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Today D. Travis North from Shutter Pro shares his review on a new photography book – The Photographer’s Survival Guide: How to Build and Grow a Successful Business by Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease.
It is difficult for many to turn a hobby like Photography into a business. The business side of photography is almost an art form in and of itself – something I could not fathom before reading The Photographer’s Survival Guide, a book by industry veterans Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease. The purpose of the Survival Guide is to lay out every detail and every possible situation that you may come across while trying to break into the photography industry. Throughout the book’s 224 pages, complete with illustrations and example forms (a CD is included with copies of all of these standard forms), the authors will introduce you all aspects of the business side of photography – everything from wedding photography through to commercial photography.
The authors cover an incredible range of topics. The book starts with a discussion of establishing your own style in order to set yourself apart from other photographers, carries through marketing yourself, and then it spends a great deal of time on the business methods (bidding, negotiating, invoices). It seems like a lot to cover in 224 pages, but the Stone’s and Sease’s to-the-point writing style helps to provide a lot of information in a short amount of space. They have even documented several question/answer sessions with professionals in the industry, including feedback from art producers, agents, art buyers and of course professional photographers. This of course emphasizes the fact that Sease and Stone know their business, but it also give you some incredibly valuable insight into what your future clients or producers may be looking for.
One of the most valuable chapters in the book is the chapter titled “Presenting Yourself”. As the title may suggest, the chapter is all about developing an identity through your website, portfolio and your professional stationary (business cards, letterhead, etc) and how they all relate to each other. But beyond these devices, it also discusses how to manage your portfolio and how to be your own editor: Selecting only specific images that fit into the style or identity you want to portray. Even for a non-professional, this is an important discussion. It got me thinking about my own website and my own portfolio, and I learned quite a bit. All the while, the book provides a number of examples of real professionals and their websites or their portfolios. It really gives you a good idea of what would be expected of you as a professional, and what you’re up against.
Another incredibly beneficial chapter is about “Marketing”. As a marketing layman, the idea of marketing has always been a bit of a weakness for me. Speaking with friends, – some in the industry and some looking to get in – I’m not alone. Marketing can be scary. If the idea of approaching someone you don’t know isn’t bad enough, the amount of money you’ll need to spend to get work may very well be. The good news is that the book provides some rough estimates of expenditures for your first year of business so there are no surprises. It also explain where you can cut back if budget does not permit. The chapter also provides a number of typical techniques, such as mailers or special marketing targeted at dream clients. You will wrap up the chapter with a lot of great ideas, and some rough ideas of costs.
The Photographer’s Survival Guide is an incredible reference. All throughout the book, there are tons of links and resources listed – most of which I have explored and can definitively say that all are great resources. The types of resources you’ll find listed include website template and design services, branding professionals, graphic designers, manufacturers of materials you’ll use in portfolios, prints and otherwise – they even give you a few contacts for art buyers, agents and producers. As I already briefly mentioned, the book comes with a CD that is packed with standardized forms including invoices, new client worksheets, budgeting forms, and so on. The book is really just packed full of information that you’ll reference time after time after time again.
Finally, there is one very important aspect of the book that I would like to point out: The very last chapter of the book focuses on finding creative outlets and about how you are an artist first and foremost. It stresses the importance of finding time to shoot for your own interests instead of those of your clients. I am a firm believer that happiness comes from doing what you love – but it is important not to let your business consume your art. I have a lot of respect for Stone and Sease for taking the time to reiterate this important, but often overlooked, detail.
So who is this book for? It’s a question I always like to answer when reviewing a book. Obviously, if you are looking to take your hobby a step further and perhaps be compensated for your work – even if only on a part-time basis – this book is for you. But if you just want to get more exposure with your work, or if you wouldn’t mind being solicited for work from time to time, then this book is also for you. Speaking personally, I would very much like to present myself and my work a little better, maybe one day be able to sell some of my work on the side (not as a primary source of income). So this book is helpful in laying out some groundwork to get me pointed in the right direction. Maybe you’re in a similar situation. That being the case, this book is also for you.
I really have nothing bad to say about this book (a rarity for me).
4.5 out of 5 stars.
Get a copy of The Photographer’s Survival Guide at Amazon.