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A photography project, and other goals, am I crazy?


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A photography project, and other goals, am I crazy?
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PB PM
Sneaky Punk
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Vancouver, BC
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2010-02-04, 16:22

I'm posting this to bounce ideas off the other creative types here. Friends and family think what I want to do is not a bad idea, some like the idea more than others, but I'd like some objective input as well, which is why I am posting here. I'll get to my ideas in a few moments, just giving some background info. During the last few years I've been thinking about making living or at least a chunk of my income through photography. I want to do this, partly because I could never see myself working in a big office behind a desk, but I'm no wedding shooter, realistically I couldn't see myself doing that either. I'm not a people person per say, so I don't think portraiture and fashion photography are not the ticket either. I've been trying to come up with some ideas for what I can do, based on what I love to do. Which includes, hiking, camping, along with nature and wildlife photography. I do enjoy teaching others about photography and technology in general as well. I have taught people who are not technically inclined to be at least, somewhat proficient with their devices several times.

Now here area a few of my ideas, and this is where I'd like to get some input. I've got a few ideas for writing books about different subjects, with photography being a big part of them. I'll expand on that, one such idea is to write a book about nature and wildlife photography in Southern British Columbia, based around visits to regional, Provincial and Nation parks. In many ways the book would be a mix of a journal of what I did, and talking about the challenges of photographing in those locations. The book(s) would of course be filled with images. I do wonder however, if I should focus purely on the photography aspects in the book, or go broader than that. I want to do most of the leg work in the next few years and then publish an eBook, since I don't want to try and deal with publishers, at least not at the start. The only issue with eBooks is I'm not sure how to go about doing that, other than having a website with a paid PDF download, or shipping out a CD with the PDF. I also wonder what it would take to get published with things like Amazon kindle or the Apple eBook store. My second idea, once the book(s) are done, I would hopeful use any attention gained from that to start doing photography tours, teaching others about nature and wildlife photography in the parks. As much as I do not like the idea of going back to school, I think I may need to take some business or marketing classes if that is the kind of stuff I want to do.

This is kind of a turning point for me in some ways, because as I enter my mid 20's I am starting to feel the need to get a career going, and I'm getting to the point that entry level work just does not cut it anymore, both in terms of cost of living, and enjoying what I do. So I guess the only question is, do people think there would be any interest for the type of book I want to write? I'm I out to lunch, unable to see that there are either, too many books on that subject matter already, or that people just are not interested? If those are not things that people would be interested in, I might just turn back to my more technical side and pursue a computer science degree, since I'm not inclined to do much else.
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luxuryreplica
Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: New York
 
2010-02-04, 17:42

I think you should absolutely follow your creative pursuits and inspiration.

I would at least get the project started, and begin compiling your photos as well as flesh out your concepts for the book and I imagine it will grow more organically from there. I'm not sure if you are saying you want to write a photo technique book, which would be useful and go along with your second stage of plans, it could even act as a supplemental guide for your tours. The idea of adding a more journalistic approach would make it something more personal and different entirely. You could also do both, and see how well they mesh together. As a technique book, I would maybe add some basic information, but as a journal it could be successful in it's own merit. So consider tow books or just focus on one idea.

One drawback of just making an e-book would be the fact that the buyer of this book would most likely want to take this along in the field with them. Granted, some may have the ebooks, but overall, the printed material seems more realistic and practical.

I think you pursuing your goals is the most important thing. I never regretted making decisions to focus on a career in a creative field, it was the best decision I made.
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GSpotter
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: A small town near Wolfsburg, Germany
 
2010-02-04, 18:05

Quote:
Originally Posted by PB PM View Post
... The book(s) would of course be filled with images. .... it would take to get published with things like Amazon kindle
If you would target the kindle, you'll have to restrict yourself to black & white ...

You might think about something like blurb.com. Looks like this is also used by some professional photographers...

Oh and by the way, with a computer science degree, there are also jobs where you don't have to work in a big office behind a desk - the only problem might be the hiking and camping bit ...

My photos @ flickr
The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either. -- Benjamin Franklin
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PB PM
Sneaky Punk
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Vancouver, BC
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2010-02-04, 21:38

About the ebook, I realize that there would be limitations. I could offer a printed copy for additional cost, but Id have to find a good deal on printing, or get my self a good printer.

As for the book itself, I was thinking of having a mix of jounalistic and technical, although having a technical guide for the tours is not a bad idea at all.
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Robo
Formerly Roboman, still
awesome
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Portland, OR
 
2010-02-05, 11:33

I'm with luxuryreplica. Absolutely follow your creative juices

The first thing I would do, right now, is go to a book store or gift shop and look through the other books of nature photography. How do your photographs compare? If you page through the books and say "I can do this!", you're okay. If you page through the books and say "Wow, my pictures are totally better than this! How did these guys ever get published?", even better. If your photos aren't quite up to snuff, you have time to hone your skills, and that should be where you start. Those other books are going to be your competition, no matter how you get your photographs out there. I'm imagining the gift shop now..."Wow!" you think. "There's way more British Columbia photography books than I expected!" But they all have a niche.

Some thoughts, on the book thing:

Self-publishing is a fine and honorable pursuit. But.

If you self-publish, some people will assume that you're self-publishing because you just couldn't get a book deal. This alone can make self-published books a hard sell -- some people will assume that your product is intrinsically worth less -- but there's other things at play, too. Like visibility. How are people going to know that your PDF book is out there, in the first place?

I know you said you didn't want to deal with publishers, at least not at the start. But -- after you make sure you have a bunch of great photos -- I would anyway. Herein lies the Bad News portion of our program: Most people aren't going to want coffee table PDFs. They're going to want coffee table books, big glossy pictures they can hold on their lap like a family photo album. Especially if we're talking a few years of "leg work," you're going to want a real return on that time investment, and I must admit I have my doubts that you'll get that from PDFs.

Here's the good news: Publishers don't have to be scary. Most of them are small businesses, run by people just like you, only their passion is publishing instead of taking pictures. I'd actually advise you to approach a smaller local press, because your photos are going to be of most interest to people who live in British Columbia and people who visit. British Columbia certainly has some local presses. Look at the logos on the backs of the books in the gift shop -- you'll probably find at least one company that specializes in nature photography and travel guides in just your part of the world.

More bad news. You've described your book several times as a "mix" between a tour guide and a travel journal. I would avoid that. Those are both established genres in their own rights, but buyers like to know what they're getting. Book buyers don't typically like mixed nuts. The good news is that there's nothing preventing you from doing both separately -- you could even use the same photographs, as long as you made sure that you either kept the rights or sold both books to the same publisher (if they had the rights).

Remember the overwhelming number of photography books at our theoretical gift shop? (Ah, the downside of living in one of the most beautiful parts of the world!) They aren't all alike. Some are big, expensive, comprehensive. Some are small, cheap, giftable. Some are coffee-table sized, some are "travel-sized"...you get the idea. Some are travelogues, some are technical guides to hiking, and some are just a lot of pretty pictures. Find your niche. Don't try and be all things to all people. Maybe there's a lot of nature photography books out there, but yours is the only one entirely devoted to shots in the rain. Or during magic hour. Or with an ecological message. Again, you can "repackage" the same photographs in different ways, provided the rights clear.

If you do choose to self-publish, there are companies like Lulu that can turn your photos into physical books, which may prove more marketable than PDFs. They typically print one book at a time, as it is ordered -- this is called print-on-demand. It's still self-publishing, so visibility will be an issue. When tourists go to Vancouver and are awed by its natural beauty, are they going to go online and order a book and have it delivered to them back home? Probably not. They'll go into a bookstore or gift shop and pay through the nose for one as a memento. Even with Lulu handling the printing and shipping, it will still be difficult to get these books into little gift shops and the like, but with persistence you might be able to get a few to bite.

Above all, think about your motive for doing the PDF/book thing. I think wanting to raise your profile for a gig as a tour guide or photography authority is a great reason to put together a book -- many non-fiction authors write to raise their profile or to become an "authority" on something. Few things raise your profile more than a published (not self-published) book. It's all about a platform. Include your URL in your books. Let people sign up for a mailing list there, with the promise of free pictures every now and then. Then let them all know when you start doing photography tours! And when you do, keep a guest log and do the same thing. You can plug your books to people who take your tours, and you can plug your tours to people who buy your books. It won't be long until people are including you in their British Columbia travel guides!

As a photographer, you should be great at coming up with a creative angle to everything. Selling a PDF book on a CD might not be the most marketable thing in the world, but you just need to reframe it. A collection of desktop/wallpaper-sized photographs, along with some MP3s from local bands just dying for exposure? Tourists would buy it and a hard copy of the book. It'll be a little bit of nature they can have in their cubicles.

It won't always be easy, but look at it this way: What good fortune that you live in such a beautiful part of the world, and that you have the skills and the desire to chronicle it with photographs? That is a marketable product that people would pay money for, as is instruction in photography from a local expert (of course he's an expert! He published this book!). There will be times when you will have doubts that any of this will happen, but stick with it.

I'll be in for a signed copy.

and i guess i've known it all along / the truth is, you have to be soft to be strong
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PB PM
Sneaky Punk
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Vancouver, BC
Send a message via Skype™ to PB PM 
2010-02-05, 16:04

Thanks for your tips Robo, that information is the kind of stuff I've wondered about.

You made some good points about publishing, which I did not consider. The issue I have with publishing is rights, I do not want to give up control of my work to a publisher, I'd feel rather silly paying for rights to sell my own photos! I'll have to consider all those things as I prepare myself for this project. I think there are other steps to getting noticed, such as getting published in one of the local nature magazines, or calenders.

As for the books subject matter, I suspect it will be more on the technical side, since I think in technical terms. If I were to write a journalistic book it would indeed need to be separate, as it may be attractive to both photographers and outdoor lovers. I can see the book being more of a technical guide, which could then be used along with my photo tours. If you want an idea of how I write, you can check out my blog, linked in my signature. I don't have an editor so my work is a little rough to say the least.

This entire project will not be an easy one, but I think it will be worth while. I'm not worried about photographic ability, I've done some looks around at a few other local nature photographers websites and I know that I can take shots at least as good as they are, and some of them sell 8x10 prints for $45 a pop. I just need to get out there and get started.

I think one challenge will be improving my post processing on the computer, getting Photoshop in addition to Aperture may be in order to get my photos to the next level. I do dread paying for it, but if I want to live as a professional in this field I figure having Photoshop is almost a given.
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Robo
Formerly Roboman, still
awesome
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Portland, OR
 
2010-02-05, 16:31

Re: rights, that's one reason I suggested approaching a smaller, photography-focused press, not some multinational conglomerate. The stereotype is they're more understanding.

You will almost always retain the rights to sell prints, &c. -- we're only talking about publishing rights, here. You're probably smart to "value add" by writing text, as you might have an easier time keeping your rights than if the photos were integral to the product (ie, if you were selling a photo book). That's just me guessing, though -- this isn't exactly my area.

You shouldn't assign the *copyright* to your photos to anyone else -- this is just publishing rights (and technically, first publication rights) that we're talking about.
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PB PM
Sneaky Punk
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Vancouver, BC
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2010-02-05, 16:38

Okay, good to know. I honestly know nothing about publication, so this is all new to me.
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Robo
Formerly Roboman, still
awesome
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: Portland, OR
 
2010-02-05, 16:50

There are lots of lawyers who base their entire careers on rights issues. IANAL, just saying what I know. I would either make friends with other published photographers, get an agent, or talk to a lawyer if you feel you need to when the time comes. Nobody will fault you for wanting to know exactly what it is you're signing.

That said, publishing isn't scary. It's a people business, like any other. And the entire business is built on the backs of the artists, so don't take shit from anyone who wants to act like you aren't needed. Just find someone who does appreciate what you do. Look at all the calendars and photo books and posters and mousepads out there. Somebody had to take those pictures. Why *couldn't* it be you? You know you're just as good.

Good luck and happy shooting
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Chinney
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Ottawa, ON
 
2010-02-05, 21:38

I do think that you have a talent for nature photography, corresponding with your interests. I don't know a lot about careers in photography, but I have been told that a challenge can be making it pay. When it is a labour of love, then that is not your first focus perhaps, but you still have to keep it under consideration.

I would get advice from different sources - taking it all, however, under advisement as a source of ideas, rather than as an absolute guidepost of what you might do (a lot of people will tell you you have to do it their way; other people will tell you you can't do it at all). You've got to stay flexible, true to your self, and find your own way.

When there's an eel in the lake that's as long as a snake that's a moray.
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PB PM
Sneaky Punk
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Vancouver, BC
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2010-02-07, 01:32

Doing things the hard way seems to be the way I do life, so I might as well go ahead and face the challenge. Also, making a ton of money is not my goal, so as long as I can get by and do what I love, that's cool. I have a job, and maybe a better one coming soon, so its not like I'm cutting myself off from other income to do this, so I should be okay.
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turtle
Lord of the Rant.
Formerly turtle2472
 
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Tidewater Virginia
 
2010-02-07, 09:08

I think you'll have a blast and love it. If you work it right and get the publicity out there it could replace your current income. Sounds like a load of fun. It's great that you can keep your current job though this will constrain your time available for photo walks with clients.

The only other concern is that you spend so much time with your job and your new venture that you leave your family behind. Be sure you schedule the time for them in too so they don't get left behind.

Have fun! It sounds like a great plan. Keep us posted too.

Louis L'Amour, “To make democracy work, we must be a notion of participants, not simply observers. One who does not vote has no right to complain.”
MineCraft? mc.applenova.com | Visit us! | Maybe someday I'll proof read, until then deal with it.
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PB PM
Sneaky Punk
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
Location: Vancouver, BC
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2010-02-07, 13:40

I wont be doing photo tours for a while, so that's not an issue at this point. Although I've visited many of the parks, I don't know most of them well enough to do photo tours just yet. I'll be sure to post some updates. Right now this is more of a series of long term goals, and the project may take a year or more to complete due to time and financial constraints.
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Chinney
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: May 2004
Location: Ottawa, ON
 
2010-02-07, 18:22

The other thing I have noticed about your pics is some really nice "technical" shots: things you have done of lenses, close-ups of CPUs, and the like. You seem to enjoy that, and the results I've seen from you are really quite good IMO: both technically and artistically pleasing to my eye.

Once again I preface this by saying that I know zilch about the business side of photography, but I wonder if that also could be a side of photography that you could explore. If you look through magazines, newspapers and online - even in general, non-technical media - there are tons and tons of what I would call "technical" shots. It seems to be a constant need. If you would be interested and it worked out, it might allow you to do photography more full-time, doing both the nature photography thing and the technical photography thing. And each side could feed the other, in terms of helping you develop skills, a reputation, and a client base.

Just a thought (which you should feel free to reject).

When there's an eel in the lake that's as long as a snake that's a moray.
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PB PM
Sneaky Punk
 
Join Date: Oct 2005
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2010-02-07, 18:56

Thanks for your comments, I'm always open to suggestions. As for working in different areas of photography, that's not a bad idea actually, since diversity can be a strength. I think what you are describing as being, technical, could be, considered product photography, at least to some extent.
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