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.

Will Photograph For Food

[by Pascal Depuhl]

Everything is important. But one thing is more important than everything.

If you want to avoid standing on a street corner with a cardboard sign reading: “Will photograph for food,” there’s really only one thing you need to know. When you’re starting out as a photographer, everything seems important; buying equipment, getting your workflow right, figuring out business processes, advertising your services, creating your brand … but one thing is more important than all others, because without it, noting else matters: getting hired.

Unfortunately I’ve got some bad news: You constantly have to adjust what you do to be hired. It changes from client to client, from year to year, from advertising platform to advertising platform. (You know no one used Facebook to promote their business 10 years ago, right?) You are not going to stop refining how you go after work – ever.

The good news is that there are myriads of ways to keep your work front and center in the minds of your (potential) clients. The only common denominator is: you need to hustle, you have to build relationships, you must put your name out there.

What’s your marketing plan?

Here’s where you can start: google your business (I googled mine: “Photography by Depuhl” – you can do me a favor and google it, too – I’d love to see how Google displays them where you live. Email me (photography@depuhl.com) a screen shot and I’ll post them on my blog. Ok, thanks!) Back to your search of your business: What pops up? Is there a business listing on Google? How about reviews from clients? Or worse, bad reviews? Complaints? Nothing?

Google-Search-Results-for-PbD1-220x300Before you go and buy that cool camera, take some time and plan out your marketing strategy. (ASMP member Rosh Sillars has a great basic social media plan for photographers on his blog.)

If you’re a wedding shooter, Facebook will be invaluable to you, letting your clients share your awesome photos with their friends who will hopefully see your amazing work and book you. I am a commercial photographer – my clients don’t use Facebook to search for their photographer – although I did get one of my biggest clients on Facebook – but there are so many more places online Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram…with new ones coming all the time.

Just remember it is social media – there needs to be a relationship, that gets nurtured. Maybe the initial point of contact is your Facebook post, LinkedIn profile or tweet, but then the real work begins. As hard as it is to get a new client, it is much more important to keep that client so that you get hired for his next job.

Don’t stop. Just hustle. Use every tool at your disposal to contact the client as close to the moment of relevance. For instance I use web technology that emails me the second a potential client contacts me through my website. An iPhone app let’s me decide if I want to call or email a response then or when I get back into the office. How long does it take for you to email a prospect back?

How do you promote yourself?

Don’t stop at social media. Get your name out there and remember you’re not gonna stop doing that for as long as you are a photographer. Here’s some of what I’ve done in the last few months to promote my work: won “Best of ASMP” contest; screened my documentary at a film festival; gave a TEDx talk on how Art changes minds; volunteered to help produce video workshops, represented ASMP at local events… Tweet me how you promote yourself.

If you have any questions about how to get started, especially building a network, hit me on Twitter @photosbydepuhl See how many different social media and websites you can find me on online. The person who tweets or facebooks me with the most comprehensive list, wins a DVD and poster of “On Wings of Hope“.

By Pascal Depuhl | Posted: July 18th, 2014 | 3 comments

Great Advice and Hard Truths

[by Michael Clark]

Starting out in this industry is a daunting task. I struggled quite a bit for a few years before I decided to go full-time and when I did, it felt like I was jumping off a huge cliff to see if I could fly.

Early on in my career, Marc Romanelli, a mentor and fellow photographer, told me, “Keep your overhead as low as possible.”  This gem never stops being good advice. There have certainly been times when I let my overhead get out of control and I paid for it literally. Of all the advice I can give, this is perhaps the most critical for staying in business.

If you come out of photo school with $40,000 to $80,000 in debt, any career in the photo industry is basically over before it even starts. If you’re paying upwards of $20,000 per year for photography school, my advice is to drop out immediately. You can take an incredible array of photo workshops for less.  If you really want to spend money on a degree, get a marketing degree.  That will probably serve you better if your skills are already up to snuff.

It takes serious passion, motivation, thick skin, and hard work to make a career in this industry. The key phrase in that last sentence is hard work. It doesn’t matter how much talent you have or how good your people skills are, if you don’t work your buns off, you aren’t going to make it in this field. If you don’t want a career as a photographer with every fiber of your being, then the bad news is you probably won’t ever make it. I know that won’t be a popular statement, but maybe some other pro photographers can back me up on this in the comments.

Understand, it takes time. Very few photographers have instant success. It usually takes 3 to 5 years to go full time, then 10 years to gain 90% of your skills and start making decent money and 15 years to really make it big. For some it takes longer and for others it is much quicker. I mention this long view of the process of becoming a pro photographer because it is important to understand that you can’t give up in the first few years when it is desperately tough. When it does get tough, I refer you to the previous paragraph.

Another thing to note, when I started out, I thought that in ten years time I would have it made in the shade. Well, I am here to tell you it never really gets easier. Sure, you will make more money down the road, but it is still tough to get assignments and you have to constantly keep updating your work and your marketing while watching your cash flow.

Lastly, you have to be brutal with your own work. If your images or motion content isn’t unique or blowing the socks off the editors you send it to then you are going to have a tough time making a living in this profession. And your work has to be continually amazing if you want to have any longevity in terms of a career.

If this advice resonates with you, I wrote a book that delves deep into the life of a pro photographer, Exposed: Inside the Life and Images of a Pro Photographer, that has garnered a lot of praise for being an honest and helpful book.

So yes, there are lots of issues you will have to overcome, but as always, there is room for those who can create top-notch work and are willing to work extremely hard.

Michael Clark is an internationally published adventure photographer and author. If you are dying for more info check out his Newsletter, which is a quarterly magazine that goes out to over 6,000 photographers and clients. See more of Michael’s work at www.michaelclarkphoto.com.

By Michael Clark | Posted: July 17th, 2014 | 4 comments
Get Connected

Good Data and A Good Attitude: Two keys to launching a stable career

[by Carolyn Potts]

While no one could argue that you need talent, shooting skills, and post-production ability to have a successful photo career, it’s also critical to know some secrets that successful photographers know. People who are successful in any business know how to use both “left brain” business data and also employ some “right brain” tools to ensure their career success.

1. Know your cost of doing business (CODB).
You have to know what it costs to keep your doors open. You have to know that there are many things that go into your CODB. When starting out, many forget to pay themselves– or to include insurance in the cost of doing business. Here’s a good tool to calculate all those line items.

An emerging photographer you will likely be offered some jobs that pay a “credit line” in lieu of money. While I certainly do not recommend that as a business practice, sometimes you do want to accept one of those offers. Caveat: that can build your business when you know exactly who will see your images and if that’s who you want to reach. It might be good PR but the PR you receive from the shoot exposure has to be a fair value exchange. That’s where knowing your real CODB comes in.

It’s been said that “Failure to plan, is planning to fail.”  If you do shoot anything pro bono (or at a lower rate), the decision to take–or decline the gig– becomes easy when you already know in advance who your target market is and your CODB.

2. The other key to success is to know how to keep your creative juices high and your stress levels low.
The most successful shooters know this. They know how to manage their minds. A calm and peaceful mind allows them to hear their inner muse that inspires them to shoot new portfolio pieces– which will attract clients. They keep their stress levels at bay so that they can remain non-reactive when a client makes an unreasonable demand at the last minute. They don’t freak out and blow a business relationship.

There are tools for that (besides drugs!). As I’ve mentioned in some of my other blogs posts, I’m now a fan of meditation; I’ve gotten results and so have my clients. More and more major research institutions are reporting each year on the benefits gained from regular meditation–both in overall health and in business relationships. It’s now become  practically mainstream. There are many easy ways to begin a practice. I started with Deepak Chopra’s free online program.

Photography marketing consultant and workshop leader, Carolyn Potts, helped launch a lot of photo careers in her 25+ year career as a photographers’ rep. Since becoming a photo consultant in 2003, she’s been working with photographers worldwide creating marketing plans and improving their presentations to get more work. Find her at www.cpotts.com on Google+Facebook ,and Twitter @PhotoMktngCoach

By Carolyn Potts | Posted: July 16th, 2014 | No comments

Ready to Launch: Build Your Networks

[by Tom Kennedy]

Launching a career can seem like an overwhelming task. There are so many things that need immediate attention, ranging from developing a business plan and setting up appropriate paperwork and relationships to support the business to finding immediate assignments that can begin to produce income.

In the present world of always-on digital contact, there is still a huge role for face-to–face connection. Its importance is easily overlooked while contending with a list of endless daily “to-dos” and relying primarily on digital communication to speed activity.

To succeed, build two types of personal relationship networks, described by sociologists as “weak-tie” and “strong-tie” networks.  The weak-tie networks are people outside your profession who can point you to business opportunities or provide fresh insights into how the world works, and the strong-tie networks are your working peers.

For a photographer, weak-tie relationships could describe connections to other types of business people. Or it could mean establishing relationships with lawyers, accountants, marketing strategists, or web designers who can help with developing specific pieces of the business plan and/or removing certain administrative burdens that are crucial for running a successful small business.

Strong-tie networks are built of fellow professionals who are in the same area, both geographically and in terms of work. As a photographer interested in shooting sports for example, my strong-tie network would be fellow sports photographers, photo editors working for sports teams or sports publications etc. Typically, the strong-tie network will involve fellow photographers just getting started, as well as veterans who act as mentors offering strategic career advice as well as frank, constructive criticism about one’s work being done in the moment. Quite often, the mentors become the go-to people who can give you the most honest “read” about your progress and what might be required to get to the next level.

Pay attention to developing both kinds of networks from the start.   Both are necessary for career success. Over time, I found often that information from people in my weak-tie networks could lead me to solutions to immediate problems or to great opportunities I would miss if I only talked with fellow editors and photographers.   For example, once I was trying to solve a problem of tracking content at every stage of the editing process. Thanks to college summers spent working for a shipping company, I realized that their package tracking methods might hold valuable clues about how to do it efficiently.   This analogy was useful in finding a creative solution, but it only happened because my weak-tie connections could offer interesting insights.

Because of the pressure to find assignments, many people will focus their attention energy solely on conversations with strong-tie network members.   It is better to find a balance between the two as way of finding opportunities and staying fresh. Devote time weekly to personal conversations with people in both types of networks and work diligently to expand them both.

Tom Kennedy is an independent consultant coaching and mentoring individual photographers, while also working with various organizations to train individuals and teams on multimedia story creation, production, publication and distribution strategies for digital platforms, and enhancing creativity. He also regularly teaches at Universities and multimedia conferences. He has created, directed, and edited visual journalism projects that have earned Pulitzer Prizes, as well as EMMY, Peabody, and Edward R. Murrow awards.  He can be reached at kennedymedia@gmail.com.

 

By Tom Kennedy | Posted: July 15th, 2014 | No comments

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