Part II: Don’t Ask Why…Ask How.

Vertigo

In the introduction to this series I touched on the importance of emotional connection and how it relates to sales and expanding your customer base. You learned, maybe for the first time, that you may be marketing the wrong work to the wrong people at the wrong time. Now that’s just wrong!  I left off part one of this series promising to share with you some of the business ideas that have allowed me to be successful in marketing my work. We talked about why not, and before we get to where, we need to talk about how.

I want you to read the following sentence at least twice. The single most important factor to your success as a photographer both creatively and successfully is to BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. While this seems like a no brainer, this is a challenge for many photographers because before we can become our greatest advocate, we need to stop being our own worst critic. If you regularly tell yourself and the people around you that you suck then guess what….. I don’t even need to tell you. Indulging in self doubt will place a strangle hold on your creativity and if left unaddressed feeds on itself and grows over time. No matter where you are in your journey as a photographer, make a conscious effort to fight self doubt with creativity. Allow yourself the freedom to be YOU. Capture the images that make you happy and be grateful for the moment instead of continually thinking about chasing that next shot.

This brings me to my second, but equally important idea that the grass is NOT always greener on the other side of the fence. While there certainly is value in evaluating others work, constantly comparing your work to the work of others can be extremely unhealthy and helps feed the self doubt that destroys our creativity. The fact is, in your own mind there will always be someone better than you. Even if this is true, there is no value at all in internalizing this self defeating idea. A much more productive practice is to compare your work to your own previous work. This self evaluation builds confidence and allows your creativity to continue to grow at a healthy pace. Continuing to challenge yourself is a crucial part of your journey, no matter where you hope to end up.

The third idea I would like to share with you is simple. Never let anyone tell you that you are doing it wrong. Photography is and always will be subjective. For every one person who tells you that you are doing it right, there are two willing to tell you that you are doing it wrong. I truly believe that our individual creative paths will always lead us to the same place. How long it takes you to get there is the question. If you listen to the noise, you might miss something important. If you are only interested in photographing moss and insects that is great! Never shot film before…who cares? If you want to capture 9 exposures of the same image and tone map the hell out of them that is your business. No one knows more about being you than YOU and anyone who tries to tell you that you aren’t doing it right is wrong in more ways than one.

The final thought I will leave you with today is to know where you’re going, even if you aren’t going anywhere. Having an idea of what you hope to achieve with your photography will save you time, money and stress. If you hope to sell stock photography one day, start building a rock solid file structure today. If you want to sell prints, learn about the printing process and start printing large images now. If you are looking for an image critique, burn off a 24” x 36” print and just look at it. It will provide a wealth of opportunities for growth. Building a rock solid foundation now will pay back dividends in future years. Plan for the future but don’t sacrifice what’s truly important. After all, they are just photographs. Stay tuned for part 3 of this series titled Don’t Ask Why…Ask When? Thanks for reading and leaving your comments below. Please consider sharing this blog with those you feel may benefit from it.

Don’t Ask Why…Ask Why Not?

Eternal Beauty

The most frequently asked questions I receive from friends and strangers alike surround how I market myself & work, what works and what doesn’t. I am blessed that I am able to generate a moderate income from my photography without traveling to the ends of the earth, neglecting the personal relationships in my life, or giving up all hope of retiring one day…..hopefully WITH health insurance.

A few years ago when I realized that I COULD actually generate an income from my photography (thanks for buying those prints Mom!), I thought long & hard about the path I wanted to take and if I wanted to attempt to make this a full time profession at all. I quickly decided that as much as I love photography & the great outdoors, traveling to the ends of the earth 200+ days out of the year, away from friends and family, all without the security of a full time job was just not for me. Aside from the overall risks personally and financially, I just didn’t want to lose the most important part of photography to me…the simple joy that it brings me. As much as we all love to fanaticize about our passion leading to undying fame and untold riches, quitting your job, cashing in your 401k and hitting the road in your Honda Element may not be such a great idea. I mean, if it was THAT easy, I would have tore the sleeves off my jean jacket and started talking with an Australian accent a long time ago.

This brings us back to the question at hand. You jumped in with both feet and bought that shiny new Nikon D800 or 5D3. You have the tripod, the filters and a lens for every occasion. You have Photoshop, Lightroom, Nik, OnOne AND Photomatix and you STILL aren’t as popular as Trey Ratcliff. You are drowning in +1’s, likes, hearts & glitter graphics and even hash tag entire paragraphs online and still….no one is buying your work. This is the point at which most photographers start asking themselves why and questioning whether or not their work is good at all. The question should not be why….but why not?

The images that your photography friends like and the ones you personally feel are your best images are NOT the same ones that will be selling to real customers. Take that glorious sunrise image you captured from the top of Mt. Rainier that you are sure is going to be a hit. The question you need to ask yourself is what can this image be used for? Sure, it could be used for Washington tourism, or to sell climbing gear or some other mountaineering product but the list is short and very limited. The second problem is that the better your composition is (in the eyes of yourself and your fellow photographers) the less desirable it is as a marketable image. Customers need space for their products and information. Your perfectly crafted image does not allow for that. Now ask yourself how a picture of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco may be used. It can sell California tourism and anything associated with California. It can be used to advertise almost any business in San Francisco and the surrounding area. Because it sits in one of the world’s most popular destinations, it can be used for airline & auto industries and almost any aspect of travel in general. The possibilities are endless.

The same is true for fine art prints. 15% of my photography revenue last year came from selling prints. I expect that number to rise to 25% this year. These prints are VERY rarely the images I am most proud of or the ones I would choose to hang in my own home. People need to connect to a piece before they purchase it. It needs to evoke an emotion for them. I’m not talking about a simple emotional wonder of the beauty of a landscape; I mean a deep personal emotion. They are buying it because their youngest child goes to school there, or because they got married there. They are buying it because their fondest memory was created there during a vacation taken with their mother just before she passed away. Sometimes they are buying it simply because it matches the colors of their home and looks good over the back of their couch. I sold a collection of ten 30” x 45” canvases a few months back for over $5,000 and all of them were abstracts. I see you reaching for that macro lens!

The point I am trying to make here is that you can find success in your own backyard without giving up your stability, your free time or your family life. You can continue to enjoy your own personal photography and generate revenue from it on the side without being a full time photographer.

I have decided to take more time to share the things that I have learned in the past few years as a photographer on this blog. Stay tuned for the second installment of this post tiled don’t ask why….ask how? This will come in the next few days and will hold a wealth of valuable ideas on how to market your work. Till then, if you would like to find a personal connection with one of my images or are interested in high quality imagery to help promote your business please visit my website at http://www.aaronreedphotography.com and if you want to spend some personal time with me learning more about photography and how I do what I do, please consider one of my in the field workshops at http://www.exposurenorthwestphotography.com Thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read this article. If you have specific questions that you would like answered in a future article, please leave them in the comments below.

Quality Pacific Northwest Stock Photography – Aaron Reed Photography

If you are looking for the highest quality Pacific Northwest stock photography you have found it. Aaron Reed offers all of his non limited Edition photography as high quality stock through Tandem Stills & Motion. You can browse the entire collection of his stock by following the link below. Sit back relax and have a look into the beauty of the Pacific Northwest through the lens of Aaron Reed.

Aaron also offers high quality fine art prints, limited edition prints of 200. Other mediums including aluminum and canvas prints are also available. Email Aaron here aaronreedphotography@comcast.net for more information!

Aaron Reed Stock Photography

Amazing Pacific Northwest Stock Photography Aaron Reed

Amazing Pacific Northwest Stock Photography Aaron Reed

Just Say No! ~ Editorial Leeching.

Dear Mr. Editor

Thank you for your interest in my photography and for your generous offer to use my work for free to promote your book/magazine/website that you use to generate business for yourself. I would love nothing more than to help feed your family while mine goes hungry, because that is just the type of guy I am. Maybe I could feed them the free copy of the book you are offering me. I bet it would be tasty with some salt and pepper. I am also excited for the overwhelming exposure that I will be receiving and the vast number of customers that will be directed my way because of that teeny tiny photo credit you tried to bury in the spine of your magazine. I just don’t know what to say. You have done so much for me.

Now let me tell you the truth.

Good Photography is both hard work and expensive due to the price of equipment, the cost of gas, travel, insurance and self promotion. The shot that you have requested that I give you for nothing was taken inside of a 5 second exposure. The results of that 5 second exposure came from 12 road trips taken to the same location, 26 full tanks of gas, a $5,000 camera and priceless dedication to creating a good image and THAT is just the tip of the iceberg. There is no way I could ever calculate with any kind of certainty the amount of time and energy spent getting that one shot.

But I can tell you it wasn’t freaking FREE!

Now with that being said, I would love to send you a HI RES version of the shot you requested. All you need to do is make my car payment this month but don’t worry, I would be happy to give you “bill credit” with your payment and would gladly send you a free copy of the cashed check!

Ladies and Gentlemen,

PLEASE do not give your work away for nothing. Luckily for me I read somewhere very early on that if I priced my work at next to nothing, it would always be worth next to nothing. I can almost promise you that you are never going to be “found” by “getting your name out there” regardless of how good your work is. When was the last time you saw an image in a regular book or magazine and looked to see who the photographer was? Even if you did that, did you seek them out online to see the rest of their work? Buy a print from them? You get the idea.

The Free Riders are out in full force. Believe me, there are such things called budgets for advertising. There is also a designer who wants to come in well under budget to impress his boss. Do not put it past someone to say they are non-profit, or other reasons why they can’t pay you for your hard work. Yes, there is a chance that if you ask for compensation they will move on to the next sucker, I mean opportunity. If this happens who cares? Do you want the word to get out that you have quality work, and stand behind it or do you want the word to spread that you are an easy target? Please do not fall prey to these type of requests. Your work is valuable and if more people took a stand, the companies that NEED our images for their publications would gladly pay a fair price.

Many people ask me what is a fair price for my images? That, of course is for you to decide but here are a couple ideas. Getty images will usually charge between $100 – $500 for most single use images. You can also find calculators online that use current market data to give you an idea of what to charge however, these usually come back pretty high in my opinion. The key is to ask for compensation but be reasonable. If they continue to say they do not have a budget, ask them to trade for an advertising spot in the magazine. Not a photo credit, but an actual spot to place the image of your choice, your contact information and the services you provide if any. If you are unsure how to begin or are too nervous to throw out the first number, ask them to make you an offer based on their available budget or what they would be comfortable paying for the image.

Remember this post and remind yourself that your work is priceless, until you give it away for free.