Dear PhotoBizCoach Blog Reader,
Today I am introducing our first official guest contributor William Manning. Please read the below interview that introduces him to you. You will be seeing regular contributions from William in the future.
Bill, you’ve been in the photo business for quite some time. Please tell us what your specialty is, where you are and what you do on a day-to-day basis?
I’ve been in the photography business for 18 years. I started out teaching workshops and leading photo tours and as many photographers do I was shooting nature and outdoors. I did OK, but I saw early on that I was going to have to diversify what I could offer my clients and more importantly what I could offer my stock agencies. It was a natural transition for me to move into travel photography, I loved to travel, I enjoy learning about different cultures and history and love old world architecture. Travel photography is where I excelled. I quickly became a major contributor to my stock agencies especially my main agency, Corbis Images. They loved what I gave them and more importantly, their clients loved my work. Again, I was seeing I needed to diversify even more. I asked Corbis if I could shoot some sporting events for their Sports department. It didn’t take long to see this was going to be a tough area to make any significant gain in my income.
I am always looking to see where I can build my business and about 5 years ago and finally found a unique nitch that pulled me away from stock and headed in the direction of assignment work. After shooting travel for so long, I found myself shooting a lot of architecture, therefore it seemed only natural for me to head in this direction. Today, I am shooting a lot of architecture for architectural and design firms. I worked my way through the ranks and now shooting major structures throughout the midwest. I’m currently shooting a 100 million dollar building project that should be a lot of fun and a great portfolio piece and hopefully attract some new clients.
How did you come to photography?
Photography is something I dreamed about since I was a kid. To make a long story short I was told I could never make a living in photography so went on to a two year art school. After leaving school, I joined the army for four years and after my tour was up I came back home and went back to college for four more years and got my degree in graphic design. It was that time in the army where I finally had the chance to buy a SLR camera and started playing with photography. In college I spent more time in the photography department than I did in my design classrooms. After graduation, I headed straight for the photography business where I didn’t make a penny for five years.
You impress me quite a bit with your knowledge of the business side of photography. Please tell us what made you realize it’s more than just art?
After five years of shooting and not making a profit you slowly start to realize you can’t grow as a person or a business if there is no fruit from your labor. I made a commitment to myself and my wife that if I couldn’t make a profit the following year in photography I would move on to something else. That was a big promise I knew I had to keep. I turned around my business the following year from no profit to a $35,000 profit. That’s a big swing. How I got from nothing to something was, simply changing my attitude. I started taking the business side more seriously. I learned how to negotiate prices with clients, I started marketing more seriously, I started looking at expenses, I started looking at my time and investment and I started asking questions.
I remember interviewing with an art consultant and the first question he asked me was my age. I thought an interesting first question to ask right out of the box. After the interview, I asked him why he asked my age. He stated, photographers in their twenties think they’re going to change the world, photographers in their thirties have an over inflated ego of themselves and photographers in their forties want to make money. He goes on to tell me he was in business to make money. I never forgot that conversation. I was making money in my thirties and have never looked back.
What’s your advice to photo professionals in today’s tough market?
Easy question, diversify and treat your business as a business. A profit isn’t a profit until you pay your expenses. Just because you receive a check doesn’t mean you made a profit. Don’t get pulled into a business deal unless you’re confident you can do the job and you can make a profit. There comes a time you don’t need practice.
How do you personally help photo pro’s to better their business?
I share my experiences both good and bad and I’m honest about what I say. It is in my best interest and the interest of the industry if we all share our experiences with new comers in the field and well as seasoned professionals. If we can help each other understand the business aspect of photography then we all can survive providing our work and talents to the marketplace.
You’ve generously agreed to be our (first official) guest contributor to the PhotoBizCoach blog. What type of information can we expect from you?
I’ll share business tips, give some opinions based on my experiences and if readers are interested I’ll share creative tips that are trendy in the market place.
Where can we find out more about what you do?
website – http://williammanning.com/
workshops and tours- http://williammanning.com/portfolios/toursworkshopshome.html
facebook – http://www.facebook.com/williammanningphoto
twitter – http://twitter.com/williamtmanning
Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and we can’t wait to read your contributions!