The Good Dance of Business

Post by TWiP Contributor: Patrick Reed

Whether we are entrenched and established pros or up and comers; we photographers in the business are always looking for that new marketing angle, that special product and that unique way to get our name out there.  I have found that good works, fueled more by altruism than by business savvy, are a wonderful method to accomplish my marketing goals, while at the same time using my talents for the benefit of those around me.

And so it was that I ventured this year to offer my services to our local children's ballet at little financial benefit to me.  My vision was to give back to my newly adopted community – as we have just returned to the US after 5 years living abroad with the Air Force – and to establish a good name for myself and an excellent reputation for my work.  Return on my investment was low on my list, and in fact I knew that I may lose money on the effort.  But isn't that the initial cost of investing?

Here, then, is a step by step example of drumming up an idea and  realizing your vision.

1. Establish an idea and create an opportunity

After sharing some photos I had taken as a parent of two young dancers, the ballet teacher mentioned to me that we might collaborate on a photo project.  We shared coffee and brainstormed ideas.

2. Research

I researched costs of our various proposals and decided to offer photo books, tailored to individual dancers.  I would produce the books in a proof book format to keep costs down, and I would give parents the ability to choose particular photos of their kids by posting a gallery of photos online.  The teacher loved the idea – and we were off.

3. Shoot

Now, the pure photography part (aka the reason why we do all of this in the first place).  My task was to photograph at three events – first, costume pickup day and also first full hair and makeup day, then a practice rehearsal, and then the full dress rehearsal.  The teacher and I rightly figured that these 3 ops would give us all of the pictures we needed to get compelling and documentary images of all 100 dancers.  2500 photos later' we had what we needed – and I was able to enjoy the efforts of shooting without flash, using natural light, pushing my skills and equipment.

4. The Business Side

Then it was time for business: making sure that this whole pro-bono production was as streamlined and cost- effective as it could be.  I created advertising postcards with to drum up interest in the project and to give parents pricing details. I printed out ordering envelopes, and I also posted some of the early shots on my SmugMug Pro account to give a sense of the quality of my work.  I also advertised that proceeds from the whole project would directly benefit the ballet.

5. Remain Flexible and Optimistic

Lastly, I encourage anyone interested in this kind of establishment angle to roll with the ups and downs of the project.  When one parent out of 100 complains that there were only 4 great pictures of her child, and when one refuses to include email information… just go with it.  For that latter parent, pick up the phone and make that personal contact. For the former, refund her money and work with her to find those images that are in the archives somewhere.  All in all, remain true to the original intent of the effort: to give back and to show your quality work and excellence.

Thru an effort such as this, you will find yourself showered in compliments and further along in your effort to showcase your talents for your future clientele.

To see my work in progress, visit and click on “ballet.”


Patrick Reed – Patrick Reed Photography



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