by Ron Pybus Published 01/11/2006
If you are planning to photograph babies you need to establish the range of baby shops in the local area.
You also need to identify the local competition in the area. What other photographers exist, are they full-time, part-time, working from home or from the High Street or a store. What photographic companies regularly ply their trade in local shopping centres or advertise in shopping centres. You can obtain most of this information from local directories Thompson's, Yellow Pages, the Internet, etc.
By now you will have built up a picture of the community you plan to serve, but you need more information before you can begin. You need to find out what local people want from a photographer. The best way to achieve this is with a clipboard on a street corner. You need to question appropriate people (mums with babies if you want to do baby photography, for example) and find where they have babies photographed at present, how much they pay, how many they get, whether they like what they get and whether they consider it value for money. You need to find out their difficulties (parking, opening hours, etc.) You should also have a pack of your own photographs and try to ascertain whether they like yours and what they would be prepared to pay for your images.
Finally you need to find out what local photographers offer in terms of quality, price, opening hours and range of photographs offered.
From all the above information, if gathered correctly, you have the opportunity to design a series of services that specifically meet customer need in your area, that are priced at a level that people are prepared to pay and that do not overlap with other established photographers.
In my own case I was able to identify that there were three photographers going into the shopping centre, so that for one week per month there was a photographer offering three different shots at what appeared to be a cheap price. They would also only shoot the child, not families. This was similar to the travelling companies who worked in Boots and other stores from time to time. There was a High Street portrait and wedding photographer who did little marketing and who aimed to sell only large framed prints. There were several others offering slightly different services, but almost everyone had parking problems, didn't open Sundays and/or were very expensive. No one used a white background - at best it was a sky colour but many were bright colours and one was black only. There was a national company within the catchment area and people generally travelled from Warminster, Westbury, Frome, Melksham and the surrounding villages into Trowbridge for specialist shopping.
The opening I identified was to use a white background, open Saturdays and Sundays and some weekdays and offer packages of prints from a selection of ten images (or more) taken at the sitting. I would be happy to photograph the child and any other members of the family as part of the package. Parking was within feet of the studio. By speaking to the banqueting managers of wedding venues I identified their needs (punctuality, consideration for their operational needs, etc), and the problems they had with existing photographers and was soon able to gain a strong foothold in the wedding market.
From the information you gather you should be able to identify a gap in the market that you are able to fill. In the next issue I will describe how to market your product to meet the known potential demand.
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