A New Project

First off, apologies for the blogging layoff. It’s been an action-packed couple weeks on several fronts: holiday and birthday, weddings to process, new and old clients to touch base with, house projects, the opening of a juried art show I helped organize.

I’ve also been mentally processing how the past several months have gone – the latest cycle of market, shoot, reflect. This time around I feel like my reflections have been a little weightier than usual, and now I’m ready to download the results of all that reflection to all y’all, whoever y’all might be.

All things considered, I’m feeling pretty good about how this year – and my career in general – is going. The client list has grown despite the global economy’s best efforts. I’m able to invest in some marketing, upgrade some gear, and shoot personal work on a semi-regular basis. And as happy as I am with those results, I’m not what I would call Happy. To hit Happy, in terms of my photo life, I need phone calls from the photo editors of national magazines and the art buyers of Minneapolis ad agencies and corporations. I need some multi-day projects with realistic budgets, planning, and a team of creative people working towards the goal of visually telling a really cool story in a new way. Photo subjects who teach me something during our time together. Mostly what I do right now is local and regional things, and those will always be there; what I’m talking about is breaking through to a place of prosperity, both in terms of economic security and job fulfillment.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got some great clients right now who give me assignments that hit the spot on one or two of those criteria per job. But I feel more and more lately like I haven’t pulled everything together yet to break through to the next level where all of those Happy-making things happen on jobs that I want to be considered for.

Reaching Happy is the ‘new project’ from this post’s title, a project that I’m guessing is going to take me easily through 2010. This post is my way of throwing that intention out in to the world to make it a little more real.

So where is this coming from? I knew you’d ask, so I’ve got references. Basically, you can’t walk in to a meeting of the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP, of which I’m an enthusiastic member), or read a photo blog, or pick up any kind of literature about the business of photography these days without being bombarded with the fundamental importance of projecting a succinct, well-articulated visual style to clients with your print portfolio and website. The business of photography has changed over the past 20 years to valuing well-defined personal vision over the ability to shoot any and all assignments one or two big clients can throw at you.

A cohesive portfolio has always been my goal, of course. But looking back, at this point in my process I’m feeling like I’ve been somewhat passive about its formation; I’ll do personal projects that are fun at the time, but don’t specifically help me get the jobs I truly want.

Then in the ASMP Strictly Business blog I read a post about the importance of assembling a freelance team around you. Revelation: I’m only one person, I can ask other professionals for help with things that are outside my areas of expertise, or things that I’m too close to, like evaluating my own work.

Next, a post on Photoshelter’s blog (my client gallery hosts) written by a photographer who hired a consultant to help him tear apart his portfolio and rebuild it from scratch over the course of a year. He called it the best use of his money since his first computer in the ’80s. Great post, and I could really relate to his position pre-consultant.

Related to the Photoshelter post, a pretty substantial interview with the same consultant on the Lighting Essentials for Photographers blog.

Of course it’s more complicated than the sum of all these sources, but I feel like the message being beaten in to my head is that top flight photographers have portfolios that are solid personal vision from top to bottom. I aspire to being a top flight photographer, and I plan on enlisting some help to get there.

So that’s where I find myself: sold on the idea of sinking some significant time and money in to working with a consultant to raise my game. I’m super excited. My plan is to blog about each step in The Project, letting y’all know what I’ve accomplished and what my next action steps are. I’d love your comments and suggestions as I go.

Today’s Action Steps:

  • Find the vision. As suggested in multiple venues by consultant Selina Maitreya, I’m going to go through magazines and websites and find five images that visually represent the work I would kill to do.
  • Think about some qualities that are important to me when looking for a consultant.

One last blog to share: HeatherMortonArt buyer. She’s got this great idea – find an emerging photographer, follow him/her for a year and blog about all the behind-the-scenes stuff that he/she does to try to break in to the commercial photo world. I’m a fan of Heather’s blog, and I nominated myself, but I’m not holding my breath. I decided to go indie. Maybe we can team up someday.

3 comments to this article

  1. Frederic

    on July 23, 2009 at 10:28 am -

    I like your project and give me some ideas how to do the same goal in my life. Thank you for sharing and keep us inform about your progress in your project.


  2. carrie

    on July 22, 2009 at 11:08 am -

    Go! Go! Go!

    This is awesome and an inspiration. Good for you. And can you be my career counselor? I’ve gotta find my big H.

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