PHO704 Week 11: Marketing and Objectives

My aim is not to become full-time commercial photographer. However, I would like to become a more professional photographer who can improve his practice using the skills and marketing disciplines of the commercial photography business. I would enjoy doing that and it might also allow me to take on some part-time work (whether paid or not) from time to time.

Instagram
I have covered Instagram already in this CRJ – see here and here.

Website
I need to continue to improve my portfolio site (Crean 2020 A) and boil it down to essentials, as a mini-portfolio that is always up to date. The assumption is that most viewers will pick up my work on Instagram first and only then consider my website.

Marketing
I have had some business cards printed, which is a small start, but I need to present myself as a brand with the focus, consistency and tight control of communications that entails. I need to approach things as if I were running my own business (Barnett 2020, Pritchard 2011).

Photobooks
I would like to become good at producing photobooks. There are several I could produce outside of this degree course. I have just taken one weekend workshop on creating and marketing photobooks with the Self Publish Be Happy group (Self Publish Be Happy 2020) and in a few days I am taking a second one with them that will concentrate more on the internal graphic design and layout of the photobook. The first weekend was very informative (and enjoyable) and has improved my confidence a lot.

Portfolios
It is clear that I need to assemble a proper printed portfolio. For this I need to assemble a bank of printed images that can be sequenced and changed depending on whom one is showing the portfolio to. Ensuring that a portfolio is relevant to the intended purpose is important.

To help with this, I need to apply for some portfolio reviews. The Association of Photographers (I am now a member) and the Photographers’ Gallery in London both offer this service, among others, and over the next few months I will book some slots.

Personal Projects
I have a personal project, Entropias (Crean 2020 B). The purpose of the project is to help me stay fresh and creative, but it is also something I could present as a zine, small book or other venture, either commercially or for charity.

Web Shop
I will be using White Bridge Arts as the brand name of a webshop on an art sales website called society6.com. I have already mentioned this in my CRJ here.  It should be fun.

Others
I usually participate in a joint local photography exhibition each year with ArtWeeks. If there is a proper ArtWeeks in 2021 (unknown at present because of the pandemic) then I will take part.

There are also magazines to approach, other new personal projects to consider, local newspapers, competitions, social media take-overs and so forth. However, I would prefer not to give the impression that I can take a degree and do all that at the same time, because my priorities in life are not those. Becoming a 24/7 photography bore is likely to kill not enhance my creativity.

References

BARNETT, Maximus. 2020. ‘Week 11: A Conversation with Maximus Barnett’. Falmouth Flexible Photography [online]. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/671/pages/week-11-presentation-a-conversation-with-maximus-barnett?module_item_id=43431 [accessed 4 Dec 2020].

CREAN, Mark. 2020 A. ‘Portfolio’. Mark Crean [online]. Available at: https://markcrean.myportfolio.com [accessed 8 Aug 2020].

CREAN, Mark. 2020 B. ‘Entropias’. Mark Crean [online]. Available at: https://markcrean.myportfolio.com/entropias [accessed 8 Aug 2020].

PRITCHARD, Lisa. 2011. ‘Marketing and Promotion’. In Lisa PRITCHARD (ed.). Setting up a Successful Photography Business. London: A. & C. Black, 72–86.

SELF PUBLISH BE HAPPY. 2020. ‘Education’. Self Publish, Be Happy [online]. Available at: https://shop.selfpublishbehappy.com/collections/education [accessed 29 Sep 2020].

PHO704 Week 10: The Digital – New Possbilities

This week’s coursework about the different digital media channels has been difficult, largely because although I use some of them I have little to no experience of using all of them. In addition, discussions tend to become dominated by Instagram but that is not the only channel available and for some people it may not be an appropriate one.

There are two different subjects here. First, there are the new digital media platforms available to artists in order to offer a new and often mixed media experience. And second there are the new digital media channels available on which to market one’s work – not the same thing at all.

I am very interested in what Anna-Maria Pfab said in her lecture about new digital platforms, in particular the New York Times virtual reality app launched in 2015, NYT VR (New York Times 2020, Pfab 2020). Although an app demands a great deal of time and investment capital, it is clear that, first, one can offer viewers a new experience combining both images and sound in many different ways, and second one can engage with an audience on smartphones massively larger than the audience on conventional PCs or photography websites. I am already looking at sound in my research project. Video takes it one stage further.

As for marketing one’s work using digital media, my feeling is that before one embarks on a digital media strategy it is important to have a very clear idea of what one wants to do, having already identified ways of measuring results and overall having already set some goals. Otherwise, one is exposing oneself to one of the dangers of digital media: investing a lot of time in something that is essentially fruitless and which is simply not paying its way.

So over the next six or so months may own ‘strategy’, if such it is, is likely to be this:

Instagram: I will continue to use my main account (it is a business account) but tweak it to give a better idea of whom I am, what I get up to and what I enjoy. I will only post work I would be happy to show my peers (i.e. not family snaps) but the overall intent will be to be interesting, relaxed and creative. A good example of how to do this is Tom Hunter’s Instagram feed (Hunter 2020).

Facebook, Twitter, TikTok. Facebook is strictly for family use in my case. I won’t use Twitter because I have serious concerns about the platform’s sanity and ethics. TikTok is up and coming but I am the wrong generation for its demographic.

Websites: I will maintain and keep current and tidy my portfolio website. However, it is clear that the focus for photographers has shifted to Instagram. A portfolio website may be needed as a showcase but the action is now elsewhere.

An Experiment

I have registered a new domain name for a brand I am devising called White Bridge Arts. This is for avowedly commercial material, in colour, quite distinct from my fine arts practice. My aim is to open a webshop on an Etsy-like sales site where I will offer images printed on mugs, T-shirts, cushion covers, duvets and other household items, as well as prints. Since all printing is on-demand by the owners of the site, the initial investment required is minimal (though the site’s commission on sales is quite high).

I will use this as a testbed and learning experience, and simply for some fun. Marketing will all be done under the White Bridge Arts brand, so if I decide to promote the shop on Instagram or elsewhere then I will open a new account under the brand name and use it purely for business. After six months I will take stock.  One tool I will use is Google Trends (Google 2020). As a free tool, it can be a very helpful way of noticing what is catching the public eye and what is fading from it.

And overall? I think my approach overall is a fair reflection of who I am. I love fine arts photography. However, I can’t stand snobbery or in-group thinking and I have a strong commercial streak. I do not want to become stuck and stale by hiding away in a single field.

References

GOOGLE. 2020. ‘Google Trends’. Google Trends [online]. Available at: https://trends.google.com/trends/?geo=US [accessed 27 Nov 2020].

HUNTER, Tom. 2020. ‘Tom Hunter Photography’ [Instagram]. Available at: https://www.instagram.com/tomhunterphotography/ [accessed 27 Nov 2020].

NEW YORK TIMES. 2020. ‘Immersive (AR/VR)’. New York Times [online]. Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/spotlight/augmented-reality [accessed 27 Nov 2020].

PFAB, Anna-Maria. 2020. ‘Live Lecture’. Falmouth Flexible Photography [online]. Available at: https://recordings.reu1.blindsidenetworks.com/falmouth/1eb7c4fd28e98bd83a3a838e6bdfca0cc920f49f-1606328806458/capture/ [accessed 27 Nov 2020].

PHO704: Live Brief Challenge Presentations

This module’s Live Brief Challenges, which were presented yesterday, have turned out to be very worthwhile. I teamed up with Tim, Mark, Marcel, Stephen and John for what turned out to be an exercise in studying a new arts enterprise and then proposing a new branding for the enterprise together with a brand strategy and matching visual language going forward.

There was a lot to learn and these are the things that emerged for me:

  1. Collaboration and teamwork are central to a successful creative endeavour. It is important to treat differences of opinion not as points of conflict but as indications of a rich range of options. The challenge is to blend those different views into the best offer one can make.
  2. Research is vital. My research included taking two video courses in brands and marketing (Boyd 2020, Pederson 2017), looking at case studies of rebranding exercises by a commercial marketing agency (Summa 2020) and researching the likely market for the new arts enterprise we were pitching to. This led me to look not only at all kinds of arts enterprises, from the Frieze media and events company (Frieze 2020) to the Gagosian Gallery (Gagosian 2020) but also to look at what turned out to be a goldmine of data arising from the Burning Man festival in America and the Nowhere festival in Spain (Burning Man Journal 2019, Nowhere 2019). Both festivals assemble and make public full statistical data year-on-year about their audience and its demographics. By looking at hard data covering why people attend arts festivals, we were able to come much closer to answering a key question: what is your audience?
  3. A consistent visual language is an important part of branding. It can be deployed in different scenarios but if done well the language always tells your audience who you are. However, getting it right is very hard. We came up with an idea – using circles and spheres as a language (and eventually a logo) – but I think we all found it much more difficult than we thought to produce first-class work.
Contrapol Presentation-final-1
Fig.1 Live Brief Challenge 2020. From a presentation on brand promises.
Contrapol Presentation-final-2
Fig. 2: Live Brief Challenge 2020. From a presentation on visual language and branding.

The principles involved here are really worthwhile. They are a lesson in thinking clearly about a project and identifying its key requirements. They are also a lesson in consistency and professional execution, things that are important not only for a commercial photographer but in many other walks of life. A part of what I will take away from the Live Challenge is ‘The Branding Process in Eight Steps’ (Chiaravalle and Findlay Schenck 2020), but in many ways this checklist should really be called ‘How to Think Clearly and Analyse a Problem in Eight Steps’.

  • Determine exactly what you are branding
  • Research everything about the product and its market
  • Position a brand by defining what makes it unique
  • Define a brand by stating what unique benefits it offers, what it stands for, what value it promises to deliver, and the brand image that will permeate all communications
  • Develop a brand identity including a logo and other signature elements and a brand ‘voice’ and use consistently in all communications
  • Launch using publicity, social media, promotions and presentations
  • Manage a brand by ensuring that it continues to deliver its brand promises fully and consistently
  • Monitor, evaluate and update a brand against changes in the market and in your own business

References

BOYD, Drew. 2020. ‘Branding Foundations’. LinkedIn Learning [online]. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/branding-foundations-2/building-a-successful-brand?u=56738929 [accessed 28 Oct 2020].

BURNING MAN JOURNAL. 2019. ‘Black Rock City Census’. Burning Man Journal [online]. Available at: https://journal.burningman.org/census/ [accessed 10 Oct 2020].

CHIARAVALLE, Bill and Barbara FINDLAY SCHENCK. 2020. ‘Branding For Dummies Cheat Sheet’. Branding for Dummies [online]. Available at: https://www.dummies.com/business/marketing/branding/branding-for-dummies-cheat-sheet/ [accessed 5 Oct 2020].

FRIEZE. 2020. ‘Home | Frieze’. Frieze [online]. Available at: https://www.frieze.com/ [accessed 6 Oct 2020].

GAGOSIAN. 2020. ‘Gagosian’. Gagosian [online]. Available at: https://gagosian.com/ [accessed 6 Oct 2020].

NOWHERE. 2019. ‘Nowhere Census 2019’. Nowhere [online]. Available at: https://www.goingnowhere.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Nowhere-Census-2019.pdf [accessed 10 Oct 2020].

PEDERSEN, Lindsay. 2017. ‘Create a Brand Strategy’. LinkedIn Learning [online]. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/create-a-brand-strategy/tailor?u=56738929 [accessed 28 Oct 2020].

SUMMA. 2020. ‘Case Studies’. Summa [online]. Available at: https://en.summa.es/proyectos/ [accessed 20 Nov 2020].

Figures

Figure 1. LIVE BRIEF CHALLENGE. 2020. ‘From a presentation on brand promises’. From: Live Brief Challenge (Falmouth University). 2020. Collection of the author.

Figure 2. LIVE BRIEF CHALLENGE. 2020. ‘From a presentation on visual language and branding’. From: Live Brief Challenge (Falmouth University). 2020. Collection of the author.

PHO704 Week 8: Photography and its Fine Arts Markets

This week has been helpful for its insights into the world of galleries, dealers, auctioneers and museums.

However, there is a lack of nuts and bolts here. For example, if a gallery takes on an artist or photographer, what kind of contract is involved and what are the artist’s or photographer’s typical obligations? Some more on that would have been helpful. I have found some articles and contract templates online – see Artquest 2020 and Dan Schultz 2017 – but it is hard to know how relevant they are.

The two larger questions here, however, are whether Fine Arts is a market I fit into and what in fact ‘Fine Arts’ actually means in terms of photography.

There seems considerable debate about what Fine Arts Photography really involves. As a category it is generally regarded as slippery, going back at least to Modernism and the work of Steichen, O’Keeffe, Weston and probably much earlier. Perhaps a satisfactory approach is Stephen Shore’s observation that ‘Pictures exist on a mental level that may be coincident with the depictive level – what the picture is showing – but does not mirror it. The mental level elaborates, refines, and embellishes our perceptions of the depictive level’ (Shore 2007: 97). Fine Arts Photography prioritizes aesthetics and conception far above the simply depictive, something recently addressed in Medium Format Magazine in connection with Ansel Adams’ ideas of ‘visualization’ (Gordon 2020):

‘ … the fine art photographer synthesizes the external event (the thing worthy of having your camera pointed at it) with the internal event (the intuitive recognition of an idea or concept related to the thing). Credit is due to Ansel Adams for these terms, the internal and external events … Ansel said: “Visualization is the most important factor in the making of a photograph. Visualization includes all the steps from selecting the subject to making the final print.”

‘ … The representational photographer depicts physical appearances as found and doesn’t typically interfere with the subject or the light. In contrast, the fine art photograph may be entirely the result of interference. The finished print might scarcely resemble the found state’ (Gordon 2020).

This approach is not only true to my own experience, but it allows Fine Arts Photography to incorporate other genres such as landscape and portraiture when those merge into it. Fashion is notably one and an example would be the practice of Tim Walker. Conceptual art is another important genre within Fine Art Photography, as in the work of artists such as Cindy Sherman and Jeff Wall.

However, one of the points in this week’s coursework  – see O’ Hagan 2012 and Heyman 2015 – is that what may motivate the artist and what the market makes of that may be very different things. It seems unlikely that, say, Paul Graham would consider himself a fine arts maker although to the art market he has become one. Tim Walker is forthright:

‘I find the word “art” a little bit self-congratulatory and I find it uncomfortable: I’m a photographer. Art isn’t decided at the moment it’s made – a lot of people would disagree with me, but I think time decides what art is. The most unlikely things become art. For me to say, “This is art photography,” I’m just not that sort of person; this is photography, this is me playing with a camera. Call it what you will but I would call it photography’ (Smith 2012).

While Snowdon is famously alleged to have claimed that photographs ‘should be seen in a magazine or a book and then be used to wrap up the fish and chucked away’.

Tim_Walker_Shoot-for-the-Moon
Fig. 1: Tim Walker 2019. From his book, Shoot for the Moon (Walker 2019). Walker has said, ‘I find the word “art” a little bit self-congratulatory and I find it uncomfortable: I’m a photographer’ (Smith 2012).

How do I fit into this? I think many of my images would fit into a fine arts definition since the images are made for conceptual and aesthetic reasons more than for documentary ones. I think I could see myself signing a contact with a gallery, on the basis of the kind of templates mentioned above. But I still see myself as a photographer rather than as an artist. Art is for others and the market to decide. Some of this week’s coursework suggests that the fine arts world is has more than its fair share of sharks, tycoons and money ramps, which is not really my world at all – even though as both Boll and Heyman point out, photograph is still only a very small percentage of the overall market for the arts (Boll 2011, Heyman 2015). In fact one can argue that the entire idea of Fine Arts Photography is something of a ramp following the ‘discovery’ of photography as a lucrative new revenue source by galleries and museums in the 1970s, as described by Douglas Crimp in his essay ‘The Museum’s Old, the Library’s New Subject’ (Crimp 1999). I could play ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ but I am better as a contrarian snapper.

References

ARTQUEST. 2020. ‘Contracts with Galleries’. Artquest [online]. Available at: https://www.artquest.org.uk/artlaw-article/contracts-with-galleries/ [accessed 10 Nov 2020].

BOLL, Dirk. 2011. ‘The Structure of the Art Market’. In Dirk BOLL (ed.). Art for Sale: A Candid View of the Art Market. Ostfildern, Germany: Hatje Cantz, 29–49.

CRIMP, Douglas, 1999. ‘The Museum’s Old, the Library’s New Subject’. In Jessica EVANS and Stuart HALL (eds). 1999. Visual Culture: The Reader. London: SAGE, 213-23.

GORDON, Michael E. 2020. ‘Photography Is Easy. Art Is Hard.’ Medium Format Magazine [online]. Available at: https://mediumformat.com/photography-is-easy-art-is-hard/ [accessed 8 Nov 2020].

HEYMAN, Stephen. 2015. ‘Photography’s Place in the Global Art Market’. International New York Times [online]. Available at: https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.falmouth.ac.uk/docview/1678821643/805AA85CE9144436PQ/1?accountid=15894 [accessed 9 Nov 2020].

O’HAGAN, Sean. 2012. ‘Photography: A Guardian Masterclass: The World’s Most Expensive Photograph …Is of a Scene That Doesn’t Exist. Photography Critic Sean O’Hagan Examines the Changing Landscape of a Thriving Medium’. The Guardian [online]. Available at: https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.falmouth.ac.uk/docview/1159222358?pq-origsite=summon [accessed 8 Nov 2020].

SCHULTZ, Dan. 2017. ‘Art Gallery Contract’. Dan Schultz Fine Art [online]. Available at: https://www.danschultzfineart.com/art-gallery-contract/ [accessed 8 Nov 2020].

SHORE, Stephen. 2007. The Nature of Photographs. 2nd ed. London: Phaidon Press.

SMITH, Karl. 2012. ‘Interview with Tim Walker’. Tim Walker [online]. Available at: https://www.timwalkerphotography.com/articles/interview-with-tim-walker [accessed 10 Nov 2020].

WALKER, Tim. 2019. Shoot for the Moon. London: Thames and Hudson.

Figures

Figure 1. Tim WALKER. 2019. Untitled. From: Tim Walker. 2019. Shoot for the Moon. London: Thames and Hudson.

PHO704 Week 7: Who Buys Photography? Part II

Gemma Fletcher

Gemma Fetcher’s presentation (Fletcher 2020) was full of energy and exciting in how it revealed photography as a tool for discovery and an interface with wider cultural issues. That makes photography much more worthwhile than simply a camera and a print. I also picked up from her these points:

  • Focus intently on what you want to say and never forget to question the cultural assumptions that have influenced you and which may sit unexamined in your images.
  • Nurture an everyday commitment to ‘just showing up’ and practise, practise, practise.
  • Collaboration is vital. One needs to build relationships even without the expectation that anything might come from them. Art directors, for example, are constantly looking for new photographers to work with. That is part of their job. They should be keen to meet but you need to approach them in the right way. One can treat the first meeting as a ‘chemistry check’. You are trying to build an ongoing, intimate relationship and that can take time. A one-off approach to work can be self-defeating and is, arguably, exploitative. It is certainly not collaborative.

Fletcher referenced an article on Viviane Sassen in connection with photography’s powers of discovery and means of engaging with wider social and cultural issues. In Sassen’s own words:

‘It’s so important to allow yourself the freedom to be truly creative. Experimentation is central to my practice. … I feel like I’m always solving little puzzles or making combinations … It’s all just trial and error. I’m always looking for that little bit of magic. …You need to photograph every day, make stuff every day and not be precious about it’ (Fletcher 2018).

This is really important to hear.

Amy Simmons

Amy Simmons on ‘Commercial Considerations’ (Simmons 2020) was a tight and helpful presentation. Even though I have no wish to become a commercial photographer in advertising, the ideas and methods discussed are applicable to improving one’s practice in almost any field. For example, I had not realized how complex and painstaking the commercial commissioning process is, and how all of it depends on collaboration and teamwork. Unless one is prepared to work as part of a team, there is no way forward.

Simmons helpfully provided a list of key points to remember when putting one’s work out there and I hope I remember them.

  • Find out who your main potential clients are and who is the correct contact at each one.
  • Send professional emails with full links and embedded images to save the recipient work and time.
  • Send printed content to potential contacts, perhaps postcards with one’s details on the back. Others will see them and big agencies often keep a database of postcards and other printed material to consult later.
  • Arrange portfolio views if possible. Nothing beats meeting in person but you need to prepare for it and research the client’s activities, so that you can demonstrate some commitment. Do not be afraid to ask for critique.
  • Attend events and private views in your chosen industry. It is a good way of starting to network and of discovering who the key industry people are. Some big advertising agencies have private galleries, so find out if it might be possible you show your work there.
  • Take part in industry charity exhibitions. It is a good way to become involved and to become better known.
  • Conduct business professionally and respond promptly to emails and phone calls.
  • Be yourself (despite the pressure) and let your passions shine through. Do not try to fake it since that never works.

This is a very useful list. A second helpful list in Simmons’ presentation was of the key points to remember when assembling and presenting a portfolio of work. This is so helpful in almost any context.

Peer-to-Peer Webinar

I enjoyed this very much. An online course can be difficult without personal contact and I welcome contact. Just getting to know one’s peers a little better is a pleasure in itself. I felt there was a good exchange of ideas in a relaxed atmosphere. It was pointed out to me that my research project could be of a city at night anywhere and so might my project be enriched if I did not feel I had to tie it so closely to Oxford? I admit I had not though of that and it is an idea well worth further consideration. So, overall, a win and I hope everyone felt so.

References

FLETCHER, Gemma. 2020. ‘Guest Lecture with Gemma Fletcher’. Falmouth Flexible Photography Hub [online]. Available at: https://recordings.reu1.blindsidenetworks.com/falmouth/3df3c9f0d8bf002ba92667d57e8da87398cc8490-1603910860195/capture/ [accessed 4 Nov 2020].

FLETCHER, Gemma. 2018. ‘Viviane Sassen on Creativity and Experimentation’. British Journal of Photography [online]. Available at: https://www.1854.photography/2018/07/viviane-sassen-on-creativity-and-experimentation/ [accessed 4 Nov 2020].

SIMMONS, Amy. 2020. ‘Week 7: Presentation – Commercial Commissions with Amy Simmons’. Falmouth Flexible Photography Hub [online]. Available at: https://flex.falmouth.ac.uk/courses/671/pages/week-7-presentation-commercial-commissions-with-amy-simmons?module_item_id=43404 [accessed 4 Nov 2020].

PHO704 Week 5: Turning Professional

This continues my previous post and covers some of the things I would need to know if I wanted to become a professional commercial photographer.

The Legal Stuff

It is clear that to turn professional I would need to acquire a working knowledge of contract law, rights and obligations, and typical industry contracts. The documents available on the AOP website are a good place to start (Association of Photographers 2020). I have applied for membership.

I would also need to acquire a working knowledge of how images are typically bought, sold and leased, and with what kind of deals concerning territorial and reproduction rights. A couple of useful fees calculators have been suggested, on the Getty Images and the AOP websites.

I would need to obtain and carry release forms. These could be useful almost anywhere. A professional photographer has recommended a release form app to me, Easy Release, which means forms can be available on one’s iPhone or tablet. Useful when in the field.

Finally, it would be important to take out proper insurance, if and when appropriate.

Easy Release
Fig. 1: Easy Release, a model release app designed for smartphones and tablets.

Fees and Charges

‘How much am I worth?’ is not a question I find easy. The commercial photographer Ron Timehin offers some helpful suggestions (Timehin 2020). In any potentially awkward conversation, one can start by asking whether there is a budget available for the work. If the answer is ‘yes’, one can take the upper hand by saying something like, ‘My normal day rate is £350, how does that fit with your budget?’ According to Timehin, in 2020 £300-£400 per day is a good rate for beginners, and this should include curation and post-production time too. With successful commissions, he says, one should be able to increase one’s day rate annually.

Another overview of current conditions I have found helpful is Sean Tucker’s recent video Pricing Your Photography and Finding Clients (Tucker 2020).

When to Say Yes and When to Say No

If you are trying to earn a living, working for nothing is hardly attractive but it can still be tempting. Ron Timehin has said that he only takes on assignments when they fulfil at least two of three criteria (Timehin 2020):

  • Financial gain
  • Educational interest
  • Passionate or experiential attraction

Timehin says that exposure (i.e. publicity) can be a fourth reason, but that one has to be very careful. ‘Exposure’ is often used as an excuse by people who don’t want to pay for something and who in consequence will value what you do at nothing. The first three criteria are much more important.

Agents

Looking at representation by a photography agency would come towards the end of the process of becoming a professional photographer, at least in my case. Unless I can give a consistently professional impression, why would any agent want me on their books at all? If I did opt to have an agent, then I would need to research which agencies specialize in the kind of genres I am active in. Agents can offer much more than one might think (Pfab 2020), so they are not to be disregarded.

Professional Advice

Knowing a specialist law firm or two would be helpful if only for advice. One suggested is Swann Turton.

An accountant is important in my view, if one can be afforded. A good accountant will help one to maximise return on investment and minimise taxes as well as deal with the authorities. Estimating and invoicing using proper forms is important, so these must be obtained perhaps in the first instance from the AOP. If enough business comes in, then accounting software would soon become necessary.

And all this before writing the first emails, pitching to a client or making the first exploratory cold call! It is easy for the work required to seem forbidding, but if broken down into separate steps and taken one item at a time, I am sure it can be done.

References

ASSOCIATION OF PHOTOGRAPHERS. 2020. ‘AOP’. The Association of Photographers [online]. Available at: https://www.the-aop.org/ [accessed 28 Oct 2020].

PFAB, Anna-Maria. 2020. ‘Week 5 Live Lecture’. Falmouth Flexible Photography Hub [online]. Available at: https://recordings.reu1.blindsidenetworks.com/falmouth/15c46b7e7981013e41de8a43f4b0f0fa57259353-1603738095776/capture/ [accessed 28 Oct 2020].

TIMEHIN, Ron. 2020. ‘Basics of Business on Instagram’. The Photography Show & The Video Show Virtual Festival [online]. Available at: https://photographyshow.vfairs.com/en/hall#topics-tab [accessed 29 Sep 2020].

TUCKER, Sean. 2020. ‘Pricing Your Photography and Finding Clients’. YouTube [online]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36G3xKe-dCE [accessed 28 Oct 2020].

Figures

Figure 1. APPLICATIONGAP. 2O2O. ‘Easy Release (Pro) – Model Release App’. From:  APPLICATIONGAP. 2O2O. ApplicationGap [online]. Available at: https://applicationgap.com/apps/easyrelease/ [accessed 28 Oct 2020].

PHO704 Week 5: Who Buys Photography?

This has been a good week, now that I am starting to consider the commercial aspects of the different genres within the wide field of photography.

However, there are a lot of things I would need to sort out before I could expect anyone to buy my photography. While I do not wish to become a commercial photographer, all the topics are an excellent way of improving my practice and, as they say, getting my act together.

The following are the main things to have struck me, following the course’s Live Lecture this week (Pfab 2020) and my reading of Scott Grant’s The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography (Grant 2016). It is by no means a complete list.

The Market

Decide where I stand. In my case the genres are social documentary, editorial and Fine Arts.

Research the customers for those markets such as agencies, galleries, magazines and other publications. Find out who the commissioning editors and influencers are. Seek out workshops and events in this area. One cannot start networking without meeting people.

Start to learn about the main players are and how they operate. To some extent, that can by done by reading interviews (e.g. Ryan 2020) or checking for interview videos on YouTube. It can make a real difference when contacting someone if you can say you really liked their recent article, or book, or interview, etc. It shows interest and research.

Marketing Oneself

Assemble a creditable portfolio, printed and online. Ensure that it contains relevant work that reflects where I stand in the market.

Assemble a website. For now I will continue to use the Adobe Portfolio system because it is fairly easy and well organized.

Establish a business account on Instagram and learn how to get the best from the platform when treated as a business. Look at other forms of social media on the same basis, such as FaceBook and LinkedIn.

Have some business cards printed. These are extremely useful in many circumstances. They are not only part of being professional but also part of being sincere when given to people one has met on the street and asked to photograph, for example.

Establish a consistent tone and format for all communications, including email. This is professional etiquette, but it also helps a client acquire a better idea of who they are dealing with.

Branding

Branding can be a helpful discipline. I have learned a lot from working through two series on LinkedIn Learning (Boyd 2020, Pedersen 2017).

Branding obliges one to identify essentials: it focuses on exactly what I can offer, what values I have, and what overall mission statement I can provide to explain myself. Values (ethics, what matters to someone) are easily overlooked but important. It feels good to work ethically and keep to an industry code of conduct. Values may be particularly important to some clients, too, such as those involved in sustainability and the climate crisis, or difficult social questions and civil rights.

There are several other topics to cover from this week, but for the sake of brevity I will include those in a separate post.

References

BOYD, Drew. 2020. ‘Branding Foundations’. LinkedIn Learning [online]. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/branding-foundations-2/building-a-successful-brand?u=56738929 [accessed 10 Oct 2020].

KOWENHOVEN, Bill. 2014. ‘Interview with Kathy Ryan’. HotShoe international (187), [online]. Available at: http://www.hotshoeinternational.com/ [accessed 28 Oct 2020].

PEDERSEN, Lindsay. 2017. ‘Create a Brand Strategy’. LinkedIn Learning [online]. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/learning/create-a-brand-strategy/tailor?u=56738929 [accessed 5 Oct 2020].

PFAB, Anna-Maria. 2020. ‘Week 5 Live Lecture’. Falmouth Flexible Photography Hub [online]. Available at: https://recordings.reu1.blindsidenetworks.com/falmouth/15c46b7e7981013e41de8a43f4b0f0fa57259353-1603738095776/capture/ [accessed 28 Oct 2020].

SCOTT, Grant. 2016. The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography. 1st edn. Burlington, MA: Focal Press.

PHO704 Week 4: The Current Commercial Environment

There is one thing to get out of the way to begin with concerning this week’s coursework. I have always thought the distinction between art and commerce was false, when not simply ludicrous and pure snobbery. What matters is respect – for oneself, the client, the images and anyone else involved. The task is to deliver the best one can, according to the brief and in the way most appropriate to the nature of the brief. That way, one is aiming squarely at the intended audience no matter how it is classified.

While I have no ambition to become a professional photographer, it is clear that much is to be gained by studying the subject and considering what professionalism means. For me, this is rather like clearing out an attic. One must sort through a great deal of lumber, discard what is not wanted or appropriate, polish up what one wants to keep and can work with, and learn to focus on the key pieces from the pile that really matter.

There are many different kinds of professional photography. Scott Grant identifies ten different specialisations (Grant 2016 A: 60) and there are many minor ones in addition. Specialisation is common to many fields and it is easy to see why. Often it is the only way to follow a passion, acquire the knowledge required to master one’s field, build a personal network of the people who matter in that field, and in consequence become known as someone worth employing, whether the field is medicine, science, publishing or photography.

The suggestion is to ask myself where I fit in with that? Scott Grant has some useful suggestions and practical ideas to offer in The Essential Guide to Student Photography (Grant 2016 A). What I need to do is ask myself, ‘What Is My Photographic Voice?’, if I have one, and identify (or simply list) the things I like and care about, the things that influence me, the emotions I tend towards, even the colours and visual patterns I tend towards. A study of my archive will help with that. All this will include researching the work of other photographers, of course.

For now, my experience tends towards social documentary and event photography, with a side-line in wildlife or at least the natural world. I lack skills in portrait photography and were I turning professional then I would seek to acquire them. None of this means social documentary and portrait photography would be the only specialisation available to me but it might be somewhere to begin. However, a careful look at the risks and rewards of any specialisation is important. Here today but potentially gone tomorrow? See Hadland on the risky future of photojournalism (Hadland et al 2016).

There are two other sides to professionalism, however. The first are the qualities required to sustain oneself as a professional. Scott Grant has listed them as follows (Grant 2016 B):

    1. You need to be able to take rejection, rejection and more rejection of your work and still stay positive.
    2. You need to be consistent in your image making.
    3. You must have the ability and confidence to create narrative.
    4. You must be able to solve problems through visual language.
    5. You must always give the client what they ask for, what they didn’t (but works best) and what you know to be the strongest image (that may or not fulfil the brief).
    6. You must be able to talk about your work eloquently and with passion.
    7. You need to understand the position of the client/curator/enabler.
    8. You must be open-minded, culturally aware and interested in stuff!
    9. You must never believe the hype but always understand the hype.
    10. You must never give in or up.

In short, one must be resilient, adaptable and creative enough to find solutions to the problems clients may set. They are, after all, hiring you in the first place to solve a problem they have. However, it is important to add some other things to Grant’s list. Financial literacy is vital in running a business and, today, so is the ability to market oneself effectively, identify clients, understand branding and acquire a sure grasp of social media and other marketing channels. Collaboration, teamwork and diplomacy in one’s business dealings are vital too. It is a long list!

Another side of professionalism is simply understanding how an industry works. So the question then is, ‘How does the photography business actually work?’ As Scott Grant points out, ‘Photography as a business is incredibly rewarding creatively, but it does have guidelines, rules of engagement and expectations of the photographer’ (Scott 2016 A). This is all a process of learning.

Some of those guidelines and rules of engagement have been touched on in this week’s coursework, for example, the basics of how photo agencies like Getty Images work and the differences between flat rates and royalties. There are of course a great number of other things to learn and each specialization within photography will call for different ones. These could be familiarising oneself with the many different specialists involved in a fashion shoot, from props to make-up, and managing a team. Or it might be a solid understanding of release forms and their legal implications in documentary photography, or expertise in realistic and fully itemised budgets and costings.

It is clear that among these many skills, knowing how editors work and how to pitch ideas to them is crucial. Emma Bowkett (Bowkett 2017) has been very helpful in this regard, as has Tom Seymour (Seymour 2020) and Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz (Jedrosz 2020). In fact a slide shown by Jedrosz neatly sums up the different roles someone in her own field (documentary photography) must perform.

Jedrosz-1-2020.png
Fig. 1: Hanna-Katrina Jedrosz 2020. Some of the skills required by a documentary photographer.

References

BOWKETT, Emma. 2017. ‘Creative Brief: Emma Bowkett’. The British Journal of Photography 164(7858), 84–5 [online]. Available at: https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.falmouth.ac.uk/docview/1920352153?pq-origsite=summon [accessed 14 Oct 2020].

HADLAND, Adrian, Paul LAMBERT and David CAMPBELL. n.d. ‘The Future of Professional Photojournalism’. Journalism Practice 10(7), 820–32.

JEDROSZ, Hanna-Katrina. 2020. ‘Guest Lecture’. Falmouth Flexible Photography Hub [online]. Available at: https://recordings.reu1.blindsidenetworks.com/falmouth/6f944108ad67c5daec7f4ba0b772ec39213193f5-1602697725024/capture/ [accessed 16 Oct 2020].

SCOTT, Grant. 2016 A. The Essential Student Guide to Professional Photography. 1st edn. Burlington, MA: Focal Press.

SCOTT, Grant. 2016 B. ‘What Makes A Professional Photographer? 10 Observations’. The United Nations of Photography [online]. Available at: https://unitednationsofphotography.com/2016/09/03/what-makes-a-professional-photographer-10-observations/ [accessed 15 Oct 2020].

SEYMOUR, Tom. 2020. ‘Creating a Press Campaign and Getting Published’. Falmouth Flexible Photography Hub [online]. Available at: https://recordings.reu1.blindsidenetworks.com/falmouth/44e40a05380d0df14d38c59bed78489db86b1e49-1600865116374/capture/ [accessed 29 Sep 2020].

Figures

Figure 1. Hanna-Katrina JEDOSZ. 2020. ‘Some of the skills required by a documentary photographer’. From: ‘Guest Lecture’. Falmouth Flexible Photography Hub [online]. Available at: https://recordings.reu1.blindsidenetworks.com/falmouth/6f944108ad67c5daec7f4ba0b772ec39213193f5-1602697725024/capture/ [accessed 16 Oct 2020].