When I surf around the web and visit some of the photography forums out there, I see a lot of the same thing. That is, I see freelance photographers asking other photographers for business advice. It’s usually the newer shooters asking the longtime, more established shooters about pricing, model releases, contracts, stock agency dealings, and other legal and industry related issues.
THIS IS A GOOD THING. It’s a very good thing. It’s the lifeblood of our industry. It’s how you learn when you’re just starting out, how you give paybacks years later when you’ve achieved success, or how you warn others not to make the same mistakes that you did. So keep doing it. Ask questions. Give advice. Share your experiences with others. Keep the dialog going and do your part to help the industry as a whole.
However, all you emerging photographers doing the asking should know this: most of your questions are already answered inside the pages of the ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography book.
You can get this book even if you’re not an ASMP member. I haven’t always been ASMP during my career, but I’ve owned multiple editions of this book. The seventh edition, which was published in 2008 and is completely up to date, contains a wide range of relevant and essential information and insights about how to conduct yourself as a professional photographer and an ambassador of our industry.
Broken up into 12 chapters, the book provides a progressive overview of what it takes to succeed as a professional photographer in this day and age. It starts off with Understanding Licensing and Copyright, and then moves on to topics such as Assignment Photography, Stock photography, Model Releases and Paperwork. There are even sections on Marketing, Negotiating and Digital Business Essentials.
Filled with interviews, case studies, and example forms, the book not only tells you what you need to do, it explains why you need to do it in the context of how this industry really works, giving you the tools necessary to turn your passion into a successful career.
Every single photographer has made a bad business decision at some point. These decisions, if they were made in every situation, would seriously damage a person’s overall career, and potentially do damage to the industry as a whole. The only way to avoid those mistakes is to arm ourselves with information so we can make good business decisions.
We hear all the time about how our industry is being lost to lowball pricing and over-saturation of imagery, about how we get taken advantage of and how our business model is unsustainable. But with increasing demand for visual content, there’s no reason to believe that we can’t continue to build a healthy, sustainable photography business model. We just have to make sure that we’re all educated and on the same page when it comes to how we conduct ourselves professionally.
ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography lists for only $35, although you can get it for less online (there’s even a Kindle version), and the information contained inside is absolutely essential. Even if you don’t want to join ASMP right now, at least go pick up a copy of this book so you can go from being the person asking the questions to the person answering them.
Senior contributor Dan Bailey is a professional adventure, outdoor and travel photographer based in Anchorage, Alaska.
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