Creating your own space

Richard Charpentier HDR, Notes from Rich, Photographing Arizona, Photography, Photoshop, Printers, Prints, RLC Design 4 Comments

One photo request leads to more. Glad CS Fritz wanted some unique images of himself last week.

In between re-hanging the gallery, calling clients about proofs, waiting to hear back from clients, and a myriad of other activities I actually found the time to look around the blogoshphere and see what’s what this afternoon.

Ian’s taking 5 from the gallery re-hang.  I’m taking 5 from a brutal image restoration.  This one is a long one.  And I needed to stop looking at the pixel level for a few!

So, in the interest of reading something interesting I stopped by the Zack Arias blog.  When he updates he always has something super interesting (to me at least).  Today was no exception.  The latest post was on the “over-saturated photography marketplace.”  Ah, something near and dear to any photographer!

To say a great many folks are wanting to become photographers is an understatement.  Zack goes through the reasons why there are more of us, what we’re doing, and how it’s affecting the market for photographers.  For old school folks it might be seen as a negative.  For new comers to the field it might be a negative too.  In my mind, it’s all okay.  Why?  Because if you think creatively and take you’re own unique approach you might just make it, even in a sea of competitors!

The One Trick Pony is dead…..don’t beat the poor thing to boot!

Never in my life have I been a specialist at only one thing.  Back in economics I was interested in Political Economy, Labor Economics, Development Economics, and the Economics of Digital Networks before any readers knew what a digital network was.  In my wireless engineering days I was a database designer, Lucent Switch Engineer, Switch Trainer, TelLabs DACS expert, and so much more.  Jack of all trades!  When I was a national director I found myself flying to regional offices to play switch technician when necessary, and then flying elsewhere for senior staff meetings.

I don’t know how many tricks this pony has done, but there have been quite a few.

So, when I found myself considering my current business I knew one thing for certain.  There was no way in hell I’d make it as a photographer only.  There are so many great photographers out there.  More was needed.  And Ian Russell provided me a need that I could fill.  Creating color matched reproductions of his art work.  And setting myself up to do that work enabled me to offer it to any other artist interested.

What’s my business model?  Do whatever it takes to keep the place going, feed yourself, and scrape medical insurance together each month.  That’s the short term model.

What’s the long term plan?  Continue growing the print business and the photography business as well.  With painters like George and Marcia Molnar, Alison Kantor, Ian Russell, Deb Penk, and Barbara Kimmel (to name a few) sending me referrals because I match their paintings the way they want them I’m seeing the possibility of survival improving.  It doesn’t mean that everything is a done deal and I’m all set going forward.  It means growth is occurring, and that’s positive.  But the printing is part of my business.  The photography part is growing too.

Thanks to local bands Sweet Nasty and Filabusta a new type of photo business is developing for me (oh, I really didn’t mean to use the word developing like that).  Portrait work, composites, images that these clients weren’t able to have created before.  I get to learn, the clients get to have images unique to their needs, we all win.

Personally I still enjoy landscape photography.  It gives me an extra excuse to go and explore cool places.  Like White Pocket, I’ll be going back there in another week.  But in addition to landscape work (with HDR), I’m having fun with ghost towns, abandoned places, portraits, composites and more.  Expanding the skill set to answer the requests of new clients.  Those new clients refer more new clients, and so on.

Growth takes time.  I’m an impatient Scorpio, but hanging in on the time thing as best I can.

So, what do I do here in total to pay the rent each month?

  • Sell other people’s artwork through the gallery.
  • Sell my own photographic works through the gallery.
  • Print for local and nationally known painters.
  • Color match paintings like nobody’s business.
  • Photo restoration.  You should see the destroyed picture I’m working on today.  It’s worth it though, clients with this type of work are always wowed!
  • Conduct HDR / Lightroom Workflow workshops.  Those are my most popular by far!
  • I’m now starting into several paid commercial projects.  Another reason why I’ve been so busy.
  • Working with another photographer to create a small studio space for ourselves and other photographers in the area.
  • Teach one on one classes on Macintosh, Lightroom, Photoshop, and anything else folks need help with.

There’s more, but that’s the major list.

So yup, saturated market place.  Create niche products and services.  Do more than just one thing only.  Make sure you’re good at each thing.  Doing a bunch of stuff poorly won’t bring repeat consumers.

Zack’s post was a good kick in the butt for me.  It helps me remember how much effort I’ve put into my own business over the past few years.  His post also reaffirms to me that being diversified is important.  If I was just trying to survive strictly as a photographer I don’t think I could have hung in this long.  With the combination of services I’ve been able to expand my photographic knowledge, and further knowledge about fine art reproduction as well.

For everyone else out there in the over saturated market….hang in there.  Get your niche markets and specialties.  Just don’t set up a print shop right next door to me……..  🙂

Comments 4

  1. Rich, does that mean I should cancel that lease I just signed in Prescott? And what do I do with that new printer and canvas stretcher I just ordered?

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  3. Competition keeps the creative juices flowing imho – you either keep producing creative views, or you just repeat the blather. While I do both, here’s hoping that the former outnumbers the latter! 🙂

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