Think Big – Be Small! – You have the tools!

Prologue: I debated about rather or not to publish this.  I fully realize that some readers feel that a “start-up” school photographer can corrupt their business.  Not in a way that they feel threatened by loosing business, but that after the “start-up” fails, the business at the schools they had is no longer the same.   I work with photography companies every day, who are established, but feel threatened by the “evil empire”.  I wrote this with them in mind, to illustrate that PhotoLynx offers every tool to make them competitive in the school photography marketAlso, we have some very large clients, but in the “big picture” they need the same competitive edge to compete in today’s market.  This article is good for them as well, as almost no matter how big you are, there is almost always someone who is larger.  It’s all about provinding more therm just software.  We  want to be a one stop resource for all.

Many photographers don’t realize that they have every tool available to beat out the “big boys”. In fact, the smaller your photography company is, the better off you probably are. Some large School Photography companies, are so large, they get caught up in their own size and bureaucracy that it is difficult for them to change with the times. Sure they, have the money and resources to continue developing competitive products, but as a small photography company, you can change and adapt very quickly.

Choose a good lab – Some large companies photo processing is a centralized amongst a few labs. No matter where the branch office is within the country, all of the works gets sent to a centralized location. Because of this, the turn around time is fairly slow. It might be up to 2-3 weeks or longer. As a small company, you can choose a lab that offers much faster turn around times. You can find a lab that is local to you that will save time in delivery back to your studio. Many labs offer free 1 or 2 Day delivery. Labs will fight for your business, whereas large photography companies, with their own labs treat all of their work equally.

Do your homework – Don’t wait for a school to show you something offered by the competition. Surf the web a bit. Get to know your competition and Google their name to see what they offer. Join and attend groups such as PSPA or SPAC. They get together a couple of times a year and share ideas. Surf around on the PhotoLynx Site, to learn about some of the products that you can produce through software.

Be creative in what you offer – Anything a large studio does, you can do better. The tools are out there to create ANYTHING that they offer, plus much more. If you can’t afford to invest in the software or other equipment you need to produce something competitive, check with your lab. Most labs already have the products available at very good prices because they can offer them in volume.

I’m still surprised at how often I hear that photographers don’t know that things like “Star Composites” that highlight an individual student, or something competitive to what Lifetouch calls “ImageStream”, software that the schools use to create products from student images, can be made by your lab or PhotoLynx software.

Pricing – A large chunk of what a larger photography company charges is kept within the corporation and not at the local level. So not only do they have to pay lab fees, they also have to pay what is equivalent to a Franchise fee. As an independant photographer, you can price your packages at a lower price then them and still make a larger profit per order.

Creative Photography – Through software, such as PhotoLynx you can even produce a proof that has 5 different crops and looks from one image. You can offer the students a choose of backgrounds through GreenScreen. You probably have a smaller staff doing your photography, so you can be more selective in the quality of photographer working for you. Larger companies can’t train as well, and have to be less selective with their personnel in order to come up with enough photographers for their seasons.

Customer Service – More then likely, most of your business is in your own backyard. You are local. You can provide personal service and attention. You keep the money in the community. You can be attentive to the school and be there when they need you. Parents are not caught up in being shuffled around throughout the organization for answers. You can respond to your customer’s needs immediately.

Large companies are like huge cruise-liners. It takes them a very long time to make a turn. Most independent photographers have been using digital photographer to their advantage for years now. It is very costly and takes a long time to re-equip a large business. As a smaller, independent company, you can cut through all of the bureaucracy of a large company and stay ahead of the competition.

This is just a random video I found on YouTube. I had nothing to do with creating the video and I am not implying that the software always works like this. I just posted it to show that nobody is perfect.

Yearbooks – At many schools a large Photo Company may offer yearbooks. There are many companies that can produce yearbooks for your schools. The publishing companies will even provide photography companies with software for the schools to design their yearbooks with. A couple of publishing companies that I recommend are Walters Publishing, and Marathon Press.

Think Big – Be Small – Being a smaller independent photography company certainly has it’s advantages. But sometimes the “bling” of a larger company may appeal to some schools. When you are presenting to a school, be sure to explain all of the advantages of working with a smaller independent photographer, such as the personal attention they will get. But, don’t be intimidated when it comes to some of the products larger companies provide. Again, everything they have to offer is at your fingertips. Some items you might want to be prepared for:

  • Do you provide ID cards? – Yes – In fact we can print them right on the spot. (Using software like CamLynx) The students can go to one camera and get the picture for their ID cards, yearbook, school administrative CDs, and instant ID’s all in one photograph.
  • I get free calendars from my current photographer – Once again – Marathon Press to the rescue! Based on quantities, Marathon offers many inexpensive calendars that can be customized with your studio’s name.
  • Other Goodies – It’s not always great photography that earns you a school contract. It’s the other little things, like rulers, cups, pencils, pens, book bags, etc. Things that may not seem like a big deal, but really works at winning the contract and adds credence for your studio. Look at the Oriental Trading company for some good deals on these nic-nacs.

Yes the cost of these things all add up. They are lost leaders. That’s why you want to do your homework. Don’t over extend yourself, just know that this stuff is available. Be prepared.

Promotional Material -I have a CD full of Photoshop files of “leave behind” sales flyers that can be customized for your studio. If you are interested, drop an email to requesting the CD and I will mail you one for free. Additionally, you can purchase flyers from Marathon press to be passed out to each student to advertise photography day and to be used as leave behinds when presenting to schools.

Be The Other Option – In many areas, a large national company is the dominant photography company. They are the school’s choice only by default. The school doesn’t have any other option, but would leave them in a heartbeat if they knew they had another choice. Be that choice! Names and contact listings for schools are plentiful. Here are a couple of national listings, but if you Google Public School Listings along with your state, you will receive plenty of results local to you….

National Center of Education Statistics

There’s plenty of business for everyone. School photography can be a very lucrative business. By photographing schools, the students and parents are a captive audience. The revenue from schools renews itself each year. If you don’t already do school photography, but are interested in doing so, see my previous blog about becoming a school photographer. If you are already in the school business, there are plenty of tools at your disposal to help you be competitive. You have the added bonus of being nimble, easily changing with the times, and able to provide custom services to your clients. Think Big – Be Small! – David vs Goliath


One Response to Think Big – Be Small! – You have the tools!

  1. i would love to get some free calendars on the internet, are there are sites or company that gives one? :;”

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