I had a different photograph all picked out for this month’s calendar, but this afternoon my June issue of WNC Magazine arrived. In it is a two-page spread with this photo, one of the two images chosen for the newly-revived Vistas feature. It’s pretty special to get a big spread in a great magazine, so I decided I would rather look at this one for the month of June. I hope you agree.
This photo was taken several years ago from Craggy Pinnacle, in Craggy Gardens on the Blue Ridge Parkway just north of Asheville. The vertical version of this is one of my all-time favorites, and now this one is growing on me too.
My friend and mentor Les Saucier frequently asks, “when is the best time to take a horizontal photograph?” To which the proper reply is “just after you’ve taken the vertical.”
It’s interesting how things work out. I don’t conspicuously market my photography, preferring to rely on referrals and word of mouth from people who know and appreciate my work.
Marketing my photography – or what passes as marketing for me – takes me along three primary paths. I sell my work as prints or stock, I teach classes and make presentations on Lightroom, digital workflow and other presentation topics, and I write on my blog. I do all of that because I enjoy it, and if I get paid it’s a bonus.
I don’t do photography to make the mortgage payment, but I do treat it as a professional business and operate as though it was my full time job. I’ve always wanted to feel like I did everything that a full-time photographer would do, and I do a number of things that even some of the full-time photographers I know don’t do. The biggest compliment someone can pay me is when they say something like, “you mean this isn’t your full-time job? Your work is great!”
I’m a big fan of Tommy Tomlinson, a columnist for the Charlotte Observer and in my opinion one of the best newspaper writers since Lewis Grizzard. He recently wrote a blog post titled “What it means to be a pro” about singer/songwriter Edwin McCain. You should just go read the article, but my favorite comment is when he says:
“So many people wake up every day wanting to be professional musicians, or professional writers, or professional athletes, or professional anything. Here’s the secret: Talent is part of it, but it’s not nearly all. What makes a professional, more than anything, is the will to do your best and the guts to keep showing up.”
So what does this have to do with anything? Over the last several years I’ve sold photos to three magazines on a regular basis. The economy took its toll on the assignment work I had been doing for one of them, and between heavy competition and budget worries the well has been pretty dry, but I’ve kept in touch, submitted my work in a prompt and professional manner and knew that eventually they would see something they liked. And in the last month I have sold photos to all three magazines. Two of them are running as double-page spreads in two consecutive issues. When I prepared the invoice for one of the other magazines I realized that it had been two years since the last invoice. I’ve submitted something to just about every request they’ve made along the way.
A couple of months ago I agreed to take pictures at a first birthday party for a friend who has triplets. I did it for free because she’s a friend, I had shot her wedding and she has cute babies. They liked my work so much that they paid me anyway! And one of the other Moms asked me to shoot the first birthday party of her twins and paid my going rate.
I do one-on-one tutoring in Lightroom and digital workflow, and that has been a hard sell. People have their own workflow and good or bad they like to stick with what they’re comfortable with. Lately I’ve been getting calls right and left from people wanting to learn how to use Lightroom. They are amazed at how much they can learn in a 2-hour session. Good stuff.
This doesn’t mean that the recession is over or that I’m suddenly famous and it certainly doesn’t mean that I’m going to be able to give up my Day Job any time soon, but it is hugely gratifying to me when people appreciate what I do and am willing to pay for my work. I have to think that a professional approach, keeping in touch, replying in a timely manner and being reliable will pay off in the long run. Plus it’s the way I am and the way I like to work.
Whatever you decide to do, take the time to do it well, keep at it even when you think you want to give up, and eventually preparation and opportunity will cross paths and all that hard work will pay off.
My 2010 Photography calendars are now available for purchase! This year’s theme is “A Year of Special Places” and consists of 12 images from beautiful locations throughout North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia. The calendars are printed by Mpix, the same company I have used in the past. The size is 11×17″ opened. A preview is available on my website, my blog and on Facebook.
The cost remains $20, plus tax and shipping. Calendars will be printed and mailed the first week of November, so there is plenty of time to get yours. And they make great gifts! To order more than one, e-mail me directly and I will send you a Paypal invoice for the correct number and amount.
To make your purchase easy, quick and secure, click on the “Buy Now” button and you will be taken to a secure Paypal page where you can complete your transaction. A Paypal account is not necessary, and you can pay with a credit card or electronic check.
I’ve been playing around with online print-on-demand services in anticipation of publishing my 2010 calendar. Since I no longer have arm-twisting access to a large portion of my customer base (co-workers from whom I purchased Boy Scout popcorn and Girl Scout cookies) I want to go with a company that has the ability to do online sales. So far the front runner has to be Lulu, partly because I have experience using them from when I published my SoFoBoMo book, and mostly because their price and quality seem to be a good balance.
I was playing around with their site today and was interested in the idea of publishing eBooks. I’m currently working on updating a digital workflow presentation and am im the process of writing a tutorial on registering copyrights, both of which I would like to publish as eBooks. To see how the process works I decided to turn my SoFoBoMo book into an eBook, which I then published and am offering for sale at $10. Not a bad deal if you ask me, except for the fact that it is available for free at the SoFoBoMo website. I’d be interested in feedback from anyone who gives it a try.
Calendars will be ready for purchase (hopefully) around October 1.
I participated in this year’s Solo Photo Book Month project, a group event where a bunch of photographers all make solo photo books start to finish, in 31 days, at more or less the same time. The idea of SoFoBoMo is to make the photos, write any needed text, layout the book, and produce a PDF image of the book, all in 31 days. The book portion of my effort fell a little outside that 31 day window, but I felt it was important to do a good job while still getting it done by June 30. I made it.
The theme for my entry took a number of turns, as I was originally planning to shoot a series of photos out of my office window, using light and architectural details to make a series of interesting pictures. Since I don’t have a job there any more I didn’t think the building security folks would be too keen on letting me in there to take pictures, so I decided to do a series of photos using my W.T. Duck plush doll in various locations during our travels this spring. Due partly to yucky weather at the beach and a strong reluctance to the idea carrying around a stuffed animal and taking it’s picture in public locations (not that it stops some people!) I didn’t get the inspiration I felt I needed to do a credible job on that project. I finally decided to just make a book of favorite images from my various photo trips from mid-May to mid-June. It’s what I do and what I am most passionate about, and I think the final result shows that.
The electronic version is available for free download here and there is a hard copy available for purchase from Lulu here.
In hockey a Hat Trick is what you have when you score a goal in each of the three periods, and the term is often used to describe three of something in a game, month, day, etc. May is the first time ever that I’ve had photos in three magazines in the same month!
Our State Magazine ran a full-page layout of one of my Cape Hatteras Lighthouse photos, which is the photo attached to this post. WNC Magazine hasn’t come yet but they are running a stock image I sent them for an article about Franklin, NC. Blue Ridge Country ran 4 of my photos of Hendersonville, NC to accompany an article about that town.
This shows the value of persistence, organization and more persistence. This is the first image in Our State in about a year and the first in Blue Ridge Country for almost a year. WNC Magazine is currently not doing paid assignments, but I had been keeping up with their calendar, and as a goodwill gesture I sent them some stock that included images from Franklin. Even though I told them they could use anything for photo credit they are paying me their standard rate. That’s more than fair and fine by me!
The competition is tough, but it pays to be organized, be persistent and send only your best work.
I just received my May/June 2009 copy of Blue Ridge Country Magazine, and they have featured 4 of my photos to accompany their article on downtown Hendersonville, NC. One of the fun things about Blue Ridge Country is that they don’t tell you whether or not they are using any of your photos, you just get the magazine and look inside to see. I knew that I had sent them some good stuff and had been hopeful they would use it. It’s great to see “Photos by Tom Dills” at the top of the page!
I’m a little behind on processing new work, but the attached photo is another one from our February visit to Hilton Head. This tree was right outside our condo, and I photographed it a number of times during our visit, under different lighting and with different backgrounds. I haven’t decided exactly what to do with them but I’m thinking that they will make an interesting poster.
I was just thumbing through the latest issue of Blue Ridge Country and for some reason looked at the list of contributing photographers and was surprised to see my name! Lo and behold they used two of my images – one from the front porch of Moses Cone Manor on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and one from Natural Bridge in Kentucky. What a pleasant surprise – that was one of my goals for the year and I made it in June (although it is the August issue)!