Cash from your Nikon
Chris Rutter explores how other businesses can provide work for your photographic one
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 Indeed.com. 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