John Marriott, Samantha Chrysanthou and yours truly announced in late October that we are doing a 2 day seminar in Canmore, Alberta called Mastering Digital Nature Photography from Capture to Commerce. The response to the seminar has been overwhelming. The first 75 participants who register for the Seminar are automatically entered into a draw to have ten of their images professionally reviewed by John, Samantha and me. 12 lucky participants will receive constructive feedback on their favourite images before the seminar. Also the first 75 people who register are invited to a private “Meet the Pros” mixer. We are closing in on the 75 registration mark and so if you are interested in this event and the possibility to win a portfolio review, we suggest you sign up soon.
Archive for the Marketing Category
There will be lots of new stuff posted here shortly including promised gear and book reviews and some how to stuff and other goodies. For now here is a list of news and links that might be of interest:
Real World Negotiating Skills for Photographers
This video so much reminds me of how photo buyers constantly try to get photos from us for far less than the images are worth.
New Timecatcher Team Members
If you haven’t visited Timecatchers in awhile you’ll be in for a pleasant surpise that the team has added three outstanding photographers, Micheal Anderson, Kah Kit Yoong, and Adam Gibbs. All three photographers have amazing portfolios and I have had the honour to photograph with both Kah Kit and Adam. It is one thing to be a great photographer, but another to be a great human. Kah Kit and Adam are two of the nicest and honorable guys I have met! Welcome to the team all three of you. And stay tuned for the next issue of Nature’s Best Magazine, two Timecatcher Members won prizes in the 2009 Ocean’s View Photo contest.
Photo Life Magazine
I was surprised when I opened the latest issue of Photo Life magazine to see that Anita Dammer is no longer editor. I may be biased here but I think Anita did more than any other previous editor to give Photo Life a distinct voice and flavour. She worked tirelessly on making Photo Life a premiere photo magazine and its influence is now known far beyond the Canadian border. Anita, job well done! Best of luck in your future endevours.
I just did a major overhaul on my website. Although the design is similar to the old site with thumbnails on a grey backdrop, the new site is now e-commerce driven and much more consistent from page-to-page. Plus the new site has print sales and a download page where I can give away or sell instructional tutorials, e-books and videos.
I want to thank Jack Brauer for the great work on my site which is now easy to update and change–something absolutely necessary for me because I am a seriously HTML-challenged photographer! Now there is no excuse for me not to do regular updates!
If you need a website or website overhaul give the guys at Widerange Galleries a shout, they design sites specifically for photographers. And you do not need to stick with a safe, simple designs like I did (I like simple things!).Check out what Widerange Galleries did for Marc Adamus, Kah-Kit Yoong, Michael Anderson, Andy Biggs, and Stephen Weaver. These guys do great work–highly recommended!
I thought I would put a plug in for Outdoor Photography Magazine (OPC). This young magazine (9 issues old) just keeps getting better with each passing issue! The latest edition is no exception with lots of meaty informational articles and lovely imagery. I am also happy to have a feature called “Expose Right“. This article lets photographers know how to get the best possible exposures with digital cameras in a simple two-step process. I find that the majority of photographers do not understand how to get optimal exposure from their digital cameras. I hear far too many complaints about noisy files from the latest batch of digital cameras. If you have noise in your files, then you have exposure problems and the camera is not to blame! Expose right and you will not need to use noise reduction software and you’ll get the best possible files from your camera.
OPC is also a magazine that showcases the work of photographers across Canada. If you are Canadian and shoot outdoor and nature imagery, then submit to OPC and have your work showcased. The magazine pays the highest rates I have seen for photo rags and really showcases photographer’s work nicely. While you checking things out, enter the Spring 2009 photo contest (April 30th deadline) for prize goodies and maybe even subscribe to the magazine. This is a magazine worth supporting. I do have a slight bias though!
I get a lot of emails asking me how to make a living at stock photography. Mostly these notes are from nature photographers hoping to make a living from selling landscape and wildlife photos. Nature photography is the most popular photography to do but the least popular to sell! Advertisers want photos of people doing everyday things (lifestyle photography) or photos to illustrate concepts(messages, moods, and feelings simply illustrated). Few advertisers want photos of sunsets and mountains! So, if you want to make money in stock, forget nature; lifestyles and concepts are the photos that bring in the cash.
I am not a good example of a stock photographer. I shoot what I want, not what the market demands – no wonder I still eat Kraft Dinner! If you want to see what a real stock photographer does and one that does it well, then check out Bill Frymire’s work! Bill is based in Kamloops BC and shoots for the powerhouse agencies of Getty and Masterfile.
Not only is Bill incredibly creative, he is a master at illustrating concepts. I am constantly blown away by Bill’s photos but more so by his fantastic ideas! Bill must love the challenge of creating a great concept photo because his work shows heart and soul besides illustrating a great story. Bill thanks for the inspiration!
I started shooting in 1986 and turned pro in 1991 but I have never had a print exhibition. Why not? Well, through most of my career I just took photos, turned them over to my stock agencies and collected cheques. Pretty simple eh?
Frankly I am not a ‘fine art’ photographer, I make celebratory photos of nature and it seems like the gatekeepers of galleries want edgy, gritty images of strife and despair, they want social context and message. They want B+W and traditional processes, they want grain and soft-focus, in short they want emotion. Pretty, colourful nature images are just so pedestrian, just so devoid of feeling. I guess the only emotions curators recognize are negative ones. For me, someone who pursues life like a lab chasing a stick, life is too short to look for wilted roses.
Curators accuse nature photographers of producing work that is formulaic, yet a quick look through galleries that feature ‘fine art’ photography show the same old themes; the dead and dying, street people, Holga-esque landscapes, disaster coverage, essays on cigarette butts in an astray, the wilted flower still life, Siamese twins, circus freaks, toenail clippings, and abstract nudes.
Photographers I have talked with that shoot drama and beauty in nature have reported repeated rejection in fine art galleries. Curators tell them that “no one will be interested in this work”. Yet, these same photographers maintain on-line galleries on their websites and the general public eats up their work. I guess the general public do not count in the eyes of curators. The everyday disconnect of urban life leave many people longer for a connection with nature and pretty landscape and wildlife photos seems to be an offer a soothing antidote.
I am presenting my first print show this month, not in a fine-art gallery, but at the local public library (Nan Boothby Memorial Library) in Cochrane, Alberta. So far, the feedback to my ‘happy’ photos is very positive. Weird how positive photos bring positive emotions! What kind of photo would I want to grace the wall of my living room–a legless beggar in India, or a colourful meadow of alpine flowers set against a dramatic backdrop of mountain scenery? Hmmm… let me think about this for a moment? Darwin
The Artist in Canada
The poor starving artist–a cliche for sure, but what is the truth? Do artists really live in their tiny basement suites, eating instant noodles, and wearing the same black jeans and shirt for months on end? According to the results from the 2006 Canada Census the stereotype is pretty accurate. In a report released in February of 2009 by Hills Strategies Research Inc it was found that artists make significantly less than the average Canadian working wage.
Here are a few interesting facts from the report:
- 62% of artists earn less than $20,000 per year
- the average earnings of artists are $22,700 per year
- only 13% of artists make greater than $50,000 per year
- a typical artist in Canada earns less than half the typical earnings of all other Canadian workers
- between 1990 and 2005, the average earnings of artists decreased by 11% (after adjusting for inflation)
- on average, female artists earn 28% less than the average earnings of male artists
For the complete report go here:
Although the census results did not specifically include photographers, I am pretty confident that as a group photographer’s incomes would be similar to other artists.
What about Photographers?
In May of 2007, Photo District News published a summary of stock photography income. Keep in mind that since then the economy has gone downhill, the percentages paid to photographers have decreased, and the health of the stock photo industry is poorer. So take these numbers as optimistic!
Here are a direct quotes from the survey:
- Those who reported that the majority of their stock income came from sales made through a traditional stock agency earned an average of $85,400 (from all types of photography) during 2006, and just under half of that ($40,600) came from stock photography sales. Self-distributors—those who earned the majority of their stock income selling directly to clients—earned $68,700 on average and only about 35% of that ($24,000) came from stock sales.
- For any given distribution category, men earned more on average than women. The difference was most pronounced among agency photographers, where stock incomes for men were twice as high on average as those of women. ($45,750 v. $22,780).
- Photographers who reported that the majority of their income is from royalty-free sales earned $63,200 on average from stock sales last year. Those who reported the majority of their income was from rights managed sales generated an average of $38,500 in 2006 stock sales.
- Comparing the performance of various agencies, those that appear to provide the most stock income to their contributors are Getty and Corbis. Respondents from those agencies averaged $63,100 and $58,600 in 2006 stock income, respectively. Masterfile photographers were a distant third, averaging $38,300 in 2006 stock income, and Jupiter Images photographers were fourth at $26,900, which was barely ahead of self-distributors’ 2006 stock income.
Remember that most photographers that get into stock agencies like Getty and Corbis are top tier shooters, they are consistent producers that are driven and motivated so I think the numbers above represent a higher return than we would see with general photographers.
The Department of Labor in the US actually lists incomes of photographers, with the most recent data coming from May 2007. The mean annual wage for photographers is roughly $34,000! This includes all types of photography from commercial advertising shooters to photojournalists to fine-art photographers. I think the US results portray an accurate reality based on what I know my friends and colleagues make.
So… you wanna be a photographer? Well, you’ll need to do it for love, not money. If you think it is a wise career decision to put food on the table, then maybe try applying at the Golden Arches, at least you get all the fries you can eat!
Some people are just so clever! In the end, the idea is really all that matters, the execution is secondary. Check out this site. What a great idea, taking old album covers and creating new art. And then marketing a book of these fun photos. The images are not that great, but who cares – half the fun is in the quirky shots. Really, I wish I could think of stuff like this–maybe I need stronger drugs?
Photographers who sell their work to magazines, calendars and books as stock photography know all too well the idiosyncracies of the publishing industry. Photographers have a product to sell, namely photos. But who sets the prices for these photos, the seller or the buyer? In almost every other transaction on the planet, the seller sets the price of his goods. Makes sense eh? But in photography it is often the buyer that tells the photographer what the usage fees will be! Strange but true. It’s like going to the supermarket and telling the cashier that you only pay 50 cents a pound for coffee.
Even worse, after the publisher tells you his going rate for buying your pictures, then he sets the timeline for payment! Most publishers pay after publication. That means that although they order your picture now, they will not pay for it until after they use it. Imagine going into a grocery store and getting food but not having to pay anything until you eat the stuff!
And then, to add further insult, many publishers have ‘terms’ that payment will be made within three months of publication. So If I ‘sell’ a photo to a magazine in January, it often takes until 3 months to go to press, and then three more months until I get paid. Six months! Imagine not having to pay for your groceries for six months after you ‘bought’ them?
Ok, the scenario above is ‘standard’ and in my mind pretty darn unacceptable, but this is how the industry runs. Collectively we might be able to change things but photographers are fiercely independant and there is always someone willing to sell photos for crappy terms. Chances of things changing are slim if we all just go on accepting the publishers terms. More and more, I am weaning myself off of publishers who I think are not worth dealing with.
On several occasions I have dealt with Firefly Books in Canada. This company buys a lot of photos from freelance photographers and stock photo agencies especially for their line of calendars. If you plan to deal with Firefly be warned that getting paid may be more difficult than anticipated. In my experience, not only is Firefly extremely tardy in making payments (way beyond that described above), I could only get paid after threatening legal action (on more than one occasion). Other photographers I have talked to have had similar experiences so I am not alone on this one.
Maybe someone out there has had great experiences with Firefly and would love to present another view. But for me, this is one company I will no longer sell photos to. The hassles of dealing with any company that is truant is just not worth including in my business model. Firefly has been banned from my list of potential clients. I now only deal with ‘reliable’ publishers and though I make less sales, I am happier and less stressed, and running my business by my rules, not someone else’s.
Update – Feb 9 – Here is a note from a photographer who shall remain anonymous about working with Browntrout, one of the major calendar publishing companies:
“I submitted 2010 images to Browntrout in July 08; calendars on stand on June 09 for Tourist season; re-printed and out with a vengeance for Christmas season in Nov 09. Contract states “will commence payment in March of year following publication (March 2010). Typically I start screaming at them in Sept of payment year and usually see cheque in early Dec (2010 in this case). So, what’s that … 2.5 years!
To add insult to injury three years ago they said digital files only (no increase in fees for saving them scan costs); two years ago the files had to be profiled CMYK to their colour space, and this year they had to be keyworded to their specs. Oh ya, they also wanted contributors to agree to a 20% decrease citing global economic difficulties. Mmm – I guess we photographers are immune!”
What does it mean to win??
Does winning an international photo contest mean anything? Does it mean you are the “Master of the Universe“? Or does it mean nothing?
I have been lucky (and luck is the key here) to have won numerous prestigous contests. Each time I’ve won, I found that winning is a fabulous marketing tool. Winning has raised my profile and garnered me more attention than any direct advertising could get me. And winning almost always gets me to exotic places I could not afford to get to on my own (plus many contests give you great camera gear – I do like freebies!). So yes, winning is great for business and for getting to new places to create more images for the portfolio. But does it really mean you are good?
Well… art is subjective. For example the photo I show below is one of my favorite photos yet it resonates with few–only a couple of people that I showed this photo to actually like it (my mom and my girlfriend – no bias there!). I have entered it into at least 5 major competitions and it does nothing! Never. Crap. “What is wrong with the judges”?? Does that mean the photos sucks??? Well, maybe. All I know is that I love this image and it remains one of my favorites even after five years of viewing it (it was created in 2004)
So… my lesson is this: all that winning a photo contest means is that your photos appealed to a certain set of judges on a particular day. On a different day or with different judges, your photos might not even get shortlisted. Take this fact for what it means… your photos connected with another set of humans on a given day in a given place. What more can we ask for as artists? When our art connects with someone else, then we are all winners! Pretty simple eh??