Ph: (03) 9376 3606
We got started in 1999, opening a studio above a hairdressing salon. At the time it was just me. After three years, our business had expanded: corporate work, actors’ headshots. Our focus was on corporate work, but when the global financial crisis started, we decided to move into the portrait market because our corporate clients began to spend less money on business photography.
It all started with a Hairdresser...
Photomerchant Interviews Eddy Khayat about were it all started in June of 2011...
PM: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about running a business?
EK: Patience. Running a photography business is very different from 10 years ago. As Michael Warshall of Nulab says, in the old days, other photographers were your competitors. And photographers were looked at as magicians. We had a camera, and we could go out and create unbelievable images. Now our competitors are our customers. Rather than hiring a photographer, they go to JB Hi-Fi, buy themselves a camera and suddenly they’re a photographer.
You can try to sell to those people, but it’s a matter of knowing where you can spend your time more effectively. Do you waste your time trying to convince people the value of a good image, or do you spend the time trying to find another client?
PM: Why do you think your customers like working with you?
EK: The majority of our corporate work is repeat business. Those clients come back to us for the service and level of care; we go out of our way for our clients. For example, I’ve just driven 70kms outside of Melbourne to take photos for a regular client!
We’re also competitively priced.
PM: Is there anything you’ve changed about your business since you started?
EK: We change every day. You have to change. Recently we purchased an end-to-end piece of software that will hopefully help us from our first call with a client, to doing the shoot, to archiving the work when the job is done.
Adapting to technology is really important. For the first four to five years of being a photographer, I used to use film. And now, I’m onto my third digital camera.
Originally you could spend $3,000 to $4,000 on a camera that would last for 15 years. Now you spend $15,000 on a camera and you’re lucky if it sees you through three years.
PM: How do you calculate the costs of running your business?
EK: We know what it would cost to come to the studio and do absolutely nothing. I sat down one day and figured out all the costs. You’ve got to figure out your overheads. If you don’t know what your overheads are, then you’re not really running a business. Based on that we work out what we can charge. That said, there are industry rates and you’ve got to stay competitive.
PM: What do you do to stay competitive with other photographers in your market ?
EK: We’re a professional studio and most people can see that by looking at the company as a whole. A corporate client budgeting $10,000 – $15,000 for a job wants to deal with someone who can not only organise the photography, but also the makeup, the location, the models, the wardrobe and all those bits and pieces. We present ourselves professionally and that’s how we compete.
PM: If you could go back in time and give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
EK: There are a lot of things I’d tell myself. That said, I’d probably tell my younger self to go ahead and do everything the same so you don’t miss out on any hard lessons. I’d tell myself to keep doing what you’re doing because when you get there, it’s going to be worthwhile. I still tell myself that now because I’m still trying to get there!
PM: Do you have any tips for new photographers?
EK: Get out! Find something else to do. Laughs.
I’d say don’t give up, but know it’s very hard and competitive. From my photography class of 40, I know of maybe two people who are actually professional photographers.
You have to be a very good business person before you need to be a very good photographer, especially in this day and age. With digital, you can shoot 500 photographs. If the client needs two, you’re bound to get some good ones.
PM: What do you do in your spare time?
EK: I go home and think about the business. It’s very sad! When you’re a business owner, you sacrifice a lot of things.
I do find time to do things. I go out with my friends, I scuba dive when I can. I have other hobbies, but most of the time when I’m not at work, I go home and sit on the couch and tune out in front of the TV for a few hours. The very next day I’m up and back at work again. That’s the life of running a business.