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Author Topic: Becoming a great Architectural Photographer!? PART 3  (Read 12594 times)
Lust4Life
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« on: November 24, 2009, 05:23:02 AM »
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This is the last thread I had planned when I started the original post.
Part 1 was to define from an artistic perspective what it took to become a "great" AP photographer.
Part 2 was to be focused on the technical aspects, gear/equipment required - both what worked and didn't.
Part 3, this parts mission is to discuss the Business aspects of building a successful AP venture!

Included should be:
Marketing you service - what works and what didn't.  What is cost effective.
Who are your clients - who pays and who doesn't pay enough relative to what they extract from you.
Knowing your clients - how important is it to understand your clients business, and how to gain this knowledge.
Networking that is effective; helping others based on what goes around comes around.
Determining your fee and payment terms - different billing practices that have worked for you, and what hasn't.
Contract formats.
Insurance coverage.

That should get us started.

In closing, to all that have contributed to this lively discussion, Thank You from myself and those to follow reading these threads for some time to come!

Jack Brady
« Last Edit: November 24, 2009, 05:12:36 PM by Lust4Life » Logged

stewarthemley
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« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2009, 06:52:33 AM »
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Jack, thanks again for starting and then perpetuating such an interesting and useful discussion. And thanks to all the successful and talented people who spared the time to respond.
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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2009, 10:38:03 AM »
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First-getting started in the business.......

My route.......it is 1978, coming from a fine art background, showing in galleries, I needed to find a more stable income to support my growing family.....I am looking at my 4x5. What else can I do with this? Ah....I like architecture.

There were no specialists in my town-no one was an "architectural photographer". There was no one worth apprenticing with or assisting and there was not the workshop community there is today. So I studied architecture magazines and the few books available (like Schulman's). I marketed to large local construction companies, thinking they were less demanding (and were/are). I learned the basics on their dime and expanded my equipment. Then, when I felt more competent, when I was shooting something for a builder I would approach the architect. Soon most of my clients were architects and one of them started getting published nationally during the heyday of "regionalism" and the "Santa Fe" style. That led to regular assignments in the mid 80's for national magazines like Architecture and Architectural Record.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2009, 10:59:35 AM by Kirk Gittings » Logged

Thanks,
Kirk

Kirk Gittings
Architecture and Landscape Photography
WWW.GITTINGSPHOTO.COM

LIGHT+SPACE+STRUCTURE (blog)
Lust4Life
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« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2009, 11:06:58 AM »
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Kirk,

Can you give us a time line - how long did it take till you felt you "knew enough to be dangerous" in the AP market?

Time till you felt you had successfully established yourself and calls began to come to you, rather than your having to solicit work?

etc.

Jack
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PhilipJames
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« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2009, 11:13:24 AM »
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Can I take the conversation back to the day rate versus per shot topic. I have shot in fashion for most of my career and Architecture is a fairly new direction for me so I'm still coming to terms with the best way to price things. Initially I have been working off a day rate but the variation in output varies wildly, i.e. one job may require 5 or 6 shots and another 20+, so I am thinking to have a day rate for 1-10 shots and another for 11 +. Then of course that can fall down a bit if the extra shots required are 1 or 2 rather than 10, so I then thought maybe a day rate for 1-10 and per shot therafter.
Some of the posts have referred to a per shot basis from the outset, how does that work if the client only requires 1 shot (unlikely I know). Also the higher the shot output the more time spent in post production, how is everybody squaring that?

« Last Edit: November 24, 2009, 05:42:23 PM by PhilipJames » Logged
Craig Lamson
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« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2009, 11:16:32 AM »
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Quote from: Lust4Life
Time till you felt you had successfully established yourself and calls began to come to you, rather than your having to solicit work?

etc.

Just curious, does anyone ever quit banging on doors looking for work, even when you are established?
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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2009, 11:37:33 AM »
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Quote from: Lust4Life
Kirk,
Can you give us a time line - how long did it take till you felt you "knew enough to be dangerous" in the AP market?
Time till you felt you had successfully established yourself and calls began to come to you, rather than your having to solicit work?
etc.
Jack

The time line is a touch confused. I have always had a dual career in fine arts photography too. I started AP in 1978 and worked for two years learning the business on contractors (lighting interiors was the hardest), then quit AP and left the country for almost three years to go to graduate school and get an MFA, came back and picked up where I left off-but with more confidence-concentrated then on architects, two years later started shooting for national magazines. So, less the MFA interlude, it took me two years to get marginally competent and 4 years to really get established where work was coming to me. IME magazines are your best advertising in AP. FWIW no one should ever quit "banging on doors" but I haven't done it for many many years. I am not comfortable with it. If someone comes looking for me, I am in the drivers seat. As for billing-I have always had a day rate for architects and magazines, but I do a per shot quote for ad agencies. Regardless, it is only the bottom line and defined reproduction rights that matter to me or my clients.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2009, 11:38:46 AM by Kirk Gittings » Logged

Thanks,
Kirk

Kirk Gittings
Architecture and Landscape Photography
WWW.GITTINGSPHOTO.COM

LIGHT+SPACE+STRUCTURE (blog)
JoeKitchen
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« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2009, 11:42:59 AM »
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I got into this two years ago by just opening shop and starting.  At first I wanted to assist, but no one in my area was taking on new assistants and I am not the one to sit on my hands and wait for it to happen, so I just started.  

I began marketing in Nov. of 2007 by sending out 350 postcards to the architects in my area every month, after I created a portfolio and website.  Now I am sending out 1200 every other month to architects and designers in Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore (Philadelphia is nicely situated); I am thinking about changing this next year to once a quarter.  I also send out monthly e-zines but to only those who want to receive them.  Doing this can be a bit interesting, I have found that advertising in my e-zines does more harm then good; so I show one new picture, talk about things I see and read concerning the economy (because that is something I find interesting and studied in college, never be anything other then yourself), I also read a lot on marketing and include something that I read too.  Last, I talk about the projects I have done in the previous month, but talking about it from my clients point of view, giving credit to them, not me.  

In about March of 2008 (waiting for my postcards to start to sink in) I started making promo calls to those architects, creating a hot list of those interested in me, those on the fence, and those who had no interest.  I still marketed to those who said they had no interest, just was not as aggressive (I did eventually get work from a couple of them).  When I call, I ask them if they would like to have a brief portfolio review with me to just go over what I can help them with.  You always want to talk about how you are going to help your clients, they are hiring you for their purposes not yours.  After the meeting is over (and some of them are really short which is not a bad thing; remember they are busy people), I say thank you, leave, mail them a hand written thank you a week later, and then try to follow up with them every other month.  When following up, I never ask for work, just how they are.  I still try to meet with two new people every month.  

Now after two years my name have gotten to the point where just about every architecture firm in Philly has one person who knows who I am and I have started to get jobs based on referrals, actually have one tonight from 6 till 3 in the morning.  The first 10 months I went with out getting a single job from any one in my prospective base, so it was very difficult to keep on this path; the economy did drop though.  But now after 25 months and with the economy coming back to life, I am at the point where I could live off of only my photography work (I am now at 40%), I am still keeping my other jobs like substitute teaching and teaching a class at LaSalle University.    

I am now starting to get into marketing with Linkedin, which most architects are on, and Facebook/Twitter (although the decision makers at firms are not using this site, the future decision makers are).  I am going to make a food portfolio (partly for fun) this winter and thinking of also branching off into travel and hospitality photography as well.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2009, 11:46:46 AM by JoeKitchen » Logged

Joe Kitchen
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"Photography is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent moving furniture."  Arnold Newman
"Try not to be just better than your rivals and contemporaries, try to be better than yourself."  William Faulkner
rsmphoto
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« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2009, 01:58:15 PM »
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Quote from: infocusinc
Just curious, does anyone ever quit banging on doors looking for work, even when you are established?

Yeah, but I've been doing this for 30 years now - national & international. Used to have reps (both in-house and independent), but really don't want/need them anymore. I have many long term clients, some that have been with me since the beginning. That's why I like this business when compared to the ad world. You actually forge meaningful, long-lasting relationships.
« Last Edit: November 24, 2009, 01:58:57 PM by rsmphoto » Logged
David Eichler
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« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2009, 02:03:57 PM »
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Quote from: JoeKitchen
I began marketing in Nov. of 2007 by sending out 350 postcards to the architects in my area every month, after I created a portfolio and website.  Now I am sending out 1200 every other month to architects and designers in Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore (Philadelphia is nicely situated); I am thinking about changing this next year to once a quarter.


1200 postcards every other month.  That is a serious marketing expense. Do you know someone in the printing business?
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CBarrett
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« Reply #10 on: November 24, 2009, 02:21:39 PM »
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I recently did a big email campaign to announce the new (ish) website.  It's the only bit of marketing I've ever done.

My impression is that email is more appreciated than postcard, and it's so easy to click through to the website, versus having to type in a url.  Many ecologically minded architects may even perceive the postcards as wasteful.

I'm just sayin'
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JoeKitchen
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« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2009, 02:46:24 AM »
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Quote from: ZAZ
1200 postcards every other month.  That is a serious marketing expense. Do you know someone in the printing business?
Yes I do and I was always told that in the beginning to be more aggressive so as to get the ball rolling, now though I am planning to drastically cut down, probably more then what I said.
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Joe Kitchen
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"Photography is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent moving furniture."  Arnold Newman
"Try not to be just better than your rivals and contemporaries, try to be better than yourself."  William Faulkner
Lust4Life
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« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2009, 05:35:02 AM »
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Joe,

How did you originally put together your mailing list - sources of contacts?

Lot of expense and a chap does not want to be sending a solicitation for AP to a Gynecologist!  

Jack


Quote from: JoeKitchen
Yes I do and I was always told that in the beginning to be more aggressive so as to get the ball rolling, now though I am planning to drastically cut down, probably more then what I said.
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stewarthemley
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« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2009, 08:31:21 AM »
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Email is a great way of getting known but in some countries unsolicited email is illegal. I wonder if people ignore this and send them anyway, and if so, what response they get, or whether they make contact first then send an e.? Before I knew it was illegal, I once sent several e's unsolicited and surprisingly got a positive response. Not brave/silly enough to try it again though.
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stevesanacore
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« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2009, 09:06:47 AM »
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Quote from: PhilipJames
Can I take the conversation back to the day rate versus per shot topic. I have shot in fashion for most of my career and Architecture is a fairly new direction for me so I'm still coming to terms with the best way to price things. Initially I have been working off a day rate but the variation in output varies wildly, i.e. one job may require 5 or 6 shots and another 20+, so I am thinking to have a day rate for 1-10 shots and another for 11 +. Then of course that can fall down a bit if the extra shots required are 1 or 2 rather than 10, so I then thought maybe a day rate for 1-10 and per shot therafter.
Some of the posts have referred to a per shot basis from the outset, how does that work if the client only requires 1 shot (unlikely I know). Also the higher the shot output the more time spent in post production, how is everybody squaring that?

Back in the eighties when I started my architectural photography business, per shot rates were the norm in my area. When I moved into shooting for builders and advertising agencies, day rates worked better for them. Then on to main stream ad work for lifestyle, people, cars, boats etc.... day rates plus usage is the norm.  The bottom line is that it's just a sales game - and you have to adapt your pitch or package to whatever your client is comfortable with. The bottom line should be the same for you.

Examples: (hypothetical rates to protect the innocent)  I usually plan on four shots per day.

Day rate (3500) + crew (750) + digital processing (750) = 5000

Per shot rate - 1250

If you can do 8 shots a day, then just change the division.  All works out the same as I always lock in the number of shots per day on my proposal. I do however often throw in quick alternative shots if time allows. Every job and every client is a bit different in what they expect and what they appreciate.  It's your salesmanship abilities that will bring you success, along with your talents as a photographer.

This seems to be the best solution for me. Like the title of the new Woody Allen film - "Whatever Works"






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JoeKitchen
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« Reply #15 on: November 25, 2009, 11:15:09 AM »
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Quote from: Lust4Life
Joe,

How did you originally put together your mailing list - sources of contacts?

Lot of expense and a chap does not want to be sending a solicitation for AP to a Gynecologist!  

Jack

I originally got the mailing list by going through the website of the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA (America Institute of Architects) and over a couple of days copied the addresses onto a data file; a very tedious process, but necessary.  The main website of the AIA will have all of the chapters listed.  

Insofar as a e-mails, you should never e-mail business people on a regular basis who do not want to receive them; you will only be deemed a spamer and be treated as such.  So to start an e-mail list you, after you have sent the prospect some print material, send him an e-mail telling him that you are newly in business, that you will be sending out monthly e-zines, and you would like to know if he would like to receive them?  If he says no or does not reply, you should never try to reach him by e-mail again.  Now when sending e-mails, regardless if they want to be on the list or not, you have to follow the Can-Spam at which states:

1.  In the subject line you must state that it is a ad or promo.  
2.  You must have a opt-out link and remove the person within ten days after he opts-out.  
3.  You must have the physical address of your business in the e-mail.  
4.  If the receiver hits reply, the reply must go to a live e-mail address.  
5.  Your e-mail and the business being promoted in it must be applicable to the person receiving them.  

If you violate any one of these, you can be fined $10,000 for each occurrence or e-mail sent.  

Right now I am morphing from Interruption marketing into Permission marketing which is way I am sending e-mails and using linkedin more, and slowly canceling out my postcards.  I would recommend reading any thing written by Seth Godin and books written by other professional marketers when looking for marketing advice and then applying what you read to the business of photography.
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Joe Kitchen
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"Photography is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent moving furniture."  Arnold Newman
"Try not to be just better than your rivals and contemporaries, try to be better than yourself."  William Faulkner
Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #16 on: November 25, 2009, 11:42:38 AM »
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Quote
I originally got the mailing list by going through the website of the Philadelphia Chapter of the AIA (America Institute of Architects) and over a couple of days copied the addresses onto a data file; a very tedious process, but necessary. The main website of the AIA will have all of the chapters listed.

Many, I think most, AIA Chapters will not display or give out members emails, some sell the lists, some will give them out if you join and become an affiliate, every chapter is different. I did some limited email advertising some years ago on a regular basis, combining both  of my artwork, (updates about shows etc.books being published etc.) and my commercial work (publications, AIA awards that my clients won using my images etc.), but ultimately I decided that it all seemed a bit pushy and desperate. Now being well established, I tend to just let my work speak for itself as most everyone in the business sees it in publications or at AIA design award banquets (which I always attend-something I shot always wins) etc.. If they are interested in what I am up to they can look at my website or give me a call. Besides word of mouth from satisfied clients, and magazine publication, I find website ranking to be key in getting interest from new out of town clients. You must be near the top of the list if some one Googles "architectural photographers XXX (your city or area)".
« Last Edit: November 25, 2009, 11:56:33 AM by Kirk Gittings » Logged

Thanks,
Kirk

Kirk Gittings
Architecture and Landscape Photography
WWW.GITTINGSPHOTO.COM

LIGHT+SPACE+STRUCTURE (blog)
JoeKitchen
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« Reply #17 on: November 25, 2009, 11:50:17 AM »
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Quote from: Kirk Gittings
Many, I think most, AIA Chapters will not display or give out members emails, some sell the lists, some will give them out if you join and become an affiliate.
I was not referring to e-mail addresses, but physical addresses.
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Joe Kitchen
www.josephmkitchen.com

"Photography is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent moving furniture."  Arnold Newman
"Try not to be just better than your rivals and contemporaries, try to be better than yourself."  William Faulkner
Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #18 on: November 25, 2009, 11:57:59 AM »
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Sorry.
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Thanks,
Kirk

Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #19 on: November 25, 2009, 12:19:14 PM »
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Removed.
« Last Edit: November 25, 2009, 12:45:44 PM by ZAZ » Logged

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