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Photography Business/Camera Sales/Services, which way to go?


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#1 Leaviathan

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Posted 08 January 2017 - 07:43 PM

I'm considering a small business loan for a Photography business/Camera store. Is it best to cover all the bases, like offering printing services, film developing, Photo Canvas, Custom framing, Camera and accessory sales, on site studio, portraits, full photography service etc.. or is best to specialize in one area?


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#2 Art

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 12:33 PM

Hmmmm, a very tough question not knowing your City, location etc.

Who you catering to?

Tourists?

Different approach that if you are dealing with families that may want portraits or kid pics!

You going to do weddings? Different again!

Maybe, describe your market first.

Tough industry!

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#3 Sailjunkie

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 12:54 PM

Hi Lea,

 

Sorry, but I can't answer your questions.  Art covered the reasons.  The good news for you is that you are asking the questions that a prospective lender will want answers for.  Canadian financial institutions would ask you to answer those questions as part of a business plan that you would submit with your loan application.  Or at least thats the way it is supposed to work.   :rolleyes:  

 

Congrats!  Asking the right questions is the important first step, and you have taken it.  Market research should give you most of the answers.  :)


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#4 Leaviathan

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 09:02 PM

They're pretty picky down here about giving away small business loans as well. For printing, photo canvas, custom frames, I can cater locally and on the internet. and locally I can do sales, portraits,boudoir,I need to get better before I can do weddings. I wouldn't even try that right now.

it's a tourist area, marine, beaches, and in the offseason It's a typical rural area. I would probably open the business in Hyannis

Nikon D-3300 18-55 VRII, 1971 Nikkor 135mm Q-Auto, Tamron 70-300 AF. Not much! But I'm working on mastering what I do have.


#5 Art

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 11:10 PM

As Mark mentions, the bank will want a business plan.  This will include a cash flow projection.

 

Do you have competition in the area.

What are they doing?

How long have they been in business and how well do you know them?

What makes you different from them?

 

Have you figured out the over head?

What will you need to see to meet the monthly "nut".

 

In the old days, tourists used to come in to BUY FILM, or DEVELOP FILM.  Today?  What do tourists do in a camera shop?  I honestly don't know, I am hoping you do.

 

Over the last year, I have made a fairly decent amount of money doing corporate product shoots.  I do it all in my house, so I don't require a studio.  I happen to have a customer that I have known for years and it is part of a series of marketing pieces I do for them during the course of the year.  Is there an opportunity to do anything like that.  I am not horribly familiar with Cape Cod, I have been there a few times but many years ago.  My impression was it is a seasonal destination.  Some really nice specialty shops, if I remember correctly.  Will your business be seasonal? If so, can you bring in enough to cover the yearly expenses which don't stop when the tourists leave.

 

 

I am just throwing out all the pointers I can think of.

 

There is a Photographers Almanac I highly recommend you get.  Best $30 you will ever spend.  It is chalk full of fresh ideas and contacts for professional photographers.  I will try to find my last copy and provide you with a link.  I strongly recommend you but the latest copy if you are going to pursue this.

 

One last question .... if you borrow money, can you afford the LOSE the entire sum?

 

I ask, because starting a business is like going to Las Vegas.  Can you afford to lose the money you are going to gamble with and can you pay the lose back to the bank?  How will it impact your life after and your family?

 

Most small business fail in the first 2-5 years because they are underfunded and not properly researched, food for thought.

 

Don't rush into this, make sure you do a lot of research and don't fool yourself on what you think you can make. Be realistic.  A spreadsheet can tell you everything you want to hear but the truth!


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#6 Art

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Posted 09 January 2017 - 11:14 PM

I stand a bit corrected, here is the link to the book, but it is more geared to selling images.... Still a very good purchase!!

 

https://www.amazon.c...apher's almanac

 

Try to find it on Amazon.com, the link above is to Amazon.CA


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#7 Leaviathan

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 06:37 AM

It's a lot to think about, and most questions I don't have answers for right now, this is more of a "down the road" idea. Recently some woman opened up a Gourmet Cheese shop in the most unrealistic area and she got very little business before she folded. People come here for the seafood lol. I was thinking I could start slow out of my home in a couple areas, and see where it goes.


Nikon D-3300 18-55 VRII, 1971 Nikkor 135mm Q-Auto, Tamron 70-300 AF. Not much! But I'm working on mastering what I do have.


#8 Art

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Posted 10 January 2017 - 11:42 PM

It's a lot to think about, and most questions I don't have answers for right now, this is more of a "down the road" idea. Recently some woman opened up a Gourmet Cheese shop in the most unrealistic area and she got very little business before she folded. People come here for the seafood lol. I was thinking I could start slow out of my home in a couple areas, and see where it goes.

That may be a better plan, don't borrow money! And, even that may not work out for different reasons.

A business needs traffic! So, location is everything.

From home, you will need to figure out a way to drive business to you.

Business is a risky business! Sorry if it seems like I am coming down hard but I have spent most of my life self employed and I know first hand the challenges and work involved and what it can cost you. In the old days, a store could easily work on Film and Photofinishing. Today, you really need to have a focus, know the market and specialize in one area. If you just sell "stuff", you will be eaten alive by your internet competitors alone!

Anything you sell, bigger players can sell cheaper and make more money than you at a higher price.

Start small. Take it slow.

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#9 Old Dog New Tricks

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 08:05 AM

I had an idea that I never took to fruit.  Tourists take a lot of pictures, but most don't post process.  Many of the shots they get are decent if given a good tweak.  Offer a service to tourists to PP their photos, produce books, slide shows, canvas prints etc.  I had thought of going to Travel Agencies to promote the plan.  Something that wouldn't take a lot of overhead, just time to shake the trees to see if fruit will fall.  Feel free to try it if you want.  Pricing?  No clue, kind of where I got stalled.


Posted Image

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#10 Art

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 09:57 AM

I had an idea that I never took to fruit.  Tourists take a lot of pictures, but most don't post process.  Many of the shots they get are decent if given a good tweak.  Offer a service to tourists to PP their photos, produce books, slide shows, canvas prints etc.  I had thought of going to Travel Agencies to promote the plan.  Something that wouldn't take a lot of overhead, just time to shake the trees to see if fruit will fall.  Feel free to try it if you want.  Pricing?  No clue, kind of where I got stalled.

 

Excellent idea.

 

You would have to boiler plate books etc. so maximize effort and look. No real over head required and you can work from home.


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#11 Old Dog New Tricks

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 10:51 AM

That was my thought.  Added I would give clinics to groups before they  went on a tour.  I may touch base with a travel agency to check out the need for such a service


Posted Image

"Photography is man's attempt at immortality. To save our memories and share them. The places we have been, the people we have known, the things we have done. To share with others for eternity, or until the images fade away."

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#12 Old Dog New Tricks

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 10:53 AM

Better yet they could hire me to travel with them and take the pictures.  Oh I'm such a dreamer!


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"Photography is man's attempt at immortality. To save our memories and share them. The places we have been, the people we have known, the things we have done. To share with others for eternity, or until the images fade away."

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#13 Art

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Posted 11 January 2017 - 09:50 PM

Wouldn't THAT be an ideal job!  :D


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#14 ericbowles

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 12:02 PM

The photography business is tough.  There are no barriers to entry, and even established players are exiting.  Still - there are people who can make a good living by carving out a specific niche.  Forget film.  Forget selling cameras or gear.  Be ruthless with your inventory - if it does not turn, liquidate it.

 

Don't borrow money.  Even if you can get a loan, it needs to be for fixed assets only that can be sold.  You'd borrow money for a building with the understanding you need 40-50% down and will need to lease it or sell it to others as a fallback.  In that case you are in the real estate business - not photography.  Never borrow money for equipment or working capital.  Borrow to reduce the cost of current sales - not to generate new sales.  Things never go according to plan and the last thing you need is debt complicating the situation.

 

Size the market before you start.  Pick a niche.  How much do people spend today on the niche you are targeting?  How will you market and what share do you need to be successful/viable.  

 

Talk to 100 people about your idea and see what they need.  What are their photo problems?  Is the need great enough for them to pay money?  People spend money to get something they need.  They lack time.  They lack skill.  They may have vision - but can't execute it.  I'm pretty sure the lack of a studio portrait does not keep them awake at night.  

 

How many other photography businesses are there in your area?  What is the difference you are bringing to the table?  

 

Consider joining a group like PPA to understand business best practices.  They have a lot of members who photograph weddings, senior portraits, and other studio work.  Commercial work is possible as part of a mix.  Selling prints is a completely different business more built around a retail presence and good marketing.  Expect to spend 80-90% of your time on marketing and developing the business - especially while you are getting started.

 

The post processing and printing side is an interesting opportunity.  Chuck Wolfe - a pioneering photo retailer here in Atlanta - has started a new concept geared to editing and printing.  Looking at Facebook, you can see that people clearly don't know what they are doing with editing.  Framing can be a complimentary business.  I have no idea of whether his business model is viable - but it is a new idea.

 

I would not try to be all things - because some of those businesses are in decline.  Starting fresh, I'd stay away from well established products and services.


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#15 Leaviathan

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Posted 16 January 2017 - 12:40 PM

 

 

 

How many other photography businesses are there in your area?  What is the difference you are bringing to the table?  

 

 

 

 

There's a good amount of photographers but I don't see any studios, they all pretty much travel for weddings. if they have home studios, they haven't advertised them.


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#16 ericbowles

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Posted 17 January 2017 - 09:13 AM

The trend is to not use studios for portraits - that's why there are not any.  Natural settings provide much better revenue and better connection with the individual's personality.  I would consider a studio important if you have a product or service that needs a studio.   I don't know that portraits fall into that category unless you are using computer generated backdrops or shooting models in a highly produced context. Now for product photography, it might work but the definition of studio changes.

 

It's not that a studio is a bad idea.  But it's only part of a business plan and is for specific needs.


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#17 Leaviathan

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Posted 17 January 2017 - 11:50 AM

For me it would probably work out, I have a home recording studio and don't have the room for a large band, so a secure rental space could have a dual purpose.


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#18 CaseyJM

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Posted 15 May 2017 - 03:45 PM

I like the idea of a tour guide to help supplement income.  You know Cape Cod,  You know where the best photos can be taken to make the tourist photo books extra special,  you may be able to offer a 2 or 3 hour photo tour for a group showcases areas or perspectives that the average tourist walking around town will not see because they don't know that a particular view or angle is there.    It might be some thing you can do with very little up front cost.  That might pay off big for you.     I was in Gettysburg Pa  a few years back and saw an advertisement  on the street corner for photo tours that started twice a day and lasted for 3 hours each, from 9am to 12 noon and then again from 3pm to 6pm.  If I remember correctly I believe the charge was $25.00/per person.  I myself did not go,  my wife is not into photography and I would have been sleeping in the car that night if I did go, but i thought about for a split second :) .  


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