One of the benefits of having a solid social media presence is being able to test and review photography-related products and services. Recently on Twitter, I was introduced to Keyword Smart, so in exchange for being able to use their product, I agreed to provide them with a review. In the past I’ve written about photo keywording strategy so that would be a good primer into how I approach keywording. So without further ado, let’s get into the review.
The goal of Keyword Smart and other photo keywording software is generally to help ensure that all of your important bases are covered in an efficient manner. Keywording images is a laborious task that many photographers do not enjoy but it is a necessary task if you expect to sell your photography effectively. Keywording not only allows clients to search through your images on their own, but also to help you as the photographer find your own images for urgent photo requests. Maybe if you are first starting off, you can remember the content within all of your images off the top of your head and be able to find them, but once you are more than a few years into your photography career, this will not be possible nor advised.
Keyword Smart is a web-based tool with an innovative approach to streamlining this process. It allows you to enter in your existing keywords into the bulk keyword box then it auto-populates those keywords into keyword taxonomy categories where it generates a master list of synonym and plural terms. You can then use the drop-down menus to drill further down into each keyword category and select additional keywords. These keyword categories are meant to ensure you have entered in keywords for all the types of terms you might not be aware that photo editors typically use such as “no people” or “action shot” for instance.
Cognizant that many photographers enter in their photo meta data within Adobe Lightroom, there is a plugin available that integrates with Lightroom. My workflow doesn’t currently involve keywording within Lightroom so I haven’t tried this feature but I think it sounds like a great feature for those who keyword within Lightroom.
Since Keyword Smart operates as a subscription, web-based tool, their keyword catalog is constantly being updated based on industry feedback and user-behavior. I think this is great method to eventually building up a very accurate, up-to-date keyword catalog. As is, they already claim to have over 130,000 keywords within their system at the time of this review. As the keyword catalog grows, I see this further speeding up the keyword process for photography industry professionals.
Now let’s take a look at the keywords I was able to produce. I chose three images of different genres in order to highlight diversity within the keyword sets.
Original Keywords: grizzly bear, bears, cub, cubs, baby, babies, alaskan brown bear, lake clark national park, cook inlet, alaska, usa, wildlife, nature, animal, ursus arctos horribilis, grass, meadow, grizzly bear, ursus americanus, bear, grizzly, grizzly bears, grizzlies, united states of america, cute, cuteness, standing, stands, stand, curious, curiousity, awareness, silver salmon creek, water
Keyword Smart Keywords: 1 animal, alaska, carnivora, lake clark national park and preserve, north america, summer, summertime, u.s, u.s.a, us, usa, united states of america, ursidae, ursus arctos, adorable, animals, baby, brown bear, brown bears, burly, coast, coastal, color image, colour image, cook inlet, cub, cubs, curiosity inquisitive, curious inquisitive, cute, cuteness, day, daylight, daytime, endearing, eye level shot, eye level view, field, grasses, grizzly bear, inquisitive, inquisitively, inquisitiveness, looking, lovable, loveable, mammal, mammals, meadow, natural light, nature, nature photography, no people, no person, nobody, one animal, outdoor shot, outdoors, outside, posture, remote, seaside, silver salmon creek, straight-on shot, upright, vertical, vertical format, wilderness, wildlife, wildlife photography
My grizzly bear cub image had 51 keywords when I originally keyworded the image. For the purposes of this review, I started from scratch when building the new keyword list from Keyword Smart, which ended up producing the 105 keywords listed above. Going through the keywording process via Keyword Smart, helped me to come up keywords that I had never considered previously. It’s impossible to know if having these additional keywords will lead to increased revenue at this point, but this will potentially give me more chances to sell my work which is all we can hope for with great keywording technique.
Original Keywords: bull rider; bullriding; danger; fear; dangerous; extreme sports; rodeo; 2011 frank bogert memorial rodeo; palm springs; southern california; usa; united states of america; inland empire; outdoor; running; san bernardino county; americana; culture; entertainment; rodeos; safety; prca; pro rodeo; palm springs convention center; arena; cowboy; cowboys; westfest
Keyword Smart Keywords: 1 animal, 2011 frank bogert memorial rodeo, americana, north america, u.s, u.s.a, us, usa, united states of america, action shot, action shots, afraid, animals, arena, bull, bull rider, bullriding, bulls, color image, colour image, cowboy, cowboys, culture, cultures, danger, dangerous, dangerously, entertainment, extreme sport, extreme sports, fear, fright, frightened, frightening, hazardous, horizontal, horizontal format, inland empire, one animal, outdoor, outdoor shot, palm springs, palm springs convention center, prca, pro rodeo, rodeo, rodeos, run, running, safe, safely, safety, san bernardino county, scared, scary, southern california, sports photography, terrified, terrifying, terror, unsafe, westfest
In the above rodeo image, I had 46 keywords when I originally keyworded this image last year. Through Keyword Smart, I generated a list of 91 keywords. Clearly this is helping me build a more comprehensive keyword list of important terms. These are not just filler keywords, there are some real descriptive terms that I’m getting out of this.
This photo of Pasadena City Hall is a new one that I don’t have existing keywords for but I did come up with 79 keywords for this example.
Keyword Smart Keywords: north america, u.s, u.s.a, us, usa, united states of america, architectural, architectural photography, architecture, building structure, building exterior, city hall, cityscape, clouds, color image, colour image, day, daylight, daytime, exterior shot, garfield avenue, government building, government buildings, historic landmark, horizontal, horizontal format, italian baroque dome, los angeles county, municipal building, natural light, no people, no person, nobody, outdoors, outside, partly cloudy, pasadena, renaissance architecture, road, roadway, san gabriel valley, sky, southern california, stormy, street, structure building, sunset, travel, urban
Overall: I have just scratched the surface of what can be done with Keyword Smart. In addition to the features I’ve already mentioned, there is the ability to edit your own taxonomy to fit your personal keywording style, which I like a lot. I intend to make heavy use of this feature which I believe will help take my workflow to the next level. I am frequently keywording images so any edge I can get on this, you can bet that I will take advantage of. Based on my communications with the owner, it’s clear that they are serious about building a quality product for photographers and art buyers, so I will wholeheartedly recommend trying out Keyword Smart.
Visit Keywordsmart.com for more information.
My blog post “Photography Mentors, Choose Them Wisely” has been published on Black Star Rising.
This article has been has circulating around the photography community the past couple days and has gained a lot of traction. I’d like to share it in it’s entirety.
Dear potential photo buyer,
If you have been directed to this page, it is likely that you have requested the use of an image or images for free or minimal compensation.
As professional photographers, we receive requests for free images on a regular basis. In a perfect world, each of us would love to be able to respond in a positive manner and assist, especially with projects or efforts related to areas such as education, social issues, and conservation of natural resources. It is fair to say that in many cases, we wish we had the time and resources to do more to assist than just send photographs.
Unfortunately, such are the practicalities of life that we are often unable to respond, or that when we do, our replies are brief and do not convey an adequate sense of the reasons underlying our response.
Circumstances vary for each situation, but we have found that there are a number of recurring themes, which we have set out below with the objective of communicating more clearly with you, and hopefully avoiding misunderstandings or unintentionally engendering ill will.
Please take the following points in the constructive manner in which they are intended. We certainly hope that after you have had a chance to read this, we will be able to talk again and establish a mutually beneficial working relationship.
Photographs Are Our Livelihood
Creating compelling images is the way we make our living. If we give away our images for free, or spend too much time responding to requests for free images, we cannot make a living.
We Do Support Worthy Causes With Images
Most of us do contribute photographs, sometimes more, to support certain causes. In many cases, we may have participated directly in projects that we support with images, or we may have a pre-existing personal relationship with key people involved with the efforts concerned. In other words, each of us can and does provide images without compensation on a selective basis.
We Have Time Constraints
Making a leap from such selective support to responding positively to every request we get for free photographs, however, is impractical, if for no other reason than the substantial amount of time required to respond to requests, exchange correspondence, prepare and send files, and then follow-up to find out how our images were used and what objectives, if any, were achieved. It takes a lot of time to respond to requests, and time is always in short supply.
Pleas of “We Have No Money” Are Often Difficult to Fathom
The primary rationale provided in nearly all requests for free photographs is budgetary constraint, meaning that the requestor pleads a lack of funds.
Such requests frequently originate from organisations with a lot of cash on hand, whether they be publicly listed companies, government or quasi-government agencies, or even NGOs. Often, it is a simple matter of taking a look at a public filing or other similar disclosure document to see that the entity concerned has access to significant funding, certainly more than enough to pay photographers a reasonable fee should they choose to do so.
To make matters worse, it is apparent that all too often, of all the parties involved in a project or particular effort, photographers are the only ones being asked to work for free. Everyone else gets paid.
Given considerations like this, you can perhaps understand why we frequently feel slighted when we are told that: “We have no money.” Such claims can come across as a cynical ploy intended to take advantage of gullible individuals.
We Have Real Budget Constraints
With some exceptions, photography is not a highly remunerative profession. We have chosen this path in large part due to the passion we have for visual communication, visual art, and the subject matters in which we specialise.
The substantial increase in photographs available via the internet in recent years, coupled with reduced budgets of many photo buyers, means that our already meager incomes have come under additional strain.
Moreover, being a professional photographer involves significant monetary investment.
Our profession is by nature equipment-intensive. We need to buy cameras, lenses, computers, software, storage devices, and more on a regular basis. Things break and need to be repaired. We need back-ups of all our data, as one ill-placed cup of coffee could literally erase years of work. For all of us, investment in essential hardware and software entails thousands of dollars a year, as we need to stay current with new technology and best practices.
In addition, travel is a big part of many of our businesses. We must spend a lot of money on transportation, lodging and other travel-related costs.
And of course, perhaps most importantly, there is a substantial sum associated with the time and experience we have invested to become proficient at what we do, as well as the personal risks we often take. Taking snapshots may only involve pressing the camera shutter release, but creating images requires skill, experience and judgement.
So the bottom line is that although we certainly understand and can sympathise with budget constraints, from a practical point of view, we simply cannot afford to subsidise everyone who asks.
Getting “Credit” Doesn’t Mean Much
Part and parcel with requests for free images premised on budgetary constraints is often the promise of providing “credit” and “exposure”, in the form or a watermark, link, or perhaps even a specific mention, as a form of compensation in lieu of commercial remuneration.
There are two major problems with this.
First, getting credit isn’t compensation. We did, after all, create the images concerned, so credit is automatic. It is not something that we hope a third party will be kind enough to grant us.
Second, credit doesn’t pay bills. As we hopefully made clear above, we work hard to make the money required to reinvest in our photographic equipment and to cover related business expenses. On top of that, we need to make enough to pay for basic necessities like food, housing, transportation, etc.
In short, receiving credit for an image we created is a given, not compensation, and credit is not a substitute for payment.
“You Are The Only Photographer Being Unreasonable”
When we do have time to engage in correspondence with people and entities who request free photos, the dialogue sometimes degenerates into an agitated statement directed toward us, asserting in essence that all other photographers the person or entity has contacted are more than delighted to provide photos for free, and that somehow, we are “the only photographer being unreasonable”.
We know that is not true.
We also know that no reasonable and competent photographer would agree to unreasonable conditions. We do allow for the fact that some inexperienced photographers or people who happen to own cameras may indeed agree to work for free, but as the folk wisdom goes: “You get what you pay for.”
One other experience we have in common is that when we do provide photographs for free, we often do not receive updates, feedback or any other form of follow-up letting us know how the event or project unfolded, what goals (if any) were achieved, and what good (if any) our photos did.
All too often, we don’t even get responses to emails we send to follow-up, until, of course, the next time that someone wants free photographs.
In instances where we do agree to work for free, please have the courtesy to follow-up and let us know how things went. A little consideration will go a long way in making us feel more inclined to take time to provide additional images in the future.
We hope that the above points help elucidate why the relevant photographer listed below has sent you to this link. All of us are dedicated professionals, and we would be happy to work with you to move forward in a mutually beneficial manner.
Photo contests are among the more controversial topics within the photography community. One of the most common complaints is that some photo contests are nothing more than a “rights grab”; meaning that the sponsor of the contest inserts legal language within the fine print that essentially allow them the right to sub-license, redistribute and use all photos submitted however they wish while freeing themselves from any potential liability arising from the publication of the images. For the sponsor of the contest that’s great because they can build a stock photo library that they can profit off of for almost nothing because let’s face it, most contests award a measly amount of prizes compared to how many quality images they get in return. Photographers on the other hand are getting ripped off for submitting to such contests and not to mention can potentially open themselves up to legal liabilities for the publication of those images because they give up control over where the images will be published by agreeing to such terms. (note: I’m not a lawyer so take this with a grain of salt.) These contests aren’t small time operations either as some are sponsored by some very well known organizations. Not all photo contests serve as rights grabs however so there are some that are legitimately there to benefit the photographer such as PDN, Communication Arts Photo Annual and the ICP awards.
How much benefit photo contests are to photographers is debatable though there are some that milk the exposure for all it’s worth. One photographer claims to be “The Most Awarded Photographer in History”, several claim to be “The Master Photographer” and do very well when it comes to the sale of fine art prints to tourists. While the more common way that photographers use this exposure is to refer to themselves as an award-winning photographer in their bio. Another thing to consider when entering contests is who the judges are and the audience for the publication of the images will be targeting hence why I cited PDN and the CA Photo Annual. For editorial, commercial and stock photographers the readers of those publications are your target audience so there is potentially good exposure to be had from entering those contests though there are no guarantees of gaining additional business from the exposure.
As for myself, I believe I’ve entered only three photo contests to date but haven’t won anything. I’m selective about these contests for all the reasons listed above, not to mention that if you don’t feel the contest will help then it’s essentially throwing money away that could be best served for other marketing activities. The odds of winning the top prize in photo contests are not much greater than winning the lottery so consider how many other entries will be selected for publication because that is a more realistic goal.
And back to my first point… always read the fine print before submitting to photo contests.
I’ve been thinking of this topic for quite some time starting when I realized a while back how lonely it was to travel alone. I don’t always travel alone but when I do, the photography is at it’s most productive but the trips are rarely the most memorable because there’s no one to share the highs and lows with. I’m currently dating someone but don’t want to end up like a lonely, old photographer someday so I’m going to do everything I can to avoid being that type of photographer. At the least, I’d want to have someone to come home to and grow old with. That’s how I came up with my latest article published over at Black Star Rising:
There are several stock photography “wants list” subscription services out there that send you daily photo requests via email. I’ve subscribed to several of them but dropped the paid one after only a year and half because the number of requests during the time I was a subscriber kept dwindling to a point where it wasn’t worth it to subscribe. During the time of my subscription, I made one calendar sale and had a few images considered for two covers. I broke even.
From what I’ve heard and seen, this used to be a common way to sell stock photos directly to new clients but almost pointless these days in my opinion since editors can find what they need online either through agencies like Alamy or on Google. So if you’re considering signing up for one of these paid services I’d suggest allocating your budget for another activity that can better get your images in front of buyers.
“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Self-aggrandizing behavior is certainly not unique to photographers, you’ll see this sort of behavior in any activity that requires skill, but in the past few years I’ve noticed a lot of newer photographers adopting this sort of tone online. Perhaps it is insecurity or a lack of social skills but there is a fine line between confidence and narcissism. You can trick a sheep fairly easily and I get why people might think it’s part of “marketing” but is that really the sort of person you want to establish a relationship with? Maybe I just wasn’t raised to place great value in beating one’s own chest but I just don’t get it.
Doing a kick-ass job, letting your actions and others do the talking for you seemed to work well for Teddy Roosevelt so maybe we’d all be best served using him as a role model.
I found this Fast Company article titled, Mayhem on Madison Avenue, to be a fascinating read. As a former ad industry creative, this really came as no surprise to me as I had realized that most of the creatives at the ad agency I worked several years ago had no idea about digital much less had experience with blogging, SEO, social media, etc… Such was the case at the other places I worked at following that agency. The sad part was that no one figured their career path might be going extinct. Well that day is has already arrived according to this article.
The article cites agencies struggling to price work in the digital era because clients want more work but are willing to pay less for the work. Various business models have popped up in the meantime including crowd-sourcing ad creative. The “race to the bottom” if you will. Ten years ago when all media spend was limited to print, broadcast and radio it was easy to work in the industry because reaching people was rather formulaic and several large holding companies owned all the advertising spend. No longer. There are a million different ways to reach the consumer now and for the consumer to receive content. “Competition” is popping up in all sorts of places that never existed previously.
Sound familiar? Yes. The photography industry has already been heading down this path for ten years now as you already know. You can literally swap out the words ad agency for Getty / Corbis and photographers and write the same story.
Having only been a photographer during the internet-era, however, I feel there has never been a more exciting time to be a creative person because of all these reasons. My photography website for example reaches tens of thousands of visitors per month and I have about 1,000 more people that I reach on a daily basis via the social media sites I’m on. Had the internet not been around when I started photography, I probably never would have even bothered to try sharing my work much less talk about it because what audience would I have – family, local camera club, a stock photo agent, and a few clients? There’s not a lot of people where I live that are into outdoors and the type of photography I do.
Had this been 15 years ago, I’d probably have a few photos hanging on display in the local library, setting up a booth at weekend farmer’s markets and art fairs, be on the phone all day cold-calling and maybe consider running some print ads in advertising award annuals with no guarantee of success but a lot of money out of my pocket. But this is 2010 and here are two sites I have had an opportunity to be featured on in the past week:
Pro Nature Photographer – a website about the business of nature photography written by long-time industry vet, Charlie Borland.
The Rogue’s Gallery – an art website for current and former ad industry professionals curated by Steffan Postaer (ad god and creator of the Altoids ad campaign).
Who knows if I’ll get any direct benefit from getting my work on these sites but I know who reads these sites and those are the types of people I’m looking to reach. When you simplify the new technology down to that level, basic marketing principles have not changed at all. It is actually easier than ever to reach people and obtain any sort of metric you could imagine that was never available previously. You can cut it up so many different ways from checking referrer sites in your web analytics and tying that to geographic data, to seeing who comments on the sites, to which organic search terms people found your site via the search engines, to seeing Quantcast demographic info about any site out there. Any webmaster in the world can create a media kit and sell to advertisers now. You could create a media kit so detailed that it would bore even the most anal media buyer. This is powerful stuff at our disposal.
“What Music Do You Listen to While Processing Photos?”
This question was asked on a popular nature photography forum that I frequent. Given the demographic and interests of most nature photographers, I wasn’t surprised to see responses which included bluegrass, Mozart, blues and even silence. A few of the younger photographers cited hard rock and techno music. I responded with “Metallica, Patty Griffin, and The Beatles.”
Obviously, I don’t just listen to just that but it really depends on my mood. I’m more inclined to listen to aggressive stuff like Metallica, Foo Fighters, The Ataris during the day time while I’m more likely to listen to Patty Griffin or the Beatles at night. Coincidence or not, I feel most focused on my work in the evenings when everything is quiet.
This question made me curious as to what I listen to statistically so I pulled this top ten list from my iTunes most played list on my Mac (just one of the methods in which I listen to music):
Little Fire (Feat. Emmylou Harris) – Patty Griffin
Temporary Home – Carrie Underwood
Ball and Chain – Social Distortion
Ticket to Ride – The Beatles
Kill – Jimmy Eat World
Racing in the Street – Bruce Springsteen
Better Man – Pearl Jam
Kite – Patty Griffin
Please Read the Letter – Robert Plant & Allison Krauss
What’s Been Going On – Amos Lee
What music do you listen to while processing photos?
Social media has become a very popular method to promote business. The benefit of using social media networks is when you do-it-yourself it does not cost a lot of money for your promotions. So where do your start? Following are five methods to help you develop your marketing campaign on social media networks.
1. Blogging: Blogs are very easy to create and can be as effective as a website. Several platforms offer free blogs. Two of the most popular are WordPress and Blogger. Both offer plenty of plugins and themes that will make your blog unique to your business and will help you promote it. Simply post interesting content on a weekly schedule and you will begin to gain readership. Ultimately, your business will become an information resource for your customers.
2. Create a Facebook Fan Page: A Facebook fan page offers readers a friendly explanation of what your business specialty is. Setting one up is a simple process and you should post fresh content daily. Images help attract readership so you could post some of your recent photos or a series of them on your page. Social networks like Facebook are people oriented so the more you can keep your business message personalized, the better.
3. Create a Slide Show: Create a slideshow of the photographs that represent your business and upload them to Scribd and SlideShare. Be sure your blog and Facebook URL’s are posted with your slideshows so prospective customers can find your sites. Fresh slideshows will help drive customers to your sites.
4. Twitter: Twitter is a real-time social network tool and offers an excellent opportunity to Tweet about an event your business is sponsoring. Just be sure you do not over sell. Remember you are simply publishing information and should not use it as a sales tool.
5. Post Your Photos on Twitpic: Twitpic is an excellent tool that allows you to upload your photographs to Twitter directly. People respond to visuals and a photography business is a natural for Twitpic. Simply upload your pictures from your phone or camera. Your followers will click on them and be able to read what you have posted. The key is to use striking photos that represent your business or event.
You have probably heard the social media debate discussing whether it is right for all business. One camp says that social media is helping businesses across the globe while the other camp says it is a fad and not worth the effort. So what is the answer? I firmly believe that any business that has customers is “social” and should use social media networks for promotion.
I skimmed through an article in Photo District News (PDN) about Urban Outfiiters photography choices and the part that really caught my attention was a quote from their photo buyer recommending to photographers to stop wasting money on mailers and focus on web marketing. She specifically referred to blogging, Flickr, and social media because that is where she goes to find new photographers to photograph for her brand. She said she spends a lot of time seeking out new photography blogs so she knows who is out there shooting what.
From what I have read, these days there seems to be an equal mix of art buyers who say they still prefer traditional marketing methods versus those who actively seek out photography online via Google, Flickr, blogging, etc…. But in the coming years as a younger generation of art buyers gets into the workforce, we will probably see a majority swing to web 2.0 because younger demographics have grown up during the internet age and have less reservations about working with people they meet online.
Times are changing so fast culturally that it is only a matter of time before that day comes. It was just nine years ago that I had a college marketing professor state that no internet company had yet figured out a way to become profitable. Now, things that used to be taboo to talk about, such as online dating, have become a standard way to meet people. Photo buyers are people too and it is only natural that they consume social media just like anyone else. Photographers who haven’t yet accepted this cultural-shift or are too scared to jump into the web 2.0 world are kidding themselves. True, there may be some well-established photographers who can probably ride out the rest of their career without changing a thing but it is also no coincidence that there are a lot of pros who grumble about how good things used to be in the 80’s and 90’s.
Another way to look at web marketing is that it can open up a whole new world of opportunities. Within the traditional photo buying market, you have ad agencies / publishing companies / art galleries / etc… where you have every working and aspiring photographer targeting that same small niche of photo buyers. With the internet, anyone with an internet connection and a need for photos is a potential customer. Suddenly you go from competing in a crowded market where there are only several thousand potential customers to a market where you have tens of millions potential customers.
One of the primary photographers for the ground-breaking Sierra Club exhibit format series that helped establish the modern environmental movement, Philip Hyde dedicated his life to defending Western American wilderness. His son, David Leland Hyde, has been working hard to keep his father’s legacy alive and introduce the work to a new generation.
Your father, Philip Hyde, played an important role in the preservation of many western landscapes. What was it that drove him to pursue this line of work?
DH: Dad made a spiritual connection to wilderness when he was a young boy partly through the Boy Scouts, partly through his family. His father painted landscapes and was a known modernist painter who studied at the famous art school in Paris, L’ Ecole De Beau Arts. Beau Arts since the 1500s has not charged tuition but is extremely competitive to get into. Dad hiked in the hills of San Francisco that still had a few wild areas left in the 1920s, in Marin County and in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Yosemite for the first time in 1938 just before he turned 17. On a map of Yosemite Valley he wrote “Home” in big letters after one trip. He was in love with mountains and while stationed at Great Bend, Kansas during World War II, he would drive to Denver just to get a glimpse of the Rockies. He had taken some photography courses before the War and just before his discharge he wrote to Ansel Adams and asked his advice about photography training. His timing was good because Ansel was just arranging the funding to start a photography department at the California School of Fine Arts.
At what point did you get involved with running your father’s business, and how was your transition into this industry?
DH: I started to help run Dad’s business, finances, care, make him meals, find his clothes, everything in 2002 after my mother passed on and some other caregivers didn’t work out. I left a six-figure job to become his primary caregiver. He was quite healthy at that point except for being newly blind and depressed about losing his ability to photograph and losing my mother in rapid succession. I used to read the world news, environmental news, his mail, and books to him every day. Besides reading and discussing what I read to him, and interviewing him for my book that I had just started, the photography was the most interesting of my duties as you might imagine. I had offered to work for Dad before, but he didn’t think I could make a living working for him. He was probably right and is still. I put everything I have into this project with little return so far. I will probably do well over time, but anyone who knows photography knows this is not certain at all, that at the least it will take a long time.
Photography is a tough business. My father had helped, mentored and inspired a lot of people. He was very likeable, had a good sense of humor and loved to socialize. He had a lot of friends in the industry. In that respect it was easy for me to get started in promoting his work as long as he was around. However, after he was gone, some people kept supporting my work, some did not. For some people it only makes sense to support a collection of work while the creator is in a body. Fortunately others do understand the value in helping it perpetuate. Even so, other photographers have their own knitting to tend. I am gaining more respect than I had at first, now with the blog, by working very hard and doing my homework to learn all I can.
Many photographers see other photographers as competition. I don’t think they saw Dad as competition but inspiration, and he was not all that aggressive about approaching venues for exhibitions. By the latter part of his career, he mainly lived on referrals and organizations that approached him to do shows, or for stock licensing. Now that a lot of photographers see me out beating the bushes, they see Dad’s work as potentially taking exhibitions that they could have, at least some people look at it that way. What they don’t understand is that Dad’s work has been and will be a major force for advocating nature photography and photography for conservation, which can expand the possibilities for everyone. What they also don’t know is that I have hardly even started yet. I am still mainly focused on writing the book and now the blog, which is a way of getting a lot of the book material out in rough form. It’s not rough per se, but the material is posted in random chronological order without unifying narrative drive or theme.
What role do you see photography playing in future environmental legislation and in which ways can photographers get involved?
DH: Gary Braasch, who has become well-known as an environmental photographer, back in 1975 interviewed Dad for a Backpacker Magazine Article. Gary Braasch asked Dad, “How can other photographers—skilled amateurs—use their creativity for conservation?” and Dad answered, “Off the top of my head, they’d do a lot better by going to law school because it looks to me as if the fight is now in lawyer’s hands. But on a local level, an individual can do a lot by becoming familiar with a place that needs protection and by studying the issues. The camera can be an important tool to him. The person can make himself an ad hoc committee on a project and carry it along until something gets done.” This is exactly what many photographers are doing. There is still a place for photographers in conservation even on big projects. Dad’s photographs still participate in environmental campaigns, though he can no longer go on location to help save a certain area.
Dad was a conservationist first. The photographers who are the most effective environmentalists know the current issues and know what campaigns might need the services of a photographer. I’m sure there have been conservationists who were photographers first, just like there are doctors or lawyers, or whatever else who are also environmentalists. Anybody can become an environmentalist, all he or she has to do is do it. Join the groups, read the news, get involved. The uses of photography to help will come. For example, because I am constantly reading about what is happening, I have found out about a few local issues. At some point when I get the chance, I will probably approach each of the campaigns and find out how I can help raise funds through print sales, which will get more exposure for the prints and Dad’s photography and help fill the group’s coffers too. I’ve found some groups are highly receptive to this kind of thing and others are not. But it is what I can do even though neither Dad nor I am making new photographs for use in the media. I can only go in so many directions at once. To echo what Dad said, the most effective conservation work is whatever you can do in the areas you care about the most.
You have a great blog, Landscape Photography Blogger, and have written several posts in regards to your father’s photographic education having being mentored by the likes of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Minor White. Given the high cost of education these days, what advice can you give to young photographers who might be thinking of studying photography in college?
DH: Dad was lucky because he had the G.I. Bill and as a result, Uncle Sam paid for his photography education. I am not sure of all the ins and outs but right now the U.S. Government is doing it again for just about everybody. Now is the time to apply to that expensive school you always dreamed of attending. I personally don’t know a lot about the various programs, but if I were to choose a school, I would go with the one that had the best possible name for the type of photography I would want to do. Names and educational lineage count for a lot in photography as in many professions. A Columbia degree in photography for example, could open many doors, provided your work is better than the other great photographers you are in school with and you make the most of studying at such a place. Short of going to college or grad school, I might seek out the very best photographers today and take workshops from them. Having the right mentors is very important in photography. I find that I am already very well equipped to be a photographer, if I wanted to focus on it more than writing, because I obtained the right attitude and perspective on how to look at photography from my father. That goes for all aspects, from the business side of it that has totally changed technologically but not necessarily in substance, to the photography and seeing itself, which has also changed, but not as much as people might believe. The main thing that has changed is that there were hardly any photographers or any market for photography when Dad started. He had to help establish it. Today the challenge is to stand out from the hoards. This is where having the right mentors comes in because they have already discovered how to stand out from the masses of other photographers.
Any upcoming business announcements or personal projects that you would like to tell us about?
DH: The idea was to get the book done and then develop relationships with galleries, set up major national touring exhibitions and talk to museum curators. However, now that I have run out of funds, everything has taken much longer to get set up and the book is dragging on and on, I need to do some marketing now to make a living while I finish the book. Juggling everything becomes a lot more complicated if you have to also make a living at the same time, as I’m sure you and your readers know, whether they are full or part-time photographers. It is also this raw edge that drives you forward and allows you to create great things out of desperation, I suppose. I have put over $100,000 into this project so now it is time to turn that around.
I will be making numerous announcements here and there regarding great exhibitions and new releases of images never before published or images that everybody knows, now translated into digital form and available as photographer authorized archival fine art digital prints. With many images, the Philip Hyde original prints are long sold out because he made so few of them that they are extremely rare. Speaking of rare, I will also hopefully be able to discover a way to change the large sized archival fine art digital prints into limited edition prints. I am working on this and there are some variables that need to be contained first but I recommend people look into acquiring the 20X24, 24X30 and 32X40 prints sizes now before they go up when they become limited edition prints. A portion of all print sales are set aside to go toward clean energy research and other environmental causes. I support 17 environmental groups.
Conservation changed into modern environmentalism in Dad’s day and it has now changed into a global consciousness about indigenous peoples, lands, climate and rare endangered species. With the upcoming exhibition opening May 8, 2010 and running through August of Philip Hyde’s photography at Mountain Light Gallery and at least one magazine article it is too soon to mention, sharing the differences and similarities between Galen Rowell and Philip Hyde, I have been reading a lot of Galen Rowell lately. It is interesting that with his being about 20 years younger than Dad was and inventing the genre of outdoor adventure photography, his brand of environmental activism was much more of the global variety than the regional land-based variety of my father. As you have mentioned, Richard, Galen Rowell was a great writer and captivating because he represented the transition from one type of environmentalism to the other. Philip Hyde and Galen Rowell if they were able to come back and have a conversation today might have been a fascinating discussion. By the way, here’s an announcement: At the Mountain Light Exhibition, we will be showing four prints that have never before been seen by the public. You have the exclusive on that information for several days, Richard.
DH: My pleasure, thank you Richard for the opportunity.
Visit the Philip Hyde Photography website for more photos.
Occasionally there are photo forum threads that ask for photography business book recommendations but one particular person’s question stood out to me. This photographer was interested in learning more about the business of nature photography and was complaining that all of the business books they had seen were about commercial or studio photography and thus did not apply to them. In my opinion, this is completely wrong.
The best book out there on how to run a successful photography business is John Harrington’s Best Business Practices for Photographers. It is a generalist commercial photography book yet I got a lot of useful info out of it and so have a lot of others judging from the reviews. It doesn’t matter what genre of photography you are involved with, the business principles are all the same. You have assignments, you license images, you have contracts, you deal with clients, legal issues, accounting, marketing, etc… All photo businesses have all or some of these elements.
This photographer probably drew a distinction between nature photography and everything else because of a romanticized idea of what it’s like to earn money as a nature photographer. The reality is that everyone from Art Wolfe down to the part-time wedding photographer has to treat what they do as they would any other business if they expect to stay in business. Without a solid grasp of business fundamentals then it is nearly impossible to make any sort of consistent progress.
With that said, here are some great photography business books that I would recommend in addition to John Harrington’s book: