Where Do You Want Your Images to Live?
The first question that I'm very interested in is where do you want your images to live? Literally, where do you want them to end up? And this is actually how I started my, I was going to say business, but I really mean my whole entire photo career was by asking this question. I started photography with this idea that it could be whatever I wanted it to be. I had no concept of how you had to create, or why you had to create, or who it was for. I just thought, "Okay, I'm gonna pick up my camera. "I'm gonna make whatever picture I want, "creepy as it may be, whoever wants it, take it." And that's how I started. So I started by saying first, what do my images look like? And second, where will they live? Where will they find their home? And my answer to that started my business, and has continued in my business for the last seven years now. And the answer to that question for me was super simple. Okay, I don't want to create for other people. I don't want my images to live for somebody els...
e. Just like I don't want my life to be lived for somebody else, I want my images to have their own home with somebody who really will treasure that for what it is, not for what they want it to be. So where my images live are in galleries where they can sell them to art buyers who appreciate the art, not the process behind the art, not because, you know, they needed me to fulfill their version of what art was, but simply because of what it is. I allow my images to live on book covers and album art, which is really meaningful for me, because I love stories. Stories are my thing. It's like what makes me feel alive, so of course I want my images to live on book covers because books are the best thing in the world. I mean, like, wouldn't that be a dream if one day, you could have your picture on the cover of a Harry Potter book or something, like, oh my gosh. That'd be the coolest thing ever. I'm reading Harry Potter right now, so I'm a little bit into that, but yeah, I just love that idea. So where do you want your images to live? If I were to ask any of you guys right now, would you be able to tell me where you want them to live? Just think about it for just a second, and ask yourself, "Do I know a concrete answer to that?" Because it's one thing to be like, "Oh, it'd be kind of cool maybe if my images were "on billboards or something." Okay, that would be really cool, you know. How neat to see your image, you know, like a story tall or something like that on a billboard, but why? Do you really want it there, or do you just think it would be cool to see it there? You know, what is the process involved in getting it there? What kind of connotation does that give your art if it's on a billboard? Things like that have to go into this decision, so we're gonna talk a little bit about that as well. I wanna talk about your actual potential clients. So if you are entering the fine art world, let's say that you don't know very much yet about what your options are, which I have to say, I've been in business, I guess you could say, in the fine art world for seven years now, and in those seven years, I've had to ask myself many, many times, "Who are my clients? "Who could my client be?" And I have a list that I'm going to show you, but it's not by any means a comprehensive list. It's not, it's ever-changing, ever-evolving. If you have an idea to add to this list, just shout it out, because it's not complete. So we have galleries. Obvious one, right? Like if I say, who is your client in the fine art world? You're probably either going to say, "Gallery or art buyer." Those are the two really obvious ones. It's what you think of when you think of a fine artist, which I have to keep using air quotes, because it sounds a little bit pretentious sometimes to say fine artist, and you sort of think, "Oh, well, if you're a fine artist, "then you must be a painter, or you must, you know, "have like your work in museums," and that's not always true. That's not always the goal of a fine art photographer, or any fine artist. So galleries, yes, that's the obvious one. That's where your work can go, and it's, in my opinion, a really wonderful route to go, but it doesn't have to be. Art fairs, so some of these clients are going to be in the same realm as each other, so often galleries will go to art fairs, for example. You can also get into an art fair yourself as an artist, and that's great. You don't have to go through a gallery to get into an art fair necessarily, though sometimes you do. So art fairs are a potential client in the fine art world. Designers, I really like this one. It's one that, in a way, took me by surprise when I started. I wasn't totally aware that there was this whole world where designers came into play. I don't know. It's like, maybe because I have no sense of design myself, you just don't think about those things, but the first time that my gallery representation came to me and said, "There's a designer who wants "to look at your work for their client." And I'm just like, "Oh my gosh." There are all these different people involved in choosing art for different people and it's so confusing. Designers are awesome. That's my end phrase with this, because designers are people who are looking for very specific art, and if you can get connected with them, well, they're constantly in need of art. Because that's their job is to find art. We have art and literary publications, and I think that it's really good to note that publications, art publications specifically, maybe even more literary publications, they're not gonna be a client that pays you very well. Sometimes they will pay you something. I think maybe in, and I'm gonna talk about money very openly and freely, so just warning you, because I'm about to say a number. But I've found maybe over the last seven years or so that I've been selling my images for various things, I've made maybe $1000, maybe $ in the last seven years from publications. So I'm not getting paid to have my images on covers of magazines, or have a story done about me, or anything like that. It's just not really a revenue stream, so I want to make that clear, but that's not to say that that publication won't get you something else, which is, of course, a whole can of worms, right. Because then there's the whole topic of should you do something just for exposure, or should you get paid for your work. We're not gonna talk about that right now, although I do have many thoughts on the subject. And then you have book publishers, writers. This is another avenue that you can go, licensing your work. We're gonna talk about this in quite some depth, so I'm not gonna go into it too much right now, but book publishers and writers are an amazing route for an artist to go, because we have so much in common. We're all telling stories in some way. Maybe not in a narrative form, like a writer might be, but there's a lot of connection. I have found that some of my greatest friends are writers, because we connect. Because that's how our brains work. So it might not be the same exact creative form, but book publishers and writers are going to very much identify with a photographer. Twitter, for example, is the best place to find a writer, because they love the challenge of trying to write a story in that little tiny box. I love going on Twitter. I find so many book publishers, so many writers that way. And then in conjunction with that, music labels, musicians, that's another great avenue. I do square work, for example, which is really, really good for album covers, because if you've ever seen a CD, they're square, and still, even though a lot of people don't even end up with a CD, you know, they just sell digitally online their music. You still see on iTunes or wherever you're buying your music the square album covers representative of the art. So that's really good for me, and it could be good for you too. And this all goes back to how you're formatting your work, how you're cropping your work, but we'll talk about that in just a bit. Commissions is another way that you can try to make your money as an artist, and there's a very fine line here with commission and fine art. Because fine art, technically, refers to when you're creating art for yourself. Fine art is the practice of creating something for yourself first and foremost and not for a client. So you could argue that commissions are strictly commercial. But I would argue something a little bit different, which is that commissions can fall under the fine art category if you're still remaining very true to your vision and to your artistry. And I'll talk a lot more about commissions, how I approach commissions, how I turn down commissions, and how that works, but just know that it can be fine art. Stock agencies, so if you're interested in book publishers, in music artists creating album art, stock agencies can be amazing for that, and I'll tell you which ones I like, which ones I don't like so much. Why you might like one over the other, and it's all a matter of preference. There is no good or bad, right or wrong. It's just the direction that you want to go with your art. And advertising, again, you might be saying, "That's commercial. "This is a fine art course. "You can't say that you can advertise with your work "if you're not a commercial photographer." But I've had a little bit of experience in the advertising world, and my experience thus far has been very much the same as licensing for a book cover, for album art. People come to you, they say, "Okay, we're going to advertise this thing," let's say it's a vacuum cleaner. That's a super random thing, because I've never used a vacuum cleaner in a picture. But let's just say that I've got a vacuum cleaner in my, this is a photo of me with a vacuum. This is terrible, but let's just say that this is your art, (laughs) okay, and you've got a vacuum cleaner and you're making a really awesome picture. Let's just say you're outside in the snow, and you're gonna vacuum the lawn, but it's snowing everywhere, but you've got this. Okay, so this is terrible. But anyways, you've got a really cool picture with a vacuum, and you're like, "I could sell that vacuum with this picture." It might work. You created it for yourself because you love vacuums, and who can blame you. Vacuums are great. And then the vacuum company comes. So okay, we're a little bit off topic, but my point is if you create something for yourself and it happens to advertise in such a way that's authentic to that company, maybe you can use advertising in your fine artwork. And then museums, which really do go with galleries and art fairs and designers. Museums are the type of thing, like if I asked you guys right now, do you think that your work will be in a museum? How do you feel about that? It's like one of those things where you're kind of like, "Oh, I really don't want to answer that." Because you don't wanna say, "Of course my work will be in a museum." Because how do you know, right, first of all, and how do you know you're worth it, and how do you know your art is good enough, and how do you know that it's provocative enough, and all these things start to come into your head. And the same with galleries even, you know, how do I know if my work is good enough for a gallery or a museum. So we're going to just break this down a little bit into how do you know? How do you get to that place where you feel confident about that?