New Year and a new start

Honfleur dreaming

Happy New Year to all our readers; you both know who you are! After taking a sabbatical during 2015 it is time for me to ramp up the effort on my photography and writing. It is time to get all those new projects and ideas moving.

Reviewing 2015

The sabbatical was triggered after having disappointing sales through Alamy and Demotix in 2013 and 2014 despite careful thought and much effort. I was clearly doing something wrong. Or so it seemed, but it would appear that many contributors to Alamy had a significant downturn in the same period. Whatever the reason it caused me to take time out to understand what I wanted from my photography, how I wanted to shape the next phase of my life.

I spent the second half of 2015 focussed on my personal 65x65 photographic art project which came to its planned completion on 2 November 2015. It allowed me to play around and explore what photography meant to me and what I wanted, needed, from it. I combined it with some scholarly reading around the history of photography and photography theory (the art and craft as opposed to the technical aspects). It was a period of renewal and remotivation;  I even found the beginnings of a new style, and new themes, for my own photography.

The conclusions that I came to as a result of my reflections are quite simple:

  • I am not going to do my best work if I am doing photography just to make money from soulless generic stock. My best work will come from putting my heart into my photography.
  • Photographic income would be useful but it is not the driver. I have no choice, I have to BE a photographer but that is more than simply DOING photography. I will say more about this in a future blog post.
  • As I wrote previously (Taking Stock) the market for generic stock is pretty well saturated so I need to do something different. Increasingly, pretty pictures however technically competent are no longer enough for business success.
  • I love photojournalism as both a viewer and photographer.
  • I do not have a complete answer as to what the something different is that might replace generic stock as a viable source of income. So I am lead back to the first bullet, do what feels right to me—be it art, photojournalism, travel or whatever. If it turns out to be commercially viable then better still, that said I will take a business-like approach whatever.

The Journey, Durham Making a fresh start

Now we are into 2016, a new year, I am turning my sights outwards again. I am setting off on a new photographic (and writing) journey. Some time ago I suggested the direct route to market might be the way to go (Blow your own horn), so I have already started sending out a few query letters and other short pieces to potential markets. The success rate has been remarkably high with the initial few, I am encouraged to do more.

As 2015 drew to a close my sales through Alamy started increasing so I have restarted uploading my backlog of traditional stock with some newer work. I am being very selective and am also gently introducing my personal style to that work. I am using Alamy as a test bed to see if the slight changes to the presentation will increase sales by making my images a little different. Editorial stock will continue as part of my newer photographic direction, albeit as a by-product of other work.

An early success of my direct approach was to sell an illustrated article idea to a consumer magazine, it will produce a better return on effort than my recent Alamy income. A complete package has to be attractive to editors who are under considerable pressure, often editing multiple magazines at the same time. As much as I have to BE a photographer I have to BE a writer; my head buzzes with ideas so writing is a way of sharing them. I have to put them into words. I have no choice.

I have started shooting new material to develop my new approach and style, it is a challenge as it requires me to view the world differently, in a less obvious way. The aim is to build a portfolio that will work for an as yet unselected library that targets a different market to that primarily served by Alamy. Alongside that I am considering using the results to seek a Associateship or Fellowship Distinction from the Royal Photographic Society (I am already a Licentiate, LRPS). It will keep me focused on my own work and the story I want it to tell.

I also have some themes that I want to develop with that new approach. They will be a mixture of photojournalistic stories and projects intended to be of more artistic expression. I will say more about those as I develop them. I will certainly looks to shoot some news, possibly sport, as I do like capturing actuality, when it is going well I can get into "the zone" like an athlete or other performers (will say more in a future post).

The other main project will be to rebuild my own stock library here on M-dash. My photographic archive was searchable here until the site got hacked and it is now time to reinvent it. It is important as it will underpin my new more direct marketing efforts especially into local and niche markets. The library will focus on the local, travel and my rather eclectic interests.

I am not at this stage setting financial or other goals. As far as my photography is concerned I am going to let it be what it wants to be. However I am sure that my underlying interest, experience and passion for business will subconsciously lead me to the commercially viable, or the intellectually satisfying; indeed from experience I believe they may overlap. Perhaps most important, for the first time in several years I have a much clearer sense of direction.

Finally I will continue to share my passion for the business of photography here at M-dash.com. My intention is to post a substantive article or blog post at least once a week on average. Hopefully I can make it rather more often, ideas are not something I am short of. I hope my readership will find it of interest so that audience numbers will grow.

Happy New Year to everyone, I hope you achieve your goals in  2016.

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