Monthly Archives: May 2015

Recharging Your Creativity

This is the perfect time of year to stop and reflect: where have you been? Where are you going? How do you get there in one piece? One thing for certain, you will not make it on an “empty tank” so we asked an eclectic and diverse group of creative professionals to share their tips and techniques for resting and recharging. My personal thanks go to the owners of the Award-winning Sagewater Spa (www.sagewaterspa.com), Rhoni Epstein and Cristina Pestana, for seeking out and providing me with a number of creative professionals to be interviewed for this piece (the first version appeared in Communication Arts Magazine)

So, you can always run “out of gas” trying to balance conflicting needs, especially personal and professional. You need to dedicate yourself to your work and you want to spend time for yourself or with your family. You need to get work done and need to get some rest. Does this conflict sound familiar? Michael Fleishman is a freelance illustrator, teacher and author and lists the first most important technique– physical exercise. He also suggests that you plan some buffer time from when you walk in the door at work to when you start talking to clients.

It does not seem to matter what technique you choose for your recharging as long as you identify these two things: activities that you can turn to and a retreat you can look forward to. Annie Consoletti, graphic designer, says, “Play is a key element to creativity. I don’t think one can be freely creative without having a sense of play. I put all of my energy into whichever project I am working on and am equally as passionate about my design work as I am in cooking, gardening and landscaping my yard, which at the moment includes cementing and staining a wall in my back yard.”

Craig Wright, television writer for SIX FEET UNDER and LOST, validates physical exercise and adds another technique – walk away! He says, “Not to be painfully obvious, but everything seems better when I’ve had some sort of strenuous exercise. Other than that, I tend to work in short spurts, with short rests in between, unless there’s a looming deadline. Whenever a creative problem seems unworkable, I give up and walk away.  A few moments later, the freedom of having given up usually allows for a new answer to show itself. The key is actually giving up. You can’t pretend to give up.”

A ‘laundry list’ of re-charging activities is good to have in hand before you need it. The worst time to try to create this list is when you are burned out – so do it NOW! Michael Fleishman shares his list,Swearing can be fun and work miracles (I’m only half kidding here). Doing something you absolutely love to do. Being in the company of someone you cherish, someone who listens, and who you want to listen to. Laughing. Laughing hard. Making music. Listening to music. Making art. Looking at art. Reading. Watching movies. Certain foods (in moderation, of course) can be medicinal, as are certain friends (sometimes also in moderation). Sleep is good; very, very good for you.”

Don’t underestimate the value of planning and being organized.  In his book, The Business of Graphic Design – A Sensible Approach, Edward Gold says “Creativity’s dirty little secret is that control is not the enemy: control is a necessary ingredient that makes creativity possible.” Vanessa Eckstein, founder of the design studio Bløk, validates this point,I discovered that the only way to avoid stress is planning ahead the time frames of when projects should begin and end and allocating time to explore in the middle. Prioritizing what is important versus what is inevitable. That is the practical part but avoiding stress is also knowing that one way or the other (and sometimes I do wonder how!) we always get to finish the project on time and proudly.”

Another technique is to deliberately go outside your personal comfort zone. Vanessa Eckstein adds, “I do look for a place which will surprise me. Places in which things happen magically because I encounter differences to what I am accustomed to. I go where I can meet people who I would have never met had I stayed at home. I look for situations that end up being a mixture of the everyday and the extraordinary.”

Finding a special place to go is one of the most common techniques among the creative professionals I have interviewed over the years. Annie Consoletti explains, “I moved to Los Angeles from Boston and shortly thereafter discovered the desert. For me it is a very creative, magical place filled with great energy. I’ve always been a spa-goer and it happens that Sagewater Spa has the best water in the world. For me, it is my ‘No Stress Zone’. You feel like you’re on your own private island with beautiful magical mountains in the distance and the sweet smell of the desert wafting by as you absorb it all in. It definitely has Zen-elegance and I feel totally renewed after a stay and ready to face the blank canvas!”

Photographers! Why You Need To Join…

I never thought of myself as much of a “joiner” until I attended my first professional association meeting. By the end of the evening I signed up on the spot to join. I was informed, energized, interacting with my peers – and the brand new recording secretary on the chapter’s board! I never looked back and have always been a big supporter of joining and participating in professional groups since that memorable evening. My business as a photo rep, teacher, consultant and author all came from joining and participating.

Photographers have many choices today for professional association membership depending on your area of interest. For example, commercial photographers gravitate towards groups such as American Photographic Artists (APA), Editorial Photographers (EP-now merged with APA), American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) as they are advocates for business practices in commercial photography. Wedding and portrait photographers find career and business support with groups such as Professional Photographers of America (PPA) and Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI). There are associations serving the business needs for specific populations such as Women In Photography International (WIPI) and Stock Artists Alliance (SAA). As you will see in the interviews, in addition to these national and international associations, many photographers join groups with interests only in their hometown or local communities.

So what are the business benefits for photographers? Maybe joining or renewing your membership gives you pause but I believe it is essential; you will be re-paid tenfold in benefits! Happily, there are many photographers with similar feelings and some are interviewed here to tell their stories of the networking and educational benefits provided by professional membership. I want to thank:  Ed Carreon, Ben Colman, Jenna Close, Rick Dahms, Therese Gietler, Stewart Marcano, Ivan Martinez and Christopher Winton-Stahle for their contributions.

What skills or areas of expertise (other than photography) do you think professional associations provide to develop a successful photography business?

Ben Colman: From ASMP it is best business practices, licensing and rights management, negotiating, networking. Full disclosure; regarding ASMP and its educational efforts, everything I have learned about the business of photography, I have learned one way or another through ASMP. I have served two three-year terms on the National Board of Directors and was President of the ASMP Foundation for several years and as such, had a ground level view of ASMP’s educational programs and development.

Rick Dahms: The greatest value of the associations is access to the members as a group. Everything from tax issues to location recommendations are regular topics of discussion. The group can also serve as a great “reality check” and a moderately safe place to ask dumb questions.

Jenna Close: So much of running your own business is about just that…the business.  This is difficult, ongoing and not always intuitive.  Associations provide a place to learn this side of the industry through their programming and, perhaps even more importantly, though the contacts you make with other established members who can offer advice on everything from pricing, estimating, gear and negotiation tactics.

Ed Carreon: Both organizations I belong to put up panels and discussion with industry leaders and given that the industry is changing so fast it is important to know where to go for information when you are asked to do something you don’t know how to do.

Ivan Martinez: One common theme among the professional organizations I belong is the amount of information these association provide to small business. Many of these organizations are able to invest in marketing research that a small business such as mine will never be able to afford.

PPA for example runs a biannual survey which results in a series of bench marks that provide an incredible value to my business. I am able to see how I measure against the national average and see what adjustments I need to make to my pricing and marketing.

ASMP for example runs a series of business presentations that range from social media marketing, to pricing and copyright. They sponsor speakers that travel around the country sharing their expertise and helping small business owner gain valuable information.

Therese Gietler: It’s all in the classes that are offered, the education at a fraction of the price of college tuition. And this is education specifically geared towards us and our needs. I’ve learned everything I know about marketing in these classes and the books that I’ve purchased as a result. I can’t emphasize enough the opportunity to learn when you give back through these organizations. Volunteering for the greater good is a powerful force to make our world a better place.

What are some of the specific networking benefits you have seen from your association membership?

Rick Dahms: I have a core group of peers that I use to discuss more sensitive matters and to share and seek information about specific clients or business aspects that I wouldn’t want to broadcast. All of these people I’ve met through and are members.

Christopher Winton-Stahle: Having the opportunity to build strong relationships with colleagues within the community and to develop healthy friendships that sometimes last throughout your career. Within certain circles, knowledge, resources and occasionally even jobs are passed around from one member to the next.

Ben Colman: I have met some of the best professional photographers and businesspeople that I can call any time to bounce an idea around, or just catch up.

Jenna Close:  I now have a group of people whose opinion I trust.  Many of them have been in business longer than I have or have business models that differ from mine.  Because of my association membership, I have people around me who will answer my questions.  I also have a group of people whose reputation I am familiar with that I can hire for assistants and second shooters.  I don’t hesitate to recommend another member for a job I cannot do, and others have also done the same for me.  I use ASMP Find A Photographer listings to search based on location or category.  I have made contacts and booked a few jobs through this service as well.

Ed Carreon: Networking has been important to me because I have often found that when I get or I am up for an assignment and I don’t have the knowledge to pull it off or need to find a good casting agent or an assistant that can light a set in a certain way, or a payroll service, that being able to call up another photographer directly and ask for information has proven an invaluable resource to me.

Stewart Marcano: For a period of time, I joined APA Success Teams and found it to be an incredible experience both professionally and personally. I’m looking forward to being part of another one in the future when time allows. The reason I found it so valuable is the fact that we need to collaborate with our colleagues. Very few people have the image knowledge, photography business knowledge and the experience other than fellow photographers to help you and advise you and bounce ideas off. Therese Gietler: It is so important to know and be known not just by your clients, but also your peers. ASMP has had some incredible programs as of late – a shoot-off event, which culminated in a book of everyone’s images, and choosing non-profit groups to support. It builds community, and in this business of the lone wolf, that community becomes a lifeline at times.

Contributors:

Ed Carreon www.carreonphotography.com

Ben Colman www.bcolman.com, http://bcolman.photoshelter.com

Jenna Close http://www.p2photography.net

Rick Dahms: www.rickdahms.com

Therese Gietler: www.andyBATT.com, http://www.facebook.com/andybattstudio

Stewart Marcano (member of APA): www.stewartmarcano.com

Ivan Martinez: www.ivanmartinezphotography.com

Christopher Winton-Stahle: http://www.winton-stahle.com, http://www.wintonstahle.blogspot.com

 

Associations Mentioned By Contributors:

American Photographic Artists (APA): www.apanational.com

American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP): www.asmp.org

Professional Photographers of America (PPA) www.ppa.com