career

What are your goals for 2014? by Neil Alexander

County Kerry Coastline, Ireland

Every January, in addition to reviewing my favourite images from the previous year, I like to analyse the goals that I set myself for last year and knock up some targets for the year ahead. Some would say I'm mental for posting these online for all to see, but the way I see it is that once they're up, there can be no shying away from them. It makes it all the more important that I try and hit as many as possible - there's nothing worse than publicly humiliating yourself right? Having said that....... on perusing the respective post from last year, I've faired very badly indeed. In fact were this a school report I'd probably give myself a big fat "F" accompanied by "Neil can do so much better than this when he applies himself, and must try harder this year" in bright red ink.

So enough with the hyperbole and onto the minutiae.  

County Kerry Coastline, Ireland

  • Travel writing.
    2013: I've put a great deal of thought over recent months into what I want to shoot, how I want to brand be perceived, who I'd like to work with and how I can strengthen my business. Being able to skilfully craft even a short travel story, I feel would hugely benefit not only me as a photographer but more importantly my business. 
    2014: I don't feel that I've progressed this particularly well. I still struggle putting pen to paper. I've never been much of a wordsmith and have generally outsourced any serious text that I've had to put together for press releases and the like. Even stringing a couple of sentences together for the blog can be painful. I have been diligently pursuing Julia Cameron's exercise, The Artist's Way in the mornings, but that only happens when I'm out of bed in time (for 5am). Whilst I feel that it has been and continues to be a very therapeutic exercise, I'm not sure how much the quality of my writing has improved. 
     
  • Magazine cover & submissions.
    2013: All part of the grand plan for this year that I'm currently in the process of putting together. I'd love to get some top quality magazine covers under my belt.
    2014: I've had a couple of magazine articles published, most notably a feature in Jaguar World monthly  but have fallen behind in the submissions department and still no covers.
     
  • Mentoring.
    2013: Over the years I've done courses, attended numerous workshops and generally worked very hard in my own little bubble on my craft and I'm confident that I can perform well in most situations. So now I feel that it's time to get someone far more advanced than myself to help me get that 'edge' to my work in an attempt to rise above the competition.
    2014: 100% failure here. I've been a qualified member of the Photo Guild for a few years now, but I still haven't taken them up on the option of mentoring. However between drafting and publishing this post, I have finally managed to progress this and submit images for critique. Just waiting to find out who my mentor will be.... Exciting....
     
  • Agent representation.
    2013: If I'm to move more into the advertising, PR and marketing fields, which is the way I seem to be heading, I believe that in order to get the big clients I need to seek out an agent to represent me. Often the big clients won't pursue photographers directly but will use intermediaries such as agents in order to sift the wheat from the chaff. I want to be up there with the wheat!  
    2014: Pah! This I think was probably a little over ambitious at this stage in my career, so it's going on the back burner for a year or two. 
     
  • Shoot more personal.
    2013: Shooting more really isn't a problem, it's the editing time I have issues with.
    2014: That old chestnut. I'm learning to streamline my workflow and it's definitely getting better. The backlog of personal work to edit is almost down to nil, almost. I still have a plethora of personal projects I want to pursue, but that I think is quite healthy. It's good to have ideas to fall back on when I'm feeling a little lacklustre.
     
  • Learn video?
    2013: Still undecided with this one. I've been spending more and more time shooting short clips on my phone and sequencing them, adding soundtracks etc but professional quality video is a whole different ballgame. It's going to cost me, in time and in gear and I'm not entirely convinced that I need to add video to my arsenal but I love to learn new things. So this is a maybe.
    2014: I've definitely taken a step forward with this. I haven't gone into producing video directly, but the timelapses that I've embarked upon are for sure a step in the right direction. Producing and combining series of short sequences has been a real eye opener and something that I will continue to learn. One of my primary reservations for not getting into this was the time aspect. I've found that it takes a minimum of 3 hours shooting time to get sufficient footage for a 30 second finished video sequence, and then the editing and processing time on top of that is probably the same again. I'm increasingly held back by the lack of processing power on my mid 2010 generation iMac, and finding that using another computer at the same time to perform more menial tasks whilst the other is crunching out renders is becoming the norm. Having already laid out a chunk of cash on dollies and controllers I foresee a more sizable splurge on a new powerhouse workstation in the not too distant future. Don't get me wrong, my iMac generally serves me very well when editing stills, but it's lack of extra cores, RAM and solid state drives is beginning to get on my nerves.
     
  • Structured marketing campaign
    2013: I'm working on this at the moment, and have been since the turn of the year but it's no small task. All too often life and business gets in the way of proper planning, so I've been tending to find that this is easier to focus on out of hours. But "out of hours" doesn't really provide me with all that much time.
    2014: I've come to the understanding that this will forever be a fluid and ongoing task. Whilst it's easy to pencil in ideas for the months ahead, things always crop up and force plans to change. The key is to "pencil in" as much as possible and then to be as adaptable as I can when needed. Obviously dates for the likes of Easter and Christmas campaigns don't change, but ideas can and do. So I'm happy with my progress on this. 

County Kerry Coastline, Ireland

So with all that said and done, it leads me to one question: What on earth have I been doing with all my time???

The days seem to blur into weeks, school holidays come and go and bang, another year's calendar goes in the recycling. 

So my catchphrase for 2014 is "more discipline". At the end of the day, this is a business and provided the work is coming in, I shan't get too het up on the fact that I've not written too many travel articles or had a magazine cover or two, but if I don't push myself as an artist, the business will stagnate and suffer, I will end up in a funk and we'll be in a whole world of pain. It's all to easy to get distracted by the new, the different and the shiny but concerted effort and application wins hands down every time.

So what are your goals and targets for the year ahead? Please feel free to share in the comments below.

My Goals for 2013 by Neil Alexander

Ladybower Reservoir, Peak District

WIth the flipping over of a new year on the calendar, I've spent a little time reflecting on how 2012 was for me, and where I'd like to be this time next year. I was brave enough to knock out a post in January last year sharing with you what my goals were for the year ahead. So before I share my plans for the forthcoming year, I'll briefly re-visit 2012 - you can find the original post here. (I'll be posting my best images from the year in a future post).

In no particular order, they were:

  • Attain further accreditations. Didn't fare too well here, though I did try. After my failed LRPS panel, I spent more time focusing on my business than attempting to obtain further credentials.
  • Put on an exhibition. Faired slightly better here. I've had half a dozen pieces up in the Double Tree by Hilton in Piccadilly as part of the Manchester In Art exhibition. And partly due to the popularity, an extension is pending. No sales mind.
  • Get a magazine cover. Not even really tried here.
  • More networking. Networking is one of the essential aspects of being a freelancer, and I've put a great deal of effort in here. Primarily through BNI but also through other events, and it has served me well. Don't get me wrong, it's not something that I particularly enjoy doing but I'm getting much better and more confident at it. Though lately my social networking has noticeably taken a nose dive.
  • Plan more. Yeah yeah. Who doesn't need to plan more, and to be quite frank I've completely fallen on my rear here. 
  • Publish a book. On return from my latest trip to Portugal, I did put together another Blurb book. It's progress, but not quite what I'd envisaged.
  • Work on my travel writing. Another complete fail.
  • Charity work. I had hoped to get involved in Help Portrait in 2012, but I then cancelled as I was scheduled to be out of the country. The trip never came off.
  • Gym...… Hmmm, I've lost 8kg. That's about all I can say on that one.

And so with that litany of failures behind me, here's what I would like  to achieve in 2013:

  • Travel writing. I've put a great deal of thought over recent months into what I want to shoot, how I want to brand be perceived, who I'd like to work with and how I can strengthen my business. Being able to skilfully craft even a short travel story, I feel would hugely benefit not only me as a photographer but more importantly my business. 
  • Magazine Front cover & magazine submissions. All part of the grand plan for this year that I'm currently in the process of putting together. I'd love to get some top quality magazine covers under my belt.
  • Mentored. Over the years I've done courses, attended numerous workshops and generally worked very hard in my own little bubble on my craft and I'm confident that I can perform well in most situations. So now I feel that it's time to get someone far more advanced than myself to help me get that 'edge' to my work in an attempt to rise above the competition.
  • Agent representation. If I'm to move more into the advertising, PR and marketing fields, which is the way I seem to be heading, I believe that in order to get the big clients I need to seek out an agent to represent me. Often the big clients won't pursue photographers directly but will use intermediaries such as agents in order to sift the wheat from the chaff. I want to be up there with the wheat!
  • Shoot more personal - shooting more really isn't a problem, it's the editing time I have issues with.
  • Learn video? Still undecided with this one. I've been spending more and more time shooting short clips on my phone and sequencing them, adding soundtracks etc but professional quality video is a whole different ballgame. It's going to cost me, in time and in gear and I'm not entirely convinced that I need to add video to my arsenal but I love to learn new things. So this is a maybe.
  • Structured marketing campaign. I'm working on this at the moment, and have been since the turn of the year but it's no small task. All too often life and business gets in the way of proper planning, so I've been tending to find that this is easier to focus on out of hours. But "out of hours" doesn't really provide me with all that much time. 

And that's pretty much. I've tried to reign in my tasks for the year ahead. I find it all too easy to spread myself too thin and then never actually achieve anything. So I've taken the philosophy this year that less is more. Let's see how far I get.

Would love to hear yours. Feel free to comment below.

My Goals for 2012 by Neil Alexander

I've set photographic goals of one form or another for myself each January for several years now, though more often than not I've just kept these to myself and haven't really broadcast them. This time though I thought that if I shared them, not only would it give me a reference point to look back on, but the fact that I'd shared them with the whole world, would encourage me to try harder to actually try and hit as many of them as possible. Having thought about this for a few weeks now, I've completed my list and decided to bare my soul to the world. Here goes, in no particular order:

  • Attain further accreditations - On the back of my Qualification with Merit of the Guild of Professional Photographers, I aim to submit a body of work to the Royal Photographic Society for their Licentiateship accreditation, as well as achieve the Guild's Craftsman status. The RPS only hold a few Licentiateship assessment dates each year, and from the looks of their calendar, the earliest available date that I'm going to be able to fit into my calendar is June or July, which buys me a little time to think about what I'm going to submit. For the Guild's Craftsman status, submissions can be made any time. The Guild's website states that "The aim is to show complete proficiency in your craft, along with versatility, control of light, and variety of composition etc. The submitted assignments should show a good variety of style and skill sets in different environments.". Along with written briefs, letters of recommendation from past customers, PI & PL certificates, the qualification requires a number of images from at least 3 different assignments over the last 18 months which obviously have to stand out from the crowd. Co-ordinating all of this will be no small task, but one that I feel will be well worth the effort. To be honest, I've never really placed a great deal of merit in accreditations in the past, but having spent some time thinking about my "brand" over the last few months, I have changed my opinion and I now feel that in the grand scheme of things, that they can actually be rather beneficial.
  • Put on an exhibition - This isn't a new one, and I've been put off in the past by the cost. From what I can gleam, these days gallery shows tend not to make too much money, but are actually more about raising awareness. I do have a show of some of my Maltese photographs pencilled in with a new gallery in Gozo, but so far the logistics have been too protracted for my poor little brain to handle. The thought of making and shipping framed prints to Malta, co-ordinating hanging and then freeing up enough time to spend over there to do it justice is a little frightening, but I do have something up my sleeve a little closer to home that I want to commit to in the next few months.
  • Get a magazine cover - This would be a very nice goal to hit, but it's going to take quite a chunk of effort on my part to market myself more and establish more rewarding relationships, which brings me to my next point...
  • More networking - I'm not a networker. In fact I really struggle with it. But I know that I really need to push myself more, get out of my comfort zone and work harder at building more relationships offline and online and put more effort into building on the relationships that I already have. The long and the short of it is that I need to knock on more doors and make more telephone calls. It'll be tough. I have no illusions about that, and I know with every new lead there comes a very high chance that it'll be accompanied by a knock-back. But as the old adage goes, "If you don't ask, you won't get"
  • Plan more - I need to devote more time to managing my business and marketing it, which is inevitably going to leave less time for shooting. This is I will find frustrating as that's what I love doing and I feel that even though my photography has improved significantly over the last 12 months, one of the beauties of photography is that you never stop learning. It's my hunger to learn that keeps me going and wanting to try new techniques and explore new places. So in order to maximise the opportunities in the limited time available, I am going to have to put more effort into planning when and where I'm going to work and to create a shooting schedule for several months in advance, or even further if I can. As well as working on my landscape and travel catalogue, I also want to schedule in more portraiture. I love working with professional models and struggle with people less used to being in front of the camera. That's down to my inexperience of directing people and knowing which poses work and which don't. I really get a buzz out of shooting people and would really like to do more not only with models, but also with those less comfortable in front of the lens.
  • Publish a book - I've used several of the online self-publishing book services for assorted personal projects and family momentos in the past, but never really taken the time and effort to do it properly. I've found book layout is an art in it's own right, can swallow huge swathes of time and have a great deal of respect for publishers that do it well. It's not easy, but I'd really like to get a body of work in print. It'd be beneficial for me as an artist, and would also be a useful marketing tool.
  • Work on my travel writing - From the perspective of marketing my work, I'm fully aware that pictures work better when accompanied with text. Not just for SEO purposes, but also magazines and publishers are much more likely to accept comprehensive articles these days rather than images alone. Sure, if the images are strong enough to stand on their own, then they're likely to be accepted, but there's an even greater chance if I can accompany them with a travel or photography article or similar. I've looked around for online writing courses that fit my needs, but to be honest I've never found anything that suits. So I'll keep trying, working on it myself using the various sounding boards I have at my disposal and putting more out onto this blog.
  • Charity Work - I'm very disappoined that we had to cancel the Manchester Help-Portrait event last month, so I am determined to make up for this year by commencing the planning and organisation in plenty of time (it's already in my calendar), and I also plan to do some other fundraising using my photographic skills but more on that another time.
  • Finally, I need to get my sorry ass to the gym, eat better, drink less, spend more time with my family, and attend more football games. The long and the short of it is that in 2012 I shan't be sleeping.....

So that's me. All out in the open for 2012. Clearly I don't like to set the bar too high.... With a little application it's all within my reach and now that it's up here in black and white, I'm committed!

What are your targets and resolutions for this coming year? Feel free to share in the comments below.