The American Society of Media Photographers provides this forum to encourage the development of critical skills and to foster new ideas. Our goal is an informed and savvy professional photography community.
Dear Friends -
On July 4, those of us in the United States celebrate Independence Day. As the editor of a blog dedicated to independent creators, this time of year always has a certain resonance for me…well, that and I really love fireworks!
In honor of this annual celebration, I’d like to take a moment to thank you, our dear readers, for your support of the ASMP Strictly Business blog and express my heartfelt gratitude to our contributors who so selflessly share their insights with us all.
Our SB Blog team will take a well-earned vacation next week, returning to our daily post schedule on July 13th.
I’ll use part of that time to put a lot of thought into our upcoming editorial calendars. I am never so proud as when one of our readers emails to say that we published exactly what they needed to read, exactly when they needed to read it. So please, help me out! What topics would you like us to cover? What guest experts do you want to hear from?
If there’s a post you’d like to contribute, by all means, send it along to me at email@example.com. I can’t guarantee we’ll publish it but I’m happy to consider any contributions that will improve the ability of professional photographers to pursue our definition of happiness – earning a living creating spectacular imagery.
Wishing you joy in your own independence – I’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts!
SB Blog Editor
In the 26 years that I’ve been a professional photographer, I’ve watched my skills and my interests evolve over time. My goals, hopes and dreams when I entered this profession were very different from what I wish for today. Over the years, I’ve discovered that careers are rarely linear -not only are there ups and downs, but most of us experience by-ways and side ways, criss-crosses and the occasional two steps forward, followed inevitably by one step back. This week, our contributors continue to share insights on how their careers have evolved over time and the wisdom they’ve gained as a result. ~Judy Herrmann, Editor
[by John Welsh]
I have yet to meet a photographer who has an identical story; that is, one that relates to their ability to survive and have longevity in the profession. And you, the reader, may want to optimistically replace survive with thrive. It’s a massive gray area and one that’s relative. But forget about semantics. It doesn’t matter if you make 50k or 500k, this is about adaptation.
If I rewind to 1987, I think of photo school graduation and a few full time gigs shortly after (monitoring C-41 process, B&W mural printing, retouching prints using oil paint, retouch spray and colored pencils). Those jobs enabled me to purchase basic equipment. I then think of how there was a limited future in those jobs since I needed to shoot.
So I bailed and thought, “How creative can I be?” I ventured into foreign lands: Fashion Photography. Loved the work but hated the business practices I discovered.
© John Welsh
Moving on I strung together odd freelance jobs, met lots of other photographers, did some basic Public Relations photography and had my first big “break” at a small college that paid 25.00 per hour freelance rate. At the time it was an acceptable path given my experience (very little) and they were taking a chance by hiring me.
© John Welsh
Then a job as a staffer at a small newspaper opened up and I found my match. That lasted 18 years and ended with the recession that’s still waving its hands in our rear view mirror. But it was an amazing leap.
© John Welsh
I was there to witness technology as it rolled through the industry and flattened The Old Ways. I saw the composing room switch from paste-up & hot wax to QuarkXpress. During that leap we transitioned from printing photographs to scanning negatives to digital capture. And this was before video entered the scene.
© John Welsh
That brings me to the present. There are hardly any news outlets that are viable career options for lots of us. Instead I have taken another evolutionary step (it wasn’t an option, it was a choice I needed to make in order to survive) and in addition to maintaining a freelance business, I found a business partner and we brought a new production company into existence.
© John Welsh
The really long evolutionary distance in 28 years of shooting I experienced was only possible by one method of travel…Small Steps.
© John Welsh
After serving for lots of years on the Philadelpha Chapter board. John’s next evolutionary step has him headed for service on the national board of ASMP as well as diving deeper into documentary film projects.
By John Welsh |
Posted: July 2nd, 2015 |
[by Charles Gupton]
Seldom does the arc of your career – or your life in general – ever follow the path that you thought it would when you planned it out.
It’s only when looking back at the journey that you can see a connection between the seemingly disparate dots — a pattern or a line that makes sense.
I began my career as a newspaper photographer. After just a few years, I started my own business shooting assignments for magazines, corporate communications, and advertising with the production of stock photos as a side venture to create some income to fill in the gaps between assigned work.
Eventually, stock photography became my full focus. But my work as a stock photographer hit a wall when my stock agency was sold and new submissions were rejected for a time while the agency reorganized. Our income plummeted and my wife and I decided to take a sabbatical from active shooting after the impact on the communications world after 9/11. During that time we started an organic farming business on a farm we’d purchased a couple of years before.
When I started back actively shooting in 2006, I decided to pursue personal portrait commissions based on the lifestyle approach I’d been known for in my commercial work. But within a few years, I found that the personal portrait field was being quickly eroded by the influx of “soccer moms” who were shooting personal photos at low prices with no training in the technical standards of the profession.
As I started the process of morphing into the motion field and all of the new skills I’d need to flourish in that discipline, I truly questioned whether I had the capacity to continue with the transformations I was putting myself through. I had several friends who had either quit the business altogether or had simply refused to adapt to the changing marketplace.
It was at that point that I looked back over my career and realized that I had a couple of important “through-lines” in my life. The most significant was that I love telling stories more than I care about what tools I’m using or where those stories are told.
During the time we produced stock photos, we devised narratives around the situations we created and produced images that fit that story. Even while we were farming, we marketed our products more through the stories we told than by our technical proficiency as farmers.
In addition to the motion projects that we continue to produce, I’ve started a podcast in which I interview creative leaders about their fears, obstacles, and processes for shipping their work. Again, the thread that connects all my work together is story.
Whether you are a seasoned veteran or a relative newcomer to the visual communications field, I encourage you to look at the thread of continuity that ties your work together rather than the devices that you use to produce it.
For too many years, I thought that cameras were the instruments that shaped my work as a storyteller, rather than the questions I asked and the vision I brought to the stories I was telling.
Based in Raleigh, N.C., Charles uncovers stories that resonate, then tells them in three-minute films to engage clients for business on the web. His newest venture, The Creator’s Journey podcast can be found through www.charlesgupton.com. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Charles Gupton |
Posted: July 1st, 2015 |
[by Pascal Depuhl]
I can’t count how many times I’ve changed in my photographic career, from an amateur to becoming an assistant, from assisting to working full-time running an in-house studio at a catalog house, from working for someone else to working for myself as a freelancer.
Change is always stressful, whether it entails learning how to shoot large format when all you know is medium format, or having to learn digital photography when all you know is film ,or choosing to learn video when all you know is still photography.
Change is good. Embracing change early, often gives you an advantage. Change is what makes our job interesting. Change prevents us from falling into a rut. Change is exciting.
If you hate the new, the unknown, the different: have a change of heart. Change your mind and don’t see change as a disruption, a drag on your time or an insurmountable obstacle. Take the opportunity of change and expand the services you offer to your clients.
Use change to get ahead of the pack. Take a chance on change and be willing to fail. Our industry is constantly innovating and it’s imperative for us to keep up with new developments in technology. Be willing to change course and although learning something new may slow you down, enjoy this change of pace.
The biggest change I’ve made in my career in recent years is expanding into motion. Yes the learning curve is steep, the competition is fierce, the workflow requires (often expensive) upgrades and producing video requires much more time, than a still photo shoot, but…
…today, video is responsible for over half of my revenue.
…video allows me to travel to some amazing places.
…video makes me more valuable to my clients.
Be willing to change. Actually strike that – actively seek out change. Getting in front of change is one of the best things you can do for your career as a photographer.
Winston Churchill said it best: “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
Pascal Depuhl loves change, but most of all he loves to create content, that changes minds. He’s given a TEDx talk called “The Art of changing minds.” Let him know in the comments, or on Twitter @photosbydepuhl, if you are the first to change, if you embrace change with everyone else or if you only change, when you are forced to change.
By Pascal Depuhl |
Posted: June 30th, 2015 |