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.

 

Advertisements

What Every Photographer Needs to Know About Video?

Video is not a business model – it’s a medium – a medium that is well suited for storytelling and that’s in vogue right now for branding. Consumers today want to know more about a brand before they “buy into” it. 2014 NAB ShowWhen choosing a company’s product or a service, they want to know more about the company. They want to know the company’s story. They also have a limited attention span and want to be entertained. Video is in high demand right now and if you can fulfill your clients video needs, it can be good for your business. It all depends on how you position yourself in the marketplace.

In September, I attended the Next Video Conference and Expo in Pasadena, CA. One session, Make Content That Resonates and Multi-Purpose, given by Max Kaiser, Founder/Director of Hand Crank Films, really opened my eyes, to not only seeing how still photographers should be positioning themselves in today’s marketplace, but what they need to know about their competition. Max up sells his clients by listening to their needs and creating visual solutions to get their message out in a variety of different ways. A client may come to him and ask for a proposal to create a web video for a company’s website. Max shows the client how they can multi-purpose the content he creates for them for; YouTube pre-roll ads, sales meeting videos, TV spots, emails, social media platforms AND still images pulled from frame grabs. Max explained that because he shoots 6K, he is able to fulfill more of a client’s needs as well as put more money in his pocket.

A still photographer’s competition is not only other still photographers, but video production companies that are fulfilling more of a client’s communication needs. If you’re a photographer working in certain genres or markets like editorial, corporate or fashion you will need to provide mixed media solutions. There’s no reason a still photographer can’t provide mixed media for their clients, but they need to scale-up their way of thinking about their business and the role they play and become more of a visual assets producer, as fellow member and colleague Jan Klier calls himself.

Some things to keep in mind:

Greater demand – for mixed, integrated media. Video is not new. What’s new is that it is easier, faster and cheaper to distribute, stream and watch motion content online – anytime – anywhere. We are using our phones more and more as our go to place for news, shopping and even entertainment. Keep that in mind when you position your business and how your brand and products that you create,  fit into today’s communication channels.

Create from your own point of view and identify “the market” – Find a need and fill it – in your style. Market yourself to potential clients by listening to what their needs are and telling them how you can help them. Many times a client has a hard time articulating what they need in creative terms. That’s your job, translating how you can help them sell their brand in a creative way.

Make content that resonates and multi-purpose it. Video + Stills + Sound = Story telling messaging. Content should be well planned, scripted with high production values and should feel authentic. Up sell a client by explaining that they will get more – not just more footage or better quality footage – but more mileage out of it. That demonstrates value to a client by fulfilling more of their needs. When you demonstrate value – you can charge more and you keep the money in house (your house) It’s a win/win.

New Business Models in Photography and Video

This topic comes up a lot these days.  But 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 if you will, 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 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” contracts.  It comes down to supply and demand of talent and work, and you either need to compete by 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 at it as “where are the new opportunities?” – where I will be carving out my own “new business model”, rather than having to adapt to others ideas of what that is.  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 get the type of work to market 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 it has created a demand for the type of content that I create.

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.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Five Top Tips for Emerging Photographers

I talk to a lot of young aspiring photographers these days and invariably I am asked, “What advice would you give someone who is just starting their career in photography? – Is there a future? – Can I make a living?”

I don’t have a crystal ball but I do have 35 years of experience behind me but yet the enthusiasm and outlook of a 25 year old.  I remind myself of what I learned from my mentors when I was just starting out. One mentor, who shaped my career, was art director Adrian Taylor of Travel & Leisure Magazine. Adrian taught me a lot – about magazines, about the story, about style and taste and most importantly he gave me the confidence to believe in myself.  Adrian gave two young, naïve photographers, my partner and myself a chance and in return – we always gave it our all every time we set out to shoot a story.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

With that said, I would not be where I am today if it had not been for mentors like Adrian Taylor and my greatest joy at this point in my life is to pay that forward to photographers just starting their careers.

  • Learn video – Video is no longer a “specialty niche” or in fact a separate genre at all.  In the very near future – which is already upon us – a photographer will need to know how to shoot both stills and motion – or partner with someone who does.
  • Stay true to what your inner voice is telling you.  For example, if your passion is to be a photojournalist, don’t listen to people who are telling you that photojournalism is dead and that newspapers are a thing of the past.  While “printed” newspapers may be dying out – journalism and photojournalism is not.  Don’t let others’ dogma determine what your path should be.
  • Collaborate with your peers.  When I was first starting out, photographers kept their clients, their techniques and their ideas to themselves.  But I have found that whenever I have collaborated with others – we all push the bar to the next level – each bringing their own strong suits to the project.  As a subject of my film Opening Our Eyes told me “We’ve got to shine each other up.”
  • You don’t need the validation of others to proceed with your idea and make it into a tangible plan and product.  As far as publishing and/or distribution is concerned – the gates to the kingdom are open and the kingdom is the entire world.  We are living in a time of empowerment for the individual and for a content creator that is profound.  If you are willing to do the work – the rewards are bountiful.
  • Act on the ideas that don’t go away.  It’s easy to let resistance sabotage you.  Resistance comes from many places – your loved ones, friends, your peers – but mostly yourself.  Stop talking yourself out of ideas and start acting on the ones that just won’t quit you.

I have made my work my pleasure in my life.  I have always found it difficult to separate the two.  When you feel that – you’ll know you are on the right path.

Validation No Longer Necessary

There seems to be a prevailing attitude of doom and gloom. We have an economy that can’t seem to turn itself around and we’re bombarded by change that technology continues to thrust upon us.  We’re scared to death of the unknown and nobody seems to know what to do next and how to make any money doing it.

Yet, I’ve never been more hopeful in my life. Why?  Because I no longer need someone else to validate my ideas – and that is a powerful notion.  Those of us in the communication business seem to be particularly fearful. Some believe that the “news” business is dying because print publications – newspapers and magazines are folding every week.  But the “news” business is not dying – it’s just being delivered  in another way – electronically and globally.  There are no longer just a few gatekeepers with a lock on the playing field.

Human beings are social animals and we will always have the need to communicate with each other.  These days we can communicate with one another globally.  An idea or creation can be shared around the world in a matter of minutes.  Think of the power in that and think of how we can use that power and the opportunities it presents.  I could digress into a discussion on the ethics of this thought but I’d like to focus more on the reach and influence that each one of us has in creating awareness.

Many of us get enamored with the latest devices that enable us to deliver and receive information with speed and ease. As technology’s exponential growth continues to change our lives in every way imaginable, we will constantly be incorporating and upgrading new gadgets and devices as part of our lives.  We need to be mindful that these “toys” are merely enablers and that each one of us can use these tools to create and distribute our words, images, designs and ideas across the planet.

I think that we as creative’s or journalists underestimate ourselves sometimes.  Perhaps because we chose professions that aren’t lucrative – at least in terms of money.  However, what one is paid doesn’t necessarily correlate with one’s worth. We live in a time now where we can use our creative skills to really make a difference and to tell the stories that we feel need to be told. Mass communication has been democratized. We no longer need the traditional gatekeepers to validate our ideas.

I never would have dreamed that I would be able to circumvent the globe, create a documentary with only one other person in my crew  – my daughter and then distribute it internationally. I never imagined that I would have the power to create awareness on a global level like I did when I uploaded my trailer to Vimeo.  In a little more than a week’s time people in over 72 countries had played that video. Now in less than a month’s time, that trailer has been played in almost half the countries on the planet.  Staggering thought.

This was not a commissioned project by a network or a motion picture studio. If I had waited for that – it never would have happened. I assigned myself.  I was able to fund it by using my airline points, hotel rewards and doing trades with manufacturers for equipment.  I also successfully raised money via Kickstarter a crowd funding site  that made it possible for me to hire a professional editor. My daughter and I have been building an audience for our film since we started blogging about our journey. Our readers got more and more engaged as they followed us on our 99-day adventure around the world. They spread the word through Facebook and Twitter and via their own blogs and pretty soon word of our project spread virally. That was precisely our goal.  To use our tools and skills to create a film about the change makers of our world so that others would be inspired and motivated as to what they can do.

I often think about how things in my life and in history would have been different if we had the Internet when I was growing up.  For starters it would have had a huge effect on the Civil Rights Movement of the 60’s and the Vietnam War.  But everything happens in its own time and when it is meant to happen.  Change can be scary or it can be embraced and sometimes both at the same time.

Never stop dreaming. Never stop learning. Always listen to that inner voice.  Then use the means and the tools of the day to do the dance you are meant to do.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine