Blurb Advice

Make the right publication.

It sounds simple, but Blurb has become a truly diverse offering, so the options are exponentially what they were a few short months ago. With new additions like offset printing, Blurb to Amazon and Blurb Global Retail Network the user has many choices to make.

But I don’t want to talk about these things just yet because LONG before these decisions are made you have to have a serious conversation with yourself in regard to who you are, what work you actually have and what your audience will truly consume. You have to make the right publication.

I say this after several years of working for the company, and after meeting with thousands of people across several continents. I’m going to narrow this advice to the photographer world for several reasons. First, most of those reading this blog are from that world, and also because I’ve met with more photographers than any other genre of the creative world. Today is another story, but historically this has been true.
Philip Vigil, artist, in his studio in the Jemez.
(I need new bio pic so bad I’m reduced to this. A selfie from a bathroom near the Jemez Reservation.)

I still see a fair number of photographers making publications that feel historical, expected or in other words publications that look like something they think they are supposed to make. Look, making any publication has the potential to teach you copious amounts in regard to your work, your design skills, your typography skills and your ability to move this book if moving it was part of the original plan, and remember, not all publications are made equal or even to be sold for that matter. I’m currently making a magazine for someone else, and they don’t even know I’m making it. (Yes, I’ve lost it.)

I ALWAYS start with a goal. Experimentation? Portfolio? Catalog? Sell it? Don’t sell it? Sell it to those I already know? Sell it to those I don’t know? What is the work? What book does the work demand? (Not the other way around!). What about a magazine? What about a series of magazines? Do I have audio for an Ebook? Do I need an Ebook? Do I even understand how an Ebook works? Folks, these are just a FEW of the things that go through my head upon making the decision to put more publications into the world.

I don’t know you personally, and I don’t know your work necessarily, but I can almost GUARANTEE that NOBODY you know wants to look at 400 photographs. Or 300. Or 200. Or even 100. Not unless you did a book of nude celebrities, and if this is the case then ignore this entire post. But for the rest of you, myself included, we need to realize the world is a very different place in 2014, and the one thing that is unequivocally in short supply is attention. I simply can’t take in that many images. I’d rather see ten great images in a clean and powerful pub than a 250 image opus on your trip to India.

The first question I get from a lot of photographers is “What is the biggest book I can make?”

Not a good place to start actually. Good for Blurb? Yes. Quite. But we want you to have success, to be happy, and certain books demand the largest size, the highest page count and the top-of-the-line materials, but many do not. Most deserve a very specific set of ingredients, all of which start with the work.

Ask yourself what the work feels like. What size compliments that feeling? What materials? Uncoated stock? Coated? Landscape format? Portrait? Or does a magazine better suite your story? What price point does the publication need to stay under for it to be viable to the audience you are searching for? Would the work be better as multiple books? A set perhaps? Chapters? Or maybe the EPub will open your work up to an entirely new, global audience who may or may not be able to purchase a print copy?

Resting on my handmade bookshelves at home are over 350 monograph style publications, most of which were published traditionally. The truth is I rarely spend much time with these publications. It’s not that I don’t want to spend time with them, I do, but life gets in the way. I spend more time with the odd balls, the one-offs the publishing orphans. They FEEL different. They feel wildly personal, almost as if the photographer or artist did ONLY what they wanted to do, and consequently these publications have a resonance.

So you have some choices ahead of you. Make the most of them, and enjoy the process. These questions, this exploration is what makes all of this so much fun. And don’t worry about hitting home runs. They will happen if you just focus on plot and swing easy.

I’d like to continue this Blurb advice theme over the coming months, but more specific to certain topics. Also, you people interested in podcasts? Hit me back and let me know. I’ll continue the other content as well, but these two things are interesting to me.

For your listening pleasure I’ve included a link to the interview I did in regard to magazines.

Advice: The Portfolio Review

Okay, this past weekend I reviewed portfolios for a few hours at an event in Los Angeles. I hadn’t done this in over a year. Overall, the experience was better than expected, although I didn’t think about the event until I was walking in the door. I was on vacation the week prior, so my mind was elsewhere.

Several things happened, and I overheard several more. Wanted to share these things with you just in case you were planning on showing work at some point in the future.

Advice begins here:

1. Edit your work. You HAVE to understand how important this is. This is, in some ways, as important as the work itself.
2. Limit what you show. Do NOT show 100 images. Show 10-15 and they better be good.
3. KNOW why you are there. Be prepared for being asked why you are showing work, why you want to be a photographer.
4. Bring a notepad. Good reviewers are going to give you homework.
5. Think twice about showing work on laptops and iPads. This work is simply NOT considered in the same way as prints.
6. Don’t dread printing, embrace it. Printing is your final chance to put your mark on your work.
7. DO NOT SHOW YOUR WORK ON AN iPHONE. Yes, people were doing this. I heard other reviewers say “Are you kidding me?” when a phone was brought out.
8. If you copied someone, admit it. Don’t act like you created something original then act like you don’t know who you copied it from.
9. Ask questions. Do NOT talk the entire time. The reviewer will be wondering “Why are you here if you have all the answers?”
10. You can be serious but have a sense of humor at the same time. This is much appreciated.
11. You better have some references. If I ask who inspires you and you can’t name a SINGLE person it tells me you are self absorbed.
12. Bring “regulation” size portfolios. Bigger is not better.
13. Thank the reviewer.
14. Send a follow up email.
15. Leave a card or promo piece.
16. Justify what you are showing. Be able to defend your work while not being defensive.
17. Not everyone is going to like you or your work. This is TOTALLY OKAY.
18. Enjoy the moment. This is what it’s all about.
19. “I don’t know,” is not an answer that will win you a lot of respect or confidence.
20. Have a second body of work in reserve.
21. SHOW THE WORK THAT IS UNIQUE TO YOU NOT THE WORK YOU THINK THE REVIEWER WANTS TO SEE.
22. If you show work to ten different people you are going to get ten different stories. If you have good instincts, trust those and move on.

Okay, start there. Have fun with this process. Make great work. Be positive and progressive and things will be just fine. And finally, you don’t need to be a photographer to be a photographer. This industry isn’t as fun as it used to be. The key is making YOUR work. It will be the only thing you are left with so make it count.

Photo Advice from Mom

The joy in your heart from the new right camera, place, subject will carry through to the pictures you take. Everything is chance and nothing is chance. The camera is the extension of you and the fit will be there shining through what you do. The excitment of maybe this it, what I have been looking for, what has been lurking there from the beginning, laying in wait to be discovered. A part of you you knew was there, and just hadn’t found it yet. Knowing it was there somewhere and having found it after searching so long. When it all comes together you know it. The end of a search the beginning of the find. Only for you, no one else can lay claim to it. It is the perfect still life, the circle around the photographer, his camera and film and the subject. Atlast.

Photo Advice from Mom

On deer in the headlights, maybe you need to rethink your wardrobe and smile when you meet folks. A suit and tie and briefcase would shootdown the stereotypical image of a photographer.You would be the only one who is not in a shirt and leather jacket that are both oozing careless casual disreguarding the importance of the dress code. What would be wong with a photographer showing up in an Armani? No vest with pockets, looking prosperous and smiling because he is happy in his flash. Identify your struggle, put your plans on the ironing board and jump without a parachute and maybe just maybe you will land with a photo finish. The ride will be a glide to your never before seen side. Your lurking secret still unknown to you will follow each film you put in your camera. Your Midas touch will make its mark. The Minor picture will be born. Danielized. Advice from mom.