the vast number of amateurs till they find one with enough skill and consistency to do what they want. The thing is, there will be lots and lots of lots and lots of average photographers – taking average photos. The keen amateurs don’t do it for a day job, so don’t have to improve to make their living. They can just keep on churning out these average photos. The law of large numbers says that some of these photos will be great. The problem is going to be how to find the good ones. The photographers will claim that each and every photo they take is great. Can they be trusted, how can the ones with good photos get the message out?

I think that there is an opportunity here. By connecting the good photos, with the people willing to buy the good photos, a market place can be built. One where the consumer is looking to buy decent photos at a cheap price and the photographer, looking to sell some photos, but not dependent on the income can both benefit.

 

Allow customers to buy your photos

So you want to sell your photos, make some money, put it towards your next camera, but its not happening. You work hard on “Selling” trying to get people to buy them. Well I’m not going to tell you any techniques for selling your photos. You see, I think of “selling” photos differently to a lot of other people. To me, trying to persuade people to buy your photos is the wrong way of thinking about it. I think selling is about allowing people to buy your work.

Persuading someone to buy something they don’t want is hard work, often unsuccessful, and emotionally draining. Helping someone buy something they do want is much easier, more fun too! That is why when I head off to an event I start out by thinking what sort of photos I’m going to take, why I am going to take them and that leads onto who would want to buy those photos. If I do a good job of letting these people know about my photos, then I have a collection of photos, and a set of customers who want them. From here the act of selling is just a matter of helping the customers get their photos. It becomes a matter of working out why customers don’t buy you work when they want to, and solving those problems. I can’t give you a universal list to help you out, but I can cover some of the more common reasons customers end up not clicking on the “buy” button.

Price

The first stumbling point is price. If your photos are priced wrong, they won’t sell. Simple!

Digital photography has changed the way pricing works, and many photographers haven’t accepted this. Before digital, a good photograph, the sort someone was likely to buy, was an artefact, a physical thing. Someone had taken the photo, and slaved over it in the darkroom making the print. Each print was unique, and would be proudly displayed. Now photos are on Facebook, they are on your iPhone. Unless you are intending your photos to be one of the very few works of art that a customer buys, you can’t charge like you are.

Setting the price of photos right is really tough, but I’m going to go out on a limb, and make myself unpopular with you guys, and say lower your price. Digital photography has brought down the costs of processing a photo, and if you deliver it digitally (see below) it also cuts down the cost of delivering it to the customer. For a simple event photo, that a customer is going to download and view on their computer, I don’t think you can go wrong charging a couple of bucks.

Convenience of showing photos

Have you seen those booths at theme-parks? The ones where as you start the fast drop, *snap*, a photograph is taken. The same photograph that is printed out, and put on display at the exit to the ride, for you to buy as a souvenir. I can’t help but laugh at the absurdity every time I see one of these stands. I remember the one time I brought a photo, and I remember the photo getting put in a pile of paper, and never looked at again!

When was the last time you sat down with to fill a photo album? I don’t remember the last time I got back from an event, brought a physical album, and filled it with photos.

If you want to sell photos, you have to understand how the buyer wants to use them. Then you can make that easier for them. If they want the photos to go on a website, they should receive digital photos. If they want to put them in a digital photo frame, they should receive digital photos. If they want a print as the end product, well then I think they should receive digital photos, and then they can have them printed and cropped exactly as they want.

Also, bear in mind that the most common ways of showing photos today seems to be loading them onto an iPhone, and passing it round over a cup of coffee. If its easy for your photos to get put onto an iPhone, they will sell more.

Unclear ownership (licence)

When shooting events, I find it’s not uncommon to have journalists (or dance performers in my case) want to buy commercial licence for photos. What they are looking for is photos they can put on their flyers, or their website. They won’t buy a photo if its not clear they can use it commercially (or for that matter if they can see that the price for a commercial licence is mega-expensive compared to the non-commercial licence)

Make it clear what licences you are selling, and make it possible to buy a commercial licence. Even if its just by emailing you to negotiate the rights. The clearer you can be about what they are buying, the more likely they are to read

Complicated delivery

This is a smaller point, but a personal bugbear of mine, so I’m going to tell you about it. Make sure it’s clear that delivering the photos will be smooth, painless, and easy. If you are selling digital photos (which you are, right?) tell the customer, as they are browsing, that their photos will be zipped up and emailed to them right away!

Like I said above, don’t think this list is going to be universal, or definitive in any way. The blocks you have to clear are going to be different for each and every type of event. So its up to you to work out what they are, and how to get them solved.

What other problems have you found prevent people from buying your photos. Let me know in the comments below.

No one will buy photos they don’t know exist

A megaphone shouting out twitter messages
Photo by The Daring Librarian

There is one fundamental truth when trying to sell photos. No-one can ever buy your photos if they don’t know they exist. Wow, great insight there huh ;-). It sounds simple, maybe even silly to write something quite so obvious, but at the same time, it is one of the hardest problems we face when trying to see the photos we take at an event. How do we make sure that those people who may be interested in buying photos, know that they are for sale.

I like to think in terms of there being 6 different ways of spreading the word:

Stall at event

The most traditional way is to have a stall at the event. Buying space from an event organiser is normally easy, though sometimes expensive. You then set up a table, showing some albums you have from previous event as samples of what you are likely to produce. You should also set up a computer to show photos you take on the day. You can use a software program like EVS for this

However with stalls you have to deal with several drawbacks. Firstly you need to be sure of covering the costs, after that you have to keep updating the selection of photos on display with todays photos, and there is rarely time to make a good selection. If you want to sell photos at the stall you have to have a photo quality printer on hand, along with all the logistic problems of fresh ink, paper supply and so on, while if you plan to take orders, and post the photos later you need to make sure you can keep track of all the orders. Personally I find stalls to be a lot of trouble

Flyers

With the increase of online photo sales, it is becoming more popular to set up a website before you go to the event, with a nice short URL (address) and print of a bunch of flyers to hand out at the event. PhotoStockPlus does a good job of this. After you get home from the event you go though your shots, select the best ones, and upload them to the website. Over the next few days you hope that people will go to the address on the flyers you gave out, and see your photos, and buy them online.

This approach works very well apart from one major drawback. The conversion rate (number of people who actually visit your website) is typically pitiful. :-(

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth can be one of the most effective ways of getting word of your photos into the minds of your customers. You show the photos to a few people at the event, and they then tell everyone else how great your photos are (they do need to be great photos though). It requires a strong social connection among the participants, which isn’t always there. Ideally you would combine this with a website similar the one when handing out flyers. This is what I used when I was selling photos of student dance competition, and I never lacked for customers.

Email Lists

If you can make friends with the event organiser, you can ask them nicely to include a link to your website in their email newsletter.They might ask you to pay to advertise in their list (after all, this is pure advertising at this point), in which case you can either take a risk, pay their fee and try and work out later if you made enough profit to cover the costs, or you can ask them for some numbers. They maybe be able to tell you how many people regularly open/read their newsletter (mailing list sites like Mailchimp record this information), giving you some idea how many hits you can expect to on your site. This gives you a chance to make an educated guess as to whether or not its a good financial decision.

Twitter

More and more events have a twitter hashtag. It serves as a way to broadcast small snippets about an event to anyone interested enough to look up the hashtag on twitter, which is great for two reasons, one it only sends the message to those people interested in the event, and two these are exactly the people most likely to want to buy some photos. Just like with flyers, word of mouth and email lists, you need to have a website setup that can sell your photos.

Facebook

Facebook, and its idea of tagging people in photos can work wonders for telling people your pictures exist. It is very similar to word of mouth, as it requires the people from the event to do some of the work. You upload some of your photos to Facebook (with a suitable watermark of course), and tag some of the more well known participants. If this works right something almost magical starts to happen. Each person who sees the photos, tags everyone they know. These people then get notified, look at the photos and add tags for more people. Before long every photo is tagged, and everyone has a list of notifications telling them exactly what photos they are in. As long the watermark on the photo shows where they can go to get copies of the photos, this can be an amazing way to drive visits to your site.

So there you have it, 6 different ways to make sure that your photos are known about. Hopefully this will get you one step closer to being able to sell your photos. Do you have any other ways of spreading the word about your photos? If so, let me know in the comments below…

Why photograph an event?

What are you trying to achieve when you pick up your camera, and head off to photo an event? One answer I commonly hear is “to get some photos I can sell.”, which I think is the worst possible answer. Firstly it gives you no insight onto when to press the shutter, and secondly, in my experience, it results in less sellable photos on your memory card at the end of the day.

If you can banish the selling question from your mind, and then ask “why I am taking these photos?” you may be surprised at the results. I know I was.

Formula 1 cars leaving the starting line
Photo by Oh-Barcelona.com

After some trial and error, I have come to realise that I take photos at events for 4 reasons. Sometimes I combine the reasons, but I have had more luck with picking one for the day, and sticking to it.

So my 4 reasons to taking photos at an event are:

Documentary

Documentary photos are intended to provide an accurate record of what happened during the event. Who did what, when, and how did it look. They should include all the important moments, and clearly show what really happened. If I was going to take documentary photos at a car racing event, I would have in a mind of what photos I want to get: The line up just before the start, the start itself, the first corner (where lots of overtaking happens), the pit stops, the exit from the pit stops (which can change the race order), any crashes, collisions, or cars going ride in the gravel, the winner crossing the finish line, and the winners on the podium.

These photos are enough to show all the important individual events that happened on the day. Perfect for selling to a newspaper or website that is covering the event as a news story.

Memories

Memory photos are much more personal, they record a special event in the life of a person, a family or a team. Here I am more worried about if the photos will bring back memories of the day, rather than making them factually accurate. For the car racing event I would choose one of the drivers, maybe it is his first big race. My photo list for this shoot would be totally different from the one I would use if I was taking documentary photos. I would want some photos of the driver before the race, showing the apprehension on his face. Portraits of his friends and family there to support him. A group shot of the team coach giving the drivers last minute advice before the race. A sequence of shots of him getting in to his racing suit, and getting into the car, the line up, showing where he is in the starting order. Several portrait style shots of him during the race (from whatever vantage points are available). The driver crossing the finishing line. His reaction post race.

A shoot following this line of thinking would result in a set a photos that would be invaluable to this particular driver, his family, and friends. Books or albums of photos like these seem to earn a big place in someones heart.

Analysis

When someone is competing, or performing in an event they have spent a long time training and preparing for, the become obsessed with how well they perform on the day. This is the opportunity for another type of photography. Analysis photography is concerned with recoding exactly what happened at a very low level. The participants in the event will want to gather the photos, and work out what they need to change before their next event. While doing this sort of event I would once more have a different shot list. A shot a few seconds after the cars have started. Showing the car and the other cars nearest – to show good or bad the start was compared to others. During a difficult corner, several shots showing what part of the road the car is in, allowing the driver to compare the line the took with the line they wanted to take. A sequence of shots in the run up to an overtake, as well as during and after overtaking – the driver and his team can use these later to work out what if there are any opportunities for technique improvement.

These photos are great for anyone who is trying to improve, and wants more information to drive the direction of their training.

Art

Probably the hardest of the 4 different styles. Art photography is about trying to capture photos that have their own aesthetic value. Great lighting, nice composition, a decisive moment, good colours and so on. For this style, its worth having an idea of what are the iconic images associated with this sort of event. With car racing, looking down the straight at all the cars on the start line, the start lights just about to show the beginning of the race. The first few seconds of the race, with the dust and exhaust fumes showing behind the pack of cars, Two drivers, one battling to overtake the other while turning round a tight curve, the sun shining across the photo with a beautiful golden hue.

These photos also have the widest audience you can sell to. Anyone who loves the sport will want to buy these photos. Sponsors will love them for their websites, and glossy magazines. However the standard of photos needed to succeed in art photos is very high, so be prepared to have to spend a lot of time working on your skills first.

As long as you have a clear idea of why you are taking the photos, I’m sure you will produce a coherent set of photos. A collection that work well as a group, and that will have people telling you how they wish they could get photos as good as yours.

What reasons do you have for taking photos when you get to an event? Tell me about them in the comments below.