Wednesday, April 23, 2014

No More 8x10s for $20 Please

While I have been working my endless nights revamping my new business brand and website, pricing has to come into mind. How much should I be charging for services and prints? As my business and skills go up I'm asking my self "Do my prices have to go up too?" Well, yes, they do. For many years my prices have been at or even below fair market value (at least I think so). I can even go so far as to say that I have even been told  by just about very client how I actually charge too little ... they feel like they got me for a steal ... they were so lucky to have gotten me at that price ... I can't believe you are practically giving your services away ... you should be charging more ... your work is worth waaayyy more ... I would have happily paid double ...

The list of raves over my past pricing is endless. Or at least until now. With the upcoming new website which will be mobile friendly (can I get a Yippie!!) a new pricing structure must follow. For many years I have charged a modest flat rate for my services and offered a CD of the full sized JPEGs to go with them. Easy peasy .. sometimes I might even take in a small print order for a few 4x6's or perhaps an 8x10.

I shoot. You pay. I burn. Your done.

And that was that. The problem, however, came to light after the CD & prints were delivered. The families loved the images. Boasted and bragged on Facebook for a few days, hopefully a full week, and then POOF ... all the magic was gone. The modest session fee was already used up in running this business with no hope of residual income from the shoot. Besides, why should I have hoped people would order their prints from me? Most people are not print purists like me and will not recognize the difference in quality prints unless they were specifically shown it. They are happy to have a mediocre quality image on their walls just to full the space. (the horror!) But in all honesty, most of those CDs of images just end up getting thrown in the top drawer of a desk or in a box and all that beauty and hard work gets suffocated and the eventually forgotten about. (Ghasp) So at the end of the month I'm struggling to figure out why we are broke .. again ...

So lets consider some things .. and lets do some math together. I found some great articles on pricing for profit (yes, I said for profit! It is not a four-letter word if this business is intended to pay my bills, put food on our table and get the kids through college). One great article is on How Much it takes to Start a Photography Business. While I am not a start up business like that article talks about, the final numbers that they come up with are a fair evaluation on how much I put into this business every year .. actually, I think the $13,981 – $17,776 numbers are on the low side of how much I spend .. but that's for another post.

Now lets talk about prints and the all elusive cost of doing business. In the past I was happy to sell my 8x10s for a modest $20-$25 (along with many other photogs out there) and I was happy to be charging that. We all know the average cost of this popular size print and so like many other photographers I was happy with that fee ... or was I? At the end of every month I'd sit down with my hubby and look at our business finances and ask "Why am I still putting money into this business? What happened to the profits from that last shoot? What is going on here? Where has all the money gone?"

My husband and I spent many of sleepless nights doing research and talking about this very topic. And overwhelmingly I kept running into the same blindingly bright truth. If I want to make a living on this business and be serious about it then I have to start charging serious prices. Period.

Lets consider that 8x10 ... (If you are an aspiring photographer that wants to make a go at this business the I suggest you bust out your pen & paper pad ... this is important

I found a posting on a blog called The Photo Forum, and it was the shortest and clearest explanation I can share with ya ... I'm paraphrasing a bit here but the posting goes on to say that the place to start is first to consult your business plan, figure out what your costs are. What does it cost to do a session? (We already went over that earlier in my post)  Including wear at tear on gear, web hosting, labor, including yours. Then figure out your cost to produce the products, Let's use a standard 8x10 print for example.

1/2 hr retouching @ $40 hr $ 20.00 (If only I did pay myself $40 an hour!)
1 8x10 print from lab $ 2.00
Packaging for said print $ 3.00 (my pro lab charges more than double that but we'll just go with this for now)


So direct item costs perhaps $25.00. Now add in your fixed costs, phone, rent, electric, insurance, everything else, divide by the number of sales/session you expect to get a fixed cost of doing business per sale, let's say $16. Ok, so producing that 8x10 print for sale costs me $41, now add a typical retail profit, perhaps $20, so round it off to $60 ... hopefully more ...


Yes, you read that right ... $41. It's no wonder why I was still sinking money into the business every month if that $2 8x10 was COSTING me $41 each time ...

Like many of you readers I used to look at other photographers sites and see the much higher prices they were charging and I'd say to my self that they were crazy for charging so much for an 8x10 (some prices I have seen are in the mid-three digits). Why would they be gouging folks for a product that only cost $2.00? 

Well, now we all know that the $2 notion has been thrown out the window. I look at things now and think to myself how can I NOT charge more if I want to support my family? Heck, how about 
"How can I not charge more if I don't want to take away money from my own bank account every time I just give away a print?" because just looking at the math, that $20 8x10 was being GIVEN away and I was even PAYING my clients to take it form me! That's just crazy! No wonder my bank account keeps dwindling down!

If you are an aspiring photographer thinking that the $20 8x10 was a great deal, things are looking a little different right now aren't they? Suddenly that phrase " I can't believe you are practically giving your services away" is starting to ring true isn't it. Not only was I giving my business away (and then some) I was taking away from my family. Taking my time and their money away. Well, no more.

Sorry to have gotten on a tangent here and I apologize for being so long winded but I just needed to clarify a few things with my readers and loyal customers here. While I have loved working with each and everyone here and I have equally loved offering my services and prints at what I thought was fair and profitable prices I felt that it was only fair to you all to explain the upcoming pricing changes that will be included with my new web page launch. It is my strongest desire to be a serious full time photographer again and quit my J-o-b in the near future but with that goal some serious changes must happen too. There will be some noticeable changes in my pricing structures for sure but you know one thing that wont change? My quality of work and my wonderful customer service. Sure, I might be pricing myself out of the marked for some clients and I'm sorry for that, but for those others that truly value quality and want heirloom quality images that will be passed on from generation to generations (can't say the same about that $2000 sofa can ya?) I will be here with camera in hand, ready to make you and your family look fabulous!

So until then, keep you eyes peeled for that new website and I can't wait to shoot you soon!!

Hugs, E.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

See the Light Workshop is HERE!!!!

It's here! It's Here! Sunday May 4th!!! 9-noon!!
Learn how Erika shoots on-location in natural lighting using little to no lighting equipment. This hands on 3 hour workshop will show ALL of Erika’s tricks on how to “See the Light” in your own photography.

Designed for beginners & intermediate enthusiasts or future professional photographers so a DSLR with basic usage knowledge is required to attend this course. Students will be photographing models with professionally done hair & makeup by a good friend of mine, the awesome LatricaSchnepf. This workshop will come complete with print releases from your models for your portfolio.

This is my 3rd season of doing this workshop and I have heard many questions over the years so let’s go over them ..

  1. Does it matter what brand of camera I have?
 Nope! Even though my preferred camera is a Canon (sorry all you Nikon babies!) you will still be able to learn. As long as you have a general idea of how to work your camera body I can teach you how to better use it.

  1. What if I only have one lens?
 Again, no problem. Interestingly enough I started this business over 10 years ago and for many of those years all I had was the kit 35-125mm lens. (ghasp ... did I really just say that outloud!?!? LOL!)

  1. If this is truly a natural lighting workshop, would I still need to bring a flash to attend this course?
 Again, the answer is no ... Sort of. I will explain in great detail how I almost NEVER use a flash on location. That’s not to say that I might not bring out my on camera flash to show you a few tricks so I’d strongly urge you to bring along your flash just in case! (Don’t forget to bring batteries for it!)

  1. Are you really going to share ALL your tips & secrets with the class?
 YEP! Totally! I will become your open book and reveal every little trick and tip I know. In fact, here’s one freebee little tip for ya now ..  Did you know that bright cloudless days are the absolute WORST to shoot in? If not then this class might be just for you!

  1. Why would you give away all of your secrets? Aren't you afraid that you might lose business if one of your students go pro?
 Not at all!! In fact, I have had SEVERAL of my students bravely take off their hobbiest hat and turn their photography passion into a money generating career for them selves and I’d like to think I helped get them there!! Nothing makes me prouder than to see someone blossom in a skill that they love and nothing gives me more joy than thinking that I might have given them a helping hand on their path to happiness. Besides, think of it another way … you could put 3 of the top chiefs in a kitchen together with the same tools and ingredients and ask them to make something simple like a cole slaw. At the end of the day I bet you would get to taste 3 amazing and totally different versions … perhaps sweet … possibly salty … I personally favor the kind with vinegar! It’s all on how each of the chiefs interpret the dish. In the case of photography, it’s all on how we see things through the lens. So you see, there is no real reason for me to hold back in my teachings. We all shoot differently; we all see things differently; we all have our different reasons for picking up a camera so why not HELP anyone that I can on the way to shooting better? … just don’t forget my cole slaw with vinegar when you are buying me a dinner after you have made it big time as a photographer! ;)
                       

  1. What happens after the workshop? Do the lessons end there?
 Of course not! Once the class is over I encourage every single one of my students to go home and share their pics with me via FB. From there the lessons continue as I give you constructive feedback on what you have shown me. To me this is one of the most important aspects of the workshop. After all, what good does it do ya if when you see the images on your computer screen but are still needing to understand what you’re looking for in post?

  1. OK, talking about post work, is it really true that you don’t edit in Photoshop? Are we going to learn that too?
 Why yes, and yes! If you have ever met me or anyone that has worked with me, they would all be able to tell you the same thing  .. “Erika doesn’t edit.” Hence the whole “See the Light” thing. I firmly believe that if you can force yourself to see the lighting and act as if you are shooting on film then you HAVE to learn how to properly shoot without having to edit. Now don’t get me wrong, I have my fair share of fun playing with actions and presets in the computer but you have to be working off of a strong image 1st in order for you to come out with a stunning image afterwards. If the lighting is all wrong, or the positioning of the model is unflattering then all the Photoshop edits in the world won’t be able to save a bad image. You have to get it right ‘in the can’ first.

  1. What if I just can’t make this class?
       Don’t worry, I won’t leave you hanging in the dark, their will be more workshops in the future. In fact,          I’ve even had a few students take the class more than once just so they could experience the lessons in          a new location! (You guys know who you are! Love ya!)



So, the next question is coming from me? What are you waiting for!?!? If you want to learn how to take better photos outdoors either for fun or profit then this is a must-do workshop! Space is limited and will only be available to those that have pre-paid for the course via Paypal. So when you are serious and are ready to take your imagery to the next level, then send an email to erikathephotographer@gmail.com to be sent your Paypal invoice.

STILL not sure if this class is for you? Just take a look at some of these sample images I shoot during classes in the past!

(PS, these classes all had the misfortune of being a full-sun type of day but not as if you could tell it by looking at these images .. and that's my point! I will show you how to 'See the Light' like this! I hope you decide to join this workshop! Email me ASAP for your invoice link!









A bit of Foreign Fun!

A little over a week ago I had the pleasure to photograph one of the sweetest high school students that I have ever met. Miss Emily is originally from Japan and I instantly discovered that we are lucky that she's gracing our country as an exchange student this year. During the course of her shoot, her American dad explained to me that Emily was extremely nervous all day leading up to the shoot.

Had he not said anything to me, I'd never have a clue to her camera apprehensions ... she acted like a total pro and photographed like a dream!







Monday, April 14, 2014

Budding trees

Everyday that I drive home down 40 in Blue Springs I pass a nursery. Across the street from this nursery they have a fabulous grove of trees. Currently the saplings are beginning to shake the winter chill and welcome the Spring with blossoms of white, pink & purple. Never having shot them before I just had to take my camera & daughter out to play just before sunset. Here's what we got!






I did time this shoot at an hour before sunset so that I could hopefully get some beautiful back lighting on my daughter. However, when we got on site I found that the setting sun set was getting obstructed too much by the trees. Since I was going to be so far away for my subject, and that I was going to have her walking towards me I had to figure out how to pop some oh-so needed light on the dim side of her face. Solution? Have my son hold a reflector to her side and mirror her walking path.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Re-branding? Yes or no?

That is my question! While I am getting settled into my new city and new surroundings I have started to wonder where will my photography take me? Or better yet, where should I take it? Starting a business all over in a new city is definitely challenging in many ways but mostly I have found my self looking into my brand .. my style .. my look ... my future.

This shouldn't be a big surprise to me personally because I normally take time to reevaluate things and ultimately re-do my website every 2 or 3 years. Showing a different look on the internet isn't so much a marketing strategy to get more business (although that never hurts!) but rather it's to show my movement and evolution as an artist. As I sit and ponder where my camera has taken me I find my self referring to a quote by comedian Bill Hicks,

"We are the facilitators of our own creative evolution."

To me that means that no one else can evolve for us. We make our own journey .. our own future. Think about it. Consider the person you were back in high school .. in college. Are you the same? Would you WANT to be the same? Hopefully your answers are a resounding 'Heck NO!'

Without a doubt I am grateful for the photographer that I was in the past, for without that person I would not be the artist I am today. But what I think is even more important is that we should never stop considering the person that is to be in our future. Questions come to mind like "Do I like who I see in the future? Would I really want to get to know that person? Am I better for knowing them?" 
If while answering these questions I possibly hear a No coming then it's time to reevaluate .. again.

Considering my photography business in this way helps me to better understand my vision through the lens. It helps me gain insight on how I can better ad value and importance to my clients. Both professionally and personally. It is becoming more and more obvious that the person behind the camera is ultimately more important to my clients. There are so many other photographers saturating the market these days (some good, some still honing their skill sets) that a persons' decision making on choosing the one for them ultimately comes down to the person behind the magic. When you put aside price, when you put aside package sizes, when you put aside CDs or not-to Cds, what does a valued customer look for? What to do they mean to me as a client?

And that is where all of this self evaluation leads to. How is that artist in the future better than the one I see standing in front of the mirror today?

Where is all of this going to? Well, in a word .. re branding. Ok, so that's actually two words but you get my meaning. As I challenge myself to push myself to become better I implore my readers to do the same. Look within yourself & your art and ask those hard and digging questions. Then when you have begun to answer them to yourself, don't just bottle it in .. SHARE it with us! After all, I'd love for our future selves to eventually meet and possibly talk about the days of old!

E.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Talk about Yin to the Yang!

Today I found myself needing to mail a letter so off to the post office I go, envelope in hand. In the back of my head I was remembering that I had heard that the postage stamp rate had gone up ... again ... but when did stamps get up to 49 cents!?!?!

This shock suddenly threw me into a realization that yes, the days of hand mailing out letters and bills truly are gone. It's oh-so evident in the understanding that the poor postal service has had to raise the cost of a stamp so high. I can remember for all of my childhood and then into my 20's when stamps were only a quarter. Always had been and was secure in my thoughts that they would most likely always will be.

Boy, was I wrong. Growing up everyone new the price of a stamp. Easy. But I bet you now that if I could stand in front of our kids classrooms and ask them what the going rate was to mail a letter I'd be answered with a bunch of blank stares to the sound of crickets.

(By the way, just as a refresher course, here's what a stamp looked like when I was growing up! Who out there remembers this look!?!?!)






So now lets go back to the title of this blog post, Yin to the Yang. You might be wondering where is the Yin Yang is that I am talking about? Let me take this moment to get to that.

As I'm standing at the postal counter in sticker shock it dawns on me that I don't even have two coins to rub together. As I scrounge through the innards of my purse for the two elusive quarters I am suddenly hit with another epiphany ...

I don't even carry cash anymore!

I mean, like NEVER! If you think about it, who really does anymore. We are all living neck deep into the world of plastic nowadays. And so much to the clerks dismay we had to try and see if I could run a debit card for 45cents ... we could, but I know for a fact I served up that signature with a healthy dose of blush on my cheeks!

And there's my Yin-to-the-Yang. What realization hit me the hardest today? My sticker shock on a postage stamp or the amazement in the knowledge that I also no longer deal in cash transactions, no matter how small!

What are your thoughts?
Am I the only one going crazy here?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The ABC's Challenge .. again!

Good Gawd, somebody help me! I have that itch to do my self-imposed ABC's Challenge again!
It's a daily exercise for myself to get me to step out of the box for a while and get the creative juices flowing. The fun is not only to find a creative idea for each letter, but also, how to shoot them! Every day (Mon-Fri) I have to represent the next letter in the ABCs! Fun Fun!

Now mind you, I have already done this challenge twice. Once, just to see if i could do it. Then a second time my husband challenged me to do the challenge with nothing but my favorite little toy, I mean lens, The Lensbaby! I say help me because this challenge always takes the help of my entire family. Coming up with unique and SHOOTABLE letters is half the challenge itself! It requires countless hours of brainstorming and planning. Usually when I'm out and about with the family someone will get an inspirational thought and just blurt it out ... "How about Delightful? ... How could you shoot Obsolete? ... Wonder if you could find an old tire? ...

Things like that. Now WE know what this random spark of conversation is about but to the rest of the world next to us I'm sure we look like a family with a serious case of turrets! The trick we have also found out is to not run out of creative momentum ... especially when we are on letter P or R ... this challenge really is a test of creativity and perseverance.

For this next challenge that's rolling around in my head, I'm thinking I want to push myself and shoot it all in ONE day at ONE location. Crazy right? Well, it's crazy to me when you consider that it has taken me 2-3 weeks to shoot my last two challenges. So, shooting it in one day? At one location? ... Possibly all in Instagram? YIKES! Perhaps i should just stick with my first two parameters ... then again, it wouldn't be a true challenge if I didn't push myself!

Here's a few exmaples of the ABC's Challenge Two ... the Lensbaby challenge ... These images are the letters of my first name ... OHHHH ... OHHHH ... A letter challenge of nothing but letters!!!!

(Someone must really stop me now before I hurt myself! LOL!)








Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Learning new things

So as I'm sitting here sipping my morning coffee (and it's way to early in the morning for me!) I'm trying to create all these links, tabs, pages and other things to my different sites and it dawns on me that I have no idea what I'm doing! LOL!
Ok, so that's not entirely true but working with all the codes and links can sometimes be a bit daunting. Now mind you, I do consider myself to be a bit computer savvy ... after all I was majoring in computer science in college back when the dinosaurs walked the earth, but do you ever feel like you need to be a rocket scientist sometimes to figure out all this stuff?

I will say that the best way that I personally  have figured out this stuff, besides trail and error (mostly error!) is by watching videos on line. It seams that for very techie thing you want to master, there's probably 50 how-to videos on how to do it. I usually watch a video in it's entirety first and then open the video in another pop-up box, hit replay and then have it playing along side as I go through the steps myself. Perhaps that little tip might work for you as well.

But don't stop there! I have also learned a lot of what I know through books . A LOT of books and I'll let you in a little secret here ... don't always run straight to the big name brand  book retailers. It is always good practice to train your car to make detours at your local donation shops first like a Salvation Army, Goodwill, Savers, Red Racks ... whatever. These awesome little stores are usually all over town, you just need to know where to look for them. Take my 35 mile daily route to work for example. If I go straight to work I pass no less than 3 donation type stores everyday. Now if I were to invest in taking a little 3-4 mile detour on that trip I now have over 6 stores to shop at. What a delight!

I'm a little partial to Salvation army only because those great folks hired me to photograph former First Lady Mrs. Laura Bush at their special induction event back in San Antonio. Which, by the way, don't ever stand in front of a First Lady and explain to her that you will be the one to "Shoot & Flash" her throughout the day. I found out the hard way that the Secret Service tends to frown upon that kind of announcement! But I digress!




When it comes to books in these types of resale shops, most of the times there isn't much technology related stuff and usually if you do  find something on computers it will most likely be on how to reformat your old commodore (Did I just throw a few of us back into a time warp with that one!??!)


BUT, if you are lucky, you just might find a news-worthy publication that can help ya. I find that even if you find a book that has about 2-3 useful tips for ya between it's covers, you probably will have only spent under $5 for that newly found knowledge. PLUS you helped out a worthy cause by patronizing a store with a great cause.
So cant' you see? It's a Win Win all the way around. And even more, I always like to think that a house full of books is a happy home :)

In conclusion, the next time you want to learn something, hit YouTube and then go run to your nearest thrift shop.

Oh, and one more thing ... please share with me what you have learned! Inquiring minds want to know! (HA!!! Bet I threw some of you back again with that!)