Six Tips to Help Your Photography Business Survive in a Struggling Economy

With the financial markets and economy in turmoil, small businesses — including photography businesses — may be facing a rocky road ahead. Here’s some advice for keeping your business in the black.

1. Say “no” to new expenditures. Don’t buy equipment you don’t need. Frankly, it always surprises me to see photographers splurge on the latest and greatest equipment, in any economy. If you can still work with your Canon 10D and get the job done, you’re ahead of the game. Camera companies want you to buy the best (read “expensive”), but the reality is you need to make purchases that will last for the long term. If you must purchase something, stay just this side of prosumer. A $7,000 camera is a big money-loser — and you don’t get paid any more for using it.

Fun with Photoshop Filters: Flaming Pear’s Flood

I don’t spend a lot of time playing with creative Photoshop plug-in filters, but I have to admit they are a lot of fun. In fact, if I had more time, I’d probably spend my life doing nothing else.

One of my favorite filters is Flaming Pear’s “Flood” filter that lets you add a watery foreground reflection to virtually any scene. It’s a lot of fun to add reflections to subjects like desert landscapes or city streets where they just don’t belong.

What Should Power Look Like?

We live in a culture that privileges words, both spoken and written, over the visual.We learn at an early age how to manipulate and control language, without giving too much thought to the influence images have on how we view the world. We construct sentences, punctuate, and deliver words strategically, yet the way in which we create and consume pictures seems far more casual, subjective and intuitive.

Model Releases and Your First Amendment Rights

Like most legal matters, the issue of model releases is open to interpretation. Unfortunately, in the post-9/11 era, many photographers seem to forget that they still have First Amendment rights — particularly for editorial photography.

Eye on Image-Making: Newspapers and Video, Part 2

In my last Eye on Image-Making column, I wrote about videos on newspaper Web sites — what’s out there, what I liked, and what I didn’t like. That discussion was based on a nonscientific sample of several dozen videos on the Web sites of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Dallas Morning News, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Los Angeles Times. This column continues the discussion with more reactions to the videos I watched.

Your Camera Is an Agent for Change

As photographers, we often use our cameras to make money — shooting weddings, editorial, advertising, stock photography, etc. Yet the camera can do more than help us earn an income. As Dorothea Lange put it, this powerful tool can teach people “how to see without a camera.”

Jill Greenberg: Bogeyman

There’s a reason conservatives complain that artists are liberal, and that journalists are liberal. It’s because — more often than not — they’re right.

This issue most recently came to the fore last week, when Beverly Hills photographer Jill Greenberg — an artist and journalist — confessed (actually, bragged) that she had made some purposely unflattering photographs of John McCain in a cover shoot for The Atlantic (which you can find on her Web site).

Talent Only Takes You So Far; You Have to Go the Rest of the Way Yourself

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten a photography job because I’m easygoing, friendly, reliable, or for some other reason unrelated to my creative vision, talent, technical expertise, and so forth. In other words, all those things that we worry about — “prime lens or zoom”; “iso100 or 400 to get a smidgen more depth of field”; “3200k or 2900k” — will only take us so far in our careers. How we relate to clients, more often than not, is the difference between success and failure.

Photojournalism in an Age of Contrivance

Photojournalism is the perfect medium for politics. Pictures define what a candidate hopes to convey to his or her audience with more impact and immediacy than words. However, in today’s media rich environment the value of pictures is diminished, especially when considering how a candidate’s public relations staff controls so much of what is presented. There are always exceptions, but for the most part what gets out to the public appears as a torrent of visual clichés.

Eye on Image-Making: Newspapers & Video, Part 1

Many newspapers see doomsday approaching and are turning to the Internet for salvation. By loading their Web sites with free content, newspapers hope to tap additional sources of income, with advertisers footing the bill.

Six Tips for Growing Your Photography Business

No matter how great you are as a photographer, you have to take certain steps to attract and maintain business. When I started photographing weddings five years ago as a sideline to my newspaper job, my marketing plan consisted of uploading photos to my Web site and waiting for the phone calls to roll in. Since then, I’ve learned enough about marketing to build a full-time business. Here are six tips for growing your business based on my experiences.

Do I Need a Model Release?

Black Star Rising received the following question from a reader, Manuel Pecina of Studio Gonzo in Dallas:

You Don’t Need a Master’s Degree to Understand Photography

One of the common refrains I hear from my interns is that their college was a waste, and that real-world experiences far better prepare them for the world of freelance photography. I can see their point, and understand that, to a degree, it may be true. But that degree is still worth a great deal.

Portrait Lighting: Lessons from a Master

One of the downfalls of many books and training DVDs on portrait lighting is that they tend to make lighting seem like a hopelessly complicated subject. You sometimes walk away feeling like you know less than you knew going in.

Let’s Start a “Save Photography” Movement; Who’s with Me?

As I was walking down the street in Manhattan yesterday, avoiding other busy pedestrians thinking about work, I noticed a bumper sticker I had never seen before. On a red background, it read: “Save the Mountains.” Not sure if it was a serious one but regardless, it made me wonder. How come we haven’t seen a “Save Photography” or “Save Photographers” sticker yet? After all, the industry is in more danger than mountains.

Understanding Fair Use

These days, authors, artists, and photographers are likely to find one or more of their creative works used without permission. One defense to the purported infringement is often that it is a “fair use.” The challenge then is determining whether the unauthorized use is an infringement or fair use. While only a court of law can make that decision, understanding what makes a use “fair” will help you protect your work.

Images from Beijing: Inside and Outside the Bubble

As a photographer, I enjoyed tracking coverage of the Beijing Olympics by following the blogs of three photojournalists who covered the games: Vincent Laforet, on assignment for Newsweek; Kevin German, who covered the event despite having no tickets or access to the games; and David Burnett. What I learned from them was fascinating.

Privileged POV: Closing the Disparity Between the Photographer and the Documented

Although the digital revolution has made it more accessible, photography has always been and still is a relatively expensive medium of art. Pencil and paper for drawing is easily available; cameras, on the other hand, for many are not. Fortunately, my first camera (a 1970s Minolta SLR) was given to me by my boarding school houseparent.

Notes from the VisCom Classroom: Teaching — It’s Not for Everyone (But It May Be Right for You!)

Before my wife and I were full-time academics, we were in business; she ran a computer-training company, and I was a freelance writer and photographer. Whenever one of our academic friends complained about the hardships of teaching, we would look at each other and smile knowingly. How could teaching — a few hours of classroom time followed by endless months of vacation — compare with the challenges of the corporate world?

Technology Keeps Moving Forward; Are You Moving with It?

In my lifetime, the pace of technological change has been astounding. It can be challenging to keep up sometimes — but today, it’s essential for those who want to grow their businesses.

Computer systems are vital to both large and small companies today. Except for the very smallest of businesses, where inventory and money can be counted quickly by hand, a computer is needed for bookkeeping, monitoring inventory, generating P & L statements and other reports needed for making decisions.

How to Work with NGOs: Two Approaches

During my career, I have worked for NGOs such as Care International and Greenpeace, as well as smaller NGOs that focus on more local issues, such as the DC Central Kitchen. Separately, I’ve worked with the corporate suppliers of NGOs — like Motorola and Glaxo — who see value in associating themselves with charities and non-profit causes. So, as a photojournalist, which is the better route to take professionally?

Little Details Make a Big Difference

“God is in the details” — Gustave Flaubert (1821-80) … or “the Devil is in the details” (a variant of the proverb). However you choose to look at it, there’s no question that little details make a big difference in your work.

How to Send a DMCA Takedown Notice

Copyright infringement on the Web is so pervasive that it’s easy to resign yourself to it as a fact of life — something out of your control. When photographers send cease-and-desist letters and/or demands for payment to infringers, these are often ignored, which can be very frustrating. But there is another solution, thanks to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA): you can send a takedown notice to the infringer’s ISP. Here’s how to do it.

To Be (Represented) or Not to Be

When I started as a photographer, I thought that I had to have a rep. But what’s a rep?

In photography, you may seek representation from a photo agency, such as Black Star, Aurora, or Zuma. (This is not the same as a stock house where you file your images for re-sale). These organizations not only secure you assignments, but also represent and license your stock photography. Their stated objective is to represent you in the many facets of photography.

Who Needs Photojournalism When We Have Hollywood?

Normally I let the idiotic comments of our cable TV pundits wash over me like a megalomaniacal lullaby as I fade into oblivion each night. But Laura Ingraham said something on her radio show the other day that got me to thinking. She said that Americans no longer need photojournalism to cover the death and destruction caused by war, because we now have “high-tech Hollywood” for that.