Hit the Books with Dan Milnor is a monthly webinar about all things book-making and self-publishing. This month we’re talking about the photography industry; how it has developed and what it takes to get your work into the world. If you missed our latest live webinar, don’t worry! We’ve got the entire thing recorded below.
July: Pro Photography – An Inside Look
- Career paths in photography and photojournalism
- Insights from first-time self-publishing experiences
- Past projects; what worked and what didn’t
- What print work can do for a photographer
- The different benefits of analog film and digital
- How to develop a plan and specifications for an offset project
- What it takes to launch your own book
Watch the Webinar
Top 10 Questions from the Audience
1. Should I be trying to cultivate a social media presence and following for myself, for a particular photography project, or both? And if so, any advice on how to do so?
Let’s just be frank about this. There are a lot of people who have the cart before the horse. Those who use social media to promote sub-par work do nothing but water down photography in general. So: make the absolute best work you can make regardless of how long it takes to complete. That way, no matter what happens, you can be proud of what you’ve made and potentially create something that can live on long after the noise of social media has faded. Using social along the way is fine. If you are working on a particular long-term photography project, then a social specific account can be helpful.
2. What does studying photography do for you in 2018?
Studying photography in a full-time, four-year program, for example, is about far more than photography. It will allow you to understand photo-history, and more importantly, what has been done previously. Photography school teaches you to talk about your work (something that gets overlooked) and what it’s like to be critiqued. Hearing someone say “I don’t like your work” is something you will hear over and over. The school environment can truly help you navigate this experience. Then, yes, you also learn technique, materials, choices, etc.
3. I’d love to hear about marketing and sales: the business end of how you [Milnor and Kaufman] earn a living through photography. Youth sports, high school sports, photojournalism – where do I start?
Start with the most original work you can possibly make. Original work has value because, if it’s truly original, no one else has it. Your marketing should be as unique as your fingerprint: immediately recognizable. This starts with brand, logo, letterhead, website, etc. Your marketing should cover a range of bases from print to digital, and refreshed frequently. Personal work is absolutely key. As for the topics you photograph, that is up to you; however, I’m not a real fan of the “jack of all trades” mentality. I prefer to work on one topic and then get as highly refined as possible within that genre, so when a client asks for “the best portrait photographer in the area,” there is only one name that comes to mind — yours!
4. What are the ingredients that make a great image? And how often does true “great” actually happen?
Light, timing, and composition. In that order, but again, these are my most important ingredients. After you have practiced photography for several years, you will form your own set but I’m guessing they will overlap with mine.
5. How can a documentary photographer/photojournalist use a self-published book to bring in more work? Is it effective to use a Blurb book as a supplement to a website and/or Instagram account?
In short: heck yes! Think marketing collateral, then think portfolio, then think photo-essay, and finally think photography book. There are endless possibilities but the key element here (which separates print from things like Instagram and online) is that print typically comes with a far, far higher level of curation and thought. When someone looks at your IG feed they are typically looking at hundreds of images at a time. There is simply no way they can consume or even comprehend that much work. Print is like a finely-tuned machine, showing *only* the best work the way it was intended to be seen. Also, print lasts a heck of a lot longer than a thumb swipe.
6. Technique, Passion, or Creativity? Which comes first?
First and foremost, you need the desire or passion to fully commit. Then comes learning the technique, which is far, far easier than most people imagine. But the real test comes when you are no longer concerned about technique and are left with only how you see the world. You have to practice more than you can possibly imagine. Otherwise, you won’t fully explore the depths of your creativity.
7. If you are doing a “serious” book, what parts of the equation (editing, sequencing, designing, etc) would you consider sourcing and why?
Being that I am a photographer and have spent my entire adult life making pictures, I am fairly secure in my editing and sequencing abilities. Sometimes, however, we fall in love with the wrong image. So if something is of critical importance, I would consider getting a second opinion from someone I really trust. In terms of designing, I don’t have a design background so this is an arena where I need help. Working with a designer can allow your work to reach its true potential.
8. Why have you used analog photography for your entire career?
I designed my entire photographic style based on using film. To keep things consistent, I’ve continued using these materials. I also think that film is efficient in its own way, which means less computer time. I embrace the limitations of film and use them to my advantage.
9. Why is print such a part of your life/career?
Print requires undivided attention to detail, which is very different from posting something on Instagram—a space where you can take it down and put something else up. Print requires a level of commitment that is very different from the changeability of websites. It is a language spoken by the highest level of the industry. Getting a book deal is still considered to be one of the definitive statements of being a professional.
10. Can you give me a good example of how you failed, but how it might have worked out in the end?
You are going to fail, you are going to fail often, and if you aren’t failing on a regular basis, you aren’t trying hard enough. For some reason, failure nowadays is mostly hidden. This is something I’ve never understood. Failure should be celebrated rather than denied. From failure rises the flame of the breakthrough! Sure, something didn’t work but ask yourself: why didn’t it work, and how can I fix it? It’s another way of describing the learning process. I think I failed my first Spanish test, but that prompted me to fly to Central America and study the language full-time. That’s the inspirational part of failure. Embrace it.