The Value of a Photographer

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under News, Videos

Somebody who can light, and show up, and make a portrait is of no value anymore.  It sounds like just another wild statement to grab your attention, but it’s actually true.  I interviewed my incredible rep Maren Levinson of Redeye for our Survival Guide workshop and what she has to say is so powerful, I wanted to share it with everyone.  This is such great advice for artists today.  The industry is changing rapidly, and it is really important to understand what your value is as an artist, and how you fit into the big picture.  I hope you find this exciting and inspirational.  If it strikes a chord with you, and you want to learn more about marketing, strategy and business for artists.  You can check out one of our Survival Guide workshops on our workshop page.  To receive updates on future workshops and opportunities, email nichelle@keatleyphoto.com.


Some Thoughts On Business

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under News

When I first got into photography, I was still in college, desperately trying to figure out what to do with my life.  I wanted some sense of control over whatever it was I was going to do, but that was all I knew.  When I first picked up a camera, it was for no other reason than to take pictures of my friends jumping off swings, and long boarding down the steep 16th fairway at night.  It was something I enjoyed, but I never imagined that it could actually translate into a career.  Thanks to the kind words of a drug store photo lab manager named Kolene Potter, I decided to become a professional photographer.  All I knew is that she said I could be good at it, and that some people make a living taking pictures.  That was all I needed to know, and I never looked back.  The world of photography was completely unknown to me, and from my perspective, there were no limits.  That was what made it so exciting.  The opportunity to explore and experiment.  The thrill of the chase, and trying to figure out just how to make money doing something I enjoyed.

This took place just as digital cameras were coming into existence, and also when I was still finishing up college, so I didn’t have the financial pressures that exist on me today.  Looking back, it was the best possible scenario for me to begin a career in photography.  But not only was the timing right, there were several people who came into my life and gave me amazing advice.  They shared their time and knowledge with me, helped me with my portfolio, and maybe most importantly, taught me how to bid on jobs.  Every one of those lessons and moments has stuck with me, and I will carry that knowledge with me forever.  I never would have had the opportunities I have today if it were not for those generous people.

In 2013, I taught my first workshop.  It was called the Un-Workshop.  We were trying to break the mold and do something a little different.  The first day was filled with marketing and business lessons, numbers, stories, and goals.  It was everything I could think of that has been helpful to me in my career as a freelance artist.  The second day was all about lighting and production, and if I had to guess, I would say a majority of the people who attended were lured by the lighting.  It just sounds way sexier than learning about business.

I have continued to teach the Un-Workshop over the last couple of years, in Dubai and the Bahamas.  It has been a good workshop, but after collecting feedback from over 60 people who have attended, I have come to realize something.  People always comment that they have fun with the shooting and lighting.  But what they really spend time talking about is the business and marketing content.  To hear things like, I keep the workbook on my desk at all times and always refer back to it, and I just landed my biggest client, and I just won a bid on the biggest job of my career, and Business is better than ever...  That feels really good.  There are so many places to learn about lighting these days.  And lighting is really important for a photographer, don’t get me wrong.  But if I can offer information that can change the direction and stability of an artists career, that is what gets me really excited.

I was with a group of professional photographers recently, and I was really struck by the number of times I heard them say things like, “I’m not business-minded”, “I’m a starving artist,” “I just want to create, I don’t want to deal with self promotion…”  I get all that.  Those feelings are totally valid, but it doesn’t have to be like that.  I know artists are not often considered savvy business-people.  It might be a right brain, left brain sort of thing.  But I also happen to know many amazing business people who are also wonderful artists.  I think what seems to be more the case is that artists are never taught about how to run a business.  How to pitch an idea to a potential client.  How to understand the needs of a client or potential client, and what to actually charge for all of the many different services artists provide.  Over time the artist’s creative drive is locked down in trying to understand the nitty gritty, and the excitement begins to fade.

This is why I love teaching, and why my team and I have created a new workshop called “Survival Guide”.  I believe I have a responsibility to pass on what has been given to me over the years, as well as lessons I have learned from my own journey.  I also believe that with a solid plan, and some basic guidance, any artist can learn to thrive and create work they are passionate about.  It doesn’t have to be a big struggle between creating and business.

Find out much more and sign up at our new Survival Guide page.  See you soon.
Oh, and this awesome illustration for our poster was created by Derek Sullivan.  Thanks Derek!


A Photo Editor & Avoiding Creative Block

Posted by John Keatley / Filed under Blog

I have had several opportunities to guest blog, as well as give some interviews over the past few weeks and I thought I would share some of these with you.  There will be a few more in the weeks to come.  Blows my mind to be able to say that.  I am really enjoying writing and speaking which is something I have begun to do more of.  I struggle with writing or giving advice when it has not been asked for, but when someone asks me a question I find I have no shortage of thoughts and opinions.  Part of that is a hangup I have about wanting to be genuine, but I just feel much more comfortable responding to a question, rather than giving unsolicited advice.

To start off, Luke Copping asked me, along with 17 other creatives, to answer the question: How do you get out of a creative rut?

Here is the beginning of my response:

Rather than talking about getting out of a creative rut, I am going to try to help you avoid getting into a rut all together.

I probably don’t need to tell you the life of a professional photographer is filled with many highs and lows.  Victories and rejections are a weekly occurrence.  The highs are obviously fun, but the lows are not so great.

My first piece of advice is to avoid the highs and lows.  Don’t get caught up in the tidal wave of ups and downs.  It takes a lot of adjustments to do this, but it is possible and well worth it.  You don’t need to live in each high and each low.  Learn to enjoy and appreciate accomplishments and victories in your career, but understand that it is temporary and tomorrow is a new day.  Typically the phrase “tomorrow is a new day” is reserved for people who are living in a low and need something to look forward to.  However, in photography, “tomorrow is a new day” also means someone else is going to do something noteworthy tomorrow and the spotlight will shift to them.

Second, learning how to not live in the highs and lows of your career keeps you from freaking out when you have a slow week or two.  Create a consistent marketing plan and stick to it.  Aside from shooting, there are plenty of important tasks and projects you need to put time into if you want to be successful.  Making sure you are taking time for these activities and tasks will help you keep your mind off of shooting all the time, and personally I find this to help keep me balanced and creative.

You can continue reading my response along with the rest of the post at 18 Imaginative Thinkers Break Your Creative Block.

Also worth mentioning, A Photo Editor gave me a really nice shout out last Friday, in relation to the Creative Block piece on Luke’s blog.  My first time on APE, so that was especially exciting.

I just started using FoundFolios, which is a great online portfolio site for connecting photographers with art buyers.  I will be rolling out some new work on there in the near future, and the FoundFolios Blog just posted a short blurb about my Liberia photo shoot for MiiR Bottles.

Last but not least, I gave an interview a few weeks back for the Smartpress Blog which is geared toward people who are just starting out in photography.

Thank you to Luke Copping, Rob Haggart, Juliette Wolf-Robin, and Sean Taylor for expressing interest in my work, and sharing it with others.