It has been a while since I have done a Q&A blog, so I thought it would be a good way to start off the New Year. I love to photograph and I love to teach. I am in the process of building a new studio, but it will not be ready for several more months. I decided not to renew my lease on the current studio since it would have had to extend for another year. So for the next few months I won't be able to hold classes, but will still be available for mentorships and lessons.
I received some intriguing questions that made me even think about my processes and methods. Something that I should review more regularly. So one of the most important things I have always stated is, never stop learning - even if you are learning from teaching.
What advice can you give to someone starting out in Equine Photography?
Know your subject and clientele. Owners are picky on how their horses look; many are more critical of the horse than themselves. Horses can look horrible at certain angles - know which angles work and do not work. If you are not a horse person, learn as much as possible about horses; this is just as important as learning photography. Get to know your clientele by being where your potential clients are. Horse Shows, Rodeos, Clinics and other horse events. Learn to market yourself, I took an online workshop years ago from a very successful photographer, He stated that on a scale of 1 to 10 he was a 6 photographer, but a 10 in marketing He is a 7-figure photographer so I will take his advice.
What is the best thing you learned in 2017, business wise?
Learning to say no. I am a equine and a senior photographer. I will do families, weddings, kids and so forth of my current clients but have learned to say no to others. I refuse to just leave them hanging, though, and have a good network of photographers that specialize in many fields that I can refer them to.
What is your number one marketing tactic?
Social Media has changed the way I and many others market throughout the years. When I first started out, I would have said networking. This was easy for me, since I have always been involved with horses and my daughters showed, so I had some well-established contacts. Networking with them and doing sessions led to referrals. Referrals then took over the networking as my best marketing and I developed a referral system. Currently having a good social media presence is my number one marketing tactic. Unfortunately it is not one of my strong points, but I do try to stay consistent.
Any tips for exposing a darker colored horse for a black background? I find their ears get lost easily.
This can be challenging. When you think about it, shooting a black horse on a black background, they are going blend in. What I do is try to have some separation by allowing some light to come from behind. You can use ambient light by leaving a barn light on, or artificially backlight the subject with a speedlight or flashlight. Doesn't take much light to rim light the ears, but you need to use a snoot to concentrate the light to the ear area. You do not have to purchase a snoot; I use a piece of paper rolled around the light and attached with rubber band,
Do you have your own website for stock images or sell them through an agency?
At the moment I only keep my stock images on my SmugMug site. They are somewhat organized but have a long way to go to have it arranged for anyone other than me to navigate. In other words, they are a mess. But I can find images quickly if I get a request for something. Stock images are not a big source of income for me. I find they take a whole different marketing approach. If I were to focus more on stock images I would look into an agency though.
If someone is confident in their skill set and equipment. What is a good base amount to charge for a quality one hour session with high resolution digital images?
Pricing is one of the hardest things to figure out when starting a photography business. There is no good answer. My biggest suggestion is DO NOT look at other photographers' pricing. You must figure your cost of doing business and how much you want to pay yourself. Equipment, websites, insurance, travel, software, education, insurance, taxes and other business expenses add up. Then how much time do you want to spend on that hour session and how many digital images do you want to give? That hour behind the camera is so much more! Booking, preparing your client, travel, uploading, culling, editing, ordering, delivering time can had up. Depending on your editing style, do you spend 5 minutes or 30 minutes per image? If you are giving 30 images and spend 5 minutes editing each photo, that is 2.5 hours just in editing. Spend 20 minutes per image that is 10 hours in editing!! If you spend 10 hours total on a session (all steps) and only charge $250 for the session, you just paid yourself $25/hour and that is before expenses. After the cost of doing business that may be cut in 1/2. Charge what would keep you in business and make a living.
What is your business model?
My main clientele are those involved in stock horse breed shows: Paints, Appaloosas and Quarter Horses. I was already familiar with them so that is where my main focus to market to is. Customer service and the experience is just as important as the product produced. For tangible products, I have changed from print only to mostly digital. I do encourage clients to purchase a tangible product along with their digital. I have samples for them to look at and hold. My ordering sessions have turned more into a selection and education session where they learn about cropping, paper types and the best places to order products from.
On the Canon 5D Mark III there are a lot of AF options. Which do you like to use for photographing just horses? Single point or multiple?
I use the single point 100% of the time for everything. I use the multi-controller to move the focus point to where I what the focus to be on. I like to be in control of what the camera is focusing on. It does take some practice to move it quickly to your focus point, but becomes very easy the more you practice. The only thing I dislike about the Mark III and the Mark IV is the focus point shows up as black and is hard to find sometimes. The Mark II was red and I found it much easier to keep up with.
Interested in learning more I am giving 30% off Mentor Session for those who mention this blog until 3/15/2018. http://www.terricage-photography.com/lessons-and-mentoring/