Charles Lucima is a photographer who leveraged a strong business background to propel rapid professional success.
Based in Los Angeles, Charles specializes in editorial, fashion, beauty, and advertising photography.
While the quality of Charles’ images speak for themselves, more impressive is the story of Charles’ success.
Starting photography as a hobbyist in 2008, buying a Nikon D3 in August of that year … and turning pro a few months later in January, 2009!
At his photography seminars, Charles gives back by educating others on the ins and outs of this business.
To Charles, being a professional photographer means:
Charles understates this success,
“Of course, it wasn’t until many months later till I turned a profit.”
“Early on, David Hobby’s Strobist.com influenced me and taught me everything I knew (at that time) of off-camera flash photography.”
Regarding his skyrocketing success, he states,
“My knack for business-success comes from previous business experiences. Really it’s just all life experience.”
I used to do a lot of beauty in my unpaid tests when I was building my portfolio. But retouching beauty images take a lot of time.
Nowadays, I try to stay away from stuff that takes a lot of time. But don’t get me wrong, beauty taught me how to retouch… and I love the face.
I’m focused more on the face than the body.
But in the same amount of time that it takes to retouch a single beauty image, I can retouch 15-20 fashion images.
Of course if it’s paid work, I’ll do whatever the client wants …
When asked about how he is different from other photographers Charles states,
They are lousy at selling themselves.
If you aren’t making any money, it’s just a hobby.
Truth is, you gotta be able to support yourself.
How are you going to call yourself a pro, if you can’t make a living doing it?
Most hobbyists look at photography as a means to shoot beautiful women.
They just wanna work with hot girls.
But let’s be honest, the actual shooting is only 5% of the business.
“In my upcoming business workshop, I walk you thru the reality of the business.
How many clients do you have to have to just break even?
For that matter, do you need a studio?”
On the marketing side:
What do you do that the other guy can’t?
This is the question every photographer must answer:
What can you do that the other guy can’t.
You gotta be able to explain that to the client.
All good photographers take good pictures, not all good photographers can monetize those pictures.
To be a successful photographer financially, how do you monetize what you do?
You have to be able to answer, ‘What makes me different??’”
“What makes me different?
I’ve own and shoot a medium format Hasselblad H3DII-31 31 Megapixel camera.
That’s one of my selling points.
That’s differentiation with a tool.
But if you just have a Canon or Nikon, you still have to (in 1-2 sentences) differentiate yourself, or you have already lost the attention of the client.
Often the client themselves cannot differentiate by looking at photos from different photographers.
But, if you can show them the difference, because it’s about showing them your value, then you can get the contract.
For example, you might get a designer that has been designing for two years, but he/she doesn’t know A from B…
They can’t differentiate between me and Patrick Demarchelier.
And Patrick DeMarchelier is a god.
So it’s about monetizing your talent. Your images. I’m very good at monetizing. I’m pretty good at selling how I’m different because my background is in business.
I’m not an artist, who’s gonna come late, miss a meeting. I come from a white-collared-shirt-and-tie background.
Interacting with me is like interacting with your CPA.
My value-add is that I can procure any part of a shoot: styling, storyboarding, retouching services, locations, talents, etc.. My studio does it all, from start to finish.
Some clients don’t even know what they don’t know.
I can walk you through the entire process.
The final thing I will say is that one of the best things about me as a photographer is that I do my own retouching.
Of course if you’re Demarchelier, you have your own retouching team. But I’m not Demarchelier and neither are you. There is only one Demarchelier.
Non-elite photographers are being squeezed on price because there are too many photographers crowding the business space. Doing my own retouching allows me to keep the prices down and pass that savings to the client.
Integrating the retouching ensures continuity.
And retouching is imperative because no client is going to hire you based on how good your pictures look straight out-of-the-box.
They hire you based on what your final product looks like.
Retouching is half of the process if not more. Retouchers are the unsung heroes of every thing you see.
Everything you see has been retouched.
The point is, retouching is extremely important; and, it’s even better if your photographer is doing the retouching.
A lot of it is about quality control. It’s about control. Period.
If you are the creative director of a shoot, you don’t want your retoucher to be 5000 miles away who doesn’t speak English.
Wrapping things up, you gotta know your market.
I’m a fashion photographer in Los Angeles. I don’t even know the market in Phoenix and I really don’t even know the glamour market in LA.
Being able to command a higher rate depends on genre, location, your existing client list etc. That’s why there are photographers willing to do it for free, and those getting paid $1,000,000 per year…
You gotta be honest with yourself and look at your list, distance to other photographers, value you are adding because most photographers think they are worth more than they are.
You gotta know your market and your product, and that’s how you gotta price it and monetize it.”
For more from Charles, click here.
Images © Charles Lucima
For a listing of Photographers Profiled on GlamourPhotography.co, click here.