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.

 

Vision vs Trends

I find that many creative (and not so creative) people confuse the meaning of the two words – vision and trends.  When someone has a vision, they see past the status quo, whereas by the time something becomes a trend – it is status quo.  Seems clear to me, and yet for the most part, the common perception of what a trend is – hot, successful, youthful, revolutionary – really isn’t visionary at all, because by the time it becomes a trend – everyone is doing it.

Case in point.  Four years ago, when I joined the board of ASMP, some may have seen me as a visionary because of my early foray into video.  Four years later, it seems like everybody is doing video.  Does that make me a visionary?  Perhaps.  But I need to make a very important point here, and that is when I started shooting video almost 15 years ago, it was not because I had a vision, that the future of photography would be video.  It was because I saw myself then – and still do – as a storyteller and one who delivers the visual message, with whatever creative tools do it best.

I get super frustrated with people who define me by the type of camera (tool) I choose to use.  Anyone who has heard me speak, knows my mantra is “it’s not about the tool”. So for anyone to narrowly define me by this one particular medium – video – instead of  understanding that I foresee the  “future of photography” in the broadest sense of the word “photography”,  – are only seeing me through their own “narrow” lens.

I’ve spent a lifetime, trying not to pigeonhole myself into one genre or medium and to stay true to myself and what my instincts are telling me, rather than to jump on the latest trend. I can tell you this – by the time something is trendy – there’s nothing gutsy or visionary about jumping on that bandwagon.

Being visionary is:

  • Taking a risk based on instincts instead of emulating the latest trend.
  • Being concerned about the substance of something – not just the packaging and the veneer. Thinking that way will make you outlive any trend.
  • Being afraid, yet still being brave enough to act on what your inner voice is telling you.
  • Managing to be bold enough to come forward with an idea that is not the popular opinion du jour.
  • Not getting in your own way by seeing yourself through only one narrow lens – In the early 1900’s, when the automobile hit the scene, the folks in the horse and buggy business who saw themselves in the transportation business survived – the ones who saw themselves as in the horse and buggy business………well we know what happened to them.

I won’t get into politics here, except to say that sadly these days, so many of our world “leaders” are not visionaries and we desperately need leaders who are. But that takes courage and going against the status quo.  It’s far easier to follow others, after they have paved the way.  That’s not only a lack of vision – that’s bad leadership.

Don’t Re-Invent Yourself

I’ve come to hate the expression “re-invent” yourself.  It’s not only become a bit trite, but it’s caused a lot of unnecessary anxiety.

If one feels that they need to do a makeover, he/she is often coming from a place in one’s life where they feel they have failed.  They may be at a low point in their life, either financially or emotionally and they have the desire to become someone else.

I’ve been thinking that perhaps we all have it wrong.  I don’t think we need to abandon who we really are and try to become someone we aren’t.  That never works. Creatively speaking, whenever I have approached my work as in need of a “makeover”, I have fallen victim to trends.  We all do I suppose, in an effort to “look current”.

That may work for a while, at least financially speaking – but then again maybe not.  I think my best work has come from my true self.  It’s pure but it can be raw. It’s what I just can’t stop myself from doing.  That is what resonates with others.  I think that happens when I am very clear on my vision. It affects people in a primal, yet subtle way.

Maybe we shouldn’t try to re-invent ourselves. Maybe we should just listen to who we really are and trust that voice.

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