Thursday, May 2, 2013

Q/A The Business of Fashion Photography II (10-week Masterclass)

Iso. Shot and edited for the Ice House Fashion Photography Workshop in April.

Q: It's funny that you responded today b/c I was just considering sucking it up & registering for the NY Film Academy 12-week evening course. It's roughly $5,000 starting June 10th. I would like to be able to add Fashion-Editorial films to my tool belt. The problem is I really haven't identified a market for my services yet. So every dollar spent feels like a sunk cost. I can also see the industry changing quite a bit due to saturation and reduced creative spend. Shooting part-time doesn't help matters. These are all things you must have experienced and successfully navigated at some point in time.
With that said, would you say your masters class is a right fit for me or someone with more commercial experience?

A: I taught at NYFA here at Universal Studios to their 2-year MFA students. I have met the 1-year program photographers as well. What does your 12-week class cover?

I understand your financial/business assessment of the classes that you're considering. If you get a chance read this article.

With someone that's goal-oriented I doubt that anything learned would be wasted. For someone like you, being too purpose-driven might actually be a problem. You don't do things unless you see the end vision. But sometimes you can't see the end game though. Sometimes the end game doesn't reveal itself until halfway through the current project. Of course being able to course-correct and navigate to new goals is paramount, which I'm sure you're capable of. So instead the question becomes, "Do you have the faith and the drive to sustain yourself from one goal to another?"

Keeping your costs down will help. I managed to keep my business costs down to nearly zero (well, outside the sunk costs like cameras and computers which I already had) for the first 1.5 years. Then the biggest expense became the studio. I have never paid models or makeup artists unless it was for a workshop (but basically the photographers are paying). Not saying you shouldn't. Just saying I didn't. And you don't always have to.

The feedback that I'm getting is that a 16 week course at $6,400 is a lot for photographers. I'm inclined to make it a 10 week course at $4,000 to entice photographers to sign up and for us to start the class soon. I'm inclined on putting a hard start date so it doesn't drag out inevitably. Something like June 1st whether or not I have 4 students.

Now about the Masterclass content. While it really depends on the students involved, I firmly believe that I will only attract business-minded professional photographers that want to take their photography career to the next level. Unless of course you have $4,000 to throw at your hobby. So much of the content of the Masterclass will be geared to forming the marketing machine and creating the right workflow to propel that career in your own specific regions/markets. Making sure you're forging the alliances with gatekeepers and people that can help your journey is important too.

But here's the kicker. I am not going to teach you how to become a "photographer". You don't need me for that. What you need me for is to help you figure out how to monetize your talent. Each photographer has a different mix of skill sets. Different reasons for why they do what they do. Different end goals. The one thing we all have in common is that the business needs to be financially viable and sustainable. The question is: How do you do that in this post-apocalyptic (advertisement) world of digital photography???

My stance has always been to "create your own market". That way you aren't as sensitive to the whimsical nature of "the flavor of the day" in both fashion and commercial work. Of course you ask, "well how do I create my own market?" And that's exactly what the Masterclass is about. What I can tell you right now is that it's not a simple answer. It's not a single thing. It's not a magic bullet. And it's definitely not one-size-fits-all.

Of course the Masterclass will hone your photography and retouching skill sets. But it's certainly not limited to that goal alone.

I speak from the experience of a photographer that created a business in this post-apocalyptic advertisement world of digital photography. That being said, it doesn't meant I know your market 100% and can do what exactly what you would need to do to be successful in your niche. In fact it's exactly because I can't do what you can do (nor can you do what I do), that makes us each different and unique. Which explains why different niches exist and why yours is still there waiting for you to monetize it.

I'm just your guide to finding that niche.

Is this class for you? That's up to you to decide. But my philosophy is always to find the right teacher and the content will follow. The right questions always lead to the right answers.

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