Photography Business: Get Your Stock in Order

In my post titled Build a Photography Business in 24 Hours, I mentioned that I would expand on each piece of the puzzle for creating your own business. I'm using my recent experience with setting up Auer Photoworks as the basis for this guide. Here are all the pieces of the business-puzzle I talked about (with the * items being optional):

  1. Photographs
  2. Gallery Software
  3. Hosting Company
  4. Domain Name
  5. Trade Name
  6. Bank
  7. $500
  8. * Merchant Account
  9. * Accounting
  10. * Marketing

This post will focus on step 1 of the critical items: Photographs. Of course, if you're going to start a photography business you should have photos. You don't need to have hundreds of photos, but 30 or 40 good ones will get you going. Plus you can always add to your collection later.

But it's not enough to just have some good photos that you think you'd like to sell. The photos need to be in their absolute best condition, fully edited and ready for show. If you're really serious about your work, you'll learn to do your own editing using software like Photoshop. This will give you full artistic control over your photos, rather than relying on automatic adjustments made by lower-end software. I'm not harping on anybody who doesn't use Photoshop, I'm just saying that these types of tools give you more control.

Another photo related item to address is organization. The whole point of organizing is to give you quick access to your work in a structured manner. This will keep you from wasting time, losing photos, or making other mistakes while working with your files. There are hundreds of ways to organize your photos within the file structure and within organizing software. I can't possibly cover all of them, but I'll throw out a couple of tips that I generally follow.

In the file structure, I've got one folder for all my photos. Within that folder, I have a folder for each year (2002, 2003, 2004, …YYYY). Within those folders, I have a dated folder (in the format of MMDD) for each time I unloaded the camera rather than for each month. I did this so I could separate between photo shoots and keep similar items together. Plus, the folder names naturally organize themselves in a chronological order.

In my organization software (Picasa), I place a star on the photos I like so I can pick them out easily later. I also have an album for each main category of photos that I use to link to finished photos. This keeps my saleable stock in all in one place without duplicating files (it's all done with links in the software). I've also got an album for photos that I need to process, and one for those I'm in the middle of processing. That way I don't forget what I was doing if I take a break for a week or so. Once I edit a new photo, I'll just move it from the processing albums into the finished photo albums.

The other thing I use Picasa for is keywording. It's a painful and time consuming activity, but it's worth it. As soon as I unload my camera, I'll weed out the real trash, I'll quickly glance through them and place stars on the stuff I kind of like, then I'll do a first coat of keywording (5 to 10 keywords). The keywords will include the location of the photo plus the basic descriptive words that tell me what's in the photo. This will help you find old photos very very easily. Once a photo is chosen to go into the “good” albums (fully edited), I'll go back and super-keyword the photo. I'll keyword it for visible colors, emotions, moods, physical details, descriptors, and any word that pops into my head when I look at that photo. I'll usually end up with 30 to 50 keywords.

Organizing, editing, and keywording your photos is important when you're preparing to start your photography business. Doing these things will save you much more time when you're trying to upload, categorize, and keyword them in your online gallery. Most galleries will even pick out the embedded keywords, thus saving even more time. If you're already organized, you're ahead of the game — it can be a real time-sink when getting ready to launch a business.

Tomorrow I'll talk about finding online gallery software that you can use as your main interface with customers. Stay tuned!

Photo of the Day…

Fonky Jazz Graffiti

Photo by Brian Auer
03/05/07 Neuchatel, Switzerland
Fonky Jazz Graffiti
Konica Minolta Maxxum 7D
Konica Minolta AF DT 18-200
75mm equiv * f/4.5 * 1/30s * ISO100