How to survive in a diminishing industry….or is it just changing?

Is your dream to work in an area that is “unprofitable”, has “stiff competition” and very few opportunities over the next few years? If you believe what’s written about the career prospects of Photographers on Service Canada’s job futures website, your photographic aspirations may well remain at the hobbyist level. Being a hobbyist or stating ‘I just do it for fun’ is a roundabout way of saying ‘I make no money’.

If you are reading this, it’s because you want to be creative and express yourself, and you want to do more than take snapshots for birthday parties and vacation slideshows.

So, then what does it take to make a career? How does the “earning money” bit in the equation change things? When we start to think of how to monetize what we love, we have to then take different approach to it. A “let’s get down to business” approach. Some would say you’re getting serious about your work- though seriousness certainly implies no fun. Anyway you say it, what it really means is finding a group of people who will buy your creative work. And more importantly is how you define what is your creative work.

Where are the Photography jobs?

The prospects of finding a job as a photographer, with a steady paycheque are dwindling. Your only source of traditional employment will primarily come from positions vacated by photographers who retire or leave the occupation; and that’s assuming the employer will hire to replace them. The position as “staff photographer” that many media outlets once had has been consolidated into other jobs such as graphic designers, journalists and marketing staff.

Even if you found a job, think you can get promoted once in those jobs? Hardly. You may get a leg up if you leave to set up your own shop and get hired on contract as director of photography or working other larger projects that involve multimedia.

Sounds dismal. Worse yet, “it should be noted that the labour market status of graduates of the photography Attestation of College Studies (AEC) is even poorer than that of DEC and DEP graduates. Only a small minority of them find a job in their field, still less join this occupation.” the government site says.

Still photography is attracting more and more people. A number of schools offer programs and churn out dozens of graduates each year, not to mention the photo-enthusiasts and self-taught photographers. The marketplace is crowded. The traditional job of photographer is in a downward spiral.

If you want the security of a paying job, you may have to look at broader industries such as the art world as well as the realms of theatre, architecture and design. There is no guarantee the jobs are there, so you’ll just have to hit the pavement, make the calls and get yourself in front of people who can hire you.

Change everything.


What then sets a photographer apart?How do you ensure your success in the face of seemingly large odds? The answer is change everything and be part of the change.

The photographic medium has changed to be completely digital; the tools have advanced so that anyone can pickup the latest camera and get a decent shot; the internet has changed how we consume news, information and social communications, the nature of work has changed with much more part-time, contract and an on-demand labour force. Indeed, the only constant has been ongoing change.

3 key factors:

Consider these 3 key factors that you should have or strive for to ensure you stand out:

1) Persistence

Rather than an afterthought, persistence is the most important quality you can have. It’s the “keep going when the going gets tough” mentality. It’s finding another way when the path you’ve selected seems to have a road block. It’s in part believing in yourself and having strategies or something in place so that you don’t become discouraged and want to give up. Some people have plenty of tenacity, others need a trusted friend to give them the straight talk. Help keep your goals in front-and-centre focus by creating a vision board, a goal statement or wish list at your workstation at eye level. Looking at it every day, consciously or not, it will work it’s way into your head.

2) Setting yourself apart by the quality of your work

Always work at your best. Always work on something. Only by working on something will you continue to exercise your creative muscles and develop. It is much better to shoot bad pictures everyday than it is to try to shoot a masterpiece once a year. What you’ll find is all those bad pictures actually take you a step closer to the masterpiece. You can’t shortcut it here. Your best work is the work you are doing today. Your creativity and unique style will flourish by working on it daily and that in turn boosts the quality of your work.

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3) Establishing solid contacts in the field.

How many people believe they have lots of contacts by the fact they have so many linkedIn connections or facebook friends? Maybe some do but I think the litmus test is whether you can show up on these ‘friends’ doorsteps and ask for help or their ideas. The social tools we have are a great connector, they are not a relationship builder. We are likely to help the people we know and trust. A relationship, even a professional one, requires some time, requires sharing of ourselves and shared experiences. It is not enough to ‘Like’ someone’s page. You won’t be setting yourself apart, you aren’t giving anything, aren’t sharing anything. The focus must be on building relationships.

Take it as an opportunity

When there is this much change going on simultaneously, it’s hard to know where to start. Start with yourself, with what you have now and what you can do, then add in resourcefulness. With no preset path, you are free to create your own job. Daunting as this may sound, it’s probably your best chance at a career using photography. Every person is unique, with unique skills, experience and history. Make these work for you. Figure out what is your unique offering and take it to the world.

The opportunities are out there for you to create the career you want. Figuring out how to get there, well that’s why you are reading this blog.

Don’t miss any posts on how to be creative and business minded, be sure to follow the blog using the links at the bottom of the page.

 

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Inside the worlds of Damian Siqueiros

Interview with Damian Siqueiros, photographer and visual artist

Les Grands Ballets - Transfigured Night

Les Grands Ballets – Transfigured Night     (May 15-24, 2014)

 

Making Montreal his home now, Mexico-born Damian Siqueiros splashed onto the scene not less than five years ago. Fine and decorative arts, photography, and painting figured prominently in his early training and informs and shapes his work as he continues to create new artworks. His artistic sensibility has also translated into his commercial work, the latest of which are the posters for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens displayed throughout Montreal billboards and metro system.

Winning several grants and prizes such as the Public’s choice Scotia Bank Prize 2010 in Montreal’s Art Souterrain he has exhibited his stunning images in museums and galleries in Mexico, Spain, Paris, New York (The Gabarron Foundation), Washington D.C. (Art Museum of the Americas), and Canada.

I had the occasion to sit down with this creative force and have a conversation about art, photography and the business of setting up his business in Montreal. It was a lovely sunny afternoon when I knocked on his door and he invited me up to his private studio.

One of the first questions I asked was how he established himself in Montreal as a photographer. He tells me how he hit the pavement, approaching Ad agencies and showing his portfolio everywhere. Eventually he got his start doing political portraits. He also submitted artwork to Montreal’s Art Souterrain festival and received public recognition. He continuously works on his art. “The artistic work, that’s my calling. I like to create images that speak to people and in some way challenge their view of the world.” Having just returned from Los Angeles, he did just that with his exposition at the annual photography fair, Photo Independent

What was becoming apparent was the two worlds in which Damian Siqueiros is driving his career. Our conversation turned toward the different perspective that photography as art has versus photography for commercial clients. “You’d be surprised at how differently they work; in terms of  the perception of the work, how you get clients, what the clients need or want.” He summed it up like this, “If you’re working in commercial work, clients need versatility whereas, in artistic work people look for coherence and a recognizable look”.

The approach is different too. With art you can allow yourself to explore the subject as the work is an artistic expression. “Being an artist is exercise in patience.” he says. Artists make their mark later in life with their life experience, their exhibitions and body of work building in value. As with other industries in this internet age, there seems to be a shift in the way art is sold. Artists are able to connect directly with their clients in many ways. As such, “Artists need to be more proactive selling their work to clients.”

With commercial photography you earn money right away. Having budgets, commercial clients need assurance of what the final image will look like. As a photographer you must present a complete concept, with sketches and reference material that the client can approve, then you produce the expected results. Working as a commercial photographer is about offering a service to the client. At times you may work with difficult people and you have to find a way to work together professionally and get the job done. Some jobs may not be glamorous, therefore it’s up to you to make it interesting by approaching each job as a creative challenge.

Les Grands Ballets -Leonce and Lena  (Sept 18- 27, 2014)

Les Grands Ballets -Leonce and Lena (Sept 18- 27, 2014)

In getting new clients it helps to have an agent. Damian met his agent in a series of coincidences and the story confirms that somehow certain people come into our lives just when we need them. Nevertheless marketing still takes up a good part of each day whether connecting with new or existing clients.

As always, my final question is, ” What three most important things would you say to a new photographer starting their business?”

1) Don’t wait until your studies are finished to start to promote yourself. It’ll be a smoother transition by starting in some small way to get your name out there.

2) Select your best images for your portfolio, create a website, a photostream or somewhere where people can see your images. It’s important to have your promotional material (portfolio, website, business cards) ready so people can see your work.

3) Be true to yourself, maintain your integrity and act with kindness. Success is not a measure given by others or even what you think your life should look like. This ego driven idea of self is actually a constraint on your happiness. “Once you define yourself, you are putting yourself between your evolution and your goals and what you think you are. If you let go of that you have much more space to grow in different ways.”


His ongoing show is in Hollywood. Just a hop-skip-and-plane-ride away.

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To find out more or connect with Damian Siqueiros

His Website www.damiansiqueiros.com 
His blog The Simpler side of Art
His facebook page Damian Siqueiros photographer

11 Myths About Running A Photography Business

Dusk Thoughts

I can vividly remember the first day I opened my photography business. I had spent weeks getting everything in order, from my official business license to my website to my own, handmade personal logo. I had all my release forms printed out, a folder to keep them organized and a calendar all laid out, complete with color coded markers I would use for each different session I would (hopefully) be booking in the near future.

Oh yeah…I was fancy.

I was also naive. I took advice from anywhere I could get it, regardless of the source. Fellow photographers, internet business articles and Facebook photography groups were my best source of information, and honestly, it was quite a mixed bag. There was a lot of information that was complete (pardon my french) bullshit, and I wish for the life of me there was a way to go back and talk some sense into my early photographer self. However, since I’m still not the proud owner of my very own, personal time-machine, I figured spilling the beans to the rest of you might be just as productive.

Myth #1: The Photography Market is Over-Saturated – There’s No Room For You

I heard this little tidbit countless times during my first year as a photographer: that I better have a backup plan, that I shouldn’t invest too much money into my business because it was only a matter of time before I realized it was doomed for failure.

Here’s the thing – photography is an over-saturated market – with mediocre photographers. There are plenty of people out there with cameras calling themselves “photographers” that shoot on auto and have no idea what the hell “ISO” and “DOF” even stand for. And that’s okay! Those people aren’t your competition.

Your competition is the photographer that is doing exactly the same business model as you are, which (as you’ll read in the next point) probably isn’t happening. I’ll give you an example:

There are hundreds of professional photographers in my town, but I’d say the number of truly, truly exceptional ones are under 20. Of these, they all specialize in different areas. I know of maybe three utterly fantastic weddings photographers, two unbelievably talented newborn photographers, a couple boudoir specialists, a few senior photo pros, one fashion shooter, a couple insanely talented photojournalists and one unbelievable landscape/interior photographer. Then there is me who shoots fine art. There is plenty of room for all of us. Which brings me to Myth #2…

Myth #2: Fellow Photographers Are Your Worst Enemies

For semantic’s sake, I put this as the second myth, but really it should be #1, hands down. Your fellow photographers aren’t your competition – they’re your best allies! Let me explain:

Wedding photographers, for example, can only shoot one wedding a day (and many times, only one wedding per weekend), so what happens when someone calls for a day they’ve already booked? They refer out to other wedding photographers! As a fellow wedding shooter it’s in your best interest to have a fantastic working relationship with every other wedding photographer in town. If they can’t do the job, you’re first on their referral list.

Plus, with everyone specializing in so many things, it only makes sense to work together. Many wedding photographers aren’t interesting in shooting newborn babies, but you can bet a year after a couple gets married the first one they’re going to call as soon as they’re expecting is their wedding photographer. So refer to your favorite newborn place, and in turn they’ll refer weddings to you. Why wouldn’t they? A wedding sent to you is a guaranteed client the following year!

In addition, getting to know your fellow photographers also give you the chance to collaborate with something amazing. The photographers in Billings are now some of my closest friends and I would be miles behind in business if I hadn’t gotten to know them. Besides, who are you going to share nerdy photographer humor with? Because contrary to what you might think, your cat is not laughing at your random jokes about shutter speed and F-stop.

Myth #3: You Can Finally Get Out From Behind That Computer

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Sorry folks, but not quite. As a fine art photographer, the vast majority of my time is spend sitting behind a computer screen, editing individual pixels one after the other, but it’s similar with others in the business as well. The time you spend shooting is actually a very, very small percentage of how you’ll spend your time, and most of it will be on the computer. Editing, marketing, submitting content for publishing, writing blog posts, filing, accounting, and a thousand other things I can’t think of right now because I’m in the middle of Myth #4.

Myth #4: Owning Your Own Business Means Making Your Own Hours

Oh…honey. Owning your own business means working all hours. See this is where a photography business has the exact same quality as every other small business that has ever been in existence – you’ll work far more than 40 hours/week. It takes literally every ounce of time you have to get your business off it’s feet and moving in the right direction.

Myth #5: Your Photographs Sell Themselves

Oh dear God no they don’t. I admit it’s very difficult to sell in the beginning, especially since you’re fully aware of your lack of experience in the photography arena. If you’ve only been a professional photographer for three weeks it can be very difficult to convince a client they should hire you without sounding like you’re begging. But sales is all part of the game and the sooner you learn to sell yourself, the better.

Myth #6: A Successful Photographer Makes a Lot of Money

A successful photographer makes enough to support themselves as a photographer. That is all.

Myth #7: You Should Specialize. Immediately.

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Woah, calm down there. Photography is such a vast field, it takes a while to find out what you’re truly passionate about. I’ve gone from portraits, to night photography, to weddings, to pets, to fashion to fine art and loved every one of those genres…for a while. Then I moved on to something else.

Don’t tie yourself down in the beginning. Feel completely free to branch out among other areas of photography. Try a boudoir shoot or tag along for a wedding. Attend a fine art photography workshop (hint hint: here’s an awesome one coming up soon) or take on a couple senior clients to see if that’s something you’d be interested in.

Myth #8: “Natural Light Photography” Is A Thing

Calling yourself a “Natural Light Photographer” simply means you don’t know the first thing about alternative lighting. Don’t get me wrong, natural light is fantastic (it’s definitely my preferred method of shooting), but you can’t use it as a crutch for not learning how to use proper equipment. Intern at a studio and banish this phrase from your website.

Myth #9: It’s All About The Gear

You know the fastest way a photographer breaks someone of this thought? As soon as someone comments on how amazing our camera must be to take such awesome pictures, we hand it to them and let them snap a few on their own. Everything changes after that.

Because it’s not about the equipment you have, it’s about whether or not you know how to use it. I’ve seen photographers with incredibly expensive gear take some downright embarrassingly bad photos, while witnessing other photographers take spectacular photos on their iPhones. Don’t run out and throw a bunch of money at the newest thing – it’s better to have something modest and then spend your money learning how to properly use it before moving on to bigger and better equipment.

Myth #10: You Can Do Every Aspect Of Your Business By Yourself

You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when a friend tells you they’re saving money by having their cousin photograph their wedding? Yeah, that’s the same feeling every accountant in the world gets when they hear you’re saving money by doing your own taxes. Certain things (like taxes and photographing someone’s wedding) should be left to the pros.

Myth #11: You Will Eventually Get Sick of Photography

I’m not going to lie – life as a photographer is tough, hectic and never seems to end, but here’s another secret – I love every second of it. In fact, the reason my work/free time lines are so blurred is because the first thing I want to do when I have some free time is shoot!

Think about it this way: I recently had a conversation with a friend about retiring. She said she’d happily retire ASAP while I told her I didn’t think I’d ever retire. She stared at me with wide eyes until I asked her what she would do with her time off and she replied with, “Photography.”

Exactly :).

RoughDraft

 

Jenna has recently returned from a month long stint in New York working with fashion photographer, Lindsay Adler (aren’t we jealous?!) To learn more about Jenna and her work, visit her website.

jennamartinphoto@gmail.com

 

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Isabella’s rebellion toward redefining beauty

Interview with Ella Photography

580150_10152677602665046_318687309_nMontreal has its share of photographers, but none like Isabella of Ella Photography. She believes that “no matter who you are and what you look like, you ARE beautiful”. She has been running her wedding and lifestyle photography business, Ella Photography, for a number of years now which she started after deciding that the fashion world contributed to a broken view of beauty. Fashion is fickle, and its images it promoted to young girls, such as her niece, gnawed on her conscience to the point where she realized she was part of the problem. “So I quit”, Ella recounted.

In a rebellious spirit, Isabella launched her photography business offering wedding packages and expanding into the growing market of boudoir photography. Boudoir photography is more elegant, sensual and quite intimate in comparison to weddings. Isabella believes that she captures what is already there. Her goal is to prove to her clients that “they are awesome just the way they are, right now”. By making her clients feel comfortable and “real” in front of the camera, the images could completely change their own perspective of “Beautiful”. Two years into her photography business, she was diagnosed with a thyroid condition that affected her eyes and challenged her personal view of beauty. The journey to her self rediscovery was challenging but made the belief in her cause even stronger. She understands the value of her company’s philosophy in making her clients look and FEEL beautiful.

For Isabella, photography was something she just did ever since she was a child. She hadn’t thought of photography as a career until one day, in her marketing job, she was given the opportunity to shoot fashion. Since then, she evolved and made it her mission to make the world a better place.

Her photographic style focuses on redefining the term “beautiful” to her clients and touches on emotions. “I like photographs that speak to the viewer, photos that evoke emotion”, she says. She makes her clients feel beautiful and she captures couples on their most beautiful day, their wedding day. With two lovable dogs and great clients, she says she wouldn’t change anything in her life right now.

Isabella says she landed in photography by fluke, but we all know effort and work was involved.  Coming from a marketing background she starts off with key advice, “Word of mouth is the best marketing strategy”.  With that said she also believes you must be genuine and provide great customer service so that people remember you and talk about you. Isabella doesn’t believe in competition amongst other photographers, because there is a client for every kind of photographer.

To keep the business side running smoothly, an accountant is the first thing you need to find. They can help you set up your systems, give you tips on managing money, and keep all the compliance work such as business filing, registrations, income tax filings up-to-date and orderly, helping you avoid penalties or fines for non-compliance.

Starting any business is challenging. She adds, “If you want something to happen, you will stop at nothing to make it work. Money should never be an issue. When starting out, everyone feels just as lost as you”. The best advice for that, she says is “Don’t give up!”.

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