This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
676. The sucessful conducting of a photographic business depends largely upon the quality of the work produced. The photographer's work that is sold to the customers is his own best advertisement, and if the customers are pleased they will unhesitatingly express their satisfaction to their friends, who, in turn, must at some time or other have their pictures taken, and it is natural that they should go to the photographer who has succeeded in giving satisfaction to their friends.
677. An unlimited amount of money may be spent in advertising and general publicity, but if you cannnot "produce the goods" all such money is practically wasted. If you are able to produce excellent work you will not need to worry about business, for with good work and careful treatment of your customers, business will gradually, but surely, come to you.
678. A good principle to follow is to always make the best picture possible of your customer, regardless of how much you are getting for the work or what the work costs you to produce it; in other words, please your customer first. With this acomplished you gain his or her confidence, and there will be little, if any, questioning of prices, and the well-satisfied customer will give you substantial and valuable advertising which money cannot buy.
679. We do not mean to infer by this, however, that advertising is not necessary, for legitimate advertising is as essential to the business of the photographer as it is necessary for the merchant to advertise his wares, only that the photographer has more advantages than the merchant. There are many inexpensive ways in which he may advertise, and produce good results. Suggestions for the advertising of the studio will be taken up under the proper heading.
680. The first consideration for the proper conducting of the photographic studio must be to make good work. Have it nicely and neatly finished, and above all get the work out on time.
681. It is our aim in the following paragraphs to offer such suggestions for the benefit of those who are engaged in a general photographic business, or others who expect to enter the profession, that they may manage their business on the most economical basis and meet with the best financial success.
682. Many times a photographer who has been established in business for a long time may be perfectly sincere in his belief that he is securing all of the trade possible to obtain, and, therefore, he makes no special effort to increase his business. To increase one's income it is necessary to improve the quality of one's work, for when producing better results you are far more justified in commanding a higher price for your work. No matter in what profession or kind of business one is engaged, to be successful it is necessary to adopt some method or system for conducting the business, for system is the real key to success. We do not mean by this, a lot of red tape, keeping records, etc., for the most successful and most valuable system is that which requires the smallest amount of work, yet permits one at all times to be in touch with every department.
683. It is a generally conceded fact, and one which is literally true, that the photographer endowed with a strong artistic temperament lacks business qualifications. In fair weather he is prone to wait for his customers, and in rainy weather he broods and worries over conditions in general, wondering how he will meet his stock and rent bills, and if he is of a weak nature he will not exert any effort whatsoever to improve the situation, but will allow the conditions to be his master, and eventually cause his downfall. He may become careless as to his appearance; the reception-room and work-room next suffer; then the work is carelessly done, and the customers are slighted, promises being made which he rarely fulfills. It does not take long after this disease has once started before the studio is closed.
"LOUISE" Study No. 30 - See Page 581 Geo. E. Tingley
PORTRAIT STUDY Study No. 31 - See Page 581 C. C. Pike.
684. On the other hand, the successful photographer - the one who is getting the dollars - is taking advantage of every false step that his competitor makes, and during the rainy days and dull season he perfects his plans for getting more business, more customers, the customers of his careless competitor. He cleans up his studio, in general, re-hanging the pictures, and improves or perfects his system of business. He changes the pictures in his showcase often, and prepares special samples, which he may use during the busy season when all of his time must be given to his customers.
685. On entering the successful photographer's studio one is surprised at the hustle and extremely busy air that prevails, when business in general along other lines seems dull. In this studio every employee is kept busy. There are negatives to file, and duplicate or regular orders to be looked up, printing frames and other apparatus to be put into good working order. Everything is overhauled and thoroughly cleaned, from the show-case at the door, through all the work-rooms, reception-room and display-room, even to the stock-room. A photographer, successful both artis-tistically and financially, once said: "When business is dull and any one asks me how business is, I answer him, ' good '; while, on the other hand, when I am rushed with work and the same question is put to me, I answer, ' poor'."
686. In making the sittings exercise care that each negative is the very best that you can possibly produce. Never allow the use of an additional plate or two to stand in the way of your success, but be absolutely certain that you have secured a sufficient number of good negatives. The variety of poses and the apparent amount of pains taken with the customers will not only please them, but offer you an opportunity for an increase in their original order, for they will, naturally, select proofs from different negatives, and should they order only a limited number of prints from each pose it means more money to you, as an extra charge should be made for each additional position, of from 50 cents to $1.00 for cabinet size, and larger sizes in proportion. If the total number of prints is not increased over the original order - only a few prints from each negative having been finished - you will surely receive early calls for duplicate orders from some of the styles that they soon find they will want more of, all of which provides for a constant duplicating of orders, which means a gradual increase in the business.
687. You should work conscientiously at each and every step of the work, for your customers are keen to recognize the fact that you are exerting efforts to please them, and recognizing this they will be far more inclined to give their patronage to you, rather than to those who are known to be careless and indifferent as to the quality of their work. Bear in mind the one principle, that a well finished picture is a credit to its maker and a standing advertisement for more patronage, while, on the other hand, one poor picture can do more damage than hundreds of good pictures can do good. Therefore, no lack of pains should be exercised in the finishing of your work.
688. A soiled, carelessly produced piece of work is entirely unworthy of the efforts of the producer, yet many times we see prints poorly trimmed, mounted unevenly, and with paste stains on the mount, etc. A print of this character is also a standing advertisement, but it is one that keeps away trade from your door and gives it to your competitor.
689. By all means have your pictures appear just as neat as possible. Do not be careless even with the final wrapping. A neat, heavy envelope or cardboard box, in which to place the picture, is well worth its additional cost over common wrapping paper.
690. The busy photographer realizes the absolute necessity of having the confidence of the people; therefore, you should exert every effort to gain and maintain this confidence, for it means success. Under no circumstances promise the delivery of work before you are conscientiously certain that it will be done. Finish your pictures promptly, according to your agreement, and exactly according to the style selected; never offer substitutes without the consent of the customer. It is absolutely impossible to retain the confidence of your patrons by disappointing them, as excuses count for little or nothing. In addition to this, it is very humiliating to the photographer if it becomes necessary for him to make all kinds of excuses for not finishing his work when promised, and if practiced to any great extent you will soon lose your reputation for reliability and promptness, and your competitor will have gained a customer through your negligence. Therefore, be prompt if you would succeed.
691. Another important point to consider, especially when opening a studio in a new location, is to impress your customers favorably with the fact that your products are fully worth the price you are asking for them, and that it is quality for which you are striving. Arrange your prices so that you may meet all your expenses and keep your honesty, good name and credit above reproach, leaving a goodly amount for a bank account. Less than this means failure, and in the end, with credit gone, you will be classed with the unsuccessful.
692. If proper consideration be given to the foregoing suggestions, and your work is performed conscientiously, there will be absolutely no excuse for failure.