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Whether you're a photo enthusiast or a working professional, it's important to have a "compass point." So says David Hobby, publisher of the popular Strobist.com blog and a former staff photographer for the Baltimore Sun.
A compass point is a set of guidelines aimed at helping you arrive at the intersection of your personal interests and your business goals. In this course, David talks about his experiences running a photography business that's rooted in photojournalism and the community where he lives. The course combines honest advice and practical techniques from a photographer with firsthand experience setting up a successful business.
As an extra bonus, each movie in the course is lit in a different way, and David shares his lighting techniques for each one.
Okay, so we've talked about compass point, we've talked about vehicle, we talked about gaining access a little bit, one thing I want to go back to is a little chicken and the egg. We talked about that briefly. You need pictures to make pictures. You've gotta have that, you've gotta have that core to your sight, and you're going to have to do that completely on your own, probably without other people's help. I used some some library images that I had that were neat images from Howard County. I went out and made some and you've gotta have that catalyst that gets you going. So you can say, here's where I'm from. So you can walk in to someone's place of business or home and say, I'd like to, I'd like to photograph you.
Or, more often than not now, that's done through e-mail. And that's how I tend to reach out to people for the most part. So you've got the pictures on the site. You've got people coming to the site from the virtual world, meaning I was referred to your site by a friend at Twitter. Or I saw my friend Bob liked your site on Facebook, and that's how I found out about it. That's neat, but it doesn't really help you sometimes when your audience is geographically constrained. So, here's what I have decided to do for HoCo360 and this is a significant break from my thinking as a newspaper photographer but I'm cool with that.
In fact I am trying to examine every convention I had as a newspaper photographer and be completely willing to break them, whether or not they are long held died in the well, conventions or not. So, one thing that I do, if I do a piece on someone in HoCo360, if there is a way, if it's appropriate for me to give them a large print or poster from that image, that's something I want to do. Because those pictures are going to end up being displayed and, and those display pictures in public settings, will point people back to my site.
I think that is a very big circle closure for a lack of a better term, between the virtual world and the physical world. Now, nowhere is this more important than when I'm reviewing local food. I'm thinking about this completely differently that we were at the paper. The paper tended to review the bigger restaurants and splashy openings and such. I've taken my cue on the food end of HoCo360 from a local blogger who runs a site called HowChow, which is a fantastic foodie site out of Howard County.
I highly recommend you to check it out. It's howchow.blogspot.com. And, Brent, who's the who's the publisher of this blog, and I trade stuff back and forth a lot. One thing I'm trying to do is to expand my reach beyond just the blog, to point people back at the blog. And to that end, every time I do a food related piece on HoCo360, and typically they're going to be little, tiny ethnic restaurants that you've never heard of before, and even more specific than that, I'm likely to do.
A specific dish, rather than a review of entire restaurant, because I want it to be, vignette. I want it to be quick hit, I want it to be easy to consume not just the food, but the blog itself. So, my secret is I output those at Costco which is a discount warehouse in the United States, if you're watching this from some, from some other country, but they're just using a 16 by 20 Epson printer. And making archival quality Epson prints, with their, with their nice pigment inks and such. It costs me $6.
I reproduce the entire website, and then unbeknownst to them, I show up one day with a, oh here, I featured your restaurant in my blog, and here's a print out of the page. to date, the reaction has been in, incredibly positive. And what you're going to see is many of those restaurants are going to take that. And frame it and put it up on their wall because for a lot of them it's their first exposure to wide spread publication. Look. This site thinks we're cool. And I do. And the site does think they're cool. But what they're also doing is, they are taking their customers and pointing them back at me through a link in the physical world. Meaning that physical print.
I'm definitely keeping my eye on emerging technologies such as QR codes, and the Microsoft tags. Which are, for the lack of a better word, a little 2 dimensional bar code which, if you point a smart phone at it, that can be reproduced in the conventional world, and you point a smart phone at it, and it will take you right to a web page or. Force you to make a call or force you to send a text. So, those are additional links from the physical to the virtual world, and I've got my eye on those, but not enough people are using QR code jet to, to merit including them on the posters. But I'll definitely be doing that within a couple years, I think.
these posters serve a very important closure in that circle between physical and virtual world. So I want to be using the virtual world to point as many people to my site as possible, and I also want to be using the physical world to point as many people to my site as possible. The posters, the I covered you sort of a poster are, are very useful, but down the line, as I start to get a bigger library, you will see me looking to do at first general exhibitions, at public places in the county, and then further down the line, themed exhibitions.
For instance landscapes in Howard County or, or the coolest food in Howard County, or personal spaces in Howard County, or athletes in Howard County, or tech people. Who knows? I don't know where it's going to go yet, but I do know that, eventually, I will have the library I need to create those exhibitions. Speaking of the library, that takes us into something that we haven't talked about with the site, and that is ways to monetize a site such as HoCo360. Now if you remember we said that money was not the prime directive of the site.
the compass point was more to open up the county. new views showing people they hadn't people things they hadn't seen before, I guess for the lack of a better word. To that I am also not covering the county on the typical news, sports feature type axes that we used to do at the paper. But rather my axes are food and world influence and creativity and made in HoCo and day in the life and little interesting. Threads, and lenses through which to view the county. I'm especially interested in those posts that have an intersection with several of those threads, and, and, and fields of interests.
For instance an original restaurant in Howard County that is, for instance, for instance a Mexican restaurant you saw the tacos on the on the large prints that I was looking at earlier. That is world influence and that is made in HoCo. So, it's many of those intersection points that I can find that makes it more likely for people to discover that image on the site through a variety of paths. Using tagging beneath the post, those sort of things where I can explore every food image on the blog. I can explore every maiden HoCo image on the blog et cetera.
So back to the library. Let's fast forward a couple of years from now. And at that point I'm going to have probably two to three hundred images from around the county. Which means I'm going to have, far and away the best quality stock library from photography of Howard County going. I mean not even close to anyplace else. That starts to become an income source. If you're a dentist and your moving into Howard county and you are, you're going to decorate your office. I can point you to several hundred images to choose from, you can choose them and I can literally have them delivered to you by close of business day.
Now in the hundred dollar an image range for 16 by 20 prints that can very quickly start add up to real income. But again you got pricing power because you're firing away the best library in the county. Other business models for instance I don't know if I want to go with advertising. I've done that on Strobist /g. I've got high readership on Strobist /g. I don't expect to get insanely high readership with HoCo360. It's more about finding the right readers. There're 200,000 people in, in Howard County, total. I reached more than that many people every month in Strobist. I know I'm not going to get a 150% penetration in Howard Country.
What I'm looking for is to get 5 to 10% of the population, reading and benefiting from my site in Howard Country. So that's exposure and that's enough to do advertising. But I feel the better model might be more of an underwriting model, as opposed to the Times Square advertising model. I'm thinking more of the NPR, this show was sponsored in part by a grant from the Whatever Foundation. So, eventually I'll be going to look at local businesses to have them be able to opt in to underwriting the site, with a muted link or a display at the bottom of the page and that would obviously go to their homepage.
there would be a thank you for their underwriting of the site, but more important, I now have a commodity that I can use to help sweeten that model. For instance, if I go to, Columbia Car Sales, which is not even a business in Howard County, I'm just making it up, and I say, would you like to be an underwriter, they say well, maybe, yeah, we'll give it a month. Say for, $500, sake of argument. Every month that they retain their position as an underwriter, I would be very strongly inclined to say, can you, go to my library and choose a print? I'd like to deliver a print to you as a thank you.
So they're building a library of art. They are supporting a local site. They are raising their visibility within the community, and it's all being done without the, just without the patina of advertising. I have nothing against advertising, I just don't want this particular site to have any viewpoint other than straight, editorial, ain't Howard County cool kind of a viewpoint. So, let's look at that. We've got potential stock sales, and those can be either from prints, or they could be. for instance, someone might want to use one of my images on their website, and that might be $100 licensing fee.
Again, very inexpensive, but you're talking about repeating that $100 over, and over, and over again. And you've got a an underwriting, sort of, a business model. Third, and I think possibly for a photographer and for most of the people who are already professional photographers, the best benefit, the best benefit of the site is going to be the exposure. Which is to say that my competitors are going to be out there accepting freelance assignments and photographing them. And, and the best ones I'll put in my portfolio and we'll see what happens. Whereas what I'm doing with HoCo360 is I'm going out and shooting things that I'm passionate about, I'm completely self directed.
There are no limitations being placed on me, and I'm shooting exactly the kind of photos I would want to be hired to shoot. As I start to in case the traffic on HoCo360, that site is better than any portfolio site that I could have in Howard County. Because people are naturally discovering it every day, whether their friend told them about it on Twitter, or whether they saw it in a, in a taco stand inside a gas station at the corner of Route 175 and Route 1, which, by the way, is the place to get tacos in Howard County. So, I've not only got a better portfolio then I would have if I were just strictly shooting commercially for my portfolio.
But many, many more people are going to see it on a daily bases. So my thinking is, that's going to lead me to more of the types of jobs that I want to be paid to shoot in Howard County. I don't want to shoot every little job that comes along. I don't want to be a commodity. I don't want to be making sure I'm underbidding my competitor. What I want to do is when someone has a really neat job that's got a little bit of budget behind it; and they want someone to do something very creative with it or something very high-end with it. I want to be the first person that they think about.
If I can do that, I position myself the way I want to position myself in this market. And I've done it in a way that allows me to shoot what I want to shoot, when I want to shoot, how I want to shoot, and be completely self-directed. And frankly very fulfilled as a photographer.
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