Own the stack

by | Apr 25, 2014 | Strictly Business Blog

Photographers have been able to thrive for nearly 100 years by providing photographic images to the marketplace. At the beginning, the creation of photographic image was so difficult, it required a dedicated specialist. Over that time, production has become easier, and more widespread. Today, photography is a language that is understood, and spoken, by nearly everyone.

As photography has become integral to communication, communication must now be integral to your photography business. Creating a value-added stack is becoming essential for professional survival. So what’s a stack?

In computing, a stack is a series of different operations. Each one is both independent and interdependent. When they are all put together, you get a new entity, such as a piece of software.

There are a number of different ways to think of your business as a photo-centric stack.

Service Stack

You might want to build a stack on a service model: adding writing, design, social media curation, motion capture and/or production. Photography is at the center of so much communication, and photographic professionals are well-positioned to take charge these related needs.

If you want to pursue this strategy, you’ll need to build experience and portfolio, just like you do with photographic services. Look for new clients you can develop these skills with. Better yet, examine your existing clients for likely prospects. They are dealing with the same tectonic changes you are, and they are probably looking for some help in navigating new communication requirements.

Former ASMP board member Chris Hollo is a great example here. Along with his wife Catherine, they provide photography, graphic design, web design and more.

Subject-matter stack

You also might want to make a subject-matter stack, leveraging your knowledge about architecture, a particular industry, or your regional geography. Emphasize how your special knowledge can help solve a client’s communication needs.

You’ll almost certainly want this effort to be web-centric, and it starts with the goal, “I want people to know me as the ________ person.” Publish a blog, newsletter, ebook, twitter feed and/or photostream to help people interested in your subject. Be generous.

Take a look at what Tony Bynum is building.  He has created a content-rich website revolving around Nature/Hunting/Outdoor/Ecology. He integrates technology stacks (like WordPress and PhotoShelter) and he writes and tweets prolifically about his subject matter.

Of course, it sure looks like a subject matter stack also includes a service stack. It does. And it may be more than you can accomplish all by yourself.


You don’t have to make the stack all by yourself (DIY). You can also Do It With Others (DIWO). Some people can shoot, write, produce, edit and code. But that’s a lot to take on. If you can find others to work with, you can build a bigger stack. This works for both service and subject matter.

I’ve been using all of these approaches in my own business. We’ve taken over the publication of my books, building a service stack. And I’ve spent more than a decade building a best-in-class subject matter stack. And in the last year, we’ve put a team together to reach goals that would be otherwise out of reach.