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Author Topic: Past, Present and Future Of Photography  (Read 44578 times)

Rob C

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #40 on: September 13, 2015, 01:02:34 pm »

That's because you've got the old school mindset, Rob.

In the old days a book meant a monograph from Aperture that might sell a few thousand copies. There really were no other options. You could sell your services, your prints, or monographs published by majors.

These kids are running around doing small editions. They're making more money on an edition of 200 than you'd see on your hypothetical Aperture monograph.

They're pre-selling the entire edition, or at any rate enough to cover expenses, before they spend a dime.

I hand build editions of three which I do not sell. Making money isn't a goal for me, I have a good job, I don't need to make money.

That's just two points on a spectrum. You can dismiss it as self publishing and therefore irrelevant, I suppose, but that's pretty arbitrary. Painters are all self published too and they seem to have done some things that are worthwhile.



Absolutely, Andrew, and because of that I look at the mathematics and shake my head at anything but that lucky lightning strike. When I was in business there were often people - for a while - coming up asking me to do cheap shoots for better work 'once I'd proved myself'. Right. So they were doing me a favour instead of going to somebody better-established at that time.

I'm not into long-term planning at my age; if something can't happen realistically soon, unless it involves family, it's of no value to me.

I have no interest in any of the social media stuff; it's a psychological miracle I'm here today, and I don't look upon this site as social media, whereas others may. The thought of messing about spending even more hours on an uncomfortable typist's stool, engaging with every half-wit who wants to click a button and become a 'friend' is what I consider one of the easily available first-steps to insanity or, at the very least, eventual downgrading of one's own mind.

New isn't necessarily best.

But as usual, it may well be a route to wherever those who use it desire to be.

Rob C

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #41 on: September 13, 2015, 02:31:39 pm »

Have you looked at blurb's offerings?

You can do a nice looking trade book for under $10 a copy. Sure, a gigantic heavy coffee table book is gonna run in the general area of $100 a copy, with essentially no upper bound if you just keep adding pages. If you've pre-sold enough volume, you can switch over to their offset service and go quite a bit cheaper per unit.

Basically there is a quality and a size for any price point you can dream up over about $2.00 a copy.

The point is not that blurb is great, the point is that there are a dizzying array of options. You can try for a relatively high volume cheap book. You probably COULD sell 1000 copies of a trade book at $10 a pop, looking to clear a couple bucks a book yourself (not including labor, ha!). You might be able to sell an edition of 25 or 40 high end books at $500 a pop. This is basically the Victorian model.

With print on demand and kickstarter, you could do both.

Back me at $500, get the coffee table book, the calendar, and the trade book, OR a folio of 10 8x10 prints, OR whatever.

At $25, you get the trade book.

At $50 you get the trade book and the calendar.

At $100 you get the trade book, the calendar, and an 8x10 print.

Etc..

As for personal experience, I have a flickr account with 653 followers, and I have verified that I can make that number go up more or less at will by spending time searching, commenting, and following people. The account is now largely fallow. However, over the approximately 1 year (I think) that was experimenting, active, and had a few hundred followers I got 2 or 3 queries about whether I would do a book. Those queries, I feel, represented a pretty accurate count of books I could sell immediately. So, I estimate roughly one sale for every 100 to 300 followers, let's say. On that account, with that content. Your mileage may vary.

So, I've printed a bunch of things at blurb at various price points. I've experimented with social networking. What I have not done is put the two together, for that I must rely on looking at funded kickstarters. They seem to have done essentially things I have done, more vigorously and at more length.

They probably had a bit of luck. It's not a sure thing, by any means, but it's a pretty well defined path, and you can operate it to minimize out of pocket costs.

I was shooting nudes, which, as I said, makes things a lot easier.

There's no reason the same ideas wouldn't apply to any genre, though. There's an audience for anything.

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amolitor

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #42 on: September 13, 2015, 02:35:40 pm »

I have absolutely no problem with how you define success, Rob. If it's a major-label coffee-table book for you, then that's what it is. And you're right, that's not going to happen.

People who own horses are often lovely people, and I wish them all the best. Reality is, they're not going to get a job as a hansom cab driver, because that day is past. And that's OK. There's nothing wrong with saying 'Man, I wish I could drive a hansom cab, but that's not going to happen, those days are past'. Put in those terms, I kinda want to drive a cab too. Hmm. The part where you get to be poor and overworked doesn't sound like fun, but still!

It's casting it as the end of transportation (something I should note you are NOT guilty of, Rob!) that's problematic. People are still being transported and transporting themselves just fine, thanks.
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landscapephoto

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #43 on: September 13, 2015, 06:28:24 pm »

Have you looked at blurb's offerings?

You can do a nice looking trade book for under $10 a copy. Sure, a gigantic heavy coffee table book is gonna run in the general area of $100 a copy, with essentially no upper bound if you just keep adding pages. If you've pre-sold enough volume, you can switch over to their offset service and go quite a bit cheaper per unit.

Basically there is a quality and a size for any price point you can dream up over about $2.00 a copy.

That is not the prices I paid for a small photobook without frills on blurb.

Basically, my understanding of the price structure for printing photobooks is that either:
-you don't have the 4000 friends we were talking about and the price of prints implies that you cannot make a profit or
-you have this many friends, will be able to sell a few hundred books, can use classical printing processes ("offset") and can make a profit.

That is for photobooks. Tradebooks are cheaper, but we are talking about photography here.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2015, 06:30:44 pm by landscapephoto »
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amolitor

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #44 on: September 13, 2015, 07:10:01 pm »

Have you seen one of the trade books? I have. The $1.69 cheapest one has reproduction a little better than a newspaper on better than newspaper paper. This may not be acceptable for your needs. There are many tiers. Pick one. Or don't.

Look, if you're just going to dismiss everything as an unacceptable tradeoff, then, yes, it's impossible.

This isn't stopping the rest of us.
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John Camp

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #45 on: September 13, 2015, 11:21:25 pm »

The real problem with self-publishing is all the jobs you have to do -- not counting the actual taking and processing of the photos, which you'd do anyway, you still have to work through the layout of the book, deal with the book-production people, write any text, figure out the jacket, etc., and then deal with the financing and marketing and distribution. You have to ask yourself, for what? Sell five hundred copies for a profit of $2 each, thereby making from all that work about what the average American family makes in a week? IMHO, you'd be making far less than the minimum wage, if you did the book right. I think it would be better to put up a website with some kind of cut-and-dried software where you could put photos up any time you wanted, and take them down when you wanted. You could link that to a Facebook page, where you do your own (free) promotion as the impulse strikes you. Okay, it's not a book, but in most of the book-publishing world, a self-published book isn't a book, either, except perhaps technically. A "real" book is one that has been reviewed by editors and publishers and has been deemed worthy of them investing *their* money. That's why self-published book are called "vanity" publications.

I know a couple of people who successfully self-publish, but in both cases, they already have a solid retail outlet and their books are designed to piggy-back on that. I know more (very good, fairly successful, in today's terms) writers who actually publish with large companies, but only once every three years or so. They get contracts in the $100,000 range which sounds, on the surface, pretty good...but which works out to about $30,000 per year for pretty hard work, with no benefits, or about half of what a public school teacher makes in my area.

The book-publishing business is brutal, which is why so many small publishers go broke. The only reason to get into it, as a photographer, are the publicity (maybe) and for the ego massage (and massaging yourself won't do much for the ego.) Ain't gonna be no real money.
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amolitor

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #46 on: September 14, 2015, 12:02:59 am »

Yep. There's no money, no real money, in books. Hasn't been for ages. Writing books, or whatever. You haven't been able to do more than eke out a living for 50 years or more, unless you're one of the very very few. In which case you have a nice middle class living.

The difference in this modern age, in these degenerate times, is that there are a thousand options. There's a lot more ways to do the thing that people do when they're making books.

Pulling together a photo book ain't that hard. Just keep the design simple.

The changes, in short, are all to the good.

It's hasn't been about the money for decades. Is it 'mere ego', 'mere vanity' to share your work with a handful of people who love it, and make a few bucks at the same time?

Maybe. Feel free to dismiss it as such. But it's not like the 1980s were some magical time when things were better. They weren't. They were worse.

If you want to make money, go to work as an investment advisor.
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LesPalenik

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #47 on: September 14, 2015, 01:00:19 am »

Self-publishing a photography book 15-20 years ago was much harder and more expensive than now. You needed to print several thousand copies to make it worthwhile.
However, one thing which was not mentioned here, is that in the past, there existed many independent bookstores which actually purchased the books, put them on shelves, and invariably sold them. It was actually possible to make money by being the book maker, publisher, and distributor. Not anymore! In the last ten years, Amazon and other online book megastores killed most independent bookstores and gift shops, the best selling channels, where the readers could see and touch the books. The few remaining bookstores sell now used books only for a few dollars, so in effect there are at present no stores which would display and sell your books.  

Selling physical books online is also not simple. On one hand, if you sell them directly from your website, you can pocket the profit which otherwise would go to a brick-and-mortar bookstore, but the relatively high shipping charges will make it harder for the purchasers (especially competing with Amazon free shipping offers), so if you decide to absorb some of the shipping costs, there goes the "retail" profit.

So I must echo the previous two posts that with a few exceptions, there is no money in publishing or selling books anymore.
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landscapephoto

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #48 on: September 14, 2015, 02:19:43 am »

Have you seen one of the trade books? I have. The $1.69 cheapest one has reproduction a little better than a newspaper on better than newspaper paper.

I had not realised that the quality of these cheaper books was acceptable for photography. I will look into it.

Quote
Look, if you're just going to dismiss everything as an unacceptable tradeoff, then, yes, it's impossible.

I am not saying it is unacceptable or impossible. I am pointing at an ignored fact of the "kickstarted" business model: it can only be used by the kind of people able to get thousands of facebook friends (or twitter followers, etc...). Of course there are numbers of such people and there are successful kickstarter campaigns. But there are consequences and, given that you complain on your blog about photography as shown on the Internet on an almost daily basis, I am surprised that you don't see what they are. 

Getting thousands of followers is not a photographic ability, it is a social ability and a very peculiar one as well (the ones who can do that are not necessarily "social" in real life). And I think that the people with that ability will also tend to produce a very limited subset of photography. Basically:
-they will need to have tastes shared by lots of people and
-they will need to produce a continuous stream of pictures on a daily basis.

That, in turn, constrains the kind of pictures they will produce to exactly the kind of pictures you are complaining about on your blog. The difference is striking when you compare, for example, to photographers catering to the art market via galleries and exhibitions.
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Rob C

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #49 on: September 14, 2015, 03:54:24 am »

The real problem with self-publishing is all the jobs you have to do -- not counting the actual taking and processing of the photos, which you'd do anyway, you still have to work through the layout of the book, deal with the book-production people, write any text, figure out the jacket, etc., and then deal with the financing and marketing and distribution. You have to ask yourself, for what? Sell five hundred copies for a profit of $2 each, thereby making from all that work about what the average American family makes in a week? IMHO, you'd be making far less than the minimum wage, if you did the book right. I think it would be better to put up a website with some kind of cut-and-dried software where you could put photos up any time you wanted, and take them down when you wanted. You could link that to a Facebook page, where you do your own (free) promotion as the impulse strikes you. Okay, it's not a book, but in most of the book-publishing world, a self-published book isn't a book, either, except perhaps technically. A "real" book is one that has been reviewed by editors and publishers and has been deemed worthy of them investing *their* money. That's why self-published book are called "vanity" publications.

I know a couple of people who successfully self-publish, but in both cases, they already have a solid retail outlet and their books are designed to piggy-back on that. I know more (very good, fairly successful, in today's terms) writers who actually publish with large companies, but only once every three years or so. They get contracts in the $100,000 range which sounds, on the surface, pretty good...but which works out to about $30,000 per year for pretty hard work, with no benefits, or about half of what a public school teacher makes in my area.

The book-publishing business is brutal, which is why so many small publishers go broke. The only reason to get into it, as a photographer, are the publicity (maybe) and for the ego massage (and massaging yourself won't do much for the ego.) Ain't gonna be no real money.


Exactly the point.

It echoes precisely what I have repeatedly said over different posts relating to motivation: the buzz is two-fold, in that you get the joy of the work and also the equal one of the assignment.

For me, they really are pretty much equal in value. For anyone doing it for a living, money aside, it's the fact that someone thinks highly enough of what you do to put their money on you to do something good for them. Confidence in you, the shooter, is a fantastic feeling and a challenge that brings out the best you know how to give. This week I have had two very important compliments paid me, one for some writing and another for images. As these come from people whose own output I genuinely admire greatly, they mean more to me than pretty much anything that's come my way since I retired too many years ago.

You can't get that buzz from self-promotion: it has to come from outwith yourself.

Because something can be done, it doesn't necessarily mean that it supplies what everyone might be searching for in their life.

I'm not denying anyone the pleasure of doing it themselves; if that's what you need, then go for it. It just doesn't do it for me.

Rob C

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #50 on: September 14, 2015, 08:44:39 am »


If you want to make money, go to work as an investment advisor.


I am trying to think of the number of photographers that I think might be able to make a living from publishing books. I have a sneaking suspicion that presently and in times past that number is near zero. Now, maybe some successful gallery or commercial photographers have had successful books, but that seems like it would be merely a bonus added on to the primary source of their income. Off the top of my head, Greg Heisler or Dan Winter have both had very successful books but those books could not have been a primary source of income and these were books that captured an entire career of the artist!

So I take a deep breath and say to myself, why should I lament the slim to nonexistent margins of book publishing when virtually no one, not even the greats can make the numbers work in a meaningful and enduring way (I might have one or two people in mind that might make it work well enough but its probably very rare.)


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Rob C

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #51 on: September 14, 2015, 11:10:48 am »

Bailey has done forty (he says) of them (books!); listen to what he says about it here:

http://www.vogue.co.uk/news/2013/09/05/david-bailey-exhibition-national-portrait-gallery-baileys-stardust/gallery/1023192

Far more than just about books, and quite revealing of the guy's mind.

Enjoy,

Rob C



Hell's bells! Seems the video part has now vanished! What a load of nonsense - what in hell are they protecting, their own PR?

I found it still possible by going to Google and writing:

David Bailey Alexandra Shulman Interview

Got me back in.

« Last Edit: September 15, 2015, 04:52:06 pm by Rob C »
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GrahamBy

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #52 on: September 15, 2015, 06:23:03 pm »

Excellent interview, thanks :-)

To refer to the other thread on portraits, I notice he mentioned June Newton, aka Alice Springs... who invariably shot with available light.
Absolutely nothing classical, but great connection with her subjects.

Oh yeah, 40 books, sold out, typical print runs of 5000, 3000 for the really quirky one shot in 8 minutes, 60,000 for the Stardust exhibition book!

But that's still only 200K books in a life time...
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amolitor

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #53 on: September 15, 2015, 06:44:32 pm »

Getting 1000s of followers is just work. Simple, straightforward, work.

And I am sort of sad that you think my blog is mainly complaining about photography on the internet. People, sure, but I'm a big fan of vernacular photography, which is virtually all of it on the internet or otherwise.
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trichardlin

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #54 on: September 16, 2015, 02:12:01 am »

...Getting thousands of followers is not a photographic ability, it is a social ability and a very peculiar one as well..

You don't need to have 1000s of friends/followers to be successful on Kickstarter. The key to Kickstarter success is having a high quality promotional video.

Here's an (slightly long) example: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/773814430/this-is-nowhere/description

Once you have the video, ask a few friends to share/like them on Facebook, Twitter or any number of other photography social media sites. That's about all the marketing you have to do.
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landscapephoto

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #55 on: September 16, 2015, 06:32:08 am »

You don't need to have 1000s of friends/followers to be successful on Kickstarter. The key to Kickstarter success is having a high quality promotional video.

Here's an (slightly long) example: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/773814430/this-is-nowhere/description

Once you have the video, ask a few friends to share/like them on Facebook, Twitter or any number of other photography social media sites. That's about all the marketing you have to do.

Pardon me if I do not understand. As an example that one does not need 1000s of followers to be successful on Kickstarter, you take... Jeremy Koreski, who has 30500 Instagram followers? https://instagram.com/jeremykoreski
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landscapephoto

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #56 on: September 16, 2015, 06:45:07 am »

Getting 1000s of followers is just work. Simple, straightforward, work.

It certainly requires work, but work alone is not sufficient and that is my point. Amongst others, it also requires one to produce the kind of pictures that will attract crowds, for example.

Besides, what about an estimation of the time it actually takes? Because devoting your time to any given activity will have consequences. My feeling is that the amount of time needed to get 1000s of followers amounts to many hours a day, every day. That in turns means that:
-the same people will have less time for actually taking pictures
-probably have little social life beyond the internet (which influences the kind of pictures as well)
-will be selected amongst people having extra time (so no successful advertising photographer or no working mom, for example, and not the kind of pictures these people take either)
-will be selected amongst the people who are either not bright enough to realise that this a time sink with very little financial gain or amongst the people not interested in financial gain, etc...

Quote
And I am sort of sad that you think my blog is mainly complaining about photography on the internet. People, sure, but I'm a big fan of vernacular photography, which is virtually all of it on the internet or otherwise.

I did not intend to criticise your blog!
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Rob C

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #57 on: September 16, 2015, 08:49:50 am »



Besides, what about an estimation of the time it actually takes? Because devoting your time to any given activity will have consequences. My feeling is that the amount of time needed to get 1000s of followers amounts to many hours a day, every day. That in turns means that:


Yes indeed, and that's not taking into account the mental strain of dealing with all of those people!

LuLa is apparently one of the better places in which to browse, and it doesn't take long to realise that even here, on this little island of semi-sanity, there are folks who feel obliged to switch off other folks!

Imagine the life one would lead having to try and be all things to all men! I say 'men' because I imagine that women, in general, have better ways of spending their time than in a world of fantasy.

;-)

Rob C

amolitor

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #58 on: September 16, 2015, 09:02:41 am »

An hour a day for a year will get you 1000 followers, I think, based on my experiments.

At some point there's a 'liftoff' effect where you've got a big enough community of followers that friends of friends start finding you by themselves in significant numbers. This is probably pretty variable but my experimental account was self sustaining around 500. I imagine that if you get a couple thousand yourself it will generally grow from there by itself if you keep the content flowing.

As for my blog, criticize away, I don't mind! I am just a little sad because I think I'm usually pretty upbeat and apparently that's not really coming through.
 
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landscapephoto

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Re: Past, Present and Future Of Photography
« Reply #59 on: September 16, 2015, 10:38:14 am »

An hour a day for a year will get you 1000 followers, I think, based on my experiments.

At some point there's a 'liftoff' effect where you've got a big enough community of followers that friends of friends start finding you by themselves in significant numbers. This is probably pretty variable but my experimental account was self sustaining around 500. I imagine that if you get a couple thousand yourself it will generally grow from there by itself if you keep the content flowing.

So you think it is relatively easy. Frankly, I don't know. Maybe you are right and all it takes to grow a number of followers sufficient to manage a successful kickstarter campaign is to work at it in one's spare time for a couple of years, which should be quite doable for anyone.
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