Food photography in tough economic times

Starting a food photography business is hard enough but in a tough economy, it can be even harder. The main reason for this is because when markets are tight there are very few opportunities and a lot of competition. This is why it’s crucial for photographers to sharpen their business skills and definitely look ahead.

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In order to stand a chance in today’s market, you need to work your cash and business projections and know your bottom line down to the penny – how much money you need to put into the business, how much you will need to charge to meet your operating costs and, hopefully, what you need to do to realize a profit.

Market research

Starting a new food photography business when the economy is on the downturn takes vision and imagination. Marketing is super important in getting ahead of the game and your competitors. First you need to decide what you are going to sell (stock, advertising material, editorial work), who are your targeted customers, how will you price your photography services, and what is your plan for promoting your business?

As a new kid on a block, you must stay local for a while and operate within small geographical area (town, city). Don’t try selling and advertising nationwide. First, it’s not doable, secondly it will cost you a fortune and on top of that no one will take you seriously. You stand a better chance of succeeding by thinking what can you do locally. Slice and dice your potential customer base to come up with smaller segments to market more strategically, like bakeries and restaurants. For example, if you offer a food photography services geared toward restaurants, you could narrow it to target recently established businesses within a specific area of the city.

Stay competitive

Not to be too sneaky but like in every business you have to keep a close eye on the competition. Learn what other photographers are doing and what marketing techniques they’re using to promote their business. Are they tweaking the service or adding any additional offers? Lowering the price? Maybe you should consider adjusting your pricing structure to match the market demand. As a new business owner in tough economic times, you need to price your services according to ongoing rates and in some cases go a bit lower than your competitors … just enough to differentiate yourself and gain market share.

Network yourself

When economy is not doing so well, you need to connect with other people in your community who can refer customers and help build your business. Don’t know where to start? Find a local business networking group or contact your chamber of commerce. Look into joining a professional association – either a local one where you can meet people in person or even an online group – to tap into others’ ideas. Use Facebook, Twitter and other social media to promote your services … we all know today this is in fact the norm for any new business.

Lower your operating cost

A gloomy economy can actually disguise some great ways to save money. You should follow some rules to lower your start-up costs:

  • Renting vs. buying photography equipment should be the first item on your list. Try to rent lenses for the fraction of the cost you’ll face when buying them brand new. Sometimes you will need a specialty tool like tilt-shift lens. Instead of buying it brand new for $1100 you can rent it for as low as $30 a day.
  • Buying supplies from businesses that are closing or need to reduce inventory, particularly for big-ticket items like lighting equipment, stands & tripods , lenses etc.
  • Bartering with other business owners. Look for business alliance possibilities and suggest offsetting costs by trading products or services.
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