Describing your Personal Vision

Zoe_WhishawZoe Whishaw is a independent commercial photography consultant and mentor. She works with photographers on a one-to-one basis and runs seminars and workshops in and around London.

How you describe your work and vision as a photographer to a stranger (who unbeknown to you may be in a position to buy your services) or indeed someone to whom you are pitching for work can make the difference between getting an assignment or not.

Even for those photographers with a clear creative vision, this task can seem daunting and many shy away from opportunities where they may need to speak face to face about their work and ideas. Indeed many photographers assume that their work can stand for itself and should be enough to bring in clients. Alas, this may well have been true in the not too distant past, but these days it is more important than ever that your talent and personality shines through your branding which will include any one-to-one contact you have with a potential client, either by phone or in person.

I come across many photographers who would rather walk over hot coals than have to describe their work and creative vision. Yet, who better than you, the photographer, to find the words to describe your excitement, passion and emotion about how you see the world and ideas you may be looking to explore through your work?

How would you feel and what would you say if someone (who might be a potential client) were to ask you what you do? Think about it for a moment…

It’s not uncommon for a sense of panic to set in accompanied by an inexplicable feeling of being exposed or confused about what to say followed by a jumble of words or indeed simply ‘I’m a photographer’. Others may have their ‘spiel’ fluently memorised and can reel it off no problem. These apparently very different responses may in fact have the same effect – switch off the interest from the person who asked the question who then feels none the wiser.

What would hook someone would be a genuine expression of enthusiasm, passion and excitement about your work – what you love to shoot and what you are trying to achieve or explore through your imagery. Remember, you are not trying to ‘sell’ yourself (as though you are a door-to-door salesman, selling something people don’t want), you are tying to express the creative value in what you produce and create a compelling reason for someone to explore your ideas and talent further.

So a compelling ‘pitch’ will be a genuinely motivated, heart-felt and enthusiastic expression of what you do combined with what you believe to be your unique vision and approach, who you aim your work towards and perhaps a current project you are excited by. So long as you are not trying to be theoretical, but genuinely think about what motivates you at best about the work you do, you are much more likely to transfer that enthusiasm on to the listener and provide a richer texture to your work and practice.

Remember, you are likely to have less than a 40 seconds to make an impression, so keep it tight, simple but above all an expression that feels true to life and not akin to something you might have lifted from a text book. Try to explore your own visual language for your work – it may be helpful to get other photographers or professionals in the business to talk to you about your work to help tease out some phraseology that best describes your vision that you may not have thought of.

This is always going to be a journey – what you feel comfortable saying that best describes your work will be constantly changing with time… not least as you get closer to what you feel is the real You photographically-speaking, but also because you are likely to be taking twists and turns in your creative direction. Expect your pitch to change as you discover more about your work and what excites you about personal projects you are exploring.

Try to find occasions to practice your pitch – and expect it not always to be perfect. Each time you say it out loud expect there to be something that can be bettered or expressed in a more compelling way next time. Be critical and ask yourself – would you ask for a business card from this person if you were in a rush and running to catch a train? If not, what would change your mind?


Posted in Photography business | Tagged , ,

The importance of partners

Tricia ScottTricia Scott is the owner of MergeLeft Artist Agents, an agency representing amazing photographers for 20 years in New York City.

Recently, my photographer Dustin was on a podcast called Full Time Photographer. Josh Rossi interviews photographers that are working, making a living, doing what they love. Somewhere in the conversation Josh asks Dustin about having an agent. His response was something along the lines of, I’ve worked harder than ever since signing with MergeLeft.

It reminded me that we all need help, a partner, or partners that move us forward. As a photographer, the end goal is to be the very best you can be, creating work to share with the world that fulfills you. Sometimes you need someone to share in that responsibility. You don’t need to have an agent, but you should have someone that holds you accountable, a sounding board, an idea sharer, or someone to help you keep it all organized. It could be a studio manager, an assistant, a spouse, an intern, or all the above. All photographers work differently, some want more outside involvement than others.

The result of people working together is more successful than working alone. Great professional partnerships are based in communication, trust and respect. Disagreements are fine so long as your end goal is the same. Find people who believe in you and your vision. The best photographs are made as a collaboration between the photographer and the subject, your work behind the scenes should be that way as well. Hard decisions should never be solo decisions. Your work is incredibly personal to you, you may need an outside opinion to be objective about your work, and having a sounding board is helpful and necessary.

Photographers can be a isolated bunch. Many freelancers get up, make coffee, make lists of all the things they need to do, get paralyzed and read Facebook all day. Kidding aside, with the myriad of things that need to be done in a day for a person who owns their own business, it can be daunting and paralyzing. Some photographers are so busy shooting, the other important tasks get swept by the wayside and then become enormous if there are slow times. Either of these types can benefit from a partner or partners. Using a project management system with your partner, such as Google, Evernote, Basecamp, can keep you on track and moving towards goals efficiently.

When you aren’t shooting, you should be researching new personal projects, new clients, and expanding your knowledge of your art and craft. As well as accounting and billing, marketing and social media, meetings, reaching out to new people, interacting with your fellow photographers, and taking care of your health and well being. Some companies have teams of people who do this, you have you. Find someone who can help you make these things less of a chore and more of an everyday occurrence so you are always moving forward.

Having a creative partner to talk ideas through is extremely helpful. Have conversations about ideas for future projects or stories or current projects that need a little stimulation. With a creative partner that has no judgment, when all ideas are on the table for discussion, an amazing solution can be the reward. For some photographers it’s so personal that to hear the ideas out loud, and work through the positives and negatives with an objective person is the most essential part of this relationship.

Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you, who encourage you and push you to be a better photographer and person, it’s one of the best business decisions you’ll ever make.

To quote Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”


Posted in Photography business | Tagged

PhotoDeck integrates with PICTO

A great day for professional photographers in France!

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Complementing our integrations with WHCC (USA) and One Vision Imaging (UK), we are delighted to announce our partnership with PICTO, the leading pro lab in France.

Like with WHCC and One Vision Imaging, this new integration allows PhotoDeck members to offer a wide range of high-quality products to their clients, in just a few clicks. The fulfillment and shipping of orders placed on the photographer’s site are then automatically taken care of.

And like previously, PhotoDeck takes no commission on the photographer’s sales.

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Why Picto ?

We are very happy to work with Picto. Their team is dedicated to quality and to serve the particular needs of professional photographers — just like PhotoDeck. We also love their human values, close to those we stand for.


Posted in PhotoDeck News | Tagged , ,

The shopping module got a facelift!

Making it easier for your customers to purchase multiple items

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We’ve revamped the way the image/video prices are displayed: instead of opening into a new page, the pricing information now opens as a popup to better keep context. this makes it easier for customers to add multiple items to their shopping cart. For example, customers can add images to their cart without leaving the thumbnails page (see screenshot).

We’ve also redesigned the pricing page to make it look more minimalist and modern.

To apply the changes to your PhotoDeck website, all you need to do is click the big blue button in your admin space to upgrade your design to its latest version. Your customization won’t be lost (unless you edited the themes’s HTML/CSS code), and you can make a backup to be on the safe side).


Posted in PhotoDeck News | Tagged , ,

What’s your specialism? Styles and Signposts

Zoe_WhishawZoe Whishaw is a independent commercial photography consultant and mentor. She works with photographers on a one-to-one basis and runs seminars and workshops in and around London.

Aside from being functionally efficient, those looking to commission photography will want a photographer’s website to clearly indicate areas of speciality so they can more easily decide if you’re right for their job.

Are you offering uniqueness based on a specialty (eg adventure travel), access (eg the celebrity world), a skill (eg lighting) or a style/technique/treatment of photography? If possible try to make this brand differentiation based on something that is not easy to replicate. Limiting the scope of what you photograph will help you become more effective at penetrating your markets.

When you start out as a photographer, it often takes time to really work out what you want to express through your work and for your signature style to be evident. In fact your whole life as a photographer could be thought of as a journey spent honing and developing the essence of your visual language. It is this personal vision that demonstrates your love of the medium that ideally you want to be hired to express.

Art Buyers and Photo Editors who are actively commissioning photographers will want to know not just what you can shoot but what you really like to shoot; where your passion and excitement as a photographer lies. They will be looking through dozens of websites every day and if there aren’t clear signposts as to what’s on offer you will be easily overlooked.

In my work it is not uncommon to come across websites that feel muddled and cluttered with too many different image galleries alongside a mixture of styles, treatments and themes. In the end I am left wondering what this photographer’s specialism actually is and, given the confusion, who would want to risk their money hiring them. Today, more than ever, you need to stand out from those who try to be a jack-of-all-trades and show your difference. If you can’t differentiate yourself you’ll be competing on price…and then it’s a race to the bottom.

Ideally you need to show off the work you feel passionate about and aim your marketing towards those who are likely to want to hire you for your style and approach. Here are some thoughts on how to get there:

  1. To define your style, shoot loads and then shoot more. In the early days, don’t stop at a single theme or genre. Experiment with your angles, themes, cameras/lenses, lighting and subject areas. Your preferred area will emerge through this intensive process. Allow for many small mistakes and failures and use them indicate new directions.
  2. Don’t let your website galleries be guided only by what you are being commissioned to shoot especially if much of this isn’t your own personally-motivated speciality area. This can be a big mistake and inadvertently you can mould your offering into something that lacks true passion and self-belief.
  3. Ensure you always have a variety of personal projects on the go at any one time. These may range in scale from very short term almost playful daily explorations to more deeply-researched ideas you feel excited by that last months or even years. Show the best of the work from these projects if you feel it shows a creative progression or successfully demonstrates ideas you have explored.
  4. If you are aiming yourself towards the commercial marketplace give your image galleries clear labels so it is obvious what someone should expect to find (eg Lifestyle, Landscape, Portraits, Travel, etc) and keep the number of galleries to a handful (3 or 4 max). If you are more of a documentary photographer you may choose to show a broad range of tightly edited images from a range of different stories each with their own title accompanied by a short statement explaining the ideas behind each of the projects.
  5. Don’t use your portfolio as a dumping ground for all your work – nobody wants to wade through layers and layers of archive content, not least because of time constraints. Less is more. If you choose to host an archive on your site, make sure it is clearly separate from your portfolio galleries as it has a different purpose. It is still worth ensuring you edit and sequence this older work as you may be judged on its contents also.
  6. Do update your site regularly (2-4 times a year) to showcase strong new personal and commissioned work.

In essence, know what you’re good at; show what you’re good at.

 


Posted in Photography business | Tagged , , , ,

Featured Photographer: Pierre Morel

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Pierre is a professional photographer based in Paris, France. Trained as a photojournalist, he focuses on editorial assignments and portraits both in France and abroad.

In this interview, Pierre shares some secrets about his work.

Don’t miss his PhotoDeck website, www.pierremorel.net!

“My clients like my PhotoDeck site much better than my previous one. They can view it on their tablet or smartphone and that’s essential. They like the site’s simplicity, the fullscreen images, and the fact that it’s well referenced in Google.”


Swatch Skiers Cup 2012 - Valle Nevado, Chile

Where do you live / work ?

I have been living in Europe, in Paris, for 5 years, that’s where my office and flat are located. I travel a lot, especially to the Alps region where I was born, where I have many clients and where I enjoy my main passion: extreme skiing. I also lived in Serbia in year 2012. I checked my shooting days for 2013: one third was abroad, one third in Paris and the last third in the Alps.

How would you describe your photographic style? How does your personal work differ from your paid jobs?

I think that my clients could better describe my style than I can. I know that with time, my main focus point is people, mostly people in their environment. I also enjoy showcasing the “Human comedy” and its absurdity. And I think that I like photographs that are well composed. I am very sensitive to composition, to balance. To the point that I sometimes reject images if the composition is lacking, which can be a problem in editorial where the information is most important.

I don’t consider personal and assignment work in fundamentally different ways, because I simply love shooting. Either personal or commissioned, it’s always photojournalism or portrait. Again, it’s the people side that interests me most.

Ueli Steck

Can you describe your workflow?

If it’s not a news assignment, I take 48 to 72 hours before a first look at my photographs. I always empty my flash cards with LightRoom after a shoot. I also take a first backup to an external HD at the same time. And then I don’t edit the series before this time of rest and reflexion. For some personal series, I can sometimes take months before starting editing. For assignments, I always do a first editing once the images are imported. I keep the decent images and delete the poor ones. Then I edit by elimination (removing the worse) then by selects (giving 2-3 stars to the best ones). In parallel, I also spend a lot of time adding metadata and captioning. A photograph that is not indexed is a lost photograph.

The next steps are standard: raw conversion with presets, either personal or found on the Web, export and delivery via FTP, DVD or email. Then 2 backups on NAS systems with RAID disks, one at the office and another at home. I also always select a few images for my blog, friends and family, or social media. And since I’m often working on several projets at the same time, these steps overlap often. I still have to get better organized and efficient, especially on editing, which takes a lot of my time.

Formation pour adultes à l'école Ferrandi

How would you define your photo business? Who are your clients?

I’m an assignment photographer. 90% of my jobs are commissioned. My activity is half editorial (press) and half corporate. And I like it this way. I had last year about 40 clients. With the press, it’s mainly magazines, daily newspapers, and the Ski press. For corporate, public institutions, a few companies, entertainment shows and communication or event agencies. My clients are currently mostly French, but I’m working to expand internationally.

When and how did you start photography as a business?

I got started March 2008 when my first photograph was published in a national weekly magazine and I was paid as a photojournalist. The next month I registered myself as an independent photographer. I was 20 and just out of a photojournalism school in Paris, the EMI-CFD.

The Color Run Paris 2014

How do you market yourself and your work?

I grew up with the Internet, so having a website and a blog to share what I do is completely natural to me. I can’t live without. It has become my main channel to promote and market myself. Since social media came up, I’ve been using Twitter, Facebook and more recently Instagram. Always to share and show what I do. I enjoy interacting with a community, spreading my images. It’s just a different kind of word-of-mouth. I like using images as a communication channel and leveraging each communication tool’s specificities. I don’t necessarily tell or show the same things on Facebook and Instagram.

I also use traditional tools, business cards, postcard mailings, and I’m working for next year on a 60-page Blurb book in magazine format to give out to photo editors.

Best business decision? Why?

Taking an accountant, 3 years ago. She is specialized in the photo business, a great pro. Each month, I get a detailed business report: billings, costs, profit, or upcoming taxes and mandatory charges. She has helped me stabilize my income and better manage my budget, identifying what worked and what didn’t. She’s also given me a lot of tax tips and helped me understand important details about my status. She has really allowed me to better estimate my work, my prices. With her I gained confidence in my business.

Boris Tadic vote

Worst mistake? What would you have done differently?

Sometimes it’s a mistake to accept work for which you’re not necessarily qualified, and then execute poorly or under too much stress. It happened for example when I accepted to make a video from A to Z. I should have said no, but I’m passionate and I accepted the job. I think the client was happy with the result, but I put myself under huge pressure, I had little skill or gear, and ultimately it was neither profitable nor enjoyable. One has to know when to delegate or say no. You can’t do anything, even if sometimes taking up challenges helps you progress.

How do you see the future?

It’s looking good, I also have a backup business that’s working well (weddings) if the rest falls apart. I do that only during the summer as a buffer. I think understand better and better our profession, I see so many ways to make money that it’s unlikely that I have to stop for economical reasons. There are still many things I am yet to try (exhibitions, print sales, books, project grants, etc…). It’s as many unplayed cards and there are many photographs I want to take. Actually I don’t have time to be pessimist. When you think positively, you free your spirit and dare more. I’m earning more and more, so let’s keep going!

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Any advice for aspiring photographers?

Be eager to learn and get involved in your work. See it as a business, act like a pro and be efficient. Build a virtuous circule around you, meet people with energy or other creatives. Ask for decent pay and show your value. Don’t criticize others, but use them as emulation sources. Think about our profession’s future and stay up-to-date. Information is everywhere, just take it.

What is your current biggest challenge and how are you addressing it?

My challenges have to do with my situation as a freelancer: it’s about staying motivated day in day out, getting organized properly and managing to keep private and work life separate. It’s tough when your job is your passion, especially for a creative job. That’s why I rent an office, why I try to take vacations where I don’t answer emails, or why I turn off the computer and Internet every evening. I try to maintain other hobbies, to clear my head. The best of it is that it makes you even better and more efficient as a photographer.

Spectacle acrobatique de rue

What do you use PhotoDeck for?

For my professional site, I use PhotoDeck first of all for my portfolios, it’s my window. I show what I do best, at a glance, with a mosaic display on my frontpage, then in a more editorial way with assignments and personal projects shown as sequences, image by image.

I also host my archive, which is very well referenced in Google. I have also created a client area to deliver images but I don’t use it much yet. Lastly, my WordPress blog is well integrated design-wise with the site.

I also have another subscription for my wedding site: it’s perfect to share galeries with the grooms online, and to sell prints even if I’m still just testing that. The grooms and their guests can easily download photographs.

Have your clients commented on your website? What did they like?

My PhotoDeck site has been online since the autumn 2013, it’s fairly recent and it keeps evolving. Updates and adjustments are easy and quick to make, it already generates a lot of visits, people come to check my news. My clients love it compared to my previous site. They can view it on their tablet or smartphone and that’s essential. They like the site’s simplicity, the fullscreen images, and the fact that it’s well referenced in Google.

Ski freeride à Arêches-Beaufort

What main problem has PhotoDeck solved for you?

The final argument in favour of PhotoDeck was the possibility to have a site in multiple languages. In my case, it’s French and English. Especially because in France we’re still too bad and reluctant with the English language, it’s important for me to keep a French version. PhotoDeck is one of the very few solutions that allow multilingual sites.

What improvement would you most love to see?

There are several of them: I would like images to appear even faster, or that they’d be preloaded. I would also really like a presentation mode with an horizontal scroll where all images would be preloaded and aligned one with the others. As a photojournalist it’s really important and I think it’s a good way to tell a story.


Posted in Featured photographer |

Major upgrade, with Stripe integration and new uploader

One week after the introduction of our integration with WHCC, we’re bringing you today a new upgrade!

Stripe integration

Members can now use Stripe to receive payments. We love their simple yet powerful interface, and how easy they make it possible to test your setup before going live.

One of the main advantages of using Stripe is that your clients don’t have to leave your website when entering their payment details!

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To use Stripe, you’ll need an account with them. The setup is easy and you’ll find details here.

New uploader

The new uploader allows you to simply drag images from your desktop. Better yet, you can keep adding files while an upload is ongoing!

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And if you need to upload multiple files from an iPad at once, that now works too!

Re-ordering products

It is now also possible to easily re-order products in the WHCC / One Vision pricing profiles – again, simply drag and drop!

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And a major software upgrade

Under the hood, we’ve also rewritten countless lines of code and moved to a newer software framework, to make sure the platform stays up-to-date and benefits from the very latest technologies.

Many days of work with the longer term in mind, but with consequences hopefully invisible to the naked eye for now ;)


Posted in Behind the scenes, PhotoDeck News | Tagged , , , ,

PhotoDeck teams up with WHCC!

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Fantastic news for our American members! We’re very excited to announce that starting today, they can have their print sales automatically fulfilled by the good folks at White House Custom Colour, a leader among US professional printing services.

This follows our previous integration with One Vision Imaging in the UK.

Easy, and with full control

To start selling a wide range of prints and canvas, all you need to do is create a new pricing profile. The products and their prices are naturally easily customizable.

Enabling fully automated fulfillment and delivery is as easy as connecting your PhotoDeck account to your WHCC account.

Best of all, PhotoDeck takes ZERO commission on your sales!

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See our video and step-by-step guide to get started quickly and easily!

Not a PhotoDeck member yet?


Posted in PhotoDeck News | Tagged , , , ,

TIP // Managing your site from a mobile device

The PhotoDeck administration space is a desktop-class file management utility and backend, but that doesn’t mean it’s limited to desktops and laptops. Your administration space retains full compatibility with mobile devices, letting you create and manage your site just like you would on a regular computer.

PhotoDeck on iPad

We sometimes get the question: Can I create and maintain a PhotoDeck website using only an iPad? The answer is yes, with some minor limitations. Due to the nature of web apps, drag-and-drop is not supported, but rearranging thumbnails is still possible using the built-in sorting tools.

Uploading from an iPad

Uploading multiple files requires the Adobe Flash plugin, though individual files can be uploaded using the web uploader. You may also use one of the many available FTP upload apps to put multiple files onto your PhotoDeck account while on the go. So whenever you need to make a change to your site or add a file, you can do so even when you’re on the go.


Posted in PhotoDeck Tips | Tagged , ,

Negotiation 101 for photographers

Tricia ScottTricia Scott is the owner of MergeLeft Artist Agents, an agency representing amazing photographers for 20 years in New York City.

As an agent, one of the top reasons a photographer comes to me is to help them negotiate with clients. A negotiation is defined as a mutual discussion and arrangement of terms of a transaction or agreement. A complaint I hear from photographers is that there is no negotiation, just them agreeing to whatever the client will give them. This doesn’t have to be the case. The best negotiators do their homework and ask questions. The clients who don’t like to give much info typically are not serious about you shooting for them.

You need to know what the goals are in the negotiation. What are both parties needs? Whenever I am approached about a job I ask, what do we want from this job? We have three criteria, and we hope they all apply, but this isn’t always the case. If one of these things is not in the equation, we pass on the job. No reason to negotiate if you aren’t getting something out of it.

  • Money
  • Access
  • Creativity

When you are estimating a job, ask the right questions. Negotiation requires discussion. They have come to you because you can fulfill a need they have. What is that need? What can you do for them that no one else brings to the table?

Things to think about:

  1. Is this is new client or returning client? If it’s a new client, the more questions you ask, the more you will know if are really in the running for the job. Most jobs are triple bid these days, with a few exceptions. Ask who the other photographers are, and who is the favored photographer. Some clients won’t tell you, but most do. This will give you an idea if you are all in the same league. It also will tell you whether they are looking for a “local” photographer, a cheap photographer, or if you are just an additional number.
  2. Ask for the budget. I find that most long time clients will tell you their budgets and ask what can be done. For new clients, if they say they don’t know their budget, try to find out if it’s a 10K job or a 200K job. This can quickly educate you on what type production it’s going to be. Ask about their history of budgets. What have they done in the past? Are they trying to up the ante or just get something done quickly and cheaply? This is also a place where some negotiating can happen so it doesn’t come out of your fees. If they want more than can be afforded, expectations have to be scaled back. Less number of shots, less days, less talent. What can be scaled back so they get the most for their money, and you aren’t feeling taken advantage of? Do you really need a video casting or can you do a stills casting? Can they back off on usage rights to bring costs down on you and the talent? Can you license additional images on the back end?
  3. Make them HAVE to use you. Jobs are awarded to photographers whose numbers are higher if the client really wants to work with them. Your discussions with the client about the job, your knowledge of their product or service and your enthusiasm to collaborate and create together can make the decision to find more money or negotiate with you much more palatable. Even more so if you are an awesome, nice person! And vice versa, if it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, and you have to give a bit to do it, it’s not the end of the world. The three criteria again.
  4. Keep emotions out of it. Your work is personal to you, and putting a value on it is hard. But you run a business.

So first and foremost, know your cost of doing business. What does it cost you to run your business everyday? All money decisions and negotiations should be based on that. Ask other photographers or people in the business. Photographers are a private bunch, not wanting to give away their big secrets, but ask questions, find out what people are charging for certain things if you don’t know.

A few things NOT to consider in negotiations:

The promise of more work, and lots of it. That carrot is nice to think about but it’s not a guarantee. If you can get them to guarantee it in writing, go for it but it’s not a common occurrence.

Bigger fees next time. If they think of you as the cheap photographer once, they always will. Be careful of that. The same goes the other way, if you are immediately thought of as non-negotiable and way too expensive, you might get passed up on a great project that has a tight budget but great access or amazing photos.

In the end, you should walk away from a negotiation feeling good about how it was resolved, and both parties should feel content with the decisions. The goal is to make great photographs, make money, make the client happy, and enjoy it. And always over deliver. That will certainly put you in the “worth more money” category. Win-win.


Posted in Photography business | Tagged , ,