Archive for March, 2008

I want it now

Monday, March 31st, 2008

I can’t help but occasionally be reminded, by some creatives, of Veruca Salt. Ms. Salt is the character from Willy Wonka who, in the classic Gene Wilder version, sings in her most excruciatingly whiny spoiled-brat voice:

I want the works
I want the whole works
Presents and prizes
And sweets and surprises
Of all shapes and sizes

And now
Don’t care how, I want it now
Don’t care how, I want it now.

Today I thought of that because I yet again read about a “frustrated” photographer. This one had been asked to show his book several times (in a very few months) to a very well known agency but had yet to get work with them. Instead of seeing how great it is that they are interested, he’s pissed that he hasn’t gotten any work yet.

I hear from photographers all the time who say things like “I sent a postcard once–never heard from anyone I sent to so it didn’t work,” and “I’ve called the AB there like 100 times but she never returns my calls!” and “It doesn’t do any good to send postcards or emails–they never get you work!”

This is all thinking short-term. No, a postcard or even a campaign of ’em might not directly bring you in any work. It’s marketing, sweetheart, not selling. Marketing is slow–it’s about building a brand and laying foundations and consistency and time. Selling is fast. Selling is about asking for and then closing the deal.

Selling is what the car dealer does when you are on the lot. Marketing is what Mini Cooper does to get you to go to the lot in the first place. No one buys a Mini because they had the coolest ad in Esquire, but they may begin to imagine buying a Mini because of that ad. And then the online experience at miniusa.com re-enforces that imaginary moment of possibly buying a Mini. And the brochure that arrives makes it even more possible.

Imagining a future purchase is successful marketing. Making an AB think “I want to work with PhotoBob someday” is successful marketing. It takes time to happen and it takes time to convert into a selling possibility. When a client calls and says, “We’re interested in working with you on this project” then you sell. Then you need to close the deal. But until then, you need to think long-term and slow–build desire, build your brand.

Not now. Someday.

Taking control

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Some photographers hate it when any other creative intellectual property-based industry is held up as a potential model for the photo industry, but I think they really need to get over that. While no two industries are identical, the similarities are significant and we can learn from others in related industries.

Take music, for example. More and more musicians are realizing that, because of technology, they no longer need a label. Record companies used to be needed because of distribution and marketing. Now, the internet makes both totally doable by the artist and/or his/her personal team. Radiohead and NIN and now even Dolly Parton are putting out their own music themselves.

Prince started the end of the labels back when he changed to being the guy with a symbol and now others are realizing that they, as artists, have the product and now the means of distribution and marketing.

Photographers need to realize the same about their own work–and its value.

Urgency and planning

Wednesday, March 26th, 2008

Seth Godin has a great post on this today.

So…do you have a plan? If not, schedule some time NOW to make a plan to make your goals achievable.

Knock, knock!

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

Opportunity at your virtual door!  APE has made a great offer to help promote some of you fine folk. If you don’t take advantage of this, you’ll be missing out, methinks.

Edna Mode

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

I love the movie The Incredibles for many reasons: great design, fun writing, strong characters, good music. Most of all, I love it for Edna Mode. She is the fashion designer character who is modeled after another of my Hollywood favorites, Edith Head.

Why do I love Edna so much? Because she doesn’t listen to others’ opinions–she keeps on her own track, knowing, absolutely knowing, that what she is doing is the best work she can do and she is compelled to do just that.

…and she puts on a great show of it.

Mr. Incredible shows up needing a small repair and she instead creates a brand new costume for him…and for the rest of his family. She is not asked to do these things, she is not hired to do these things, she just does them because she knows they must be done. She can’t do anything half-way.

Her presentation of her creations is magnificent. What a show! No (real) apologies, no excuses beyond the underlying understanding that she had to make this stuff. Had to.

And she gives the best quote ever–when asked what she thinks the baby might possibly do, she replies, “I’m sure I don’t know, Dah-ling. Luck favors the prepared.”

That is a wonderful thought we should all keep in mind when it comes to our businesses and the market forces with which we interact: do our best work, do it for ourselves because we simply must, and when someone asks how our work and its marketing functions, reply:

I’m sure I don’t know, Dah-ling. Luck favors the prepared.

Cheap crap abounds

Monday, March 24th, 2008

This may be about writers, but it definitely applies to any creative field. The thing to remember is the part about quality. Differentiate, do something original, unique, exciting, controversial, great, or any combination thereof and you won’t have to worry (so much) about these issues.

Do otherwise, and you will be only one drop in the Craptastic Sea.

New Lube

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Another new Creative Lube podcast is available. You can get it directly via iTunes or using a bunch of other services via Feedburner. Enjoy!

Technology and the industry

Sunday, March 23rd, 2008

All the recent discussion about giving away very limited usage to build a fan base has been great, if a bit frustrating in its misunderstandings. The biggest misunderstanding is that what APE and to some extent I have been talking about is extremely limited free usage–not giving away advertising or even editorial rights but more like personal use rights. I’d never advocate giving away really monetizable (at least effectively monetizable) usage, but letting people use your images in very, very limited ways (like on personal blogs) might be a good idea.

I think what we are really seeing here can be put into two general camps: those who believe that the industry should work “this” way–even if it hasn’t really been “this” way for a while, and those who believe that the industry is evolving and how it works now isn’t how it worked then (whenever then may have been) and isn’t how it will work in the future.

The first camp often speak as if what they say always ends in “…dammit” as in “Clients should pay $50K for that usage and be seen and not heard…dammit.”

I used to be one of those. Pissed off, holier-than-thou, and, frankly, bitter that things simply weren’t as they should be.

I got better. Now, thankfully, I’m in the second camp.

Judy Herrmann in one of her SB2 talks mentions how photography used to be glass plates, then film, now digital, and in the future it’ll be some other medium. I think she nails it. You can’t hold onto the past and try to make the now or the future fit into that past-based context. It just doesn’t work.

In the case of giving away very limited electronic use, here’s what I want to know–how is that different from giving away a print? If you give a print to an AB, she could scan it and use it in her next ad–albeit illegally of course. Same for giving her the rights to use one of your electronic images on her personal website or blog. You just have to trust…and verify as much as you can without treating your gift as a Trojan horse.

Now, technology is really getting interesting for photographers. The ability to encode metadata that travels with your electronic image, including the rights granted for that image, means that your gift is clearly limited. Sure, it is possible to strip metadata, but that is illegal (so if they strip it and then use it in violation of copyright, you have a HUGE stick to wield). Soon, I believe, it will be possible to encode the metadata into the actual pixels–that will make it unstrippable (essentially). So giving away extremely limited usage will be easy to do and easier to police (this will also be helpful when/if the Orphan Works laws change).

I was politely debating with a photographer via email about this idea–of giving away very limited use and explained that it has worked for me. In my case, my product is also intellectual property (often)–it is my advice and that is often in the written form, or podcast. That makes it IP–just like an image. And I give away articles (Manuals) and there is no cost to download the Creative Lube podcasts. These “freebies” bring me more business than the money I might have made by monetizing the usage I give away with these items.

Unfortunately, I could not get that photographer to agree that an image for him is the same as a Manual or Podcast for me, but in the legal reality, they are the same. All three are intellectual property, protected by exactly the same laws and potentially stolen and misused in exactly the same ways.

In the past we would have trusted the ABs who got a print as a gift not to scan it and misuse it. I trust those who use my works not to abuse them. Why not choose to trust? And if you want to trust and verify, just keep up with technology…it’ll be easy (or at least not a burden) soon, I bet.

Come to Chicago

Friday, March 21st, 2008

ASMP has a little video to encourage you to come to the LAST SB2 event.

We’re already at over 200 people for Chicago! Woo hoo! This is going to be great!

However, my mini-consultations on the Friday of SB2 have been booked up for a couple of weeks already. To help out those who didn’t book SB2 early enough to get one of the Friday meetings with me, I have converted my Monday after to offer more mini-consultations at the insanely low ASMP rate. You must attend to get the deal–this is part of the SB2 event.

I have only a few slots remaining for these mini-consultations. Contact me directly to book one.

Attack me…please :-)

Friday, March 21st, 2008

APE posted about photographers possibly giving away personal usage of their images for free, as a method of building a fan base. Over on EP, there is a series of posts attacking him for this. While I have some concerns over the technical feasibility of APE’s idea, I think conceptually, his idea has merit.  So I’ve posted that on EP.

I expect to get my ass handed to me there, but someone had to, I guess. 🙂

Here’s the thing about free–I’ve been doing that for years in my own business and it has definitely worked for me. The Creative Lube podcasts and free Manuals and the posts here have helped me build my business–no question. And guess what–I still get paid for most of my work, thank you very much.

It comes down to this, I think: when you foster a culture of respect and sharing, the other members of that cultural group will become your fans, and fans will not only buy stuff, they will encourage others to do the same. And even when they don’t, for me, I just feel good giving.