Ask the Photo Business Coach: When Is My Portfolio Good Enough?

In this installment of “Ask the Photo Business Coach, I answer a question submitted by Black Star Rising contributor Aaron Lindberg: “When is my portfolio in a new specialty good enough to promote on my Web site?”

Don’t Buy In to the Model Release Myth

The myth I’m writing about today has undoubtedly caused thousands of excellent, award-winning photos never to be taken. It’s the myth of the model release for editorial use.

Photography columnists, unaware of their First Amendment rights, have been fanning the fires of this issue for years. A wall of mythology has built up around the subject, and I’ll make the first move to break it down for you:

What’s It Like to Go Freelance? Answers from 27 Photographers

On LinkedIn’s Photography Industry Professionals discussion group, Brooke Fagel recently asked: “What’s it like to be a freelance photographer?” These select responses provide a comprehensive picture of what a photographer faces.

Job Postings Reveal That for Pro Photographers, the Squeeze Is On

I recently came across two job postings that say a lot about the state of the photography market today. And while the news is not altogether surprising, it still might stick in your craw a little bit.

To Succeed as a Pro Photographer, Stay Focused and Learn to Say “No”

It’s hard to turn down help in building your photography business, especially from friends and relatives. But a few years ago, I realized that the assistance I was receiving actually had become counterproductive. To grow my business, I had to learn to say “no.”

The Magic of Twilight Photography

Heavenly shades of night are falling
It’s twilight time
Out of the mist your voice is calling
It’s twilight time
When purple colored curtains
Mark the end of the day
I hear you my dear at twilight time

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: Should Laptops Be Banned?

One of the current discussions among university faculty nationwide is whether to ban laptops from the classroom. The logic behind this? Students are using their laptops to access the Internet and social media instead of taking notes in class.

Documenting the Amish: Lessons in Noninvasive Photography

Amish culture is fascinating to me. But as a photographer, documenting the Amish is a challenge, because posing for a photograph is discouraged by their religion. It is seen by many (though not all) Amish people as an act of vanity.

How to Take Your Best Shot at the National Geographic Photo Contest

There probably isn’t a photographer in the world who hasn’t dreamed of getting published in National Geographic magazine — and each year, we get our chance. The 2010 National Geographic Photography Contest, one of the most prestigious contests in the world, begins accepting submissions Sept. 1.

Southern Lights: The Old Preacher Man on Highway 61

His hearing was poor and he shuffled about with the aid of a walker, but 93-year-old H.D. Dennis could still preach to anyone who happened by the one-time grocery store that became a church.

It was a most unusual church of no particular denomination, faded and worn, with 400 feet of hand-painted scripture of plywood signs and cement block towers –- with a weatherworn school-bus-turned-sanctuary that had been parked in the garden for years. That particular day I was this preacher’s flock.

Six Reasons That Great Photos Alone Won’t Make You a Success

When you are a self-employed photographer, reaching the level of earning enough to support yourself and your family is difficult. There are thousands of struggling and aspiring pro photographers out there, all searching for that elusive key to success.

Project Management for Photographers: Your Project Toolbox

Second in a series.

The first step to successful project management is to develop what I call a “project toolbox.” This is the foundation that enables us to take consistent approaches to the wildly different situations we come across in the projects we embark upon as photographers.

Why Selling “All Rights” Is Wrong for Your Photography Business

I recently had a distinctly unpleasant conversation with a client who called me after his subordinate had contracted me for an assignment. The contract included a standard rights package.

The client began the call by referencing the agreement and asked, “We do own all rights to these photos, right?”

The Era of Diminished Expectations in Photography

Today’s photography market is flooded with functional images that wash over us without impact. They may do the “trick” for cash-crunched art directors and editors — but they have no magic.

They are “good enough” images at a time when being “good enough” seems to be all that matters.

Making Good Photos Isn’t About Following the Rules

I still remember the first time a photograph really affected me. I was 9 years old and reading a Life Magazine book on the history of World War II. It contained hundreds of pictures by Life photographers — but the one that grabbed me was Robert Capa’s blurred image of soldiers landing on the beach at Normandy.

Eye on Image-Making: Why the First Amendment Matters, Part 3

On Sunday, June 13, 1971, the New York Times ran a front-page story by reporter Neil Sheehan titled “Vietnam Archive: Pentagon Study Traces 3 Decades of Growing U.S. Involvement.”

This story and others that followed were based on a secret government study, commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, that described the history of U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia, from World War II until 1968. The Pentagon study was massive — 30 to 40 authors churned out 2.5 million words, 3,000 pages of analysis, and 4,000 pages of official documents.

With a Little Help from Video, the Picture Story is Back

When I got into this business in the 1960s, the dream of every photographer was to do a comprehensive picture story and get a 10-page or longer display in Life, Look or National Geographic.

As time passed and the space to publish stories got tighter, more and more picture editors started looking for the one great image to illustrate a text piece, because they only had space for a single image. Often the pictures were designed more to catch the reader’s attention than to give an accurate depiction of the story.

Five Tips for Better Group Photos

The group shot is no one’s favorite photo to take.

I’m sure we’ve all been at the big family event where someone hands you a point-and-shoot camera and says, “You’re a pro photographer — take everyone’s picture!”

Going Viral to Boost Your Wedding Photography Business

(The following is excerpted from the new book The Successful Wedding Photographer, by the editors of Photopreneur.)

When viral campaigns work, they can be extremely powerful — but they don’t work all the time. Even professional marketers can struggle to get a viral campaign off the ground, and they often work best when you least expect them to.

Grow Your Wedding Photography Business with Referrals — from Your Competitors

(The following is excerpted from the new book The Successful Wedding Photographer, by the editors of Photopreneur.)

Julie Kim has been voted one of the best wedding photographers working in the U.K. She earns over £2,500 for a full day’s shoot, including album and files, and covers about 30 weddings a year. And she’s only been shooting professionally since 2006.

Should Wedding Photographers Pay for Client Referrals?

(The following is excerpted from the new book The Successful Wedding Photographer, by the editors of Photopreneur.)

Whenever a former client discusses your work and passes your name onto a friend, she’s doing you a huge favor. It’s the kind of favor that puts money in the bank and provides the foundation of a successful wedding photography business.

Ask the Photo Business Coach: When Is It OK to Work for Free?

In this installment of “Ask the Photo Business Coach,” I tackle a controversy that has been raging on Black Star Rising since John Harrington’s post, “12 Excuses for Shooting Photos for Free — and Why They’re Bogus,” last week. The question is: “Should I work for free, and if so, when?”

All Stock Photo Subscriptions Are Not Created Equal

Stock image producers often have two misconceptions about subscription licensing services: They believe (1) that subscription licensing is simple, and (2) that for a very low monthly fee customers are allowed to use any image for any purpose. Neither statement is true.

Eye on Image Making: Why the First Amendment Matters, Part 2

In America today, we can say and publish just about anything we want. The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech and of the press — and by extension, freedom of thought and freedom of expression. But despite the fact that the First Amendment was ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, the nearly unlimited freedoms we enjoy today have actually evolved only within the last 100 years.

Don’t Let Your Photography Clients Sell You Short

In reading through the 70+ comments on last Tuesday’s post, “12 Excuses for Shooting Photos for Free — and Why They’re Bogus,” I found two complaints interesting from the “will work for free” crowd.