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Selling Your Work

Lesson 33 from: Photographing America's National Parks

Ian Shive

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Lesson Info

33. Selling Your Work

Lesson Info

Selling Your Work

This is where it all comes full circle this is where we take that information gathering that I talk about when we start capturing this were all file imagine we're not talking about raw files saturation sharpness were now taking everything all of that who what where when and wise and turning it into a return on our investment return on the investment of our education and that is selling your work now that doesn't mean you have to do it full time it might be just the desire of selling a single image once in your life I was a full page in the magazine you read your entire life or it could be the cover of the magazine of your dreams and it could be a career could be a part time career could be a full time career either way there are so many questions and so many different ways of building into this that we're going to break it down for you and actually show you how you could do it and take these skills take everything we've done over three days and as I said see that return on investment a...

nd actually started make money from it and imagine how cool to make money from your passion how cool for me to make money for my passion this is my second career and just like the art of capturing our images there has been an art and a lot of trial and error to selling them and so joining me this afternoon uh from our offices at tandem stills in motion in los angeles, where in the cool culver city district the hayden tract is j p harrison john paul harrison hey is the executive director of sales and business development at tandem in tandem his two brands we are tandem stock dotcom are motion clip and photography being our core licensing agent see representing over thousand photographers around the world but we also have tandem vault, tay ninh vault dot com and that's our digital asset management soft where we've developed our own software own application tto handle storing your files whether they're raw files j pegs tips you name it uh managing them, finding them, searching them, updating them and distributing them to the general public. Tandon vault has been our own vision of how to do that and I encourage everybody to check it out. So with that I love j p to join me and walk through the business of photography j p thei r thanks for joining we'll save health over here and lost it. Yeah, good to see you too, it's been a couple of weeks we've been hanging out up here in washington yeah it's been a pleasure guys, we've had a lot of fun I have to keep going here quarters because oughta phone calls, text messages both way no but also people we don't know are getting hungry factor s o it's been fantastic awesome awesome well hey we want to pick your brain because every day you are the frontlines of sales for us as an agency and we're dealing with clients and over eighty countries around the world were getting contracts and languages we can't understand you know we've got all kinds of crazy things going on and you can see some of the magazines that we worked with in the background but maybe you could set it up and tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do and why why are you and why are you in sales and what does that mean to be in sales? Yes, yes oh a zeon mentioned on the executive director of sales in business development at and um stills in motion give you a little quick background I started my career actually in lake tahoe as the regional sales rep for heavenly ski resort which basically planned to meet on the front lines of the outdoor industry from there I then transition into the photography industry where I helped start tandem with in just about a little over four years ago. We're coming on that big milestone but is he in mentioned I'm on the front lines stock industry every single day working with thousands of art buyers and photo unders from commercial editorial and corporate outlets across the globe my goal is to bribe each and every client with best photography available, the market, but also most importantly, represent the hardwork investments reading come on, you know this stuff I'm gonna give you so I knew out basically being on the front lines, I have to be an individual of many hats I might start my day with, you know, a hot cup of coffee and a cold in a a phone call with an outdoor publication where it's it's, very mellow, slow it down, talk about surf being talked about the heike going on this week, and we talk about what our families are, too. Eventually we transition to work, and the upcoming projects that might be might be handling, then drop of the hat got a hang up jump on the phone with madison avenue, new york added seat, they don't care who I am, the fact that I served what they want, they want it right now and all that matters is that it immediately on I want to start with that because that's very port as an individual photographer, of course, you need a strict skip, true to the vision and your individual bowls and who you are as a person, but you also underneath need to understand this is all being market that's changing daily in the way you represent yourself, the one client might be a lot different than the way you represent yourself to another client and understanding the balance of the relationship that you have to have going every single day in order to be a successful photographer. So j p why don't you tell me broadly? I mean, you and I obviously sit around and talk every day and usually the end of our day we we sort of have a recap, and sometimes we have these incredible conversations about this state of our industry. You kind of mentioned that the industry is changing and is a photographer, you know, as a second generation photographer, the one thing I'll say you know, I I when I was young and I saw my dad shooting, he was in the stop photography business, and I always remember hearing how the business was changing and this new technology which at the time were dvds, would forever alter the landscape of photography and with each change it has altered the landscape. However, the industry has remained a multi many billion dollar industry selling images, so it continues to change. But do you think it declines? And how does a russian a photographer really digest that? Do you think, you know, in my own personal opinion, I think this is an absolutely wonderful time to talk over the barriers of entry are much lower, but I think that is very, very exciting you're an established photographer in a perfect world you're already three steps ahead and we are artist you need to be progressing you need to be pushing your craft yes the market's evolving but I think that's a sign for all of us to continue to step up our game ifyou're emerging talent now's the time to hone your craft barriers of entry are lower so there's a lot of opportunities treated all direct connections with photographers to six with clients. As you saw earlier with scott he seems to have a very open door policy seems to love hearing from new new talent new biographers as do we hear is the agency so I personally think this is one of the most exciting times in photography because the need for content never been greater and there is a shift in people wanting to pay higher premiums for a body yeah, you know it's I want to really use the analogy of you know, people think well there's so many stock agency and there's there's so many options and there's so many places but there's also so many photographers out there reducing work how will I ever produce something new? Well, I still go back to the analogy of music which I used when we were out on the olympic peninsula and it was also only eighty eight keys on a piano yet there's new songs written every year right? I mean you find new ways to do the same old thing that is what a person who is talented is really about you look at it in a new way and you say this is the this is what I bring to it this is how I see the world because every single one of us is perspective is different on dh it's that ability to share that I think makes us stand out and no matter where you are, no matter how you're marking your work, whether a magazine or in agency I think that there's still plenty of opportunities out there and as I said, it is a multi billion dollar industry you have to go out how am I going to get my piece of that on dh? You know, I think obviously it starts with the talent but then there's a whole lot more that goes into it, so j p why don't we start by looking at our first our first point, which is who I am I and we're not talking about ian, so I will I will tell everyone that little man out there on that peak of a cliff is the guy you're talking to right now on the sales side, so j p is not only working the sales, but every now and then he gets out to a national park and walks out on that walked out on that precipice so the things he's willing to dio to get a good photograph he is also willing to do to help sell photographs. So I just want to throw that out there because I like how you conveniently work that in j p yeah, well, I thought it was appropriate for this one, you know? You're like national park and I wasn't going to tell anyone that was me, but let's send you opened it up. It absolutely is. So you you kind of started introducing us to the t who you are a sales, but can you tell me like, walk me through a day of who you are like, tell me a little bit more about like, how many phone calls a day getting how many emails and how many opportunities do you think there are two to sell images there's plenty of opportunities in, as you know, firsthand you're and be operated with client base well over twenty five thousand count it's an eighty different countries my day starts exceptionally early is obviously feeling international markets. I'm getting phone calls sometimes as early as three four in the morning that I tried my best to feel more reasonably they start rolling in around seven thirty so soon a seven thirty it's you know, I'm on the phone with some of our international clients, whether in germany in the uk servicing their needs before they go home for the day obviously paid my way into the office immediately the phone starts ringing immediately we can jump right into the beyond being a first of many different hats you need to have a lot of time or no you needed understand howto have time management and organize your time you're probably because while you might be working on your email and going next month also need to be servicing the clients that have projects on the table right that second that might change and he'd given moment I could have my whole day mapped out a paper with huge to do list start cruising through it with one phone call or what you meant that I immediately chain age in a different world me I'm a talker I don't know if it's my east coast roots or what it is but I love to be on the phone's a relationship person I love it's so for me an ideal day is filled with conversation filled with connecting the dots, finding the best for understanding the scope of our client's projects worst understanding the intricacies of the contracts which that is, you know, a workshop that could last us another three to four days we're going to we're going to just try and cover it so everybody gets a basic understanding maybe maybe maybe a good place start is what is stock photography let's explain that to people, and we've obviously seen a lot of images here today. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about what it is a ce faras the literal definition, but what is it also in your mind? J p though it's for stock photography is supply photographs, license for specific editorial, commercial or advertising work. Very straightforward. I know traditionally even myself. When I was probably in high school, when I thought of stock photography, I thought of the billboard you would see on a random highway in idaho with a lawyer. Sure enough, as you cross into the next day, you see a different law firm with same exact picture advertising their services. That was always what I traditionally thought. Stock photography wass thes days that's absolutely not base I think some of the best work out in the market is actually represented by agency because these air folks who are working it within their markets that they know whether they're emerging talent or established, is producing top notch beautiful. Some of the best work I've seen sits at stock houses and that's, because a lot of these people don't know where to start, I'm stop agency is the best immediate outlet for them jump into in terms of what it is to me, you know, it's it's for it's, my livelihood but what is it are we working off of existing libraries of work and how does that work? I mean we always tell people we represent over photographers you know what does that mean yes oh my my personal goal is decatur each individual relationship I have a little bit differently we might you know we represent a lot of very established talent you know, maybe they're industry veterans have been shooting for well over twenty, twenty five, thirty years having established client base they travel three hundred days a year they barely get enough time with their family and their friends and at home so they want to connect with us if he wants to twice a year give us the database that has you know as outside of the embargo's that come from the assignments they're shooting so then see what we can do with it and those folks they might not want to hear from us basically they want to hand over their collection see what we can do because otherwise they're just too busy to try to handle it on their own every single day then we have folks on the other side were emerging talent maybe they've only produced ten images in their entire life that they think are fantastic but they think those ten are the best they've ever done and they think they can sell so those individuals we might work with a very hands on manor helping them understand why those ten images air good maybe why they're not good? What markets they might connect to a park it's they might not connect you but then also helping them kind of grow and understand how best they can build out their portfolio and hopefully build out there photography career of course we then have everyone who's every step of the way in between so obviously you mentioned also the embargo's I just want to really cover that again because an embargo is ah hold on images they've been put on by the outlet as we talked with scott at national parks magazine where there's a when the especially if you're on an assignment or even like in the case of my channel island story where I shot it on my own but national parks magazine was the first place to run the work I held that work back and that's what the embargo is I held it back from other outlets being able to run it because I don't want national parks magazine to run a and then another competing publication or similar publication runs the same story with the same images at the same time you want to make sure that you honor their opportunity, teo they're you know they're paying for your work you want to honor that up brittany by giving them an exclusive window of time and so when j p refers to an embargo that's what he's what he's talking about that exclusive window of time but you know, getting published uh can you make a career on that let's talk about getting published? How does that how does that work for peop? Well, something to mention on the embargo is just that some people in the crowd may or may not know you need to understand right now we're working on winter issues that's a lot of in the outdoor world when you're getting you know, sent to chile the chute back country skiing you might be shooting that summer, but it might not see the light of day until that december january you know, six to eight months ahead of time and so that's why these embargoes are often bearing or, you know, obviously as well even editorial sometimes you're working three to six months ahead as well. So obviously there is a period where you've actually captured the assignment, but you might not see it in print or online until sixteen, eight months after that because there's a huge lead time essentially, I mean, the magazines are working so far in advance because they've got tio do the layout you know they're your photos are just one very small piece of a larger picture from the text to editorial direction teo assignments and the stock requests to then the design the printing and lay out the layout printing the distribution there's a whole machine that goes into it, and so because they need to get that process going early, when I was still people when they're entering the world of certainly of stock photography and trying to sell from a library. If you send us a bunch of summer images in the end of summer, they really won't necessarily have the best chances of selling until the middle of winter, when they're starting to work on spring and summer stories. Now that's for editorial that said, certainly plenty of images could be created in the summer that could be sold. You know, all year long, however, those tend to be more commercial advertising based or thematic or so on, and it also ties in to your marketing, you know, as you're out travelling, shooting national parks in the summer, you might think it makes sense to send that work immediately over to a client, but the reality is they're working on winter and fall and winter issues so my feet and they like it, they might not want to run until next summer, and now you've just eliminated your opportunity to sell that work for one offs until they run it next summer that's under un embargo, so you got to really understand the cycles that come with it. S o tell me j p you say getting published makes you famous among your friends? Is that is that a living? Can you make a living from just on ly selling magazines? Well, my rule of thumb and I'm sure others agree, but I like to say that getting published definitely does make you famous among your friends, but alone it does not drive a sustainable business model. Andi, I don't want to scare people off. I know for a lot of people, you know, the initial goal right out of the gate as you're building your portfolio is to get that first hit. You want to get published just first, no matter who it is, but please know that is not the moment you put your feet up and wait for the royalty checks to come in that's just the start, it simply is one pillar of the multi tiered approach to driving revenue and building the important foundation for future business and marketing efforts. Jai, let me ask you this question, this is a question that we hear all the time from photographers and that's hey, I've never been published before and this outlet ex wants to run my work, but they don't want to pay me, is it more important for me to get my work out there for free and get my name known? Or should I at least get something for the work? And how does that play into the bigger challenge? I think of the photography business model well, you know it's a huge challenge and it's a huge conversation quite frankly no don't give it away for free but a lot of time and energy into creating this work and you need to place value on it and, you know, giving out your work for a free might attract some exposure but it's going to attract other clients who don't want to pay either. So you need to understand the true value of your work and you need to understand what I like to call dr here is the feet you must pay me that's the absolute bare minimum and applies mainly to assignments but it can go from stocks. Well, this is this is my lowest year rate that you need to pay me simply to get me to walk out of my house into my driveway and that is the rate that you need toe often times the staff bushfire teo even sending something now, of course there are a lot of different opportunities out there and the licensing in the digital era is definitely evolving. I personally you know, oftentimes when it comes to hey, this is free. I do know a lot of photographers or creatives that immediately, like too I think the client's trying to take them down its back against the wall on immediately it's it's a confrontation that's not always the case oftentimes too simple is gently educating the client, letting them know out and why you need to charge the rates you charge you know in the magazine world and in the advertising world you know more often than not the photo editors and our buyers or semi educated in terms of what it takes to create a photo in the corporate world that's not always the case sometimes a marketing director might not have anything for a few background it might not understand what it took you to make that photo but sometimes it's simply a gentle education to let them understand why you deserve the rates that you're asking yeah that's a great point and it's an interesting thing is challenging and is somebody when I who's been around this business my entire life essentially on dh who has seen it evolve through the eyes of tandem certainly it's it's really tricky because you know you you want to get your name out there but the truth is how often in this busy busy market yeah, I really have to get your name out there for anyone really recognize it in to see the value I mean people don't even know who I am and I've been published many times and I mean it's a just a few just a few times but but really you know get that sort of exposure that leads to sales and opportunities is really an investment of a lifetime this is a career and you don't really just become overnight sensation in most cases now that said we have also experienced the other end of that one of our photographers on tandem had an incredibly unique idea and he executed it in a way that overnight literally changed the future of his business on dh certainly impacted ours in a large way and that was through the use of social media the images and this is a common becoming a more common thing for photographers that a set of images or story that they released may be on their blawg usually on a personal block I would say or some other visual outlet that shared by social media gets picked up and goes boom boom boom and suddenly goes viral and obviously going viral completely changes the entire equation now there's a double edge short of that in the sense that it immediately builds awareness but it also creates a real challenge for the photographer because violent online used typically does not come with a lot of money on dso the ability to commercialize our generate revenue from those opportunities could be very challenging a tandem is done I think a really great job of more or less pioneering this space especially this photographer who I'm speaking about in general, the that is a balance that you have to decide of, whether that is for you or not. I also think that the mistake a lot of photographers make and cried me if I'm wrong, jp, is they they they want to go and get the work out there, they give it away for free on day don't ask for any help, and they just let it go on social media, and it just goes, and nothing ever comes of it, and they end up making almost nothing. And what happens to a lot of drivers to is there's a lot of other sort of hawkish agencies out there that will see that we're going viral and get you to sign away your rights or a very large amount of your rights. Andi theyjust serialize the thing out there and you make very little from it on. Do you have to be really careful? Read the fine print if you're just starting out and you haven't? I've been your work hasn't gone viral, but you think you might have something special before you throw it on any sort of social media site, consider the implications of doing so not only from what rights the sites require, but also if this suddenly catches fire, what is my plan? What is my strategy to make that work? Monetized, and to make sure that I get credit for it on dh so that is a new reality, I think of our industry, and I think I think in this conversation and of course there's many different angles, you could take this, but I think the key thing with ian mentioned here a strategy because it might be one thing you might be willing to let one photo go knowing that you have a collection that you think contains more value. So perhaps it's worthwhile for you to let one photo go to get the attention, knowing that you're then going to try your best to charge the premium for the project that you work on. That you might think is that much better than the photo that's actually going viral? Putting a strategy in place is key, you know, maybe you're happy with letting your photo get out there to every single person in the world are not ever seen a diamond? Maybe ten people know your name next time they see it, maybe they don't but that's not going to make a career and that's not going to make a sustainable business? Very, you know, your personal photography now, obviously, every single person's trajectory is different, you know, some people have taken a viral siri's where maybe they didn't make any money and launched into a career most have not. There is a balance, though, you know, it's understanding your strategy and it's understanding what your end, basically, what your end goal might be, or at least what you envision it being. I think also as faras the idea of building a name for yourself, very few people are buying into the name you have to remember. They're buying into the content that that name carries, and you're only as good as the quality of your work in the content, yet you produce as well as the regularity of the dependability of that content. You know, a lot of assignments I got especially early on when I was still figuring things out weren't simply because I knew how to take a photograph, but because it was also reliable, I hit my deadline. I also had a style. One of the things that we talked about earlier or that we showed earlier on the screen was a montage of all the work that I created while here in mount rainier, in an olympic national park. And that montage, if you looked at it, sort of felt like it was all taken by the sea photographer. It was vibrant and a certain look and feel and whether that's your thing or not you as a client when you hired me know what to expect. Because there's a consistent look feel and style to the work and that is ultimately what people are buying into. So if you think by giving work away for free and people seeing your name and they say, oh, well, they did that that's not necessarily going to get you anywhere they're going to want to see a regular churn of work from that person you have to start somewhere you have to build out absolutely. But you need to be regular and have a sense of style to yourself also really lead to sales. You know, I think the story in that you told a little bit earlier was fantastic and cents that you got that magazine request you didn't have it. You took a day off work, you drove there, you created it and then came back oh, I do have this actually and I license it to you for your standard usage rates so all said and done did you maybe break even or make money? Who knows? But you also did not give your work away for free and you established a set rate with that client. That then now has been with you for the rest of your career. With that individual client that's a criminal always had you just given that work away for free that's the president that would have been set, yeah

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Field Guide to Photographing the American Wilderness
Icons of Nature Keynote
National Park Photography Intro and Setup
Photo Editing Keynote
10 Steps to Processing Perfect Star Trail Images
Business of Photography Keynote
Gear Guide

Ratings and Reviews


I have taken quite a few courses with createlive and this was by far one of the best. Ian is a fantastic teacher and remarkable at describing what he is doing and his thought process clearly. There is so much good information in this course, I definitely plan on buying this class. Not only is Ian a great teacher, but he also seems to genuinely want to help other photographers and see them succeed. You can tell he cares more about seeing good pictures of nature than anything else. I cannot recommend this course enough. Whether you are a beginner who shoots landscape photography as a hobby or a professional who already specializes in landscape photography, this class has something to offer and will expand your skill set. Can't thank Ian enough and I hope he does another course soon.


Ian is a great teacher and it is great when some one who "can do", can also explain how he does it. Clearly, his experience and commitment are why he is good at what he does. There is a lot more to a great photo than getting the camera settings and filters right. Ian did his best to help us understand what to look for when "working the scene" and finding a good composition without distractions. A great course. Thank you, Creative Live and Ian Shive.


Amazing course. Ian Shive is a wonderful teacher, as well as photographer, and it all comes across. I was glued to my computer for the entire 3 days when the class was live, and just had to purchase it so I don't lose any of it. The bonus materials alone are worth the purchase price. I've got a trip coming up soon and will have the opportunity to put some of what Ian said into practice; and love that I can have it with me on my portable devices so I can refresh my memory and reinforce it all. Great to have on a long plane ride. If you are on the fence, get off that fence and go purchase this great course!!! You won't be sorry. My thanks to CreativeLive, and Ian Shive for giving us this wonderful opportunity to not only learn, but to actually be in the field with Ian.

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