Sink or Swim – it’s up to you

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Photo and post by Rick Sammon – Follow Rick on Twitter

No doubt the economy is in bad shape – with the stock market chart looking like a bad histogram (with all the shadows blocked up and no highlights).

Like most of my professional photographers, my business has been affected. Book sales and workshop attendance is down. Magazines are shrinking (some have gone out of business) – reducing the available pages for articles. Shooting fees are being reduced, and stock photography sales are slower. The list goes on.

I know a few photographers who feel as though they are drowning in this economy, and I don’t blame them. However, to encourage them, I share this quote: “You don’t drown by falling in water; you only drown if you stay there” – Zig Ziglar

Me? I stepped up my game. You? The choice is yours, sink or enjoy the swim.

Here’s a look at a few of the things that I’ve done to keep me riding on the high seas, along with a bit of advice to navigate through these troubled waters.

Workshops
With workshop attendance down, I started my own workshop right here in Croton-on-Hudson, NY. I had wanted to do that for years, but hadn’t, because, rather than organizing everything myself, I just wanted to show up on site for an organized workshop (set up my the Maine Media Workshop, Palm Beach Photographic Centre, Popular Photography, Venice School of Photography, and so on). In less than a month, the workshop, during which the group will shoot at the largest Buddhist temple in the United States, as well as in and around Croton, was sold out. Sure, it’s a lot of work setting up my workshop, but I love it – because it is totally mine.

My advice: set up your own workshop, even if it’s only with a few students for starters. Use your house as home base, as I am doing. Keep expenses down.

Self-Publishing
With book sales down, I decided to publish my own book, Life Lessons We Can Learn From Mother Nature. Again, I had wanted to do that for years – and years. Now I had the opportunity. I made an on-line book and have sold more than a few dozen copies in a short time. Perhaps what more important is that fact that I had fun doing it – and learn a few things along the way.

My advice: print up a few copies of a book that you think will sell, which might be different from a book of your prettiest pictures.

Diversify
Speaking of books, one of my publishers, Wiley Publishing, asked me, a travel/nature/wildlife photographer, to write a book on wedding photography. “Why me?” I asked. “Well,” the publisher said, “it will be one of your best selling books, because the market is much bigger for a wedding photography book than for travel books.”

I accepted the challenge, teaming with some of the top wedding photographers in the country. I produced the book in 4 months. Sales? The publisher was correct.
My advice: diversify!

Keep on Learnin’
Speaking of challenges, I had wanted to get into HDR photography for about two years, but never had the time – or motivation. Now I had both. So, I learned everything I could about HDR photography, so much so that I was able to give a presentation on it at Photoshop World in Boston this past March.

My advice: Expand your photographic and digital darkroom skills.

Move on Your Ideas
During the process of learning about HDR, I tried several HDR plug-ins (Photomatix, Topaz Adjust, Lucis and so on). Using all these plug-in gave me the idea to start a web site for plug-ins. One Saturday morning, using iWeb, I set up the Plug-in Experience (www.pluginexperience.com) – a site dedicated to learning HDR, sharing HDR images, and getting discounts on HDR programs. It’s a ton of fun managing the site and seeing the work of talented plug-in artists.

My advice: Act on your ideas. All of them.

Take Advice
I did one more thing (at the advice of my friend Scott Bourne) to improve my business: I joined Twitter. I know, I know! I was late getting into this important current of communication, but at least I’m now on the high seas of communications – with almost 1,000 followers on Twitter in two weeks. Wow! Twitter is a great place to fish for ideas.

My advice: get with the program, as I should have done years ago!

Perhaps the best thing that has come out of all this is that I feel as though I have grown as a person and as a photographer.

Closing Quotes
To close this homily, I’d like to share a few more quotes (from my Life Lessons book) that relate to tough times. They are quotes that inspired and encouraged me when I felt the water was rising.

“When you are through changing, you are through.” – Bruce Barton.

“Smooth seas do not make a skillful sailor.” – African proverb.

“Every path hath a puddle.” – George Herbert

“You snooze you lose.” – Rick Sammon

“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.” – Vincent Van Gogh

“Sometimes your only available transportation is a leap of faith.” – Margaret Shepard

Hope to see you on Twitter!
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