Interview with Israel Johnson

The other day I was interviewed by Israel Johnson and I thought it’d be kind of fun to share it with everyone!

Tell me about yourself and your business

I started my business in 2006 with zero photography training or background. My dad made our sauna into a dark room growing up and he has always loved photography, so thats probably where i got my exposure to it (no pun intended ;)). He made huge prints and put them up in our house, gave them to family as gifts, and always had a good eye. I have always loved good photography and it always inspired and captivated me, but only when I saw the business aspect of it did I become interested. I absolutely love people and when I saw I could combine my passion and energy with something that I loved doing and could support me, I instantly jumped on that train.

How did you get started?

I got started by meeting a select few who were really inspiring to me and told me I had a real talent and gift, so I went for it!

What was your greatest challenge in starting your business?

The hardest part has been doing the whole “business” aspect of things. Paperwork, money, taxes, bills, what to spend on fun, what to buy for equipment, etc.

What are you excited about at this current moment?

More and more, I’ve found that people are a lot more excited to have me photograph them and thats been a lot of fun. They find real value in my work and are stoked with what I can give them.

What have you found most effective for finding new clients? What marketing/promotional strategies work best for you?

I am all word of mouth and word of mouse. I do some marketing but its all pretty simple. I like it when my work speaks for it self and when people can be around me, see how I shoot and interact with them, and then be able to recommend me. Thats the best way to get clients that I get along with and that get along with me – they know what to expect and they know what they’re getting when they hire me. I use facebook, my website, and my blog (not really my blog… but I try!) to connect me with my clients, as they love being able to share their images with everyone.

How is changing technology affecting your business?

Changing technology just improves my ability/ease in editing photos, getting my work to my clients, and getting exposure. It hasn’t hindered my ability to improve in a business sense, it usually just adds to my business and gives me a little bit more of an edge.

What do you/your company look for when considering hiring someone as staff? As an independent contractor (IC)?

I don’t hire “staff” because that involves a completely new business license, getting insurance for my employees, paying taxes for them and making sure they’re reported… but I do have plenty of independent contractors. I definitely recommend hiring people that are better at doing parts of your business that take the photographer a lot of time. Editing, making albums, booking travel, working out expenses and contracts – all that is better for someone else to do. Its obviously harder to do that if you don’t have a lot of income to spend on independent contractors, but its good to focus on what you do best – shooting and providing a rockin’ experience for your clients.

Do you recommend using agents or representatives?

I am going to be bringing on a full time manager, but a lot of details still remain to be worked out. I think its a brilliant idea and more photographers should pursue it – I love outsourcing and I think its essential in succeeding in the business world.

What advice do you have for a student desiring to enter the business world?

Photograph tons. Get your work out. Do some stuff for free (or for a meal or something!), provide a good service and make your clients feel relaxed and that the photography experience was a lot of fun. Do photography because you absolutely love it and you couldn’t do anything else. Do photography because its your passion, not because it could make you money or give you status. Be creative and do crazy stuff – don’t ever let yourself get stuck in a routine. BE YOURSELF! =)

Beverly Lynn - So what did you do before you were a photographer? Since 2006, that hasn't been very long. How long did you shoot for free or for food until you started charging? Did you jump in with both feet, i.e. quit everything else and started a photography business? The market seems pretty saturated with photographers now, how do you set yourself a part from the rest?

Josh Newton - Hey Beverly! Before I was a photographer, I was just a student =) I got my degree in Biochemistry and my work experience consisted of construction, roofing, landscaping, sound technician, soccer coach, rock climbing instructor, substitute teaching, and other random jobs! So basically nothing to do with art or photograph =P

I shot for free only a couple times in the beginning – I started charging for my services almost right away. I still sometimes give discounts and I did shoot some things for free the first year – I feel like thats always important to do, but just not forever.

I started my business while I was in school, so my whole senior year consisted of marketing myself as a photographer. I worked for the yearbook and the newspaper, I shot engagements and senior portraits, I was doing photography in all my spare time really =P (sometimes during class as well!!) So when I graduated college, I immediately jumped into photography and continued shooting and getting more jobs. And that hasn't stopped =P

I set myself apart from the rest by just being me =) Thats the only real unique thing I can offer! Plenty of people have the same (or better) camera and equipment, edit the same way I do and use all the same programs, and use facebook/blogs/twitter/webpage to get their stuff out there. My advice would be to figure out how to get an online presence and show people who you are!

Shannon McGuire - I didn’t know you hire people to do your editing. That seems like a pretty good idea, as that is the hardest part for me to sit down and really work on. Especially when it’s a huge amount of photos and I have other projects and commitments to work on…

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