Turning ideas into photo products
By Andrew Hudson Published: October 19, 2011 Updated: July 4, 2016
One way to make money from photography is to invent useful photography accessories. If you can think of something that would help you as a photographer, maybe other photographers would pay for it. With some time, money and willpower, you could turn your idea into a profitable business.
Five wedding photographers who created photo products are profiled in an article by Holly Stuart Hughes at PDN. Here’s a summary.
Shootsac — Stylish Lens Bags
Jessica Claire was a wedding photographer looking for a simple and convenient way to carry multiple lenses while shooting. A satchel from Prada was her first choice but it had too many buckles and not enough protection for her lenses.
With fellow photographer Keats Elliott, Jessica designed a prototype out of the same material used for wetsuits. At their first trade show in 2007 they sold 250 bags. Today, they have a successful business with four full-time employees and a popular online store.
“There is major difference between an idea for a product and the energy required to create a successful business.”
—Jessica Clair, Shootsac
ShootQ — Photography Business Software
Andrew Niesen and Rachel LaCour Niesen were wedding photographers looking for a better way to manage appointments and referrals. For less than $20, Andrew bought the book PHP & MySQL for Dummies and wrote the first version of an online photo business program, ShootQ, in 2007.
To get a better product, they hired a professional coder, Rachel’s brother. This cost money so they raised nearly $60,000 by selling 100 lifetime memberships at $595 each. Three years later, they sold the company to Pictage, where they now work.
“Now that I’ve got a constant paycheck and I’ve got an official corporate title, it’s weird. I miss the struggle.”
—Andrew Niesen, Pictage
The Gary Fong Lightsphere — Flash Diffusers
Gary Fong was a wedding photographer looking for a better flash diffuser. He was impressed with the soft lighting of a lampshade in a hotel room and saw an ad saying “We make plastic parts for your ideas.”
“I thought, okay, I’ll make a big lampshade for electronic flash.”
Gary invented and patented the Lightsphere, a large diffuser shaped like a lampshade. He spent $15,000 on the first 300 models, and they sold in about a day. Then he got orders for 400 more. Introduced in 2004, his popular accessory had sold more than 400,000 units by 2011. Today, his products are sold by Amazon and B&H Photo Video.
“All you need is the customers. It’s got to be a product that customers will buy. If they buy some, you know grandma will be packing boxes for you. If they buy waves of them, you’ll have grandma supervising some temps who pack the boxes until you find a distribution company.”
Source: Holly Stuart Hughes at PDN via Michael Zhang at PetaPixel.Next page: Sell photo ebooks for the iPad via Blurb