Check out Michelle Tricca’s interview in my 5th Edition The Photographer’s Guide to Marketing and Self-Promotion. Her case study is on promo pieces and leave behinds. From Michelle, “These promotional pieces were awesome … an unintentional, pleasant and welcome surprise and completely initiated by another source. One of my magazine clients that I shoot editorial portraits for has asked me on several occasions to run my personal work. Gulfshore Life Magazine, an upscale publication featuring and celebrating all things Southwest Florida, published a selection of coastal portraits. I photographed in Naples, FL. The magazine is mailed out monthly to their large readership, so my work was exposed to many who would be my ideal clients. The cool thing is this is a stylish magazine that people keep on their coffee tables for a long time. These tear sheets featuring my personal photography are a valuable marketing tool for me, as the accompanying text from my editors is an endorsement of my work and style. I’ve shown them online and in print to connect with potential and current clients.” For the rest of the interview…https://www.amazon.com/dp/1621535479
I think public relations and content marketing are the most overlooked and under-appreciated marketing tools! Check out the tips and techniques from Erika Taylor Montgomery, CEO of www.ThreeGirlsMedia.com. She talks about how to make more of your self-promotion resources in Chapter 20 of my 5th Edition, The Photographer’s Guide to Marketing and Self-Promotion.
Erika says the “true value of publicity to a photo business is credibility, visibility, and brand exposure. Publicity, not advertising, gives clients the confidence in your skills and expertise as a photographer. How often to you pay attention to the advertisements in the magazines, newspapers, and websites you read? If you’re like 98 percent of Americans, the answer is never. Being mentioned in an editorial feature is excellent publicity because it’s the features and articles that consumers pay attention to…A strategic publicity campaign can also help photographers become well-known for certain skills or styles… Editorial space in all media outlets is highly coveted. It makes sense that whether it is a brief mention or a full-length article, photographers chosen by a media outlet gain valuable exposure from the experience.” For the rest of the interview…
Visit this month’s online Business Trends column for an educational and inspirational interview with six successful portrait photographers. Their subjects include toddlers, high school seniors, corporate executives, goatherds (not kidding!) http://www.shutterbug.com/content/turning-portraits-profits-how-run-portrait-photography-business#bepifKCrYU8tdg6D.97. Special thanks to our contributing photographers: Rick Dahms, Omayra Espino-Vázquez, Robert Houser, David Neff, Sara Press, and Michael Schmitt
Back from Summer Break and I have a new product announcement! Luke Copping was one of my featured photographers last year for my Business Trends column (he made the April issue cover!) and now he, Shauna Haider (of We Are Branch and The Nubby Twiglet Blog and Paul Jarvis (former writer for Lifehacker, Forbes, and Fast Company) have just launched a new workflow tool for emerging commercial photographers called Project Prescription.
From Luke, “Developed by a team of photographers and designers with a combined 40 years of experience in the business, this set of digital documents, checklists and processes enables photographers to streamline their workflow with a ‘tried-and-true’ blueprint for landing, handling, and pleasing clients from start to finish. Offering a comprehensive workflow system and customizable documents for photographers, Project Prescription eliminates much of the guesswork that comes with incorporating sound business practices for photographers. The package will be especially useful to young and emerging photographers, those transitioning from journalism staff positions to the freelance world, and to those moving from consumer to commercial-based markets.”
Beyond learning how to handle cameras and photo equipment, working as a photo assistant will provide you with valuable lessons that can go a long way towards helping you build a successful career as a commercial photographer. Learning about: project management, studio protocols, location procedures, pre-production and post-production are all essential business skills. As important are the realities of today’s photo economy – as shared by our guest this month, James Sullivan of 1ProPhoto.com.
Maria Piscopo: What are the best ways to research and find assisting work?
James Sullivan: The most efficient first step towards getting work is making a list of those photographers whose images you admire, and putting them into some type of database for easy access (1ProPhoto.com created their own stand alone APP. ‘1ProPhoto.com -Photo Production DB’ based on FilemakerPro) and then making initial contact via social networks like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others, as well as using traditional email to send a short (1-2 paragraphs) introduction with your resume as an attachment or a link to a down-loadable PDF, or if the resume is short you can embed it into the email.
Another great option is to create your own email newsletter (Mail Chimp offers a nice free option) to keep those potential clients in your database up to date on the jobs that you have been working on and your new skills and experiences. And lastly pick up the phone and call the photographers or their studios directly. This not only shows your level of ambition and commitment but it will also demonstrate your ability to communicate with the people you are trying to get work with. These days it is more word of mouth and recommendations than ever before; so you must be socially adept and great at networking and have exceptional communication skills!
MP: Realistically, what are the challenges and changes you have seen for photo assistants in the last 5-10 years?
JS: Specifically, for those with 4 to 6 years experience, the role of Photo Assistant has evolved and changed into the role of “Lighting Director” or “Lighting Tech”. These individuals have acquired a skill set that on the lean side, consists of knowing every piece of lighting and grip equipment manufactured in the last 20+ years as well as being able to accurately reproduce the lighting of ANY published images simply by looking at it and reverse engineering it. This job is not just about equipment knowledge on set lighting skills but also about working with a photographer or producer during the pre-production process, making equipment, studio, location and lighting recommendations that can best serve the shoot and the photographers vision. This inclusion in the production process can also go a long way towards keeping production budgets low; which in turn allows these highly skilled individuals to command a day rates between $1200 and $1600 a day or more depending on the job’s requirements.
And while the position of Photo Assistant can offer a great career path as well as offering exceptional learning opportunities; the day rates have not kept pace with the U.S. economy or current levels of neither inflation nor living expenses in most cities around the world. Unfortunately, there are still: Clients, Magazines and Photographers/Producers whom are trying to hire assistants for $150 a day, and trying convince them that this is a standard day rate. This is complete nonsense when you consider that the day rate for a 1st assistant in 1976 was $175! The base day rate for a Photo Assistant in the U.S. (as of Jan. 2016) is $300-$600. And that is an ‘Editorial Rate’ again based on your experience and ability to ask for what you know you are worth.
I am also of the opinion that the job estimates (provided by wonderfulmachine.com) and the low ball rates they have published on sites like APhotoEditor.com are not only misleading as to the true value of the products and services provided by photographers and their production team; but this incessant devaluation of photographers professional services as well as the production process and creation of image/video; is part of what is killing the long term viability of the commercial photo industry.
Unfortunately, the respect once afforded photo assistants for their skills and years of experience in years past which was not only appreciated but highly sought after by our peers, as well as the photo industry as a whole, has disintegrated right along with the level of ‘Craftsmanship’ that we all brought to each and every photo shoot. That respect has gone out the window except for a few old school reps, producers, and photographers that recognize that value of have someone skilled and experienced on their productions. This lack of respect also extends to the slow and sometimes non-payment for services rendered by the photo assistant. And these are two of the biggest reasons so many photo assistants have never been able to transition from assistant to photographer.
Now I’m sorry if this makes me sound like a ‘Debbie Downer’ (SNL reference) but my view point is hardly unique. In speaking with people around New York, Miami, and Los Angeles; many people who have worked in the photo industry for years are leaving and looking for work in other fields because very often it is no longer a viable career path unless you are already rich and/or have a lot of powerful connections!
MP: How do you think working as an assistant helps make the transition to full time photographer?
JS: Presently that only reason to venture into a career as a commercial photographer is because you are compelled to do so to the extent that mentally and physically you cannot find fulfillment pursuing anything else. Or you just don’t know how to do anything else. If you can survive the realities of today’s photo economy that I just spoke of, if you don’t mind having to wake up every day in order to work find your next job, are super resilient and don’t have a problem living from pay check to pay check; then the time spent working as an assistant will allow you to learn the real world skills that you will not learn in school or might otherwise not acquire should you choose to only work for one photographer for an extended period of time. Working for a diverse group of photographers on a multitude of shoots allows the assistant to learn from everyone else’s mistakes without that added expense of time and money that tends to kill many new photographer’s careers. This applies even more so when it comes to: producing shoots, dealing with clients, models, stylists, hair and makeup, booking studios, model agencies, renting equipment, location scouting, creating and managing a shoot budget. It is imperative that today’s crop of photo assistants recognize as well as realize that: “This is a business, this is your business, and you need to treat it as such”.
[The opinions expressed here are those of James Sullivan and are based upon his first hand experiences as well as information garnered from his recent conversations with photographers, photographer’s reps, and Photo Producers, and may not reflect the opinions of the publisher of the article.]
This is one of my favorite topics: photographers doing good works by donating photography services to charities and other non-profit organizations. Donating your photography will help you develop business skills, give you access to people and places for portfolio development and allow you to meet the most amazing network of new friends. Here is Isaac Howard’s story…
Maria Piscopo: What non-profit or charity do you work with at this time?
Isaac Howard: I have worked with many different non-profits including local, regional, and international. Most recently I have been working with Hope in Haiti (HIH) and Global Training Network (GTN). Both organizations are faith-based groups that support education.
MP: How do the organizations you work with best use your photos for their cause to make a difference?
IH: Both HIH and GTN use the images on their websites, direct mailings, newsletters and point of contact. All usages are to help expand awareness to their purpose and to raise financial support. I found the hardest part of doing this type of photography is capturing the purpose of the team. You can and do take a lot of pretty pictures, always looking for that great shot. But you have to remember you are there for the purpose of the team and trying to show what their work is about, not yours. When I first started doing this type of work I used film. I was tasked with showing each person on the team doing their job. The end result was a set of 140 slides of the trip with a set given to each member. The goal was for them to take the images back to their church or civic group to show them in the community to increase project awareness and this aspect was very effective.
MP: How do you feel rewarded for your donation of photography?
IH: It is hard to describe the feeling you get when people explain to you how your images made them feel…happy or sad or both? Because it is great to know that you have had a small part in doing something good for others. In all of my travels this volunteer work has built up an amazing body of images I could promote for fine art or editorial projects but currently I try to keep the business of business and my charity work separate.
MP: What challenges and opportunities do you encounter?
IH: One of the first challenges that I encounter can be easily resolved with a little conversation…it is the issue of expectations. What are they looking for in the photography and what are they going to use it for? The groups I have worked with always try to be too nice and not express their opinions. But just like working for a paying client, there needs to be a good line of communication. Another challenge is travel. Most of the time I am very limited to what I can take. At times this includes my bedding, netting, extra food, clothes, and with the room I have left I pack my camera equipment. All of this has to be carried on the plane and then transported to the site. Then there is the issue of electricity, it is just not available everywhere we travel. It’s not like in the old days where a good OM-1 just needed one battery and you could get by without it. Finally, working in different cultures and languages is always a challenge, but I have found that with a smile and my camera I rarely have a problem. Also, I am often asked why I do these jobs and work with people in other countries, why not just stay in the US? There are two simple answers; first until you go, see, smell, and feel other worlds it is hard to understand the “why”. Second, I do this type of work in the US. Find a non-profit that you believe in and do the work out of a giving heart and not what you will get in return.