So. We have a reading list. Or rather – a suggested reading list. Kind of.
If you’re new to these parts – we have Interns. Every three months we take on 6-8 new photography interns. We also hold a photography business/marketing workshop for them. See.
In that workshop we tell them everything we’ve learned and everything we know (that’s about 5 minutes of the whole thing, the rest of the time we just watch Empire Records.) So here are some books and some reasons why you should read them. Or at least take pictures with them to make it look like you’ve read them.
More important than anything else – we have ideas. About business, marketing, and even a few about photography. The biggest problem we face is focusing (just kidding, we shoot Nikon so we don’t have that problem) – and actually executing those ideas to finish. We had to stop jumping from project to project, leaving each one before they’d ever get completed. (Well – I’ll admit that this was mostly my problem and not Leah’s.) So… I still have this problem, but I’m sure that if I followed more of the stuff in this book… I’d have less of this problem 🙂
So… some of the criticism about this book is that it’s not exactly realistic. It kind of suggest that you operate in some alternate reality that’s different from the real world. That’s exactly why I like it. In case you haven’t noticed – we’re very much not interested in the real world at all. Considering that in the last two years (while everyone is/was looking for jobs) Leah and I started our own photography business, we now travel all over the United States photographing weddings, and we have an Intern Army – reality is a fun thing that we like to mess with.
One of our favorite points:
Ignore the real world. “That would never work in the real world.” You hear it all the time when you tell people about a fresh idea. This real world sounds like an awfully depressing place to live. It’s a place where new ideas, unfamiliar approaches, and foreign concepts ALWAYS lose. The only things that win are what people already know and do, even if those things are flawed and inefficient.
The real world isn’t a place, it’s an excuse. It’s a justification for not trying. It has nothing to do with you.
The photography market is ridiculously over-saturated, particularly here in Atlanta. When we started our Intern program, and our 100% money back guarantee, and we held onto our general view that ‘your-gear-does-not-matter’, we got a few odd stares (or worse) from local photographers. It’s understandable. Who were we to have Interns and start ‘teaching’ people whatever it was that we knew about photography? We didn’t go to photography school. We started our business with a single Nikon D40 and just the kit lens. We found out that we could do a lot if we learned how to really use our little entry level D40. Stuff like this.
Your reality can be different. It just takes an insane amount of hard work and requires help from a lot of good people.
Opposite of how most photographers start learning – I learned how to shoot with off-camera flash long before I ever really focused on natural light. It was just more fun. I could control EVERYTHING about the scene. This book helped with that education.
I think going from off-camera flash photography first and then over to natural light – really helped in how I see light. There’s just a big shift from being able to control ALL of the light and then not controlling ANY of it. You notice what you would change. You notice what you can’t change. Compared to many ‘natural-light’ photographers who haven’t worked with off-camera flash. They really don’t know about all of the possibilities. I’m not saying that all ‘natural-light’ photographers just don’t know how to effectively light a scene – I’m saying that a good number of them probably don’t.
It’s not a perfect book. But it has the right attitude – which might even turn you off – and that’s okay. Because this marketing book is about making money. Not building your ‘brand’ or just ‘advertising for brand awareness’ – it’s about marketing that brings in clients and sales. Sure it has it’s faults, but like I said – it’s not a perfect book. What I do like about it is that it doesn’t sugar coat anything and it feels a little rough. Like direct marketing. I love direct marketing. I love midway carnies. You know – the people who work the midway and try as hard as they can to get you to throw oversized softballs and try to get them into the milk jugs with openings that are too small.
I’m not saying rip people off – but I am saying that in the end – no matter how you want to put it – our photography business is about finding clients and making sales. Any feelings of ‘making art’ go out the window when we need to pay some bills and buy food. I don’t want nice or pretty marketing that wins any artistic awards – I want stuff that brings in clients.
(We don’t have a picture – but an even better book is: Marketing Outrageously Redux: How to Increase Your Revenue by Staggering Amounts)
Going back to what I said earlier – I want marketing that brings in clients, not pretty advertising that just sits there. Ogilvy is a big advocate of giving readers as much information as possible in an ad for them to digest. His advertising was almost always very text heavy. Sure it had photos – but it also persuaded people to take action – specifically, spend their money.
Photographers like to say, “I want my photos to speak for themselves.” – Yeah. They do. And what they rarely say is HIRE ME. What most photographs say – even really awesome excellent ones – is ‘I’m a great photographer’. And that’s as far as it goes in a viewer’s head. Viewers/potential clients rarely take the next step and connect it to “I need photography and I should hire this person.” Unless you tell them to do that. What’s that called? It’s called asking for the sale. A call to action.
Any sales or marketing person will tell you that no matter what – you must actually ask for the sale. Photographers that want their ‘photos to speak for themselves’ are in NO WAY asking for the sale. So that’s what we do. Heck – do you see up top in the menu bar? We don’t have ‘services’ or ‘investment’ up there. We have HIRE US TODAY. Not only does it say HIRE US – but it says TODAY. That’s what we want you to do.
We don’t want you to ‘Services’ or to ‘Investment’ us – we want you to HIRE US TODAY.
One of the best books on actual, practical photography theory as it is today – by someone who knows how to get those thoughts out of his head and down onto paper in a way you can understand, and be inspired by. Buy It.
You know what movies are? They’re 24 frames per second. 24 still photos strung together in a row.
Movies are live action comic book panels. There are fundamentals to cinematic storytelling and if you’re a ‘photojournalistic’ photographer then you’d better know how to tell a story. Not just ‘capture’ emotion or the ‘feelings’ of a day, or any other ways you want to label that flowery BS marketing you have on your photography website.
You owe it to yourself and your clients to really study and learn how to tell a story with visual images – in a series. Buy this book.
Thanks. See you soon.