This year marks my 23rd year as a professional photographer – exactly half of my life on Earth. In 1991, at the age of 23, I graduated Brooks Institute of Photography in Santa Barbara, receiving my Bachelor of Arts in Commercial Photography, young and enthusiast, eager to set the photo world on fire…at least I hoped.  

A month later, after sending out 150 resumés around the West with no job offers in return, I figured I might as well start my own business. I pounded the payment, shot self-assignments and had a number of images published from those shoots, and through it all my business slowly grew. There were many months where I wondered how I’d cover my expenses, pay my bills, yet somehow I was able to.

 
Many over glamorize professional photography, especially travel, assuming you trek the globe simply clicking away with ease while clients pay you. Far from the truth. You suffer, sacrifice, struggle, have successes, disappointments, moments of amazement, times of loneliness, all the while wondering where your next paycheck will come from.  Doing this for over twenty years can wear on any person.  Sure you attempt to diversify your business, obtain regular clientele, and place as many proverbial eggs in the basket as you can, but with staff turnover prevalent in our industry and an over-saturated market, you consistently fight the battle to be remembered when a photographer or photograph is needed.


Through all of this, I still can’t see myself doing anything else. My hopes were always to lead an extraordinary life, and this goal continues to drive me today. I can’t wait to capture the next image, yet I’m willing to take breaks between shoots to keep myself fresh and hungry. I continue to love photography, whether I’m taking shots with my iPhone and funkifying them to share online, or produce a commercial shoot with lights, models, and a crew for a high-end client.  I’m extremely proud of the collection of work I have; to be able to look back at my career in a tangible way is rare. These days I feel I’m at my best, combining my knowledge and experience to handle any job thrown my way, and hope to build on my collection to create some of my best images in the years to come; to use the skills I’ve acquired to be even more creative and to grow as an artist, writer, teacher and businessperson.
 
As for highlights, well I’ve been lucky enough to be published thousands of times around the world on coves of magazines, books, ads, CD covers and websites. I’ve done segments on tv, captured images with Nikon’s first DSLR way back in 1995, hung out of helicopters, finished two successful books, fought for better rates and contracts for photographers, met many amazing athletes, and had numerous articles appear in most of the major photography magazines.  As exciting as these moments were, they don’t show the countless hours of planning, preparation, and execution that went in to making them happen; the stress involved or the responsibility I carried. But no career shows this, it’s part of the deal.  

Today, I received a review of my business from a recent client that hit the nail on the head as far as what I try to provide each and every customer.  It was a nice reminder of how hard work, honesty, and pride of ownership can pay off:
 
Sean is a true professional with a great photographic eye. You can’t go wrong using him for any of your photography needs. He immediately contacted me to work out a plan for our photo shoot. He is a great listener and took copious notes so that he fully understood what I was looking for with photographer services. He also interjected his professional opinion when asked, which was a big help because I was relying on his significant expertise. On the day of the shoot, he arrived promptly, set up his equipment and proceeded to execute on every shot on my shot list. Sean was able to shoot both indoor studio shot for my barbecue grill but also outdoor “glamour” shots that had a high degree of commercial appeal. Sean will travel to you, be forth coming about his services, and is very reasonably priced given his decades of experience in photography. Cannot recommend him highly enough.

I can only wonder what the next twenty three years will bring.  At that point I’ll be 68, with any luck going strong and sharing my love for the visual world with many. I’m sure there’ll be some suffering, sacrifice, struggles, and success.  Hopefully some of that success will come in the form of a great big giant lottery ticket.  🙂  But if it doesn’t, at least I’ll have something money can’t buy- a life well lived.


Last month I had the pleasure of photographing this cool new Argentinian BBQ design for a new client, Gaucho Garcia.  We spent a day capturing studio shots (I set up a portable on-location studio with a backdrop and lighting), and later that afternoon we set up an outdoor BBQ scene.  

 Their new site is up with my all images (including the animation of the grill rolling up), and they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign as well (accessible through GauchoGarcía.com).  
 
Check ’em out- the BBQ is amazing, the design is slick, the fundraising project looks cool, and the people are passionate and dedicated to the project: http://gauchogarcia.com/
 

All images © Sean Arbabi | seanarbabi.com (all rights reserved worldwide)


Someone on PPA (Professional Photographers of America) recently asked “Ads in Instagram… should you consider them?”, then went on to talk about seeing ads on their Instagram feed and noticing the “lack a sales message”.  Really?  Are you serious?I really don’t get this method of thinking by photographers sometimes.  As we continue to lose control of major sections of our industry, so many still haggle over the ridiculous minutia that really doesn’t make much of a difference.  

“I really want my byline to be a larger font.”  

“I’m going to demand my copyright includes my website.”

“Should a magazine send me one or two copies of the issue where my photos appeared.”

What?! Who cares about this stuff – we all are making less and less each year.

All while big companies or corporations make more profits off our photographs by presenting lousy contracts (that most photographers don’t read or alter), offering low or no pay, and creating businesses where they trick photographers into believing exposure will help you make more money. Bullshit. It’s like throwing a penny down on the ground and having all these photographers run to pick it up while they reach into your back pockets and steal your cash-filled wallets.  And as far as exposure goes, I say exposure my ass.  My business has never flourished from my images being used for free.

The bigger question is, why would any photographer use Instagram after they changed their terms to use your images. Instagram’s terms still state “you hereby grant to Instagram a non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post“.

That’s bad for photographers and come to think of it, bad for everyone….except Instagram.

Btw, I call them Instagrab now- seems to be a perfect name for who they really are.

This kind of rights-grabbing terms on social sites is unacceptable, and there needs to be stronger backlash against it by photographers, artists, or any creative person who’s livelihood deals with visual media- stills or video. Facebook tried to follow this method earlier this year (no wonder- they own Instagram and got away with it once already) and even Google+ is trying to implement something similar.

By the way, I used to have an Instagram account, and I enjoyed it.  It was fun to create images and share them with others- silly photos, creative ones, others to promote my business, and so on.  But the second they stuck with their new terms, I dumped my account, and closed my family member accounts too.  Today, there’s news on Instagram adding video functionality or ads but this is besides the point. I’m baffled why so many would still be on Instagram when their terms state they can use your images for anything- also confused why big companies (i.e. National Geographic, NY Yankees, 49ers), sports athletes, or celebs are on Instagrab since they can do this to them as well.

Training Timber – © Sean Arbabi | seanarbabi.com (all rights reserved worldwide)

Come on people, grow a backbone and dump any account where the company tries to use your work to make millions while paying you nothing.  Complain to these sites and spread the word.  Social sites can make their money from ads. I could care less about that since it seems like a fair exchange for a free way to market your art.  Just as long as they don’t try to take my images without my permission and use them for these ads….or for that matter, any other lousy rights-grabbing idea they have to please their shareholders or investors.

See how some in the UK fought back: http://www.bjp-online.com/british-journal-of-photography/news/2290837/photography-organisations-rally-against-instagrams-terms-of-use

More on how stripping metadata by social sites can lead to abuse of a photographer’s images (and how some companies are trying to make that okay): http://eposure.com/blog/the-instagram-act-new-copyright-info-for-photographers?goback=.gde_2093733_member_248489690

Read two of Daniel J. Cox’s blog posts on Instagram: http://www.naturalexposures.com/uk-gov-passes-instagram-act-all-your-pics-belong-to-everyone-now/ 
and 
http://www.naturalexposures.com/instagrams-new-policy-to-steal-your-photos-returns/

Once more article about Instagram from ASMP (Amercian Society of Media Photographers): http://asmp.org/articles/instagram-papers.html#.UnVhGZRAThA


26May

Contracts, ugh….I miss the days of hand shakes

After reviewing a very cool photo contest (sponsored by a leading camera company and a top producer/director), I was disappointed to see a statement in their rules – one I’ve seen so many times in client contracts and contest rules:

“…grant of permission to Sponsor and its parent companies, affiliates, subsidiaries, promotional partners, contractors, agents, …. to use the entrant’s name, likeness, voice and biographical information, and the Photograph submitted … for purposes of trade, publicity or promotion and any other purpose, in all media and formats whether now known or later developed, throughout the world in perpetuity, without any notice, permission or compensation”.

So they can use your photograph in any way, as many times as they wish, now and in the future, forever and forever (throughout the world in perpetuity) without paying you in any way – well, maybe you’ll get a prize valued worth a few hundred bucks. Unfortunately this personifies some much of art in the past, present, and maybe the future- and that is that others make more money off of the art than the artist does.

All I can say is contracts should be beneficial for both sides. Don’t sign one if you don’t think you are getting a fair shake. I know it’s hard to do, it’s just as tough for me, but I try to cross out as much as I can get away with, use my contracts (which are fair and easy to understand), and educate my clients (and their counsel) about the contracts they are presenting. Stand strong and value your work and others will too.

And btw, these type of contract rules are why I rarely enter a contest.


08Jan

My Via magazine cover

A few months ago I headed down to Monterey on assignment, to capture a cover for Via magazine (AAA’s travel publication). Millions will see the image on the cover of their January/February 2010 issue (their circulation being one of the largest of any travel magazine in the US), and most won’t bat an eye at how I came to capture the image.

Which is fine. That’s my job as a photographer. And just as we past hundreds of buildings everyday, most don’t think about all that went into erecting that structure. I know, I said erecting. I digress….into an 11-year old boy.


But seriously, if you’re curious how I came to capture the shot, here are some of the details. I was first hired in September to go down to the Monterey area, to come back with a mix of images for an article on Moss Landing and the Elkhorn Slough– from antique shops in the small town, to a famous seafood dish at Phil’s Fish Market, to a mix of wildlife and scenes in the largest tract of tidal salt marsh in California outside of San Francisco Bay. I went down a bit early on a Friday (set to shoot Saturday and Sunday) and found beautiful sunset light with a group of 250 sea lions who had taken over a local pier- captured some fantastic shots. But with the weekend came the fog and overcast that didn’t let up. So I photographed as well as I could (although my editors were hoping for blue skies) and came back with a variety of images, albeit in soft white light.

I wasn’t sure I’d be given a second chance with the weather, but a month later my editors asked me to return searching for clear skies and a clear cover choice. On a beautiful blue sky Sunday morning, the day after Halloween, a warm-streak came through Northern California, normally reserved for the indian summers of early October – yet this one was spilling over into November- a rare occurrence only Al Gore could explain. As I drove back to the Elkhorn Slough, I prepped the day in my mind – half of it spent hiking the eastern side of the slough capturing birds and wildlife, the other half in a small boat on the water. I clicked off a mix of scenes creating natural blinds to hide and document bird life in the area.

Around 2pm, I headed to meet a very nice gentleman who agreed to take me into the slough on a 1950s russian rescue boat – a local kayak company owner. I only had a couple of hours left of light (due to the early late fall days) and hoped to find a sunset scene with a person and the surrounding worthy for the cover. It was a wonderful few hours photographing sea otters resting in kelp beds, the Elkhorn Slough Safari taking visitors through the area, Pelicans silhouetted by the sunset, as well as the full moon rising as kayakers headed out for a nighttime paddle. But I wasn’t sure if I had the cover.

About 45 minutes before the sun set, we headed up a small inlet hoping to find still waters and a nice scene to frame. We came to an old pier and a bend in the waterway, and I knew we had something. I stepped off the boat and had my new friend navigate the small vessel up and down the way as I fired shot after shot. It was a peaceful serene scene that felt right.

Hopefully many will like the shot, maybe it will inspire some, and thankfully my editors were pleased with the image choices from the shoot – which is always my first goal when I’m on assignment. You rarely have a scene you feel should be the cover, actually become the cover – but this time the weather, my boat captain, my eye and my editors all came in line.

17Nov

Building my own career

I had a professional issue a few months back that took me back some. Sure it was upsetting but didn’t shake me – I know who I am and what my intentions are as a person and as a pro photographer. I don’t live in the past, as although you remind yourself not to take things personally, how can you not- especially when you have a passion in what you do, and work tirelessly to make it happen.


I use Facebook, enjoy connecting with friends, sharing images, posting various happenings. One day last year I posted a Sierra workshop in the events section. As a big fan of Galen Rowell’s work (great outdoor shooter and mountaineer who past away with his wife in a plane crash in ’02 – a young 62), I had joined a fan site of his on Facebook and decided to let others know of the workshop through a small message and link – Galen was big on the Sierras, spent many days and nights capturing images and climbing mountains there as I have – in fact John Muir’s book “The Yosemite” was re-printed using Galen’s images back in 2001. The fan site was not run by Galen’s company, yet by a fan, so I figured like-minded Sierra-lovin’ folk might be interested in a photo class.

I discovered Galen’s work when I was 17. We lived in the same Bay Area town and although I came to know him over the years, I couldn’t call him a friend. To me he was truly a kindred spirit (as he signed to me in one of his books). He was much like a mentor without the actual mentoring. I admired his work, attending a few of his lectures, but never inquired about how to run a photo business or get started in the industry. Out of respect, I felt that was my homework to do- my dues to pay.

My Facebook post went unnoticed – no one ever contacted me about our Sierra workshop through the site, until I received an email from someone who worked at Galen’s offices (who no longer works there). This person basically accused me of using Galen’s name, riding on his coattails to benefit my own career- truly laughable since nothing could be farther from the truth. Coming to know Galen’s staff over the years, I never once asked him for advice or for industry info, nor did I ever receive Galen’s help to get published, create a workshop, sell a gallery print, or make a stock sale. I know Galen admired me for this since so many did try to use his connections to benefit themselves. The ironic thing is when he passed, I was contacted by his office for advice on how to deal with a mutual client, which I gladly assisted with.

And of course to date I’ve been published around the world, shot hundreds of assignments, taught workshops for over 10 years, made thousands of stock sales, and sold numerous gallery prints. Although I’ve been lucky to have many wonderful people (clients, workshop students, editors) help make my dream of being a photographer come true, I didn’t get to the place I’m at by using others- I built my career through tons of hard work, late nights, sacrifice and perseverance. No one dragged my butt out of my tent to capture dawn, no one wrote my letters or emails to land jobs, no one did my research and planned my shoots but me.

So to get a message like this was not only insulting, but ridiculous. Nevertheless I followed up with a reply explaining my intentions, which were never to attach myself to Galen in any way. But what can you do. It doesn’t matter how you run your life or what your true intentions are, when someone opens their mouth without any forethought or research, you simply have to disregard their comments and move forward.

Although Galen’s presence was a source of great inspiration as I built a career in the industry, I rarely thought of him as I traveled the world on assignment. But when he past, he came to mind often. I remember in ’04 while on a job in St. Croix, overlooking the Caribbean sea while photographing at sunrise, I remember thinking “Aw Galen, you should be here to see this”. I wish he was.

13Oct

Photographs aren’t free


I recently received an email from someone claiming to be a writer for a how-to website. This person stated they wrote articles for the search site and wanted to use one of my images for their article (originally used from one of my Via magazine assignments).


This is normal in the photography industry, and a big reason why I own all of my images (and do not do “Work for Hire” jobs which transfer all image rights to your clients). I grant first-time publishing rights, and once my photos are used by my client, they are part of my image collection, available to license through my company or my stock agency. Some clients think licensing our images is ‘extra money’ but it’s not- it’s simply part of our income as freelance photographers – photographers with no guaranteed source of income, no benefits, no 401K or pension plans.

Getting back to the request, after doing a little research on my own, I come to find out this person was not a writer for the website, nor employee as a writer anywhere else. Instead the site relies on people for their content – it’s like saying you’re a writer for Wikipedia. And not to bash this person since most people aren’t aware of copyright laws, or the licensing fees for a photograph, or the proper way to go about obtaining images – shoot, I’ve had some editors and clients in the past who didn’t necessarily follow the proper way being in the business of licensing images – but pleading ignorance doesn’t necessarily get you off scot-free either.


Then as I researched the how-to site a bit more I learned that my image was ALREADY on the site – with the credit listed as the magazine I originally shot it for! They basically took the image from Via’s website and pasted it into their article.

At this point I had a few options – I could:

1) Contact my copyright lawyer and sue (which is the last thing I would do since mistakes do occur, and I’m not one to stick it to people that way)

2) Send them a bill for licensing, charging them a penalty for illegally using my image (this is more in line with the norm, and completely appropriate since the image was up for at least a week or two).

3) Notify the “writer” and the website were infringing on my copyright with the unauthorized use of my image and to remove it immediately or face a possible lawsuit and licensing fees (which is what I did).

The site removed the image that day, and at first the “writer” was a bit rude but after explaining the law, she relented and apologized. If they made me an offer to pay for the use, I would have looked up the licensing fee in my price guides, and charged them appropriately including the time they had already used it for. If she didn’t apologize, she would have been dealing with my lawyer. The site also tried to claim that they didn’t have control of what members uploaded- wrong- if it’s their site, they SHOULD have control – or they might get sued.

Moral of the story- your photos are exactly that- yours. If you are a professional photographer with your own business, they are not just sitting in your files or computer, they are part of your inventory. I can’t just go and take something off of the shelf at Target, walk out with it, and claim “it was just sitting on your shelf”. A lot of money, time, effort, experience, knowledge, and equipment goes into all of the images I produce- as with any business that has a product to sell. Control your photos – do your homework – purchase pricing guides and/or software like
Fotoquote or Jim Pickerell’s stock guide, and prepare yourself for the day when a client wants to buy one of your images- or one uses an image without asking for permission. And if someone tried to abuse your copyright, find a lawyer.

Irregardless of royalty free photos, royalty free art, royalty free graphics, and all the accessible work on the internet, my photos aren’t free.

14Aug

My Photo of the Month

Just wanted to share an image I recently shot while on assignment. I was hired to capture an image of Lombard Street in San Francisco – best known for its one-way section on Russian Hill (between Hyde & Leavenworth Streets)- eight sharp turns (or switchbacks) that have earned Lombard the distinction of being “the crookedest street in world (part of The Presidio and Cow Hollow neighborhoods).

I traveled to the city one day after scouting some locations on Google Earth (that’s right, sign of the modern age) and spent an afternoon picking the best spot to shoot from. Knowing the light could look nice at sunrise yet most likely devoid of vehicles, I choose to shoot in the late afternoon – not only to catch the hill in shade, slightly backlit, but also hoping the sun would reflect off of the street to help it stand out.

I shot from a few locations, one close to the actual street, others miles away. Using a 300mm lens with a 1.4 teleconverter and my digital 35mm SLR, I was able to crop the street nicely from one of my vantage points on Telegraph Hill. Although I mounted my lens on a large Gitzo tripod, I still set the mirror lock feature and shutter timer to keep the camera as steady as possible – afternoon winds blowing atop the hill made me worry about camera shake.

I shot all the way until twilight, finally documenting this scene below – the perfect time to capture a long exposure of the moving cars combined with the waning light of the day – which turned out to be my favorite. No filter was used and the final exposure turned out to be: f/11 @ 30 seconds using ISO 100

The magazine didn’t end up using this image, and picked another I photographed during the afternoon. Although I’m partial to this capture, an old editor of mine sent me an email after seeing my image in the magazine – he wrote: Your picture of Lombard St in VIA is probably the best I’ve seen. It’s so difficult to make a different shot of a famous place, and yours gave a new perspective. I can’t imagine how you got it without cars, and of course a nice touch with the cable car at the top.”

Once again proving photography, as all art, is subjective.


30Jul

Taking a break from photography


As I was on a run this evening listening to John Mayer’s “Into Your Atmosphere”, I thought I’d write to all of you to talk a bit about taking a break from photography. This may mean a few days to some, it may mean a few months to others- it all depends on your personality and what’s going on in your life. Sometimes this simple act can work as a catalyst helping you push forward into projects you’ve been holding off on, or help you create new images you might not have thought of in the past.


As a person who’s captured images since I picked up my first camera at the age of 11 (now 41), I’ve been deeply engulfed in photography in every way possible – from planning and shooting my assignments around the world, to holding gallery shows displaying my fine art prints – writing a 50,000 word book on exposure, to organizing industry events for ASMP – dealing with all that goes into a photo business, to all the self-educating needed to keep up with the latest and greatest in gear and software – and now attempting to create tv show and be the Photoguru to the general public – it’s a lot to do on a regular basis.

And even though I love my career, a few years ago I began to burn out on it a bit. I was always aware of this happening and knew to get away and take breaks from it when I had to, but at that point I realized I needed to slow down on my shooting to find that hunger again. Photography tends to ground me from time to time and has brought a lot of peace to my life, but doing it as a full-time job is whole other ball of wax.

People often think having a career as a photographer is this great job where you travel and get paid for a living – piece of cake right? Far from it. Capturing great shots is a blast, but working on deadline, tight budgets, lots of pressure sometimes, all kinds of weather issues, as well as all the other major and minor details that goes into every shoot is tough. When I get just a one-day assignment, I have to plan that day out, make sure I produce the work needed within the budget allocated, and although some think “hey, if you don’t get the shot, you can always go back the next day”, that just ain’t the case. Your profits drop, expenses increase, and it ends up being an expensive hobby and not your main source of income.


After a few year of shooting less (finding bigger clients, more commercial jobs, and diversifying my business some to maintain the level of income I was earning) my excitement for photography came back 100%. I never stopped shooting, but I definitely cut back on the frequency. I’ve never been one to take a camera everywhere I go, and that too I feel has helped me stay fresh in my outlook of the art, carrying that jubilation of capturing a great shot whenever I do so.


And whether it’s jammin’ to Kanye while ridin’ my mountain bike, or leaving my cameras at home while visiting Lake Tahoe for the weekend, I believe these mental breaks have played just as big of a role in my photography as did the times where I had all my gear- where I may have worked 20 hours in a day to complete a job, or been two weeks away from home on assignment. Photography may be my job, and yes I love making images, but it doesn’t rule my life- the constant search for happiness – contentment – peace – laughter – that does.

So if you take a deep breath or sigh when you pick up your camera, find yourself getting extra frustrated when you miss a shot, or think you’ve reached a plateau in the images you’re creating, consider the option of back burnering your photography. Go for a ride, get back into running, or wait a while until a little dust collects on your camera. You might be thinking “What Sean? Stop shooting photos? Didn’t think that would come from you.” To quote Chris Rock in his last HBO special “That’s right, I SAID it! And I’m looking straight at cha!” 🙂

Remember, you’re not alone in feeling that way, and your passion for the medium will never go away. Happy humpday photo-geeks and geekettes.

16Jul

How to Survive the Credit Crunch

This economic year is affecting everyone, not only in the U.S. and U.K., but as well around the globe. Budgets are tighter for companies small and large, resulting in less advertising, affecting ad agencies and magazines – this trickles down to photographers through fewer assignments, smaller stock sales, and less work. As for the public market, individuals are just as concerned and have less disposable income, resulting in fewer purchases of books, fine art prints, lower workshop numbers, as well as tighter budgets for wedding and family portraits.


So what to do? How do you keep your business going during these times? Here are a few ways to keep the ball rolling – some are tangible steps, and others can’t be measured – but they’ve worked for me the past 20 years as a full-time pro.

1) Keep yourself busy, very busy – although it’s not a tangible thing you can keep track of, I believe the more energy you put out there, the more comes your way. I’ve noticed when I’m busy, I’m not all that motivated to get to extra work since my schedule is packed and free time is limited. It’s not the best way to run your business since you should always be marketing, but it’s reality. Yet when times are slow, it’s easy to get depressed and lose confidence. So instead, use that hunger to motivate you.
By keeping yourself busy and always have things to work on, whether capturing new images for your portfolio, cataloging your work, taking advantage of the time to connect with new clients, or starting new projects you’ve had on the back burner, time will pass and opportunities will arise from the positive effort.

2) Partner up with others. I also believe in synergy. I’m not big on trades since they don’t pay the bills, but if you need a designer for some promotional materials, and a designer needs a photographer for their specific need, making a trade can save both sides money – and the collaboration of creative people can often lead to new opportunities.

3) Reorganize: Take time to reorganize your business and hone your skills- we rarely have time to do this, so no better time than the slow present. Whether captioning and organizing your images, cleaning out your computer, or re-packing your photo bags- when I’m swamped I rarely have time to do any of this, so I use my slower times for these tasks. I call it investment toward future earnings. How so? I’ll give you an example. When a request comes across my desk for Yellowstone images and my client needs to review some asap, I’m able to build a lightbox immediately and throw it up on the web due to captioning them a year earlier during a slow week. That quick response, in turn, leads to more sales.

4) Cut your overhead: Whether you have to rent a smaller office space or studio, or simply not purchase that new laptop or 35mm dSLR you’ve wanted, one way most companies survive the tough times is by cutting costs. It’s hard to do, but sometimes you have to rent out your studio, sell some gear you rarely use, or cut out services you don’t need. Less overhead means less pressure to make ends meet.

5) School yourself: Brush up on all the new software you may have in your computer – whether being Photoshop CS4, Lightroom, Aperture, or even Excel and Word hone your skills to tighten your workflow. A few years ago when I had a slow month, I transferred all my presentations from Powerpoint to Keynote, learned the application well, and when the next workshop date arrived, I was ready with a solid lecture.

6) Diversify: Diversifying your business is important in general, but critical during these times. When I started my business, I landed a stock agency and a job capturing production photography three days a week in a studio. As my business grew, I added editorial assignments, then workshops, more ad and corporate work, and slowly expanded my photo business. By putting “20 eggs in the basket”, and hoping a few came through, I was able to always have a check coming from somewhere.

7) Work on personal projects. Personal projects can not only be rewarding, but often bring new assignments – all the while allowing you to shoot exactly what you are most interested in. I’m currently working on two new projects – a book I hope to publish, and another a studio project capturing a subject I’ve been interested in for years- both of which I can do from my home or office.

8) Delve into the realm of social sites and email marketing. When you market your photography through emails, costs can be drastically lower than snail mail, and you can hit thousands of clients on a tight budget. Just remember though, respect client requested to be removed from lists, and be considerate of no-email requests.

New media sources such Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Word Press, MySpace, RedRoom, as well as blogging can also expand your web coverage and bring new business. These websites are the rage with many photographers jumping in, but if you haven’t, consider these social sites as potential marketing tools. After my first book came out, I joined a site where people can connect with authors and over a period of a few months, had roughly 2000 people visit my pages. By marketing my book through these sites, I believe I was able to keep it in the top 50 photo books for the first six months of 2009, an incredibly difficult year where sales are down- my publisher was very happy with the numbers, which hopefully will lead to more distribution and sales, as well as future book projects.

Just remember, you want to be unique, a bit different from the other million photographers doing the same thing – so pick an agenda or a style and run with it. Blogging about random thoughts not related to photography probably won’t get you new work. I personally have a page on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, MySpace, and YouTube, and my blog appears on all the top blog sites – which has lead to thousands of hits for my business.

Sure it takes some work to keep these up-to-date, but it pays off in both tangible and intangible ways. This year I sold two gallery prints, made a stock sale, sold a number of copies my exposure book, had a few people sign up for my workshops, did a consultation for a photographer, and landed a big corporate shoot – all through my presence on these sites.

9) Create a dream client list: One way to market yourself is to go after a certain type of client you are most interested in, and one that fits the type of work you like to capture. Whether you obtain your list through a mailing list company (Ad Base, Fresh Lists, etc), or simply locate the information online, this exercise can not only help you focus on the type of imagery you want to market, and the type of work you want to do, but could also help you land that dream client you always wanted. I always said, someone has to shoot for the National Geographic– why can’t it be me? By focusing on that top 10 list of clients, you pay more attention to them, may get to know the principals, and since it often about who you know instead of what you can do, you may just land that client.

10) Brainstorm: Often during hard times, people come up with new ways to promote or sell a product or service- this usually occurs simply through brainstorming for better ideas. I’ve been a photographer more than half my life, but it doesn’t mean I’ve thought of everything- in fact quite the opposite. So remember, you may come up with an idea that saves your business – one that’s not even on this list.

Good luck and happy shooting!