MISSION STATEMENT - This site is dedicated to professional music photographers. Our mission is to advocate sound business practices, warn against predatory client practices, provide helpful and educational resources, and foster a sense of community. All discussions related to capturing, processing, cataloging and licensing music photographs are welcome.
[by Chris Winton-Stahle]
My best piece of advice to any artist trying to build their following is to first find people who really get you. Start with your existing support system. I always look for people I connect with over shared interests and values. I make a good effort to stay close to those who will appreciate and support me. Find these people, keep them in your inner circle and ask them to help you grow! Don’t be afraid to ask them to connect you with someone they think you should know.
This brings me to my second point; follow the breadcrumbs. Earlier this year, I met with some wonderful Creatives at a small design firm in Nashville. We connected over a shared love of music and skateboarding – my kind of people! They didn’t have any work to offer me but they connected me to the Creative Director of a much bigger agency. The power of a good referral is exponential and a great tool for finding your audience. Just be sure to send a nice note of gratitude to the folks who refer you!
Finding your audience means identifying who your audience is. This involves some serious soul searching, but marketing to everyone doesn’t work. You’ve gotta have a niche! Everything you put out into the world says something about who you are as an artist and should be easily identifiable with your established brand. One way of accomplishing this is to create a signature “look”. It won’t be perfect for everyone and that’s okay! Those who don’t respond probably aren’t your ideal client in the first place. Those who think the way you do and really dig what you’re doing are the people you want to work with!
Once you’ve found them, stay in touch and stay accessible! I consistently put new work online, through my blog, instagram, twitter and FB. I show behind-the-scenes images, share personal stories and provide helpful information that will educate my audience. I make sure I’m creating all the time and releasing new work on a regular basis. Keep your name fresh in the minds of your existing audience and it will spread virally beyond your own expectations.
Don’t just look for people to support you – look for people you can believe in and stand behind, too! Take care of your fans because they are the people that will take care of you. Keep doing what you love, always stay positive and excited about what you’re doing, find other like-minded people who are doing the same, help them find success and you will be well on your way to building a strong, loyal audience!
Chris Winton-Stahle is an award-winning photographer and accomplished photo illustration artist who sees the camera as only half of his process in creating great imagery. Chris often pulls components from multiple images and CGI when creating his work for clients in advertising, magazines and entertainment.
There are so many reasons we need to find our own audience – from getting our work in front of potential clients to raising support for a project or even helping our clients attract more eyeballs. This week, our contributors share their insights on the all-important process of identifying and engaging the right people.
Being a commercial photographer is not my goal, nor will it ever will be. I don’t have the training, or the experience to compete with established professionals. I believe I am part of a photography movement that is based on capturing experiences, experiences from a viewpoint of someone that isn’t a traditional commercial or editorial photographer. Clients aren’t providing me with a set shot list, but rather giving me the freedom to capture the moments as I see them from behind my lens, both mobile and DSLR. I see value in the ability to offer a client both tools to suit their needs, access to my audience and vision through my mobile device, as well as the more versatile, larger image size of my DSLR work.
I was sitting in a hot tub in Dixon, New Mexico, the other day. My attempts at relaxation were futile, as two soon-to-be seven-year-old boys insisted on jumping in like enormous balls of hail. SPLASH! SPLASH! (No, it wasn’t very relaxing, but the hot water felt good on my sore shoulder.)
Soon enough, I gave up on achieving bliss, and began to chat with my new friend Stephan, who’s visiting from Brooklyn. How strange, that two 40-something Jewish guys might hit it off in the hinterlands of the American West. (Sarcasm intended.) He’s a very bright guy, and told me on several occasions that he’s been reading high level stuff on his holiday.
Naturally, I asked him what he was catching up on. Calculus, physics, philosophy. That sort of thing. (All while I’ve been addictively refreshing my browser to get the latest Arsenal Transfer News. Embarrassing.)
Just as I was exiting the hot tub, he mentioned a concept in computer science theory called an NP problem. (It stands for nondeterministic polynomial time.) Apparently, they’re not solvable via the technology of the day. So they’re alluring to many a great mind.
The unsolvable problem is a somewhat nihilistic concept, when we bring it down to the human level. Can poverty ever be eradicated? I doubt it. And didn’t Bill Gates try to annihilate smallpox or some such disease, only to see it make a genuine comeback in the chaos of Syria. (Facts can be checked on Google, but I’m just spitballing here.)
If you were to poll a bunch of random people about what conflagration is never likely to burn itself out, I’d bet they’d say “The Middle East.” Push them further, and you know they’ll say Israel. The homeland of my ancestors.
Northern New Mexico actually looks a bit like Israel, in the right light. I know, because I was there for a summer vacation/ teen tour in 1991. Smack dab in the middle of the first Gulf War. (Speaking of not relaxing…) All I remember is trying to sneak off for a nap during Kibbutz work duty, and downing horrible Russian vodka to summon enough courage to hit on a pretty girl. (Yes to getting super-drunk, no to any success with the lady.)
People were all geared up for war back then, as they have been since the country’s inception. Which was rather recent, given that my people were living there forever, before we got ejected by the Romans. As of 1948, though, things have looked grim, with respect to any kind of lasting peace.
Of course, I write this now, in the middle of yet-one-more episode of War. People killing people, to try to make a point. Which is?
I certainly won’t be able to tell you, from my cozy chair on the other side of the world. But then, no one will, as peace in the Middle East is most definitely an NP problem. The best I could offer here would be to share another’s more personal, more educated view on the matter.
So I will.
Frederic Brenner’s new book, “an Archaeology of Fear and Desire,” was recently published by MACK. Apparently, it’s one of a series of projects shot in Israel that were commissioned by Mr. Brenner. Other artists like Stephen Shore have had their say, and this book is Mr. Brenner’s take on life in Israel.
It’s a very clean, formal, precise view, with the requisite irony on full display. For example, we get two page run in the book in which a religious Israeli family dines in splendor in a big house, and on the following page, a Palestinian family crunches together in a much smaller space.
But it’s not just the status quo. We see a couple of dirt bike riders in the desert near Sodom. (Are we to question their sexuality, because of the title.?) And another portrait of a woman who looks very much like she is gay, but am I allowed to speculate on such things? And if I did, what might gay rights look like in a religious country?
We see a blind former soldier with two prosthetic arms. And an anonymous Palestinian man who sure looks like he was tortured, or at least beaten to a pulp, with a wicked scar running across his eye.
There are migrant workers of color, jimmy-rigged border patrol wearing head scarves, and some Orthodox Jews in an airport, with their eyes shaded, looking ancient, except for their always-dorky rolling suitcases. Classy.
This book was perfect to write about this week, for obvious reasons. The images within are well made, but will not change your life.
But they do offer you a window into a world without hope. Or, at least, without hope of ever fixing its own, ancient set of problems. Which is a fair metaphor for what we all do every day. Keep going, enjoy the pleasures at our disposal, and fight when we must.
Bottom Line: Clear, color vision of life in contemporary Israel
Books are provided by Photo-Eye in exchange for links back for purchase.
Books are found in the bookstore and submissions are not accepted.
[by Richard Kelly]
“As we move into the challenges of our Internet dominant economy, your unique vision is critical to building a sustainable career in this profession. It is the one completely unique offering you bring to the table. Vision is key to your success.”
~ Susan Carr in her Strictly Business blogpost dated November 28, 2011.
I just spent some time looking back over the vast collection of Strictly Business blog posts. When Susan Carr first conceived of this blog for ASMP, it was a carryover of the spirit many of us felt after participating in the ASMP Strictly Business 2 conference; the spirit of photographers helping photographers. The authors and topics archived here cover everything from business basics to advice for the advanced entrepreneur. They touch on technique, business practices and creativity. Today, I invite you to revisit one that Susan wrote herself – Consistency of Vision is Key.
Susan had just finished her book The Art and Business of Photography. In this book, she explored the important connection that art and business have with each other including how photographers can manage the delicate balance between their personal and commercial work.
Almost three years later her blog post and perspective are more true than ever. If anything visual differentiation is even more critical – our “vision”, our “visual identity”, our “visual brand” even more valuable.
From that first impression that we express with our social media profiles, to the images on our home page and all of the other images connected to us online. Collectively our visual brand is established. The key to attraction is a virtual-visual chemical reaction. Will the viewer Join us? Follow us? Like us?
Basically our unique vision is the “key” to enter. As I work on my own photography and I work with other photographers and students, I can sense where they want to take me. The visual journey. The question for me, as the viewer, is simple, is this where I want to go? As artists we can’t please everyone and we shouldn’t try to. But when that “Visual Key” is a match, then we have an obligation as professionals to show the viewer the best experience possible.
I see some great work out there everyday in the fire-hose of images, some better than others, some not that interesting to me, and others just not good at all. The work I respond to the most is the work that seems to be connected to a person; the way they feel and think about something – most likely what they are showing me. The words “Reality” and “Authentic”, or even “engaging” seem overused so that’s the last I will mention them, but I know it when I see it. Work that has these qualities – that I respond to – seems to float above the rest.
This is the “work” Susan was talking about, the work that represents the “real you.” Whether it is a wedding photograph, a beautiful food shot made with your cellphone camera, a still life or babies. Make the work that is what you want, not what you think the world wants to see.
I wrote this today, as a reminder to myself to stay focused on my visual key.
Richard Kelly is a photographer and educator living in Pittsburgh. His work can be seen at thevisualraconteur.com
We emailed Art Buyers and Art Producers around the world asking them to submit names of established photographers who were keeping it fresh and up-and-comers who they are keeping their eye on. If you are an Art Buyer/Producer or an Art Director at an agency and want to submit a photographer anonymously for this column email: Suzanne.firstname.lastname@example.org
Anonymous Art Buyer: I nominate Victoria Will. She was a pleasure to work with, ever gregarious and an all- around rockstar on set. Difficult weather conditions, challenging directors and limited time with the cast did not hinder her talents. I can’t wait to work with her again.
How many years have you been in business?
10 years ago I started working as a photojournalist in New York City. That gave me the background that allowed me to go freelance 4 years ago to focus on the parts of photography I enjoy most.
Are you self-taught or photography school taught?
I suppose I’m a little bit of both. I didn’t go to a photo school, but was lucky enough to study with Emmet Gowin and Andrew Moore at Princeton.
When I was transitioning from photojournalism, I took a portrait workshop in Santa Fe with Platon. It blew my mind and changed my life. From him, I learned what I don’t think I could have learned in a classroom. I saw just how powerful a collaborative effort between a subject and photographer can be and how you need to trust your vision — it’s something that can’t be forced, but has to be felt.
That workshop wasn’t my last. I find those environments recharge me creatively and I am always hungry to learn.
Who was your greatest influence that inspired you to get into this business?
Looking back, it’s so clear that I was always a visual person. I learned and expressed myself that way best. My mother even saved portraits of dolls that I made with her polaroid camera when I was 6, but it took me awhile to figure out. It wasn’t until college that I starting to think about photography as something I could actually pursue. I stumbled into a history of photography class with Peter Bunnell and immediately fell in love. After that I couldn’t read fast enough and spent a lot of time devouring the work of Lillian Bassman, David Bailey, Larry Sultan, and the paintings of Andrew Wyeth and John Singer Sargent. At that point, photography became more than just an artistic expression, it became a sort of language for me that I could really understand.
How do you find your inspiration to be so fresh, push the envelope, stay true to yourself so that creative folks are noticing you and hiring you?
I find inspiration in the usual suspects — photo books, music and movies, but also in the strangest places. Its not always visual, sometimes its a sound, or a feeling, or an experience that I want to recreate in a visual way. For example, the first time you get to jump in a pool at the beginning of the summer — thats the way I want a photograph to feel. I think it should have an emotion attached to it.
I’ve spent a lot of time observing the people around me—and I was always struck by how beautiful a simple and natural human gesture can be. Those little moments can tell a much larger story. Ultimately, I love creating narratives that allow a story to unfold. My goal is to create work that takes you on the same sort of journey.
Do you find that some creatives love your work but the client holds you back?
I’d like to think that the creatives and the client ultimately choose me because they believe that my point of view will help bring their ideas to life. That being said, I love collaborating, with anyone that will have me. Luckily, every part of a shoot is a collaboration whether its with the client, the subject of the shoot, or the crew. That’s where being flexible becomes a crucial part of the job and you have to be willing to make adjustments. Working as a photojournalist really helped teach me that it is possible to adapt to any situation without having to compromise my vision or the clients needs.
What are you doing to get your vision out to the buying audience?
I love to send out work that I think is successful and what better way is there to promote yourself than creating work you feel has a piece of you in it. At heart though I am a people person so I try to meet as many people as I can — face to face. Sitting down with someone helps to give them a better idea of who I am and who they would be hiring. To me making a connection and having someone trust that I will execute their vision is just as important as the work.
On the other hand, I don’t do it alone. I am lucky to have people in my life like my photojournalist husband, and my agent, Paige Long, who I am constantly brainstorming with and bouncing ideas off of. Paige has an incredibly creative eye and great institutional knowledge that has helped define my voice. Having that close network of support is invaluable.
What is your advice for those who are showing what they think the buyers want to see?
I give the same advice someone gave me — shoot what you want to be hired to shoot. If you are inspired by your subject, it will show. If you aren’t, and you are doing it for the wrong reason, it comes from the wrong place and I think that shows as well.
Are you shooting for yourself and creating new work to keep your artistic talent true to you?
There was a time when I didn’t shoot for myself enough. That sometimes made it difficult to have a connection to the work. Now I shoot for myself as often as I can, experimenting and looking at things with new eyes. That’s how a recent project with tintypes happened. I saw one and became obsessed with making them work for me. Its not so much about trying to push the envelope, but about trying to evolve creatively. If I’m making the same safe images all the time, there is no room to grow.
How often are you shooting new work?
Whenever I am inspired! I have a list where I write down images I someday want to make that I’ve imagined and I’m slowly making my way through. Its feels like a rolodex of pictures in my head. But as fast as I cross them off, I seem to write more down.
VICTORIA began her career at the New York Post where she was a staff photographer. In a news environment responsible for headlines like “Headless Body in Topless Bar,” Victoria honed her skills and sense of humor. With a focus on commercial and editorial portraiture, her photographs appear in newspapers and magazines worldwide, from the Associated Press to W magazine, The New York Times to Vogue. A graduate from Princeton University, she hails from Washington, D.C., but now resides in New York with her two French Bulldogs and photojournalist husband.
APE contributor Suzanne Sease currently works as a consultant for photographers and illustrators around the world. She has been involved in the photography and illustration industry since the mid 80s, after founding the art buying department at The Martin Agency then working for Kaplan-Thaler, Capital One, Best Buy and numerous smaller agencies and companies. She has a new Twitter fed with helpful marketing information. Follow her@SuzanneSease.
[by John Welsh]
I have very few regrets. One of them is found in this post by Tom Kennedy. “Earlier in my career, I worked for a brilliant editor.” I somehow missed that action. And now that the bar has been lowered by The Image That is Good Enough, where can we find wisdom that enables us to keep growing? Right back to this post, to dig until we find what makes us professional (hint: it’s not the camera).
John Welsh, is currently the Philadelphia Chapter President, and is busy planning subterranean excursions to capture the leftovers of life underground (which is also a much more interesting way to hide from the August heat).
Over 5 years ago aPhotoEditor wrote a small story on Stephen Mallon’s images of the salvage of Flight 1549.
Prior to the incident on the Hudson River, Stephen Mallon was “surviving” on royalties from multiple stock agencies. He had been photographing landscapes for licensing and exhibition, and personal work. A book editor at a portfolio review had expressed interest in making a book but Stephen felt he didnʼt have the right content that he envisioned for his first monograph. So he set about focusing on his interests in the recycling industry. He engaged a writer to help with a proposal, and, explaining that he intended to make images for non-commercial use, he gained access for two days to a recycling plant in New Jersey, which led to access to others in other states and to a body of work that would come to be titled “American Reclamation.” This was all self-funded by the bits and pieces he was drawing in from editorial and resale.
In New Jersey, in 2008, Stephen spotted a barge loaded full of stripped down subway cars and thus discovered the artificial reef project, wherein these erstwhile MTA cars are shipped to various locations off the US coast and dumped in the ocean to create artificial reefs both for sea-life and for tourism, images of which would become “Next Stop Atlantic.” The company concerned was Weeks Marine, and here began a wonderful relationship. Forward to 2009 and Stephen and his wife are out celebrating her birthday when Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger, III, makes his amazing landing on the freezing Hudson River. Mallon called Weeks Marine and sure enough they were tasked with retrieving the plane; they commissioned Stephen to photograph the project, bringing him in by tug boat to make an incredible photo essay that made national news. As well as all the licensing, the prints are still selling well in the fine art market.
How life changed.
Stephen says although he had his body of work of industrial landscapes he didnʼt have a solid assignment piece that he felt was both beautiful and relevant to fine art and for editorial. He says it took real effort to keep the momentum going so he wasnʼt “just a flash in the pan.” It was at another portfolio review that Stephen met Front Room Gallery, based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. They offered him a solo show of Flight 1549, and also sold a few prints from “American Reclamation” which led to the suggestion of a solo show of that series, too, in 2010. Now some assignment work began to trickle in, including a trip to Brazil to shoot Petrobas for Fortune Magazine.
“All this time, the 5D Mark II is on the market, and people are talking about video. I equated it a lot to when clients began to ask for digital,” he says. For a while, people would still hire Stephen even when he said “no” to the question of whether he was capturing video, but he knew the time was coming when heʼd need to be able to say “yes.” Heʼd made a “bad” time-lapse around 2008, and only tinkered with the style since. In 2011 Weeks Marine called to say they were delivering a bridge by barge in New York, and was he interested in covering it? Stephen saw the perfect time-lapse project. He scouted the whole route, setting up cameras along the way, in the yard, and on the barge. The film was submitted to festivals, picked up by the Wall Street Journal, and got a lot of attention online. Stephen feels this was the catalyst for his time-lapse future.
The next big step was winning a contract to work for the City of New Yorkʼs Department of Transport – he produced a wonderful time-lapse for the Citibike program.
“I had been dropping my portfolio off at the New York Times pretty much my entire career – 10, maybe 15 years!” says Stephen, when eventually they saw some of his time-lapse work online, and wanted to meet. They loved what he was doing: “Kathy Ryan tried to hire me a couple of times but security at the locations we wanted to shoot in kept on stopping the projects from moving forward.” It wasnʼt until 2013 that she found the right assignment for him: to make a time-lapse over two days and two nights of set changes at the Metropolitan Opera. This video went on to win the Communication Arts photo annual award, and was accepted for the PDN photo annual.
The cost of video production.
“Day rates are pretty much the same for video as for stills – the photographerʼs fee hasnʼt gone up, but Iʼm shooting with seven cameras at a time, I need assistants to set up and monitor them, then thereʼs the cost of post, the editor, and audio licensing. I am busier than I ever have been, itʼs phenomenal, but no, Iʼm not making tons of money. When the budget is there, we put in enough post which covers color correction and rendering. The editorʼs fee is a separate line item, accounting for all the video editing and a couple of revisions. Weʼre always buying hard drives – a terabyte a month! Someone has to pay because we are archiving all these jobs.”
Mallon has been buying camera bodies, one job at a time: he has five digital SLRs and two GoPros so he doesnʼt always need to rent although he does say he could always use one more camera. He is more comfortable shooting live video capture now, and enjoying mixing time-lapse and video in the same piece (he has just finished another job for the DOT, made over 18 months, that mixes time-lapse and regular footage.)
Skills for the future.
“Editing video, the whole aspect of sequence, timing, speed, music, it was a whole new experience for me.” Now heʼs so much more familiar with it all, heʼd like to get a bit more long-form documentary work and is meeting with TV production companies. Heʼs enjoying video but also continues to love shooting stills: “It reminds me how much easier it is to make a photograph than it is to shoot video” he says, laughing.
So far this year Stephen is most proud of a piece made for New Yorkʼs Armory exhibition hall, the result of two years keeping in touch with an ad agency which eventually recommended Mallon to time-lapse the setting up of The Armory Show.
Looking to the future, he believes interactivity is going to be key. In a job heʼs working on now, a public awareness campaign about crossing the road, the conversation turned to how to make a video motion-sensitive, to turn it into an interactive smart-board. He believes he will need to be able to deliver multimedia components, potentially build apps for his clients, teaming up with tech and design professionals.
Stephen Mallon has a solo show this fall 2014 at the Waterfront Museum and a solo show at NYU in early 2015. You can view his work here: stephenmallon.com
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[by Luke Copping]
This is a post that I have come back to a lot over the last few years (like many of Colleen’s writings). In a time where so many photographers are needlessly expending energy trying to be all things to all people and putting faith in misleading social media metrics rather than real world impact – this article serves as a needed reminder about the powers of relevance, connection, patience, and making it about them and not you.
Luke Copping is an advertising and editorial photographer from Buffalo, NY – he works hard at telling stories about his subjects rather than just stories about himself.