Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Blogging for Dollars

I've been more than a little remiss updating the blog lately. And by "lately" I mean longer than I care to admit. A few of my "concerned" readers have gently reminded me of such with messages like, "WTF Dude! You take an extended vacation or what???"

To say I've been too busy to blog would be a lie. Not just a little lie, but a big fat lie. I haven't been too busy to blog. I've been too lazy to blog.

There are more than a few reasons for my current state of laziness. I'm not going to list them because I'm too fucking lazy to do so. But I will talk a bit about blogging and what blogging means to my photography because, at the moment, and for whatever reasons, writing about that seems fairly easy in spite of  the lagging, lethargic, lazy sense of being I've been experiencing.

In a nutshell, blogging does absolutely nothing for my photography. Zero. Zilch. Nada.

I'm not one of those photographers seeking work via my blog. My work comes in other ways and blogging isn't one of those ways. Not even in small ways. Not in any ways. (Neither does the excessive time I spend vegetating on Facebook, but that's another subject... likely as boring as this one.)

If I were a wedding or event photographer, a senior shooter, a kid shooter, or even a pet shooter, blogging might help me get some work. The truth is, the vast majority of my clients don't even know that I blog. Nor would they care if they did know. Nor have I bothered to mention it to them even though I've been blogging for about 6 years. Why? Because I know they could give a shit less. That might sound harsh but it's reality.

So, why do I blog? Well, in the beginning, it was a matter of ego. I guess I wanted to share my work which, in my mind, also meant sharing some of what I know. You see, I'm not a fan of photo blogs that are simply comprised of photos. I like some potatoes and veggies with my meat, the meat being the photos.  And some bread too! I love bread.

Since there are so many who are new or new-ish to photography (thanks to the digital revolution) I figured I could find an audience fairly quickly when I first started blogging. And I was right. I did. Probably more so because of the meat, that is, the photos included on my photo blog which feature pretty girls. Mostly pretty girls in various stages of undress. Sex sells. It even sells blogs. (Not that anyone is, literally, buying blogs.)

Somewhere along the line I began thinking, "Gee! I have all these people visiting my blog. Shouldn't I be making a couple of bucks from the work I put into authoring it?"  So, I did stuff like sign up for Google's AdSense and became an Amazon affiliate.  I tried joining the affiliate programs of a few of the big, online, photography retailers but they wanted no part of me. Something about those pretty girls in various stages of undress that put them off. Oh well. Screw them. I lost no sleep over that.

In not time at all, I figured that AdSense wasn't going to generate squat, money wise. And while Amazon does earn me some commissions, they aren't much. I don't even take the commissions in cash. I take them in gift certificates. Generally, they're very low-dollar gift certs.

There's been about a gazillion articles written about making money via blogging.  I haven't read all gazillion of them but I've read a few. Maybe more than a few. I also subscribed to blogs about blogging and checked out websites about blogging and got on some mailing lists about blogging. After all, the kind of money all those blog-experts were claiming sounded great! And they all preached about writing what you know about and I do know a thing or two about shooting pretty girls. It seemed like a blog about shooting pretty girls was a no-brainer. And, as long as I kept blogging, kept building an audience, the money would somehow follow.

But it never did.

I started thinking about a Plan B-- A Plan B that would or could take advantage of my blog and its audience, leastwise in terms of using my blog as some sort of foundation or springboard for some sort of Plan B that would somehow earn a few bucks.  I never thought I'd get rich or be able to support myself from my blog and/or any possible offshoot of my blog, i.e., whatever my blog might spawn as a money-making endeavor. But I did think I might make a few bucks here and there. Leastwise, a few bucks more than those Amazon gift certificates represents.

What Plan B needed was a product to sell. A product that was mine. A product I could begin selling via my blog and grow from there.

I came up with a few different ideas. One of them is a useful, fairly inexpensive, light modifier with a catchy name that most all photographers would immediately understand. And we all know that photographers love to buy gear. Especially gear that's easy to use and will make their photos look better. But while I know more about lighting and how to make or use nice light than the average bear does, probably more than the average photographer does, I know nothing about mechanical design or manufacturing and someone with that kind of know-how is who my idea would need, at least at first. I also haven't had the cash to pay someone like that or to fund a product development and subsequent manufacturing endeavor. I'm not talking a whole lot of money. But it's more money than I'm able to put my hands on and risk out of my own coffers, even though I'm confident the product would sell.

Go find the money, someone told me. Well, yeah. That sounds good. (Gosh! Why didn't I think of that?) But I've never been good at finding investors, although I have tried to do so in the past for various projects. Unfortunately, I'm the world's worst salesman.  Scoring investors has a whole lot to do with selling and being an effective salesman. While my light modifier idea remains a valid and potentially viable idea, one I still may do something with at some future point, until I have an investor or two, it ain't gonna happen.

Another idea was producing workshops. I think I could fill a workshop or two with photographers eager to learn the art (or up their game) of pretty girl shooting. But time and money and money and time also got in the way of that one becoming reality. (Plus my general inclination for laziness even when I'm not being extra-lazy, like I have been lately. )  Much like my light modifier idea, it's still an idea I may pursue. An idea I want to pursue. Wait. I'm going to be positive here: These are ideas I'm going to pursue. Exactly when I do that is a whole other story.

Finally, I hit on ebooks! eBooks were something I could produce on my home computer with no more investment than my time. I could use my blog as a selling springboard and I was confident I would eventually find some affiliates (or they'd find me) who would also sell my books and thus increase sales. So that's what I did. To date, I've authored three ebooks and I'm currently working on #4. (All that's slowing me down for #4 is my current state of laziness.) But #4 will get done! And it will get done in the not-too-distant future. Like in a month.

I'm happy to say I've done pretty well with my ebooks. I can't live off them but they definitely make me some dough every month. I've researched the numbers for many non-fiction ebooks sold on Amazon and elsewhere and, frankly, my ebooks hold their own with some of their bigger sellers.

Blogging for dollars? You betcha. In fact, every time I update my blog I see a small, if fleeting, spike in ebook sales. That I haven't been updating more often does not serve me well. I truly need to shake off my current lackadaisical and inattentive approach to this blog. And I'm going to do just that. Yep. I am going to do just that!

The pretty girl at the top is Sasha Grey. (Click it to enlarge.) Except for resizing and adding my copyright, there's no post processing applied to it at all. That's how the shot came out of the camera.  The stuff in the background is projected. I was shooting at a nightclub location and that's what they had projected on the wall and where my client wanted me to shoot. Unfortunately, my main light washed it out a bit on the right side as Sasha was on a small stage which didn't allow her to move forward so I could get some distance between her and the wall with the projected image.  I suppose I could have moved my main light back -- a 4' Photoflex Octo -- but that would have increased the shadows and made them more pronounced and I wanted soft light hitting Sasha.




5 comments:

Andrew Clarke said...

Jimmy,

Perhaps one way to make some cash, albeit not directly from blogging, would be seeing if the people at www.creativelive.com would be interested in having you on? The photographer Sue Bryce, for example, seems to be on there constantly.

I'm certain that Pretty Girl Shooting [tm] would be a popular topic, and the courses sell for around $150 a pop ($99 if pre-ordered).

jimmyd said...

@Andrew:

I know there are some people who have suggested that before... not to me but to them. I kind of get the feeling I'm not their cup of tea... nor is the photographic genre I would be talking about. (In spite of how popular the subject might be.)

Rick Horowitz said...

I'm with you on this, Jimmy. I've had the same problems through the years. I've had several blogs, starting from before it was called "blogging." In fact, my first "blogs" -- which I just considered "updates to my website" were coded purely by hand by me.

Like you, I find it harder to blog these days, primarily because -- again like you -- it brings me nothing except the personal satisfaction I might get from the writing, but even that isn't always there because I don't get the reader participation that you get. (Most of my writing, of course, is on my law blog at rhdefense.com -- I think I just got my first-ever comment on my photography blog, and even that person left a comment that was partly about my lawyering!)

Anyway, point is, in all those years, I've never really found a way to make more than a couple of bucks here and there. I've done everything you mentioned, except for the ebooks, which I'm considering now.

Because you can also demonstrate a craft, it might be possible to find a website, like KelbyTraining, that would let you put together something on "glamour shooting" or possibly even "photographing nudes," although I doubt they'd want to go for the more hardcore stuff I know you "might shoot from time to time," by which I mean "regularly." ;)

Workshops seems like it would be a good idea, too! You could use a place like those houses up on Mulholland. ;) Hell, I'd pay for that! (The workshop -- not the renting of the Mulholland space. ;))

And Sasha...one of my personal favorites.

Garfield Down-under said...

Hey Jimmy, love your blogs, and your e-books, have them all.

have you thought of raising the money for your light modifier ideas from crowd-sourcing, like KickStarter? I have invested on a few things there and Peak Designs have raised heaps each time they come up with a new idea.

jimmyd said...

@Garfield:

Yeah. I've checked out Kickstarter. Mostly, it seems geared more towards creative projects than it does for development of a product. But I'm still looking at it as a possibility. I'm not sure how to preview it/explain it without giving the idea away.