Thursday, June 30, 2011

An 'Image Creator' No More: My New Photography Business Plan - Part 2

PLEASE NOTE: this is Part 2 of a two-part post (eh, hence the name). I strongly recommend you read Part 1 first.

Let me resume my discourse on the demise of the "image creating" business by first admitting I pulled a Jedi Blog Trick in that first post. I painted a dire, dramatic sky is falling picture of the photography business that may have startled some. While fairly accurate, it only gave you a tiny piece of the big picture, and represents just part of a much larger industry.

The ASMP Director Eugene Mopsik commentary column I quoted from is aimed (as is ASMP itself) primarily at commercial editorial and advertising photographers whose main income comes from licensing their published work.

These are the professionals who are most in need of re-inventing themselves. The group that is seeing their older, traditional business plans crumble as a result of the digital imaging revolution. Over the years, much of my work has fallen under this category.

There are many other types of photography-related businesses and careers. For those of you moving along a slightly different path, you may find that opportunities abound, and the health of your niche in the imaging world may indeed be robust. It is, after all, a very complicated and fluid business.

To reiterate the main point of Mopsik's column, for this specific group of photographers:

Survival is contingent on the establishment of multiple income streams...

Now, this advice fits me to a T, and it is exactly where my head has been "at" for quite a few years now. It is just reassuring to see it spelled out by a respected industry professional. Makes me feel I'm not alone in this battle.

So, with that in mind, here is my New Photography Business Plan, which as I just said, is not really new, but as we enter the second half of 2011, is worth re-focusing on.

FASHION - This is one of my biggest gambles. I have not shot a serious editorial fashion project in over five years. That's an eternity in the business, and it's due in part to the poor market (and attitude) here in Central Florida.

Still, I think enough progress has been made here recently that, with all the great shoot ideas I have rattling around in my head, the time has come to have another go at it. The plan is to test, shoot for Style Bedlam Magazine (see below), and hopefully that will lead to editorial and advertising print work. I feel my renewed effort will either open up the floodgates to an exciting new chapter in my career, or end up just being another lesson in futility.

VIDEO - This what really has me psyched, and it ties in nicely to my return to fashion. Still shooters have been making the transition to video for quite some time now, and if they haven't already, many will need to eventually in order to survive.

I am not freaked out or intimidated by this in the least, for reasons I will cover thoroughly in a future blog. Let's just say that my years of storytelling and thinking cinematically with my still work gives me many of the skills needed to direct and produce motion. I don't see this replacing my still shooting, but rather supplementing it.

STYLE BEDLAM MAGAZINE - An enormous web project for the fall of 2011. It ties in directly to the two things listed above. Starting my own online publication, however humble, is the ultimate self-assignment experience. I am trying to make this a complete magazine with fashion editorials, music and art features, and whatever the hell else I can throw in there that's slightly off-kilter. It will hopefully provide the perfect vehicle for me to network and collaborate with creatives from many different fields and markets. And, it will serve as my premiere marketing tool.

STOCK PHOTOGRAPHY - I hate stock photography. I have always hated stock photography. It is the polar opposite of everything I have learned to shoot over my career. Most stock is generic and anonymous. And in this micro stock market, it pays pennies. That being said, in today's WWW world, and considering the vast amount of archive images I have, plus the fact that most micro stock web sites allow you to join for free, it makes no sense for me not to offer an assortment of my photography as stock. A modest amount of effort to set everything up, and the web makes the work available to potential clients 24/7/365.

ZAZZLE - DEVIANT ART - FINE ART AMERICA - ETSY - Despite the lack of success of my gallery work since I've relocated (another strike against Central Florida), it fuels my soul too much for me to give up on it. And so I continually go in search of other, more worthy markets. The web has made that much, much easier. The names you see listed here are all art & design online stores, and they all allow me to easily market and sell my work in one form or another. All over the world. All free (or for a nominal listing fee). Persistence with these sites produces results. Wish I could say the same thing for where I live.

PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOPS - I have taught photography on and off in the past, and currently give away a tremendous amount of free advice and information on web forums, my Facebook Page, and now this blog. But there is a part of me that feels I can market myself a bit better and in a more structured environment by offering actual professional workshops. Again, I would tie this in to my fashion and portrait work, with the emphasis on studio lighting. It is very tempting, as I get a lot of satisfaction from teaching, but will require a lot of work on my part as well.

Well, that's the gist of it. I have an assortment of other art or photo-related projects designed to produce income, but these are the major categories that I'm concentrating on. A shotgun approach to be sure, and one that will require a lot of juggling, but one that I am confident will work. And the irony of it all is that I will remain an image creator, and that sure is a relief...

All photos ©Steven Paul Hlavac.