Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Phil Hawkins: Patience And Persistence
Phil Hawkins is a multifaceted, modern-day professional photographer, working the local area for all it’s worth while producing his own fine-art nature imagery
Laura with her new Warmblood, Rebekka. “This shot was done on a Sunday afternoon. The wind was blowing vigorously, and I told her to focus on the horse and don’t worry about the wind.”
Working in a major market like New York, Los Angeles or Chicago has its challenges, although reaping the rewards of the large talent pools and even larger client base often is worth the payoff. For these reasons, working in the smaller arenas can be the real challenge.
Hawkins has been based in Fresno since 2004 though, and he notes, “So far, so good. Actually, not being in L.A. or San Francisco is a blessing in disguise. It’s so competitive in those markets, and if I were pursuing fashion, commercial or editorial, I would have an incredible uphill battle. The only opportunity I lack is for assisting. In Fresno, I can operate under the radar, and over the years, my work has evolved so that now I’m gaining recognition for the work I do. I shoot editorial regularly for Bloomberg News. National editorial and sports assignments come much more easily for me here; there are so few photographers in the Central Valley who can do what I do. If I were in the major markets, I’d be ignored.”
With the Internet and the relative convenience of digital image files, there are so many ways to market yourself, and Hawkins uses a mixed approach that properly suits each avenue of his business. For his fine-art landscape photography, for instance, he uses ExpressDigital’s online storefront, PhotoReflect.com, to synchronize with his own website for a seamless e-commerce solution. Customers can select from a variety of print sizes and output mediums, and the website takes care of most of the paperwork for a nominal fee. Once he has finished images, the whole process is simple and painless. Hawkins also uses the Internet constantly for marketing by entering contests and submitting inquiries to publications and gallery managers—anywhere he thinks that he can get an audience.
“Local portraiture business is strictly by word of mouth,” he points out in contrast. “I never leave the house without business cards. I have four different card layouts for sports, portraits, landscape and motocross. Depending on the inquiry, I hand out a card that fits the possible job. I do portraits in Yosemite, and that’s catching on very well. Equine is also catching on. For some reason, I’ve been getting a lot of single mothers and their children. That’s one of the benefits of being in Fresno; it’s small enough that word of mouth still works to a very large degree.
“My website does all my selling,” he continues, “and I field about two to three inquiries a day. Although these days, most people want everything for nothing, and I vowed long ago I wasn’t going to buckle. Recently, a major international hotel chain wanted interiors, exteriors, individual room shots, QTVRs, common rooms and restaurant shots. They wanted full use in 50,000 flyers, mass-market advertising, internal communication and rack cards. I quoted $24,000 the first year and slightly less for usage thereafter, and they choked. I learned later they had in mind about $900, and for this, they also expected to get the originals on disc. That’s the real hard part about Fresno; this city still has a small-town attitude about commercial photography. Even the agencies chisel.
“I also do barter,” he explains about exceptions to the rule. “For instance, I shoot the interiors for a vacation
property-management company in Yosemite, and in exchange, I get free stays in cabins 20 minutes from Yosemite Valley. So far, I’m averaging about $50,000 a year in stays with this firm. This enables me to be in Yosemite for extended periods so I can be ready when conditions change there. At any rate, so far, I’ve been able to pay the bills.”
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