he intriguing thing about any creative endeavor like photography is that you are always learning…or should be! Likewise, since most shooters are also small business owners, there’s no end to the skills that you can acquire in that area as well.So, here are our suggested print resources that will help you become (or stay!) an expert in both endeavors.
“Pricing Photography: The Complete Guide to Assignment & Stock Prices, Fourth Edition,” by Michal Heron & David MacTavish. Publisher: Allworth Press (2012).
Is a printed “pricing guide” for both assignment and stock photography merely a quant throwback to the 20th century, or a highly useful and long overdue (the 3rd edition, after all, came out in 2002!) reference book you’ll be glad you have and refer to regularly? The answer is some of the former and a lot of the latter in this recently updated version of “Pricing Photography.”
Let’s start off with the anachronistic part. Back in the day (as in pre-Internet) you had pricing books available from these same authors as well as from ASMP, Jim Pickerell and others. These were highly coveted because pricing for both assignments and stock had always been a bit of a “black art” with the specifics of both how and how much to charge closely guarded secrets by the industry’s shamans. Since you had no other options (other than asking another photographer, who may or may not have felt morally obligated to give you accurate information) these printed guides were valuable benchmarks, each with a somewhat different take on both the pricing process and the actual numbers.
But now the 21st century is barreling right along and if I’m wondering how to price a stock licensing opportunity and don’t have much in the way of my own internal pricing history to go on, I can simply go on to Alamy, Getty Images, Masterfile or any number of other stock sites to see what a similar usage would cost. And, the problem with printed prices is that once they hit the paper they’re set in stone; meanwhile, the market continues to evolve right along with “the going rates” for stock sales (although, if you want to be really depressed, compare some of the prices from the 10-year old edition of “Pricing Photography” with this new one: for example, the suggested licensing fee in 2003 for a textbook cover with a print run of less than 40,000 was pegged at $750. A decade later? Despite both inflation and ever-increasing costs for shooters, it’s still $750!). Mightn’t it be better in an industry as volatile as stock imagery to have the pricing charts online, where they can be instantly updated, and perhaps available via a reasonable annual subscription fee? I’m just sayin’.
Also somewhat strange: the “Appendix of Forms” at the back of “Pricing Photography” contains these highly useful documents: “Delivery Memo” for both assignment photography and stock, as well as “Estimate/Confirmation/Invoice/License” for assignments and “Invoice/License” for stock. Other tasty forms, such as an “Assignment Information Form” and “Stock Request Form,” are scattered throughout the tome. But what are you supposed to do with them? Sit down and copy them word-for-word into a word processing program? C’mon, guys: it’s 2013. Either give me a companion CD with these documents in digital format or put ‘em online, but don’t expect me to waste a bunch of time playing transcriber.
So much for the guide’s shortcomings; let’s get to the good stuff, of which there is plenty.
The assignment pricing tables, which are probably a good deal less unpredictable than the stock charts, are certainly worth their weight in gold, if for no other reason than the fact that I know of no other resource where these sorts of figures are even available. Though only covering five pages (compared to the 40 pages occupied by stock prices) they offer up guidelines for a wide swath of professional photography, including suggested fees for shooting advertising on both a national and local level, corporate work (annual reports, company publications, public relations and more) and various types of editorial (books, magazines, etc.). All of these are split into three categories: low, medium and high fees, as well as additional charges for related post-production digital imaging. A bonus are the guides to helping you figure out suitable fees for additional usage beyond the original assignment fees when the client inevitably comes back later for “more.”
The stock prices, despite my earlier misgivings about their long-term relevance in a printed format, are nonetheless highly useful touchstones which do an excellent job of breaking down the vast majority of potential uses on both the commercial and editorial sides of the picture business by such factors as repro size, press run, circulation, distribution and all the other details you need to consider when calculating suitable licensing fees.
As useful as both the assignment and stock pricing charts are, however, for my money the real value of “Pricing Photography” lies in the extensive portion of the book devoted to the underlying methods of coming up with a price in the first place as well as the subsequent but often precarious process of negotiating a fee with your client that comes as close as possible to the one you put down on paper. Dilettantes will ignore the authors’ warning of “the temptation to skip the text chapters in this book and go directly to the price charts,” whereas the true professional understands that not only must the figures they quote be reasonable but that they “..come from being able to articulate why you’re quoted that price and from knowing your bottom line.” Thus Heron and MacTavish’s emphasis on the multifaceted economics of photography, including the oft ignored subject of “overhead” and it’s critical relevance to rational pricing (and, in case you have any doubts about the importance of calculating your overhead, the authors provide this unambiguous observation: “If you only consult pricing charts, without knowing your overhead, you are on a short track to nowhere.”).
There is a misconception that professional photography is all about creating high-quality images. While that is certainly the crucial end result, what truly separates the pro from the wannabe is a mastery of the business side of making photographs. Despite some shortcomings that perhaps could have better bridged the decade from the previous version and thus made it even more useful in this full-blown digital era, the fourth edition of “Pricing Photography,” with its comprehensive discussion of the multiple elements of pricing, analysis of how to get what you want out of the negotiating process, and guideposts in the form of charts of specific suggested fees will doubtless help the professional photographer accomplish that most-prized of all business achievements: profitability.
reviewed by phh
“Make Money With Your Digital Photography” by Erin Manning. Publisher: Wiley Publishing, Inc. (2011); 272 pages.
OK, confession time: when I was in school I was not exactly what you would call a scholar, and “class valedictorian” was never a title that was destined to be bestowed on me. I did OK but, as my parents and teachers often reminded me, I could have done a lot better had I applied myself. Instead, I looked for quick fixes, which means that my best friend throughout high school was Cliff. I never actually got to meet Cliff, but he was the genius behind Cliff’s Notes: highly compacted versions of all the great literature and other books that you were required to read in high school. Admittedly, reading Cliff’s version of, say, “Romeo and Juliet” meant losing most of the nuance and beauty of Shakespeare’s writing, but you got enough of the “meat” to pass your exam with a B, and that was just fine with me.
Which brings me to Erin Manning’s “Make Money With Your Digital Photography.” Manning is a seasoned veteran of both assignment and stock photography, and with this book she seems to be looking to provide the Cliff’s version of the professional photography business to all the weekend warriors and wanna-bes out there today. Which is not to say that the book is superficial, merely that it is an overview of five specific branches of photography (portrait, sports, wedding, food/product and travel) as well as marketing, equipment and digital workflow. So, while none of these topics is covered in the sort of depth that you would find in any stand-alone text on any one of those subjects, Manning’s tome offers plenty of anecdotes and information to whet the appetites of aspiring pros to learn more.
In the photography branch-specific chapters, Manning relies upon established practitioners to discuss their backgrounds and supply “here’s what it’s like out there” stories. In the sports photography section, for example, she calls upon both Reid Sprenkel (who has built a successful business shooting kids’ sports) and Serge Timacheff (author, Olympic shooter and chief photographer for the International Fencing Federation) to discuss their real-world experiences. Timacheff, who is perhaps the best fencing photographer in the world, points out that, “If you want to get really good you have to focus. To cross the proverbial threshold, you really have to beat something to death – to the point where your camera ceases to be a mechanical/electronic device and becomes an instrument that you play while focusing on a subject.” For the travel photography section, Manning picks the brain of past Travel Photographer of the Year award recipient Lorne Resnick. In addressing the need for critical analysis of images, Resnick shares the fact that “Once I started to really look at my own and other photographers’ work with two words in mind, my work started to accelerate. Those two words are why and where. Why is that photo so good or impactful and where did that photo end up?”
In the book’s opening chapter on “Personal Discovery,” as well as later sections covering “Equipment Essentials,” “Show Me The Money” (which covers how to sell to both consumers and businesses), “Marketing,” and “Digital Darkroom” Manning relies almost exclusively upon her own extensive experience rather than that of outside sources (though there is a useful interview with fine-art agent Angela Krass in “Show me The Money”). In keeping with the book’s style, Manning offers just enough information on all of these subjects to engage the reader without resorting to information overload. Most of what’s there will be old hat to established pros, but for those considering a career in photography there’s just enough detail to help them decide whether or not to make the leap. It ain’t Shakespeare, but I think my old buddy Cliff would approve!
reviewed by phh
“The Art and Business of Photography” by Susan Carr. Publisher: Allworth Press (2011); 210 pages.
Left brain or right brain? Useful practicality or chaotic creativity? Ah, the perpetual dilemma for the visual artist or, as veteran photographer Susan Carr describes it in the preface to her new book, “..the delicate balance of art and commerce.” Carr’s “Art and Business of Photography” wrestles with a similar need for equilibrium, as it bounces back and forth from a compelling call to arms for unbridled personal vision to such mundane but highly necessary topics as copyright and using proper paperwork. The result is a somewhat schizophrenic but highly readable text for the professional image maker.
Although Carr is the book’s author and thus the primary source for relating experiences from the world of professional photography, she makes extensive use of the thoughts and reminiscences of fellow pro shooters Richard Kelly and Sean Kernan as well as such photo industry veterans as Leslie Burns, Nancy Wolff, Seth Godin and Robert Adams. This lends “Art and Commerce” a very real-world feel, even when tackling such abstruse subjects as “the art of seeing” and “the search for the next transcendent moment.”
On balance, the scales in this book tip more towards the “business” content than the “art” side, and that’s not a bad thing. After all, how many different ways can you say “a photographer finds distinction in our visually saturated society through the pursuit of personal vision” before it a) simply becomes redundant and b) gets old? The bottom line that Carr stresses throughout the book is that without that distinct and marketable personal vision, which is often only realized through the creation of “personal” projects (and exemplified by a lengthy section in which Kernan, Kelly and Carr both discuss and show examples of their own personal photographic assignments), neither an aspiring nor established professional photographer stands much of a chance of success in a medium that now attracts multitudes of wanna-bes.
Being true to one’s self and finding your “eye” certainly isn’t easy, but perhaps it is actually somewhat less daunting, since it is often fueled by inner passion, than the business side of photography for, as Carr reminds us, “Creating a viable way to make a living from art is a huge undertaking,” and “There are few endeavors more challenging then successfully running a small business.” On the other hand, “Being an artist and making a living from your craft do not have to be mutually exclusive; on the contrary,” says Carr, “I believe they strengthen each other.”
Carr boldly (and correctly!) states: “Like it or not, the photographs licensed every day and, in many cases, even the service of photography are now commodities. Generic photographic subject matter will no longer produce substantial financial rewards.” That’s not a popular notion, since photographers generally seem to abhor being tagged as producers of “commodities,” but the implications of Carr’s thoughts actually dovetail rather seamlessly with what is happening in many other industries besides the picture business: New York Times writer Thomas Freidman, for example, pointed out in his column of Jan. 24, 2012 that “Average is over” in discussing the American manufacturing workforce. In other words: you, as a businessperson, had better be really well educated in managing the commercial side of your enterprise, and your products – your images - had darn well better be something special in order to stand out from the ever-expanding crowd.
So, how to accomplish that? Carr strongly advocates for professionalism, which includes becoming fully familiar with every facet and nuance of both copyright and licensing. You need to register your work with the US Copyright Office (“registration signals that you care for and respect your photographs”) but exercise your rights as a copyright holder both fairly and reasonably. Likewise, licensing and pricing in the new and quickly-evolving media world we’re in demand that you be both smart and flexible rather than rigid and tied to the “old ways” of doing business, or you run the very serious risk of completely turning off potential clients who are often as baffled about their licensing needs as you are.
Carr goes on to provide a plethora of very practical advice, including recommendations on everything from trade groups to books and websites to movies, as well as a methodology for pricing and even a brief chapter on stimulating creativity. All good nuts-and-bolts stuff, but always tempered by the concurrent and persistent need for a well-honed and distinctive artistic vision which can be applied in a commercial marketplace. By addressing both requirements for success in today’s topsy-turvy commercial photography industry, Susan Carr’s “The Art and Business of Photography” is an honest, informative and motivating tome for 21st century image makers.
review by phh
“The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money,” by Ilise Benun. Publisher: HOW Books (2011). 232 pages.
As Sally Bowles liked to sing at the Kit Kat Klub, “Money makes the world go ‘round.” Too true. Unfortunately, for many self-employed creatives (photographers, illustrators, designers) it’s one of the subjects that they know the least about. Ilise Benun, a veteran author, consultant and lecturer, is out to change that, one creative at a time, with her new book, “The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money.”
More so than even their personal sex lives, creatives have generally always seemed highly reticent to even discuss “the M word.” Benun suggests that this isn’t just modesty, it’s ignorance and a sure-fire path to financial disaster. What, after all, is a professional? Someone who does what they do for pay, and if you don’t know how to get paid well, you might as well revert to amateur status.
Through her own narrative, as well as quotes and excerpts from other respected colleagues and creative industry experts, Benun simplifies the complex subject of money by breaking it down into three manageable phases: how you think about it (which deals with your attitudes on the subject), how you talk about it (yes, you can discuss money with colleagues and clients without breaking out in a cold sweat) and how you manage it (taking care of business). In addition, the book includes a multitude of useful, enlightening and even fun self-assessments, worksheets and templates, as well as a form which will get you a free mentoring session with the author!
Benun’s style is simple and direct, mixed in with a dose of tough love, and uncluttered by a plethora of business or financial industry buzz-words. In “The Business Mind-Set” chapter, for example, she says: “Creatives often say, ‘I’m not good with money,’ which more than anything is a self-fulfilling prophecy, primarily of a psychological nature. In reality, money is simple and logical. It doesn’t conflict with or corrupt your creativity. It’s math.” The entire first section, then, is devoted to helping you figure out exactly what your attitudes are toward money, how you can practice effective goal-setting, and several chapters devoted to the always-tricky subject of pricing (and, while the book is primarily directed toward an audience of designers, there is a very high percentage of content that’s just as valuable for other visual communicators, such as photographers).
Having dragged “money” out of the shadows and into the light, part 2 guides you through the process of evolving from a money milquetoast into a confident pro who’s not afraid to ask for what they want and aggressively seek it out: finding and qualifying just the “right” prospects, broaching the topic of money, talking price and negotiating, closing the sale and getting paid. Benun, of course, fully realizes that this will not be easy for you, and that you’ll make mistakes along the way: “Confidence will not develop if you don’t try and don’t err. That is especially true when it comes to talking about money and pricing.”
The “Managing Money” section closes out the book and includes straight talk on such subjects as money basics (deductibility of business expenses, for example), profitability and effectively handling both requests for proposals and contracts. It’s here you’ll find one of the key philosophies behind the entire guide: “The point of being self-employed is to be in control of more of your life, and yet so many people don’t take control of their finances, one of the few things you actually can control. The secret is working as hard to manage it as you do to earn it.”
If you’re trying to make your way as a photographer or artist, you no longer have an excuse for struggling financially. In clear, straight-forward language Ilise Benun’s “The Creative Professional’s Guide to Money” takes you step-by-step through the entire process of pitching clients, preparing proposals, dealing with the financial details of the work you win, and making sure your bottom line stays written in black rather than red ink.
reviewed by phh
“Fast Track Photographer: Leverage Your Unique Strengths for a More Successful Photography Business” by Dane Sanders.Publisher: Amphoto Books (2010).
I have yet to hear anyone – ANYONE – point to photographers as being particularly representative of the best and the brightest when it comes to business skills.And, while there are a good number of exceptions to that generalization, the simple fact is that self-employed creative individuals, whether they’re illustrators, designers or photographers, often lack the proper training and knowledge that would allow them to excel to the same degree on the business side of their professional lives as they do on the artistic side.
Dane Sanders is one of those previously mentioned exceptions to the rule.Not that he started out that way, of course: Sanders is disarmingly candid about his own shortcomings as an up-and-coming shooter many years ago.What separates the smart guys from the others, of course, is that the intelligent ones learn from their mistakes and proactively correct them.And what was the most significant professional and life lesson that Sanders learned? That you only succeed when you’re true to yourself (“being me at any cost became my mantra”).And, while this may hardly be a revolutionary conclusion, Sanders builds upon that simple yet often elusive premise to create a highly readable and immensely useful text for every type of photographer from wanna-be’s (for whom it will be especially valuable) to seasoned but disgruntled veterans (or, as Sanders calls them in Fast Track Photographer, the “Grumpies.”).
s Sanders explains right in the Fast Track Photographer Preface, it “is more than a book; it’s a system of thinking.”Combined with his follow-up book The Fast Track Photographer Business Plan Sanders forgoes just about anything that has to do with the nuts and bolts of how you make photographs (“the real value is the engine that creates those images”) and instead focuses, and in a very engaging style, on how you make yourself into a successful photographer. He describes the two available options for building a photographer-centric business: “You create either a Freelance Photographer business or a Signature Brand Photographer business.The difference: The Freelance Photographer does fee-based assignments for employers, while the Signature Brand Photographer functions independently and builds a commercial brand around him/her self.”
Sanders goes on to discuss the current state of the picture industry as well as business in general, including space devoted to the “Grumpies” (resentful, ineffectual individuals who can’t adapt to a changing business environment) and what he calls “the Digi-flat Era” (digital technology meets the flattened world).This, in turn, leads to Sanders’ most useful tool for helping readers choose between the Freelance Photographer and Signature Brand paths: the Photographer DNA Assessment Tool (pDNA for short).If you took any sort of vocational guidance tests back in high school, or perhaps an occupational assessment later in life, then you already have a clue what the pDNA is all about.By asking a series of probing questions about your likes and dislikes, in both photography specifically and the world in general, users of the pDNA will gain a vastly clearer picture of where they might fit into the universe of professional photographers.
oo often these days it seems that the only ones we hear from in the picture industry are the doom and gloomsters.Dane Sanders’ Fast Track Photographer is a refreshing departure from the seemingly pervasive negativity that surrounds the photography profession at the moment without being Pollyannaish or spewing out pie-in-the-sky B.S.His approach to becoming a successful shooter is upbeat and empowering; he doesn’t minimize the importance of strong visual and technical skills, he just shifts the emphasis in the discussion.In referring to art and photography schools, for example, he says that “many students who graduate from those schools fail to make the distinction between the skill and the person exercising that skill.”In a world seemingly bursting at the seams with photographers and photographic images, Fast Track Photographer will help you recognize and nurture the single most critical, unique competitive advantage you have that no one else can replicate: you!
reviewed by phh
“The Fast Track Photographer Business Plan” by Dane Sanders.Publisher: Amphoto Books (2010).256 pages.
Just a few years before he died, actor Dennis Hopper shot some compelling television commercials for Ameriprise, a company specializing in financial and retirement tools and advice for baby boomers.In one of these ads, Hopper stands alone in the middle of an intersection, out in the middle of nowhere, and looks the viewers square in the eye as he tells them that in order to enjoy retirement, “You, my friend…you need a plan.”
He might just as well have been talking about the careers of professional photographers, the vast majority of whom are terrific at the creative stuff but when it comes to the business end of things…well, not so much.Although Dennis Hopper is no longer on call to remind photographers of the benefits of long-term thinking and creative planning, Dane Sanders is, and he does a darn good job of it.
Elsewhere on this site I have given Sanders kudos for his first book, “Fast Track Photographer,” in which he promotes the inestimable value of a system of thinking that is centered upon and consistently true to who you are as a person and how this can manifest itself in a highly successful photography business.“The Fast Track Photographer Business Plan” is the logical corollary to Sanders’ other book: whereas the original text revolved around taking a long, hard look inside yourself in order to figure out how you, as both a person and a creative-type, might fit into the great scheme of all things photographic, “Business Plan” takes those resulting self-assessments and conclusions to the next level by helping you determine how you can translate the strengths and skills that you identified earlier into a long-term profitable enterprise that exploits your skills with a camera.
hile “The Fast Track Photographer Business Plan” incorporates some of the elements related to creating “traditional” business plans (especially in chapters like “Get Real on the Numbers: Can You Afford to Do This?” in which Sanders discusses such nuts-and-bolts issues as expenses, financial goals and pricing), the goal of this book is not to encourage you to prepare a beautifully detailed, 56-page business plan complete with charts, graphs and pro formas for presentation to a banker or investor.Instead, and in keeping with the “Fast Track” philosophy, the plan that Sanders helps you create is intended for internal rather than external consumption and use, and it will guide you down a path that grows directly out of your own “identity, creativity and vision.”
Sanders starts with a simple premise: you need to assert leadership of your business, rather than letting it lead you.That leadership derives directly from your vision of who you are, “how your business will embody and leverage that uniqueness,” which markets you’ll pursue and what your specific goals within those markets will be.And, “the way you frame your vision becomes, in essence, your company’s brand.”
Vision, then, precedes planning, and Sanders leads you through a number of helpful exercise that help you identify and hone that vision (“Strengths & Weaknesses,” “Find The Right Adjectives,” etc.).Once your vision statement is complete (but not “finished,” since it will always be evolving throughout the life of your company) you’re ready to “marry your vision to the market,” which really boils down to: “Does anyone want what I’m selling?” Again, Sanders provides examples and exercises that lead you to identifying “the sweet spot in which your vision fuses with a willing market.”Assuming that such a “sweet spot” actually exists (and it may not for all photographers: some may simply have unreal expectations of either what they are capable of producing or the market’s willingness to embrace their creative output), you must build a solid foundation for your enterprise based upon the aforementioned financial planning.This is where photographers often flounder: because they spend so much time in the abstract, creative world it can be challenging for them to wrap their brains around such mundane concepts as positive cash flow, cost of sales or pricing.Don’t fret: Sanders explains these ideas and why they’re so critical to your success in language that’s intended for mortals, not MBA candidates.By following his recommendations, you’ll be able to determine whether your vision of a photographer-centric business makes financial sense in the real world.
f you’ve made it this far (creation of a vision statement and financial forecasting that ends up with a number in black rather than red ink), then Sanders urges you to take the next step: creating the team that will make your vision a reality.By “team,” of course, he isn’t necessarily talking about employees; in fact, one of his secret weapons of success is to outsource as many tasks as possible to trusted and reliable service providers (or, as he calls them, “partners”) rather than taking on the overhead burden of employees.An additional key to making your company as streamlined as possible is to create standardized systems for how you do things: “Systematize all tasks/operations except those that require your high-level leadership or creativity.Make everything as automatic and thought-free as possible except those few identified areas that will flourish from your personal touch.”Sanders leads by example, of course, naming a number of tasks for which he has established routines in his own highly successful business, as well as giving you exercises that, when completed, should result in your own efficient, smooth-running photography operation.
While none of this planning is exactly easy, it often involves just as much creativity as envisioning that great still life you’ll be shooting for a client next week.And, without it you’ll be poorly prepared for tackling the culmination of all this preparation: the three business functions of “the perpetual Fast Track Business Life Cycle - booking jobs, shooting jobs and leveraging jobs.”Sanders walks you through each of those phases, offering both encouragement and specific techniques for attaining your full potential in each one.
If reading and truly absorbing the concepts in “The Fast Track Photographer Business Plan,” as well as actually working your way through all of the exercises it contains, strikes you as entailing a lot of work, well…it is! But, Sanders would argue very persuasively that this is what will separate the photographers who’ll succeed in “the Digi-flat Era” (in which digital technology has become both sophisticated and widely available at the same time as we’ve evolved into a flattened world) from those who will just muddle along and eventually fail.
Look, you aspired to be a photographer because you wanted an outlet for your creativity, right? As Dane Sanders says, “The way to free up your creativity is to spend less time on the routine tasks of running your business, so that these tasks no longer consume and drain you.That means becoming smarter, more efficient, and more systematized.Good business supports great creativity.Great creativity generates more business.” Dennis Hopper said it…”You need a plan”…and, fortunately for photographers, Dane Sanders will help you build one that can actually work.
reviewed by phh
“Selling Your Photography,” by Richard Weisgrau. Publisher: Allworth Press (2009).
I was about halfway through Richard Weisgrau’s newest book (he’s previously written or co-authored over half a dozen others) when I started to have this nagging thought: “Have I read this somewhere before?” Sure enough, I dug out my copy of his 2004 tome entitled The Real Business of Photography, thumbed through it a bit and realized that Selling Your Photography is really a far more current version of that ’04 book.However, this is not a case of simply taking the old text and repurposing it with a new title and cover (though there are some specific sections that duplicate his earlier effort). Selling Your Photography is a truly updated and expanded text that covers the many business aspects of photography that would-be professionals must consider while simultaneously retaining and reinforcing Weisgrau’s hard-edged advice (what do you expect from a guy from Philly?) about business in general (example: “One thing I can tell you with certainty after more than four decades in the business is that unless you at least get to the photographer-businessperson stage, you will fail economically.That will make you an amateur photographer.”).
One of the major differences between Selling Your Photography and the older version is that The Real Business of Photography had very few references to the Internet; five years later, Selling Your Photography reflects the fact that the Net is now both a mature and all-pervasive factor in any business, especially for a visual medium like photography. Related to this, one of the most useful facets of this book for both newbies and established pro shooters is the wealth of information and web addresses Weisgrau has collated on the advertising, corporate, editorial and merchandise segments of the picture buyer universe. This feature alone is probably worth the price of the book since actually zeroing in on photo buyers can be one of the most time-consuming and difficult tasks in running your own photography business.
here are also some very useful sample documents in Selling Your Photography, including an estimate letter (“Serves the same purpose as an estimate form, but in a friendlier manner.Remember that prospects would rather buy from a person they like.”), assignment confirmation and both a copyright license and renewal notice.
If you are seeking nuts-and-bolts information on “How to Make Money in New and Traditional Markets” (the book’s subtitle), then Selling Your Photography is a very good place to start.Although Weisgrau touches on stock photography, this book will really prove most valuable to the individual seriously contemplating either full- or part-time work as an assignment “publication photographer” (the goal is to get paid for getting your images published, in either print or electronic media). Using your photographic talents and the business smarts Weisgrau helps you to learn, you may be able to positively answer the universal question he poses: “Opportunity knocks; are you going to open the door and let it in?”
I have good news and I have bad news for photographers.First, the good news: Maria Piscopo, the ultimate marketing pro’s pro with almost three decades of experience as a photographer’s rep, lecturer and writer has crammed just about every possible marketing technique a shooter could employ into this updated fourth edition of her guide.
The bad news: if you actually follow all of Piscopo’s advice, I think it’s quite likely you’ll be inundated with clients but won’t have time to shoot their jobs because you’ll be too busy working on…marketing!
I know: you wanted to be a photographer when you grew up, not a marketer.But the fact is that the vast majority of photographers don’t work for big studios or on the staff of a newspaper or magazine; they’re independent business people, and no matter what kind of business you run, marketing is a necessary component of making that business both viable and profitable.
Well, “The Photographer’s Guide” is the answer to your prayers, Mr. or Ms. Non-Marketer.In chapters like “Getting Started in Business,” “Marketing on the Internet” and “Steps to Selling” (to name but three of the 23 that comprise the book) Piscopo goes to great length and into explicit detail sharing all of the important stuff they didn’t tell you in photo school about how to attract and keep clients. Whether you shoot weddings & portraits (consumer markets), or freelance for editorial and commercial clients (professional markets), Piscopo’s been there and done that at some point in her career and passes on those valuable lessons learned.
owever, I was only being semi-facetious when I said that you’ll be too busy doing marketing to actually do photography.For example, Piscopo’s “Sample Marketing Plan” for going after commercial clients employs such tactics as a direct mail campaign, an advertising campaign, a public relations campaign, personal selling and, what the heck, let’s throw in a healthy dose of social networking, too.Whew! I get a little tired just thinking about all the activities you have to do in order to pull off that admittedly well-rounded marketing campaign.Which, of course, points out the absolute necessity of being extremely well organized, as well as the likelihood that you will outsource some or even a majority of your marketing tasks to people like graphic designers, card printers, list compilers and others since you really DO want to snap a photo now and again.
Maria Piscopo’s many years in “the business” have prepared her well for understanding how picture buyers think, react and go about the business of spending their money.So, when she says in Chapter 6 that “You always begin with your marketing message.Only when you know what you are marketing will you be able to identify who buys it,” you pay attention.Or when, in her discussion of Internet marketing, she points out that your website needs to “give clients options for responding and offer a clear call to action,” your next move had better be to take a critical look at your Web presence to see how it matches up to her directives.And when she tosses in an observation from her almost 30 years of interacting with client-types like “Poor conversation manners and etiquette have kept more photographers out of the photography business than any lack of talent,” you’d be well advised to take a long, hard look in the mirror and perhaps seek out the nearest Dale Carnegie course.
What you don’t know about marketing won’t kill you, but it may very well kill your business.By thoroughly absorbing the practical but extensive marketing advice Maria Piscopo shares with you in the 4th edition of her “Guide to Marketing and Self-Promotion” and then actually putting it into practice, professionals working in virtually every sector of photography stand a better-than-even chance of reaching their full potential as both a creative image maker and as a business person.
reviewed by phh
“Professional Business Practices in Photography,” compiled by the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP).Publishers: ASMP & Allworth Press (2008; 7th edition).
Back in the day, about four decades ago, Dr. David Reuben had a huge best seller when he published Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (but were afraid to ask).The latest edition of ASMP’s classic tome may not be quite as titillating as Dr. Reuben’s classic (though the section titled “Turning Projects Into Relationships” might lead you to think otherwise), but Professional Business Practices certainly goes a long way towards covering “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Professional Photography.”
If you’re seeking a book that addresses the intricacies of lighting, Photoshop, exposure, digital camera gear or any of the other techie stuff that photographers seem to gravitate toward, be forewarned: this ain’t one of ‘em.Instead, it’s a 468-page paperback compilation of articles on almost every facet of the business side of photography, as well as valuable sample forms, and since taking care of business has traditionally been the Achilles heel for many aspiring and even established photographers, it fills a valuable niche in the reference book marketplace.Best of all, each section has been authored by a pro who really knows what s/he’s talking about because they’ve been there and done that.
n logical order, then, you’ll find sections on both “The Basics” (such as licensing, copyright, assignment & stock photography, releases and digital essentials) and “Critical Skills” (like marketing, negotiating and customer service).Professional Business Practices thus covers the breadth of what it means to be a working pro, but at the expense of depth.And, that’s pretty much what you’d expect, since it’s clearly intended to be an overview of the industry, not an in-depth analysis of every facet of being a professional.For example, the section on “Stock Photography” covers just 24 pages.So, you’re probably not going to walk away from that little read with enough information to get yourself signed by Getty Images and start cashing six-figure royalty checks.But, you will get enlightening fundamentals on subjects like stock licensing models, the differences between editorial and commercial markets, what to look out for in a stock agency contract, and why online stock ‘portals’ and worth investigating.
The authors obviously relate to an audience made up of visually-oriented folks, not word people, since it’s all written in a straightforward style that’s simple without in any way talking down to readers (this is not Professional Photography for Dummies).And, while there may not be anything revelatory in the book, it nonetheless contains more than a few terrific gems, insights and opinions gleaned from working in the real world, such as:
“The reality is that contracts almost always favor the drafting entity.” (from Robert Rathe’s section on “Stock Contracts”)
“It doesn’t take long to calculate the cost of doing business – or to add a profit margin – but it is a worthwhile exercise.Try it.You’ll never again grope for a response when a potential customer asks, ‘Why so much?’” (excerpted from Jay Asquini’s section on “Avoiding Business Conflicts”)
icensing stock imagery directly eliminates the middleman, and the photographer keeps the entire licensing fee.That may sound great, but stock photography is very competitive and the difficult part of being independent is marketing your images.” (from Susan Carr on “Selling Your Pricing Structure”)
If you’re considering a career in photography, Professional Business Practices will be invaluable in helping you decide if it’s the right vocational path for you.And, if you’re already a pro, my guess is that it will provide more than enough “Gee, I didn’t know that” moments to make giving it a thorough read time extremely well spent.
reviewed by phh
“The Real Business of Photography,” by Richard Weisgrau. Publisher: Allworth Press (2004).
Make no mistake about it: this book isn’t aimed at stock photographers.Instead, it’s chock-full of hard-nosed business advice for fulltime assignment shooters.It’s real world stuff, dispensed by a man who was known for being a pit bull for photographers’ rights during his days as Executive Director of the ASMP trade organization.Weisgrau’s message here, in a nutshell: the meek may inherit the earth, but they sure aren’t going to be successful professional photographers!
ike several other books reviewed on this website, even though stock photography gets only minimal attention in Weisgrau’s book, it’s still worth at least a skim by either aspiring or established stock shooters.Just like assignment work, stock is highly competitive, requires above average organizational and business skills, and can often involve negotiations with clients (particularly relevant to those shooters selling their stock directly).Weisgrau addresses these and other issues head-on with the kind of savvy that too many photographers too often only learn the hard way.
Thus, the book’s recommendation for beginning professional photographers to make an honest self-assessment is just as relevant to stock wanna-bes:
“Making a self assessment requires that the photographer answer the following questions:
1. What type of photography, in particular, am I drawn to?
2. What are the best photographs I have made?
3. What are my unique advantages and disadvantages?”
very stock photographer needs to go through a similar process, as well as looking the advantages and disadvantages of shooting stock squarely in the eye.As Weisgrau points out:
“To be a successful stock producer you must have good insights into the future needs of the marketplace.You must produce images in advance of the need, in order to ensure that you have adequate time to have them visible in the marketplace when the actual need for such images arises.That is risky business.Very few photographers are successful in stock production businesses.Those who are successful are so because they understand the imaging needs that drive the market.”
Weisgrau’s book won’t tell you what sorts of stock images to create, or what camera to buy, but it will give you lots of practical information that both assignment AND stock photographers can use, including a particularly helpful section that could have been titled “Financial Management for Dummies.”
reviewed by phh
“The Photographer’s Survival Guide,” by Suzanne Sease & Amanda Sosa Stone.Publisher: Amphoto Books (2009).
If ever there was a time when photographers need something called a “Survival Guide” it’s now, right? Assignment work is down, prices for stock images have been squeezed like lemons for lemonade, newspapers and magazines have either closed shop or seen drastic reductions in their pages…in short, no one in the photography industry is going to someday nostalgically look back on the latter part of the first decade of the 21st century as “the good old days”!
With that in mind, you’d surely have to be a candidate for mental health treatment if you decided that now was a good time to launch a career in professional photography.Nonetheless, like moths drawn to a flame, we still see a seemingly never-ending flock of fresh-faced photo school grads as well as laid-off accountants and bank executives gravitating toward making photography their vocation, and they could certainly do a lot worse than using this particular tome as their basic manual on what it takes to “make it” as a professional image maker.
hink of Photographer’s Survival Guide as sort of the CliffsNotes version of the business of photography.The book is only a couple of hundred pages long to begin with, and about half of that is comprised of photos, screen shots and other illustrations, so the text is minimal.But, my test for the “meat” of any book of this type is, upon completion, to flip back through it and see how much I’ve highlighted in yellow, and I can tell you that you’d be hard-pressed to find a single text page in my copy without something marked as “important.” So, while Sease and Stone certainly won’t be accused of being verbose, that’s to their credit as the result of their collaboration is a “nothing but the facts, m’am” approach that’s both a quick read and a solid overview of what you’re in for if commercial photography is singing your siren song.
The value here resides in the first five chapters: “Establishing Your Style,” “Presenting Yourself,” “Marketing,” “Bidding The Job” and “Doing the Job” (the concluding two chapters, “Keep Marketing Yourself” and “Stock Photography and Creative Outlets,” seem a bit cursory and tacked on to fill out the book).Within those 5 sections the authors really drive home the value of approaching photography as a business and then proceed to impart nugget after nugget that explain how to go about it.Just one example: one of the keys to getting work is having a killer portfolio.Here, you find out the differences between customized and off-the shelf portfolios (and their costs), how to make your own (including choices for sealing, binding, hinges and paper), how to ship your portfolio and, of course, what the content should consist of.Great nuts-and bolts stuff (both literally and figuratively!).
further invaluable component of the book is the accompanying CD which contains 21 very useful forms and templates in both Word and Excel formats.There’s some of the usual stuff like model and property releases as well as an estimate/invoice form, but what’s really unusual (and probably worth the book’s price all by itself) is the inclusion of such exotic items as an “Approved Job Check-Off List,” “Estimate Questionnaire,” “Prop Check-In Sheet” and “Wardrobe Disposal Sheet.” Wow, who knew that being a photographer involved shuffling so much paper? Obviously, industry veterans Sease and Stone do, and fortunately they’ve shared their extensive knowledge and thus made The Photographer’s Survival Guide a must-have addition to any would-be professional’s reference library.