I originally posted this article at https://www.uglyhedgehog.com/t-548568-1.html
Back in 1975 at age 20, I shot portraits. I used Kodachrome 25 slide film. I shot in small towns that were not large enough to have their own photography studio and I did quite well shooting there 2 or 3 times a year.
I used a three man crew. The first man entered the small town and made a reservation at a motel for 2 weeks later. He then placed postcard sized fliers on the counter near the check out register at local businesses. The businesses were eager to allow him to place the fliers. The fliers were simple. The word FREE was in both upper corners in large print. The flier states: In appreciation of your business, this establishment has arranged for you to receive a free 8×10 natural color portrait to be taken at the location listed below. The lower right hand corner was left blank when the fliers were printed so that the crew scheduler could use a rubber stamp with changeable letters to stamp the location and time of the shoot. The location was generally a motel.
The second crew member was the photographer. He checked into the motel on the day scheduled. He slid the bed out of the way and placed a backdrop as far away from the front door as possible. He placed his camera on tripod close to the door. He placed a small bench for the subjects to sit on. He placed a slave flash between the bench and the backdrop to wash out any shadows. His zoom lens allowed him to zoom out for a group or in close for a head shot. His umbrella lights were off to the side. He now had a make shift studio. He also had a card table, small carpet, pillow, and other props which may be necessary for babies or other. He got an early lunch as he would be busy all day and into the evening. He comes back to the room where people are lined up at the door to get their picture taken. He shoots 4 to 8 shots of each subject depending on whether group, individual, or whatever is required. He shoots until there are no longer any people waiting in line outside the door.
I had the film developed into slides and sent a postcard in the mail to the customers advising them to go back to the same location on a certain day to choose their free picture.
The third crew member arrives at the same location and as each customer comes in, he shows them the slides in a large viewer for them to decide which one they want for free. Between a third and half of the people choose their freebie and go home. I later began charging a $1.50 sitting fee to cover the freebies. The portrait was still free. An 8×10 cost me a buck at the time. The rest of the customers chose from assorted packages of a few wallets, 5×7’s, additional 8x10s and larger 11×17 or 16×20. He accepted partial or full payment and any balance due was sent COD.
I sent the slides to KT Color Lab in Hollywood, California where they cropped for free according to the marks if any on the slide border frame. They did excellent work and very fast.
I was able to pay three full time employees as well as myself. I generally stayed back at the brick and mortar shop and made sure things operated well. I did this for three years.
I was young and stupid and gave it all up for what I thought was love. Now, 40 some odd years later, having generally had a camera on hand but only as a hobby, I consider buying an enclosed trailer to make a mobile studio. I could go out and earn a thousand cash 3 or 4 times a month if I ever wanted to. On the other hand I am older now and I may just look at it parked out there and never have the time or ambition to actually do it. Still, I am sure I would use it for the grand kids and great grand kids if for nothing else.
Shooting portraits in those days was a no brainer. F11 or F16 (depending on light meter) and sync the shutter with the flash. The skill part was posing them in such a way as to make them buy it.
A lot of time has gone by and a few years ago I bought a Nikon D3300. I had a point and shoot Nikon Coolpix 10 megapixel before that. It was pretty good for what it was. I gave it to my daughter and bought a B700. This week my new Nikon D7500 came. It might be a long time before I out grow this one.
Now I shoot objects to sell on eBay or people and business stuff for a website.