10 MORE WAYS NOT TO BECOME A SUCCESSFUL PHOTOGRAPHER

In 2010 I wrote, in one long caffeine-fueled night, an article that would become the most widely shared piece that I’ve ever published on my blog called 10 Ways Not To Become A Successful Photographer. It was part missive, part rant, and part confession about what I saw a lot of people doing wrong in the photography industry at the time – the mistakes and toxic misconceptions that I saw myself and photographers around me, both emerging and experienced, making every day that were poisoning our minds and our work. I’ve read and re-read it so many times over the years, because in many ways it became a litany to stave off my own negativity when things got tough or I felt myself slipping back into those shitty patterns that were holding me and my friends back when I wrote it.

It’s five years later now, and I sometimes find myself wondering if that piece I wrote all those years ago is still relevant, I’ve changed a lot, and this industry constantly evolves. I find myself thinking more about issues that never occurred to me when I wrote the original piece, and in some cases, issues that grew out of those original ten points. The last few weeks on the road I’ve been making tons of notes about the things I see happening in this business – both with myself and others who’ve spoken with me about that original article when the felt they had gotten a bit off course.

No one can tell you how to be successful in this business, that’s up to you, but here are ten more thoughts on how to NOT fuck up your chances of making it in this industry.

11. Don’t Understand Your Relationship With Stress

We all have our own ways of reacting to and dealing with stress. Personally, there are times when I can thrive on it for short bursts, I can handle unexpected turns on a production and adapt with a smile on my face, I like when the pace of business gets brisk and I feel like I’m spinning a lot of plates. I do okay with that kind of stress. It’s kind of exhilarating. On the other hand, I can get tripped up and really freaked out by little things. I’ve lost sleep because I’ve been anxious about the wording in a client e-mail, I made myself sick with worry in the days leading up to a few big jobs – that kind of constant background worry is the kind of stress that can get me really wound up,

We’re all emotionally invested in what we’re doing (at least you better be if you want to create good work) and that naturally leads to us getting stressed about it, but beyond that we have a whole host of practical stresses that we deal with every day as small business owners and creative entrepreneurs: money, staff, professional relationships, client retention, and vendors that can all affect our stress levels. Combine and compress all that creative and professional anxiety and it can really start to have an effect on your health, mindset, relationships, and career to the point that it starts to tear you up a little (or a lot) inside. Identifying what stresses you out, why, and how badly can give you some major insights on things you might need to work on personally, professionally, and creatively. It can also remind you of the importance of building a support team who can help you better deal with those tasks and situations that creep up on you. More importantly, you also need to have a means of dealing with your stress when it does show its face that hopefully isn’t of the “I eat a whole order of cheddar bay biscuits and chase it with a bottle of gin” school of stress management. Some common options are exercise, meditation, obsessive collecting, cooking, and music, but whatever works for you is cool – just go easy on those cheddar biscuits.

12. Get Caught Up in Defining and Quantifying Everything

It used to be that I couldn’t get online without seeing some pointless argument about Canon vs. Nikon or Mac vs PC – but in the last few years I think we’ve actually become more micro-obsessive as an industry when it comes to categorizing, segmenting, and ranking everything. The discussion isn’t about what brand of light is better, but what KIND of light is better, and even more disturbing, what kind of photographer is better. I see statements like these pop up all the time:

“I’m a natural light photographer, it’s a more honest way of taking pictures”

“I only shoot film, shooting digital isn’t photography”

“If you don’t know how to use speed-lights you aren’t a professional”

“If you only make 49% of your income from photography, you aren’t really a photographer”

“If you use composites in your work, you aren’t really a photographer, you’re just a retoucher, REAL photographers do everything in camera”

Unless you’re describing a genre that you work in – like fashion, food, or journalism, I can’t remember a time when the word “photography” needed so much modification. There are a million stories of how each of us came to photography, and a million different interpretations of the medium – to try to distill it all down into a linear ranking or a tidy little package seems not just absurd, but a rejection of all the ephemeral and intangible things about someone’s history, taste, and experience that make their individual images so compelling. Finding a unique way to frame your experience is a great way of setting yourself apart, and it’s best done with your work itself, but I feel like at some point there was an inversion, a moment when we started to use these defining terms in a really negative way – and rather than focusing on pulling ourselves up, the focus has shifted to pushing others down by encapsulating them in classification and categorically invalidating them.

13. Don’t Take Ownership of Your Mistakes

Ever met someone who just can’t take criticism?

I don’t mean in a “OMG they read the comment section and are handling it really poorly!” way, I mean the sort of criticism that matters – constructive criticism from clients, respected colleagues, and even themselves. You have to be willing to accept that you are going to fail in this business, likely many times over, and that it’s the ones who use these failures as learning experiences that are going to survive and hopefully thrive. The last thing you want to do is stick your fingers in your ears, shut your eyes, and start screaming “YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND MY ART!”

It gets shared a lot, but there’s a part in Zack Arias’ Transform Video that’s always stuck with me where Zack reminds his audience that “Avedon sucked, Karsh sucked, Adams sucked…  …Every photographer in all of history was a horrible photographer for some period of time. They learned, they grew, they had dark days, they persevered. That is the way of the artist.” I think it’s one of the most important lessons that any photographer can learn in this business that is so saturated with ego and defensiveness. It’s okay to screw up if it makes you better in the end (just try not to do it when clients are watching, and if you do, own it).

Every single one of us is going to make mistakes at some point in our career – some will fall flat on their faces and suffer comical embarrassment, others will slide headlong into the cavernous maw of catastrophic error, but all of us can recover from these situations if we can honestly identify and accept what we did wrong and work to correct it. It’s the ones who dig a hole and start to pull the dirt down on top of themselves, looking to shelter themselves from having to face their mistakes that have to worry most – because after a while that safe hole you’re hiding in starts to look an awful lot like a grave.

14. Spend More Time Talking About Your Work Than Making It

I don’t like to break things down into archetypes, but sometimes it seems like there’s a revolving cast of common characters in every creative community, fellow photographers who seem to almost accidentally fall into these roles.

There’s the photographer with a million good ideas and two million excuses as to why they can’t ever pull them off: “Plane tickets are too expensive,” “I don’t have a studio,” “My camera isn’t good enough,” “I need better lights.” This guy can talk himself out of anything before he even gets close to starting,

There’s the photographer who is so enamored by past successes and gripped by the fear of ever having to outgrow them that all they ever talk about is that one amazing shot they grabbed in 1992. Photographers like this also tend be the kind of people who complain about the industry a lot. They’ll be the first to give crazy-eyed reactionary rants about how things have changed but do very little to grow and adapt.

There’s the one who is actually pretty talented, but so consumed by self-sabotage or impostor syndrome that sometimes they seem frozen in place, unable to actually create anything without tearing it to shreds moments later. These are the ones who spend a lot of time beating themselves up verbally and can’t take compliments very well. They tend to make just as many excuses as the first guy, but focus on more internalized factors than the external scapegoats. You’ll hear a lot of “I suck,” “I don’t deserve this,” “Why don’t you realize that my work is awful” from them.

Worst of all, we’ve likely all been (or will be) these people at some point in our careers, where we seem to be spending more time talking about our work than actually making it – and that’s actually pretty natural for people in creative careers This isn’t a job where you punch out at 5:00 PM and go home to play video games without a care in the world. We tend to internalize a lot of what we do, because what we do is so tied to our own emotions, thoughts, and experience – so we often take this job home with us. It’s not surprising that sometime doubt, hubris, fear, helplessness, defensiveness, and a whole host of other dark feelings can creep in, and a byproduct of that is shifting our focus from creating to talking about creating – becoming a photo wantrepreneur.

I want to take a second here to be clear that I am not at all discouraging people from talking about their work or photography as a medium. I think a discourse about the changing nature of photography and how it relates to communications, society, commerce, and art are more important than they ever have been, and In many cases, talking through some these issues frankly, with an honest colleague, friend, or mentor can be both therapeutic, cathartic, and exactly what you need to right your course. It’s when talk becomes a surrogate for your work, a smokescreen, that you have a problem. Talking about creating images is often lot easier than creating images, and we as humans tend to take the path of least resistance.

15. Not Knowing When to Say No

There are so many draws on your time, finances, and sanity out there, and you’re going to get pulled in a lot of different directions in this world. Sometimes the exuberance of starting to gain recognition for your work can lead you to say yes to everything: Annoying Uncle Frank promised a friend you would hook him up with some new portraits? Done. Restaurant you get lunch at needs some food shots on the cheap? Why not. Regular client offers you an assignment you know you can’t make money on? Ok, but just this one time…

Saying yes is a great way to gain experience, but as your skills and ambition grow you’re going to start to develop both focus and the experience to recognize red flags. The reasons might be time, interest, or money, but understanding the power of those two letters can do wonders for how you think about yourself as both an artist and a business person. Don’t be a dick about it, but find a way to say no that is firm, but polite, and leaves the door open for future communication.

The cool thing about learning to say no with style and grace is how much more it lets you say yes to the things you really want to do – the ones that really can be life changing. Do you really want to shoot those three freebie jobs for friends that your heart really isn’t in? or do you want to spend a week going on that fantasy road trip to photograph America’s last drive-in theatres? Do you want to spend a month photographing that fastener catalog you know you won’t really turn a profit on? or do you want to spend a few weeks shooting personal projects that will get you noticed by your dream clients? Saying no is scary at first, but over time it gets easer, especially as you better develop your sense of when you need to say it.

16. Trying Too Hard To Be Someone Else

Back when I played music there was always this one guy around obsessed with being just like whatever flavor of the month rock star he was obsessed with at the moment. He bought the same guitars, played the same way, adopted the same style, and really went out of his way to avoid ever having to do anything that didn’t directly emulate what he saw as a surefire formula for success. His idols and obsessions would change over time, and he would reinvent himself totally every couple of years despite actually being a pretty talented guy. He plays in a cover band now.

Do you want to be in a cover band?

There’s a fine line between influence and obsession, between creating an homage to someone’s work and outright re-creating their work –  but the message here isn’t about copying, or influence, or biting someone else’s style or ideas. I could write a whole other post about all of those things that would be just as long as this one. What I want to warn you about is losing yourself inside of someone else’s creative vision – becoming so wholly consumed and fixated on other’s work that you lose everything about YOUR work that’s interesting. I love Rodney Smith’s work, but the world already has a Rodney Smtih, and I’m a lot more interested in telling my story than trying to relive someone else’s. If you force yourself into a mold that was meant for someone else you’re going to really break off a lot of the edges and corners of you that don’t fit, and those little jagged pieces are what makes you great and unique. Keep forcing it and you might break apart completely.

17. Be Careless With Your Choice of Mentors and Critiques

Find an amazing community to be a part of, and learn from people whose work excites you, but be wary of the homogeny and sameness that can result in taking the advice of people who want you to be more like them and less like you too seriously. You’ll see this in a lot of online groups where unsolicited critiques run rampant. There will be a push for the images presented to fall in line with that group’s status quo, an urge to keep everyone on the baseline. Often, it seems like it isn’t even conscious, but if you watch someone comment on someone else’s work long enough, after a while you realize that a lot of the suggestions and comments they make are ones that will bring the work more in line with their own worldview of photography. Do you really want to aspire to be more like someone who’s work you don’t really like that much?

Critique can be an unbelievably important tool, especially for a developing artist, but the crowd of people out there willing to share their opinion on what you’re doing gets bigger every day, and a lot of them don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. When you’re looking for a critique or mentor to help you refine your vision you need to be conscious of avoiding the masses that lean towards the average and unexceptional.  Instead, be discerning and search for those singular and unique voices – the ones with a real opinion and point of view. Be vocal about what you want to improve and specific about what you want them to comment on so that you can grow with purpose and urgency. Consider the lessons you learn from them and take what helps you, but never be afraid to try to prove your mentors and critics wrong – not through words and argument, but by action and result – as you see your own vision through.

18. Get Too Comfortable

Complacency and stagnation can be incredibly hard things to recognize when you’re deeply mired in them. We gradually slip more and more into our routines and comfort zones until they smother us. One of the most common examples of this that I see is when a photographer starts to get a good amount of work in – they’ve worked hard to develop their marketing and contacts, their work is at the top of its game, and they have a look that’s in demand. Over the course of a couple of months or years they think they’re doing great but maybe they let their marketing slip or stopped pushing their skills – figuring that they’ve made it. All of a sudden there is a pivot in the industry, staff changes at client offices, perhaps a new agency takes over an account, or their look now seems dated and out of step with the market. All those months they went without marketing or developing new skills will come back to haunt them as their work dries up and they have to scramble to bring in some income just to keep the doors open. Getting too comfortable can leave you in a very uncomfortable position.

19. Don’t Manage Client Expectations

Once you get the basics of this photography thing down and start bringing in work, you suddenly realize you have a whole host of new problems in regards to communication and the ability to actually deal with clients – the kind of problems can lead you to complain in internet forums where a bunch of other people who have similar problems will pat you on the back and say “You know what? You’re right, your clients suck, and so do mine. It’s not your fault.”

But you know what? It’s kind of your fault.

Sure, there are bad clients out there, the legitimately dishonest or unethical type that give you 99% of your headaches for 1% of your income, the ones that you’ll probably fire after a couple of harrowing months. But most of the clients you’re going to end up having problems with aren’t out to get you, they are decent and honest people who just don’t know the ins and outs of your business as well as you do. Clients like this have a different vocabulary and a different background than you – some might be making their first foray into working with a professional, others might be used to different policies and working arrangements because they collaborated with a different creative for a long time, and some might be new to a position in an agency and still learning the ropes.

You need to work from the mindset that all of your potential clients have varied backgrounds and experiences, have radically different wants and needs, and are all going to ask different questions – and it’s up to you to know when they aren’t asking the right ones. Your client didn’t bring up a stylist? Ask if they need one anyway. Client doesn’t know what their responsibilities are? Give them a timeline. Client didn’t mention exclusivity? You better ask. Client doesn’t understand he difference between editorial and commercial licensing? Define it in the contract. Not using a contract? FUCKING START! Every time a freelancer works without a contract an angel kicks a puppy.

Make communication the most important thing in your business besides the quality of your work. Be patient with your clients and take the time to ensure sure that everyone involved is in synch. Ask as many questions as they do to make sure they understand your position before a problem arises. Otherwise, despite all the client blaming you do online, you’re the one who’s going to look like an asshole.

20. Go it Alone

You need a support team in your life, because there is only so much you can carry on your shoulders without getting crushed – this goes for both your professional and personal life.

On the personal side, you hopefully have several layers of support – friends and family who stand by you are a great and valuable resource, but don’t underestimate how much your local community of colleagues and photographers, the ones who understand the stresses of being a freelance creative, can help as well. Chances are they have been through the same issues you’re going through now. They’ve dealt with doubt, shaky finances, bad shoots, rough relationships, and a whole host of other problems that might be affecting you, and you can rest assured that there are scores of photographers who are going to come after you that are going to have these problems as well – do what you can to pay it forward in your community.

On the professional side, there is often a sense that the photographer is a lone-wolf, and at the beginning of our careers we do have to wear a lot of hats under both the artist and entrepreneur banner. We find ourselves doing design work, writing copy, taking care of scheduling, taxes, payroll, etc, all on our own. It’s a lot to handle, especially if you aren’t as expert in those fields are you are at photography, but sooner or later you have a revelation that there are people out there who put just as much time and passion into developing these skills as you do yours. Over the last couple years I’ve started working with a designer, a writer, a marketing consultant, a retoucher, and an amazing assistant. I’ve also developed really good relationships with my accountant, insurance broker, and banker on the business side of things. It’s made my life simpler, made me more focused on the quality of my images and servicing clients, and improved the quality of my brand and marketing across the board. Being able to find a group of people, whose skills I trust and respect, has been so important to growing my business in the last few years.

What mistakes are you making? What do you see holding you and others back from really being successful? What are you doing about it?

NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

This is the story of how one conversation, a healthy dose of dissatisfaction, and a few glasses of wine helped me decide to make a major change in my photography, how I thought about where I live, and the kind of stories that I was really interested in telling.

At the beginning of the summer I found myself afflicted with a worrisome and specific case of writers block –  I would shoot a project, but when I sat down to write about it the only things I could think of were “Here is a picture I took and I really like it” or “I shot this assignment recently for a client, the art director was super nice and brought sandwiches” basically the kind of disposable posts you have read on every photography blog, ever, in the history of everything (Okay, except for some of the really good ones like those written by John Keatley, Rodney Smith or Chris Buck – I’ll gladly read those any day), and I had gotten sick of it. I stared at blank screens for hours feeling like my brains were slowly leaking out of my eyes and that my writing skills were failing me (thankfully this mental state was contained only to my writing and did not affect my ability to take kick-ass pictures). It’s not that I didn’t like the aesthetics of the work I was producing, I just didn’t feel like these were the kind of stories that I was really having much fun telling. Continue reading “NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT”

Learning from the Boss

Luke Copping and Rhea Anna by Lindsay Dedario
Luke Copping and Rhea Anna by Lindsay Dedario
Photo: Lindsay Dedario

There is a cool piece in this months issue of PDN (The Heroes and Mentors issue) featuring me called Learning from the Boss featuring several photographers talking about their mentors in the industry (people like Bill Cramer, Jeff Hutchens, and Bruce Weber were featured) I got the rare opportunity in the article to talk about one of my favorite people – my long time mentor, Rhea Anna. Check out the current issue of the magazine to see the full article

Without going too much into the magazine’s content, I just want to say that Rhea has been a wonderful friend and mentor. Working with her reignited my passion for photography after a long period of me thinking I had lost it, and the example she sets has been a huge influence on me and other artists that have worked with her. I have learned more from her about photography, professionalism, and creativity than any other source I can think of, proving that you cannot discount the influence of an amazing mentor.

Thanks Rhea!!

Work Music – Instrumental Bliss

This week I find that I have been avoiding too much music with a lyrical base. I have been able to focus much better with instrumental tracks playing. I am working on some projects that require a deft and subtle hand in post production, and I find the more subdued tracks keeps my hand a little calmer. There are definitely some great treasures on this list, most notably Red Sparowes, a band that has long been in my constant play rotation. Its both driving and relaxing, works fantastic for both computer work and in studio when shooting. Bohren and Der Club of Gore is another group worth checking out for those who find themselves doing a ton of work on the road on their laptop. Cool, dark, and moody jazz inspired tracks that can be pretty much adapted and listened to in any situation. They are very theatrical as well, fantastic personal soundtrack music.

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4 Solutions for 99 Excuses

Recently The 99% (one of my favorite websites about creativity, idea implementation, and work philosophy) featured an article based on a readers’ poll about the 99 most commonly used excuses people let stand in the way of their ideas taking shape. While thought provoking, their main intention was to get people to face the facts of how harmful excuses can be to the creative process, and to show just how widespread their debilitating influence can be.  There are, however, some points from their top fifteen excuses that I think bear a more in-depth analysis, especially in relation the photographers and other freelancers.

1. I Don’t Have Enough Time

Where do your passions lay? At what point do we sacrifice love of what we do and the ability to bring our visions to fruition? The simple fact of the matter is that if doing something is important enough to you, you can and will find time to do it. There are different ways to tackle this problem. Some like to accomplish tasks in preset modules, breaking down large projects that can seem insurmountable into hour-long task and goal blocks that they schedule into their regular days. Others prefer the marathon approach (this was my modus operandi for years). I would finish an 8-10 hour day at my day job, excitedly knowing that the rest of my night was dedicated to photography and creative tasks, either a shoot or web development or retouching. I would complete my daily tasks and dedicate the rest of my time to taking pictures and post-production because it is what I loved to do. It was a decision I made to consciously create time for my passions. A lot of the tasks I completed using this system ended up laying the groundwork for my eventual transition back to photography as a business.

The 99% suggests taking a proactive approach to task management and identifying important tasks as great first steps. I would have to agree. In terms of real world implementation, one of the easiest things you can do is to get yourself a good task management system that synchs across a variety of devices. I am partial to Things, which has been a huge boon to my productivity, especially since it works on both my desktop and mobile system. A great alternative to Things is Remember the Milk, which is a web-based application pretty much accessible from anywhere. The real key to these programs is how you dedicate yourself to using them. I start each day with a daily review of tasks, ranking and ordering them in a way that offers me the best productivity stream. I identify what can be accomplished and what cannot that day based on my workflow and I make sure that I block out a solid chunk of time each day that is dedicated to nothing but personal projects. Treat these personal work blocks like any other task in your workflow. They must be completed and used effectively, but you will find that if you schedule them alongside  your billable hours and private tasks that you will absolutely be able to make time for them.

Two other sites I recommend checking out that are related to time management and workflow are:

http://five.sentenc.es/

http://www.43folders.com/

In the end, it comes down to this – if you love it, do it! If you have responsibilities, take care of them, then do it! If you are tired, wake up and do it! The musician Henry Rollins is a great example of this. Rollins has been known to work so prolifically and for such long periods of time while maintaining a hectic travel schedule that he often sleeps only a few hours a night. This is a great example of dedication and work ethic leading to success.

2. I’m Afraid Of Failure

Failure is one of the most singularly useful tools in the world to motivate you to improve. If you have never failed then you have nothing to illustrate what mistakes you have made in the past. Experimentation is a big part of this. Always give yourself the ability to play with your work. Try new things in your personal work and learn from the mistakes and successes to create a better product in your professional work. With client jobs, once you have the safety shots and have met the layout requirements that have been set forth, try to take a few more daring images. Oftentimes you will fail, but you will occasionally have a brilliant success as well. Perfection and a 100% success rate are admirable notions, but rarely achievable. It’s far more important, in reality, to strive for a perfection you will never reach. This will have many more benefits for you in the long run. There is no such thing as a perfect photograph. Even the best can improve upon what they have already done. If you never risk failure and play it safe constantly you will find that yourself and others will start to view you as competently and consistently average. They won’t really have anything bad to say about your work, nor will they have the impetus to hire you for your singular vision and style. For more reading on the topic of learning from mistakes and letting them improve you, check out It’s OK to Suck.

7. I Am Afraid of the Competition

Competition is nothing more than fuel and fallacy mixed together. This issue can be addressed from two angles. The first is that competition is a fantastic catalyst to get better. We must all strive to constantly be growing as artists, improving our skills, outlooks, and attitudes in the long run to provide our clients with the best us we can be. If you can sit comfortably at the top of the hill with no one else trying to summit it, it’s very easy to become complacent and lazy and you will find yourself only doing as much necessary to maintain the status quo. However, when someone becomes competition to you, it can light an ever-needed fire under your ass and push you to start doing all the things you should be doing: marketing more, improving technical skills, reviewing your fundamentals, improving your negotiating tactics, and pushing you to pursue more personal projects to develop your vision further.

The second angle to view this from is that much of what we do is selling ourselves just as much as we sell our services to our clients. You are your own niche, your own brand, and your work can easily follow suit. Once again, this comes back to competing on more than just price. Demonstrate beyond argument the value that you can bring to your clients’ projects and how you can build positive working relationships with their teams. You should be so desirable to work with that the only issue you feel you have to compete with is whether your unique style is the right one for the job. In summation, let competition push you to a point where you are bettered in all aspects because of it.

8. I Got My Expectations Too High Just Thinking About It

This can be a dangerous problem, both from a financial and spiritual side. I was once acquainted with a photographer who suffered from the problem of generating fantastic ideas rapidly, so rapidly, in fact, that it became a problem. Firstly, they had a serious issue with bringing any idea to final fruition. Projects would be half completed and strewn aside. It’s quite detrimental to put a lot of capital into a personal project and walk away with nothing to show for it, not because of difficulty, but merely because the excitement brought on by new ideas forced them to lose interest in seeing their original idea through. Secondly, when ideas were completed they had often become an pale imitation of their original selves. New ideas would impinge upon the basic purity of the original concept, things would be added and stuck on at a whim. The result, needless to say, was often disappointing and chaotic. Many people suffer from this and similar issues when seeing their projects  through. Some people are exceptionally good at generating ideas. They find it exciting. But once they realize that actual hard work is involved, they often lose their enthusiasm. Others, much like the photographer above, suffer from a lack of faith in their ideas, always feeling that they are on shaky ground and that they need to slap more “idea plaster” on to keep them stable, when in reality it’s making their  idea more and more structurally unsound.

Be picky about your projects. Conceptualize and plan them well and break them down into smaller and more achievable segments. Having ambition is great, and an absolutely required trait in this profession. But if you cannot make a plan to realize your ambition, then it becomes  more and more of a seemingly impossible goal. The situations mentioned in the paragraph above can easily be rectified through even the most basic planing, and then having the dedication to stick to the core details of the plan. Do not let this lead you to think that improvisation cannot be a part of a well-planned production though. Improvisation and adaptation will be your constant allies and companions. In fact, having the forethought to plan a project carefully is what will give you the freedom to improvise more effectively.

Work Music – 15 Songs To Work To While The Weather Changes

We are introducing a new feature here on the blog, it is called Work Music. Every thursday a new playlist will be posted, 12-15 song lists perfect for retouching, shoots, general office work, and creating moods. We will even be bringing in some guest creatives from time to time to share the music that they work to. With the weather in western New York starting to become a little colder, we are beginning to enter my favorite time of the year; fall. I find myself putting away the frenetic and aggressive music that keeps my energy levels up in the summer (a much needed effect, I am most definitely a cold weather person and generally dislike the heat) and replacing it with more down tempo, melancholy fall music that I often find myself listening to during marathon retouching bouts or long blogging sessions.

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Check back regularly for some bouts of inspiration and sonic nourishment to help you through those rough days at work. Highlights of this list for me are definitely the tracks from Leonard Cohen, City & Colour, The Moody Blues, and Angels of Light. All great songs that are worth the purchase.

Negativity as a Virus and Four Ideas on How to Treat It

It has become a sad trend. Negativity is sweeping through the photography community at a growing and alarming rate, both online in forums and blogs, and on an interpersonal level at industry events and gatherings. More and more photographers are starting to drown in an ocean of self-loathing, scapegoating, fear, blame, and complacent laziness. It’s a self-propagating problem. Negativity spreads like a disease; to other photographers, to our clients, to our fans, and to the viewing public.

When I started out in this business I would occasionally run into people in the industry who would take one look at me, a student coming out of school and into the business, and would take me aside and attempt to discourage me from pursuing photography as a career. It was not a rare thing to hear “Don’t get into photography, it’s a dying business.”  I could never discern their individual motives. Were they taking turbulence in the industry hard, fearing the end of their career and livelihood and projecting it  on to others? Did they view new emerging photographers as a threat to their market? Had they stopped evolving as artists and creatives, blaming the changing wants and aesthetic needs of the industry for their own unwillingness to break set habits and move into new creative territories? Whatever the reason, some people are just not aware of how this can affect other people. I am sad to say that it affected me. After a few year of hearing this, I really started to doubt having any future in this business at all. I was convinced that the photography industry was on its last legs and that any attempt to move forward in it was hopeless. In fact, I even left the photography industry for some time to work for a manufacturing firm. It took years for me to realize just how strong my want to be a photographer  really was. Thankfully, I was able to make the move back into photography as a career. And while it is a tough and extremely competitive business, I find myself much happier, more excited about work, and generally more positive than I have been in years.

Rather than telling someone this, we should encourage emerging photographers more, both to excel in their work as well as to learn proper business acumen so that they can enter the world more prepared to work in this industry. Competition is a glorious thing, and while I can understand the motivations that create the fear of already small markets becoming more saturated that some photographers seem to exhibit, I do not agree with it. It’s a much more positive action to foster creativity in others, to push them to grow as artists. Their growing skill and success should push you to improve your own work and business skills to stay competitive. We can never become complacent or lazy. If we stagnate as artists (and indeed in this day and age we are artists and not merely technicians) then can we really blame an industry’s fickle tastes and rapidly evolving aesthetics for moving past us quickly?

Another common complaint I hear that saddens me is the claim that “The industry does not respect photographers anymore”. If you want people to respect what you do, give them something to respect you for. Complaining to others about the changes in the industry is pointless. Complaining accomplishes nothing at all. It’s a waste of energy that could be better spent creating new work to make clients respect you for the value you bring to their projects. Time better spent marketing to clients on a personal level, impressing them with the enthusiasm and energy that you can bring to their accounts, selling not just your work, but yourself to them. This seems to be an idea that has escaped a lot of photographers. Yes, the business has changed, and we must change with it. Not in terms of compromising our business ethics. One should always stick to their guns in terms of the policies that they have set forth to run their business, but rather we should find new ways to adapt these business practices to meet the needs of changing business climate. We must examine and experiment with new business and pricing models to work with clients and not for them or in some extremely negative scenarios, against them. We should be creating new bodies of intelligent work that reminds our clients of our talents, skills, and abilities, demonstrating value beyond mere technical skill or pricing. You cannot demand respect. It must be earned, and the best way to do this is by demonstrating consistent and ambitious value to the people you want to respect you.

It seems that so many resort to negativity because it is the path of least resistance. It is so much easier to spend our time focusing on the negative aspects of our life and business than it is to proactively do something positive to improve our work. It’s always easier to blame someone else for change than ourselves for our own difficulties in adapting. Sadly, I have even been witness to photographers, both experienced and inexperienced, complaining to potential clients on their blogs and even in person about the changes in the industry and about the difficulty of making a living in an extremely competitive climate. In many ways this is more harmful to our business than any industry-wide changes could ever be, It makes us appear as falsely entitled, spoiled, and bummed out children. Why would any client, anywhere, want to deal with someone who does nothing but bring a sense of doom to what they do? Negativity breeds more negativity, and it’s becoming a vicious cycle that is sucking more and more photographers in. Nothing bums me out more than seeing a group of photographers gathered at an industry event, spending their time complaining to each other, all the while oblivious to the fact that they were surrounded by potential clients whom they could be setting up meetings with.

Thankfully, there are some things that I have found that help me avoid falling into this trap, and even help others to combat it on occasion.

Encourage Others to Excel

Learning by teaching can be a fantastic tool. It can help us come to realizations about ourselves and our own work that we may not have arrived at independently. If you see someone exhibiting such negative behavior, do your best to help them overcome it. Be available to offer suggestions and answer questions. You might be surprised at how listening to someone else’s problems can help you find ways to solve your own. Listening is a lost skill, just be careful not to become a constant sounding board for the terminally negative. You’ll find yourself getting dragged down faster than you know.  Encouraging others to excel also fosters a wonderful sense of competition. The better the people around us, the harder we have to push ourselves to improve and succeed. It’s easy to walk to the top of a hill, but its much more rewarding and beneficial to summit a mountain.

Surround Yourself with Intelligent and Positive Influences

Not just in your personal life, but in your business life as well. A great attitude can go a long way and can improve the mood and outlook of others as well. One of the most helpful things I had ever done for my business was to put together an extremely skilled and supporting group of peers, crew, and mentors. People who gave intelligent and positive advice that pushed me to excel and make intelligent decisions. For instance, a few months ago I decided that I wanted to start working with an experienced and knowledgeable consultant that could offer an objective opinion of my body of work and help me develop a more cohesive marketing program. I eventually decided to work with Amanda Sosa Stone, not only because of her excellent track record and insight, but because her enthusiasm for what she does and for what I am doing is utterly infectious. In my early conversations with her I would find myself giddy with excitement to implement her ideas and advice, even more so when they began to have positive tangible effects.

Another great example is Nubby Twiglet, the designer who developed my visual identity. I have become a daily reader of Nubby’s blog since I started working with her. Her writings have become extremely influential to me and the way I think about my business, my work, and how I am a major part of my brand. Blog posts like this and this have stayed with me long after I originally read them and I have found myself revisiting them periodically. I had the pleasure of interviewing Nubby on this blog a few months back with the goal of helping photographers who were looking to work with a graphic designer for the first time and it was an insightful and stirring source of information.

Never Stop Learning

Stagnation is a terrible thing. We have to strive to never stop learning and gaining new knowledge to avoid it. This is a wide-reaching topic that can cover many areas of your life. In the arena of business, read blogs from forward thinkers in the subjects of marketing and sales. In photography, experiment more and push yourself beyond your comfort zone. Shoot more personal work without thought to end use, but rather because you enjoy the act and craft of it Take pictures and build projects around things that matter to you, that you connect with on a deep and personal level. Read more, you would be surprised at how much a good book can get your mind working. Watch films that inspire you and seek influence from your other creative outlets and passions to feed back into your photography. Read self-help books like Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art which can help you combat your own internal resistance and creative fears. Never be afraid to ask questions of others and to learn from people both more and less experienced from you.

Get Good — Really Good

There is no quicker road to negativity than mediocrity and the downward pull of inertia dragging your attitude down. An object at rest wants to stay at rest. Beat this by pushing yourself to grow. Just finished a project you are exceptionally proud of? That’s great, now get out there and try to create something even better. You will find yourself more excited to create new work when you challenge yourself. You will learn from the mistakes you made in the past and actively improve on them, rather than repeating them over and over. One of my favorite quotes on this subject, ever, comes from Steve Martin.

Be undeniably good. When people ask me how do you make it in show business or whatever, what I always tell them and nobody ever takes note of it ‘cuz it’s not the answer they wanted to hear — what they want to hear is here’s how you get an agent, here’s how you write a script, here’s how you do this — but I always say, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” If somebody’s thinking, “How can I be really good?”, people are going to come to you. It’s much easier doing it that way than going to cocktail parties.

Take this to heart. Get better and better until you cannot be ignored anymore. Strive to be so undeniably good at what you do that people will have no choice other than to pay attention, Add value to this by being the type of person that others want to work with, one who makes the people around them more excited to create something wonderful. Bring enthusiasm to everything you do and strive to deliver more than what is asked of you. Don’t be afraid to put your work our there for others to see, whatever your own doubts or negative feelings might be. No one can notice you if you hide in the shadows. Do not ever be afraid to (as photography consultant Leslie Burns puts it in her book) “Tell The World you Don’t Suck

Required Reading – Back from Holiday

Back from a short but relaxing holiday in a self imposed exile from work, emails, and doing anything that wasn’t relaxing or fun. 3 days spent with my girlfriend eating barbecue, hitting some bars, and visiting family. The weekend culminated last night when we spent the evening together exploring one of Buffalo’s most beautiful waterfront parks. It’s the first time I have walked the entire length of the grounds, and found a few treasures. The first is a huge concrete slab that served as the foundation/parking lot of a former outdoor mega club. The slab is slowly being reclaimed by nature, cracking and splitting with strong plantlife coming up through the fissures.  The next was several huge blocks of white marble of granite (I couldn’t tell) laid out in a pile and nestled up in the shadow of a small green hill. It seems alien for them to be laying there in the middle of such an empty space, these cyclopean blocks of stone that just seemed so out of place, but they were laid out so beautifully. The evening ended with us eating some of Buffalo’s finest tacos. and then early to bed for me so that I could get up for an ASMP breakfast.

Heres some links that I cultivated over the weekend for you.

Luke Copping - Walking away

• The phone call is a dying art in some circles, but its still one oft he finest marketing tools around. Leslie Burns thinks so too. and her opinion is one I trust.

• Clever use of Google AdWords nets a creative a wish list job.

• Richard Branson, long touted for being a publicity hounds, says that entrepreneurs need to build for the future, and that  sometimes showy projects and stunts can be calculated experiments in disguise, not grabs for the headlines. Here are his five tips to running a successful business.

• From Ryan Freitas – 35 Lessons in 35 years

• Take your freelancing to the next level. become a thought leader and exercise some smart control and influence over your fans.

Erin McPartlan

Quick Cuts – Vaunt

Vaunt

Vaunt was in town briefly for a shoot with Auxiliary Magazine. I was glad to have a chance, albeit in an extremely limited window of time, to work with her in the few scant minutes of light we had left. It was a simple casual and fun shoot which resulted in a very rewarding image.

Required Reading

• Jake Garn discusses the importance of falling in love with what you do

• For all the up and coming photographers out there. I cannot suggest strongly enough that you pick up Leslie Burns new book Business Basics for the Successful Commercial Photographer

Tim Ferris discusses Seth Godin’s move away from traditional publishing. While mainly aimed at writers it is an interesting discussion on the evolution of new media channels. And I certainly think there are lessons that can be learned in this article by photographers and other creatives.

• My friend Meagan Hendrickson, the fashion editor of Auxiliary Magazine, loves Elvis. So much so that on the anniversary of Elvis’ death earlier this month she ran a blog piece on the necessity of Elvis’ glasses as an important fashion accessory. …. staring me.

• Justin Colt’s East/West Cross Country project is a must see.

• Drowned in Sound has this great Mixcloud up right now, 25 Tracks: A Dubstep Chronology. Simply my favorite new soundtrack in the studio and when doing post work. Check out some of the sounds below, but make sure to stop by Drowned in Sound and read the excellent analysis of this mix.

• I Found this Via Gala Darling’s site, and it is an interesting read. I have been a lifelong insomniac, sleeping very little most nights, a lot of these tips have been around for quite some time and work with marginal effectiveness, but I’m intrigued by tailoring my diet to include more sleep inducing foods. I’ll be looking into this notion more as the weeks go by. Especially since I seem to be having a tougher time than normal sleeping

• ASMP – Strictly Business – A New Path

A Busy Week

Its been a hectic week here, just got back from a couple hard days on a set. But I’ve got a chance to catch up on a lot of new work that still needs to go through post production. Keep an eye out for new promo images of artist Nick Butlak that are coming shortly. Some new tutorials, and more news on a bunch of upcoming projects that are starting next week.

lo-fi irregulars – Niagara Falls Blvd

After moving from Canada to the states when I was a kid I spent most of my life growing up around the Niagara Falls and Youngstown NY  areas. I have a strange obsession with the remains of the once great tourism industry that once kept the area moving, Some of the last relics of that previous tourist boom are the motels that line the boulevard. I was out there this morning and had a chance to play with Hipstamatic on my iPhone for a bit, taking shots of some of the signs and surrounding areas.

Images of the Niagara Falls Blvd Strip. By Luke Copping

The Bit-O-Paris motel, rooms still rented by high school kids to this day in order to throw parties.

Rapids Bowling centre - Luke Copping Photography

Rapids Bowling, I remember when I lived in the area, that there was always an unusually high concentration of bowling alleys nearby.

Bel-Aire motel - Luke Copping photography

The Bel-Aire motel, my favorite retro sign on the Boulevard.

motel and used cars - Luke Copping Photography

I would venture to say that its a bad idea to buy a used car from the motel you stayed at last night.

The Niagara Falls Motel - Luke Copping Photography

The Niagara Falls Motel

Motel in Niagara Falls NY - Luke Copping Photography

Another roadway motel

Knights Inn - Luke Copping Photography

Knights Inn, one of the more modern additions. Lacking some of the retro charm, but I still love that sign.

Caravan Motel, Niagara Falls - Luke Copping Photography

Another of my favorite sings from the area, the Caravan Motel.

The wagon wheel restaurant - Luke Copping photography

Front of the Wagon Wheel Restaurant

3 star motel - Luke Copping Photography

The 3-Star Motel

Old Bell Facility, Derelict Garage - Luke Copping Photography

A derelict garage at the Old Bell Aerospace Complex, Now a facility housing several manufacturing companies, I worked in the complex for years.

View of airfield and Garage - Bell Facility - Luke Copping Photography

Another view of the Garage and unused lots nearby.

To see more of Luke’s commercial and editorial photography work please visit lukecopping.com

Behind the Scenes: Ties and Glasses for Auxiliary Magazine

Selection of Ties from Cyberoptix Tie Labs

A range of ties provided by the wonderful Bethany Shorb of Cyberoptix Tie Labs, I plan on getting a few of these designs for myself. I’m a little bit in love with the chartreuse and pink lotus tie.

Lauren Mentkowski getting hair done

Our wonderful model; Lauren. Who was a savior on this particular shoot.

April Grigajtis

Hairstylist April Grigajtis will blow you away.

Lauren on set

Lauren Getting her final styling right before stepping in front of the lens.

Molly and Zach

Molly and Zach – Masters of interpretive dance.

The Archive of Embarrassment – Prince Valiant Rides Again

The Archive of Embarrassment is a collection of outtakes, personal photos, light tests, and self portraits that amuse me, mainly because they are a terrible and hillarious embarrassment for me or the people in them.

Downtime on a production a couple months ago. Hairstylist extraordinaire Linh Nguyen had this wig ready to go for a shot later in the day. Some might say it looks a little TOO good on me.

Quick Questions with Smart People – John Keatley: Photographer

John Keatley is an advertising and editorial photographer from Seattle. His images of celebrities like Annie Leibovitz and John Waters are iconic and instantly resonate with the viewer. John was kind enough to answer some questions and to share some clips from his recent talk on photography. John’s blog can be found here

LC: What are some tips you might give to a young photographer trying to get their work seen and market themselves in their early career that you wish you had known when you were starting out?

JK: It is very important to have a plan.  Set goals for yourself.  Commit to your goals by writing them down, and then decide on a plan that will help you achieve your goals.  It will take time, hard work, consistency persistence, and good work.  Stick to your plan and if you are passionate about what you are doing people will start to notice.  A lot of young photographers don’t realize how much time and hard work goes into a successful marketing campaign, and they want results right away.  I just watched an interview with Adam Sandler, and he was talking about auditioning for parts early in his career.  He believed so much in himself, when he didn’t get a part, he thought, “What is wrong with these people! How could they not want me?”  That kind of belief in your abilities is an important key to success, and it has to be followed up with persistence.  If you don’t press on after a bad meeting, or after losing a bid, you won’t get anywhere.

LC: In terms of changes in media technology, how versed do new photographers need to be in terms of working with video as well as still images? Is video something you have greatly embraced in your own work?

Photography Talk Chapter One from John Keatley on Vimeo.

JK: I actually made videos long before I ever picked up a still camera.  It was a big hobby of mine in high school.  Since becoming a photographer, video was something I have not had a ton of time for however.  Recently I have started working again with video and I am really enjoying it.

I think right now it is one of those things where you don’t have to be well versed in it, but it sure doesn’t hurt.  It can only help you if you can offer video to your clients.  There are lots of fun and exciting possibilities if you can work with stills and motion, so I say go for it.

LC: In your own early experiences was there any one moment or opportunity that was a game changer for your career?

JK: I don’t think I can say there was one moment that made all of the difference, but there have certainly been many significant opportunities and events in my life which have helped shape my career and as well as opened new doors for me.  I am always trying to push myself and sometimes taking on something that scares you is the best way to learn and grow.  You will surprise yourself with what you can accomplish if you just commit and be positive.

LC: What are 3 do’s and don’ts about the photography business you wish you had known at the beginning of your career that you do now?

JK: I don’t have 3 do’s and don’ts, but I can offer this advice from personal experience.  Ask lots of questions, and communicate clearly.  Ask for help when you need it.  Value your work and yourself, don’t give it away and sell yourself short.  Shoot what you love.  This is said so much it can sound like white noise, but it is so important.  Don’t worry about what other people are shooting or making money at if it’s not something you enjoy.  Become great at what you love, and the work will follow.  Take initiative and make things happen.

LC: This question is specifically geared for those budding portrait photographers out there. You are known for working with noted personalities whose backgrounds encompass a wide spectrum,  what can younger photographers who get thrust into a situation of photographing a large personality do to get beyond that initial nervousness and relate to their subject?

Photography Talk Chapter Two from John Keatley on Vimeo.

JK: It can’t be about you.  You have to be or be humble when working with celebrities.  It’s important to understand you are not there to become best friends.  Celebrities have a million people pulling at them from all directions and everyone wants something from them.  If you lose sight of the fact you are there to do a job then you are at a disadvantage.  Just be yourself and don’t go in trying to impress everyone.  Be respectful, take a deep breath, and trust in yourself.

LC: Your portrait style is iconic and impactful, conversely so many photographers seem to jump on the bandwagon of whatever the trendy look or color treatment is that month. How much of a balance does one need to strike between what the industry wants and seeing through your own personal vision to completion.

JK: It is good to be aware of what is going on in the industry, and to draw inspiration from work you enjoy.  However, personally, I think it is important to be true to yourself and create whatever you feel compelled to create.  Don’t start over sharpening your work because that is what you see in print that month.  I think it is better to create something you can be proud of rather than what is in style if it doesn’t match up with your interests.  If you put your passion into it, there is a much better chance your work will be relevant for years to come.  If photography is just a job to you, then I suppose it would be very important to keep up with trends and adapt in that way, but if you want to become great and create something lasting, I feel that can only be achieved by listening to you inner voice.

Quick Questions with Smart People – James Cavanaugh: Architectural Photographer and ASMP National Board Member

Jim Cavanaugh is an architectural and aerial photographer with 35 years of professional experience based in Buffalo, NY.  Jim is a member of ASMP and currently serves on the ASMP National Board of Directors as 1st Vice President. Jim is Chairman of ASMP’s Copyright Committee and has lectured throughout the United States on Copyright issues.

LC: So many young photographers out there have a great deal of talent and vision to share. The main thing standing in their way is a lack of experience in the realm of business. What are some good resources for those photographers looking to improve their business acumen?

JC: The hardest part is knowing what you don’t know, knowing what questions to ask. Information is abundant. I recommend ASMP’s Professional Business Practices book as a good start. Also ASMP’s web site, www.asmp.org has a tremendous amount of information including links to the dpBestflow digital standards web site. ASMP also has a number of forums including ASMP ProAdvice for photographers just starting out in the business.

But the best way is to get a foothold in the business is to become a freelance assistant working for a variety of photographers. This will give you a broad overview of the industry from various perspectives. It will also let you identify the photographers who will be good mentors and help guide your career.

Finally, you need membership in a professional trade association like ASMP or PPSNYS (Part of PPA) that has local meetings.  This will give you the opportunity to meet with your peers and learn much more.

LC: The actions involved in registering and protecting ones copyright can be so intimidating to those interested in registering for the first time that several end up not going through with it at all. What advice or programs are available to help educate emerging photographers on the process or even to walk them through it?

JC: While creators receive copyright and certain protection at the moment of creation, registration is the key to obtaining full legal protection under the law. However, the registration process can appear daunting at first, especially in dealing with the different procedures for published and unpublished works. (And determining what actually constitutes publication.)

ASMP has an excellent tutorial on Copyright registration.  It includes a podcast of ASMP’s very popular registration workshops that have been appearing around the country. (I am one of the three presenters.)

The Copyright Office’s new electronic copyright registration site, eCO makes the registration of unpublished work much easier. By the end of 2010, the Copyright Office will also allow groups of published images to be registered electronically using the eCO site.

The big stumbling block comes from established photographers who have a significant amount of images that have never been registered. ASMP’s and my advice is start registering all the new work you create going forward and then, as time and funds permit, begin to register your important published legacy images. Older unpublished film/print images are in little danger of being infringed.

Currently, with limited exceptions, groups of published images must be registered using the old paper (Form VA) method. It may take a year or longer to get those registration certificates back. However, the registration is effective the day the Copyright Office receives your submission, not when you receive the certificate.

LC: With years of experience under your belt you have seen several changes and epochs come and go in the industry. With all the excitement and dread in the industry in the last few years over changes in the economy, media delivery, and changing ideals amongst buyers, do you see these as the end of photography as we know it as a profession, or simply another stage of evolution in the ongoing cycle of changes that make up any industry? What advice can you give to emerging photographers to see past the turbulence of the industry right now, and especially a very vocal group of negative photographers who are bemoaning the end of the industry?

JC: Well the industry sure looks different than when I started my business in 1975. In fact it is almost unrecognizable to how it looked in 2000! The first 20 years of my career, the business model was stable and was built on decades of “practices of the trade”. In the early 1990’s digital imaging began to take root and the industry began to change with these new tools.

Photographers often perceive that digital cameras, scanners and Photoshop changed the landscape. They certainly did to some degree. But, it was the digital tools available to our clients and content consumers that really changed the game. How our clients use images and the plethora of new delivery options for their content have spearheaded the revolution that is changing our business models. And the rate of change is only accelerating. The iPad and the devices that follow are offering whole new ways for clients to prepare and distribute their content whether editorial, advertising, educational or entertainment.

So is photography dead as we knew it? Not dead but constantly evolving. I think these changes open countless new doors of opportunity if we can see ourselves as visual communicators and not just photographers.  We can learn an important lesson from the railroads in the 1930’s. They saw themselves in the railroad business and not in the transportation business. The emerging airlines decimated them by the late 1940’s!

So we must recognize that the business models and licensing models that served us well for decades do not fit with the new business models in a digital/technology driven environment. This will mean developing new ways of doing business and new ways of licensing the work we produce. It will also mean learning new skills and developing partnerships with other creative’s to produce the content that clients are demanding.

LC: Looking back on your early career what are some of the more important or harder general lessons you had to learn quickly to begin building a business? Are these still relevant issues to today’s photographers? What advice can you give them in dealing with them?

JC: The most difficult and the most important issue is that you are running a business. Every key requirement to run a successful large corporation is required to run a small photography business. It’s no different today than when I started 35 years ago! If you can not profitably manage your business, you will be out of business.

Making photographs is only a small part of the process. Marketing, pricing, sales and finance are all critical areas that cannot be ignored. Also, photographers must stay on top of employment, insurance, legal and tax issues.

Having a plan is essential. A solid business plan that defines what you do, who you do it for and how you do it is critical. It’s your road map.  It will help you develop your “brand” and guide your marketing efforts. It will establish a financial plan that you can monitor to see if your marketing/pricing/market models are working. It is also a flexible document that needs to be changed if your plan is not working. Establish a team of professionals to help you with specific business needs. Start with a good accountant or CPA, insurance agent, payroll company, business attorney, banker and marketing consultant. Established photographers can offer good suggestions.

LC: So many photographers are traditionally closed off and unwilling to share information and thoughts with others. You, on the other hand have been involved in educating and informing other photographers on the national level and at all levels of experience. As a vocal proponent of photographers’ rights and the need for registering copyright, do you feel photographers should be actively trying to create a more unified community like other creative groups in order to improve communication both within our own community and in terms of improving how we communicate with our buyers and support industries?

JC: It has been said that “a rising tide lifts all boats.”  I believe there are no secrets in our industry. Unfortunately many photographers behave as if there is “special” information to be protected and hidden from view. It’s a foolhardy approach.

We all learn based on the experience of others. Keeping knowledge from your competitors only serves to “dumb down” the entire industry. I don’t advocate sharing client lists and some specific proprietary information. But sharing ideas on business models, pricing, legal issues and technology issues with people entering the business only elevates the profession. This is especially important in an unregulated and unlicensed business like photography.

LC: In the simplest terms what are some basic do’s and don’t for those looking into entering photography as a career.

JC: Don’t go it alone. Running any business is a complex endeavor. Take advantage of the tools and resources discussed above. Join a trade association. Seek out mentors. Read everything you can and attend seminars, especially on the changing market. It may seem daunting, but thousands have gone before you!