Thursday, November 19, 2015

10 Ways to Make Money as a Photographer.

Let's be honest…the best way to make money as a photographer is to put together a good, solid business plan, maybe even take a business course or two, have a skillfully targeted list of clients, and go out there, and network network network.  Sure, make sure you have a nice website.  Sure, make sure you blog, and your social media is good to go, but, ultimately, people hire who they know, right?  Get out there and meet people!

But let's also be honest.  Which one of us professional photographers hasn’t had a time where they did everything right, and still couldn’t get that next shoot booked?  For all those slumps, its time to get creative and think out of the box.  The following is a list of 10 ways you can branch out during a slowdown in your main business.

***Some of these may apply to you.  All of them may apply to you.  None of them may apply to you.  Don’t devalue your brand by doing something you shouldn’t.***

1. 50% off normal fees.  I know we’ve all got a slow season.  Consider putting up a half off special on your normal sitting fee for a limited time, to get yourself earning again.

2.  Portrait days.  I do this all the time.  Push it on social media…advertise a 30, 60, or 90 minute session, at a discounted rate, at a location of your choosing, at a date of your choosing.  Do this one weekend, and if you get 4-6 portrait or family sittings, that’s a pretty good way to get out of your slump!

3.  Local events.  Take a look at the calendar on your local newspaper.  What events are going on?  This may be a decent time to take a look at that, shoot the event, and drum up some publicity for yourself, attached to the coattails of the event.

4.  Promo prints.  You’ve shot a bunch of weddings.  You’ve shot some great commercial products/events/conventions.  You wake up today, however, with nothing planned.  Instead of fading into despair, go print one of those nice prints, put it in a nice frame, and get it over to the event coordinator.  Make sure your business card is in there somewhere.  By giving the event coordinator a breathtaking print to hang on their wall of an event they organized they will be more likely to recommend you to future clients of theirs.

5.  Stock/licensing.  Sure, the Stock Photography industry is nothing like it used to be.  Micro-stock agencies decimated the industry prior to going away, and the market is very saturated right now.  That doesn’t mean you can’t get a submission prepared to a stock or a licensing agency, and start earning some royalties every now and then.

6.  All that empty wall space in your town.  Got a favorite local pub?  In good with the bar owner?  Ask if it would be okay for you to hang a nice framed print up on their wall, free of charge to them, with the only stipulation being you be allowed to hang a price tag and contact info next to it.

7.  Then shoot for them!  The local pub give you the okay to hang some work on the wall?  Great!  Now ask if you can shoot the bar for them, to give them some original artwork for their social media, etc.

8.  Legal/insurance Photography.  Good for insurance purposes, bread and butter type work.

9.  Car dealerships.  They all need photographs of the cars they sell.  Granted, you won’t win any awards with this type of work, but, slow times, remember?

10.  Charity.  Always a good bet, shooting, or providing a piece of artwork for auction at your local charity can help drum up good publicity, and, put you in front of mostly affluent folks who go to charity events and buy artwork at auctions.

Monday, November 16, 2015

What value does arts have in our society?

I was listening to an interview on a talk radio show recently when this happened, and I turned to my wife, who is also a photographer, and asked ourselves..."How many times has that happened?"  Let me lay out the scenario for you.

The hosts were interviewing a local newscaster, as they usually do.  This was, however, a special occasion, as the newscaster had written a children's book.  One of our newscasters had written a book, and it had gotten national attention.  This wasn't the first person from our local media to go this route, but it was the most recent.  We listened intently as she went over her process of writing, editing, the publishing world, etc.  One thing, however, rubbed us the wrong way.  One of the host asked about who did the illustrations.

Let me take a moment, at this point, to remind everyone that we live in Orlando...not the largest arts community on Earth, but definitely not the smallest.  There are plenty of hardworking, creative, dedicated artist.  Orlando is actually going through a little bit of a renaissance as of recent years; this is no longer JUST the land of the mouse.  Back to the story:

She came to answer that she didn't want to spend any money on the artwork.  She didn't have much money left in her budget, and didn't see an artist as necessary, so she just went to the local art school, and had the jobs office there find a hungry college student.  She paid the college student very little, in return for letting the kid use the artwork in their portfolio.

Look.  I get it.  College kids need opportunity, right?  Its gigs like this that can help build portfolios, garner much needed experience, and help build successful careers within our arts community.  The problem I have is that this was a major project.  This book went worldwide, and here was this author openly demeaning the meaning of the artwork in her own book by saying it wasn't worth spending money on.  Worse yet, the hosts of the show just let it slide completely, as if they didn't care.  This, my friends, is the state of the arts in our society today.

This reminds me of when I was a young, hungry, college kid.  I would get the same calls from my school's employment office.  I remember one time, vividly, when I went to bid on one of these projects.  The client was a medium size business, selling what would turn out to be a mildly successful regional product.  I spent hours making sure the proposal was on point.  I rehearsed.  I priced the project.  Then I priced it again.  The moment came, and I made one of my very first bids.  I was cool, calm, collected.  I was engaging with the client, we chatted, went back and forth.  They absolutely loved me.  What they didn't love was my price.  It was a fair price indeed, but I priced it as a professional would.  They had just spoken with some other college kid that offered to shoot over 40 different studio sets, for $125.  I never took another job from that office.

That's the problem with the state of the arts today in our society.  For profit schools are churning out more and more kids every single semester(or trimester), taking all of their money, and undermining their industries.  Professionals, such as this newscaster, who could have stood up and spoken out against this, are openly undervaluing our industry.  In the world of photography, the product manufacturers now control the direction of the industry.  The major players now need to produce thousands of products, so they hire celebrities to make commercials, in order to sell more and more.  Now, everyone can pick up a $300 camera, and all of a sudden they feel empowered to go put up a facebook page.  The value of the actual art you produce is less than the value of the products you own.

If we, as an arts community, are to stop this kind of undervaluing once and for all, we must start taking a stand, together, and stand against things like this.  We all see the arts being diminished in our schools today, and we cannot count on our local and national politicians to change it.  Change MUST come from within.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

University of Missouri's Press Problem

By now, we've all seen it.  I won't get into my personal beliefs on what's happening in Missouri...that's for a different blog!

If you've been away, let me break it down.  Some huge controversy broke out at the University of Missouri, racism is involved, students started protesting, hunger strikes broke out, nobody really paid much attention...until, of course, the football team decided to go on strike if results weren't achieved.  That's as quick of a breakdown as you'll ever see on this issue.

The more concerning part for us photographers is the video above.  This lady, asking for muscle, physically restraining a photojournalist from covering part of this event, is my concern, and here's why:

1. The photojournalist, is a student photojournalist, Tim Tai(, hired by ESPN to cover the ordeal.  Good on him!  Any photojournalist would be proud to put ESPN on their list of clients, and, by judging his work, he is quite the photographer.  The school should have been more than happy to rally around him and support his accomplishments, instead of what they did.

2.  The lady.  This lady is a professor.  Let me repeat that.  This lady, is not just a lady...she's a professor.  Not only is she a professor, she's a professor in the communications department.  Let me repeat that...she's a professor in the COMMUNICATIONS department.  If anyone is supposed to know better, and behave in a more suitable manner, it's not even a is a MUST.  She cannot in good conscience behave in this manner and continue to carry out her professorial duties.  She incited a crowd of students to get physical and force Tai out of their area.  Can you just imagine if someone had a weapon?  How much worse could this have been?

3.  The law, or rather, the complete ignorance of it.  The campus is public property.  Anybody has the right to stand there, as long as they're not posing an immediate threat to anyone else.  For all intents and purposes, its as if you were to go outside and stand on a public sidewalk.  The protesters, seemingly almost all college students, who should know this, seem to not care.  Bolstered by a professor and other staff/faculty members, the crowd grows even more bold.  That's one part; the second part is Tai's right.  As a photojournalist, hired by a news agency, he has every right to stand, and walk wherever he chose to cover this event.  Again, the crowd, in complete ignorance of the law, blurt out outlandish comments, threaten him with police intervention, seemingly showing no concern that Tai is in complete compliance of the law, again, backed up by a professor that provokes these types of actions.

***Mind you, this is at The University of Missouri, home of America's largest and oldest journalism school.***

The professor, Melissa Click, apparently has already resigned her appointment, but I don't think that is enough.  I think the University of Missouri needs to put a special assembly together, and turn this around, create a moment of healing and proper education, to make sure this never happens again.

More importantly, we, as photographers and artist must stand by Tai's side, and demand further actions be taken to make sure our rights as photojournalist, artist, and press personnel are protected.  We cannot, as a community, allow this kind of erosion of our rights to continue.