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.
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.
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.
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!
Let me start off by saying, I like Ashton Kutcher– enjoy ‘Punked’, like many of the movies he does, and think it’s impressive to have the resumé he does at his age – nothing personal toward him.
A few fun february facts, images to check out, and items to think about in the photo world. By the way, here’s a fun image of the Na Pali coast in Kauai, I captured from a helicopter a few years ago while on assignment.
I’m starting a “Photo of the Week” section of my blog, to display an image, describe how I shot it, and what my thought process start to finish – here’s my first: