25 December 2012

Getting into Photo, Part 5... The Business



Heather Rae in Guatemala from In Search of Squid © 2012 Terrell Neasley
 Merry Christmas, Everyone. I hope you've found the information in this series helpful so far!

Heather Rae in Guatemala from In Search of Squid
© 2012 Terrell Neasley
This is probably the hardest part of this series and likely the most important. Why? Because you can have excellent gear, be great at your work, and still go hungry in this profession. On the flip side, how many times have you seen a photog's work and absolutely KNOW your shots are better, yet that guy is making bank, getting the cool gigs, is published on a regular basis, and has their work plastered in galleries/corporate hallways, etc? The only difference between you and THAT guy is the fact that THAT guy knows how to market his business, network effectively, and manage his operations and money. THAT guy probably doesn't have a cashflow issue. When something breaks or is needed on the fly, they just go buy it. You'll see them getting paid 10 times what you might get for the same if not better work.



Peter Lik is on top of his game (Bio). He has established a brand and a reputation that commands 6-figures for a single print. He gets to travel all over the world, getting access to shoot in locations that you will probably never ever be aware of much less see. He's got million dollar galleries in at least 4 locations on the Vegas strip alone. The odds say you will never ever do enough work to account for even one of his best-selling prints. Your chances at achieving a single percent of his career results are about a million and five to one. The question is... Can you be that one? Is it possible to actually attain even more accolades, notoriety  and fame than Peter Lik? Well, the correct answer to that question is an emphatic, yes. I guess a better question might be, do you want to.


The Photographers You Idolize Are No Better Than You - (Business excerpt by Lee Morris)
"Hugely successful photographers are master businessmen and women. If they aren’t good with business, they hire someone who is. Most of these photographers have agents that can not only help them find jobs but also do all of the negotiating. If these photographers don’t have a private agent they will have a manager on staff that deals with this aspect of their business. Underbidding a job in many cases is worse than overbidding and these photographers know exactly how to negotiate with each client/campaign."


Heather Rae in Guatemala from In Search of Squid
© 2012 Terrell Neasley
I think the potential is there. This is America. (Peter Lik is Australian.) In this day of age, you have almost every tool to be successful in this business available to you. This isn't like the Medieval days where the chances of you moving up from a peasant to a person of nobility and wealth was nigh impossible. In the last 20 years there have been more wealth made from newbies than in any other time in history. The requirement to be middle-age, white, and male is no longer the mainstream to achieving substance today. Children are creating millions of dollars with ideas. A kid fed up with having his Halloween candy taken away after a night's worth of successful looting, asked himself why candy couldn't be tasty and actually good for you. He and his father are now the engineers behind a million dollar a year revenue generator for nutritious candy. I am firmly confident that you can do the same in photography if you can establish the right attitude, networks, team, and with a little bit of creativity you can revolutionize the photo standards of today. Too often I hear that photography is dead and that the amateur/weekend photog is cheating the pros out of work. Here are some of the biggest excuses I hear most often:

1. The advent of the digital age has killed professional photography.
2. Cameras are getting better and cheaper every year so consumers need me less.
3. Photoshop is too difficult to learn. I miss the darkroom.
4. Everything original has already been thought of.
5. Someone will always undercut my fees and force me out of the business.
6. I can't compete because too many photogs are giving their work away for free.
7. Photography is getting way too expensive and I can no longer afford to be in the business.
Heather Rae in Guatemala from In Search of Squid © 2012 Terrell Neasley
Some of facts these people mention are true, but the conclusions they draw from them are ill-conceived. Digital photography has indeed put a camera in everybody's hands. Technology is making it cheaper to own better cameras. Nikon put a 24-megapixel sensor in their baseline entry level camera. Canon and Nikon have entry level Full-Frame (FX) cameras now. Pretty soon the DX format will become obsolete since FX has become cheaper. Cell phones and Mirrorless systems are killing the DSLR. Does that kill photography for the professional. NO! Being a Nikon/Canon camera owner does not a photographer make. If you think about it, EVERYBODY used to be full-frame. It was called 35mm film and it was the standard for the majority of camera owners. Yet the professional services were still required.

Heather Rae in Guatemala from In Search of Squid
© 2012 Terrell Neasley

Don't be afraid of tech. Things change. Change along with it and therein find your niche in the transition. Photography has been changing on a regular basis since 1820 and the same argument has been proposed regarding the ease of use for the consumer since the Kodak's Brownie in the early 1900's, the Polaroid in 1948, and disposable cameras in 1986. Digital is simply the latest paradigm. So since change is inevitable, the most important element about the business of photography is this...MOTIVATION. If you have the motivation, you will find a way. Pick a genre of photo that you love and run with it. If you hate fashion photography, don't do it just to make money. If you love underwater photography, carve out your spot in it and own it.

In most cases, a change of attitude is all it takes. Maybe you thought I would focus on marketing, management techniques, and financial control measures. I think those are all secondary. I won't waste your time discussing it because this post is already long enough. If you have the motivation to do this, be better at it, and all out succeed, then you will study, research and implement all the marketing and management you will need. So if you want me to approach this from an commercial perspective, then okay. Let me break it down like this:

1. Decide to do this and maintain a high motivation for it.
2. Remember at all times, this is a business.
3. Treat this like a business.
4. Make time for personal projects. (Shoot what you like often)
5. Give back. (Tithe, volunteer, help out upcoming togs)
Here is something more along the lines you might want to take a look at as for tips at FStoppers.com - Career Tips for Emerging Photogs

Here are some other good sites or the Emerging Professional:
1. Black Star Rising
2. Skip Cohen's Marketing Essentials International
3. Entrepreneur Magazine
4. Photopreneur
5. Small Business Administration
6. Marathon Press
7. US Library of Congress (Copyright Registration)
8. Professional Photographers of Amercia
9. Photo Attorney
10. Package Choice (Photography Business Insurance)


2 comments:

unbearable lightness said...

I hope 2013 will be productive and prosperous for you, dear friend!

Photo Anthems.com said...

Thanks U.L. Wishing the same for you, as well. Happy New Year!