Business Trends
Working Digitally– The Business Side; Pro Advice From Hermann + Starke Page 2

SB: What do you recommend to photographers to help them meet client expectations when they are buying digital photography? I find clients are even more confused today about "digital photography" than 10 years ago.

JH: The first step is always communication! It's important to be very upfront with your clients about what they should expect both visually and in terms of file quality. You need to discuss their needs and make sure that what you're delivering will really fulfill every aspect of what they're looking for.

MS: It comes down to using the right tools for the job. Everybody gets caught up in a one camera, one-size-fits-all approach. Your clients don't want to get less just because you've gone digital. Your digital files need to match the same level of quality that scans from your film would have yielded. From a creative standpoint, there's no excuse for your images not to be even stronger than they were on film.

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SB: As far as marketing tactics, what seems to work best for digital photo clients or has it grown up as a technology so that the marketing is pretty much the same as with film?

MS: You've got to do everything and you have to do it well. It's not any different with digital. It might have been five years ago, but not anymore.

JH: In our experience, it all boils down to the images. We've been working digitally for 11 years and there was a time when we had to prove that digital technology really was up to the task. At this point in time and at this point in our careers, clients don't really care how we achieve the images. They just care that we do.

SB: What technical and financial recommendations would you make to a photographer who is seeking to make a career move into digital photography?

JH: On the technical side, I would say do your homework. Research, study, learn, master this technology and make sure that every investment that you make in equipment really is the best tool for the work you want to do. Financially, the single best piece of advice I can give is to charge for your services based upon the concept of fair compensation for value received.

MS: Most photographers don't take the time to even figure out what their bottom line is--they don't know what it costs them to just open their doors in the morning. You have to know your cost of doing business and then evaluate how each piece of equipment you invest in is going to affect your bottom line.

SB: What hardware or software issues should be considered as our readers develop the digital side of their business?

MS: For some photographers, owning a high-end digital back makes a lot of sense. For others, owning a smaller digital SLR and renting the larger back when needed makes more sense. It's all about matching equipment to your client's needs and financial considerations. The camera is often the least expense--as your workflow becomes increasingly based in digital capture, you'll need multiple computer workstations with high-quality monitors. On top of that there's removable media and peripheral devices, storage and archiving systems, color management hardware and software, printers and print consumables, server space for electronic delivery, I could go on and on. Your pricing has to cover those costs and allow room for profit.

SB: Any final tips you can recommend for the business side of digital photography?

JS: It also becomes much harder to do everything as a sole proprietor with no employees. Most photographers find themselves needing to either hire in-house help or hook up with reliable outside resources that can support them on the file preparation and production sides of the business so they have time to actually produce the images.