If Your Goal Is Income from Photography, Your Approach MUST Be to Learn and Evolve —
That’s Why I Teach Video for Still Photographers
A lot of pro shooters who are making their living with still images, along with shooters who are looking at photography as a source of income, can get discouraged with income potential these days. Sure, a bunch of people are making a good living, but it’s not as easy as it used to be.
A big part of the challenge is because so many people take pictures with their phones. And another challenge is that affordable DSLRs available at big box stores can capture some amazing images. There are all kinds of automation and intelligent algorithms in modern DSLRs and that help average shooters grab some really solid shots. Some could even pass for ‘professional’ images.
It’s no secret that making money as a photographer requires professionals to bring something extra to the table. There’s technique. Customer service. Unique style. Post processing skills. And there’s no question that an understanding of lighting can make your images stand out, especially if you know how to use speedlights or constant lights, and you have a real understanding of photographic principles like depth of field and composition.
The problem is human nature; how we want to learn and understand something and even “master” it, and then we want it to stay that way because we’ve mastered it. Look at the school system… You go there. You learn. You get a diploma or a degree. You finish learning. And then you get a job.
Things don’t work that way. They always change. And if you really did stop learning instead of making lifelong learning a part of your life, you will limit your potential and probably put yourself out of work.
I’m thrilled by all the learning that’s available online these days. — No, this isn’t a commercial for KelbyOne, where I have some excellent classes about lots of camera models and DIY money-savers for photographers. ;-) — It’s really my belief system. And it’s the reason I worked at Kelby Media for a decade, and now I’m out on my own, continuing with online training. I see the things that can be done to help photographers be better. To make a great living at photography. And I get EXCITED!!
I happen to believe that simple videos can be added to a still photographer’s business and make clients happier while future-proofing business for photographers. Whether or not you decide to go down that path, you need to do something to keep learning, growing, and staying ahead of the masses. You need to keep learning so you can always be better and smarter than (or at least as smart as) your competition, so you can stay in business and thrive. Lifelong learning will future-proof your success.
Before you freak out and start yelling at Scott’s blog, “Hey Becker!! If I wanted to shoot video I’d go to film school!!” Just slow down for a second and hear me out…
I’m not talking about crafting a film, or learning cinematic camera angles, or cinematic storytelling, or even editing. I’m talking about flipping the toggle on your DSLR while you’ve got a standard portrait setup, and just grab a few minutes of your subject talking. Granted, you’ll need to use constant lights instead of strobes, and you’ll need a better microphone than the one that’s built into your camera, but there’s not much more to it than that.
There’s a kind of very simple video still shooters are uniquely prepared to capture, and it’s in super high demand. In fact, you’re BETTER prepared to do this kind of video than a video production company is. And if you’re a photographer with a modern DSLR and a little experience with headshots, you have almost everything you need to add a simple, profitable service to a regular headshot session. No camera moves or film school techniques.
It’s no secret that video is a HUGE part of web based online marketing and social media. And just about every business out there, small and large, knows that they need professional looking videos for their online marketing. They understand that they can’t get away with smartphone shaky-cam videos.
What those businesses DON’T know, is that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars hiring a video production company, to get talking-head videos. And most still shooting photographers don’t know that this kind of video is incredibly easy to deliver, and that you can charge hundreds of dollars for a little extra shooting time, tacked onto a standard headshot session. And whatever you charge for your headshots can more than double when you do this kind of video work.
What’s Really Involved and What Can You Charge?
First you need to know what kind of video I’m talking about, and what kind of videos I’m NOT suggesting. Then I’ll give you the details so you can add it to your services list starting next week.
The videos I’m talking about are simple promotional videos for your business clients. Videos that are short and can be posted to a company website or social media or a YouTube channel. There are a handful of simple formulas or templates you can follow, to create something your clients will love.
And what I’m NOT suggesting is traditional video production. Things that require camera moves, multi-camera shoots, actors, capturing scenes, or anything approaching cinematography. My guess is, if you wanted to be a videographer, you’d start with film school training. The challenge is that there aren’t many sources of training out there that are designed to help still photographers understand simple business video capture without starting down the slippery slope toward film school.
Some of the formulas/templates you can follow to start making videos are talking headshots, product promotional videos, customer service solutions, and the incredibly powerful Facebook video ads category.
Talking headshots are essentially a standard portrait session with constant lights instead of strobes. Go ahead and do your regular portrait session, and then clip a lapel microphone on your subject, flip your camera dial/switch to video capture, and record the person talking about their business for a minute or two. There’s no need to spend more than $30 on the microphone, and if you already have some nice constant lights, all you need to do is capture your client with video. It’s pretty straight forward.
With product promo videos, you don’t have to be especially fancy. Start by shooting a bunch of good product stills. Then use those stills as visuals during a narrated description of the product. The key with video is movement, so you take one simple step beyond narrating a slideshow. The video should slowly pan or zoom with each image. This is called the Ken Burns effect and it’s a simple, engaging way to craft a professional looking finished video, by using your still shooting skill set.
Customer service videos are “gold” to some businesses. If you’re working with a client who has customers with a common question or problem, you can create a video that answers the question or solves the problem. Typically businesses have FAQ sections on their websites, but if you can create a video that uses the same ‘moving still images’ style as the product demo we just covered, customers will be happier. People are much quicker to watch a video than plow through a bunch of FAQs or a “knowledge base” on a website. And your clients will appreciate the drop in human resources needed to answer all those common questions.
And yet another simple style of video, is to create Facebook video ads. Consider that 70-80% of Facebook videos are watched with the sound off. That means still images with interesting pictures, paired with text on screen, are an incredibly effective style of Facebook video ad. And because of how people consume Facebook ads, photographers are once again positioned to gather the materials for great Facebook ad campaigns.
So what can you charge for these videos? Generally, hundreds. Assuming you charge over $200 for a typical headshot session, go ahead and add 150% to it. Consider that the going rate for professionally captured and produced video from a video production company is well over a thousand dollars, sometimes several thousand, if you charge less than a thousand, that’s a big savings for your client and solid income for you.
The only thing we haven’t covered here is editing. This is a lot easier than you might think, but you don’t have to do it yourself if you don’t want to. In the same way that some photographers invest in expensive, wide printers… large format printing could be done in-house or it can be handled by a company like Bay Photo, MPIX, Millers, etc. The same is true for video editing. But since learning video editing might take a little while, start out by using a hired editor while you look into whether or not you want to do your own editing.
I’d suggest looking for a local freelancer or someone online to help. And I’d suggest that you stay away from local video production companies because their prices will almost always be cost-prohibitive. They come at video from a much more involved perspective.
Should YOU Really Add Video to Your Mix?
Maybe. If you’re primarily a landscape photographer, your clientele may not be in the market for video. If you have a style of still shooting and a reputation for a particular look, and that’s drawing a solid client base, there may be no need to add video to your mix. But if you’re a portrait shooter, or product shooter, and you have business clients, and you’re trying to stay ahead of the competition… adding simple videos that follow a standard template, could do great things for your bottom line.
Something I Learned from Scott A Long Time Ago – FREE Stuff
When you look at online business, it’s getting more common over the past few years, but as long as I’ve known Scott, he has been doing this… To build a following, you have to give away good information. Scott does this all the time on this very blog. There’s The Grid. There are webinars and YouTube videos. KelbyOne is built on a foundation of helping people and I wanna be like that when I grow up.
With that in mind, I’ve started a website, YouTube channel, Facebook page, etc. all hoping to reach out to small business people who need help doing their own videos. And along those same lines, in December I launched a coaching service for professional photographers, to help them do professional videos for their clients and improve their bottom line.
Here’s A Bunch of Free Stuff on the Topic of Simple Business Videos
I want to give you links to all kinds of stuff you can use to get going with video. This first set of resources has to do with simple video creation for promotional purposes. These documents and videos aren’t specifically targeted at photographers. Rather, they’re targeted at any entrepreneur who knows they need simple promotional videos and they want to tackle those videos themselves, in-house.
- Larry’s free Hacking Business Videos CheatSheet (and when you sign up to get this, you’ll also get an email link to a special video called “10 Tools to Help any Business Do Your First Pro-Looking Video In-House”
Here’s Even More Free Stuff that’s Normally Paid Content…
In December I launched a small private coaching program to help photographers. This included a lot of personal Skype coaching, editing services for shooters who didn’t want to edit their own video editing, and some other stuff. At this point, there aren’t any more openings for this group PLUS, I don’t want this guest blog post to be a commercial for that group. But there are some great resources I created for this group that can be really helpful, and I want to give you access to some of this training for free. No strings attached. The link is below, but just a few things before we get to that.
The main training video is all about helping photographers create their own promotional talking headshot video. The idea is to help them (and you) do exactly what you need to, in order to capture a great promotional video for yourself, and then later turn that experience into a guide for when you capture clients on video, and coach them through their own promotional talking headshot.
There’s a section at the end of the video, that is dedicated to telling my clients how to package and upload their videos for editing. This won’t really pertain to you, so you can stop watching at that point.
Finally, because there are links on my clients’ page, to special resources for them, I’ve created a separate (similar) page on my site with the links I can share to the public, so you don’t need a password to access anything. So to get the training video and the other cool links, just go to LarryBecker.tv/kelby.