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Isn’t It Time You Made Something of Your Photography?

Posted By Sean Cayton On February 26, 2008 @ 10:50 am In Business of Photography | 3 Comments

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If you’re a professional photographer, ask yourself this: “How is my photography used to make something?”

Your photographs might be used to make a newspaper. They might be used to make a magazine advertisement. Or they might be used to make a Web site. But if your images aren’t used to make something, then they’re purposeless. See the hundreds of thousands of images online at Flickr. Great to look at, but unless they’re used to make something — purposeless.

In my wedding business, I tell my prospective clients that the photography is only half of the equation. I explain that we use the photographs to make something for them — specifically, their wedding book.

And if you’re a professional photographer today, it seems to me, you have a choice. You can look to others to make THEIR something using your photography. Or you can make YOUR OWN something using your photography.

If you think about this for a second, there’s a big difference between the two. Especially so if you’re interested in finding autonomy in your creative life. And who isn’t?

For instance, if someone else wants to hire me to create a picture, I have very little leverage. For assignment work, I’m relying on an editor to hire me, pay me a decent wage, and negotiate with me on the terms of use of my images to make their product. More often than not, I end up turning this kind of assignment work down.

The other option is for me to make my own product, using my own images, and to sell that. Now I have the power to dictate how, when and under what circumstances I create my pictures.

Admittedly, there’s a little more to it than this. But in an era when the man on the street can document a news event, create a fine art image or take a family portrait, isn’t it better to think first about what you will make for yourself — instead of what you can create for someone else?

[tags]photography advice, photography business[/tags]

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3 Comments (Open | Close)

3 Comments To "Isn’t It Time You Made Something of Your Photography?"

#1 Comment By Erik On February 27, 2008 @ 10:49 am

I'm sorry but i completely disagree with this point of view. "See the hundreds of thousands of images online at Flickr. Great to look at, but unless they're used to make something -- purposeless."

Granted there are a lot of photos on Flickr that don't appear to serve any purpose. But to think that Flickr encompasses all that photography is, that is awfully short sighted. Flickr is just a baby in the evolution of photography. Photography was around long before Flickr and it will be around long after Flickr is just a notation in a web history somewhere.

To say that unless a person's photos are used to make something they are useless is a foolish way to look at photography and the creative process.

How many photographers in history haven't been known about for 20 years, 50 years, their whole life; because their photos were a personal thing for them. Once someone saw the photos, it was recognized how important they were. How many photogs starting out are told their work isn't good enough, and yet eventually they are recognized as style makers?

I hope no one actually takes this advice to heart. Especially photographers just starting out.

#2 Comment By Stanley Leary On February 28, 2008 @ 9:11 am

Most stock houses only sell 5% of their images. Most stock houses also do a great job of screening images.

I think people will always be creating images that many will not use--this is just normal.

I think the key is to market those images and make every effort to use them.

#3 Comment By John H. Matthews On February 28, 2008 @ 4:13 pm

Not everyone wants or needs to 'do something' with their photography. It is a hobby for some, a career for others. I do photography part-time and make money doing it, but that is maybe 10% of the photos I take. The rest are for me. Sure they may sit on my hard drive, possible get printed out to be stuck to my office wall for a few months, but I'm fine with that. It is an artistic release, a cathartic process which I enjoy. I don't care if other people like it, see it, buy it, or hate it. It is mine. If someone wants to post their photographs on Flickr, I feel that is still 'doing something' with it and it may give that person all they want out of photography, to have other people see it and enjoy it.

Because I drive a car everyday should I be trying out for Nascar or F1? Because I like to get in the neighborhood swimming pool occasionally I should be trying out for the Olympic swim team?


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