The first step in the framework is asking where are now. This is best visualised as a large circle with circles inside. The outside circle is the macro environment. Inside is the micro environment, consisting of competitors and customers. At the centre of the micro environment is a circle representing the company.

 

Macro environment

Photographers should probably look at trends in their industry, such as what style of processing or light is popular in fashion at the moment, are weddings posed formally or informally, etc. Maybe you want to conform to the expecations of the industry, or try and create or fill a niche. This is a strategic decision for later.

Also look at the condition of economy – considering the 2008 recession, how willing is the population to spend money hiring a photographer or buying art? Few bands I speak have much money to pay for concert or band shoots. They rely on getting paid after gigs, pushing CD sales and usually still work a day job. Maybe there are a few high profile bands with big budgets, but they probably have their favourite or regular photographers, or maybe there are many photographers trying to catch the attention of just a few bands in this segment.

 

Micro environment

Customers

Look at your existing customers – how satisfied are they, what are they saying about you, are there any problems, are they recommending you? If potential or actual customers are complaining you are too expensive or too low budget, maybe the problem is actually that you are targeting the wrong people – discussed later in this guide. Also look at your core capabilities – what you are good at and how can you focus on these things? Related to this is your set of distinctive capabilities – what you can do better than your competitors, or maybe you have a style, technique or equipment that is very niche. Here are a few that come to mind.

  • Capturing the right moment (of people’s expressions or fast-moving sport),
  • Excellent people skills (taking party photos at an event, or organising a complex shoot)
  • Low light photos (concerts, church weddings).
  • Landscapes (including panoramas, long night exposures and light painting)
  • Macro or close-ups (bugs, jewellery, water droplets)
  • Controlled lighting (indoor studio or outdoor strobes/flashes)
  • Natural lighting (versatility in all types of weather, to create landscapes or portraits)

These capabilities will be based on a combination of your creativity or “eye”, your technical skill and your range of equipment (which hopefully you understand how to its potential). If you have one or several of these capabilities, you can probably apply them across more than one discipline. I’ve spent a lot of time doing panoramas on a tripod – I can apply this skill to architecture or landscapes. If you have the technique and equipment to give you an edge in low light settings, you can earn money doing concerts or weddings.

 

Competitors

Look at competitors. You don’t have to copy them, just be aware of what they are doing in terms of standards of service or quality in a certain field. Such as weddings which tend to be high budget package deals. Or there are fashion photographers which have different packages – I’ve seen one ad advertise a low budget test shoot for an hour or two plus an option for a higher budget full-day indoor and outdoor shoot with make-up artists, a studio and a few prints included. Talk to other photographers or read their websites to find out rates. More about prices under pricing strategy later.

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