Monday, April 11, 2011

Sign Posts For The Shortest Route To Success

Finding your weak points, and bridging them, is a direct route to success.

The Most Important Thing You Can Do For Your Career
What aspect of your career is the most challenging for you? What knowledge gap do you have that is holding you back? What is your "weak link"? Find that weak link and turn it into a strength. Then find the next weak link, and make that into a strength. Anyone who actually does that cannot help but move up the ranks of success! Look at those problem areas in your career (and your life) as sign posts showing you the most direct route to success.

Assignment Photography, Negotiating and a “Bridged Gap”
When I was doing a lot of assignment photography my biggest “gap” was in my negotiating ability. We are not talking a small gap here…more like the Grand Canyon! Many times I actually had art directors, after hearing my estimate, suggest that perhaps we could go a little higher.  It was obvious to me that I had a problem that I had to deal with. Through a lot of personal work I was able to get marginally better at negotiating, but being a tough negotiator is not pleasurable for me and doesn’t come naturally. I solved my problem by going outside of myself. I “bridged that gap”, by getting a rep.

A Photo Assignment Negotiation In Progress
Shortly after agreeing to work with my new rep I turned a negotiation in progress over to her. I had almost agreed to a job for $12,000.00, which was the total budget this particular client had for the job (or at least what they told me). My rep came back from the negotiations having secured $29,000.00 for two years of usage. That was ten years ago. By January of this year, after yet again re-negotiating the use, we have brought in somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000.00.  Sure, my (now former) rep has kept 30% of that as her share of the fees, but without her I would have settled for that original $12,000.00!

Stock Photography and The Image Glut
My negotiating skills, though having improved over the last twenty years, are still abysmal. Another way that I have compensated is by turning to stock photography where all I have to worry about is making the images. The negotiating is all handled by agencies.  Over the years that has worked very well for me…that is until the onslaught of the image glut and the fall of the barriers to entry (microstock) into stock photography. With this development comes an “opportunity” for me to work on another set of skills, skills that will help me compensate for the changes in this new world of stock photography.

Stock Photos and SEO
Now the knowledge gap facing me is the challenge of getting my work, my stock photos, in front of more people. So I am now “bridging” that gap by using my website to gain more visibility for my work…and to expand the ways in which I can monetize it.  I have to master SEO (Search Engine Optimization), or at least get up to speed with it. Once I gain sufficient proficiency in that task I am quite confident that a new “opportunity” will present itself. And so it goes.

What Challenge Faces You?
What challenge faces you? That challenge just may be a sign pointing directly to success. Knuckle down and turn your weaknesses into strengths. If you can do that there will be no stopping you.


Envision said...

Geez John, you've been at this for so long, your name recognition is your best asset. As long as you keep producing the way you have been, you'll be fine. As for the rest of us that produce the glut of images in the sea of stock photography {hay, there's a concept for you!) its one day at a time. To make a living at this is only a dream. I use to think of it as gas money, now aday even thats gone too!

Jaak Nilson said...

It is very interesting. John, you are a one of these people who do it very well in stock photo business. All other people complaining that stock market is screwed ...
Most photographers can not earn a good money from stock. Where is a real secret.
One reason is of course how agencies show a photogrphers images.
For example exclusive images have a higher ranking in the search returns than non-exclusive on some agencies websites.
High ranking is an one key question.
Business first then photogrpahy...

Jaak Nilson

Jaak Nilson said...

It is very interesting situation. John, you are an one of these photogrphers who do it well. I mean a stock photo business. Most of us complaining about bad situation and low sales.

Business first then photography. One question is how an agencies show your images.

Exclusive images have a higher ranking in the search returns than non-exclusive on some websites. It is one point, I think.

Jaak Nilson

John Lund said...


It took me ten years of shooting stock before I could quit doing assignments...and I think even in the current environment a case could be made for doing it more quickly. There are examples of individuals who do so...but they are EXTREMELY motivated!

Just put one foot in front of the other and one day you wake up and your there!


John Lund said...


Higher ranking is obviously important, so one of our challenges as stock photographers is how to get our images more visibility...whether by turning to exclusivity, or having images with more distributors, or even gaining more online exposure. It is one of those challenges we face that requires as much creativity and attention as the making of our images!