"Taking Pictures for Profit" by Lee Frost
Review Date: 31st July 2004
"Taking Pictures for Profit" by Lee Frost is a book that is aimed at amateur photographers who want to try and sell their photos, either just to cover the costs of their equipment, or maybe to try and earn a living as a photographer. It is divided into 3 main sections and covers the different markets for photographic services, copyright, money matters, and self-promotion - all of the things that a budding freelance photographer needs to know about in order to start selling their work. The author, Lee Frost, is a very successful UK-based freelance photographer, whose images are regularly published in many of the UK photography magazines (Practical Photography and Photography Monthly being two of them). Frost also regularly writes magazine articles to accompany his pictures, and he has drawn on his many years of experience, both photographic and writing, to publish a number of photography-based books. So will "Taking Pictures for Profit" give you a head start on the road to selling your photos? Read my short review to find out.
Sadly, "Taking Pictures for Profit" is currently out of stock at PhotographyBLOG's recommended UK retailer, Amazon.co.uk.
"Taking Pictures for Profit" is divided into 3 main sections, which are then divided further into different chapters. Section 1, Business Sense, covers topics such as promoting yourself, choosing equipment, keeping records and copyright. Section 2, Finding Your Market, forms the bulk of the book and covers all of the different markets that you could possibly sell your work to. There are 9 chapters in this section, looking at selling to magazines, newspapers, weddings and entering competitions, amongst others. Section 3 is a short chapter which deals with shooting stock photography. There are 160 pages in total with a mixture of black and white and colour photos throughout.
That's enough about the structure of the book, how well does it actually read? If you've ever read any of Lee Frost's articles before, you will know what to expect from "Taking Pictures for Profit" - a chatty, informal style that clearly and simply imparts as much information as possible. The aim of the book is to pass on the personal knowledge that Frost has gained as a freelance photographer, and it effectively uses a very personal writing style to do that. Now, 160 pages of being talked at by Lee Frost could have become a little tiresome, so thankfully the publishers have come up with a winning idea which is one of the highlights of the book. In most sections there is a Profile inserted into the flow of the chapter, which is essentially another person's point of view on what Frost is currently talking about. So in the Calendars and Postcards section, Graham Peacock explains how he sells photos to this specific market over a 2 page spread in the book. The many case-studies give a different point of view to the main author, and help to reinforce the fact that there are many photographers who are making money from photography, so maybe you can do it too. They bring the theory alive and show just what can be achieved - an excellent and very well-executed idea.
"Taking Pictures for Profit" also benefits from its all-encompassing subject matter. It attempts to introduce you to all aspects of being a freelance photographer, without being either too brief or too long-winded. If you're looking for a detailed guide to stock photography or photographic copyright, for example, then you should consider other books that deal specifically with those subjects. If you're currently wondering if you could sell your photos, but don't know where to start, then this book gives a great overview of all the different things that you need to consider and all the potential markets for your work. You may well read a particular section and think "No, I can't sell my work into this market", but at least you will have identified which markets you can and cannot sell to. Once you've read the book and gone through this process, you can then go and find another resource that deals with your chosen areas in more detail.
The main negative aspect to "Taking Pictures for Profit" is that it was first published in hard-back in 1996 and consequently is starting to show its age. This doesn't mean that Frost's advice is any less useful, just that some of the examples used, especially in Section 1, are dated. The Choosing Equipment chapter obviously makes no mention of digital cameras, and the antiquated computers and fax machines featured in the Making Contact chapter will make you chuckle! More seriously, some of the contacts in the Useful Information appendix at the back of the book, such as stock library details, are out of date - this book could do with, and indeed deserves, an update for the new century and the growth of digital photography.
(out of 5 stars)
"Taking Pictures for Profit" won't make you a better photographer. What it will do is set you on the road to becoming a better business person. If you're currently wondering if you could sell you work, or your friends or relatives are telling you that you could, but you have no idea where to start, then "Taking Pictures for Profit" provides an inexpensive, well-written, easily-digestible and crucially knowledgeable overview. It will ultimately save you a lot of time and effort in the long-run. Lee Frost is a very natural and clear writer and he is cleverly helped out by the many different case-study writers, ensuring that you will read this book from start to finish, even if some chapters seem less appealing than others at first glance. Despite its original 1996 publication date, "Taking Pictures for Profit" has aged very well and deserves a place on every budding freelance photographer's bookshelf.
You can buy "Taking Pictures for Profit" from PhotographyBLOG's recommended US retailer, Amazon.com, for only $19.99. Free shipping in the US!