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As a freelancer, you have to stay on the cutting edge and rely on your equipment and good people to help you to succeed.  Cameras, computers, designers, fixers, translators, archiving and distribution tools are some of the things I must be able to trust in order to spend my time concentrating on creating images and telling stories. Over the course of my career, I’ve been able to establish relationships with several key people, and it’s my intention to share my contacts with you through this blog.

For independent photographers, the website is the single most important tool after a camera. The content is critical but there are a lot more things to consider than just design. Taking the time to research and explore the options available are critical before you choose a design and the infrastructure supporting it. The first question you need to ask is,  “Who is this website for?”

Very often photographers make the mistake of trying to make their website for everyone and in fact, they may end up trying to be too many things for too many people. Trying to be a wedding photographer, a fashion photographer and a sports photographer is a tough thing to do but if you have managed to do all of these well,  I would encourage the designer to create separate sites rather than cramming everything together in one site. The truth is,  specializing and creating a niche rather than attempting to be everything is far more powerful than being a generalist in today’s media environment.

I use WordPress and PhotoShelter together and every time I add new images to my online archive, they are updated to my website using WordPress. Back in the day, I never had time to update my website because it was too work intensive. I would have to resize images and upload them in addition to writing captions and stories. I literally stopped updating my website for 6 years because it was just too time consuming. The combination I chose has streamlined my workflow and it works seamlessly with my online archive that is housed with PhotoShelter. After I have uploaded the images to PhotoShelter, I can send them instantly to a variety of clients through their system. All the work is transmitted through their network and server, and this means it is distributed much more quickly and economically than trying to individually transmit images one by one to different clients.

A view from the inside of my PhotoShelter archive.
(A view from the inside of my PhotoShelter archive.)

I know the people behind PhotoShelter and believe they care about independent photographers. If I ever have a question of any kind, I can always pick up the phone and get an answer. This type of personal relationship is critical for my business.

I am using the built-in shopping cart inside of my PhotoShelter archive to sell very high quality fine art prints. Richard Jackson from Hance Partners is my printer, and he creates the high-end limited edition prints that customers buy directly from my website – without any work on my part. Since there is no work involved in processing the orders, it’s a win-win situation for everyone. I can sell prints even when I am on assignment, away from a computer or phone, and the customer gets a print I know will be beautiful because Richard works so meticulously on every detail.

(The built-in shopping cart, where I sell limited edition prints.)
(The built-in shopping cart, where I sell limited edition prints.)

The photographer’s business model may have changed but the nature of our work has not. I still work on the stories I feel passionately about but I do all of the planning, pitching ideas, production and transmission from my laptop. I can be almost anywhere on the globe and pitch ideas, send images, sell prints, give online critiques and much more.

Why am I excited about the future? It’s exhilarating because we can ultimately create our own future. I can work independently, produce creative documentaries and touch audiences whose numbers eclipse what radio or television ever was able to reach. I have the tools that allow me the freedom to create and now the ability to also distribute to a global audience. Sure the future of journalism is going to be different but I believe with creativity and commitment, we will find new ways to make this work.

Grover Sanschagrin, Founder of PhotoShelter, recently visited Miami. He conducted a little video interview with me that explains why I think PhotoShelter is such an important tool for independent photographers.

If you are interested in giving PhotoShelter a try, using this link will give you up to a $30 discount when you join.

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