Working through the freelancing lulls

Freelance work is full of peaks and valleys. Learn to ride them calmly and you'll stay above water. Photo: Leroy Grannis.

I had this moment a few weeks ago, right before Christmas, where I suddenly felt like things were finally happening. Maybe you know that feeling, when you realize you’d been waiting for something and you didn’t even know it?

Here’s a little time line to help illustrate.

Dec. 8
I had a great introductory consultation with a local photo rep who I’m helping to bolster her online presence.

Dec. 12
Subscribers received the Jan/Feb issue of American Photo Magazine, featuring two of my stories (about Maisie Crow and selling self-published books) — the first I’ve written for the magazine since I stepped down as its Senior Editor two years ago.

Dec. 13
I posted my manifesto about photo events and what we can do to make them not suck so much on the Matchstick Workshops blog.

Dec. 20
The music video Peter shot and edited in our apartment and starring yours truly went went live on, a site running a contest to become the official video for two David Lynch songs.

Dec. 22
I started a little conversation with Larry Towell on his Kickstarter page about the need for photographers to take social change into their own hands, not just provide the images for it. Happily this gave me a chance to highlight the new online photojournalism funding platform, which I’m not officially affiliated with but have been supporting however I can since I found out about it.

Dec. 23
My discussion with Travis Schreer at Pictage launched as part of their The Photo Life Podcast series.

Dec. 23
I also confirmed that I’ll be participating in the Boston-based Flash Forward Festival, helping create an updated version of the Future of Photobooks panel I was part of in October for Flash Forward Festival in Toronto.

See, the thing about being a project-based worker (instead of a salaried employee, which I quit being in April) is that my work is now incredibly cyclical.

The freelance life feels ruled by ups and downs: uncomfortably long stretches where you’re not getting jobs, just plugging away at unglamorous foundation-laying tasks, then sudden bursts of activity that provide an excitement that’s sometimes hard to hold onto for very long. Then another lull while you wait to receive payment for all that work.

I’m a very results-oriented person, so it’s hard to work day after day without much outside feedback and without feeling like I’ve accomplished something really specific. When I’m working in an office, I feel like just finishing the day is an accomplishment; there’s a sense of relief and usefulness I get that is lacking when I work from home.

The events I listed above gave me a lot of positive reinforcement all at once, but they also left me wishing I could put some of those good vibes in a savings account, to withdraw a little at a time through the next months while I’m feeling under-productive and worried about next month’s rent.

In talking to other project-based workers, I find this is a common challenge: How do you keep positive and productive during the lulls? I have thought of a few things that always help me (although motivating to take my own good advice is sometimes the hardest thing). I’d love to hear about any practices you’ve found helpful, too 🙂

1. Set up a meeting with a trusted adviser

For me this is very often my career coach, but it also might be my therapist, a former boss, a favorite professor, or just an astute friend. Setting up a meeting (or phone call) is a small enough task I can make myself do it even when I’m at my least motivated. And often, I find that just taking that first step makes me feel better, so that I often find I don’t need as much encouragement by the time the meeting happens.

2. Accept that the lulls are natural

The majority of project-based work comes to you when it wants to, not when you need it. And that can suck. You know you’ve been keeping up with your contacts and updating your work regularly and that someone is bound to have a great project any day and think, hey, you’re perfect for it! But when you’re sitting there for a week or two and the phone’s not ringing, it’s so easy to think you’ll never get another job. But if you can listen to your better judgment — you know you’ve been in lulls before and that the kind of work you’ve chosen can take months or years to pay off — you’ll stay calmer and ultimately more productive.

3. Use the time to do those things you “never have time for”

Accepting that there are lulls doesn’t mean you can’t utilize that down time. What I find, though, is that when I’m stressed out about not having enough work, I tend to feel guilty doing anything but sitting in front of my computer making lists of things I should be doing. Instead, lulls are the time to do the things that make you feel good even if your brain doesn’t categorize them as distinctly productive. Go make a photo or paint a painting or write an email to a rarely-seen friend or try a new recipe or organize your craft drawer or go to the library or go for a hike. Taking care of your own mental health will ultimately do so much more for your career than sending one more email to some potential client.

4. Remind yourself of past achievements

You know, like writing a list of them on your blog 😉 I hope you’ll forgive me for writing a post that is at least 50 percent self-serving. I needed to remind myself of how good I felt about work a few weeks ago, and getting additional validation by sharing it with everyone who reads my blog is icing on the cake. Being able to help others (I hope) by sharing my own experiences is also a great way to make myself feel better. Perhaps that should be Tip Number 5….

3 Tips For Publishing a Photobook

I recently contributed a post to Seshu Badrinath‘s Tiffinbox blog, with a quick wrap-up of the panel I participated in at the Flash Forward Festival in Toronto. Hope you don’t mind if I share it here, too.

From left: Darius Himes, Jason Fulford, Alec Soth, me, Andy Adams, and Stephen Mayes, talking photobooks in Toronto. Thanks to Larissa Leclair of the Indie Photobook Library for the photo.

With so many photographers taking publishing into their own hands these days, there seem to be a lot of questions and more than a few misperceptions about photobook publishing floating around.

I never would have considered myself an expert in photobooks until this February when I collaborated with Andy Adams of FlakPhoto to create the Future of Photobooks project, a month-long, cross-blog discussion about how photobooks would be made, read, and sold in the future.

Over the course of the project, more than 50 photo professionals and publishers wrote posts on their own blogs about where they saw photobooks heading. I read them all, organizing them and pulling out highlights for three final discussions hosted by guest bloggers. I felt at times like the blogosphere was giving me my own private class in photobook publishing 🙂

With a project like that, my greatest reward was getting to redistribute that knowledge back to the community, connecting with so many new people, and seeing people get excited about the discussions. Personally I have also been asked to speak publicly about phtoobooks, most recently on a panel at the inaugural Flash Forward Festival in Toronto — along with highly respected colleagues Alec Soth, Stephen Mayes, Darius Himes, Jason Fulford, and Andy Adams.

A number of important questions were raised during that discussion, ones I thought it would be helpful to share with anyone thinking about publishing a book or seeking a publisher for one. I’ve listed three big ideas below, but these are only starting points. It would be great to hear what you think about these, since the future of photobooks, now more than ever, truly is ours to shape.

1. Don’t expect your photobook to make money.

Aside from the very rare exception (things with large general appeal like Full Moon and A Child is Born) photobooks rarely turn a profit — in fact, many fail to break even. Darius Himes, founder of the non-profit Radius Books, pointed this out in his post for Future of Photobooks and again in Toronto. Photographers looking to have a book published often expect the same experience of lucky novelists, who receive an advance check before the book is even written. Photobooks are a completely different model. Novels cost a tiny fraction of a photobook to produce, and they have a much wider audience. Photographers (aside from Annie Leibovitz maybe) DO NOT get advances, and even top photographers with several books in publication admit they haven’t made any money from them.

2. Decide what you want to accomplish with your book.

Once you get over the idea that your book is going to make you any money, do you still want to make it? If so, why? Do you want it to be a culmination of a specific project, essentially a hand-held exhibition? Then you might need to work with a publisher that can help you find professional designers and editors. Or you could consider working with a printer directly, and producing a small editioned run of artist books. If you want your images to achieve a specific outcome, to be seen by lots of people or a few of the right people, partnering with a non-profit organization is a good option. Or you might even set aside the idea of a physical book for a viral video that can travel much further. If you simply want to be able to share your images in a tangible way, perhaps with friends and family or editors and clients, then a self-published book is great. All of these decisions and more will depend on your ultimate goal for your book — so figure that out first.

3. Be prepared to provide your own capital and, ideally, audience.

During our discussion, several photographers expressed chagrin that they had been asked to make an initial investment in order to publish their book with a publishing house. Although that may seem unfair, Darius and Jason both said that finding funding for a book was an important first step for them as publishers — as non-profits they worked together with the photographer to do that, but it’s not uncommon for publishers to ask the photographers to do it themselves. Funding may be the area that new technology can have the most effect on, through online pledge drive software like Kickstarter, or pre-sales through social media as with Lay Flat and Publication. And even when the actual funding isn’t provided online, that can still be an important place to build support and audience for a book project. For instance, look at Phil Toledano’s Days With My Father, which drew over 1 million hits as a website and allowed Phil to approach publishers with 15,000 emails from people who said they would buy the book in hard copy. Or Simon Roberts, who enlisted his fellow Brits through his blog, asking for ideas for photos to include in his We English book, thus creating an automatic base of support: Fans who were involved in the project were more likely to buy the book and share it with friends.

What steps are you taking to publish your photography book? If you are working on a book project and want to share it, please comment below 🙂

How to get the most out of a portfolio review

I’ve been helping out with NYCFotoWorks for the past few months, and one thing I agreed with Marc and Josh about immediately was the need to help photographers get the most out of the portfolio review, Oct. 28-30 in NYC. I’ve encountered a lot of doubt from photographers about how to approach reviews and a lot of misconceptions about what to expect. So here are a few tips; and for the veterans in the audience, I hope you won’t mind a little refresher.

There are two things that I suggest photographers consider before any sit-down with a respected member of the industry: What do you want to get from this meeting, and what do they want to get from it?

Below are some responses from the other side: editors, reps, and gallerists attending the NYCFotoWorks portfolio review. The variety of their preferences demonstrates the importance of doing your research before a meeting. And, conveniently illustrating my above point, almost all of them want the photographer to be able to explain what they want from the review, not just their work.

For additional insights from reviewers, check out this video, too.

1. What kind of questions should photographers be ready to answer? Or is it more important they have their own questions?

Marianne Butler – Freelance photo editor: Where do you live? How long have you been shooting? Who have you been working for? Any personal projects you are working on? What do you like to shoot most? It’s also important to have background info on specific photos in their book: assignment or personal work? How much time with the subject? What else did you shoot that day? If digital work was done on the photo, and did you do it yourself? They should ask some questions of the person reviewing their portfolio to find out what they are looking for and to see where they might fit in. If they are meeting a photo editor for a specific publication, it’s helpful to have some knowledge of the magazine and the sort of photography they run.

Leslie DelaVega – Essence Magazine: It’s more important for me that they have their own questions. Usually the questions I do ask are pretty basic: where they’ve worked, gone to school, etc.

Michele Hadlow – Forbes Magazine: I like hearing a little bit about some of the images I will see; jobs or personal shots that were particularly challenging or enjoyable. I don’t mind getting questions but nobody should feel like they have to ask anything.

Jocelyn Miller – Conde Nast Traveler: They should be prepared to tell the reviewer about the specific assignments in their portfolios. I want to hear the stories behind the pictures. I want to know who they’ve worked for in the past, who they’re working for now, and their goals for the future. They should also take the opportunity to ask questions they have of the editors.

Karen O’Donnell – People Magazine: I would ask what kind of assignments they are looking to shoot, what are their main interests photo-wise, and what kind of editorial work they would like to be working on. They should have their own questions, too.

Travis Ruse – Inc. Magazine: It’s more important that they have their own questions.

Marcel Saba – Redux Pictures: They really should have their own questions to ask, and hopefully a lot of them.

Kristina Snyder – Photo agent: Yes on both. I usually open a review with a question: What are you trying to get out of this visit? Why are you here paying money to see me? Do you want to know how to improve your book? Judgement of overall quality of the work? Feedback on look of your book? They should also be able to answer questions about the kind of work they’re looking for: editorial or advertising? People often don’t know how to answer that. Also, too many photographers come expecting to be discovered and aren’t prepared to take criticism.

Wendy Tiefenbacher – Kiplinger’s Magazine: I like to look at their work. I’m most interested in any recently finished personal or professional projects and any work they’ve done for other magazines or clients. Any questions I would ask them would be based on looking at their photography, though I do like to know where someone lives.

Catherine Wyatt – ClampArt: Any photographer should be able to give the basics of how they create their work: film vs. digital, type of print and paper, ideal display size, edition, etc. They should also expect to answer questions about the subject matter displayed in the works. On the other hand, if the photographer has specific questions to ask, the review session is the perfect time for those. It really depends on what the artist is trying to get out of the session. Does he/she want an opinion about the work and the direction it should take or does he/she feel very strongly about the work and is now interested in finding representation?

2. What are you most interested in: hearing specific story pitches, seeing a wide range of work, or getting to know the photographer personally?

Marianne Butler: I really just want to learn about their work, find out what they like to shoot, and get a feel for what working with them might be like. I like to hear what they’ve been working on lately because they may have a project or some unpublished work that could be right for something I’m editing/assigning. I don’t really like hard sales pitches.

Leslie DelaVega: I’m more interested in the body of work, however specific or wide. I am a proponent of seeing that photographers have a wide range of interests.

Michele Hadlow: I would say getting to know a photographer is what I am most interested in. A wide range of work is nice, as well, so I can get an idea of what type of projects he/she would be a good fit for.  Pitches are not helpful at all right now, I am afraid.

Jocelyn Miller: Seeing a wide range of travel-related work. I want to know about their upcoming trips and also get to know the photographer personally.

Karen O’Donnell: Seeing a wide range of work.

Travis Ruse: Seeing work that is: a. relevant to Inc. b. inspiring to me but not necessarily perfect for Inc. c. that the photographer has a personality that could work with our subjects.

Marcel Saba: It is all the above for me. Since we are an agency and act as agents at the same time, we like to see a variety of work to determine the photographer’s strength, style, and composition.

Kristina Snyder: I try to figure out where this person is in their career: a working photographer or just coming out of the gate? And what kind of photographer are they? Do they only shoot paid projects or do they shoot personal work a lot, too. I work with all kinds, so I want to know what their psychology is, their expectations, what they aspire to be.

Wendy Tiefenbacher: I don’t like seeing a wide range of work. Though I don’t mind looking at someone’s portraits AND a personal project. Or still lifes and portraits. Or a book of still lifes, portraits, and a photo essay. I’m not usually interested in someone’s personal history or getting to “know them” unless they were a circus performer or astronaut in a previous life. I would be very interested in someone pitching a story BUT ONLY if they were familiar with my magazine and were pitching a story related to what we do. Not just some random story that has nothing to do with my magazine (which happens to be personal finance).

Catherine Wyatt: I am most interested in being of some help. Every reviewer goes to a portfolio viewing hoping to see something new, striking, dazzling, and sell-able. Of course, it is very rare for a one-time meeting to turn into a greatly successful gallery/artist relationship. Since this is the case, it is important that the reviewer sees a photographer’s best work and gets to know the photographer on a personal level. I want to know the meaning and story behind your pieces, but I don’t want it to take up the whole time we have together. I want to see a series of photographs but not so many that I don’t have time to talk to you about the pieces. A good balance of hearing about the work, looking at the work, and talking about the work is best.

3. What is the best way for a photographer to follow-up with you after a  review and how often should they be in touch?

Marianne Butler: After a meeting, an email or a promo card/note is nice. Photo editors all feel differently about how often to be in touch, so this is just me, of course: I get turned off by “checking in” emails. If there’s a new website, or they’ve completed a new project that they think I should see, then sending another email is cool. Other than that, if I don’t already have a working relationship with a photographer, a few times a year is enough.

Leslie DelaVega: Email is best.

Michele Hadlow: Email. It will be hit or miss depending on when the email lands in my box, but an email a week or so after our meeting and a reminder down the road if you have a new project or website update that I should see.

Jocelyn Miller: I want to know when they are traveling; they should email me a month before their trips.

Karen O’Donnell: I think email is the best.

Travis Ruse: Mailed promos are good. Email is also ok. They should stay in touch if I encourage it. Send new work that is appropriate for Inc.

Marcel Saba: Stay in touch by email and send updates of their new work.

Kristina Snyder: I get so many emails from all over world. If I want to see what you’re doing, email is OK, but just a couple photos, lo-res, of recent work that is hopefully relevant to what I do. That means doing research on the kind of artists I work with. And don’t expect me to answer every email.

Wendy Tiefenbacher: If I like someone’s work I always give them my business card and, as long as they don’t pester me, I like them to stay in touch. To be perfectly honest – New Yorkers may have less of a chance of being hired by me than someone from Cleveland or Texas or Kansas. Some more out of the way place where it’s much harder to find a good local photographer. But you never know…

Catherine Wyatt: The best way to follow up is either by a quick email or by mailing a thank you note. Some reviewers will prefer physical cards; others prefer digital, so it’s up to the photographer. I also like knowing where a photographer’s career is going. If you are included in a group show or have a solo show coming up, please let me know. The same goes for any new works you have in progress or book deals in the works. Of course, I do not want a weekly update on what you are shooting now, but rather just the headlines.

Still have questions?

Leave them in the comments below and I’ll be sure to address them in the video interviews with reviewers and photographers that I’ll be conducting during the review.

Portfolio reviews :: Are they worth it?

I’ve been helping out recently with the NYCFotoWorks portfolio review, Oct. 28-30 at Sandbox in NYC. There are a lot of portfolio reviews out there, so when Marc Asnin and Joshua Herman approached me about helping get the word out for NYCFW, I had one big question: How is this any different from all the other portfolio reviews?

As editor/publisher/blogger, I receive dozens of press releases every day, each one claiming that its event is brand new, one-of-a-kind, and oh so innovative. Guess what — they’re not.

My suggestion for how to distinguish NYCFotoWorks was to help photographers get the most out of the event by emphasizing education — Marc and Josh were definitely on the same page.

Not surprisingly, when I started emailing colleagues to ask for their help spreading the word, some of those same concerns came back to me. Jonathan Worth, as always a vanguard of efficiency and online sharing, suggested I post our email exchange for the general benefit.

Jonathan’s thoughts

“How do you feel about the pricing on this? I’ve been pretty outspoken about these events in the past, especially where they’re clearly a cynical business ruse. This one looks massive.

“I think the list of contributors includes some awesome people (some of my faves), but also a few that I’d have to be paid  to sit through a meeting with — a couple who I think, frankly, should be shot, not sought out for advice.”

My response

“I have the same feeling about portfolio reviews, and when Marc and Josh came to me about helping with it, I specifically wanted to know what made this one different…other than a very impressive list of reviewers. The thing we were on the same page about was this idea of educating photographers who attend about how to get the most out of the experience.

“It really is amazing how many artists can’t talk about their work well or have done no research on the person they’re meeting with. So I’m sending out feedback from the reviewers about what they’re looking for before the photographers get there. Then I’m filming interviews with reviewers and participating photographers that can be shared with the whole photographic community.

“Any list of reviewers is going to be a little hit or miss. The nice thing about NYCFotoWorks is that photographers get to choose between five and twenty-four reviewers they want to see. Of course, it’s first come first served, but the chances a photographer would get stuck with a bunch of people they don’t like are slim.

“As for the price: It’s no more than it would cost to FedEx your book to that many people, or the cost of your time to set up that many high-profile meetings in two days. I’ve talked with Marc, the founder, a lot. Yes this is in part a new business venture for him and Josh, but he’s also genuinely dedicated to education and using his wide experience and network to help other photographers. He’s doing what more photographers should be doing: seeking out new revenue streams so he can do more of what he really loves, teaching photography to young kids.”

What I’ve been working on

Above is a short video of Marc, talking about his ideas for the NYCFW Portfolio Review. I produced this, with help from the talented Simon Biswas, because I wanted people to get to know the person behind this project. Marc doesn’t pretend to be anything but what he is — a Brooklyn boy, born and raised, and damn proud of it — which is why his message of being yourself with editors rings true.

I have also collected reviewers responses, which I think will be really helpful to anyone attending any portfolio review. You can see all the responses here.

Your thoughts?

I’d be happy to hear what people think about the value of portfolio reviews. What should and shouldn’t you expect to get out of them? And what about reviewers: Do you honestly find new people to work with from these events? What are the biggest problems with them?

I need your help. Yes you. Seriously.

See? This is a photo I took almost A MONTH AGO in Death Valley and have been meaning to put up as part of a series of photos I've made -- and still haven't.

Some of you have probably noticed that my blog has gone a little quiet lately. I could blame it on being busy: I spent the last few weeks putting my life in storage, leaving my first and only San Francisco apartment, hanging in Seattle for a week with 13 of my best friends from college, and then flying home to Ohio to pick up a car and start my life on the road. But that’s kind of a cop out.

It’s a cop out because the whole point of this traveling thing was to help me see a bunch of people and get inspired and figure out what makes me really happy and write about it all. But here’s the thing I’ve realized over the last few weeks: Having no home and no routine actually makes it damn hard to do something like writing that requires concerted creative effort. Well, shit.

Then, lying in bed this morning I remembered a little epiphany about this blog that I had months ago when I was just laying it out in my head. This doesn’t have to be one of those blogs where I have all the answers. In fact, it can’t be. I’m not an expert here. I’ve never done this before. But hopefully through my experience people can learn a little about their own.

But if I don’t have the answers, where does the insight come from? (OK, so hopefully I have a few insights of my own, but you know what I mean.) Yep. From you.

I’ve seen the stats on this blog, it’s not like there’s a million people out there 😉 This is mostly friends, family, colleagues, people I’ve met in my travels, and a few awesome people who apparently pay attention to what I do although I’ve not had the pleasure of meeting them yet. But that small group of people (again, this means you) is packed with brilliant, talented, insightful people — many of whom have tons of experience in this whole traveling-while-working-and-being-creative-thing.

So here’s my central dilemma. If you have any advice PLEASE LEAVE IT IN THE COMMENTS. (And then you’ll be helping other people, too, not just me 🙂

I’m a fairly adept traveler, but this is the longest I’ve ever done it, and it takes up most of my energy just to find where I’m going, get settled, figure out what I should be doing, contact people, find an outlet for my charger, find food that doesn’t put me in a coma, figure out a new shower, find a towel…you get the idea.

After all that, there’s not a ton of energy left for writing. I’m actually a pretty slow writer (great trait for a blogger to have, I know), plus I have this new deal with myself that I’ll only write things that I feel like I simply HAVE to write. Things that give me butterflies. Things that keep me awake at night. Sometimes getting to those things actually feels harder when I’m on the move. Like there is so much stimulus coming in that I can’t process it enough to record it.

So, if you have any tips or suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Do I need to force myself to write every day, even if I don’t publish it? Do I need to write shorter things more often? Do I need to just lower my damn expectations? Or should I just expect this will all get easier as I get used to it and try not to stress so much? Help me out. I know you’re out there.

5 ways to get yourself to do something you’ve been avoiding

1. Figure out something you really really love doing that doesn’t take too long and do that full-out with the understanding that as soon as you’re done you’ll do the other thing that you don’t really want to do.

2. See if you can figure out the one little part of the thing you don’t want to do that you most dread — and just eliminate it (for now). For instance, I always hated writing the lede paragraph of my stories when I was writing for the paper in college. So I would write the whole story first and then go back and finish the lede last.

3. Break the task up into tiny parts and write them all down. Check each one off as soon as it’s done so you can see that you are making progress even if the whole thing doesn’t get finished in one sitting.

4. Sit with yourself quietly and see if you can find a granule of excitement you have for the task in front of you. Even if it’s just how good you’ll feel when you’ve finally finished it. Hold onto that good feeling and concentrate on it, try to let it expand and fill you and then keep thinking about the thing you have to do while you feel that good feeling. I bet you feel less dread about it when you’re done.

5. Write a post about how to make yourself do something you’ve been avoiding ALL DAMN DAY 😉

Wonkette’s Words of Wisdom

Ana Marie Cox, a.k.a. Wonkette

I participated in a symposium yesterday examining new developments in journalism, which was serendipitously held by the Scripps School at Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio, where I grew up. Besides giving me the opportunity to see my family for free, it gave me a welcome chance to nerd out about journalism stuff.

I get to discuss photography and photojournalism regularly, and being on a panel with Aurora founder Jose Azel and multimedia producer Jessica Chance was a pleasure. But I especially enjoyed debating the future of journalism and media within our culture. Such as…

Considering the quality of news produced by NPR and PBS, is government funding of the media necessarily such a bad idea? If journalists become more like curators of crowd-sourced information, where does the responsibility of verification and accountability lie? In an age where the instantaneous is valued above all, is history being forgotten and is it journalists’ responsibility to bring the historical perspective back into the public debate? If the online world requires personal branding, can a journalist still maintain their place as an objective observer, or is that idea outdated and no longer applicable?

As usual at these symposiums, I was happy to share my wisdom with the audience, but was more excited to hear the perspective of the other brilliant, forward-thinking presenters, the OU faculty, and several honors students from the college.

The final highlight was a keynote by Ana Marie Cox, founder of and all around badass. I didn’t know much about her and had no expectations, but she was genuine and kind and hilarious and had some good advice…especially for a young media maven who’s just quit her job to travel and try to figure out how to get paid to do what she really loves 😉

Ana Marie Cox’s 10 Tips for Life (as a journalist)

1. Don’t be afraid to do stuff that has no point.
2. It’s ok to have a thin skin, but you have to heal quickly. (And, you should put as much thought into your response as someone put in to their criticism.)
3. Be a fan, do favors, and find people who will make your stuff better.
4. You’re not your job.
5. Respect everyone else’s work as much as your own.
6. Celebrate your passions.
7. Keep your vanity in check.
8. You get to decide what kind of journalist you’re going to be. (And, transparency is more important than lack of bias.)
9. Sometimes the worst thing you can do is make the logical, rational choice. (At this point my mom, who was sitting beside me, looked over and smiled at me. That made me really happy.)
10. Selling out is also ok.

AFTER STAFF :: Resources for former staffers

The first big collaborative project I organized on RESOLVE was AFTER STAFF, five days of posts drawing together a range of advice and resources for photographers leaving staff positions and moving to self-employment.

An image that ran in AFTER STAFF from David Leeson, whose career provides an incredible example for photographers exploring new mediums and models. (I also like it as a metaphor for throwing yourself into a new paradigm.)

Besides putting up several posts a day interviewing photographers who had moved from staff photojournalism to commercial, fine art, editorial, and more, we also ran “Expert of the Day” posts where an expert would answer real-time questions in the comments of the post.

This is also where I started to really wrap my brain around the concept of crowd-sourcing. Because most people had made the staff-to-freelance transition so recently, no one really wanted to speak up as an expert. So instead, I asked 30+ photographers the same few questions, about how they felt when they left, what they’re doing now, and lessons they’ve learned.

I collected their answers in a series of posts that not only provide useful insights for photographers in similar situations, but also show all photographers making that transition that they’re not alone — something many struggled with as they left the camaraderie of the newsroom.

Unfortunately, organizing and editing that amount of content on my own almost killed me, and I couldn’t possibly have done it without the help of contributing editor Emily Miller. The Future of Photobooks project was a vast improvement because I had a dedicated collaborator (Andy Adams from FlakPhoto) and asked bloggers to publish on their own platforms.