Newly Certified Photo Manager Barbara Bittner shares how she expanded her photography business to include photo organizing!
Barbara’s love of photography began unexpectedly in Orlando, Florida where she was attending college for mathematics. After just one photography course, it clicked. Her new passion was discovered and her focus shifted. Barbara graduated with an art degree in 1999 and soon began her 20-year career as a professional portrait photographer.
While enjoying life as a photographer with her company Bittner Studio, Barbara noticed that clients often had difficulty accessing and making use of the photos she would take for them. By asking the right questions, she soon found out that her clients could use more support with their photos.
In 2019, one particular client insisted that Barbara help him with his organizing his photo collection. Through this experience, she was inspired to dive into the world of photo management. Since then, she has become a member of The Photo Managers and recently completed The Photo Managers Professional Certification course to help her kick-start this new branch of her business.
TPM Founder, Cathi Nelson interviewed Barbara to learn more about how she expanded her photography business to include photo organizing, scanning and more.
When you talk to your photography clients, how do you bring up photo organizing?
When I’m with my photography clients, I let the conversation develop naturally. I typically ask them about what they like and what they’re doing and I try to make them feel really comfortable while we’re shooting. Then I let them know that if they don’t know what to do with their photos afterward, if their photo collection is messy, or if they’re not sure that their phone photos are backed up, I can help with that. I’ll also ask them about how they would like me to send them their photos and if they prefer a file transfer, flash drive, airdrop, or another method. Often, they’ll say they’re not sure and it opens the conversation up really easily.
What advice would you give to other professional photographers that would like to add photo organizing or scanning to their services?
When it comes to adding scanning to your services, my advice to a portrait photographer would be to hire someone to do your scanning. I’m really familiar with camera setup so camera scanning was a natural fit for me and I now have an employee that does most of my scanning work.
You can’t really have someone replace you or fill in for you as a portrait photographer, but you can hire someone in the photo organizing field and teach them how to scan.
Another thing to note is that you will have to split your time. I like to break it up by scheduling a photoshoot one day and then editing and organizing the following day since it involves more time sitting at the computer.
Do your clients want you to help with both digital and printed photos?
I find most people in the demographic of 50 years and older have both digital and printed photos. I shoot portraits for many families and if they’re in their 50s, they’re going to have albums. At the same time, these clients also have digital photos. When people are busy, stuff can get really messy, even when it’s important to them. To respond to this need, I offer both digital and printed photo organizing. In fact, when I started, I learned every aspect of photo organizing I possibly could from video conversion to scanning to digital organizing and all the tech that goes with it. Before I tried it, it all sounded tedious but, to my surprise, I absolutely love it!
How do you determine pricing for your photo management services?
I track everything including the time I spend setting up, scanning, taking photos out of an album and putting them back, dating, etc. This tracking allows me to look back and see how much time it’s taking me to do all these things. I think that analyzing these metrics is an important business practice because your expenses will keep changing. If you add expenses like employees or you buy an office, you have to readjust your pricing. So I think it’s something you’re constantly reevaluating as a business owner.
What do you love most about being a Photo Manager?
The thing I love the most is the people that I meet and the connections I’m making. It’s my favorite thing about the business. I feel like I’m going to my friend’s house and we’re getting old photos out and just hanging out. It doesn’t feel like work!
What is one thing you don’t like about being a Photo Manager?
I don’t like the uncertainty of owning a business in general. For example, when Hurricane Ian hit us and I closed down for a week and a half, that was uncertain. And no one knows what will happen. When COVID hit, it ruined so many restaurants and so many businesses, and I don’t think anyone could have seen that coming. This uncertainty is something I do not enjoy about being a business owner.
On the other hand, all the challenges I’ve faced have helped me find solutions. I realized that everything I don’t like has helped me grow and made me better at my job. Now I can say that I actually like all the things that I didn’t like before. We can’t get rid of every problem, but if we can take something away from it, we can learn and grow.
How has membership in The Photo Managers helped your business?
Being part of The Photo Managers has helped me a lot. I felt very alone when I started looking for help with getting started as a photo organizer. Sometimes, when you’re googling stuff you can get lost down a rabbit hole all day and never get your question answered. You also don’t know who to believe as the person you’re reading or watching may not be a professional. I felt really alone and frustrated at that point.
When I found The Photo Managers, it was a lifesaver for me. I felt great! I could ask questions and get answers right away. The other members are facing similar challenges, so we can brainstorm and network and I don’t feel alone anymore. In The Photo Managers community, there are professionals that can lead you in the right direction so you don’t waste time and you find the right answers.
By adding photo organizing, scanning, and more, Barbara has been able to turn her passion for photos into a thriving business as both a photographer and photo manager!
Watch the full interview below, including questions from the audience.
Takeaway #1: Photo organizing is a natural extension of any photography business!
Takeaway #2: Many photography clients need extra help! Make sure they are making use of their new photos, storing them properly, and integrating them into their existing collections.
Takeaway #3: Every business comes with a measure of uncertainty. Use any challenges that come up as an opportunity to grow and learn!