The Importance of Directories for Self promotion

A couple of posts ago we talked about some interesting ideas to get your independent photo business up and running.  While some of the ideas in this tutorial might have offended some, I’ve heard feedback from more than a few of you that at least two of the ideas worked. Great! Never stop looking for alternative and unique ways to get your artistry out to the masses.

One thing I’ve been trying a lot of lately is submitting my site to the various clearing houses for photographers. This is the most popular such directory in the UK - http://www.photographers.co.uk/, they have led a couple of clients to find my business, however I’m not overly impressed with the admin area and the options for premium listings. They seem slightly overpriced, compared to adwords or other re-marketing services online, and the conversation rate from their referral traffic is hovering around 1% over the last two months. Not bad but not great.

Unfortunately the market for photographers directories in Great Britain is far from saturated. Or maybe fortunately? What’s this you say, a new way to broaden ones horizons and create business modalities outside the box. Indeed, that is what my next venture will be. The big problem is that I don’t know a lick of coding or database management. Luckily there are tons and tons and loads of do-it-yourself directory software applications on the market that escort newbies like me through every step of the process without having to spend a fortune hiring software developers. My good friend over at Moist Pixels used the aforementioned directory script to build a very lucrative resource for finding independent contractors in London.

 

I’ll detail every step of the process in this blog so if anyone else wants to build their own site they can learn from my mistakes. Which I’m sure will be numerous, but hey, that’s the only way to learn right?

World Cup Photography

Fotbol fever anyone! Jiminy Jesus H. Christ, I’ve got a terminal case of it over the last two weeks and though I’m gutted the US lost yesterday (thanks wondo) I can’t wait for the quarters, semis and everything. It’s so compelling and, from a photographers perspective, full of potential to capture some of the most breathtaking images you’ve every seen. I’d love to be there – maybe in four years I’ll be a good enough photo journalist to get to Russian – but I’ve been keeping an eye on the images coming out of Brazil and they just make you want to weep with joy for what an amazing experience this is.

futobol photo

Ecstasy (photo from The Telegraph)

Good ol’ side show Luiz after scoring (or did he score it?) against Chile in the Round of 16.

what a city

I’ve really been struck by what a huge, diverse nation Brazil is. From the towering metropolises of Rio and Sau Paolo, to the verdant greenery of Manuas and Forteleza. This is the country I think I’d most like to take a camera to right now. Hope everyone else is enjoying the spectacle as much as me. If you were lucky enough to have been there please share your photos in the comments!

Easy way to get your studio off the ground

So you’ve decided, like me, to change your life and pursue your passion by becoming a full time photographer. The initial thrill of cutting the shackles can be exhilarating, but take my word, it’s only going to take a few days (or minutes) for the cold reality to sin in that making a successful living in the picture taking biz is a lot more complicated than renting some studio space and opening your doors for business. You have to have connections, clients and reputation. Not to mention the ability to network and find new opportunities. The first few months can be tough, I’m not going to lie. But stick with it! And don’t give up! You may have to go back to some of your university habits and eat mac and cheese more than once a month, but if you are truly passionate about the pictures you take I have no doubt you’ll thrive.

And, as this post will show you, there are some simple tricks you can do while you’re getting started to supplement your cash flow before the clients start queueing up at your door.

  1. Sell to Stock Image sites – people need original photos for there blogs and websites. The demand is almost endless if you know where to look. A good place to start is the giant site www.shutterstock.com/  , simply shoot photos of your favourite subjects, make sure they look good then create an account at the site above and see how they sell. It behooves you to go generic at first – a nice landscape, a cute kitten – that kind of stuff that has a broad appeal will get you more sales, then once you’ve established a name you can get more adventurous and charge more for your stock photos.
  2. Pets are gold. That’s right, even if you’re not planning on specializing in dog photography or cat pictures, this is a fantastic way to earn trust and get your name out there. As a proud dog owner myself and one who interacts with dozens of other canine aficionados on a daily basis I can confidently say that aside from their own children – and sometimes even more so than – people are absolutely bonkers about their pooches. If you can snap some quick pictures that capture the essences of a person’s furry friend you’ll not only have something they want to buy, but get in their good graces and next time they need a photog for a wedding, bar mitzvah or whatever they’ll only have to think of the brilliant image you snapped of ol’ Fido and chances are you’ve got a gig.
  3. Get a little saucy. Okay, time to lay down a big caveat: this technique may not work for everyone and it may even offend some people. So if you think you might be someone who is easily offended then please read no further. Now that that’s out of the way… here’s what really got my foot in the door: sex. Not having sex but photographing it. That isn’t actually the best way to say it. I wasn’t shooting adult movies of the actual carnal act itself, but instead I found clients who wanted pictures of a more explicit nature. Actually, they weren’t that explicit to be honest. Just glamourous women with ambition who wanted tasteful, somewhat erotic photos for their portfolios to further their careers as models or possibly as high class escorts. I would recommend dealing exclusively with independent escorts and models not associated with an agency. A friend of mine actually built a very lucrative successful career in this niche. I met my old mate Michael when I did a year abroad in London during university. Maybe it was he who stirred my initial interest in becoming an artist. While I was majoring in business administration, he was in the photography department at the College and after graduation he opened up a studio in London called EE, that specializes exclusively on glamour and budoir imaging for elite courtesans and VIP fashionistas.  I ran into him recently during a conference and he has since branched out into videography (see his work here) and is still running a thriving business.

There you have it. If you are creative and keep a positive attitude there are plenty of way to make a living taking pictures instead of the traditional studio/commission route. Keep up the good work and let me know of any alternative income streams I might have missed.

Website Builders for Artistic Types

Being in the artistic community – whether you’re a photographer like me, craftsperson, music producer, or anything really that involves creativity – means that at some point or another you’re going to need to build your own website. It’s not something you can get around. Some people may think that it’s okay just to have a twitter profile and facebook page, but to really thrive and get your name, and products, in front of the world you simply must have your own domain name. This fact can cause more than a little consternation for some – they think of coding, finding hosting or just don’w know where to start. It doesn’t have to be that way though, there are literally hundreds of easy to use, out of the box website building tools out there that are easy, inexpensive and terrible effective. In fact, the variety is so broad that your real problem will most likely be choosing the right platform for your needs. Here are a couple of the services I’ve used in the past:

  • Self Hosted WordPress - I’m sure you’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: wordpress is the single most popular CMS in the world. Slate.com, JayZ, the Huffington post, all of the ginourmous sites run on the engine of wordpress. It’s estimated that over 19% of all websites use WP so if you go this route you won’t be alone. It’s totally free and there are millions of training resources online. Here’s just one very detailed video I found on youtube that you can use to get your site up and running and looking halfway decent in no time:
  • SquareSpace.com – I’m sure you’ve heard of these guys. They have one of the most aggressive ad campaigns I’ve seen – not a commercial, podcast, or pop-up goes by where squarespace isn’t telling me how awesome their tools are. And, though I’m getting a little sick of hearing about it, they are right. Generally I’ve found their interface easy to use, and am happy with the results. IT’s a little pricey when you consider that you can do everything they offer with wordpress, but if you’re pressed for time and don’t mind shelling out a few extra quid then go for it.
  • smugmug.com – a newer service that claims to be more of a portfolio enabler than a complete CMS, you can do some serious damage with a smugmug site. I’ve been really impressed with their customer service so far and the range of options.

Those are the three I’m most familiar with and this very site was build using wordpress, but like I said there are thousands of options. Think about what kind of site you want: portfolio primarily, or will you be doing a fair amount of writing? Please post examples of your artistic sites and the platform you used to build them in the comments section. Thanks!

Inspiring Photogs through the ages

Though relatively new, in terms of an art form, photography has generated a vast pantheon of legendary names in its brief history. We all need to stand on the shoulders of giants and I could have gotten to where I am today without the guiding lessons of picture takers past. These are some of my favorites.

  1. Ansel Adams – The granddaddy of nature photographers. This titan of the craft has a name synonymous with breathtaking images of sprawling landscapes. If you’ve ever bee taken aback by a picture of a snow capped peak, chances our Maestro Adams was behind the lens. The cool think about ol’ Ansel though is that he wasn’t just a photographer, but also one of the first, and most influential, conservationists in history. He knew that the treasures he was capturing on film deserved to persevere for generations but that they were susceptible to the onslaught of man made mechanization.  He is the one figure most responsible for the Sierra Club and his legacy will loom large for centuries to come.
  2. Art Wolfe – Okay, he has a little bit of a cheesy name, I mean Art Wolf? Come on, sounds like something a junior publicist would think of. But that is his actual name and it just happens to be one of those happy instances of nominative determinism where a person’s name closely matches their occupation (think Usain Bolt – he’s a literal thunderbolt of a person). His book on Survivors about endangered species changed my life. Such start, haunting images of wild animals shot against professional studio backdrops is enough to make anyone want to save the animals.

That’s only two, but what a pair they are. I have many more heros among the ranks of iconic photographers but these two – their vision, passion and imagination – have influenced my own work more than all others combined.

Which Photographers have inspired you the Most? 

Answer in the comments below. 

My favourite Photographers

What makes a one person with a camera an artist and another merely a hobbyist? It’s hard to say, the later can create beautiful images, but usually it’s just a matter of chance. While the former is ever on the hunt for capturing the light of the world in a way that inspires thought, enlivens passion and stirs emotions. I got into photography later in life – I’d never used anything but my phone to take pictures until I was forty two! If you can believe it. However, after a tumultuous divorce, some problems with substance abuse and just generally heading in the wrong direction I found my true calling: to take photographs of the world around me and help others attain their artistic dreams.

It’s been a challenging road, I had a great job in cheese processing (in the marketing department mind you, I’m lactose intolerant) and was on course for a healthy pension, stable income and… a nagging sense that I just wasn’t living life to the fullest. It actually all started when my cheese firm in Wisconsin wanted to start a new advertising campaign. We hired a photographer who was obviously not that interested in corporate gigs, but was just taking the job to make a few quid on the side. He was your stereotypical artist type: sullen, moody, cocky and very passionate. Even though wheels of cheddar were not his forte, when he took off the lens cap something changed in him and he became a conductor of light. The pictures he came up with, though mundane, were actually quite spectactular and showed me just how much beauty is hiding in the world if we only know where to look.

From Cheese to art. My Crazy ride.

From Cheese to art. My Crazy ride.

The Road to Becoming a Pro

You can bet there where some naysayers in my life when I made it be known that I was packing it in at the factory and embarking on a very risky career, but I had to do it. This blog is meant to detail my journey and all the things I’ve learned – and still need to learn – along the way.