Business As unUsual

by | Dec 31, 2013 | Bulletin Magazine

ASMP uses online technology to expand upon educational offerings

In fall 2012, ASMP introduced the “Business as unUsual” Webinar series to generate dialog and information for photographers seeking to expand their business.

Following the conclusion of the 2011/2012 webinar series, The Future of Art & Commerce: What Creators and Users of Visual Content Need to Know in these Rapidly Changing Times, which ASMP co-produced with the Copyright Clearance Center, the ASMP board and staff began exploring options for developing Webinars independently. By Fall 2012, the ASMP was ready to launch. The Business as unUsual series runs sessions roughly once per month, with ASMP’s new Director of Content Strategy Judy Herrmann spearheading speaker selection and content development.

According to Herrmann, the “Business as unUsual” series is just the first “channel” that ASMP has developed in what the organization envisions as a broader strategy to expand upon their online education offerings. Later this year, ASMP is planning to debut another Webinar series focused on providing inspiration through programs featuring legendary photographers discussing technique, craft and creativity.

“Our Webinars are targeted toward working professionals who are producing still and motion imagery,” Herrmann says of the intended audience for ASMP’s Web-based curriculum. “We may eventually broaden our target audience but right now we are focused on providing working imaging professionals with the information that they need to build strong businesses today.”

For Herrmann, a key goal of these Webinars is to showcase information that photographers wouldn’t otherwise be able to access on their own. “The ASMP has access to speakers that I would never be able to reach as an individual photographer,” she notes. “This technology lets us give all photographers that same level of access and information.” Each program offers a unique opportunity for photographers to get “pertinent and valuable” insights from speakers who are respected experts in their particular field and gain practical tips they can apply directly to their own practice.

Business-As-unUsual_ScreenPhoto courtesy M.V. Swanson & Associates, Inc.


Leading photo industry consultant Mary Virginia Swanson kicked off the series on November 7, 2012. Swanson’s online presentation discusses the convergence of fine art and commercial aesthetics and shows how photographers who develop a cohesive body of work that demonstrates their unique vision can market their work more effectively. Packed with visual examples, Swanson’s program addresses how photographers with a unique style can identify and pursue new markets for their work.

Swanson’s expertise in the field as an educator, author and image consultant brings invaluable knowledge to the online platform. The hour-long Webinar features a dynamic visual narrative, revealing current trends in editorial layouts and advertising campaigns. The presentation includes many pertinent examples of magazine layouts that present photography in unique and powerful ways and Web site designs that do a beautiful job of showcasing an artists’ personal work.

Swanson is full of advice for understanding how to market oneself online. “Make sure that you feature series’ you would love to have people commission you for on your homepage,” she says. She also points out that, since we are now largely based online, it is increasingly important to send out printed promos, explaining that since she receives so much less mail by post than electronically she spends more time looking at the mailings she does receive. Swanson identifies “new markets” to tap into for image sales: Hospitals and hotels are niche industries in need of beautiful works to fill their spaces; distributing fine art prints online or selling limited editions on Web sites like Jen Bekman’s www.20× are other ways to generate income. Leasing artwork to businesses is also becoming increasingly popular, as evidenced by Web sites like

Further, she emphasizes that a photographer’s work should have a unique and recognizable vision or esthetic: “I think it’s really important to not be two different people today,” she explains. At the same time, considering the full range of available communication modes and business options — such as developing skills for audio and video and diversifying one’s clientele — can be important assets to cultivate.

After viewing a recorded version of Swanson’s program, Webinar registrant Alan Fishleder e-mailed, “I just completed watching the MVS Webinar, as I missed the live presentation due to a last-minute schedule change. I really appreciated seeing the recording. This was the best Webinar I’ve watched in ages.”

To watch the recording of Mary Virginia Swanson’s presentation, visit ASMP Webinars.

Following the success of the first Webinar, on December 12, 2012, ASMP welcomed Sarah Fix, VP Creative of Blend Images, for a lively conversation about changing trends in the stock licensing industry. Fix’s visually enticing Powerpoint presentation spoke to the challenges of, and strategies for, successfully marketing stock photography and was dramatically brought to life with intriguing imagery by Blend contributors.

According to Fix, the most successful practitioners in this field are those who find a way to include stock shoots in their business models. A photographer shooting for stock must “shoot competitively and consistently” she explains. This means being able to adapt to a changing market, by learning how to do more with less and tapping into selective niches where buyers may not easily have access. While photographers can make money by licensing their images in both royalty-free and rights-managed models, rights-managed images often command larger dollar amounts proportionately, but royalty-free images tend to be used more often. The top contributors in royalty-free categories, Fix explains, are able to present a unique perspective on a popular subject.

Blend_BLM006407 © Dave and Les Jacobs/Blend Images LLC


Some images are successful because the photographer has developed relationships with their subjects that allow them to capture moments that feel authentic and real. The payoff for ingenuity is also high. Images, like the example above featuring a runner at a starting line in front of the London skyline, was created by partners Dave and Les Jacobs in anticipation of the Summer 2012 London Olympics. After viewing the image, Fix asked for a version without London in the background. Both versions haves sold well, with the London versions selling multiple times for thousands of dollars each — most recently for $18,000.

How does one get to this level of success? “Produce a range of shoots — some with low overhead and some that have an intrinsic value — to create a diverse portfolio,” Fix explains. She recommends questions to start getting the creative ideas flowing: “What are your resources, what’s your access, and how can you create added value with low overhead?”

Another Webinar attendee had this to say about Sarah Fix’s program, “Wow, this was awesome. I’ve never heard such a candid talk about stock photography. It’s interesting to listen to her perspective about what kinds of images work and why. I am actually going to watch it again.”

To watch the recording of Sarah Fix’s presentation, visit ASMP Webinars.

On January 23, 2013, ASMP hosted the third in the series of “Business as unUsual” Webinars, featuring Jeff Sedlik, co-founder and CEO of the PLUS Coalition. The conversation centered on the tools PLUS is developing to permanently link creators and other stakeholders with their photographs and why these tools are so important to the future of our industry.

PLUS is unique in that the organization has been successful in building a global coalition that includes creators, distributors, publishers, agents and clients. This level of buy-in has allowed PLUS to develop a glossary of licensing terms, which will allow for machine-readable license codes that can be translated into any language in the world. PLUS is currently in the final stages of developing an image registry that will be searchable through image recognition-based search, creator name, embedded ID codes and more. Its ultimate goal is to link information between rights holders, licensing entities and the rest of the world so that a photographer’s images can be identified and connected back to the rights holder.

“Registration of copyright does not allow someone to find you,” says Sedlik. That’s one of the main differences between only registering one’s copyright (with the U.S. Copyright Office) and becoming part of the PLUS registry.

Another important aspect of the organization, pointed out by Webinar moderator Richard Kelly, is the way in which academic institutions can use the registry to build an image archive. The embedded identifying data within an image includes specific terms for licensing — covering both academic and commercial use. “We do have control over the way we do business,” Sedlik notes.

Further, the registry goes beyond the challenges inherent in image metadata becoming out-of-date. Sedlik explains that since only the person who has possession of a specific file has the ability to change the metadata within that file, embedded licenses frequently do not reflect the current status of the license. In contrast, when a stakeholder updates licensing information in the PLUS registry, the updated data will be displayed in all future search results.

According to Sedlik, PLUS also answers the need for a global strategy to identify imagery. “If someone sees your image in any country, they need to be able to identify your image no matter which language they speak,” he says.

To watch a recording of the Jeff Sedlik’s presentation, visit ASMP Webinars.

During each hour-long live Webinar, participants are encouraged to post questions to through the Webinar chat function or tweet them using the hashtag #ASMP. Directly following each program, presenters have the option to continue the live conversation on Facebook, with audience members posting questions to ASMP’s Facebook page and thus adding another lasting layer to the conversation.

Anyone can register to attend the live Webinar at no cost. This registration includes access to a recording of the session, which is available for personal use shortly after the live presentation. ASMP members can access these recordings at any time. Non-members who did not preregister for a specific Webinar can access recordings from past programs for $4.99 per session.

The fourth “Business as unUsual” program, scheduled for February 27, from 1 to 2 p.m. EST, will feature Michael Bilbrey, Senior Production Consultant from Leo Burnett USA, who will focus his presentation on self-promotion tips for photographers.

Anyone with suggestions for speakers or topics you’d like to see addressed in a future ASMP Webinar is encouraged to contact Judy Herrmann with recommendations at

For more information on forthcoming ASMP Webinars and to access past presentations, visit ASMP Webinars.

To view the conversation on ASMP’s Facebook page, visit

—Lindsay Comstock