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How to get all the business you can handle doing restorations/retouching?

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  • How to get all the business you can handle doing restorations/retouching?

    Hi Everyone!

    For those of you who are doing restorations and retouching for a living, I have some questions:

    1. Nowadays is it possible to make a living just from doing restorations & retouching?
    2. Do you think you also have to be in business as a photographer to make a living at this?
    3. Do you recall how you first got started, before you had your own photo store or studio?
    4. Is finding the right advertising venue the secret or is it something else?
    5. What do you think of targeted direct mailings of your business flyer or brochure?
    6. What are the best ways to find good customers, particularly when you don't have a shop or studio?

    I thought I'd be able to find plenty of customers in the small, very family oriented town where I live which has over 1200 large families, many of whom are doing ok financially and have lots of very old pictures. But in the past two months since I've started very few people have responded to the flyers I've posted and the local ads I've placed in our community publications. It seems some see my flyer or ad and are impressed but then assume the work will be too expensive or that they'll get to it sometime later.... I recently added price ranges to my flyers and ads, but it still seems the same weak response rate.

    Any ideas, advice suggestions will be very much appreciated!

  • #2
    I don't have answers to all of your questions, and I really haven't done any advertising, but I have a freelance business and work in a photo studio doing restorations and retouching.

    Target group: Most of my customers are middle aged and older.
    My plan to address: Genealogy and historical groups. Perhaps church groups as well.

    Advertising: Mother's Day, Father's Day, and family reunions are probably the biggest selling times. I would target those dates and the months/holidays when people usually reunite.

    A newspaper article about me (restoration was not the main topic) generated a lot of interest, and six months later, business still comes in from that. I am planning to send out a flyer just to refresh the memories of those who planned to have some work done, but haven't gotten around to it. (I should follow my own advertising advice, but have just been too preoccupied with other work).

    Marketing: My own opinion...this is a luxury service.
    Something to brainstorm: Most people I've dealt with are giving the restoration as a gift to loved ones. Usually because the person in the photo has passed away. It seems morbid, but that's the way it is.

    Income: I don't think it's possbile to make a living doing restorations, at this point in the economy - at least where I'm at. The inflow of business is just not predictable. I don't think you need to be a photographer, but an association with a studio might help, as that's where people usually start to look when they want this work done.

    Prices-who knows: Many people think it should cost little more than the price of an extra print, and are turned off by the price. Others aren't concerned about the cost, their photos are their main concern.

    Type of work: Many of the restorations I've done are from bad snapshots, which isn't my favorite type of work, but work is work. People have no awareness or concern about copyright laws, so you must.

    Location: I think it's a must that you affiliate yourself with a local shop, where people can stop in at their convenience.

    How it started: Doing free work for friends and family. Eventually, friends of friends, who all offered to pay for having the work done (surprisingly, no one inquired about the cost!)

    Hope some of this helps. Good luck to you.


    • #3
      Diane, Vikki has given great advice!

      This is a fickel business, because people can put off doing the work so easily. The things that I think tip the scales for someone to go ahead and have work done is ...

      -Confidence that they are not wasting their time - that they will be happy with the finished work and not out wasted money.
      -Confidence that their photo will be safe.
      -The photo being very sentimental to themselves, or believing that the photo will be really appreciated by a family member - and thus the gift angle for why this gets so much busier around the holidays.
      -A death in the family.

      So you can't expect everyone to flock to you, the goal is that they remember you when they run accross the right photo at the right time (for them). Some people figure that they need to advertise fror 6 months before people start responding to an ad - because seeing an ad over a period of time gives confidence that the business is established. It is not the offer - it is the confidence, the offer in the ad only matters once the confidence is built.

      I would strongly suggest that you include a gaurentee on all flyers and pinted material / advertising. And also that you include that quotes are free. Also that you put in the yellow pages an in column 2 or 3 line listing - so that those people that remember you but have lost your flyer can find you - and they will gain confidence because you are established enough to have a long term ad - you will also get a couple of new clients a year from this.

      If I was starting out this is what I would try;

      Target Churches, Historical societies and Museums (Museums have an associated group of people who volunteer to help - this is the group I would talk to). Works like this;

      Explain that you are trying to establish yourself in the industry and that you would like to build the trust of their membership. In order to do this you would like to volunteer to give your time on one day every 2 to 3 months to scan / copy and print members photos at no charge. You would bring your equipment to the location of the organization to do this. You would scan or copy, quick global optimization and print - the organization would charge what they want to and keep 100% of the money.

      I say scan or copy because some photos will work alot better on a digital copy camera than a scanner - but you could add this to the mix after you know you are making money.

      You would not make it more often than 2 or 3 months appart so that people who want work done on their schedule would come to you directly - and also you have more value if you are not always available. You would also not do any art work to speak of, so that these folks who have a reason to come to you instead of doing it through the organization. They will want to bring you the business because of your gracious support - and as you do the work and chat with them you will be building a relationship that not only includes them, but their family and friends.

      I would do this with many organizations at the same time, try to book yourself solid every Saturday and Sunday for 3 months - then see how it is going. I think you will be amazed.

      Be sure not to underprice your work - the work that you get needs to pay for this donated time, your equipment, andyour advertising.

      Best of luck, Roger


      • #4
        To approach an organization I would do what I learned in a business class: call - mail - call (mail could by postal, email, or fax)

        call - basically "I would like to present an idea to whomever there would be appropriate, I have some information I can send you, whom might that person be..."

        mail - the information that you send also stating that you will follow up with a call

        call - the follow up call to see if there is any questions and to request a meeting with the person or commitee that is appropriate.

        This system would allow you to approach many organizations at the same time without any wasted time.



        • #5

          Thanks very much for your very informative reply! it gives me alot to think about... My community is a young one with not so many people over 50 so maybe that's part of the problem I'm having.

          Is the article about you posted somewhere on RetouchPro? It would be interesting to read it.

          Is the reason you don't really advertise that you're busy enough with your work at the studio?

          About how many restoration orders a month would you estimate your shop takes in? Or does it vary widely each month?

          At the photo shop you work with, what kind of affiliation were you able to set up? Are you a salaried employee? Independent contractor paid hourly? Paid per project where you set the fee? What do you think is a fair way to try to work out compensation in these kind of situations?

          I did recently start doing some work for a local shop on a project basis, but so far I've only gotten 2 jobs from him and I'm not sure where it will go. The first job I asked for $25, thinking that it would help get a large volume of work from him rather than being paid a bit more for only a few projects. But then the job turned out to be significantly harder than I originally estimated and took quite alot of time and so far no big volume of work has come.
          So I will pursue working for other shops..

          With free work, the problem I've encountered is knowing where to draw the line with what you'll do for free and being able to accurately estimate just how difficult a restoration really is and how much time it will really take you. Also if you have alot of friends, who do you do work for and who don't you? But I know these are things you learn from experience.

          Thanks again,


          • #6
            Diane, a good guide line for friends might be - if you would be excited to go out and purchase a gift for them of the same value as your work - then it is probably appropriate. Nobody would expect an auto mechanic to do his/her friends cars except for a very special situation...



            • #7

              Thank you for all the wonderful tips! Your comments about confidence are really outstanding.

              I think the idea of volunteering for an organization is brilliant. But I now use a Epson 1660 scanner and a HP 5550 printer (along with a photo lab) whose prices have dropped to near $100 each, if not less in the very near future, and I'm concerned it may not be good business to let people know exactly what equipment I use. Some may be inspired to go out and buy themselves a similar printer and scanner and start trying to do this work themselves.

              But I will give this idea alot more thought and see if there is a way I can put it into action...Maybe even doing the scan and then mailing them their photo afterwards would work for me; and then I'd have their name, address and other important contact info.

              A related idea might be to get a table at an arts & crafts type fair and figure out what you can offer people for free to get their attention and interest.

              Also, what's a digital copy camera??

              All the best,


              • #8
                While I'm at it, thought I'd also post one of my latest flyers for any feedback, etc. (The website referred to is under construction at the moment.)

                In flyers or advertising, is it better to use photos of the really hard things you've done to try to show your level of skill or instead photos that are more likely to be similar to what many potential clients may need to have done?

                Attached Files


                • #9
                  Hi Diane

                  Digital copy camera = Digital camera with close focus ability on a copy stand so that you take a picture of the photo instead of scanning it. I suggest, like most people here that do this, that you put polarizing filters on the lights and the camera. You deffinantly do not need to start out with this.

                  I like the copy on your ad. I would sugggest a much harder restore - you want to build excitement and confidence that you can handle anything that is physically possible. I would suggest some changes in graphic design to bring emphasis to important points - but I don't have any specifics. You might consider paying a graphic artist or trading for restoration work.

                  Regarding volunteering and the printer/scanner you use:

                  I need to start with a disclaimer - I have strong opinions on this and I need to write them unrestrained to feel that I am getting my ideas out clearly. I do understand that there might be other opinions and I don't mean to steam roll, no matter how strong my opinions sound I am always open to discussion. So, excuse my rambling and lets see if I can get to it.

                  I would not mail any finished work to anyone - when you leave at the end of the day you are done. The real value to you is in the time spent with these people building a relationship, not the work. You should not have to do anything more when you leave at the end of the day, if you do you will cheapen the value of your time. Your not on this earth to run free errands for these people.

                  I don't think the printer/scanner you use should matter. There are some people that will hire the plumber and some that will buy the wrench. For those that would buy the wrench charge them for tutoring/consulting when they need help, and be as helpful as you can. They are paying for your artistic and technical ability. Anyway copying is a service that they can go to alot of places for and is only a 'get to know you' facilitator. It is not going to be a major part of your business - you are building relationships so that you get all of the restoration work from their family and freinds. Be excited about what the equipment can do and encourage them to purchase and then send you the restoration work that they can't handle.

                  Also you should not present this as a copy service. You are also optimizing the image (brightness, saturation, contrast, sharpening) before you print it. You might even remove sp-ots that you can fix in under 30 seconds - but I would be careful not to let on that you might do that. That is the personal attention and expertise that has value.

                  This may sound trite, but different people like to do different things. Just because they could buy the scanner and printer doesn't mean they want to. Some folks won't want to do it themselves, and if they do have a family member or friend that can do it, they may prefer to pay for it so that they know it has been done right and in a timely matter without compromising the friendship. Anyway, successful people with money are busy doing what they wnat to do - not doing everything they can to save a buck.

                  Regarding the arts & crafts fair:

                  That is a good idea for displaying samples and handing out information. You could give a finished print at no charge if they schedulle an appointment with you within the next week or leave a deposit with you towards their future order. Don't give anything away for free to attract people to your mailing list. Those people that have integrity will feel uncomfortable about taking advantage of you and won't sign up, they will feel that you lack confidence because you are giving it away and that your work probably doesn't have value. Conversly the people who sign up for a freebee you won't want.

                  With volunteering for an organization you have perceived value if you don't act hungry.

                  Deep Breath
                  Let me know what you think, Roger


                  • #10
                    In answer to your most recent questions:
                    The article I mentioned, is not posted here, but there is a photo of the article somewhere here (forgot the location). It's nothing out of the ordinary really.

                    I don't advertise for my own business, or the studio, because I don't have enough time. Also, now that I do this for a living, I pretty much get my fill, and don't want to be doing this 24/7. I think there can be a point where you get burned out. Especially when you're doing tedious jobs.

                    We generally get about 4 calls a week for restoration or copy work. Not all of these turn into paying jobs. Some people call just for information or advice. Regarding copy services: I generally refer these people to other places. It's time consuming and like others have said, you don't want to get yourself known as a copy service. I usually tell customers that it is more economical for them to make their own copies at a local copy machine, as this isn't a service we normally provide, and therefore our prices would be higher. Most customers are very happy with that.

                    The shop I am affliated with is on a per job basis. The shop owner gets 10% of the final cost. I set the cost. Things may start off slower than you'd like, but they will probably pick up once the word gets around. Give it some time. If I were you, I'd make up a brochure and get it out to the target groups by September.

                    The cut off for friends and family is difficult, especially when you've done free work for them. What worked for me was putting their projects at the bottom of my "to do" list. I informed them that it would be a long wait, as I had "paying" jobs that took priority (which was true). There came a time when I had to tell a family member, who started bringing me stuff from coworkers (the last straw), that I no longer had time to do these for free, and that she should have them take the work to the shop.

                    I must mention that I'm against giving customers inkjets for finished work. I just don't trust the long term stablity. Also, I've found that it's actually cheaper to have a real print made.

                    Regarding what photos to show in your brochure. I would show images that show off your abilities. Even though 99% of all the work I do are images of people, a lot of positive feedback has come from the repair I did of a house! You just never know.


                    • #11

                      Once again, GREAT and very helpful advice!! I especially like what you wrote not to "give anything away for free to attract people to your mailing list. Those people that have integrity will feel uncomfortable about taking advantage of you and won't sign up, they will feel that you lack confidence because you are giving it away and that your work probably doesn't have value. Conversly the people who sign up for a freebee you won't want."

                      I also redid my flyer again with some of your points in mind. What do you think of this one? I need to print up a very large batch of about 100 or so and am trying to get it just right. It is not the hardest I've done but it's pretty for a flyer and seems to impress people.

                      Thank you for all your great support!!
                      Attached Files


                      • #12
                        Here is one more; a harder set of pictures. The client didn't want to spend so much money so I didn't go for perfection on it, just a good job.

                        Attached Files


                        • #13

                          Definently print up some sample flyers (on your printer) and show them to family, friends and potential clients. Get their votes, their feedback will be the most valuable, it will give you a real perspective on what people who are not in this business think and respond to.

                          I think the first of the last two flyers is a little flat, not in contrast (it might have a little too much), but in the shape of the face from the lighting.

                          The second flyer is good also, but the finished photo does needed to be tweaked and look like the same person (I think it is starting to look a little bit like a different person). I added just a lttle more shading to it on this example. I also think the red toning color is a little heavy, people really like to keep the old feel, but cleaned up and shaped to bring back the roundness that was in the original but got lost with the fading.

                          I am not a graphic artist, but I did a little cut and paste on the flyer to give you some ideas.

                          Looking good, Roger
                          Attached Files


                          • #14

                            Wow! I love the revised version of the flyer that you did!! I would never have thought of doing it like that. Thank you so much!!!

                            I took another look at the original pic of the woman and actually my version does really resemble her, once you enlarge the original alot more. But I probably did make her face look at least 15-20 pounds thinner in my restored version. It was so hard to tell where her face ended and the background started. I'll post a cropped enlarged version below of her face. I will also try to fit a copy into the revised flyer that you did.

                            Thank you for mentioning about the reddish tone and the importance of staying close to what the original looks like. I'm really into color and am learning that I have to be really really careful to always check to see what the customer prefers.

                            With the first flyer, is the flatness problem in the right (your right) side of her face, near her eyes and hairline? I remember I was so focused in just trying to get the color of the two cheeks to blend with each other when I did that one and it was before I learned from you about the importance of focusing on the lighting in the other thread.

                            Also, is there a way to tell when the contrast is too much as you thought? Is this something you just learn with experience?

                            Have a wonderful weekend!

                            All the best,
                            Attached Files


                            • #15

                              First one: I took a closer look. I have just spent ten minutes staring at them both and trying to figure it out, I think that although the shape of the face is the same the restored version has a deeper brow and more angular facial structure in terms of the shading and contrast in those areas, so it makes the child look a little older. My guess is that it is also a little over saturated. Also, the shirt has subtle pink patches in it on my monitor in stead of a soft cream like the original. .

                              Second one of the woman: You are right, the shape is the same. It is the shape of the shadows that have changed. I roughed in the shading to give you an idea. Look at the shape of the shadow next to the nose, under the lip, and I changed the jaw because I think the light area there is from the cleaned up damage. I also added little half smiles at the corners of the lips to match the original.

                              Good job - these are just some ideas to make them even better. I see life through my own 'rose colored glasses', so if anyone else has any ideas ...

                              These restorations are almost there own thread - if we want to go further with these we sould probably move them over and leave this thread to the making a living topic. Either way is fine with me though.

                              Attached Files


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