Cash from your Nikon

Chris Rut­ter ex­plores how other busi­nesses can pro­vide work for your pho­to­graphic one

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Dis­cover how to make money tak­ing pho­to­graphs for lo­cal busi­nesses, what­ever your per­sonal style

From restau­rants to man­u­fac­tur­ing and ser­vice com­pa­nies, wher­ever you live there will be busi­nesses close by that could be a po­ten­tial source of in­come. Even if they’re not selling prod­ucts, com­pa­nies can al­ways use photos. Busi­nesses sup­ply­ing ser­vices, for ex­am­ple, could want any­thing from sim­ple head shots of their em­ploy­ees to ar­chi­tec­tural im­ages of their premises and lo­ca­tion, or even im­ages for fly­ers.

The type and style of the im­ages re­quired will vary con­sid­er­ably from com­pany to com­pany, so the first thing you need to do is iden­tify the type of shots that you are able to sup­ply. There’s no point of­fer­ing to do prod­uct shots, for ex­am­ple, if you don’t have ad­e­quate light­ing and back­grounds to hand, while if re­portage-style pho­tog­ra­phy is your strength you could be just what an events com­pany is in need of.

Get­ting started

While you can start look­ing for clients im­me­di­ately, if you don’t have any ex­pe­ri­ence of this type of pho­tog­ra­phy you’ll need to build up a port­fo­lio of im­ages that you can use to im­press po­ten­tial clients. If you are em­ployed by a com­pany al­ready, you can start by ask­ing if they need any pho­tog­ra­phy – your em­ployer might need up­dated photos for an in­tranet, for ex­am­ple. This is a con­ve­nient way to get started, but make sure that you have a clear idea of what is ex­pected of you, and whether it is done in your ex­ist­ing hours (in which case you are un­likely to get any pay­ment), or done out­side of you nor­mal work­ing hours (for which you should get com­pen­sated ac­cord­ingly).

Char­i­ta­ble begin­nings

An al­ter­na­tive ap­proach to gain­ing ex­pe­ri­ence with­out the pres­sure of shoot­ing for pay­ing clients is to start by shoot­ing im­ages for lo­cal char­i­ties. Many char­i­ties need

pro­mo­tional im­ages of their events, shots for their web­sites and even por­traits of their staff, but don’t have the cash to pay pro­fes­sional rates for them. This is where you can help them out, while you gain some ex­pe­ri­ence and con­fi­dence shoot­ing im­ages to a spe­cific brief. Just be aware that you may still need to meet some ba­sic cri­te­ria, and you may also need to un­dergo a crim­i­nal records check if the char­ity is one that works with young or vul­ner­a­ble peo­ple.

Prod­uct spotlight

Show­ing off their prod­ucts or ser­vices is a key way that your pho­tog­ra­phy can be use­ful to lo­cal busi­nesses. From per­fectly-lit stu­dio shots of the com­pany’s prod­ucts, to the more cre­ative and arty im­ages of­ten used by cafés and restau­rants to show­case their food and drink, there are loads of op­por­tu­ni­ties for you to sell your pho­tog­ra­phy ser­vices.

Look for op­por­tu­ni­ties and busi­nesses that suit the type of im­ages that you can pro­duce. For ex­am­ple, lo­cal restau­rants, cafés and bars are all great places to start if you have suit­able ex­pe­ri­ence. This type of sub­ject is of­ten shot on lo­ca­tion, as they will need to pro­duce the food for you to shoot, so you don’t have to have your own stu­dio space.

But if you do have a home stu­dio, you are per­fectly placed to shoot many small prod­ucts or items pro­duced by lo­cal com­pa­nies such as jew­ellery and craft items, or small masspro­duced ar­ti­cles. This can be eas­ier than shoot­ing prod­ucts on lo­ca­tion, as you’ll be able to shoot them at a time that’s con­ve­nient for you.

Note that if you are shoot­ing high-value prod­ucts, you’ll need to make sure that you have suit­able in­sur­ance in place to cover any pos­si­bil­ity of loss or dam­age. In these sit­u­a­tions you may need to shoot the items at the com­pany’s premises, so you will need to have ac­cess to a por­ta­ble stu­dio.

Head shots

Hav­ing pro­fes­sional, stylish im­ages of their team mem­bers or em­ploy­ees will make any firm’s web­site ap­pear more per­sonal and ap­proach­able, and this is an area where your por­trait skills can re­ally come into their own. With a ba­sic knowl­edge of light­ing, pos­ing and back­ground choice, you can sell your ser­vices to a wide range of busi­nesses.

There are sev­eral dif­fer­ent styles of head shot that you can of­fer, depend­ing on the type of busi­ness that you are look­ing to shoot for. A more for­mal, stu­dio style por­trait will suit some big busi­nesses, while a smaller op­er­a­tion might pre­fer a more in­for­mal style us­ing avail­able light and even in­clud­ing the premises or lo­ca­tion of the busi­ness as a back­drop.

So­lu­tions and ideas

When ap­proach­ing com­pa­nies you should try to find out as much as pos­si­ble about their prod­ucts and busi­ness, and also

the type of im­ages they al­ready use. If the com­pany al­ready has some great im­ages on its web­site, the chances are that you are go­ing to strug­gle to get much work from that firm un­less you can pro­duce im­ages that are bet­ter suited to its needs or have a unique twist.

It’s bet­ter to look for those com­pa­nies which aren’t mak­ing the most of the photos or im­ages on their web­sites or in their pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial. This doesn’t mean that you should sim­ply go in and com­ment on the ex­ist­ing im­ages, as the per­son you need to deal with may have sourced these im­ages (or they may have even taken the im­ages them­selves). But you need to give them a rea­son to use your ser­vices. So, try and ex­plain how your im­ages will help to im­prove the ap­pear­ance or style of the web­site or pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial.

How you ap­proach this will de­pend on the type and size of the com­pany, and also the type of im­ages it is al­ready us­ing. For ex­am­ple, if it’s a small com­pany which is us­ing stock im­ages for its pro­mo­tional ma­te­rial, hav­ing be­spoke im­ages will help to give the com­pany a more per­sonal and in­di­vid­ual ap­pear­ance, which may ap­peal more to cus­tomers. On the other hand, if it’s a larger com­pany which is al­ready us­ing be­spoke pho­to­graphs, you will need to iden­tify how you could im­prove on them, such as giv­ing a more con­sis­tent ap­pear­ance to prod­uct im­ages or head shots through­out the com­pany.

Be­ing pro­fes­sional

Shoot­ing for any busi­ness, no mat­ter how small, will mean that you will be deal­ing with a pro­fes­sional client, so you need to ap­proach it in a busi­ness-like man­ner. Ask­ing around friends and fam­ily is a good place to start look­ing for cus­tomers, but even when ap­proach­ing peo­ple that you know, hav­ing a good ba­sic set-up will help you con­vince them that you will do a good job. You should have a few ba­sic things in place be­fore you start ap­proach­ing busi­nesses. Things such as busi­ness cards, a port­fo­lio and even a web­site will all help you ap­pear more pro­fes­sional than sim­ply turn­ing up and of­fer­ing your ser­vices.

Once you have a book­ing, make sure that you have a ba­sic agree­ment or con­tract in place so that both you and your client un­der­stand ex­actly what you are ex­pected to pro­vide, and by when. With a small busi­ness that you al­ready know this can be a sim­ple ver­bal con­tract, but it’s usu­ally best to get this in writ­ing, to avoid any dis­agree­ments later on. With any larger busi­ness get­ting a writ­ten con­tract is vi­tal, in­clud­ing the pay­ment terms, time scales and even copy­right own­er­ship of the fi­nal re­sults.

You’ll also need to make sure that you have suit­able in­sur­ance. Many busi­nesses will re­quire you to have public li­a­bil­ity in­sur­ance. This cov­ers you against claims by any third party for any dam­age or loss while you are shoot­ing.

Things such as busi­ness cards, a port­fo­lio and even a web­site will all help you ap­pear more pro­fes­sional than sim­ply turn­ing up and of­fer­ing your ser­vices

Other opp or­tu­ni­ties

Get­ting work with busi­nesses and com­pa­nies will rely as much on your selling and in­ter­per­sonal skills as it will on your pho­to­graphic abil­i­ties, so you need to make sure that you are happy ap­proach­ing and selling your pho­tog­ra­phy with the type of clients that you ap­proach. This strat­egy isn’t for ev­ery­one, though, and there is another way that you can get work in this type of mar­ket. A few com­pa­nies, such as car deal­er­ships, online re­tail­ers and es­tate agents ad­ver­tise for free­lance pho­tog­ra­phers on job sites such as In­ These are usu­ally paid per item or job, although oc­ca­sion­ally it will be paid at a day rate. This type of work will of­ten be quite repet­i­tive, and you won’t be paid as well as you would on most com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­phy jobs, but they are a good op­tion if you’re just start­ing out or don’t have the time or skills to start pitch­ing for cus­tomers on your own.

How much time

will it take?

Get­ting a few pho­to­graphic jobs for busi­nesses owned by friends or fam­ily might only take a few weeks to ar­range and com­plete, but once you move into the broader mar­ket­place you’ll need to in­vest a lot more time and ef­fort to make busi­ness pho­tog­ra­phy worth­while. Just like any ser­vice busi­ness, gain­ing a good rep­u­ta­tion for the qual­ity of your work, re­li­a­bil­ity and trust­wor­thi­ness will take a lit­tle while longer.

With a bit more ef­fort it should take around six months to start hav­ing suc­cess shoot­ing for smaller lo­cal com­pa­nies, while get­ting larger busi­ness clients can take years of work as they will of­ten only deal with es­tab­lished pho­tog­ra­phers that they know they can trust to pro­duce high-qual­ity im­ages on time and to a spe­cific brief.

How much money

can you make?

There are many ways that you can charge for your pho­to­graphic ser­vices, depend­ing on the type of client and the work in­volved. Many com­mer­cial pho­tog­ra­phers will charge a day rate, or part-day rate, for most jobs. The rate for this can be any­where be­tween £150 and £500 a day depend­ing on your ex­pe­ri­ence, the type of job and even the type of client you are shoot­ing for. Al­ter­na­tively, you might want to charge a set fee for the job, or if you’re go­ing to be shoot­ing prod­ucts it might be bet­ter to charge per item.

The rates that you can charge will vary con­sid­er­ably, from a few pounds per item if it’s a sim­ple set-up to shoot, to tens or even hun­dreds if you need to spend a few hours set­ting up the light­ing or lo­ca­tion.

Cafés and restau­rants can al­ways use good-qual­ity food pho­to­graphs – turn to page 8 for a mas­ter­class!

If you’re pitch­ing to com­pa­nies who will need prod­uct shots, make sure you have good ex­am­ples in your port­fo­lio. You can find lots of ob­jects to shoot in char­ity shops

Shoot­ing new em­ploy­ees regularly? Use your own back­drop for con­sis­tency

Food pho­tog­ra­phy will of­ten need to be done on lo­ca­tion, and will need to be styled to match the es­tab­lish­ment’s at­mos­phere

Just start­ing out? Try do­ing pro­mo­tional shots for new busi­nesses. They’ll get photos, you’ll get ex­pe­ri­ence, and they will know who to come to as the firm grows

As well as more styled shots, if you’re pho­tograph­ing ob­jects it’s worth hav­ing some on white back­grounds in your port­fo­lio, as firms will want these for online shops

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