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.
Black Star Rising received the following question from a reader, Manuel Pecina of Studio Gonzo in Dallas:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
“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.
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.
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.
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.
In my heart, I am and always will be a journalist. Even as a child, before I put pen to paper or picked up a camera, it was part of my makeup. And though I have now left newspapers, this hasn’t changed. So then, what is a journalist? In this environment of layoffs and cutbacks, where some critics seem eager to dance on the grave of the newspaper industry, I think it’s important to remember what makes a journalist — and why the institution of journalism is worth protecting.
Black Star Rising contributor Dennis Dunleavy recently wrote about the difference between “looking at” something as a photographer and truly “seeing” it. “In a culture saturated with visual messages, our eyes, and by extension our minds and hearts, have become numb and anesthetized to the desire to seek out the deeper meanings of the things we are exposed to,” he wrote. This thought came to mind as I read about an art exhibit by blind photographers now taking place in Israel.
Two recent events made me think about the future of image-making. First, I read a provocative article about the Internet’s effect on literacy among young people. Second, cousin Lou came to visit and showed me his new digital camera. OK, I don’t blame you if you fail to see the connection right off — I didn’t either. So read on…
Photographic technologies are moving at a pace beyond anything we could have imagined a few decades ago. The possibilities of capturing images at increasingly high resolutions are staggering. What we are now seeing in advances in digital photography is a perfect example of Moore’s Law in action. In the 1960s, Gordon Moore, director of research and development at Fairchild Semiconductors, predicted that the number of transistors on a computer chip will double every 24 months. We can apply Moore’s law to all matter of electronic manufacturing to get a glimpse of the future.
We have a huge admiration for photographers. Virtually all of the photographers Black Star has worked with over the years have been talented and skilled; they’ve also been extremely bright. Put aside the camera and head off to a bar with one of our photographers and, in our experience, you’re going to get some fascinating stories and some carefully thought out analyses of the politics of far-off places.
If you’re planning a trip to New England and haven’t included a few days in the Bar Harbor area of Maine to see Acadia National Park, it’s time to rethink your trip plans. Acadia, the first national park created east of the Mississippi, holds some of the most spectacular and unblemished landscapes in all of New England.
When photographers have their work stolen and used by businesses, publications and individuals without permission and in violation of the photographer’s implicit copyright, it is usually the photographer’s fault. It is also the dividing line that separates professionals from amateurs.
I was, at one time, a staff photographer for a magazine. So was this other guy. Rather than let one of us go, they offered us both half-time. I said yes, panicked that I was; he said no, and left. I thought this meant I could stay, but I was wrong. This began a rushed effort to become self-sufficient and my own boss. It didn’t come at an opportune time — but with Corporate America, it never does.
Is the work of embedded photographers in Iraq the kind of journalism we should expect — and demand — in a democracy?
Conflicts always arise when an embedded photojournalist crosses the line from what the military deems acceptable to what the photographer believes is an underreported truth. Inevitably, the military wins these conflicts.
The most successful freelance photographers share one thing in common: they dictate the terms and conditions under which they work. Unfortunately, the reality of the market today is that few freelance photographers operating a small business are able to achieve this level of independence. Publications, wire services and even portrait subjects increasingly demand that photographers sign contracts, giving away their rights, before any work is done.