PHOTOGRAPHERS. “Sustainable Business Models: Issues and Trends Facing Visual Artists” is the title of a symposium that will be conducted by The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) on Thursday, September 27, 2012 at The Times Center in New York. Thought leaders will discuss the impact of shifts in the media industry, and creative approaches to compensation that will lead to sustainable business models for imaging professionals.
The program will start with introductory remarks at 9 am and conclude at 3:30 pm. Three panel discussions will be held during the day.
The symposium is free of charge to all interested parties who pre-register. If you won’t be in New York on September 27, you can watch the symposium streamed live at: http://asmp.org/symposium.
ASMP is a trade association for imaging professionals. It represents the industry on legislative matters and provides members with state-of-the-art information and education.
To help strengthen the careers of independent imaging professionals, ASMP has compiled a library of educational videos that are offered free under the terms of a Creative Commons license (Attribution NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported).
Some of the video titles include:
Adaptation: New Skills for the Changing Media Landscape with Tom Kennedy
The Agile Photographer: A Multimedia Partner for Business with Jay Kinghorn
When the first professional-grade cameras came out that could shoot both stills and high-quality video, one of the first questions some photographers asked was “Why?” Since then, the answer is becoming clearer.
Short videos are being used to enrich the usefulness of millions of corporate and commercial websites, blogs, digital magazines, advertising, and e-books. The hybrid cameras can make it more cost-effective to add produce online video, because publishers of online content can hire a single creative professional to capture both stills and video while shooting on location, or interviewing a subject.
Here are five news items that illustrate market projections and how some creative professionals are developing new business models, products, and services to meet the demand.
BrightRoll Survey Shows Agencies Expect to Spend More on Online Video
According to a survey of advertising agencies conducted by the video ad network BrightRoll, “Media buyers predict online video will see the largest overall increase in spend in 2011.” The survey found that “65% of respondents plan to reallocate campaign dollars from TV to online video.” BrightRoll cited a recent eMarketer study that showed the average number of hours Americans spend online has been growing by 6% a year while the average number of hours spent watching TV has been declining 1% annually.
Although the cost of online video is still regarded as a barrier to more widespread adoption, 27% of the agencies surveyed said that more than half of their RFPs in 2010 included an online video component.
E Video Productions Makes Video Marketing Affordable to Local Businesses
E-Video Productions in Forked River, New Jersey is offering small-business owners a “12 Months of Video” package at a low monthly fee. According to partner Darcie King, the program “allows businesses to budget for their video content without having a large up-front cost. Video content is so important in this current market, and we want to make sure it’s available to everyone.”
The plan includes the production of:
six “Expertise Videos” in which the business owner or spokesperson can demonstrate their knowledge of a certain subject;
four customer-testimonial videos;
two videos that combine highlights of the expertise videos and testimonial videos.
“We noticed that a lot of businesses wanted to get into doing video, but didn’t know where to start,” states E Video partner Kristopher King. “We created this plan to make it easy and affordable for anyone who wants to get in front of the YouTube generation.”
Photo Festival to Showcase Outstanding Videos Shot on Hybrid Cameras
Some of the finest examples of videos shot with cameras that can capture both stills and high-resolution video will be exhibited to a live audience in a “film-fest” format on October 21 at the Goat Farm Arts Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
The evening of curated videos is part of the Atlanta Celebrates Photography festival, which seeks to nurture and support photographers, educate and engage audiences, promote diverse photography, and enrich Atlanta’s cultural scene.
In the open call for entries, the show’s curators emphasize that “We can’t accept videos shot with a dedicated video camera. We specifically want to see what the hybrid still/video camera creates, and learn how it’s being used to do more than shoot stills. In doing so, we learn about what ‘moves’ us as an audience, and as videographers, and photographers.”
They will be looking for works that are expressive, engaging, emotionally satisfying, or envelope-pushing: “We want to see your best work. It might be a low-res video shot on an old cellphone or an HD beauty shot on your brand-new 5D Mark III.”
A $250 award for “Best in Show” will be awarded by guest jurors Tom Brown, vice president of original productions for Turner Classic Movies and Michael Kochman, creative director of Turner Image Management.
Entries are due September 15 at 11:59 pm (EST). There is no charge to enter.
Red Square Visual Arts Produces ‘Video Lookbook’ for Fashion Marketing
Corey Weiner of Red Square Visual Arts in Boca Raton, Florida, is a former advertising account executive who began to offer photography services to architecture, design, and travel clients in 1997. Over the past two years, his services have segued into motion-picture services for a broad spectrum of projects, including fashion video look books, shows,
behind-the-scenes, and other promotional films.
Weiner says the web-based video look book is becoming a staple of fashion marketing: “From early Egyptian art to today’s haute couture magazines, fashion has always been seen as a flat, static, two-dimensional stiff image. The only time you saw a moving garment was either in person or a feature film. But think about what Audrey Hepburn did for the ‘little black dress’ and that’s the power of the moving picture.”
Recently, Red Square Visual Arts produced a two-minute film that features clothes from the new collection of Dear Earth, an organic clothing line designed by Miami-based Danielle Moore. The film features fully licensed music and a link back to Dear Earth’s website so consumers can purchase what they have seen. As the video gets picked up by fashion blogs and social networking sites, Moore and Weiner will track Facebook and Twitter comments, blog posts, and Internet traffic generated back to Dear Earth’s e-commerce site. The entire cost of adding video production to an existing catalog shoot was $900.
“Just a few years ago, producing a video like this would have been cost-prohibitive for a small designer,” says Weiner. “And it would have cost even more to televise it to people around the world. YouTube and other online channels allow you to see exactly which point in the video is most interesting to people, and how many are clicking to purchase your product.”
CineSkates Compact Camera Sliders Delivers Fluid Video Shots
Cinetics is launching CineSkates™, a lightweight, professional-grade camera slider that will allow photographers/videographers to capture stable, high-resolution video footage without lugging heavy gear. The device also makes it possible to achieve fluid camera movement in space-constrained environments where traditional camera sliders, dollies and cranes are too cumbersome.
“Today’s cameras allow you to take high-resolution video in a small form factor, but the result can be shaky and distracting if you don’t have stability.” explains Cinetics founder Justin Jensen. “I wanted a camera slider that was lightweight and mobile for professional events or even spontaneous shots.”
Developed in an MIT MediaLab class, CineSkates is a unique set of wheels that attach to a tripod and enable the user to put their video in motion. They are designed to work specifically with the GorillaPod Focus™ tripod, and a ballhead, like the BallHead X, also from JOBY®.
Jensen envisions CineSkates being used for product demo videos, wedding films, music videos and other high-quality productions. He says the device enables filmmakers to produce shots that have previously been difficult to capture with bulky equipment. For example, using CineSkates with a DSLR that shoots high-res video enables videographers to produce:
Arcing video shots that rotate around objects
Sliding video shots that push or pull the subject into focus
Rolling video shots that glide over the subject
Time-lapse video shots that move the camera slowly and smoothly
Panning video shots that scan a wide area
“Worm’s eye view” video shots that slide just above the floor
CineSkates are available to preorder through Kickstarter at cinetics.com/kickstarter for a limited time, reduced price of $150 and $275 for the complete CineSkates System that includes the GorillaPod Focus and Ballhead X.
Photographers who are open to new forms of visual expression and are willing to master new technologies are likely to find plenty of new opportunities in a world in which images will be used to create more immersive, interactive and “augmented” experiences for consumers. Here are just a few of the current challenges and emerging opportunities.
Global competition. An increased supply of images from amateur, part-time, and do-it-yourself photographers (writers, designers) has pushed down prices in all fields of photography, including stock, wedding, portraits, advertising, and editorial.
Changing need for images. The transformation from print to online publishing has changed the type and volume of photographs needed for editorial, advertising, and marketing purposes. The rise of mobile marketing and digital signage is changing this mix even further.
Ubiquitous and powerful smartphone cameras. Now that so many people are carrying high-quality camera phones, news organizations can easily obtain images from on-the-scene witnesses at news events instead of sending staff photographers. Some pro and semi-pro photographers are using their iPhone camera and apps to open up new opportunities for visual expression.
No one-size-fits-all business model for professional photography. The markets and opportunities for photographers vary from city to city and region to region.
Visual storytelling. In general, people are becoming more dependent on visual communications. We will be getting less and less information from reading printed pages and more information from smartphones and multimedia websites and publications. In addition, everyone has a story to tell. Every corporation, organization, bridal couple, and family is looking for fresh, emotionally powerful ways to tell their stories. Talented photographers who have mastered the art of visual storytelling can use those skills to create virtual tours, photo books, and mixed-media presentations that blend stills with video.
Custom décor. Consumers have learned they don’t need to use mass-produced art to decorate their homes, offices, and businesses. Digital printing has enabled more people to buy limited-edition prints or order customized prints of places or events with special meaning to them. People can afford to buy work directly from artists and photographers.
Photo merchandise. InfoTrends predicts the market for photo merchandise will surpass $2.2 billion by 2014. As a result, many photo labs and digital-printing firms are now equipped to produce a wide range of photo-centric greeting cards, books, calendars, enlargements and photo specialty items. Most photo-merchandise items look better when the images are shot by a professional photographers.
Consulting. Now that digital cameras have replicated film-based cameras could do, researchers are developing new types of cameras with capabilities that go far beyond what was ever possible with film. But when new technologies are developed, the engineers and researchers can’t always envision the full commercial potential of their new inventions. Experienced photography pros can help researchers better understand the many different ways new imaging technologies might be used.
Education and technical support. Millions of photography enthusiasts bought DSLRs before fully understanding how to get the most from these cameras. Now, they want professional photographers who can teach them how to get more from their cameras, guide them on location shoots, and expertly print enlargements of their best images.
Online photo sales. Photographers can sell images through a growing number of stock photography agencies, or sell directly to clients their e-commerce portfolio sites.
New venues for art and photojournalism. Advances in large-format printing technologies and materials have made it feasible to enlarge high-quality, high-impact images for public-service campaigns on outdoor billboards. Some photographers have created immersive exhibitions that utilize the walls, floors, ceiling, and other surfaces of indoor or outdoor spaces.
New styles of photo-based illustration and art. Photographers can easily develop their own distinctive styles and products. The range of artistic possibilities is almost endless when you consider how many different combinations exist in terms of: creative image editing; digital, historic, and mixed-media printmaking techniques; printable materials; and new methods of displaying and selling your finished images.
Corporate content marketing. Corporate marketing departments are becoming publishers. Instead of buying advertising in editorially independent magazines, many corporations are attempting to develop magazine-quality content for their websites to help establish online exposure and credibility for their brands and promote two-way communications with customers. Opportunities may develop for photography professionals who can supply both still photographs and videos.
PHOTOGRAPHERS. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to win a Pulitzer Prize at age 25? To see your photography on the cover of Sports Illustrated? To get paid to shoot a celebrity on the beaches of the British Virgin Islands? Photographer Brian Smith has done all three of these things during his 30-year career as a photography pro.
He talked about those experiences and more during an entertaining and informative PhotoShelter webinar entitled “Stop Waiting for Your Big Break.”
During the hour-long interview with PhotoShelter CEO Alan Murabayashi, Smith provides practical career advice while sharing some of the humorous stories behind some of the images that helped him transition from shooting sports for local newspapers to shooting celebrity portraits for national magazines. Here are just a few of the tips Brian Smith presented during the discussion.
Find ways to shoot what you love, then shoot every assignment as if it were your dream job. It’s unlikely that you’ll ever get one big break that will permanently propel your career into the stratosphere, Smith said. But with the right attitude and work ethic, you can build a satisfying career from a series of small breaks. The key is to make the most of each small break by shooting everything like you’re working for Sports Illustrated or Rolling Stone. Smith pointed out that the photo editors at top magazines are unlikely to call you until you have demonstrated that you can produce the type of work they expect.
Build on those techniques that have worked for you in the past. By continually returning to projects and techniques that have worked for you in the past, you will eventually develop a style that will set you apart from others. For example, Smith says, “As a photojournalist, I continue to look for the unexpected, even when shooting portraits.”
Enter contests that are appropriate for your demographic. Winning the right contests can be a great way to get your work in front of people who are in a position to hire you. It also means that other people will be doing PR on your behalf. That type of PR is generally more credible and effective than the PR you do on your own.
Use personal projects to show people the type of work you want. When Smith was trying to transition from sports photojournalism into celebrity portraiture, he decided to shoot a series of portraits of aging burlesque stars. The project demonstrated that he could work with flamboyant performers with oversized personalities. Not only did this project help Smith land an assignment to photograph Donald Trump, but several years later, it resulted in a Sports Illustrated assignment to photograph a nudist golf tournament. As Smith puts it, “Do good work, and you never know when it will pay off.” A personal project may not generate assignments right away, but good work can leave a lasting impression.
Build a strong website and keep people coming back to it. Once you have built a strong body of work with a distinctive style, Smith says a good website can be the most important tool you have. Today, every photo editor has different preferences in terms of how they want to be contacted (e.g. through the mail, e-mail, social networks, etc.). So you have to try a lot of different methods of getting your work seen. But if you always point people back to your website, they can get a sense of what you’ve been up to and the type of work you are capable of. Smith said it’s important to tweak the content regularly and show people that you’re continuing to work on new projects.
Smith noted that it’s never been easier to get your work out there and seen, but because there’s so much work out there, your work really has to have something special.
That’s why he urges photographers to swing for the fences, and not always go for the safe shot. For example, Smith provided this advice: After you’ve fulfilled all of the items that your clients wants you to shoot in the way they want it shot, try to take a moment or two to shoot the job the way you would do it if you were shooting it for yourself. Your client might be happily surprised by the results.
PhotoShelter is a leading provider of websites and business tools for photographers.
PHOTOGRAPHERS. ARTISTS. On my Great Output blog, I published a post about a remarkable photographer, Jack Spencer, who will have a solo exhibition at the Rebekah Jacob Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina throughout the month of March. Entitled “This Land,” the exhibition will feature precisely crafted archival pigment prints of landscapes that Spencer shot while traveling some of the back roads throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Spencer, who resides in Nashville, TN, is a self-taught photographer whose work is included in many collections, including The Houston Museum of Fine Art, the Berkeley Museum of Art, and Elton John’s photography collection.
He regards printing as an integral part of his art, and says he “rarely allows the camera to dictate the final expression. For many works, the camera simply provides information and a starting point.”
I wasn’t the first writer to ask him what advice he would give to other photographers and artists who may be just starting out. He told me that his own career has taken a circuitous route that has been the result of many trials and errors “that have been fascinating in and of themselves. My mistakes gave me their own rewards…my successes gave me theirs.”
So, he advises photographers and artists to “Follow your own muse. Find your own distinct voice. And don’t ask anyone’s permission to be an artist.”
“Art involves honest expression. It should be something you do—not to make money or gain fame or notoriety or attention,” says Spencer. “Too many people construct obstacles to the ‘flow’ by second guessing what others will think or whether or not it will be successful or whether or not it is weird enough to set itself apart.” He believes that type of thinking has nothing to do with art.
He advises photographers to “Look for images that ‘shimmer’—not just on the print, but through the viewfinder as well. If an artwork shimmers, it has soul.”
On his website, he explains why he believes artists should be infinitely curious and not be afraid to risk trying something new: “Playing it safe is for brain surgeons, not artists. Fear inhibits curiosity and creativity.”
When you visit his site, you’ll see a rich and wonderfully varied body of work.
“I do not believe that as an artist, I should repeat myself,” Spencer says.”I don’t think a writer should write the same novel over and over, or a musician should write the same song over and over. ..Our world is so vast and there is so much to explore.”
The key to success as a photographer in today’s hyper-competitive environment, says Sanders, is to: “Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and start focusing on your most powerful resource—you!” In today’s digi-flat world, creative professionals can carve out niches all their own. As Sanders puts it, “You need to design your sweet spot around the one thing that cannot be replicated: you!”
The book and its accompanying online self-assessment test can help you determine whether you would be happier trying to become an independent Signature-Brand Photographer or would be perfectly content as a Freelance Photographer who does fee-based assignments for employers. You can devise a solution that blends the two styles, but Sanders advises photographers to “Be clear about the choice you’re making, and do what’s required to see it through.”
Above all, Sanders encourages readers to avoid “The Grumpy Photographer Life Cycle (aka the Road to Hell).” This cycle starts when photographers get overloaded with debt early in their careers, fail to promote themselves as individuals, and take on as many jobs at market prices as possible. Then, they become burned out and bitter.
Sanders characterizes “Grumpy” photographers as self-centered, arrogant, “experts” who feel entitled to business and are stuck on old business models. In contrast, he describes fast-track photographers as client-centered, service-minded, and personable. They are adaptable to change, open to new technology and continuous learning, and able to delegate and outsource. They know who they are, and find clients who appreciate their unique set of skills.
“Rather than lapse into Grumpiness,” says Sanders. “I encourage you to see that in the digi-flat world, the spectrum of possibility has exploded.”
Dane Sanders succinctly articulates trends I’ve observed at photography conferences over the past few years. Some photographers are clearly much more upbeat, optimistic, and enthusiastic than others. Photographers who have worked for 25 to 30 years seem aggravated by how rapidly and radically technology has commoditized the conventional markets for photography.
Thus, Fast Track Photographer will not only be helpful to serious amateurs who are considering turning pro, but also to companies that use old-school, big-name photographers to help them sell products and services. People entering the photography business today must cope with marketplace realities that are fundamentally different from the business environment that existed when older-generation experts built their businesses.
“If you want to find your sweet spot in the photo world, resist the temptation to emulate heroes,” writes Sanders. “Unless you are just like them, the odds of succeeding by adopting their strategies is very low. Better to let them inspire you by how boldly they have pursued their own sweet spot in the business.”
“The old mode of learning from an expert and slogging away until you’ve earned the right to put your name out there is too slow for our fast-changing, digi-flat times,” writes Sanders. He notes that no one is an “expert” anymore because no one really knows what new developments will occur in the next 5 to 20 years and how these developments will interact dynamically to create whole new possibilities for photographers. He suggests that, “An attitude of staying creatively adaptable may be the single most important asset in extending your lifespan as a photographer indefinitely.”
As a writer, I was interested to learn that “Fast Track Photographer“ was originally self-published and geared only toward wedding photographers. Amphoto Books published a revised and expanded edition to help amateur and working photographers in all genres strengthen and develop their businesses.
Readers of The Fast Track Photographer might also be interested in The Fast Track Photographer Business Plan. This new book is designed to help you devise an overall business strategy to support your creative vision. It also contains techniques for running a creative business.