Received an email today from a photographer in Miami, FL. Here's what he said:
"Girls all want me to shoot for free TFP and all that. I shoot more and more shots, and feel I'm getting better and better as a shooter, but can't seem to get paid for anything. So my question is... how does one get paid to shoot sexy girls?"
Wow! Tough one! Really tough!
My last update talked about finding models to shoot. You know, to shoot for free, that is, TFP. Now, I'm asked about entering the next stage of one shooter's desired evolution in his photography: Getting paid to shoot models. That's a way tougher question to answer than how to find models to shoot TFP!
Here's what I told the dude in Miami:
"...the biggest problem is that you're competing with so many other shooters who, like you, shoot TFP. Unlike you, many of them aren't all that interested in getting paid. They might make some noise about it but, in reality, many of them have decided, in their heads, if they have to choose between shooting TFP or not shooting at all, they're gonna shoot TFP and not push the issue of getting paid. So, they don' t push the issue.
Deciding it's time to get paid for your work is a decision easier to make than to put into practice. You live in Miami, a place where the fashion industry, for instance, has a pretty big footprint. Fashion models need photos. They are also more likely to understand that photography is a business (for some) more so than many glamour models understand that.
I know a fashion shooter in NYC. Somehow, he's managed to hook up with high-priced call girls who need high-end pictures for their marketing use. (Just sayin'.)
Bottom line, you need to explore any and all avenues for pursuing your pretty girl photography in ways that might produce some income. You also might have to bite the bullet and simply set yourself to charging for your services. That will probably mean, at least for a time, you'll be shooting less. Marketing is everything!!!! Dunno if any of this helps, especially since it doesn't come across overly optimistic. These are tough times for people making a living with, or trying to make a living with, cameras in their hands. Not just glamour, but across the board."
It's no secret these are tough times for many photographers. Technology has put competent, nearly no-brainer, image-capturing capabilities into the hands of the masses. Couple that with the internet, a place where, IMO, the quality bar hasn't simply been lowered, it's been very nearly discarded, and the playing field has been leveled in more than a few ways.
But there's still people making an exclusive living with cameras in their hands. Some of them making a pretty damn good living. Others, part-timers that is, are doing okay, revenue-producing-wise, as well. Yeah, maybe those folks are rarer than before, but they're still alive and kicking. You might be one of them. You might want to be one of them.
One obvious way to pursue photography with an eye towards getting paid is to specialize, to market to a specific niche. That doesn't mean all your photography services need to be of that niche. And it doesn't mean all your marketing efforts need to market exclusively to that niche. You can certainly market to a variety of niches.
Personally, I think it might be wise to market to each niche independent of each other. What I mean by that is this: Say you're marketing to the wedding industry or the family photography business. Let's also say your trying to build a boudoir photography business. If so, you might not want to mix your boudoir photography marketing, on the same website, as your wedding and family photography biz. Seems obvious but I see plenty of websites that market all of a particular photographer's services, from weddings to kids to boudoir, from the same site or other marketing device. Not sure that's the wisest choice.... different morality strokes for different folks and all.
Here's another obvious suggestion. Be selective in the niche you're marketing to and invest the time and other resources to truly becoming good at those individual niches.
I mentioned that it's my opinion the quality bar has been lowered if not discarded. But paying customers, also IMO, may often be more apt to scrutinize your skills, as illustrated by your portfolios and marketing materials, than TFP customers(sic) will do. That's not true across the board but it's true often enough.
Let's say you want to build a boudoir photography business as part of your overall business of marketing your photography skills in general, even if you're only doing so on a part-time basis. Well, just because you might already be pretty good at shooting weddings or kids or senior portraits doesn't mean you know much about shooting boudoir.
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you already know I'm a big proponent of investing time, sometimes a bit of money, in learning. Yeah, I'm also motivated by self-interests. My ebook, Guerrilla Glamour, being an example of that. Sure, part of my income these days comes from the photography education markets. But that doesn't make my advice any less appropriate. It's still good advice, IMO.
For me, making the jump from shooting glamour and tease to boudoir would probably be quite simple given both of them are so similar in so many ways. Not so for making the jump from, as an example, family and event photography to boudoir. Maybe you can snap a decent pic of a kid kicking a soccer ball. Maybe even an awesomely great pic of that! But that doesn't mean you know how to transform an average housewife into a seductive, alluring, sex goddess in a photograph.
I guess it's time for me to segue this update to a bit of niche marketing of my own, even if it wasn't what motivated me to author this post.
Assuming boudoir is one of those photography niches you're interested in pursuing -- good choice! It's a popular and continually growing niche market -- you might want to bone-up a bit on how to make some good boudoir photos. One way is to get your hands on materials that educate you on the subject. I just happen to have a couple of great suggestions where to start: Those would be Ed Verosky's excellent (and inexpensive) ebooks on the subject: "10 Ways to Improve Your Boudoir Photography," and "25 Amazing Boudoir Photography Techniques."
There are lots of resources available that are designed to help you learn specific skills focused on specific niches. All you need to do is take the time to search them out and, once you've found them, take advantage of them.
This stuff ain't brain surgery, people. But it ain't always "easy as pie" either. I'm just saying.
The gratuitous eye-candy at the top is Cody, snapped in a studio some time back. Cuddly chest puppies courtesy of Mother Nature. Gotta love that.