lunch with a friend and the business of photography

I had lunch today with Tim Grey, friend, author of many great books on image editing, creator of wonderful instructional DVD’s, and the Ask Tim Grey newsletter.  As always, it was great fun catching up and exchanging stories, but the crux of the conversation was this:  How does a freelance photographer/writer/educator make their way in today’s economy?  Most of the professionals I know have income streams in several areas.  These almost always include workshops, lectures, and product sales, either of their own, or a percentage of sales with sponsors whose products they use.  But our conversation kept drilling down to how best to allocate time.  As a former owner of a business (over 100 employees) I confronted this issue daily.  When we were terribly busy in the plant I would jump in to add my labor to make a deadline ~ but was it the best use of my time?  Tim’s confronting the same issues….as am I now, as a photographer.  Where is the balance between self promotion, shooting, teaching, keywording, stock submissions or making prints/books/dvds.

After thinking about the two photographers I know personally that are still thriving in this economy, I think the answer must be that more time is needed in self promotion.  Alain Briot and Tony Sweet have maintained their workshops, their product sales, and private teaching in a continually contracting market.  How did they do it?  Continual self promotion and of course, huge amounts of hard work…..all geared to offering a product (their knowledge) that has real value.  When I applied this thought to my own work as I am clearly not a photoshop Dream Team member (Tim) or a landscape photography master (Alain) or a Nikon Legend (Tony), I had to distill what it is that I know that may have value for someone else.  So here’s my self promotion:

I know books.  I know bookbinding, a fair amount about book design, I know about printing, both offset and fine art inkjet, and I know about publishing and distribution.  All of this came from nearly 20 years in the printing and binding industries in the Mid-Atlantic states and with several years now of producing fine art prints and books for consulting clients and for myself.   I have created a book in collaboration with Dominique Barbier of which I am very proud.  It is titled MEDITATION FOR TWO and is available on Dominique’s website.  From this book I have received several commissions for shoots and am anticipating that this market will grow as the book garners a wider distribution.   But I have also received inquiries about helping people put together their own books and assisting them through the process from concept to distribution.  I’m writing all this to illustrate how one endeavor can create avenues of work and further recognition.  Next time, when you are thinking about a project, try to envision the other areas that it could impact your work and hopefully, your income stream.  If the project is created from deep knowledge and love of your subject, coupled with a precise plan for getting the work seen, your likelihood of success is virtually assured.

Here’s an illustration of the front and back covers…and a few shots from inside.

12 Responses to “lunch with a friend and the business of photography”

  1. 1 Ian Starkey
    February 24, 2010 at 2:19 am

    Very nice writing Mom. I always enjoy your way with words. Very pretty. The photo from the place setting at the Library Bistro turned out beautiful. So did my eggs benedict!

  2. February 24, 2010 at 8:27 am

    Keron – Thanks for the kind words. You’ve managed to make our conversation sound very cerebral!

    It was a privilege to be able to see an early copy of “Meditation for Two”, and I have no doubt it will prove to be incredibly successful for you. I firmly believe that when you’re passionate about what you do, you’ll do a great job and find success, and the passion shows through your work in this book.

    Here’s to making lemonade out of lemons… The economy may have tanked, but somehow I’m still managing to do what I love, so obviously something is working!

  3. February 24, 2010 at 8:38 am

    Hi Tim,
    Thanks for the conversation….and for checking the blog. You’re an inspiration to me to keep going…..to find a way to make my dreams in photography come true. Thanks for the lovely remarks about the book. It is a subject that I am passionate about and anxious to share with others. And whaddya mean??? Our conversation was extremely cerebral for at least 3 minutes! All the best…enjoy the lemonade!

  4. 5 frankquarters
    February 24, 2010 at 10:44 am

    I was honored to see “Meditation for Two” up close and it truly is a work of art in terms of content and production quality. I appreciate that you denote the “product” professionals offer as being their “knowledge,” … that’s what defines what we are and what we have to offer. What you have to offer is clearly a value that will serve you and all those who utilize your talent, very well.

    • February 24, 2010 at 10:53 am

      Thank you, Frank, for your comments. Creating the book was truly a labor of love and I’m anxious to have that experience again….thinking that my work in Navajoland will be the next subject. I’m so grateful that I get to work on what I love and use the knowledge gained over a lifetime to create something with the intent that it has lasting value. Thanks for checking the blog. Looking forward to reading more of yours! Keron

  5. 7 honey
    February 24, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    while i cannot speak to being honored about seeing the book, i can say that i am delighted and honored to have crossed paths with you. your thoughtful approach to photographing is matched by the way you design books and bring them to distribution. self-promotion matters, and i appreciate yours.

    you’re hired 🙂 didn’t i ask in santa fe?

    you have a lovely way to present ideas without banging the drum, and i appreciate the difference between what i have seen in self-promotion vs. self, self, and more self. you are marketing your ability to help. i am weary from those who are marketing their ability to show me what they have done. and show me more of what they have done. and…thank you for being committed to your own work and understanding the difference between you and…others. ahhhh…

    blessings and namaste, ms. psillas.

  6. 9 Riley
    February 24, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    To “promote” another thought… Our pro bono work for local causes – a food bank, Chamber of Commerce, Theatre Company, and others – has been very gratifying and has resulted in some very profitable assignment work. Just another way to promote ones business.

  7. February 24, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    That’s a GREAT thought, Riley. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  8. 11 Wil Hershberger
    February 24, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Very interesting and compelling discussion. It is a tough world out there right now and people are not parting with their dollars as easily as we would like. The art of self promotion and conveying to the reader what it is that THEY will get out of the purchase is something that we all struggle with. This is a great post and will have me pondering the correct balance and wording of promotional pieces that I hope to get out to the masses.
    Once again you have sparked a wonderful intellectual exercise.
    You images from the book are stunning and compelling. Gorgeous work.


  9. February 24, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Hey Wil,
    Thanks! It is a tough time for sure. But I am really enjoying thinking of creating and communicating value to clients and students. I’m a little daunted by the commissions that I have coming up. Of course I want to make the best images possible (always a pressurized situation) but I also want to create gorgeous prints/albums/books that reflect the CLIENT’s vision and world. I’ll be talking more about this as the work progresses. Thanks for reading and thanks for the comments. : )

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