Author: Dane Sanders

Publisher: Amphoto Books

Review by Conrad J. Obregon

One of the most popular self-helps books for job-seekers has been “What Color is Your Parachute.” This updated version of “Fast Track Photographer, Revised and Expanded Edition: Leverage Your Unique Strengths for a More Successful Photography Business” takes the same approach aimed at professional photographers. The emphasis is upon examining what your photography related business skills are and what you want to achieve, either before selecting photography as a career or when redirecting your career after starting out.

The book suggests that there is an important choice the photographer must make in selecting a career direction: take assignments from someone else (what the author calls “freelance”) or seek assignments for oneself (which the author calls “Signature Brand Photography”). To aid in achieving that goal, the author provides access to an on-line self-assessment of one-hundred and fifty questions, which he calls the “pDNA” (photographer, discovery, negotiation, activation) that outputs a report that discusses one’s personality and skills. The book then goes on to show how the reader’s personality and skills are related to the choice between working for someone or being your own boss. The book discusses the pros and cons of each mode, and furnishes stories about photographers, including the author, who were faced with the choice. There are some other bits of business advice, like telling the photographer to farm out work that is not related to the essential parts of one’s job. The author emphasizes that today’s photographer must provide value to his or her boss or client, and inveighs against becoming a “grumpy”, that is, a complainer about the system rather than one who accepts the way things are and goes about achieving his or her goals. There is little other discussion of what is required of a professional photographer. The author also has a web-site that includes forums related to the subject of his book, but as near as I could tell, access to the relevant forums required an additional fee and I did not explore the forums.

I suppose that for some aspiring professional photographers, making the choice between freelance and signature brand photographer is really important. However both of the patterns that the author describes seemed aimed at people who aspire to be event or studio photographers, rather than those who aim at other types of photography careers, like a press or fine-arts photography. On the other hand, I would agree with the author that knowing one’s skills and personality and selecting goals are essential for a successful career, in photography or otherwise.

Unfortunately, Sanders uses words that he defines in a special way that may confuse readers. For example even the words in the title “fast track” suggest that he is going to explain how to become successful quickly, even though, as far as I can tell, that’s not his goal. Even the words “free lance” normally mean not employed by one company. Even Signature Brand photographers are free lancers. Also, the continual use of buzz words like value and brand made me feel like I was listening to a management motivational speaker.

If you are considering a career in photography and don’t feel you have an adequate assessment of yourself or some idea of where you want to head in your career, this book may prove useful to you. If self-knowledge and goals are not a problem for you, you might be better off reading about other aspects of professional photography.

This post sponsored by the Digital SLR Store