Quo Vadis?

Tell 8126

I’ll be resuming shooting people if plans work out for a photo shoot on Sunday. I’ve shot this model before. He loves modeling and has few boundaries! He’ll do nudes as well as as portraits and fashion shots.

Two days ago I renewed my model website subscription. I plan to start recruiting models again but before I do I need to clarify why I want to shoot models. In my naiveté, when I started doing photography, I shot fashion-type images but I didn’t doing anything to market my photographs or images to magazines, internet or print. I expected the models to get themselves professional modeling jobs using the portfolio I created for them.

I was just learning professional photography. Every shoot I did was a lesson on how to use the DSLR, how to set up lights, how to process photos, how to pose models, for crying out loud, I was learning how to just work with models! The shoots were vehicles for acquiring core skills.

Today, after five years, I have learned enough to be more discriminating about doing shoots. If I continued to shoot editorial spreads I’d have to get serious about breaking into print. Right now I don’t want to enter into the fray; I want to shoot at my own leisure rather than work with deadlines. But can I do this? Can I do superlative work without having to stress about it?

I’ve been doing pro bono work. Maybe it is time I start charging for commissioned shoots. By the same token, maybe it is time I work not with just any model willing to do a shoot with me but work with the right model for the project I have in mind. I need to shoot concepts, not just shoot for the experience. It’s time for focus, for shooting as a professional photographer. If I am good at what I do then maybe it is time I make money! Getting paid is incontrovertible evidence that I possess skills that others recognize enough to pay for with their own hard-won rewards.

I’ve labeled April my “back to basics” month but it’s really time to move on. It’s time to take stock of where I am and where I have been but more important: quo vadis? Where am I going? Where do I want to go?

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One Step Closer

Angelina 1917

I can’t believe it’s more than a week since I’ve posted here. And I cannot write for long tonight either. I’m doing an update.

I’ve decided to split my personal from my photography Facebook page. I’ve been working toward this goal for months now. This morning I pulled the plug. From now on I’ll post my “serious” photography work and what I am doing in photography and video on my Duende Arts Studio page and post personal comments and reflections on my personal page. It is convenient to be able to share files between the two while keeping them separate. Now at  least I have clarity about why I am on Facebook. On my personal page, I post to keep in touch with friends both near and distant and family; on my photography, I post processed images as well as what I am doing to improve my photography skills and production.

I am very happy with my decision to buy a year premium membership at 500px. I have yet to set up the market side of my account so the site can sell my photos. That’s one more thing I need to do soon. I also plan to renew my activity on other photography/art sites that sell your stuff like Red Bubble and Deviant Art. There are many other sites but I have to choose just a few or I won’t be able to keep up downloads. Moreoever, to really make the sites work I need to post, comment, rate the work of other members so they’ll do the same for me! Then there are the two model sites I need to change my portfolio at so it reflects the images I am creating today and the direction they will be taking in the future.

I want to think that by May 2013, five years after I began my sabbatical, I’ll have reached entry level for commercially viable photography! Then it’s more work after that but just to keep pushing my limits. First I need to get to the starting line and I think I can do that by May.

I may have to rethink the reason for being of this blog on photography. A photography blog is part of any Internet-based marketing strategy for the arts but I don’t have to do creative writing on this blog. Creative writing I’ll do on my Orlando Gustilo blog. There, another piece of the pie clarified.

And this maybe is the raison d’etre to blog: at once to keep track of the process we undertake to make our work commercial-grade and meet our own artistic standards which should be, if we’re serious in what we do, constantly moving higher!

Creating Products with Real Value

 

I am not happy with what I am able to do. Before I even think of offering services to the public I need to reach a higher level of quality. I want to use lenses and lighting better and be able to output a wider variety of print and digital products.
This link is to AMEX‘s Open Forum article on community-based marketing.

Among others, I found this worth remembering when setting up business, especially online business:
“consider a model that offers an experience that includes training, teaching, and sharing with other members of the community no matter what industry or product.”
Here’s another:
“To take advantage of the inherent benefits that this strategy offers you must begin to view your own business as a network instead of a sales organization.” This seems to me right along there with your idea of including models among the business proprietors. The idea could even be extended beyond this. The whole article is really worth reading.
The article also suggested subscription as a valuable feature, something Clayton or Jay mentioned.  But I still think we need to come up with our own unique product set, not just offer downloadable and/or streaming video or photo sets. If our products are truly standouts we can rely just on the quality for them to sell but I rather like the idea of architecturally structuring a product that is elegant both in content as well as attendant web-packaging for instance, what else can consumers get purchasing still photographs. Once people like something they are likely wanting extras and pennies for options often provide more profit. I read today, for example, that gas stations make more profit from beverages and snacks they sell than from gasoline! At Wal-Mart and other stores, those product shelves along the way to the cashier are an example of marketing. I am not into making a profit as much as offering products with real value to consumers. What I have not figured out to my satisfaction is just what real value is.
Helicopter shots are great but not necessary. I think as photographers our main advantage is our experience with framing, lighting and the creation of beautiful, emotionally riveting images. I did the workshop with Vincent LaForet on HDDSLR filmmaking over the weekend. He and Chase Jarvis are doing a greater percent of their work in filmmaking, which paradoxically has refreshed their take on still photography! I suspect the day is not far in the future when still photographers are also video photographers. The medium is coming together in the use of DSLRs.
I am interested in creating videos with models but I’m not interested in infomercials. I want my videos and films to be works of art, to be primarily aesthetically pleasing if not enthralling! So, if we’re going to produce wrestling videos, make wrestling videos that stand out for their aesthetic and dramatic effect. To do anything less is not worth it for me. There are way too many wrestling products out there. How to differentiate our products from the masses is the issue.
The natural progression of a still photographer into filmmaking (videos are falling by the wayside, relegated to people not as invested in producing superior quality products) is to becoming Directors of Photography (DPs) and art directors. For me I want to go all the way to becoming a director.

 

 

Developing a Marketing/Distribution Business Plan

 

Ben at Biceps Machine

 

This last week of the year between Christmas and New Year’s has traditionally been a time for reviewing the year just past and envisioning what the coming year might bring. Something exciting is taking shape and I’ll put down in writing what holds the promise of fire.

By May 2011, I shall have completed three years of an informal sabbatical to study photography and video production. A bachelor’s degree takes four years so I gave myself four years to acquire skills and experience sufficient to start making money from a new career. I think 2011 is the year I add marketing and sales to the learning experience.

I did 19 model and 13 portrait shoots in 2011. By my own assessment I have some ways to go before I’ll think myself qualified to compete with professionals in the field but just this piece of statistic is impressive. Where do I go from here?

The thrust of my present endeavor has roots going back at least to my senior year in graduate school when I found myself conflicted about my career goals. I chose to go on with school and finish the degree because I saw the degree as my ticket to come to America. It took the next 30 years for me to start working on that initiative. I limped along all those years but now find myself poised to finally make the life change I was not able to make until now.

Joe Campbell, the great American mythologist of the 20th century, used to tell his students: follow your bliss. Bliss is what this is about for me, and authenticity: making my actions harmonize with my inner world and aspirations. Bliss, authenticity and identity are what this is about. Finding out who I am is why it’s taken this long to take this step into embodiment.

I remember the day in 2008 I shot my first model, Kaleb. This is how I want to feel, I told myself. This is my bliss. The learning curve has not been clear-cut and I have often faulted myself for not making a beeline for the goal. But what is clear today is how the path had to manifest itself gradually. One makes the path by walking. I didn’t know in 2008 where I wanted to go!