Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stock Photography, Assignments, And No Magic Bullets

Artists Reps, Assignments and Magic Bullets
A photographer friend of mine has been interviewing reps lately. He is one of the many stock shooters who have decided to hedge his bets by going after assignment photography. He is hopeful that a rep will be the answer to his problems…the “magic bullet” if you will. I used to think a rep would be the answer to my problems too. Now, having had a number of reps during the years that I was an assignment shooter, I would say that for me a rep was part of the answer. My reps were great, well better than I, at negotiating. Did they get me a ton of work? No. They did constantly push me to promote myself via sourcebook ads, mailers and such, produce new work for the book, come up with new and expensive portfolios, show my book, and, in short, do what it takes to get those assignments. So yes, they were part of the answer.

Doing The Things You Don’t Want To Do
I am constantly trying to figure out what dramatic thing I can do, what magic bullet I can find, to catapult my career to a higher level. I find it amusing that I constantly engage in such thoughts when I know full well that there are no magic bullets. Success, as with that old parable of the tortoise and the hare, comes with hard work and perseverance. It comes with the self-discipline to do the things that you don’t really want to do, to make your business a strong and healthy one.

Financial Success, And Working A Little Bit Harder
If there is a magic bullet it is in knowing that success comes with working a little bit smarter, and a little bit harder, than your competition; and in taking those extra steps yourself. A career is built on building a strong foundation of good habits, attention to detail, setting goals and putting one foot in front of the other until you reach those goals. It isn’t about what kind of camera you use, though it is in doing the research to make sure you have the right tools for the job. Success in photography, at least financial success, isn’t about pretty pictures, but making pictures that are needed. Success isn’t in getting photos on to flickr or iStock or Shutterstock or even Getty, but in knowing the best distribution for your images and in doing whatever it takes to get that distribution. Success comes from that ten percent more effort that you put in after everyone else has gone home.

Learn From The Crowd: Stay True To Your Own Vision
To reach the highest levels of success you need to walk a thin line between the strength of your own vision and the feedback and knowledge that is offered by clients, peers and other industry professionals. Observe and learn from the crowd, but stay true to your own vision. Above all, you have to continuously develop and nurture your own creativity.

Assignments, Additional Revenue, And No Easy Task
I told my friend who is looking for a rep that adding assignment work into his career is probably a good move. Assignments will bring him additional revenue, stretch him as an artist, and provide even more fodder for his already successful stock career. I reminded him that getting assignments is no easy task, requires dedication and investment, and takes time. It is every bit as difficult to succeed in assignments as it is in stock. In either case, there are no magic bullets.


Forgiss said...

...There are no magic bullets...

Too true!
Thoughtful and insightful. Maybe no magic bullet but a good "businessminded" businesspartner can be a good investment. Photographers are notoriously bad at running a business!

John Lund said...


Good point...I have a "businessminded" partner (significant other) who certainly helps keep me on track!