How I make money with a camera is totally different than what any so-called “expert” photographers tell you. But just ask how many of them were able to retire at 38, from what they actually earned with a camera. I was able to retire at 38 with what I made with a camera, buy an airplane & a turbine helicopter, travel the world, do everything on my bucket-list (except see the northern lights).
I’m Dan Baker, and I teach you how I was able to be so successful in both the photography and video businesses, with what I call the Two-Percent Niche. I was able to earn enough with my cameras to be able to retire at 38, and spend several years traveling the world living my bucket-list. The world today is changing rapidly, with the future uncertain. Everybody is wondering just what the New World Order will be. I decided to create my very own personal New World Order, to become totally prepared, to not only survive, but to thrive, no matter what the future brings.
I stumbled across the key to getting high-paying photography clients after I got sick and tired of cold winters (it was minus 18 degrees one morning) and moved from the mid-west to the Florida Keys. By high-paying I mean that my day rate was the highest in the Florida Keys. My day-rate was not just the highest, but was almost twice as high as the next highest day-rate of any photographer in the Florida Keys at that time.
Over the 25+ years that I did commercial photography in the Florida Keys, I never talked face-to-face with a single potential client that did not ending up hiring me. In other words, 100% of the photography clients that I met with in person chose me over any other photographer, even though my rates were much higher than any other photographer.
I learned all this before digital cameras were invented, and before photoshop. As I explain how I made so much money with my camera, you have to understand that the technology of photography has drastically changed over the last few decades, but the concept of how to maximize the amount of money you can make with a camera translates exactly to 2021, with digital cameras, websites and social media.
The Florida Keys main industry is tourism. Motels, tourist attractions, restaurants and charter boats are the main industries that hire photographers. The reason that these businesses hired photographers was to produce images for brochures, rack cards and postcards. This was pre-internet, and mailing out printed advertising pieces was the main way for businesses to reach potential customers. Today we have the internet, every business has a website, and almost nobody mails out expensive brochures anymore, but the concepts of how to make lots of money with a camera are exactly the same.
When I first moved to the Keys, living in a tourism area was new to me. I wasn’t used to shooting images for motel brochures so I did some research on my new industry. Then I heard about a company called Dynacolor Graphics which was a large printing company that specialized in printing brochures, rack cards and postcards for the tourism industry. Dynacolor used professional photographers exclusively as sales-reps. Very interesting! I could do the photography and get a commission from the printing of the brochures too.
It wasn’t a lot of money, but it was an easy side-hustle, since I was going to be shooting images for motel brochures anyway. So I decided to give it a try. I contacted Dynacolor and they set me up as a sales-rep, sent me some samples of their printing and showed me how to write up the sales forms. Dynacolor not only did the printing, they also had their own graphic designers. All I had to do was send them the photographs, make a pencil sketch with an idea of what the customer would like, and Dynacolor Graphics would design their brochure and then send the customer a color proof to look at. The customer could then make any changes they wanted and Dynacolor would make those corrections and send a new color proof to the customer, until customer was satisfied. All I had to do was send Dynacolor a signed order form, and I got a commission. A little extra money from a printing commission added to my photography fees wouldn’t hurt anything at all.
I was not prepared for what happened. I put a hand written note on the bulletin board of Coyne Laundry in Marathon, FL, which is the middle of the Florida Keys. The note said I was a photographer and listed my phone number. The next day I got a call from the manager of a small local motel. His name was Mike and he was looking for a photographer to shoot some photos for their new brochure. I made an appointment to see Mike the next morning.
Producing brochures, rack cards and postcards requires three different steps. First you need a photographer to make photos. Then you need a graphic artist to design the printed piece. Then you need a printer to print the brochures, etc. Typically you have three different people, a photographer, a designer and finally a printer, involved in producing the brochure.
I was new to all of this, never having done photography for motels before. All I was expecting when I met with Mike was hopefully my first photography job in my new home, the Florida Keys. Mike was a very pleasant person, and my very first potential photography client in the Keys, and my very first job in the tourism industry too. Mike started the conversation by saying that he absolutely hated getting new brochures made, because of all the hassle. He had to deal with photographers, graphic designers and printers. And whenever something wasn’t what he had wanted, nobody took responsibility, each one blaming whatever Mike didn’t like, on somebody else.
Photographers would blame anything that Mike didn’t like on either the graphic designer or the printer. The graphic designer would say that it was the quality of the photography or printing. The printer would blame everything on the photographer or graphic designer. Nobody would take responsibility when something wasn’t right. I told Mike that I was a rep for Dynacolor Graphics and I could take care of the entire job. I would take the photos and then Dynacolor would do the rest. Mike only had to deal with one person, me. I would be responsible for everything, and I would make sure that the new brochure was done to his total satisfaction.
What Mike said next sorta stunned me. He told me that I had the job. I hadn’t shown Mike any printing samples from Dynacolor yet, or my photography portfolio either. I told Mike that I haven’t even given him any price quotes yet. What he said next changed my life. Mike said, “I don’t care what it costs. Just do it right and send me a bill. I want 50,000 brochures.”
Mike didn’t want to hire a photographer. He didn’t want to spend a single dollar on photography, or graphic design, or printing. What Mike wanted was more guests at his motel, and to get those guests he needed brochures to mail to people. All the brochure was to Mike was a necessary business expense, and nothing more. All that I was to Mike, was a solution to a problem. I was just a commodity to him. He needed guests, and to get guests he needed brochures. And Dan just turned out to be the perfect solution to exactly what he needed.
So unlike any other photographer that Make had dealt with in the past, or graphic designer, or printer, Mike saw me as “the brochure guy”, not as a photographer. Because I produced the entire brochure, I wasn’t just a piece of the whole process. When I got the color proof back from Dynacolor and took it to Mike to look at, he had invited a manager of the motel next door to take a look at the proof of his new brochure.
Mike introduced me as “Dan, the brochure guy”, not as a photographer. Mike told the other property manager that I took care of everything, photography, design and printing. The other property manager told me that he wanted me to make him a new brochure for his motel too. I asked him when I could come and show him my portfolio and Dynacolor samples, and give him a price quote. His response was the same as Mike had given me. Just do it and send me a bill. They did not care what the price was, because I made the process of making a brochure simple, instead of massive headaches. And I made sure that they were satisfied, and I personally took responsibility for everything. I was the solution they were looking for.
From that day on, I was not known as a photographer, I was a brochure producer. I quit doing photography for clients, unless Dynacolor was doing the printing, and I was making a printing commission too. Several clients who already had graphic designers and printers they had worked with before, and just wanted me to shoot new updated photos of their properties, instead switched to Dynacolor when I said that I work exclusively with Dynacolor, and I don’t just shoot photographs, unless I am doing the brochure production also.
Businesses in the Florida Keys did not see me as a photographer. I stood out from the crowd of photographers, because I solved a big headache for them. I did the entire brochure job from start to finish, unlike other photographers, who weren’t willing to do any graphic designing, or printing. Little did they know that I didn’t do any graphic designing or printing either. Dynacolor took care of everything, and just sent me a commission check for steering my clients to them.
That first photography job in the Florida Keys, from a handwritten note on a laundromat bulletin board, paid me pretty well. My day-rate for photography, adjusted for inflation in 2021 dollars would be $2500/day. That first commission check from Dynacolor, for the printing, adjusted for inflation would be equal to around $3,000 today. So, to give you a feel for what I made on that first job in the Keys, it would be equal to making about $5,500 for one days work in 2021.
I never had a listed phone number, and I never advertised. All my photography clients came exclusively from word of mouth. Everybody called me “Dan, the brochure guy”. Without even understanding what had happened, I had stood out from the crowd of photographers in the Florida Keys, and clients happily paid me a lot more money than any other photographer in the Keys charged. All because I was the solution to their need. I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do, photography, I was doing what they wanted done, which was making brochures.
Today the brochure business is dying, as are film cameras. Every business today has a website as the main way to get information to potential customers. But the opportunity for photographers is exactly the same. Somebody has to create the images, somebody has to create the website, promote on social media, and do SEO. Thinking of yourself as a total solution to what a business needs, instead of just thinking of yourself as only a photographer, is exactly the same today as it was when I started that first brochure job in the Florida Keys. You will stand out from the crowd of photographers (and it is a crowd), and you’l make a lot more money.
DanBaker.com will have lots more articles on exactly how I did everything, in future articles, so check back often.
To learn more about Dan Baker, you can read his bio and client list. You can read all of Dan’s articles at his archive. He uses the techniques in the Super-Niche to build the website for Fulltron Aviation, which is an umbrella of several aviation related businesses: Flight School, private airport, a social organization called the Hillbilly Squadron, and How-to GoPro videos.