A S C R A P B O O K O F S O L U T I O N S F O R T H E P H O T O G R A P H E R
Reviews of photography products that enhance the enjoyment of taking pictures. Published frequently but irregularly.
2 January 2013
The ASMP Guide to New Markets in Photography is an ambitious book. As well it should be, intended (as it is) for the ambitious photographer.
And yet the first thing that struck us about it also made a lasting impression. Each chapter starts with a portrait facing the opening page. A close-up black and white face. Almost artless, almost clinical. But affecting.
This is, that approach seemed to say, a book for individuals trying to navigate the new landscape of professional photography. It's a perspective the book never loses whether discussing technological trends, copyright or strategies. And it's also a perspective that comes into full bloom in the third part of the book in which 50 individual photographers describe their own businesses.
Yes, there are three parts to this well-indexed 282-page paperback. The first discusses the industry in general, the second how to build a business in it and the third presents those intriguing case studies.
Edited by Susan Carr, a past president of the American Society of Media Photographers, eight people contributed essays to the book, a few of them more than one.
PART ONE: AN ERA OF CONFLICT
In "Where are the Clients?" Carr observes that despite the difficulties of making it as a photographer, "The reality is that most independent working photographers only need a handful of customers to make a good living. What we need are loyal clients who value our unique product and compensate us fairly for it."
That certainly cuts a daunting task down to a manageable size.
Tom Kennedy, managing editor for the PBS NewsHour and former director of photography at National Geographic, discusses "Visual Communications in the New Economy." He notes, "In this new media landscape, the storytelling is being consumed in a variety of ways on a variety of platforms. Quality is crucial to gaining consumer attention and matters as consumers seek to distinguish signal from noise in the daily torrent of media messaging."
But nobody can do it all any more. Consequently, the "crucial idea" to grasp is that photographers today should think of themselves as part of team providing a "service rather than a commoditized product" to "those seeking to use visual communication to communicate."
Photographers have always been people persons but photography, he argues, is now a service industry. An have to collaborate. Which is the concept behind Adobe's Creative Cloud, come to think of it.
In "The Role of Technology," Peter Krogh, author of The DAM Book, looks at the "structure and implications of real technological development." In a very readable chapter, he points out the importance of using standards, of platform development rather than product development, of digital photography as a "textbook example of disruptive technology," the importance of Application Program Interfaces and the winner-take-all economics of Google.
But he doesn't leave you swirling in progress. In the last section of the essay he offers seven ways to keep up with technology without bleeding to death on the cutting edge. Our two favorites were pay attention to what kids are doing and get a Lynda.com account.
Pittsburg-based photographer Richard Dale Kelly takes on copyright in "The Ongoing Tug of War Between Copyright Law and Technology." He says plainly, "Copyright and copy technology are in a constant tug of war. As artists, we must accept that copyright laws will always be out of step with what copy technology offers."
He continues the discussion in "Where Are the Solutions that Create Compensation?" in which he states flatly in the opening line, "there is no one solution that we will apply to every assignment or every client." That leads him to take on some sacred cows, like the value of residual rights in what he calls a progressive view on copyright. Our coffee got cold reading this chapter as we became more and more engaged in the discussion of rights and their value.
These essays give you a pretty good grasp of the lay of the land in 2013. You may (and why not?) disagree with some of the recommendations. But this is terrain you have to traverse, questions you need to confront, discussions worth having as you decide what seeds to scatter in the future.
PART TWO: A MANAGEABLE SOLUTION
Then the Guide gets practical, especially for the entrepreneur.
Judy Herrmann of http://2goodthings.com provides a series of exercises, daunting exercises you will no doubt skip right through. But, as she puts it, "they are all about gathering information so you can make better decisions." And they've worked for her for over 20 years.
Communicatrix (as she calls herself) Colleen Wainwright discusses "Branding Your Business." It's about consistent marketing but not in the sense of accessorizing your outfit. She quotes Ze Frank, "Brand is an emotional aftertaste." It's what people think of you, not what you tell them you are.
That implies your behavior, a small detail often neglected in discussions of branding. She compares Virgin to Southwest to show how "branding-through-action" works. Then she reveals her Formula for focusing on clients and what you can do for them rather than wandering off into "dig-me territory."
In "Marketing Today," Wainwright covers what to do with that brand in the new economy. "Be useful. Be specific. Be nice." She suggests, "Don't worry about giving away information for free! If you're truly an expert, people who need your services will hire you, once they're convinced they know and trust you to do your stuff."
From your page to our readers eyes, to coin a new prayer.
She covers blogging, social media and the gamification of marketing before concluding, "The more you do, the more likely you are to create marketing that pulses with life: that truth of you, translated into the language of them, that transcends the mundane realm of 'content' and 'messaging,' to become pure poetry."
Blake Discher, a search engine optimization expert and Detroit-based photographer, talks about "Selling in the New Economy." He wastes no time in arguing we're salespeople first, photographers second. "There, I said it," he notes. "In print."
Among the practical tips he gives, we particularly liked his advice to take something out of your bid if you have to lower your price and to send a watermarked desktop background to your email list.
Selling, he says, is a life-long job which we get better at with experience. But, he says, "we get another opportunity to do better with tomorrow's inquiry."
Herrmann returns for the concluding chapter in this section, "Changing Your Course." Change is a given but anticipating it and adapting to it are skills that can be learned, she promises. "The trick is applying the same creativity, problem-solving skills, and adaptability we use in our creative work to our careers."
Amen to that.
PART THREE: CASE STUDIES
Unearthing the nuggets of advice in the first two parts of the book was a little like hunting for truffles. You're in danger of walking right by them until your faithful companion barks or grunts to you to look a bit closer and dig them out.
But the case studies in the third part of the book, presented by Los Angeles photographer Barry Schwartz aren't so subtle. There organized in three chapters that focus on new products or services, marketing and sales focus, and new business/photographer identity.
The format is stark. Name, Web site and how long they've been in business. Then a few paragraphs describing the business. It may be stark, but it wouldn't make a bad resume format. You get right to the meat. Truffles aside.
We called this an ambitious book and if this lengthy review proves anything, that's what. The topics -- the new economy, copyright, marketing, etc. -- may seem wrung out from a business school textbook. But the real-life experiences and nuggets of advice the authors provide bring those topics to life.
And then there are those portraits that open each chapter They remind you what this book is about. People. Individuals not crowds. You.
You won't read this in one sitting. But you will come back to it.
The ASMP Guide to New Markets in Photography, edited by Susan Carr, published by Allworth Press, 282 pages, $24.95 (or $14.71 at amazon.com).
Enjoyable review. Just a thought; It would be interesting to read your review of your book. I'm still waiting for your book to come out.
I have enjoyed your writing for years at IR and look forward to many more at Photo Corners.
I don't have time to read as many reviews and such as I used to. Yet when I saw you were writing someplace new I made the time to check it out. I knew I was in for some enjoyable reading. I was not disappointed.
Good luck to you!!!
-- Jamie Felton, Felton Photo
Thanks, Jamie! Your kind words are very much appreciated. Meanwhile, we have indeed been working on the three-volume compilation and now that the run is over, the text can be finished. The current plan is to offer the first volume, which has been through two revisions already) as a bonus to subscribers. -- Mike