Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Where do we go from here?

An article in AdAge today says what we all know. Advertisers are pulling back across the board. Vincent Laforet presents a mixed bag of despair and guarded optimism. And, of course, we've simply resorted to blatantly ripping each other off as we cut own own throats.

No, it's not as bad as people think. Yes, it may get much worse. Some people are able to go about business as usual, barely noticing a profound change in the landscape of the photographic industry. That may yet prove to be a blessing or a curse. For me, yes, it's been much slower than last year. The projects I've done, although fewer, have been largely rewarding, both financially and creatively. But like every other photographer I know, I didn't choose this job to sit around and wait for the phone to ring.

Challenging myself and learning new things are two traits that have pretty much defined me. Although I'm a former competitive swimmer, I don't see this happening anytime soon. One of my buddies, just missed a chance to go to his 3rd Olympics. Despite being much younger than Dara Torres, whether or not he decides to try again in four years has yet to be determined. The point is that how you choose to proceed at such a critical juncture will ultimately effect how the future plays out.

Don't worry, I'm not going to play the Tony Robbins "Get Fired Up" card. But over the past several months, after the normal lull between shoots has passed, I've begun to actually consider how efficient and effective my business has been, but more importantly, how it will be in the future. And of course, taken action to effect it.

In the past, I relied on the simple equation of good photography equals business success. There's a strong relationship there, but nowhere near the direct parallel I assumed. If business was slow, I must tweak the lighting. Over the past couple of years, I've shifted my focus to things like refining my promotional contacts to further ensure that the appropriate people are getting my message, re-processing older images, and calculating the ever-evolving cost of doing business. I've also learned new software and a few new tools, essentially allowing me to offer an entirely new product to my clients.

In addition, I've taken steps like any stock analyst would. Given the overwhelming amount of information available, I also have an opinion of where the industry is headed. While my opinion isn't fully developed, I know it will take a lot more than static, single image making to get ahead. A refusal to evolve (whatever that means to you at this point) pretty much guarantees ultimate business failure.

The necessary diversity of answers to today's questions will determine the future state of the industry. How much of a say will you have in it?

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