Suggestions for a Photographer

Steve ... there is more to be known about it than I can say here, but
there is nothing a professional photographer can't learn with ease if
he takes it one step at a time.

I am a photographer too. Have been one since 1944, when my best
friend came home for the summer from the big city with a little Kodak
film developing outfit. I eventually graduated in gradual stages from
a Brownie 616, to an Argus A 2, to Zeiss Super Ikonta B, then a Speed
Graphic and a wonderful 4 x 5 Super D Graflex single lens reflex, and
through a whole bunch of cameras, right on up to some of the latest.
But my pride and joy was a Bermpohl 18 x 24 (cm) One Shot ... a color
camera that made direct separations from nature. We are just getting
back to that level of quality with the new developments in digital
cameras that also make their separations directly from nature without
having to first go through a film stage. The future looks exciting.

The answer for you depends on what you really want to do. I would
suggest, to start, researching what other photographers are doing on
the web, and checking out some of the photo sites already in
existence. Do a Sherlock search for "stock photography", "Royalty
Free Photos" and similar subjects. There are some excellent ones.
Some of them are looking for new photography, so they may be a
marketing arm for you, and it may be better, all things considered,
than trying to do it all yourself. Here is one that I bookmarked
myself, because I ran into them at MacWorld SF and they told me to
send them some of my work ... which I have not yet done:

They probably don't pay the photographer a lot, if they are like fine
art print publishers, but if they do a high quantity of business, the
royalties can add up anyway. For example, a plate publisher, one of
those things that advertise collectors' plates in TV Guide, etc.,
once offered me a proposal. Nothing came of it because I just
couldn't get my mind into a sentimentality mode, but the royalty was
rather interesting. 20 cents a plate. That sounded pretty cheap until
I asked how many plates they counted on selling. The answer was,
anywhere from 20,000 to half a million. The numbers probably aren't
that high with photo stock houses, but it could still amount to bread
and butter. Fine art print publishers generally pay the artist a
royalty of around 15% for prints, and galleries take 30% to 60%,
depending on circumstances, of the selling price of originals. It is
worth it, too, unless you actually get a kick out of travelling to
all the shows and painting in malls and so on. Me, I'd rather produce
art and pay a salesman a commission to sell it.

If you have something unique enough to offer on your own website, it
might be worth your while to build one and offer it there. Maybe
commissioned photography, for example. You don't need to start off
with secure, real time credit card processing; you can wait until the
volume justifies it. If you already have a merchant account and
credit card processing for your business, all you would absolutely
need would be a good shopping cart like CatalogBuilder
<> and a database on a secure server
where you could download the orders daily and process them by hand.
That setup can be easily upgraded to real time while you watch card
processing later on when you need it, for about $450. I can help you
with that, if you arrive at the juncture, and make it fun instead of

It is not arcane or difficult, despite opinions you may get to the
contrary. It is only difficult if you deal with companies that make
it obscure and mysterious in order to hide the simplicity of it from
the public so they can get more money for solving problems the public
perceives as complex and arcane, or if you try to put it together
yourself without being an expert. But you don't try to build your own
camera and make your own film, do you? You know the theory, so you
COULD. I have done it for the heck of it. Made my own lens once, too,
out of the bottom of a milk bottle. Took a nice soft focus portrait
of my daughter with it. But I'd rather leave that up to others whose
business is making those things, and who are equipped for it. The
main thing you want to do, to prevent headaches and unnecessary
expense, is to get the whole e-commerce package from a single vendor
who has it all wired together seamlessly.

As your digital (web based) photo business grows ... provided you
have decided to do it all yourself ... you will want to put in some
nice database stuff to handle and present hundreds or thousands of
shots. Solutions for that sort of thing exist, and are available, but
you don't need them starting out. At least I would not recommend
spending money on such contraptions before I was sure MY business was
viable, because they are expensive. The main thing is, you really
don't need them starting off, even if you decide it is worth your
time to go down that road instead of having retailers handle your
work so you can spend your time as a photographer instead of a sales
clerk and code freak. Personally, I would rather be up in the
mountains painting and shooting pictures, and plan getting back to it
as soon as I can. Anybody can buy enough of a setup to sell things
on the web, but only a few possess enough talent to be a real artist,
be it with camera, brush and paint, musical instrument or words.

I hope this helps. If you would like to communicate more on the
subject, e-mail me privately.

Best regards,