Chapter 1, Part 2

However, if you’re not willing to jump in without going through some business planning and risk analysis, let me share with you a couple of basic tools:


Let us first find a way to assess what genre of photography you should pursue, or where or what you are good at. While this exercise was meant to guide more experienced photographers who may have found themselves in a slump, who need a re-direction of their business efforts, or to rekindle their interest in photography, I have successfully used this exercise with my AB Photography students, many of whom are still searching where their passions lie.


It’s an exercise I learned from Tony Luna, who teaches at the Art Center College of Design (in Pasadena, California). In his book, “Reinventing Your Career” (check out complete title and give publication details), Tony advised older photographers who find themselves with diminished fervor for photography, or reduced income from their business of photography, to rediscover themselves as photographers by bringing passion back into their work.


I have called this exercise, “Photomapping.”


Here are his instructions: Gather your photos – as many as you can gather, and sort them out by genres on a large surface, a table or the floor. Sort them into products, landscapes, talent photography, etc. – whatever classifications you can see from the kinds of photos that you have. Where you have more photos in the pile, especially your favorite photos, would clearly suggest which type of photography your heart favors.




Try to do more work and create a new portfolio in that classification or genre.


With his permission, I have modified this exercise for the sake of my students who are new in photography. Since they do not have a deep reservoir of photos, I gave them permission to mix their photographs with those they’ve “borrowed” from the Internet. I ask them to grab photos from the Internet that they wished they had photographed (don’t erase the watermarks!) – anywhere from a hundred to two hundred photos. Then, they sort them also into folders, each folder representing a different genre.


As they review the contents of each folder, they also reflect on the specific photos that elicit strong reactions from them. The folder with not only the most number of photos, but also with the most number of “heart-thumping” photos, should lead aspiring photographers to their possible areas of specialization.


This is a review that can and should be done every few years (possibly, even at least yearly) to help photographers assess if they are still doing what they love to do.


Photomapping is an exercise that can be done by any photographer – at any stage of a photographer’s career – by a newbie who is unsure of what to pursue or what he is good at, to a photographer who although successful, may be feeling burned out, or just about anyone who feels that he needs change or re-direction, or an affirmation that he is in the right direction.Image


Getting Started, Chapter 1, Part 1

Reminder: This is a rough draft – therefore, your comments and suggestions are welcome. Please send in also your questions, so that I would know what concerns I still need to work on.


Chapter 1, Part 1


Chapter 1: What kind of photography (business) should you pursue?


It might sound like a cliché, but it is very true – “Do what you love doing and you never have to work a day in your life!” But photography, like medicine, offers many fields of specialization, and a beginning photographer could become confused at the many choices available to him. If I were a young photographer trying to decide on a business venture involving photography that I could pursue, I not only have to find out what is a more lucrative photography business but even more importantly, what field of photography am I passionate about and most qualified for?


As you have read in the introduction to this book, we jumped into the business of photography without benefit of this type of analysis. Or any kind of formal analysis, for that matter. We could have gone into wedding photography, if only it wasn’t such a traumatic experience (for the photographer and the bride and groom). We could have gone into travel photography, if only we knew how to sell our services to foreign publications, and if only we realized that we could sell the same article, after re-tweaking of course, to more than just one magazine.


But in a crude way, we were analyzing our options, based on what is now called by its acronym, SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats).   John did food photography, because “they don’t talk,” since he identified his then shy personality as a “weakness.” He was also a beginner, and therefore took longer to arrange his lighting (sunlight) – another weakness. Another limitation was that all we had was a 35mm Nikkormat with a zoom lens so we could not aspire to do photography for packaging labels (they required the use of a 4×5 camera). His strengths? He was willing to do anything and everything to satisfy his clients, including working long hours, and he was willing to start at the bottom, doing food photography for press releases only, and not for the higher-income generating photography for advertising. Threats? There must have been plenty, but we were mostly unaware of them. Ignorance, not innocence, was bliss for us, and obscured threats in the industry.


If we were starting now, with what we know now, we would do the standard business plan, SWOT analysis and probably would have been disheartened or too discouraged to start. In many ways, we are glad that we did not know that we were supposed to do business plans, financial plans marketing plans, SWOT analysis and other analytical tools. Totally ignorant of these business requirements, we just jumped in. So while I will describe and present the different ways that you can analyze yourself and the industry that you want to penetrate, I would be sorely tempted to say, “Ditch the analysis and jump in!”





Taking the first step to writing a book

I’m doing this book project in order to put in a more permanent form many of the experiences, insights, and lessons learned since my photographer-husband and I started our two-man (actually, one man and one woman) team that we named as Adphoto in 1973.

A couple of friends and I meet once or twice a week for our writing date – it is simply for us to form the habit and discipline of writing by claiming chunks of time from our otherwise busy schedules. It’s also to fight procrastination – my number one enemy that has kept me from writing – and an overactive critic in my head that keeps telling me that I am not a writer, and therefore not capable of writing a book.

You probably would have needed to wait until I finished writing all the chapters before you would get hold of this book (or it’s possible, the book may never get finished), but my youngest daughter, Sacha (sachachua,com), suggested releasing whatever I have written to the public, finished or not, as it might be a good way to receive feedback and suggestions on how to improve the book, and to get me going.

If you like what you’ve read so far, or believe that I should do this book project – please encourage, prod, poke, nag, or scold me. Feel free to ask questions, make comments, and if you’re a photographer or a photographer’s business partner or consultant, maybe you would like to share your business stories and advice as well.

So ready or not, here it is.

Introduction to Book and Author

There are two intentions for writing this book, which are the same two intentions that I have for teaching. One is borne out of the realization that in the past forty years or so, I have learned quite a bit about how to run a photography business and that at my age (almost 70), I would not want what I know to die with me. I have an overwhelming need to share. The other intention is more practical, not quite as noble, and well, more businesslike.


I have read that every business’s goal is to generate profits. And that is the aim of this book – to help every aspiring photographer to learn, not the nuts and bolts of photography (there are thousands of books on how to shoot and more resources on the Internet that you have time for to learn), but the part that their artistic selves are more likely to avoid – the business of photography.


When we started in 1973, we had to learn from scratch. We started at the bottom – no equipment save for a secondhand Nikkormat with a 43-86mm zoom lens, no education (no business or photography degree), no contacts, and no capital except for P1000 that had already been earned from photography.   It was frustrating to be invited to do wedding photography only by friends who were not willing to pay for photography services, or to be told by publications that their fees for travel articles would not even cover expenses to go to destinations. We were lucky to have stumbled into advertising photography.


In the old days, we did not compete on the basis of price (oh, maybe just by a bit). I have no idea where I picked up the belief that in order to earn and deserve higher fees, we needed to raise clients’ respect for us – by offering them better skills, equipment, facilities, services and most of all, professionalism. By being better photographers, we were actually saving them from the much bigger cost of reshoots missed deadlines, or ineffective images. Through the years, we worked hard to deserve respect not only for ourselves, but also for the profession that we were representing.


John and I joined photography trade organizations, like the Professional Photographers Association of the Philippines and learned at the feet of the more experienced photographers. Since there were no schools and no Internet, the more generous among them taught us how to shoot but also pricing, marketing and other aspects of the business of photography. And now it’s payback time.


Today, the technical side of photography is a lot easier to learn. Cameras are more intelligent, and there is Google and there is YouTube. There are photography magazines and books, and now, there is actually a school that offers a degree in Photography. I am fortunate to have been given an opportunity to teach “Business of Photography” and “Marketing Strategies for Photographers” at the De la Salle-College of Saint Benilde.


It is for students at this college, and for all the photographers who have been asking for seminars on the business of photography that I am writing this book. Hopefully, they will learn lessons in this book on how to improve their business skills, how to market themselves, how to present portfolios, how to price their work, how to negotiate, how to define clients expectations, how to write terms and conditions that define not only their clients’ responsibilities to them, but their responsibilities to their clients as well, how to monitor their business performance from month to month or from year to year, how to work, not just compete, with competition, and hopefully, equipped with such business knowledge and tools, they can learn how to turn their passions into profits.


It is also a way for us to thank this profession. Photography has given us all the material benefits that we have enjoyed. Without inheritance or other businesses, photography has enabled us to send our children to the best schools, to afford many trips in the country and in the world, to acquire our own home and build our own studio, and to share the blessings that have come to us through photography with our loyal and hardworking staff and their families, and more recently, to help change lives through our advocacy “Photography with a Difference” that allows us to reach out to special children and persons with disabilities, and for all the friends that photography and this advocacy have brought into our lives.


I can’t leave this page without thanking the photographer in my life, my husband John. From day one when I first met him, his life had been centered on photography. He was fortunate to have realized his passion for this art, and with lighting and thunder as well as drumroll, he knew from the moment he held a (borrowed) camera in his hands that photography is all that he wanted to do. He would rather shoot than eat or sleep, and he won’t live more than 30 seconds away from the studio (which is why we live where we work).


When I was younger, I was not as lucky. Before meeting him, within a year or two of graduating from the University of the Philippines, I was jumping from job to job, trying to find the career most suited for me. It wasn’t easy, with a degree in Political Science that did not prepare me for anything specific. I taught grade school, got employed as an executive secretary, sold encyclopedias door-to-door, worked as a tour guide, and then ventured out as a travel writer – which was when I met John. But here I am, more than 40 years after teaming up with him in setting up and maintaining Adphoto Inc., our joint collaboration, I finally realized that John’s passion is photography and my passion is John. He was and is a photographer, and by default, I take care of everything else, and everything else –is the Business of Photography.