Monday, October 28, 2013

Lessons learned from the NPPA Business Blitz

The nuts and bolts of running a business is he most important thing you need to be a successful independent photographer. When you first start your business more than 95% of your time will be doing things like marketing, estimates and negotiating with clients.

National Press Photographers Association has been putting on business seminars not just for their members, but for anyone who is interested.

The entire event was giving photographers information to help empower them in business practices. At no point did any of the speakers show their award winning photographs and talk about how they made their pictures.

Greg Smith, independent photographer, NPPA board member and chairman of the business practices committee.
A few years ago under Alicia Calzada's time as the NPPA president, she along with Greg Smith worked on business practices for the membership. Greg is the one who created the NPPA Business Calculator, which is referenced by everyone teaching today photographers how to run their business.

Greg walked everyone through the different fields of the calculator helping to explain why each of these fields needs to be considered to come up with a working budget for the "Cost of doing business."

Beer Money or Rent Money

One of the problems many staff photographers continue to have is that they are often thinking of doing side jobs for "beer money." The problem is the following week many of these staff photographers are being laid off and their business model of working for "beer money" and using company gear will not work when they have to buy their own gear, pay for all the costs of running a business and then have enough money left for now their basic needs like "rent."

Mickey Osterreicher, NPPA Attorney
Mickey Osterreicher told us over and over "its complicated." He helped to give us a better understanding of copyright, contracts and how to negotiate with clients. He helped to clear up that we need to register our images every three months and not every ninety days. Come February when you have less than ninety days you can get caught where some of your images are not protected.

We learned that their are four issues that need to be addressed for a photograph to meet the "Fair Use" requirements.

  1. Purpose
  2. Nature
  3. Amount and Substantiality
  4. Effect of the use
We learned that the caps of per image violation was $150,000 which will be divided by the parties that misused on image, if they are all related.

We learned the differences between copyright and license. Understanding this was how we were able to negotiate more effectively with clients.

We learned what must exist for a contract.

Offer + Consideration + Acceptance = Contract

He even helped us to understand that you can have an oral contract, but this depends on where you live.

Deb Pang Davis, Assistant Professor, Syracuse University
Deb Pang Davis explained that for our business to be successful we had to understand our brand and know how to build it in the community. "You are already a brand," she said. "Do you know what it is?"

She encouraged everyone and especially the students to think really LONG term. This was ten years into the future.  Then you need to present the work to the audience that you want to do.

One of the greatest pitfalls of most business people is getting stuck on a "roller coaster." This is where you do "911 marketing." You have rent due and then you work really hard to market and then get some work. The next time you market is when the work starts to drop off.

Deb went on to give us many different ways you can market and build your brand so that you can avoid those roller coaster rides of the past.

Stanley Leary & Akili Ramsess [photo by Mark E. Johnson]
During a panel discussion on "Finding & Funding a Future for Photojournalism and Documentary Photography" I was able to give my spin on what I recommended. 

I believe we are at an all time high for opportunities for storytellers. However most of those who are working storytellers with the titles of Journalist or Photojournalist will most likely need to pursue other places than the news media outlets to use their skills. The number of those jobs has greatly diminished.

I encourage storytellers to discover their communities. Find where they congregate and then find those who want and need to communicate to those groups. Then become an expert on the subjects that they cover for those audiences.

Where are those communities? I gave them some examples of working for a corporation where they need storytellers to help with the communication in their community. Nonprofit organizations are also communities that need those same storytellers to create community newspapers within their sphere.

[photo by Mark E. Johnson]
While I came to speak, I also came to learn. I took a lot of notes. while most everything presented I had heard before, I did hear new ways of presenting the material. I am always looking for a better way to tell the story and I learned a few new ways to do just that.

I cannot encourage you enough to spend the time to get to know this material so that you too can be a successful independent photographer.

1 comment:

David Stembridge said...

This was a great opportunity for photographers of of walks of life to get some solid reinforcement on issues of copyright law, and the business aspects that are truly vital to survive in the industry; but what really drew me in was the marketing segment from Deb Pang David from Syracuse Univ. Great ideas about finding your brand, and using social media to your advantage! Love the idea of finding your community as well, and not just keeping interactions 'on-line'; but getting out there connecting with real people!