Monthly Archives: April 2016

Finding Inspiration

Yesterday I visited the National Gallery of Victoria here in Melbourne, Australia to see the Andy Warhol and Ai Weiwei exhibition. What a place for finding inspiration! I hadn’t gone with that intent, but I walked away inspired. Here are the things that I found compelling.


The work. There was a huge volume of work on display. The exhibition was spread across different rooms, each laid out with a different theme and displaying work from both artists. Here was two bodies of work built over years of these artists expressing their creative vision. Sometimes I see photographers dipping into the photography and the business of photography – it was clear from the body of work on display that these artists were dedicated to art and expressing their vision. They worked at it. They kept coming up with new projects. They made those projects come alive. Again and again.

The medium. It was really interesting to see the different mediums used by these 2 artists. There were photographs, sculptures, video material … the list goes on. It was fascinating to see work by artists who were not defined by a single medium. They worked across a range of mediums to express their vision.

The crowd. Yesterday was the last day of the exhibition and it was inspiring to see that the gallery was completely full of people. Sometimes I hear photographers making excuses that people aren’t interested in printed products any more, that some how the digital age had brought that to an end. Yesterday I saw hundreds of people who had traveled out of their way, and paid to get in to see a range of real artistic projects. Cool people looking at cool art, in big numbers.

bicycle artThe building and architecture. I have been to the gallery before, but haven’t been influenced by the building architecture and design as much as I was yesterday. After coming through the entrance there is a huge artwork made of bicycle frames. It is very cool. It is visible from most of the escalators which snake up through the building giving really interesting angles of this artwork.

The artists influence. It is inspiring to see the mainstream influence these artists had or have. Andy Warhol is well known and his work in the 60’s and 70’s particularly has had a big impact on American culture. Ai Weiwei is still influencing Chinese culture and society. How very cool that the Chinese government shut down his blog, so he turned it into a printed book containing all his previous blog posts. I haven’t read the book yet, but it is now on my list of books to read.

How is this relevant to your photography business? To me, seeing a great exhibition like this is inspiring. It is most useful to photographers who are going through tough times to know:

  • Art is appreciated by huge numbers of people. If you are struggling to find clients, it is the message you are presenting not the absence of potential customers. Seeing hundreds of people at yesterday’s exhibition was a great reminder for me.
  • Art touches people. Your art might not touch people on a national or international stage, but it will touch your clients. If you’ve ever presented wedding images and had the bride or the bride’s mother in tears of happiness looking at the images you’ve created – you will know what I mean. Remember when you are creating and presenting images, the images are very important to your client.
  • There’s many different ways to success. Hearing and seeing the different stories of these two artists was another reminder that each artist finds different ways to express their work. And so it is in the business of photography. There is no single, sure-fire way to success. There are definitely common elements, but each photographer is getting there in their own unique way. Don’t try to copy others path to success, focus on creating the one that suits you.

Thanks for reading, Finding Inspiration.

National Gallery of VictoriaNational Gallery of Victoria

Five Photography Business Reminders

I like to read blogs about photography, and I particularly like 2 blogs about the business side of photography. They help to give me a different perspective on the things I like to write about, and to discuss with other photographers. This week, reading the two blogs prompted me about five photography business reminders. They are five key points that are easy to talk about, but hard to do when you are starting out. So if you have recently got underway, see if you can adopt these five photography business reminders into your own business. And if you’ve been operating for some time, will challenging yourself on these five points make your business stronger?

Reminder #1 – Put the client first. Building a successful photography business is about creating a long list of happy clients. It doesn’t matter what you are shooting, the key to business success is having happy clients. Put the client first. This business is not about you feeling important, it’s not about your fancy equipment, it’s not about how many likes you get on Facebook – it’s about the client. Keep creating happy clients.


Give your clients reasons to be jumping for joy. Happy clients makes successful photo businesses.

Reminder #2 – When it goes wrong, do whatever it takes to make it right. No business goes so smoothly that every client is completely happy. No matter how good you are, you are inevitably going to upset or disappoint someone. When this happens, your response will define your business. Do whatever it takes to put things right – even if it means losing money on the job. If a client isn’t happy with a print – get it redone at your expense. Making clients happy is what makes successful businesses. Show them that you care. When it goes wrong, do whatever it takes to make it right.

Reminder #3 – Being successful will take hard work. If you’ve got the idea that successful photographers live a glamorous life and cruise from one high profile job to another – be assured that’s not the truth. Running a successful photography business is hard work. There are times when you have so much work that you struggle to give each client the attention you know they deserve. And there are other times when you just wish you could find your next client. Running a successful photography business will take hard work. You’ll work long hours and most of it will not be at all glamorous.


Photo businesses are about clients, not money. Get the client piece right, and the money will be fine.

Reminder #4 – Be clear on your point of difference. There are a lot of photographers out there. Most have gear better or equal to your own. They are prepared to work as hard or harder than you. You’re not the only photographer who can do the job. To run a successful business you need to understand what is your point of difference. Is it the client experience you give on shoot day? Is it your post production techniques? Is it the products you offer? There are many possible points of difference. You need to be clear on yours, and be able to explain it to a potential client.

Reminder #5 – Everything is better with a sense of humor. I follow the Facebook page of a photographer who goes by the name Missy Mwac. Check her out. She posts regularly. She has a lot of good, common sense ideas. She dislikes photographers who aren’t making it as photographers who are trying to make it selling photography workshops. And she mentions vodka in a lot of her posts. She is witty. She makes me laugh. I like that in people. People who laugh are fun to be with. Remember, your client doesn’t want the world’s most serious photographer. Everything is better with a sense of humor.

Thanks for reading Five Photography Business Reminders. Have a great week.

Use Recognizable Backgrounds to Add Impact

There has long been a place (and a market!) for images shot in a studio on a plain background – just ask any established studio photographer. Studio images on plain backgrounds help to focus you entirely on the subject. But what if you are looking to bring a more contemporary look to your images? Have you tried to use recognizable backgrounds to add impact? And by backgrounds, I don’t mean studio backdrops – I mean real locations.

Why do recognizable backgrounds help to make a strong image? Recognizable backgrounds add location and meaning to an image. They create a connection with the viewer who will often know the exact location the image has been shot at, and may have even stood in the exact same location.

Flinders St Station

People who know Melbourne will instantly recognize this location

In this image, people who know Melbourne, Australia will instantly recognize this as the front entrance to the Flinders Street Railway Station on the corner of Flinders Street and Swanston Street. The location adds a distinct local flavor, and creates a connection with the viewer. Many people have stood in this exact location.

Why is this an opportunity for your photography business? Demand for images shot in the studio and isolated on white is falling, and demand for real people in real locations (including recognizable locations!) is booming. It is about creating genuine images which the viewer can relate to. Real people, real locations.

Parliament buildings

It’s possible to shoot in a variety of locations in a single shoot

Here are seven quick reasons why you might want to catch this wave.

  • clients love to shoot images which connect them to the location. Whether it’s permanent residents or travelers, people have an emotional connection to their home town, whether it’s a permanent or temporary home town.
  • locations look different at different times of year. Use the seasons to your advantage and shoot different styles in different seasons. Think how you could use this to shoot different images of the same client at different times of year?
  • if you are starting out, you can shoot this style of image with minimal cost. You may want a reflector or two, but you won’t incur the costs of setting up a studio when you shoot this type of image. This can be a very cost effective way to build a portrait business or stock portfolio.
  • demand for ‘local’ stock images is growing rapidly. Stock buyers are moving away from images which could have been shot anywhere, to images which clearly have context and location. If you are interested in driving your stock photo sales, shoot local and make it clear that the images have context and location.
  • shooting images on location is fun. I find it really enjoyable walking around my hometown finding new locations and shooting interesting local images. Often you can generate a very wide variety of images in a short period of time.
  • there is an almost limitless range of possible locations. I am shooting a stock photography series using locations in my home town. I started by writing down some locations to use, and ended up with a list of ideas three pages long! You won’t run out of locations to shoot at. Think creatively and you will be able to generate a huge range of shoot locations.
  • clients love to share location images on social media. This can only be good for business.

Thanks for reading this post. I hope you can use recognizable backgrounds to create some cool images and benefit your photography business. Happy shooting.