Way back in October of 2014, I posted a blog entitled, “Advice for those looking to start a career in Photography.” I have sent a link out to that blog post quite often and I have had quite a few aspiring photographers thank me for it as well. Recently, I have gotten other questions via Instagram, Facebook and through email. One of the big ones is: “How do you market yourself and your work? How do you get your name out there?” There seem to be thousands of people interested in pursuing photography as a profession. With every photography website selling the “pro photographer” lifestyle as if you can just go out and make it happen in a few years I thought it was time I added another post with the sobering realities of the photo industry and what it takes to make a living in this ever changing career field.

Over the last few months I have had this blog post in the hopper so to speak and have added bits and pieces to it when I had time. In October I was asked by CreativeLive to present a 90-minute class for Photo Week 2017 on “What it takes to be a Pro Photographer.” That class is behind a pay wall, and costs $39 to view, but for those that are thinking of making a career in photography it might be well worth the money to watch the class. In that class I present a very realistic and sobering view of what you can expect if you are looking to jump into this field. I didn’t want to present a class that was bright and cheery. I wanted to dish it out as it really is and tell all. I did end with the cheery note that if you want it bad enough then you too can become a professional photographer. Click on the link above or on the image below to go to CreativeLive’s website and read more about the class.

I did not write this blog post just to try and sell you on a class. I won’t make a dime off that class if you chose to purchase it. I have already been paid. So, I only offer it here as a resource you can chose to invest in or not. There is a lot more to come below, but before we move on, I also wanted to note that during the CreativeLive Photo Week 2017 I was part of a panel discussion lead by Mike Hagen with Ian Shive, Clay Cook and myself as the panelists. In that panel discussion Ian Shive talks at length about the how pricing is changing in the industry. As this video is out there for free, I encourage anyone interested to watch it via Facebook.

Supply and Demand

Before I dive into how I market myself and my work, let’s discuss a few realities of the photo industry. It has always been hard to make it as a pro photographer. That hasn’t changed. While there are more outlets to get your work published there are also more photographers in the industry than at any point prior to this time. The Supply and Demand curves are not working in our favor as professional photographers. Since 2008, the supply has increased massively and the demand has remained steady or has only slightly increased, as shown in the slide below.

Basic economics tells you that if there is an oversupply then prices in that industry will nose-dive and that is exactly what has happened since 2008. Seemingly overnight, sometime in 2009 or early 2010, standard rights-managed usage rates dropped in half. In the last few years, they seem to have dropped in half again, now somewhere down around 75% less than they were pre-2008 in my experience. These days if I can get 50% of what fotoQuote pricing says an image is worth I count myself lucky. I am not putting this out there to bemoan the state of the industry, it just is what it is in my experience. In the old days, pre-2007, if a client wanted to buy all rights for a single image (i.e. to own the image and the copyright) the price was somewhere between $60,000 to $80,000 USD. These days many clients are buying out single images for $10,000 or less.

In fact, it is rare these days that I shoot an assignment and only license a few images from that shoot to the client. Unlimited usage rights contracts are more and more becoming the norm, and I don’t see that going away anytime soon. Unlimited usage rights contracts also take away another of the pre-2008 methods photographers used to make a living, namely the ability to re-license images. It still happens but it is getting more and more rare. Typically after the original usage period ends (or close to it) the client will ask to re-license an image that was still of value to them, and the standard re-license rate was 75% of the original usage rate. I understand why clients are asking for unlimited usage. It make sense for them and is a lot less hassle. Unlimited usage also is key when clients post images on social media as they have no idea who will re-post it or where it will go. Unlimited usage has become the de-facto standard mainly because of social media usage.

The photo industry continues to change on a daily basis. Standard rights-managed usage rates continue to drop, while at the same time clients are asking for more rights, more images and everything to be created faster and faster. The licensing models we have used in the past are slowly fading and are being replaced with unlimited usage agreements that give clients more images and more freedom in how they use those images. In the panel discussion referenced above, I noted that while my income continues to rise from one plateau to the next, I am having to generate more images and offer more rights on each of my assignments to generate that income. Ian very clearly discussed average image pricing at his stock agency Tandem Stock, which should ring a few alarm bells for all of us.

Regardless, the market is going to change and we can either get on board or jump off the train. As I said in my class on what it takes to make a living in this profession, there will always be room for new, talented photographers that are willing to work extremely hard and can create exciting imagery. With that said, let’s get onto the main question: “How do you market yourself and your work? How do you get your name out there?”

Marketing 101

How do you establish yourself in the photo industry? What is the best way to market yourself and your work? These are huge questions that I get over and over via email, Facebook Messenger and via Instagram. Here are my thoughts on the matter:

Step 1: Go out and create Kick-Ass amazing images that are different or better than what is already in the marketplace. Difficulty Rating: 10/10

Amazing images are normally the result of incredibly hard work and a creative mind. This is by far the hardest step. It will require thinking outside the box and getting creative in how you conceptualize and shoot a project. The quality of the work will also significantly affect how effective your marketing efforts are. If the work isn’t up to par, then don’t expect much from your marketing efforts. If the work is out of this world stellar, then it will probably market itself.

The photo industry is not a strict meritocracy. What I mean by that is even if you do go out and create jaw-dropping work, that doesn’t mean that it will automatically get you work. You still have to send it out to possible clients and see what happens. Also, be aware that clients want to see that you are not a one-trick pony. You will need to be able to replicate that stellar work over and over. Luckily, as discussed in Step 2, getting your work out there has never been easier.

Step 2: Market those images to appropriate clients. Difficulty Rating: 2/10

Getting your images out to the appropriate clients isn’t that hard. Tracking those clients down just takes time and energy.

Step 3: License the images. Difficulty Rating: 4/10

Knowing how to license your images and not give away the farm definitely takes some insider knowledge. Luckily, educating yourself on how to price your work isn’t rocket science. I highly recommend purchasing Jim Pickerell’s out of print book entitled “Negotiating Stock Photo Pricing.” The first two thirds of that book discusses how to establish pricing and how to negotiate. If you read that you will be so far ahead of the pack, in terms of understanding how to price your images, that other photographers will be calling you up to ask how to price their images.

Step 4: Repeat steps 1 through 3. Difficulty Rating: 5/10 or 10/10 depending on how easy step 1 is for you.

This is the key. No one starts off getting huge assignments right off the bat. You have to prove yourself to whichever client you want to work with. That will take time, and energy–lots of it.

Step 5: Gain a foothold as a reputable photographer that can come through over and over on assignment.

The above steps should hopefully reveal that there is no secret to making a career as a professional photographer. It is all about hard work. That’s it. If you want it bad enough, and have a few ounces of talent, then you can probably make it happen.

My sincere hope is that this doesn’t come off as a rant on the state of the industry. For more than 21 years I have made my living as a professional photographer. I consider myself blessed beyond my wildest dreams and I live a rich, full life in terms of experiences and adventures. If you do want to pursue photography as a career, it is my belief that going into this profession with a clear perspective on what it is like, what it will take and how long it might take to actually make a decent living will help when the times get tough. Early on in my career, I had enough sense to ask a few photographers much farther along the path how long it took of them to build up their career. “Five years to get established, ten to make a decent living and fifteen to really get into the golden years” seemed to be the consensus. Some photographers advance much more quickly than this, others at a slower pace. It all depends on your situation.

To finish this off, I leave you with the best article I have ever read on what it takes to build a career in any creative field. The article is entitled “The 8 Keys to Success: An Essay and thoughts on What it Takes to reach your True Potential,” by David Lyman and published on Digitaljournalist.org way back in October 2004. I have referenced this article many times over and it is still something that I read every year.

To get the ball rolling for the fall holiday season, I am happy to announce a 25% off sale on all of my fine art prints until December 31st, 2017. How this works is very simple, just take 25% off my standard fine art print pricing, which can be found here, and contact me to order the print.

All of my images are available as Fine Art Prints. You can see which of my images are in the Limited Edition category on my website. Any images that are not shown on the Limited Edition page are considered Open Edition prints. Please note that these prices do not include shipping. If you have any questions about print sizes or available images please don’t hesitate to contact me. I will work with you to make sure the final print is the best it can possibly be and will look great mounted on your wall.

These archival prints are painstakingly created by yours truly on some of the finest papers available. I do not outsource printing to a third party printer because I want to have tight control over the quality of the final print, and I have not found a third party printer that can achieve the same level of quality that I can produce here in my office. The prints are made on Epson printers using a variety of papers including both fine art matte papers and baryta photographic papers. The printer and paper combination is chosen specifically for each image so that image will be rendered with the highest possible resolution and the widest color gamut. Our main papers are Ilford Gold Fibre Silk, Ilford Gold Cotton Textured and Ilford Fine Art Smooth papers.

Below are a few sample prints that I have made in the last few months to give you an idea of just how stunning these turn out when framed up.

Please contact me with any questions or if you would like to look at a wider range of images than are featured on my website.

 

Over the last five months I have been slowly updating and adding tons of new content to my e-book entitled Location Lighting for the Outdoor Photographer. I am happy to announce that I have finished updating the e-book and the new 2nd Edition is now available for purchase on my website. I have updated every chapter in the e-book and have massively expanded a few of them as well, including Chapter 1, which covers lighting gear, and also Chapter 7 (opening spread shown below), which covers Advanced Lighting Techniques.

There are so many lighting books to choose from these days you might be wondering, “How is this one different?” This is the only book that I know of that concentrates on lighting techniques for the outdoor and adventure photographer specifically. This book gets down to the nuts and bolts of using artificial lighting in remote locations. As with my other books, I hold nothing back and tell it like I see it. The opening chapter has a detailed analysis of all the battery-powered strobes on the market today and compares them head-to-head to help you make a smart decision when considering new gear. In that chapter, we also discuss flashlights, reflectors, and Speedlights. I can honestly say that I have not seen any other book on the market today that includes as much detailed and comprehensive information as this e-book does on using artificial lighting for the outdoor photographer.

When I published the first version this e-book, way back in February 2013, Elinchrom’s Hi-Sync and Profoto’s HSS technology didn’t even exist yet. Elinchrom hadn’t brought out the ELB 400 and Profoto had not introduced the B1 yet. Hence, in this new updated version of the Location Lighting e-book, I have massively expanded those chapters dealing with these new advanced lighting technologies and I discuss in-depth how some of my best known Hi-Sync images have been made. There are also step-by-step instructions on how to achieve an accurate flash exposure when using Hi-Sync (HS) techniques. For a full list of all the updated and new sections in the book pop on over to my website for the full description.

If you are looking to take your photography to the next level this book can help you accelerate that progression. For photographers, both amateurs and working pros, looking to take advantage of the new technology built into the latest battery-powered strobes, this book will help you to figure out how to use these technologies and also how to take advantage of them to create new and exciting images. As an example, over the last five years or more that I have been playing with Hypersync and Elinchrom’s Hi-Sync, I have created an entire new portfolio of work that really stands out from anything I did before. Especially in the adventure photography and location portraiture genres, these new high speed flash sync technologies are allowing photographers to create images that were never possible before.

Below are a few screenshots of double-truck spreads from the updated e-book. As you can see this is no fluffy e-book. With 361 pages, this is a full on book and it is significantly longer than many printed books on similar topics. This e-book is high resolution and looks great on any computer, tablet or mobile phone.

To purchase the updated e-book Location Lighting for the Outdoor Photographer visit my website.

Download this e-book and take your photography to the next level. If you’d like to see a sampling of what is included in Location Lighting for the Outdoor Photographer you can download the Introduction and Table of Contents here.

Also, please note that I have increased the price of this e-book to $28 USD, which reflects the incredibly hard work put into it over the last five months. Also note that there is no discount or upgrade offer for the new version of the book because I have added so much more material, revamped the entire book and it took so long to put it together.

I am honored that the image below was included among the winners of the 2017 International Photography Awards in both the Professional Sports/Extreme Sports category and also in the Professional Editorial, Sports category. Strangely enough, I was not informed that one of my images was chosen. I got an email this morning thanking me for entering the competition and then clicked through to check out the winners images–only to find that one of my images was among the winners. That kind of made my day!

There are some stunning images in this years collection of winners. The Mission of the International Photography Awards, from their website, is to “salute the achievements of the world’s finest photographers, to discover new and emerging talent and to promote the appreciation of photography.” In addition to being among the winners on the IPA website, my image along with many of the other winning images will be exhibited in an exclusive show in New York, during the week leading up to the Lucie Awards gala. The Best of Show will then travel to various countries to be included in photo festivals, galleries, and other photography related events. The images will also be published in the “high-quality, full-color International Photography Awards Annual.”

As you can see above, I got third place in both categories. Thank you to the IPA Jury for selecting my image to be included among so many amazing images. It is always a thrill to have your work recognized, and especially so in such a prestigious photography competition like the IPA awards. Check out all the winning images on the International Photography Awards website.

 

  • Alberto - Congratulations, very well deserved. This photograph has inspired me in outdoor lighting in so many ways.

I am honored to be a part of CreativeLIVE’s Photo Week 2017 alongside many of my peers including Joe McNally, Ian Shive, Pratik Naik, Clay Cook, Lindsay Adler, Stacy Pearsall and many more. Photo Week is coming up October 9-13, 2017 and it is a week long series of short 90-minute classes on a wide variety of topics. I will be teaching the following courses on October 12th and 13th:

What it Takes to be a Professional Photographer

Thursday, Oct 12th, 2017
Class starts at 3:00pm PST

RSVP and/or Purchase this class.

Working as a pro photographer takes commitment, passion and tons of hard work. Many think pro photographers are on an extended vacation and happen to take a few photos while traveling the globe non-stop. While many photographers do travel quite a bit, and some go to exotic locations, the reality is quite different than the perception. In this 90-minute class we will discuss what it takes to be a pro photographer including how to perfect your craft, dial in your marketing, build a following and how to find clients that will hire you. By the end of this class you should have a level-headed, realistic view of what a photography career might entail.

Capturing Action in the Studio

Friday, October 13th, 2017
Class starts at 3:00pm PST

RSVP and/or Purchase this class.

With the advent of numerous high-speed sync technologies it is now possible to freeze motion like never before. Action Photographer Michael Clark will discuss how to use Hi-Sync (HS) techniques to capture fast moving action in the studio. Working with a parkour athlete we will walk you step by step through the process to figure out this exciting new technology and discuss how it can be used in the studio and out on location.

All week long, these 90-minute classes by 17 instructors will be streaming on the CreativeLIVE website for FREE. Tune in if you have time. There are sure to be some classes that will appeal to just about any photographer. Check out the full list of classes here.

For full disclosure, please note that all links and banners in this blog post are affiliate links.

Disclaimer: I am sponsored by Elinchrom and work closely with them on some products. I have been testing iterations of the ELB 1200 over the last year and have spent several months working with this kit. Since the Elinchrom ELB 1200 is still yet to be released, this is a preliminary review. I will save the full review for when I get the full production version of this strobe. The versions I have worked with over the last few months are very near to the full production version, which is why I felt confident enough to write up a preliminary review here. This article was originally published in my Summer 2017 Newsletter

The Elinchrom ELB 1200 is Elinchrom’s brand new, yet to be released, 1,200 Watt-second (Ws) battery-powered strobe. Over the past two years I have had the honor of testing out a few different iterations of this incredible strobe kit. All of the ELB 1200s I have worked with have been prototypes, though in the last few months I have been working with a very-near-production version of the ELB 1200 for the Lighting the Spirit assignment for Elinchrom and Red Bull Photography. As I haven’t worked with a full production version of this strobe, I won’t get critical here about any aspect of the kit as some things might have changed in the full production version.

I know many photographers have been waiting for this strobe for a long time and are desperate for any information they can get about it. I have been using the Elinchrom Rangers for over a decade now and they have served me well, but after using the ELB 1200 it is hard to even pull my Rangers out of the bag. The ELB 1200 weighs in at 4.3 Kg (roughly 9.5 lbs), which is about half the weight of the old Rangers. The flash heads weigh 2.2 Kg (4.6 lbs). That makes for a 6.5 Kg (14.3 lbs) kit, with one flash head, which means the ELB 1200 is now the lightest 1,200 Ws battery-powered strobe on the market.

Caption: Above is an image of Chris Sheehan mountain biking under golden aspens on the Alamos Vista trail in the Sangre de Cristo mountains above Santa Fe, New Mexico. To create this image I used one Elinchrom ELB 1200 and one ELB 400. Both had the Action flash heads on them and were set up as a light trap, meaning the lights were pointed at each other and I waited until Chris was in just the right spot to trigger my Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi camera. 

Aside from being so light, the ELB 1200 is also tough as nails, and damn-near waterproof from my testing. For two months this summer, I worked these units over the coals. I have tortured them in a myriad of ways with water, dust, and sand. We even dropped them a few times accidentally. Elinchrom was aware that my crew and I were going to be hard on them intentionally to see how they held up. This was one of the final stages of the prototype testing to see just how tough they are. I was surprised at how well they held up—in fact I am surprised a few of them are still working at all. I figure in two months time, I put at least a year’s worth of wear and tear on the three ELB 1200 units Elinchrom sent me. They were scratched up, beat up, and well broken in when I returned them a few weeks ago. In fact, my old Rangers after a decade or more of hard use don’t look as beat up as these ELB 1200s did after two months of hard abuse. We even put the ELB 1200 into a running waterfall (as shown in the image at the top of this blog post), and even with a flash head plugged in, the ELB 1200 wasn’t phased by any amount of water we poured over it. From what I can tell, the only way to kill one of these pack would be to violently drop it or submerge it in water.

Aside from the lightweight nature of the ELB 1200 and the build quality, the pack overall is very easy to use and houses some of the most advanced technology of any battery-powered strobe on the market. I love that Elinchrom still offers multiple flash head options for the ELB 1200, including the Action head, the Pro head, and the HS (Hi-Sync) flash head. For me, the Action and the HS flash heads are the main ones I use for my work. If I am shooting at or below the flash sync speeds of my cameras, I am using the Action flash head. If I need to work at shutter speeds above the flash sync of my camera I use the HS flash head. This ability to use different flash heads with different flash durations is what, in my mind at least, makes the ELB 1200 the most versatile flash on the market. With the HS flash heads, I found I could overpower daylight from 60-feet (18 meters) away, which is incredible.

Caption: Above is a shot of Aaron Miller fighting to stay on a tough 5.12c at Diablo Canyon just outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico. This image was created using one ELB 1200 pack and the HS flash head. The flash head was around sixty feet away from the climber and shows just how powerful the Hi-Sync technology is for lighting a far away subject. 

The ELB 1200 has two different batteries available. The standard “Battery Air” that comes with the ELB 1200 gets 215 full power pops. The larger “Battery HD” allows for  400 full power flashes. Sadly, the larger capacity HD battery is over the limit (in terms of the amount of Lithium contained in the battery) for checked baggage so you will not be able to fly with that battery. But for local shoots or ones where you don’t have to fly, having the extra capacity is a huge benefit, especially since it is only 0.9 lbs (0.4 Kg) heavier than the Air battery.

The way the battery attaches to the ELB 1200 is also quite innovative. To detach it you simply slide the two Elinchrom logos down to the open position and then pull the two adjacent pieces apart to release the battery. Attaching a battery is as simple as setting the pack over the battery and pushing down. It snaps into place easily and to lock it you move those same Elinchrom logo pieces upwards into the locked position.

In terms of performance and light quality, the ELB 1200 is on par with any other battery-powered strobe I have seen. Like the ELB 400, the Hi-Sync technology, when using the HS flash head, has been refined to a level that no other strobe manufacturer can match. With the HS flash head, you can use any power setting on the pack. This means that can literally choose any camera settings and adjust the power on the pack to get the right exposure if your subject is relatively close—as when shooting portraits. I cannot understate how important this is when shooting in Hi-Sync mode. Additionally, I have seen very little if any gradation when shooting in HS mode.

Caption: The 250 Watt daylight balanced LED modeling light built into all of the ELB 1200 flash heads is an incredible constant light source for video applications. We were pretty shocked at how bright it was at full power, and because it is fully dimmable the lighting can be adjusted as need on the fly.

As shown above, the ELB 1200 is also a revelation for video lighting. The 250 Watt LED modeling lamp will stay on for up to two hours depending on the battery used. Because the modeling lamp generates no heat we were able to use any and all of the Elinchrom light modifiers while recording interviews. The modeling lamp is also dimmable and daylight-balanced. It allowed us to get the best lighting I have ever seen while recording interviews. Bill Stengel, the cinematographer that I work with fairly often, was amazed at how great the LED modeling lamp worked for the interviews in our behind the scenes video. We were also both amazed at how bright the LED was at full power. In fact, even with the Elinchrom Deep Octa softbox on the flash head, with diffusion, we had to dim the LED for the interview we recorded in my office. That LED is a major benefit. I don’t see the need to bring along 1×1 LED lighting for video work anymore. And with the Elinchrom modifiers, the light quality of that built-in LED in the ELB 1200 flash heads is better than any 1×1 LED panel I have ever seen.

The OLED display panel on the top of the pack is both simple and intuitive, but it also has deep menus allowing one to customize the pack to their needs. When the Action or Pro flash heads are attached to the pack, the OLED shows the exact flash duration for each power setting, which is quite handy. When the HS flash head is attached the flash duration is not shown because it is a consistent 1/550th second flash duration at all power settings. As usual with Elinchrom strobes, the power settings are changeable in one-tenth f-stops allowing you to dial in the lighting extremely accurately.

Elinchrom has listened to their photographers very closely in the last few years. When the ELB 400 came out three years ago, they sought input from the photographers who work with them closely. I sent them three pages of notes on what I would like to see in the new updated Ranger kit—and the ELB 1200 incorporates about 90% of that feedback. Apparently quite a few of us had similar feedback and requests. I have never seen a company take in so much feedback and put so much of it into a product. Kudos to Elinchrom for all of their hard work on this product. It has been a long wait but I think those that upgrade to the ELB 1200 will find it above and beyond their expectations. And with the $1,000 USD trade-in offer that Elinchrom has announced, there is little to complain about when considering upgrading from the older Rangers to the new ELB 1200. I will be trading in my old Rangers as soon as possible for the ELB 1200.

Of note for those who currently own the Elinchrom Ranger packs: the ELB 1200 is very similar in size, so it should fit into the same bags you currently own. This was a big deal, and something I specifically asked for when Elinchrom first sought out feedback as I have a small fortune in Lightware and Pelican cases to carry my Rangers.

For the location photographer needing a tough, lightweight, and versatile 1,200 Ws battery-powered pack, the ELB 1200 is a top-notch offering. If you are looking to push the envelope of what is possible, especially with Elinchrom Hi-Sync technology, then look no further. This is the strobe kit we have all been waiting for. As you can see in this blog post, and in my Summer 2017 Newsletter, I have literally built an entirely new portfolio of images while testing out this new strobe kit. No matter what I say here in this review, I think the images speak for themselves.

The ELB 1200s will start shipping this month. The ELB 1200 is hands-down the most advanced 1,200 Ws battery-powered strobe I have worked with. It is ultra-dependable, insanely durable, super easy to use and the Hi-Sync functionality is unsurpassed by any other strobe on the market. In short, the ELB 1200 blows the doors off my old Rangers. My thanks to Elinchrom for allowing me to be a part of the testing process and for designing such a stellar product. For more info on the ELB 1200 check out the Elinchrom website. To see how I have put the ELB 1200 to use, check out the Lighting the Spirit blog post.

Order your Elinchrom ELB 1200 via B&H: ELB 1200 HS To Go Kit, ELB 1200 Pro To Go Kit, Elinchrom Li-ion HD Battery for ELB 1200, Elinchrom ELB 1200 Action Flash Head. For those looking to get the most out of the Elinchrom ELB 1200 system, I recommend at least one pack with an extra battery and one HS flash head as well as one Action flash head. This set up will give you the most versatility. If you need a few packs for multiple light setups then I recommend doubling that recommendation so you have every option.

 

This afternoon I was informed that my project Lighting the Spirit, shot for Elinchrom and Red Bull Photography was one of the winners of the Photo District News (PDN) 2017 Great Outdoors photography competition. My series of six images from the shoot were included in the winning selection. My thanks to PDN and the judges, including Louisa Albanese, Justin Appenzeller, Jeff Heimsath, and Cristina Mittermeier, for this recognition. To see all of the winners visit The Great Outdoors web gallery.

My thanks to Elinchrom and Red Bull Photography for this assignment and also my thanks to the stellar athletes including Rafa Ortiz, Rush Sturges and Liamm Field for their incredible effort on this shoot. Last but not least my thanks to the incredible team that helped me create these images including Bill Stengel and Tom Bear. If you would like to see a full behind the scenes accounting on how these images were created check out my behind the scenes blog post covering the Lighting the Spirit shoot.

T W I T T E R
L I N K S