10 Things Freelancers (Photographers & Filmmakers) Should Do in 2017

Marathon swimming, East River, New York City

Be optimistic – I’m going to start with the hardest one of all, because it’s really difficult to be optimistic these days. But I find that if I can maintain a positive attitude and turn my thoughts to what is possible, I actually open myself up to more opportunities in my life, instead of creating more roadblocks.

Be open to possibilities. – Be more flexible in how you perceive things and who you are. Change is always happening, but it’s usually gradual. Most people don’t take notice until “change” forces their hand to act. It’s always better to be proactive than reactive so embrace “change” as an ever-present fact of life that creates opportunities for those who are open to seeing them.

Collaborate – Photographers are very independent creatures and collaboration is not part of their norm. As the “photography” business continues to change, photographers will find that collaborating with other artists will make their own businesses stronger. There is so much more to running a business than there used to be. While social media marketing has opened up numerous possibilities, it can also be overwhelming to a solo photographer. You can’t do it all. Work with people who can bring out each other’s strong suits.

Diversify – I’m not quite so sure why so many photographers are so rigid in how they define who they are and what they do. Having a “style” is great, but the trick is to not to be so narrowly defined by that style, so that when styles change, you don’t find yourself obsolete by your own design. It’s kind of like being type cast, where your audience or your clients can only see you in one way. Diversifying might be creating a whole new niche of your business. I recently created a business niche that is more geared toward the retail market. We create high end “Ken Burns” style family biography videos to preserve a family’s legacy with personal interviews with ones loved ones combined with old photos and home movies.

Concentrate on “the story”– I had the opportunity to speak with a lot of still photographers and filmmakers this past year and I began to notice a difference in the conversations I was having with each. Most times, filmmakers would be telling me a story, whereas still photographers would be telling me how they executed a photograph, or essentially telling me the “back story” of the creation of the image. It’s all interesting but “the story” is the bottom line – if that doesn’t come through to the viewer – the rest doesn’t matter – including how it was executed.

Be authentic – be true to yourself. That means that you have to trust your gut instead of second guessing it. This is hard, especially when things don’t always work out the way you had hoped. Step away from the “noise” and listen to the voice inside.

Fail more. – Rejection is a tough pill to swallow but it usually means that you are either pushing yourself to try new things, you are too far ahead of your time or it just wasn’t meant to be. If you look at successful people you’ll see that most have had failures and rejections in their lives but they stuck with it – instead of letting failure defeat them.

Self-Initiate more projects. – I don’t like to call non-commissioned work, “personal projects”. That co notates that there is no monetary value, and these days just the opposite could be true. With more and more lopsided contracts being presented to photographers for commissioned work a photographer has a better chance to make more money and keep ownership of their work by creating self-initiated projects. But they need to be prepared to work hard. We’ve been working on a project entitled “Like A Woman” where we shoot environmental portraits and a short video about women who are working in traditionally male professions. It is a subject I know all too well after working in the career of photography and now filmmaking my entire adult life.

Forget about the past and learn from mistakes. – You can’t change the past but you can learn from it and then, move on. Look toward the future but make sure you take time to enjoy the “now”.

In the scheme of things, you’re just one small speck in the universe. – I think we all get way too stressed about things that really don’t matter and we let those things control our life. When we become more conscious of that, we really begin to live life.

Business Tips for Photographers in a Multiple Media World

In the blogging sphere of photography and video there is a lot written about gear and how to use it, but precious little written about business.  Chances are, if you are photographer who has been in business for more than 10 years then you know that technology has not only changed our tools, it has changed the way we do business.

For starters we are doing business in a global economy and with that comes pluses and minuses.

Cuba-3858
Havana, Cuba

One huge plus is that we are able to reach a much wider audience than ever before. That is if you have an understanding of how to do that and take advantage of the opportunities that are out there.  One minus or downside is if we don’t adapt our dated business models in a business that has seen monumental changes we won’t be able to compete.

As commercial photographers we are in the visual communications business.  We create imagery that delivers a message or tells a story for a variety of markets including; advertising, corporate, architectural, editorial and others.  Each market has a need for visual content and these days that encompasses both still photography and video.  In the last couple of years the lines dividing these two mediums have faded away at least in terms of how content is consumed in our culture. What’s next – VR (virtual reality)?

Here are a couple of tips to help photographers prosper in our multi-media world:

  • Decide what your company will offer.  Will you only provide still imagery?  Or will you expand your business and offer both still photography and video? Are you quick to answer the question with; “I don’t want anything to do with video” ? The problem with that answer is that most of your clients probably have a dual need for stills and video.  Are you going to send them away to your competition?  Or will you keep your clients in house and take care of their video needs by hiring or outsourcing? That’s a different way of thinking and has the potential to broaden your revenue stream.
  • Decide what role you will play if your company does offer video?  Will you be the director and work with a camera operator?  Or will you assume the role of a DP (Director of Photography) and direct as well as operate the camera?
  • What will you outsource and what will you keep in house?  Maybe you want to expand your business by offering both still photography and motion but you’d prefer to just shoot the still photography and outsource the video.  In that case you could assume the role of the producer and oversee or outsource the video production.
  • Reassess your insurance.  Video productions have a lot more variables. They also usually have larger crews.  More than likely you will need to upgrade your current insurance policy to accommodate and cover that.
  • Change your paperwork.  Make sure that you go through your talent and property releases and modify the language for multi-media.  Change any and all boilerplate contract language to include video (motion).
  • Licensing.  Regardless, if you decide not to expand into video production you will have to contend with the fact that your still images won’t always be used in a stand-alone fashion.  Many still images will be commissioned and/or licensed as part of multi-media projects and that has a dramatic effect on licensing. And if you do decide to expand into video production you too will be licensing other people’s work.
  • Understand new business models.  Let’s face it things have changed in the business of photography.  Photography has become ubiquitous and the competition is fierce.  You are not only competing with professional photographers – you’re competing with semi-pros, amateurs AND video production companies.  One thing is certain, it’s never been more important to have an understanding of multiple mediums and to be unique and stand out amongst the noise. There are no templates you should follow.  Be authentic and true to yourself.
  • Keep an eye out for the next big thing. At this year’s NAB (National Association of Broadcasters) Virtual Reality had a big presence. I’m not quite sure if it’s for me but I will follow the trend and keep my options open.

Check out more tips and information in my ePub The Craft and Commerce of Video and Motion.

 

How to be Productive in a World Full of Distractions

I’m an organized person. I need to be organized otherwise I feel that my life is in chaos. Scraps of paperI’ve always been able to define an end goal and break down the tasks that need to be completed in order to attain that goal. I am able to prioritize tasks and assign deadline dates. I’ve always been pretty good at getting things done. I have to be – I’m an independent entrepreneur.

My business is visual communications. I create storytelling images and films for corporations and non-profits. I market myself to buyers who commission still photography and video production for that market. These buyers work for ad agencies, in-house corporate agencies, non-profits or publishing companies.

My business has changed dramatically since I opened shop over 3 decades ago. The possibilities and tools that are available to small independent entrepreneurs to use in their marketing strategies are endless. The problem is the vast amounts of opportunities ends up being a double-edged sword because it overwhelms most of us. There are endless ways to target a global audience through, social media channels, electronic ads, online portals/websites/blogs, emailer promotions, print promotions, print and online directories……….the list goes on and on.

It simply becomes overwhelming and seemingly impossible at times, for me to address all the needs of a small business, to keep our business afloat. What I’ve found is that it’s never been more important than it is now in our tech driven culture, to be organized and focused and not succumb to distractions.

Here are some tools that help:

Basecamp – essential management tool if you’re collaborating with others.

Wunderlist – organize your personal/business life. Notes, notifications, reminders, due dates and share lists with colleagues and family. Free

Post Planner – If you or your company engages their audience on Facebook, this app saves you time and boosts engagement. Schedules your posts – finds content.

Sweet Process – Do you feel like you have to learn all over again, every time you do the same things? It could be a workflow for creating emailers for example. This app systemizes and records your process. Essential in employee transitions.

Magical Pad – Organize – be more productive – get things done. Projects, Tasks, Brainstorming.

StayFocusd – Are you super distractible and find yourself spending hours on social media and not getting anything done? Perhaps you should install this app if you are a Chrome user. It will limit the amount of time that you can spend on time-wasting websites.

What’s Next for Still Photography? Things We Could Never Begin to Imagine.

Journeys of a Hybrid

One of the only good things about getting older is that I have gained a lot of perspective. Fortune teller through window, Atlantic City, NJ I never speculate what the future will hold by limiting it to what’s possible now because…..

When I began studying photography at Brooks Institute in the early 1970’s

I never would have imagined:

  • That I would own a personal computer that would change the way I communicated with people and ran my business.
  • There would be the Internet, email and mobile phones.
  • There would be auto-focus cameras and lenses.
  • Cameras would be fully automated – if you so choose to use them that way. When I began my career as a photographer, I needed to be a technician, and that meant understanding aperture and shutter speed and a lot of other things that went into making a still image.
  • I would be shooting still images without film.
  • I wouldn’t be limited to…

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6 Social Media Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

I must admit, I’m not an SEO or Social Media guru.  In fact, on a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being extremely interesting), I’d give this topic a 3.  But, after reading Gary Vaynerchuk’s book “Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook,” (which I would give a 10), I’ve shifted my thinking entirely.  I also realized why, the topic has had little interest for me – most of the books, articles and blogs I had read were full of formulaic tips  – but none of the advice and tips felt like a good fit who I was and what I had to offer.  And in fact if I had applied some those tips to my blog or my Facebook posts, I would have done myself and my business a disservice by not being “myself” – or authentic.

Some social media marketing mistakes to avoid:

  • Putting the wrong content on a platform – Each platform, (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram etc.) has it’s own “native” language or how the community communicates  and interacts with one another.  A good marketer understands that “context” is just as important as content.  Your content must provide the same value to the viewer that is native to that platform. Your content should fit in with what drives people to that platform.
  • Content is not memorable – Your content should be something that people want to share. ooe fb [age Facebook uses edge rank, which determines who and how many people see your posts.  The more shares, comments and likes, the better your edge rank and the more people who see your posts.  Keep your content, informative, entertaining or both and give people the desire to share.
  • Selling too often – You have to “give” more than you “sell” on social media platforms. If every post you make is a pitch for your products, no one will be interested, let alone want to share them.
  • Text is too long – Twitter has a cut off, but Facebook doesn’t.  Keep in mind that more and more people are viewing your posts on mobile devices and simply won’t read lots of information.  Provide more info via links. Make sure your text is provocative and entertaining.
  • No use of imagery – If you don’t have an image in your posts on platforms like Facebook or Tumblr, you won’t attract attention.  People will just move on to something that catches their eye on their news feed.  And, make sure the images you post are good and professional – they’re a reflection of your business. Make sure you overlay your logo on your images.
  • No call to action – Remember you are ultimately selling your products and your services, so don’t forget to give your viewers a call to action.  But don’t confuse them by giving them too many.

New Business Models in Photography and Motion – in a Global Economy

Manchester Airport, Manchester, England

This topic comes up a lot these days.  You  could apply “new business models” to just about any business – not just photography and video. Photography and video, in and of themselves are not business models at all, but rather they are mediums that are used commercially, non-commercially and personally. The business end of photography and video comes when you determine how you want to apply them in terms of today’s markets.

Today’s markets are global.  That’s good news and bad news, depending on the type of work you do.  If you are a stock photographer or even if you have expanded that into also shooting stock motion footage – your inventory or your content must be unique in some way in order to sustain that type of business model in our global economy. You will need to stand out and offer something unique,  if you pursue this type of market.

If you are a commissioned commercial or editorial photographer, cinematographer, or director, the competition is fierce and once again, if you don’t have a unique style or vision, most likely you will end up playing by others’ rules or signing “their” lopsided contracts.  It comes down to supply and demand of talent and work, and you will either compete with price or offer something that you do better than your competition.

The good news is, if you are willing to do the work, the world is your stage.  The portals for distribution of your “content” are open to all and as “creatives” we are no longer dependent on middlemen.  When I get asked to talk about “new business models”, I always look for where the new opportunities are.  Where will I be able to carve out my own “new business model”, rather than having to adapt others’ ideas of what that may be.  There is a big difference in those two approaches.

I am carving out a business model for who I am creatively, and where I see the most opportunities for what I do well.  When I am authentic to who I am and apply this to my work, I am able to deliver my own unique vision and reach the right audience,  while maintaining ownership and control over the licensing of my work.  I am able to do that not only because technology has enabled me to do that, but more importantly because I have set myself apart from everyone else who has a camera.

Think about it.  What are your strengths? What are your passions?  Now imagine a business model based on your answers. The world is our stage.