Guide Suggests Ways to Rethink Your Photography Business in New Economy

ASMPNewMarketsforPhotographyIf you wonder if it’s still possible to build a photography business that is both creatively satisfying and financially viable, I encourage you to read “The ASMP Guide to New Markets in Photography.”

Although it’s an insightful, reassuring book, it’s not quite what I was expecting. From the title, I expected to read an overview of emerging photography markets with advice on how to break into each market.

Instead, this book is a collection of essays by veteran photography pros who have rebuilt their own pathways to success in the fast-changing world of imaging.

The book was published by the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), an association known for its advocacy of photographers’ rights and education in imaging workflows and business practices.  The book was edited by former ASMP president Susan Carr. (Tragically, she died at age 49 in September, 2012, the same month the book was released.)

Some topics discussed in this guide include:

  • new visual needs and the shifting distribution of clients in the new economy
  • the changing definition of what it means to be a photographer
  • the impact of technology and the rise of amateurs
  • updated approaches for copyright, licensing, compensation, and contracts
  • advice on building a business plan, marketing, and selling

Although this self-help guide was written for professional photographers, many of the ideas can inspire freelance writers and designers as well. The book is packed with practical advice for evaluating your strengths and limitations and using that information to develop creatively satisfying, financially sustainable business models that will work for you.

The first five chapters provide a big-picture overview of how photographers are moving beyond the era of conflict caused by disruptions in technology and traditional methods of compensation. Chapters 6-11 discuss ways you can update your own thinking and develop a viable plan for moving forward. Chapters 12-14 feature “business biographies” of 50 visual artists who have successfully moved into new markets for imaging services.

Here’s a quick overview of the fourteen  chapters.

Chapter 1: Where Are The Clients?
Susan Carr summarized disruptive changes in technology and the economy that have required photographers to rethink their business practices. She talked about the transition from film to digital photography, the rise of low-cost stock photography, the influx of amateurs and part-timers, the effects of business consolidation, and changes in how companies market their products.

Carr realized that “The downward pressure on my pricing and requests for all rights to my images was not being primarily driven by stock photography or the shift to digital imaging over film…but rather by the simple fact that the old ways of marketing that my clients relied on to increase their profits were no longer working. The investments they were making in photography, graphic design, advertising agencies, printing, and paid media space were now an expense that had no guaranteed return. The economic model that I built my entire business on was falling apart.”

Chapter 2: Visual Communications in the New Economy
Visual journalist and multimedia expert Tom Kennedy discusses dramatic changes in media production and consumption, the growing role of amateur photographers, and where the professional fits into the picture. He suggests that “The flood of amateur photography activity is creating a heightened awareness of the value of images as a medium.” He believes quality images will be crucial to gaining consumer attention in an era in which text is being complemented by a rich-media language that combines still photography, video, audio, and graphical information.

Chapter 3: The Role of Technology
Photographer Peter Krogh, who published a book on digital-asset-management for photographers, emphasizes the importance of watching technology and analyzing how it might impact your business. Because there’s not much we can do to slow technology down, your business-survival strategy should be rooted in a “good evaluation of where we’re going, and how inevitable changes will affect the practice of your craft and the shape of the marketplace.”

Chapter 4: The Ongoing Tug of War between Copyright Law and Technology
Photographer Richard Dale Kelly discusses the struggles that photographers face protecting their copyrights in an era of rapid innovations in publishing technology and business models.

Chapter 5: Where Are the Solutions That Create Compensation?
Richard Dale Kelly explains how independent creators of visual content can use licensing and business contracts to build sustainable careers. He predicts that instead of relying on a dominant business model, creative professionals will need to use many business models that provide multiple income streams.

Chapter 6: Your First Step
Photographer and business-growth consultant Judy Hermann provides practical exercises that can help you clarify your vision for your career. Her tips can help you define what success means to you, set and implement goals, and start building a career that is both creatively and financially satisfying.

Chapter 7: Your Roadmap
Judy Herrmann outlines a step-by-step guide to building a working business plan, so you can assess the viability of your ideas and make adjustments before you have invested too much time or money. As she puts it: “If you learn that your initial ideas aren’t viable, go back to your core values, focus on why you want what you want, and use your creative problem-solving skills to come up with business ideas and solutions that will meet both your needs and those of your buyers.”

Chapter 8: Branding Your Business
Communicatrix Colleen Wainwright explains how branding relates to your career goals and how to establish a strong, memorable brand in today’s media-rich culture. She points out that a brand isn’t what you tell people you are. Rather, it’s about how people perceive you: “What people will remember and respond to are experiences with you that are great or even awesome.”

Chapter 9: Marketing Today
Colleen Wainwright illustrates how to integrate marketing into every facet of your business and use contemporary tools to get your message heard.  Instead of trying to master every fast-changing social-media channel, choose the network that makes the most sense for your goals, and focus on three principles: be useful, be specific, and be nice.

Chapter 10: Selling in the New Economy
Photographer Blake Discher provides tips and tools for honing and refining your sales techniques. He talks about the need to find good clients, understand your competitive advantage, develop a targeted prospect list, build your network, provide get referrals and appointments, and quote jobs.

Chapter 11: Changing Your Course
Judy Hermann discusses how to embrace and manage three types of changes: diversification, adaptation, and reinvention. She emphasizes that “The sooner you notice a trend, the more time you have to internalize new information, draw appropriate conclusions, connect seemingly unrelated dots, and reframe your thinking. Plus, changing the course of your business or career won’t happen overnight.  It will take time, money, and effort to figure out what to change and how to change it, get buy-in from clients, and make the change self-sustaining.”

Chapter 12: New Products and Services
Barry Schwartz profiles photographers who have expanded by adding new products or services to their businesses. For example, Mark Green talks about how income from video production services has replaced revenues he once earned from shooting photos for annual reports.

Chapter 13: Marketing and Sales Focus
In this chapter, Barry Schwartz highlights photographers who are using new and traditional marketing to adapt and grow in a new economy. For example, Andrew Eccles talks about reverting to time-tested methods of getting work –through face time, pounding the pavement, meeting with people, and creating fresh, new, and relevant work.

Chapter 14. New Business/Photographer Identity
Barry Schwartz interviews photographers who have responded to changed industry conditions by redefining how they identify themselves and their business. Walt Jones observes that the kind of business he did in the late 1990s and early 2000s is very different from the computer-generated imagery work he is doing now:  “I’ve worked hard to get people to see me as a simply a creator of images, not as a photographer or a CGI-producer. In the end, I’m going to use whatever tools are appropriate to the task at hand, so I try not to pigeonhole myself.”

When I read self-help books, the authors seem more credible when some of their advice meshes with some of my own observations. In this book, the authors make the point that some photographers are doing just fine without using every new social-media channel that pops up or feeling the need to adopt every “tip and trick” that a marketing guru might recommend.

Colleen Wainwright urges readers to “Bring your full creativity and 100 percent authentic self to your marketing, just as you do to your photography. Your work is indelibly yours, so must your marketing be.”

In the book’s opening chapter, Carr emphasizes that: “Photographers must define what they can bring to the table that is rare, and that brings us back to creativity…The reality is that most independent working photographers only need a handful of customers to make a good living.” By using some of the many marketing tools now at our disposal, we can find “loyal clients who value our unique product and compensate us fairly for it.”


The ASMP Guide to New Markets in Photography

About ASMP



Three Books That Can Help You Be a Better Photographer

Even if you don’t aspire to “go pro,” imagine the benefits of knowing how to take better photographs. You would be less reliant on stock images for your blogs, presentations, and e-books. You could decorate your home (or homepage) with conversation-worthy images that let others see what catches your eye. And you could be a more visually expressive documentarian of your family’s life.

If you agree that reading books by photographers can be a great way to learn, here are three titles from Amphoto Books that you might want to check out.

  • Bryan Petersen’s Understanding Composition Field Guide: How to See and Photograph Images with Impact by Bryan Peterson
  • Extraordinary Everyday Photography: Awaken Your Vision to Create Stunning Images Wherever You Are by Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring
  • Beyond Snapshots: How to Take That Fancy DSLR Camera Off “Auto” and Photography Your  Life Like a Pro by Rachel Device and Peta Mazey

Each of these books can help you “see” more like a pro photographer. You’ll learn how to find great images everywhere you go, and capture shots that require minimal editing time. Each book is filled with gorgeous, full-color images and detailed explanations of what the photographer was thinking as they set up the shot.

Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Composition Field Guide

Bryan Peterson is a professional photographer, founder of the online Picture Perfect School of Photography (, and best-selling author. Sales of his nine previous books have surpassed 700,000 copies. His book “Understanding Exposure” is Amphoto’s Number 1 best-selling title of all time,

In this 287-page, field-guide-sized manual Peterson explains that the one thing that your camera can’t control is composition. He contends that it’s not the content that makes an image compelling, but how that content is arranged in the frame.

Bryan also explains and illustrates “Whether you are shooting garbage, Half-Dome in Yosemite, a fashion model, or a stricken family, a compelling image awaits you if you understand the ‘rules’ and nuances that every successful arrangement relies on,” says Bryan.

To “get it right in the camera,” he recommends taking a careful and methodical approach to seeing “layers” from the background to the foreground and making choices about lenses, point of view, time of day, the use of props, and the removal of distracting objects.

The book’s 14 chapters include:

  • Learning to See: Mining the Mundane
  • The Role of Aperture and Shutter Speed
  • Filling the Frame: Two Steps from a Compelling Composition
  • Choosing Your Background
  • Using the Empty Canvas
  • Adding Interest in the Foreground
  • Creating Contrast
  • The Golden Section, the Rule of Thirds, and the Rule of Visual Weight
  • Horizontal versus Vertical
  • Framing with a Frame
  • Sweating the Small Stuff
  • Mining Images to Find the Mother Lode
  • Capturing the Decisive Moment
  • When to Break the Rules

“In my mind, the measure of a photograph’s success is its ability to evoke an emotional response: to cause us to feel joy, discomfort, elation, disgust, sadness,” writes Peterson. “To that end, I encourage you to use all your skills and talents, including the courage to be creative.”

Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Composition Field Guide: How to See and Photograph Images with Impact

Bryan Peterson

Extraordinary Everyday Photography

Brenda Tharp is an award-winning photographer, writer, and teacher specializing in travel, nature, and outdoor photography. For this inspiring book, she teams up with Jed Marwaring, a professional photographer whose images have appeared in Outdoor Photographer, Outside, and Sunset magazines.

Through numerous examples, they illustrate that that you don’t need to travel to exotic locales to capture interesting photographs. As they put it: “Wonderful images are hiding almost everywhere; you just need to know how to find them.”

“Extraordinary Everyday Photography” will help you search beyond the surface to find the unexpected wherever you are, be it a downtown street, a local park, or your own front lawn.

Showing images taken with DSLRs, compact digital cameras, and  iPhones, the authors make the point that creating great image is less about the gear you use and more about your eye and creative vision. They explain how to use composition, available light, color, and point of view to create stunning photographs in any environment.  The book’s 10 chapters include:

  • Finding Fresh Vision
  • The Moment of Perception
  • Discovering Pictures Where You Live
  • Expanding the Creative Process
  • Capturing Everyday Moments
  • Finding Your Point of View
  • Creating Strong Compositions
  • Exploring the Light Around You
  • Photographing at Dusk and Dawn
  • Photographing the Night Around You

“Photography isn’t just about figure the mechanics of setting aperture and shutter speed, and pressing the shutter release,” Twarp emphasizes. “It’s also about figuring out what you’re trying to express with your picture and when to press the shutter button. To do this, we must have a creative vision that comes from seeing with an open heart and mind.”

Extraordinary Everyday Photography: Awaken Your Vision to Create Stunning Images Wherever You Are

Brenda Tharp

Jed Manwaring

Beyond Snapshots

Using the friendly and welcoming writing style they developed as bloggers, self-taught professional photographers Rachel Devine and Peta Mazey show you how to use a DSLR to photograph the story of your life, from falling in love and raising a family to celebratory gatherings and everyday moments. You’ll learn:

  • Common beginner mistakes and how to avoid them
  • How to take portraits of your children, friends, groups, pets—even yourself
  • How to capture light to make your photos more dramatic
  • How to make colors pop, eyes sparkle, and skin tones more realistic
  • How to capture the uniqueness and wonder of your family, friends, and world

Part 1 of the book explains how to go beyond the “auto” setting on your camera  while Part 2 emphasizes that “Life is a Photo Op.” The chapters in Part 2 have titles such as:

  • What Love Looks Like
  • Milestones and Firsts
  • Documenting Family Life
  • Sharing Yourself
  • Life Is in the Details
  • Seeing the World (or Just Your Hometown)
  • Seasons of Change
  • All Together Now

In the book’s introduction, the authors note that “We’ve read numerous photography books that are technically overwhelming, or as dry and dull as the camera manuals themselves. We’ve tried to make sure this book is neither.”

“Photography is an art and a science, but it’s also a way of life,” they write. “Taking photographs nurtures your ability to see detail and appreciate beauty in both obvious and unlikely places.” They also point out that “Photography is storytelling, and everyone has a story worth telling.”

Beyond Snapshots: How to Take That Fancy DSLR Camera Off “Auto” and Photograph Your Life like a Pro

Peta Mazey

Rachel Devine

About Amphoto Books


Book Explains How to Publish a Photography Book

PHOTOGRAPHERS. If you have an idea for a photography-book project but aren’t sure whether to self publish or seek a publisher, read the new book “Publish Your Photography Book” by photography-book-industry insiders Darius D. Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson. In addition to explaining the process of publishing a book of your photographs, the book highlights avenues you might not have considered and points out potential pitfalls.

It also suggests that a photography book can help enhance your visibility and career. Himes and Swanson note that a well-executed photography book can provide you with a passport to the international photography scene and lead to exhibitions, talks, gallery walks, press interviews, and other opportunities.

The book is divided into six sections.

Section 1: The Photography Book Phenomenon
Here, the authors explain why interest in books as a means of photographic expression is rising (and isn’t likely to be disappear any time soon). They point out that a photography book is more than a simple collection of printed photographs. It is often regarded as an autonomous art form.

Section 2: The Nuts and Bolts of Publishing
Whether you plan to self-publish or submit a proposal to a trade-book publisher, this section emphasizes the importance of clearly understanding your goals and developing a solid and engaging concept for your book.

The authors recommend examining your favorite photography books in more detail: What is the book about? Can you summarize the subject in one clear sentence? Is there a singular artistic vision? How is the cover designed? How are the pages laid out? How are the images sequenced? How much does the book stick with you after you’d viewed it?

Section 2 also talks about how publishers work, explains how to approach a publisher, and suggests things to look for when reading a publishing contract.

You’ll also learn how and when it makes sense to use print-on-demand technology to publish a book yourself and when you’d be better off going through a publisher.

For example, working with a publishing company involves collaborating with experienced professionals. This means you must be prepared to compromise in certain areas because the book is not just yours alone, but is also part of a company with a brand and a mission. When you self-publish, you must take on all steps of the process yourself, including hiring individuals who can help you execute your vision for the book and help market it.

The authors write that: “Successful self-publishers are those who are organized and entrepreneurial at heart, who know their audience, can effectively reach that audience, and have the financial and labor resources available to take on numerous roles.”

Section 3: The Making of Your Book
This section walks you through the three main stages of making a book: determining and shaping the editorial content, creating a design that enhances the content without overwhelming it, and working with a printer. Many of these decisions will be based on the concept you have developed and communicated for the book.

Section 4: The Marketing of Your Book
No matter whether you self-publish or have your book published, expect to play an active role in marketing and promoting your book. And you don’t wait until your book is printed to begin thinking about marketing. The first phase of your marketing strategy should begin well before your book is ready to ship. The second phase will be designed to extend the life of your book beyond its publication date.

“Publish Your Photography Book” provides tips for building mailing lists, creating a budget, maintaining a consistent brand identity, working with a publicist, mailing publicity packets, and using the Internet.

The authors also talk about opportunities for cross-marketing. For example, “If the photographs featured in your book can be acquired as limited-edition prints, or are available to be presented as a collection in a traveling exhibition, it is wise to include that information in all formats of your press materials.”

Section 5: Case Studies
Throughout Sections 1 through 4, you’ll find insightful interviews with publishers, editors, designers, photographers, and self-publishers that reinforce some of the advice presented in the book. Section 5 profiles seven photographers who have published one or more photography books:

  • Alec Soth, “Sleeping by the Mississippi” and “The Last Days of W”
  • Paula McCartney, “Bird Watching”
  • David Maisel, “Library of Dust”
  • Lisa M. Robinson, “Snowbound”
  • Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb, “Violet Isle”
  • Sean Perry, “Transitory and Fairgrounds”
  • John Gossage, “The Pond”, and “Stadt Des Schwarz”

One of the profiles quotes McCartney as saying, “It is very important that my books are artworks in themselves, not merely portfolios of my photographic projects…I think of books as a medium—like painting, photography, or sculpture—where all of the elements, including form, content, and materials are in dialogue with each other and are meaningful to the finished work.”

Section 6: Resources, Appendices, and Worksheets
This section includes 24 pages of helpful resources. For example, it includes: a diagram of the anatomy of a photography book; timelines for design, production, and marketing activities; a worksheet for preparing for your book; and guidelines for submitting a proposal to publishers. Also included are lists of: publishers; distributors; independent bookstores and dealers; festivals, awards, and trade events; blogs and book art resources; and online marketing resources.

About the Authors
Darius D. Himes was a founding editor of photo-eye Booklist and is a cofounder of Radius Books, a nonprofit company publishing books on the visual arts. Himes is a lecturer, consultant, and writer who has contributed to numerous publications. PDN magazine named him one of the fifteen most influential people in photography book publishing. For the past four years, Himes has been the lead judge of Blurb’s Photography Book Now Competition.

Mary Virginia Swanson is a consultant in the area of licensing and marketing fine-art photography. Swanson frequently lectures and conducts seminars and educational programs for photographers. She is a respected judge of competitions and awards as well as frequent portfolio reviewer.

If you want guidance about how to proceed with a specific book idea, Darius Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson offer one-on-one in-person or Skype consultations. To schedule a consultation, visit:


Publish Your Photography Book