Friday, February 19, 2010

Nurturing Relationships and Your Photography Success

This funny animal picture of a young girl befriending and elephant is symbolic of nurturing relationships
Cultivating relationships (even with elephants) is good for your life and your business.

Regrets, Advertising Assignments, and Relationships
I don’t have a lot of regrets at this point, but I do have a few. And one of those regrets is not keeping up friendships. Due to a variety of factors, divorces (eeks…plural), being a workaholic and so forth, I have lost touch with many of my friends both in business and in my personal life. If I had it to do over again, I would have retained more friendships. One piece of advice I was given as a young photographer, just entering the world of advertising assignments, was not to look a job as a $3,000 dollar day (back then day rates were in…I chose $3,000.00 because that was what I was asking at that time), but rather as a $100,000.00 relationship.

Relationships and People You Genuinely Like
Obviously it is important to keep relationships healthy and alive for one’s personal life, but it could be useful to take a look at the role relationships play in our photography business and careers. These relationships range from bankers and accountants to models and fellow photographers to art directors, designers and, yes, even your non-photographer friends. It is important to realize that in a good, healthy relationship you will not be taking advantage of people. I think it is important to cultivate relationships with people you genuinely like and respect…there are plenty of them out there!

Art Directors, Communication Friends and Fun
Of course, it is obvious why you would want to cultivate relationships with Art directors and other clients. It is more fun to work with friends, it fosters better communication and teamwork with a trusted friend can result in better work. But good things can come from unexpected places, and the chances of those good things coming increase with the number of close and positive relationships you have.

Exotic Video Cameras, Helicopters and Blend Images
A close relationship with my primary computer vendor has resulted in the opportunity to shoot with exotic video cameras, and to play with cutting-edge storage systems. A relationship with my knee surgeon resulted in one of my best paying stock shoots ever, using his facilities as a location basically for free. A relationship with a helicopter pilot led to countless opportunities for aerial shooting…and a heck of a lot of fun! And relationships with a couple of my peers resulted in my becoming one of the founders of the stock agency Blend Images (that was a big one…). I have many such stories, but have let many more get away by failing to nurture and maintain relationships that had the potential, but that I neglected to death.

Who You Know, and Things We Can’t Imagine
It is sometimes said that it isn’t what you know, but whom you know. I think what you know is vitally important, but it often is whom you know that allows you to put what you know into practice. The people you know can provide you with opportunities from locations, to models, to inspiration to guidance to things we can’t even imagine.

Nurturing Relationships
How do you nurture those relationships? You give of yourself. You give your time, your enthusiasm and your heart. You do your best to see the world through their eyes. You give them honesty, an ear, and respect. If you do that with no expectation of getting something in return… you will be amazed at what does come back.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Design Your Photography Career Around Your Life

A pair of hands frame a tropical island with a hammock stretched between two palm trees used here to represent visualizing your life
Plan your career around the life you want to have.
A group of hands reach out for help: Service is part of a rich and rewarding Life
Helping others is an important part of a rich and rewarding life.

Super Models, Celebrities, and Priorities
When planning your photography career, and make no mistake, it is important to really PLAN your career, be sure you have your priorities worked out first. Is your priority to live a satisfying and meaningful life, to make lots of money, to become famous, to hobnob with super models and celebrities ( I once turned down a job to shoot the Rolling Stones because the shoot had to start after 1:00A.M. and I am NOT a night person)? Whatever you want your life to be, you are much more likely to achieve it if you plan for it. A plan does not mean a ball and chain either. You can change your plan whenever you like! But the point I really want to emphasize here, is that clarity in what you really want is essential.

Happiness and Money
The older I get the more I realize that my happiness isn’t totally tied to how much money I earn. Of course there is a monetary threshold that really does contribute to my happiness, but once I reach that amount there are so many other things that are more important. I won’t go into them all here…they actually sound a bit trite when I write them down.

Stock Photos, Profit, and Service
I made the choice many years ago to pursue stock photography and to let the assignment world go. I didn’t like the pressure…and I didn’t like shooting what I didn’t want to shoot. It has worked out well for me so far, though you never know and I might have to dip that toe back into the assignment world. But with my stock photo career I am able to use my photography to enhance my life. I figure out fun things to do and shoot, and then figure out a way to make those fun things turn a profit via stock photography. Lately, though, that hasn’t felt like enough. I am now adding a new element: service. I want to help others with and through my photography.

Stock Photos and Contribution
The Compassionate Eye is a organization founded by photographer Robert Kent in which photographers contribute via their stock photos. Robert has set it up so that Getty takes the images and gives the photographer’s share of the royalties to The Compassionate Eye. The Compassionate Eye has an interesting tactic of having everyone devote a Summer Solstice shoot to the cause. It is great fun for a good cause. They in turn use the stock revenue to build schools for 3rd world kids. They work with the parents to build the schools, as it has been determined that the greater the community involvement, the more long-term success is realized. It has been, and will continue to be, a great experience. The next step for me is to make service even more personal, a personal project that improves the lives of others. I am working on a solution for that…stay tuned!

A Career, and a Worthwhile Life
Getting back to my point, as you plan your career be sure and pay close attention to what makes life worthwhile for you, and how your career can work towards that, towards a truly satisfying, rich and meaningful life. Things to consider are where you really want to live, what do you really enjoy shooting, what kind of community you want to be part of, and how you can make room for both a photo career and the friends and family that grow increasingly important as we grow older. Don’t get me wrong, money is important. I do not miss those days of trying to decide which bills I could pay and which I would have to put off. And I cherish the ability to decide on the spur of the moment to take a trip, and not have such decisions weigh on me financially. What I want to remind you here is, just don’t forget the really important things!