Frame Your Future: Planning for Long-Term Success in Photography

Introduction

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In our latest podcast, we speak with photographer, Tomasz Trzebiatowski. Tomasz did something that almost everyone would advise him not to do. In this tough environment for publishing, he launched a new photography magazine called FRAMES off the back of building a successful online community of amazing photographers who share and discuss their work.

He followed his passion and he manifested his dream into reality with persistence, belief, hard work, and ingenuity. At theprintspace we are always encouraging you to build relationships and community with the people who appreciate and follow your work. This discussion with Tomasz is full of great advice on how to do exactly that.

1Define your purpose

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The first step of any photography project is to clarify your purpose and objectives. What is the main message or story you want to convey with your images? Who is your target audience and what are their expectations? How will you measure the success of your project? Answering these questions will help you narrow down your focus, define your scope, and set your milestones.

Photography projects require patience, creativity, and skill. Plan ahead, practice regularly, experiment with different techniques, learn from others, and be patient. Tackle one project every fortnight to explore different genres and use different skills that will help you grow as a photographer. To make it easier to follow, we‘ve themed the projects into seasonal categories, starting with winter. Remember, the key to success is to plan ahead, practice regularly, experiment with different techniques, learn from others, and be patient. 

  • As a commercial photographer I agree this is the first step you must walk through with your client. I often find they have not walked themselves through this process when they cannot answer basic questions about why they are investing in working with a commercial photographer. The more they understand their objective, the easier it is for me to exceed their expectations.
  • Before catapulting to purpose and objectives, understand your client is a human being with a goal, vision and desire to achieve something. Connect with them first. We’re not in the service business solely, we’re in the relationship business. The sooner we connect with our clients and have them know we understand their needs, it changes the status quo of your approach.

2Plan your resources

The next step is to plan your resources and budget. Depending on the scale and complexity of your project, you may need to consider various aspects such as equipment, location, lighting, props, models, assistants, permits, insurance, and post-processing. You should also estimate how much time and money you will need to complete your project and allocate them accordingly. Planning ahead will help you avoid unnecessary stress, delays, and costs.

One thing I think is useful is that effective budget and resource planning is very important for the success of a photography project.

This includes optimizing financial allocation, ensuring efficient use of physical resources, effective task planning, monitoring progress and adaptation to changes.

With wise planning, photographers can control costs, maximize the use of resources, respond to deadlines, address rapid issues, and address unexpected challenges.

  • A well-implemented program reinforces the project results and shows professionalism.

One of the mistakes side hustle photographers make is pricing themselves far below their overhead to advance to full time. It is not only equipment, but also health insurance, commercial insurance, car payments, and your rent or mortgage being covered in your rates that allow you to run a successful business.

  • Be mindful the difference between a quote and estimate. A quote gives you no room to move on budget. But estimate will allow for flexibility, if scope creeps or unexpected challenges arise.

3Communicate your vision

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Communication is essential for any photography project, especially if you are working with other people. You should communicate your vision and expectations clearly and respectfully to everyone involved, such as clients, collaborators, models, or editors. You should also listen to their feedback and suggestions and be open to compromise and adaptation. Communication will help you build trust, rapport, and alignment among your team.

Understanding your client, their expectations, and their goals is the key to you succeeding for them. Your ability to deliver what they expect depends completely on listening to what is said and what is not communicated effectively and seeking clarification in partnership with them so you both win on the project together.

  • As former professional program manager I recognize the AI generated content for a “successful photo project” but in a world where almost everybody is a photographer it takes more to distinguish from the crowd and that is getting in touch with your subject. I am a landscape photographer so I have a different way of communicating with my “subject” . It starts with understanding what motivates yourself en gives you energy. This energy is needed to invest time in (deep) learning about your subject, the landscape and discover its unique features. This is a prerequisite to make that unique image. Especially for landscape photography it holds that waiting for the right (weather) conditions is essential to make that image with the “wow” factor.

4Execute your strategy

Once you have planned and communicated your project, it is time to execute your strategy and start shooting. You should follow your plan as much as possible, but also be flexible and creative to deal with any challenges or opportunities that may arise. You should also monitor your progress and quality and make adjustments as needed. You should also document your process and keep track of your files and backups.

Sometimes the “creativity” you are hired for isn’t so much in the photography but in your ability to creatively problem solve. It’s not uncommon for unexpected things to arise even with the best upfront planning and organization. Being able to problem-solve on the fly means staying on schedule and keeping clients happy.

  • As both a professional lifestyle and commercial photographer of 20+ years, I lead with my intuition. It’s something that can not be taught. You lean into the energy of the clients you are photographing or shooting for, and the results almost always connect and convey exactly what they were hoping to receive. That is the artistry behind the lens.

5Review your results

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After you have finished shooting, you should review your results and evaluate your performance. You should select the best images that match your purpose and objectives and edit them according to your style and standards. You should also analyze what worked well and what could be improved in your project and learn from your experience. You should also seek feedback from others and appreciate their contributions.

  • Copyright law still exists, and photographers are creators that are especially protected by Title 17 US Copyright Law. The profession exists because of this law. Without it, photography could only be a hobby. Nothing changed the industry more than the digital camera and now it is being threatened by AI. Only present your best work to your client as the bad image always stands out. Present your best and always defend your right to show your work in your portfolio, if nothing else.
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  • Make it a rule to send one or a couple of finished photos from each project to a separate folder with a themed portfolio – it will make it much easier to work with new clients in the future.
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  • I put into practice the act of reviewing my results with a team and considers their feedback. Since they find themselves involved in the process, I do get valuable feedbacks which keeps end results well attended to.

6Deliver your product

The final step of your photography project is to deliver your product and celebrate your achievement. You should deliver your images in the format and quality that your client or audience expects and respects your deadlines and agreements. You should also present your images in a way that showcases your vision and value and tells a compelling story. You should also thank everyone who supported you and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

I like the ease of Dropbox for sharing high resolution images. 

Multiple images can be shared in a folder via email, with a choice to allow further editing on receiver end.

I am in accord with most of the other comments here. But as to the recommendations on the left, I have to say that so much depends on what kind of photography you do and who you are working with. If you are a photojournalist, you have a very different work process than if you are working in advertising with an art director and shooting to a tight comp. Its the difference between shooting as your own art director as opposed to a client who is calling the shots. 

  • Then there is real estate work where you are your own art director as well but it is a form of advertising and you have to ask your client (the realtor) what the marketing points are and how he/she wants to present the property and shoot to that. How you shoot is up to you.

7Here’s what else to consider

This is a space to share examples, stories, or insights that don’t fit into any of the previous sections. What else would you like to add?

Conclusion

I’m starting my third year in documentary family and newborn photography – with some “extra” money from 2016 in the business account. I could either use the money to pay myself my first salary, or spend it on improving the business so it can keep growing. 

I’m choosing the latter, because I want to be invest in things that will bring a bigger return from this year. Until then, I’m going to keep investing in things that will make the experience better for my clients, as well as make running the business a less grueling experience for me.

    About M. Basit

    M. Basit is a writer at the The Rogue Tech. When he's not blogging or playing video games, he is a passionate engineer and a creator.

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