Media in the digital age – or how freelancers, press photography and newspapers can beat up the crisis.

Some warning, for those who don’t like to read long posts: this is a result of three years of research and several years of personal experience. And we really wanted to make significant contribution to the topic. We are also dividing it into several parts (will be posted on the blog in due time) because we don’t want to lose the quality of information and we are never interested in just brushing the surface.

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When Rita and I think of our college years, the only thing that comes to mind is “How did we survive it all?” – sleeping 4 hours a night, having sandwiches and instant noodles for a diet and generally running around like headless chickens from one place to another. Oh, and being constantly broke.

Malicia on assignment in Berlin for Fantasy Film Fest, 2004

Malicia on assignment in Berlin for Fantasy Film Fest, 2004

No, there were no parties involved. We have spent seven years majoring in two subjects each at the same time, being members of what now can be described as an youth NGO (“Section 9” of Silesian Fantasy Club), organizing conventions, panels, exhibitions, taking part in TV and radio programs and working as cultural journalists.

Between 2002 and 2005, we have been involved in three comics/manga/anime publications (“Kawaii”, “MANGAzyn” and “Anime Plus” respectively), going from being freelancers to editorial staff members.

It surely was a great experience: you got to interview people, write your own column and break news (we were first in Europe to write about Korean manghwa) and attend assignments abroad. The bad part of it, especially when you are a freelancer was being paid by word count (no fixed salary, not even minimal one), buying the books you had to review, covering your own expenses abroad, having no medical coverage (thanks old folks for taking care of us!) and not having your working years being counted towards your future retirement quota (because you are just a freelancer).

By 2005, we had to stop because the comics market in Poland broke down – a mix of crisis (unemployment rose to nearly 40%), far-right government at power (3 millions of people emigrated) and mass-a-stealing of everything off Internet. All three magazines died, only a handful of comics publishes survived the onslaught on the market and there was no longer any real possibility to earn any money this way. What we didn’t know at that time, was that we were living out something that would spread all over media globally – a slow but steady decline in newspapers` readership, crisis that cuts staff at newspapers and readers, who look for news and information online and are no longer concerned about printed medium.

Mal and Rita taking part in a  TV program in October 1999. We were young!

Mal and Rita taking part in a TV program in October 1999. We were young!

I remember having one conversation with Rita when “Anime Plus” died after its first issue. I said I never wanted to be a freelancer ever again in my life: it was brutal and the benefits of doing it were few, while costs were enormous. It couldn’t be even classified as labour of love, but a suicide mission – at the end of the month you were paid so poorly, that you couldn’t actually live from it. For a short period of time, I considered taking up press photography (having my photos used on a regular basis by the magazines) but since the crisis wasn’t sparing photographers either, I decided to stick to corporate jobs since.

Over the last decade things only got more and more wrong for traditional media. Not only the crisis, Internet use and dwindling revenues come into equation. Bad management is probably the biggest threat – because suddenly people who have no idea about media come in to “bring the profit and restructure” the company. One lunatic at Chicago Sun-Times fired the whole photographic department (including a Pulitzer Prize winner) and handed iPhones to reporters thinking he is going to have good photography and cost cutting exercise. I don’t even have to tell you that the damage done is going to come back and bite the whole company back real soon.

The world of freelancers (be they journos or photographers) in the millennium is a wild, wild west: what you have been paid in the mid 90`s now has shrunk to 1/3 of it. You are even no longer a contributor to newspaper or magazine – these days you are told to set up your own one-person-service company. Partly it is done because you have to pay your own NI and insurance (we didn’t do it back in the day as we were paid too little to cover the costs and our parents stepped in with their own medical insurance!). The requirement to set up your own company has also a meaner reason – it effectively strips you of the prestige of being a contributor to the press… and the press pass in the process. You must buy the staff you review, but also have to pay to get your way into events you write about (unless the organizers will be so kind to give you a pass). The pinnacle of absurd that we have come across was one jewellery exhibition in Malta: no photo passes available, they confiscated your gear at the entrance, and even Reuters` employees were denied the right to photograph it – citing security concerns. In the mean time security was eating lunch at the exposition and people snapped all over with iPhones.

Rita on assignment in Denmark, 2003. During the same time she was also a volunteer for Roskilde Festival.

Rita on assignment in Denmark, 2003. During the same time she was also a volunteer for Roskilde Festival.

We know multum of Creatives. Yet, only two of our dear friends were brave enough to jump in the deep and live in the freelancer’s world: Olga Drenda (http://olgadrenda.tumblr.com/) is a writer and pop culture genius, Marcin Chylinski runs his own wedding photography company (www.ProZdjecia.pl). I’m pretty sure that given an occasion, they would share even more horror stories than us 🙂

One would think that going digital would be easier. For the last three years, Rita and I run this blog. We have about 13K readers from all over the globe and we could actually start putting ads on here but we don’t want to. Having a successful cultural blog doesn’t make you eligible for a press pass to any events: be it Poland, Malta or UK (since we move around between three countries), you are not even recognized as a citizen journalist. But we don’t have it that bad. Another good friend Pawlu Mizzi runs a blog dedicated to Valletta – his home city and Malta`s capital (https://www.facebook.com/beltvalletta).  He is also a recognized artist in his own right and a successful graphic designer. For all he has done over the years to promote culture, it is unnerving to think he was not even given a press card by Maltese authorities.

So, the media landscape today is far from perfect. But that doesn’t mean the press and journalism is all dying and doomed. There is actually much needed soul-searching in the industry to find questions to so many issues that arose over the years. Rita and I have been brainstorming, reading and seeing some very good ideas being born despite the whole mess. This series of blog posts is actually to summarize the best proposals. We have recently gathered all our silly thoughts and ended up with like 18 pages of tricks. As we have passed it onto a local newspaper, we thought that maybe we could run some posts here. Think of it as our little voice in the discussion what can be done to bring up additional revenues to the traditional media being caught up in the digital world.

We put a lot of emphasis on visual side of the business (like photography, but it can be stretched out to video and illustrations as well) because the digital era is all about visuals, and this is where the revenues would be coming from.

Please enjoy part one of the post as we take a closer look at what can be achieved if you decide to brush off the dust from the old photos and scanners. It’s press version of Cash in the Attic 😉

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Create a photo archive and know how to use it!

 

This is one of the best ideas we have come across. And many newspapers actually do it with different degrees of success! According to photo editors of Chicago Tribune, photo archive is crucial for a newspaper for several reasons. It allows newspaper to maintain journalistic standards (having unbiased stories), independence (alternative to press releases), prestige (“our archive is better than yours”) and business (you can sell newspapers content twice: as news and as archives).

Functional archive for both text and photos can positively affect revenues: it allows newspaper to expand their services and find new niches to operate from. In the process it also retains or even brings in more readers.

Some possible uses of text and photo archives:

–          Reproductions of old front pages can become anniversary mementos

–          Photos can be offered to collectors and private buyers in form of a print

–          Photos can be also used to create posters, cards or other items

–          Thematically organized archives can be used in research and teaching of journalism

–          By owning historical materials, newspaper can become a desired partner in the process of creating books, exhibitions or TV programs

–          Newspaper may charge for the access to the archives

–          Photo archive can preserve the works of local photojournalists from being forgotten, fragmented or even destroyed

–          Functional archive means that photographers are properly credited

–          Materials in the archives can be used for iPad and iPhone apps or to generate interest on social media

Let’s have a closer look at the Chicago Tribune’s photo archive, which is regarded as a stellar example in the news business. It is organized in two ways: website (www.tribunephotos.com) and social media outlets (Ebay, Twitter, Facebook and blog).

Chicago Tribune photo archive page

Chicago Tribune photo archive page

The site is divided into separate categories (sports, education, agriculture, children, health, government, environment, fashion, events, music, and holidays among others). It works like a regular online shop with a cart and requires a customer login (and a need to create purchaser profile protected with a password). It has links to Twitter, Facebook and Ebay pages and since it is visited by many people, it features ads. Revenues from the ads help maintain the website and its operations. There is a free newsletter being sent to the subscribers. The website is hosted by http://www.imagefortress.com

While the website is ran by professional marketing company, the social media platform make pictures “go viral” and create a buzz:

a)      Ebay: http://stores.ebay.com/tribunephotos

Photos put on the auctions are watermarked for security reasons. Each auction  lasts approx. 30 days. Prices per print range between 10 USD – 15 USD, larger and rarer prints are advertised in the newsletter and priced accordingly.

b)      Blog: http://blog.tribunephotos.com/

Weekly and occasionally daily posts, with stories and anecdotes from the newsroom, related to the photos in the archives.

c)      Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/TribunePhotos

Separate page for the archives. It incorporates posts from other media and printed newspapers; basically anything that can generate interest online is mentioned.

d)     Twitter https://twitter.com/TribunePhotos

Twitter can be connected to Facebook and blog and can generate multiple posts at the same time via different channels. One post on a blog will automatically be twitter and appear on Facebook. It can be run separately, in a similar manner to Facebook page.

The really cool thing about the functional archives is that is can be operated by the newspaper itself. We had a closer look at several newspapers and we came to conclusion that possible structure would look something like this:

– Usually the work is overseen by a photo editor and sales director

– Photo editor oversees the quality of prints or scans, while marketing team are involved in direct customer inquiries and sales

– Graphic designers are called in if prints need to be edited, some work is done by staff photographers if time allows, or by interns and journalism students

– Scanning, filing and general maintenance is done either by journalism students, general interns or by library and archiving students. Yes, you can actually use interns according to their field of study and get some real work done. There will be perhaps less coffee brewed in the office, but we don’t think anybody will be complaining that they are actually getting real – work experience

– Also the running of the social media sites can be done by interns

–          Blog posts can be created by more experienced journalists

See, put pieces in the right places and you can create a truly useful tool that will benefit journalists, students and readers all at once. But that’s not all. Having functional archives is just the beginning!

***

Photo – page is all the rage!

Let’s imagine that a functional photo archive was set up and it’s ready. Now, what are we gonna do with it? (apologies to Heavy D).

The answer is: show it to the world. And a photo page surely comes in handy in doing so.

There is a constant debate which medium is better: a video or a still photograph. Both have capacity to bring attention of readers, especially in a digital age (“going viral”), both can be shared and discussed, thus enhancing website content.

However there is one big (small) difference between them: video takes time – you have to see it through to fully understand what is happening. Photo on the other hand, requires less time, just a glance and the message is received: one photo is truly worth of a thousand words especially in the fast lived cyber space.

Full page of Time Magazine LightBox - just see how complex this photo page is!

Full page of Time Magazine LightBox – just see how complex this photo page is!

That is why photo-essays and photo pages are extremely popular. According to Google: Time`s LightBox (http://lightbox.time.com/) and NY Times` Lense (http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/) are one of the most visited pages when it comes to visual journalism.

A separate photo page can not only double a traffic onto newspaper’s website, it can be also used to present readers with reportages or other longer forms of photojournalism or even portfolios of staff photographers.

Possibilities are endless: you can set up photo of the week/month/year features; you can run photographic contests and publish readers` photos, you can co-operate with news and photo agencies to bring the most striking visual stories.

You can anything, even set up your own in-house photo agency and promote it via a well constructed photo-page!

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In-house photo agency – tapping into new markets

When we first heard the term “in-house” photo agency operated by a newspaper, we honestly thought it was science fiction. Only, it is not and it’s being practiced for at least 18 years. And the reason you have never heard about it, it’s because you don’t usually read all the small print. Please look at the Gazeta Wyborcza (Polish biggest daily newspaper) photo page called “Duży Kadr” (The Big Picture):

http://wyborcza.pl/duzy_kadr/0,0.html

When opening the website, in the right upper corner the reader will find The Big Picture iPad application and a link to Agencja Gazeta – which is ultimately the photo agency set up by photographers of the newspaper.

http://agencjagazeta.pl/foto/0,0.html#TRNavSST

The agency has been set up in 1994 by members of the photo department who wanted to sell photos from the newspaper’s archives and their own work that was not always used by the newspaper. Today it consists of 35 staff photographers, freelancers and contributors (ranging from sports and fashion to war correspondence), two photo editors and 5 sales consultants. Agency members won several World Press Photo prizes and work closely with Reuters.

Page for Agencja Gazeta

Page for Agencja Gazeta

The agency offers the following services:

–          reportages

–          portraiture (also weddings)

–          fashion shoots

–          corporate portraitures and business photography

–          commercial photography

–          fully accessible photo studio for renting

Newspapers photographers can be “rented out” or hired (usually on their day off) to do an assignment for Agency’s customers, or they can offer their unused shots or personal projects that they pursue. Photographer is paid part of the fee, the agency retains the other half. This way a photographer can earn more and the newspaper has extra revenue.

Newspaper also has a functional studio that can be rented out or used by the staff photographers.

Such agency allows Gazeta Wyborcza to sell their archival pictures, unseen /unused press photos and to tap into commercial photography for additional revenues.

Pretty smart, you have to agree. But that is not the end of possibilities what you can do with a properly organized photo archive. If newspapers can have in-house photo agencies, why not create in-house stock collection. Kick-ass? Time to give some credit to Corbis!

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Stock – joining the forces with freelancers and local enthusiasts.

You need to thank Rita for finding this one. There is very little she can’t find on the World Wide Web.

Another idea how to enhance a photo department is to create a stock photography collection. Many newspapers use stock photography bought from stock companies over the Internet. Having a local one – could bring a revenue (stock images could be sold to local or international clients) and could also employ talents of local photographers. A separate stock collection for mobile phones could also prove to be profitable.

Corbis Royalty Free service page

Corbis Royalty Free service page

Stock Photography or Royalty Free Collection is now a standard offer among Photographic Agencies. A good example would be a service of Corbis:

http://www.corbisimages.com/content/royalty-free/

It includes not just separate photos (stock) but also whole series (up to 100 pictures called as “virtual disc”) shot by one photographer around certain theme and with the same visual style.

There are literary unlimited possibilities to turn a stock or royalty free collection into profit:

–     It can attract local businesses which don’t always have time and big budget to
plan a campaign from scratch,

–     Parties and political candidates may use the images for their flyers,

–          Local councils, agencies and even some newspapers prefer to use generic images that appear to a larger public, than the usual documentary photography,

–          International clients are more likely to tailor made their coverage by using images taken by local photographers,

So we have (finally) reached the end of the part one of our media report. We truly hope you enjoyed reading and perhaps, you have found something interesting for your work place in case you work in the media. Give that link to your editor and let us know what the reaction was.

or at least make them read this blog post by Rohn Engh who beautifully said the same thing as we only with less word count:

http://rising.blackstar.com/a-new-dawn-for-photojournalism.html

For now we will sign off and walk out of the house to enjoy a bit of ice cream and the sunshine.

Mal+Rita

P.S If you know Polish, you can have a fab side reading to this rant by our friend Olga Drenda about how much photographers earn today:

http://digitalcamerapolska.pl/warsztat/339-ile-zarabia-fotograf-w-polsce-zobacz-realne-stawki

The cat collector or Kat-a-log part 18

Hello cats and kittens!

Welcome to 18th edition of Kat-a-log! This issue will be a longer one as it is our second Holiday Special! Summer is slowly coming to an end (it is 22nd of August here already), but we still have several weeks before the kids are forced back to schools and the students are back at their Alma Maters. Being a cat has its advantages: you don’t have to sit at the desk for 8 hours a day, do your homework and nobody is yelling at you if you sleep all day and hang out with your friends at night. All three ladies behind the art project (Rita, Mal and Olympia) are pretty sure they are cats reincarnated and suffer cruelly when they are being woken up at 6 am.

In case you’d like to read all previous edition of Kat-a-log, please scroll down and click on the links below. All comments and cat fan mail is highly encouraged. Send your pictures, catnip and toys to: rdabrowicz@yahoo.com and wait for a meow back. Cats do take messages and they are always getting back to you when it is most convenient for them.

Kat-a-log Part 1: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-1/
Kat-a-log Part 2: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/09/07/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-2/
Kat-a-log Part 3: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-3/
Kat-a-log Part 4: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-4/
Kat-a-log Part 5: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-5/
Kat-a-log Part 6: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-6/
Kat-a-log Part 7: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/12/19/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-7/
Kat-a-log Part 8: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/01/02/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-8/
Kat-a-log Part 9: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/01/06/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-9/
Kat-a-log Part 10: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/02/14/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-10/
Kat-a-log Part 11: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/02/28/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-11/
Kat-a-log Part 12: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-12/
Kat-a-log Part 13: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-13/
Kat-a-log Part 14: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-14/
Kat-a-log Part 15: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-15/
Kat-a-log Part 16: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/06/29/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-16/
Kat-a-log Part 17: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/the-cat-collector-or-kat-a-log-part-17/

Kat-a-log Feline no. 67
Three sides of a cat: There is something in the water,  In the middle and Raindrops (keep falling on my head)
Country of origin:  
Sweden, given as a gift in 2008

Let us start the holiday special with the unique cat raising a paw. This figurine is made from hardened wood and probably has been carved from one solid piece. It has been painted in certain places (eyes, face, paws and tails) and is solidly polished. The top layer of the sculpture has been covered by varnish, giving the cat a nice, shining finish.  As you know, the cats do not like water, but this summer has been scorching hot (especially in Malta!) and even the most water shy creatures need a cool down. We have thrown the figurine into the city fountain in Katowice on the hottest June afternoon and then took few pictures. This Scandinavian beauty has been part of Kat-a-log project since 2008. It has been purchased by Malicia’s friend while she was organizing an art exhibition in Sweden and then given as a gift to Olympia. Arts, crafts and cats go very well together as we have proved it many times on our blog. If they didn’t, there would be no art project for us to write about at all.

There is something in the water

There is something in the water

In the middle

In the middle

Raindrops (keep falling on my head)

Raindrops (keep falling on my head)

Kat-a-log Feline no. 68
Three sides of a cat: Is this seat taken?, Great view from the top of a palm tree and On the beach
Country of origin: 
UK, given as a present in 2012

After spending too much time in the water, everybody needs a bit of rest. There is nothing more pleasurable than lying on the sandy beach and sunbathing. Cats are masters of finding sunny spots and they do not really need beaches to rest after hard work of eating and chasing a toy mouse. People living with a cat under one roof will agree, that cat is going to lie and sleep on anything if it’s cosy and warm enough. Laptops, Internet routers, Playstations, heating blankets – you name it. If your favorite sofa or a chair is standing near the window on a sunny day, forget about sitting there – we guarantee that your cat got there first and he is not going to like having his slumber interrupted. Better leave the sleeping cat lie and find yourself some other place. Our next kitten has been photographed while resting on an artificial beach created in Katowice especially for the beach volleyball tournament. It is not a figurine, rather a mascot or a plushie. It has been sown from two separate pieces of fabric and is stuffed with dried seeds. We are not sure what types of seeds are inside the mascot but the cat is very soft and light. The creature was purchased in Universal Concern charity store in Hereford by Rita’s friend named Fran and then given to her as a goodbye gift when she was leaving the office in May 2012.

Universal Concern is fighting poverty and injustice in the developing countries. They are helping kids and adults to learn new skills and find employment. If you’d like to support them and change the world for the better (even just a little bit), please click on the link and see if they have any more cats like this for purchase. Thank you in advance!
http://www.concern-universal.org/home

Is this seat taken

Is this seat taken

Great view from the top of a palm tree

Great view from the top of a palm tree

On the beach

On the beach

Kat-a-log Feline no. 69
Three sides of a cat: Three colors (red, blue and yellow), All aboard! and I’m sailing
Country of origin: 
Malta, bought in 2012

Resting is good, but if your entire holidays consists only of lying on the beach and sunbathing, then it can be quite boring. Cats like variety so a bit of physical activity won’t kill you – especially if you are near a lake. Matt and Rita went for a swim in Chechlo Lake during their recent visit to Poland and they decided that taking few cats with them would be a splendid idea. This lovely, highly decorated kitten has been nick-named “Bell” and has been purchased by Malicia in Valletta during the Malta Fair Trade Fest in 2012. The photoshoot took place on a paddle boat in the middle of the lake and nearly ended with Rita falling overboard with her camera in hand. It was loads of fun! Don’t Worry kids, Rita is a good swimmer and would easily reach the shore on her own.

Malta FairTrade Fest unfortunately has no website at present.

 

Three colors (red, blue and yellow),

Three colors (red, blue and yellow),

All aboard!

All aboard!

 I'm sailing

I’m sailing

Kat-a-log Feline no. 70
Three sides of a cat: Let’s have a drink, Life guard and Someday my ship will sail
Country of origin: 
Malta, bought in 2006

Kat-a-log feline number 70 is one of the funniest creatures in Olympia’s collection. Rita and Olympia bought this lovely, hand painted blue cat in Birkirkara, during their first trip to Malta in September 2006. The cat is very small, it is only 4,5 cm tall (or just a one inch and a half). Olympia spotted this kitten on a local artisan stand at Birkirkara’s biggest street market and before it was purchased, Rita and Olympia had a heated discussion if another cat is needed as a souvenir from the trip (they had already purchased two other cats by that time). In the end, it was decided that this figurine was just too cute to be ignored and 5 LM (Maltese Lira) have been spent quickly. Ah those memories, before Malta joined the Monetary Union and everything became really expensive 😛 Everybody is now glad that the cat is part of the art project and it is being referred to as “The Sleeping Beauty”.

Let's have a drink

Let’s have a drink

Life guard

Life guard

Someday my ship will sail

Someday my ship will sail

Kat-a-log Feline no. 71
Three sides of a cat: Sunbathing, Driftwood, Resting at the shore
Country of origin:  Poland, bought in 2001

One of the oldest cats in the collection! This strangely looking cat is made from wood and is painted in classic combination of black and white.  His long whiskers are made out of synthetic material, they are very soft but springy! Malicia estimates that she got this lovely kitten in an art store in Katowice somewhere between 2001 and 2002. She went there to buy Rita her first professional watercolor set (aka aquarelle paints) by Karmański –  a very prestigious Polish brand. The watercolors set was priced at 100 PLN (Polish zloty) and at that time, it was considered a huge amount of money! As Malicia was shopping for a Christmas present, the cat was given to her as a thank you gift for spending lots of money at the store. The cat figurine was made by the students of an art college in Bielsko-Biala that has a long history of collaboration with the Matejko art shop.

You can visit the official website  for Karmanski brand here: http://www.kremerpolska.com/karmanski/index.html
Matejko art store website is: http://www.sklepmatejko.pl/
And the Art College website can be seen here: http://www.bielskiplastyk.pl/d/aktualnosci (sorry, in Polish only!)

Sunbathing

Sunbathing

Driftwood

Driftwood

Resting at the shore

Resting at the shore

Kat-a-log Feline no. 72
Three sides of a cat: Safe and sound, Sweet dreams (are made of this) and Leave me alone!
Country of origin: Poland, bought as a gift in 2013

After the exhausting exercises, long walks, swimming, sunbathing and climbing up the trees, every cat needs a nap. The longer the better!
The last feline in the Holiday Special joined the merry gang of Kat-a-log cats just recently, in July 2013. It was made by a local artist in Bytom and Rita decided to buy it for Olympia to thank her for her hospitality. This figurine is quite heavy, we would say it weights about 2-3 kg! The cat is painted in bright yellow and decorated with black feather shaped Oriental ornaments, fake gems and tiny mirror mosaic tiles. The seller in art gallery described the cat as “Bollywood kitten” and we have to admit it does look a an item taken from a Bollywood movie!
If you put him in the sunshine, the yellow paints  shines really brightly giving the cat a supernatural golden look!

Safe and sound

Safe and sound

Sweet dreams (are made of this)

Sweet dreams (are made of this)

Leave me alone

Leave me alone

Kat-a-log Feline no. 72 and a half
Three sides of a cat: Wanna play?, Near the water and Made of sand
Country of origin: Poland, Chechlo, July 2013

Project like Kat-a-log requires not only a lot of free time and silly ideas, but most of all, a great sense of humor. Running around with a heavy camera, taking pictures of cat figurines in strange places, people staring at you in amazement and wondering what the heck are you doing – that’s what we call a normal day at work! So, just to prove that we are indeed as crazy as our readers think – we have photographic proof of a cat we made while resting at the lake.  We decided to name this cat “Irina”, dunno why, it just sounded good to us.
Irina has been made using mud, sand, sticks and stones.

Wanna play?

Wanna play?

Near the water

Near the water

Made of sand

Made of sand

 

We hope you enjoyed the long version of Kat-a-log.Please come back very soon, as we have several normal and specials edition already prepared.

Have funa and don’t forget to rest – you still have two full weeks to do that!

Meow and out xxxx

Rita, Malicia and Olympia Dabrowicz

Social media campaign- power in presentation

Hello everybody!

Did you know that we are living in the material …or rather in the marketing world?

Customer profiling, social media and e-commerce are popular tools used by small and big businesses to enhance their presence on the Internet and to attract customers. Wherever you go, you notice banners advertising variety of products, pop up commercials, Google (in)famous Adwords  and Analytics  PPC (pay per click) campaigns, sponsored links, articles and a whole plethora of other mediums that are trying to sell you something.

It can be tiring but we will not be able to escape it. Social media are the new black and if your company doesn’t have Facebook/Twitter, Pinterest, Flickr account – then you are in serious trouble. God forbid that you lack a proper website and it cannot be easily found on Google.  The truth is out there and has been tested by the biggest marketing sharks on the planet. Customer’s attention span is getting shorter (right now it is marked at 3-4 minutes) and if you don’t capture the hearts and souls of your core targets in that amount of time, you are as good as dead. If something is not on Goggle, then it doesn’t exist. Simple as that.

Having run e-commerce campaigns on social media platforms for many people (don’t worry, we are the good guys, Gladiators in suits, white hats on white horses – we do it pro publico bono!), we have learnt that while the whole marketing chase is getting crazier by each year, we can still use it to our benefit. The problem is, the campaign needs to be well prepared to succeed. Good strategy is like Jack Sparrow’s magical compass.  It may not point north, but it points to the things you want most in this world. The key is to learn how to use the compass without ending on a deserted island with only a pistol and a bottle of rum to keep you company.  Now, this is exactly where we come in.

Some time ago, we posted a blog about  crowd founding campaigns.  John Faye and Brittany Rotondo of Philadelphia’s power pop duo John and Brittany, created a superb marketing campaign that we have used as a teaching example for others. Please click on the link below to read the whole article: https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/john-brittany-crowd-funding-done-right/

Tips from our previous entry can apply to any campaign, not only for those created on Kickstarter or PledgeMusic. The point of that article was to show the basics of e-commerce campaigns. Today, however, we will try to show you something completely different and much more complex. Many people do not know how to design a campaign and they struggle to understand what is necessary to know.
Recently, we have been asked to prepare a faux marketing campaign for online retailer (online store) selling clothes, shoes and accessories for men, women and children. To make the whole exercise trickier, we chose Denmark as our target. Let’s pretend we are marketing directors for an online store called HOTSPOT and we are trying to enter the Danish fashion market and of course, take it by storm. Our board have no clue about Denmark and we need to convince them that we can be successful.  Our bosses asked for a PowerPoint presentation to be made, as they want to check our skills as well at the same time. It took us 5 days to prepare this presentation and that include speaking to test group (10 Danish people), market research, design and proofreading.

All we need at the beginning is:
Healthy amount of time to make the presentation (about 5 days). You will be adding, removing and changing a lot of things as your research deepens. Do not leave it at the last minute. You might be a marketing genius, but if your final product looks awful, nobody will be interested in seeing it.
Find a research group (also known as test group). We have used Facebook to speak to our friends who live in Denmark. If you struggle to find anybody among your real-life or virtual connections, look for a forum or advice groups on the Internet. Ask people few questions. For our campaign, we have asked our friends: “What Danish/International retailers or online shops they know”, “how much money they spend  for clothes online”,”how do they look for clothes”, “do they look for bargains or sales”. etc.
Prepare to use Google a lot. We made a list of popular places on the Internet where Danish people could hang out: popular portals, newspapers, celebrity magazines, tourist sites, fashion blogs, groups, competitors. Write down all piece of information that you come across, even by accident. Keep your eyes open for numbers and statistics. Remember who will look at the final presentation. If you need to convince accountants and financial managers, you need to speak their language. And nothing speaks better to an accountant than numbers and revenue figures 😀
Find good quality graphics, charts to illustrate your presentation. If you cannot make them yourself, use the free stock on the Internet. If you find something you really like, ask the creator for permission to use it and provide link and copyrights. Don’t steal anything just because it is on the Internet. There are  websites like Wikicommons that can provide you with maps, pictures and photographs.

1. Front Cover – presentation is like a book. It needs to have a cover with title and your name on it. We wanted to keep things simple yet clear. Danish flag makes a splendid background. We called our presentation “Danish market overview”.

Danish Market Overview front cover

Danish Market Overview front cover

2. Table of content – it is not obligatory to have it, but we are traditionalists. If your presentation is long, it allows the reader to look for the most important information at the same beginning. Please add page numbers next to the titles. We decided to add small Danish flag buttons to mark bullet points. Notice that we are having a new background. It is darker and white letters are very visible. After printing the presentation on A4 paper, we had a lovely result 🙂

Table of content

Table of content

3. Introduction to Danish market – Do you remember the film called “Philadelphia”? One of the characters, a lawyer named Joe Miller (played by Denzel Washington), had a particular way of establishing facts. He always asked his clients or witnesses one question: “Can you explain it to me like I’m a four-year-old?” Slide number 3 is where you have to explain the core of your presentation to your audience.  The simpler, the better. We entitled our slide number 3 “Introduction to Danish market” and used seven major points to describe the fashion market.  Our test group came very handy here – all the information we managed to find online ourselves have been checked with what our friends from Denmark have said. The conclusion from our investigation needed to be presented in shortened version.  Do not worry if you made an error and your conclusion is not 100% correct. This is not the end of the world. Unless you have been supplied with hard, undisputed facts, you can always make an honest mistake. Just provide the audience with links where you found the information from. Do not invent your own statistics – that would be a lie. In marketing, it is not always possible to find exact data or numbers as many businesses hide them fearing that their competitors will use it against them.  Keep it simple, short and to the point.

Introduction to Danish Market

Introduction to Danish Market

4. Targets – This is the most important part of your investigation and your presentation in general. Target means people who are going to buy your product or whom you want to reach. Without a well defined target, the marketing campaign will not go well. Think who are your customers, how old are they, where do they come from,  what do they do, how much they earn, what do they do in their spare time, what are they interested in, what are their beliefs etc. The more questions you ask, the better picture of your target  is created. In our case, the online store HOTSPOT needed to identify what kind of customers would be buying the clothes. Again, after talking to our test group and showing  them our apparel,  we determined what they liked and disliked. We have also checked other online stores at the Danish market (our competitors) and Goggled for their reviews. If a former client left them a comment, we would check his or her Facebook profile or Twitter account and try to find out  their age or interests. This is not stalking! Under any circumstances, do not ever contact those people. This is illegal and we do not recommend anything like this! What we tried to do, is to gather data about the clients and make a rational guess. Many companies (Facebook, Google) screen their users’ activities, websites they visit and try to tailor their commercials especially for them. Being a small business, you don’t have access to anything like this, but it doesn’t mean you cannot successfully find your targets.
Customer surveys and PPC  campaigns are also perfect to establish who is looking for your services.

Targets

Targets

5. Competitors – Ok, honestly, this is the worst part of every marketing research. The most time consuming and frustrating job you can imagine. A real nightmare for every marketing professional. To be successful, you need to know who is going to play against you. If your company is a monopolist, then feel free to skip this section, the rest must pay attention 😀  HOTSPOT is entering a new market, and there are many online stores fighting for every client, especially during an economical crisis. We have decided to divide  our competitors in two groups: retail (big brands and international stores) and independent designers (Danish clothing designers, that have their own popular brands and their own online stores). We gathered all information we could  find about each one of them: how many boutiques they have, how many workers they employ, their annual revenue, their brands, how many language versions their online store has, where do they operate etc. Each research will be different and different questions will have to be asked. Most of the information you can see at our slides number 5,6 and 7 come from official trade reports and store websites.

Competitors retail - page 1

– Competitors retail – page 1

Competitors retail - page 2

Competitors retail – page 2

Competitors - designers

Competitors – designers

6. How to make your company visible on the Internet – Let your imagination flow! This is where a true marketing starts. Ideas, brainstorming, anything that works for you and your business. Once again we have divided this section into two parts: how to increase company’s visibility on the market using the Internet and Professional links.  The Internet gives you incredible amount of ways to reach customers: website, Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest, Flickr, Linkedin, blogs, magazines, third party websites. Sky is the limit.  HOTSPOT being a fashion online store will concentrate on social media, bloggers and magazine campaigns. They will also try to establish professional co-cooperation with Danish designers,  fashion institutes and industry experts. Please remember to make  lots of friends, exchange links, comments, banners, invite people from your industry and update your social media platforms constantly. Be loud and enthusiastic. People like new things so they will check your business just out of curiosity. All you need to do is to keep them there!

How to increase visibility of your company using Internet

How to increase visibility of your company using Internet

How to increase visibility on the market using professional links

How to increase visibility on the market using professional links

7. Exemplary campaigns  – Slide number 10  is connected with previous ones (increasing visibility on the Internet) but is a little bit more specific.  The campaigns do not really need additional explanation – these links and hash tags HOTSPOT will be using in their Twitter campaign. Also, they will be contacting several popular fashion bloggers in hopes of establishing a closer co-operation.

Exemplary campaigns

Exemplary campaigns

8. Gaining customer trust – Very important part of every marketing campaign but sometimes completely overlooked.  Bringing customers to your website is not that hard, the key is to keep them coming back. To encourage customers, the business must gain their trust and present itself in the favorable light. There are several things that online store needs to do. First of all, the website must be protected and the clients data (credit cards numbers, password, usernames) cannot be stolen or leaked. Getting a certification of trust from a third party or internet security company offers your customers a sense of security and proves that you are not a scam artist.  Becoming a member of Trusted E-store organization  can help a lot. The process of becoming a member is not easy and requires a lot of checking, but it will prove worth every trouble in the long run. Teaming with PayPal and  credit card companies will also work to store’s advantage. It not only allows the clients several payment options to choose from (the more the better as usual), but it also proves that the company is working with credit cards providers. If your company uses Google Adwords and Analytics, the website can become a certified partner for Google campaigns (you will receive a badge and a  number). Gaining trust can also be done by answering to every question and inquiry  quickly and efficiently. Many businesses tend to ignore negative comments or reviews left by dissatisfied clients. This is a very serious mistake. Do not leave any comments unanswered or even worse, do not remove them! We are not saying here to leave comments full of profanities for everybody to see, any extremities (written, pictures, shares) should be removed and reported. If a clients complains, an honest answer should be provided asap and the problem should be investigated. Sweeping under the carpet or “website cleaning” will backfire sooner or later. Internet never forgives and many clients will be lost.

Gaining customer trust

Gaining customer trust

9. Increasing customer interest – AKA Here we are now, entertain us!
After convincing customers to visit the website, and gaining their trust, all we need to do is to keep the fire burning. Increasing the interest in offered products can be a bit of a pain. First of all, online clients are not as faithful as the traditional ones and will go everywhere else if they are bored or if they find a better deal. Second thing is, it takes a lot of work and effort to keep the visitors happy.  Well developed affiliate programs, point system can be very helpful here. Competitions are quite important as well. HOTSPOT decided to award points for every purchase and introduce badge system for their clients.   They are going to have several competitions per month including fan of the week, the best stylization, letter of the day and others. Each social platform (Facebook, Twitter and others) will have different competitions and different content in two languages – English and Danish.

Slide12

10. Ethics – Every business should posses a strong sense of duty towards customers, providers and their workers. Taking care of economy, local communities or donating to charity helps to send a clear message to visitors and partners. Becoming aware of ecology, reducing carbon imprint or energy management can earn the business not only approval from NGO’s but also very respected ISO certification (for example ISO 50001).  Marketing strategy should always incorporate ethical stand and lists of corporate responsibilities. Remember, making money cannot be the only reason why the business exist. Danish market puts a strong emphasis on ethical behavior.  HOTSPOT will be involved in several community and ecological projects from their very start.

Ethics in the business

Ethics in the business

11. The end – The back cover can contain a bit of humor. We decided to end our presentation in Danish 😀
It says: “Thank you kindly for reading our report”. Thank you Linda for providing us with translation skills. You are the best!
We would also like to thank our test group: Linda, Merete, Torsten, Mette and other Roskilde Festival people. TAK!!!
Good manners are always in demand!

Danish Market Overview back cover saying "Thank you kindly for reading my report"

Danish Market Overview back cover

All right, we hope that this blog will help you to create your own marketing plans. You don’t have to use anything that we posted here. Marketing strategy depends sorely on the person who is preparing it. There is no universal solution that will work for everybody. Sometimes it is just a trial and error. You have to be open minded and try out new things and ideas.
You can download the full presentation from Issuu: http://issuu.com/vanadianavenue/docs/danish_market_overview

Be creative and experiment.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any comments or questions. We’d love to hear from you. Send your letters to rdabrowicz@yahoo.com

Have fun!

xxxx
Rita and Malicia D.

********** Update 18/08/2013***********

This proved to be one of the most followed posts on the blog. We  got retweets, were included in paper.ly collections and  even got 40 hits from Bahrain! Just wanted to share few screens.

This is how your stats look when you do a good e-commerce post

This is how your stats look when you do a good e-commerce post

RTs and paper.ly presence

RTs and paper.ly presence

Thanks a bunch everybody!

M+R

Worcester Beer Festival 2013

Let’s drink to that!

It wasn’t planned, we swear it! When we left home this morning, we haven’t intended to attend any more events. We have backlog 3 miles long with many interesting events waiting patiently for their turn to be published on the blog. Our days would have to have 60 hours for us to finally catch up with all projects and plans. But enough of complaining – life in a fast lane is not a bad one. It is pretty exciting and sometimes we surprise ourselves how brilliant we are. You might not like us, but admitting that we are brilliant is not a flattery – it is just a very obvious fact 😀

Visitors at the festival heading to the main tent for ... a beer!

Visitors at the festival heading to the main tent for … a beer!

Guests arrived at the entrance and formed a long queue, not all of them were lucky to get in. Tickets for Friday night sold out quickly

Guests arrived at the entrance and formed a long queue, not all of them were lucky to get in. Tickets for Friday night sold out quickly

So this morning, we had no idea that by 6 PM we would be visiting Worcester Beer Festival. We heard about the event last year, as the local press wrote several long articles about the large amount of beers, hundreds of visitors and excellent live music – but for one reason or another, we didn’t attend. This year a perfect opportunity presented itself right in front of us. We were spending a nice lazy day at the Hive (biggest library in Worcester), when we noticed big tents being raised at the nearby Worcester Racecourse. And when several big white tents are popping up in a flash, it can mean only one thing – an event is going to take place soon. Quick research online and we learnt enough to form spontaneous plans for the evening. And boy, it was worth to go there. We came by accident and we stayed on purpose – let this short sentence serves as the biggest recommendation we can think of!

Official poster for the Worcester Beer Festival. You can download the hi-resolution PDF  from here: http://worcesterbeerfest.org.uk/sites/default/downloads/Poster2013.pdf

Official poster for the Worcester Beer Festival. You can download the hi-resolution PDF from here:
http://worcesterbeerfest.org.uk/sites/default/downloads/Poster2013.pdf

The official mascot for the festival. Anybody knows the horsie's name?

The official mascot for the festival. Anybody knows the horsie’s name?

Worcester Beer Festival is being organized by Worcester Branch of CAMRA (The Campaign For Real Ale). CAMRA has been founded in 1971 and is now the largest consumer organization in Europe. CAMRA’s main priority is to protect the art of brewing traditional British ales in casks and to support small, local breweries. Majority of independent breweries in the UK are family owned businesses, with long history and great skills. Despite having first class products, their chances of reaching customers are seriously limited by big international companies, retailers, distance and many other factors. CAMRA’s idea is to gather casket ales, beers, ciders and perries under one roof (or in one tent) and bring them to members of the public. Simple and works like a charm. When we arrived, the festival was sold out, the whole venue was packed like Glastonbury on a sunny day and people were queuing in hopes they will be admitted. A tip for beer lovers – reserve and buy tickets online. Waiting is shorter, you get VIP treatment and you do not risk not getting inside. Being a girl always helps! Or being a journalist, or both!

CAMRA official stand  - the lady was very helpful and provided us with several highly useful leaflets! Our friends from Stringer Beer will be delighted to join the festival next year! You can visit their website at:  http://www.stringersbeer.co.uk/

CAMRA official stand – the lady was very helpful and provided us with several highly useful leaflets! Our friends from Stringer Beer will be delighted to join the festival next year! You can visit their website at: http://www.stringersbeer.co.uk/

Volunteers working hard

Volunteers working hard

Volunteers  were moving so fast, it was hard to take pictures sometimes

Volunteers were moving so fast, it was hard to take pictures sometimes

Volunteers and a long row of casks.

Volunteers and a long row of casks.

A very common sign at the festival!

A very common sign at the festival!

Ok, so what was so special about Worcester Beer Festival that prompted us to write the blog entry on the same day? First of all, it was brilliantly organized. Big kudos to volunteers, organizers and other people who made the whole thing possible. Despite alcoholic beverages being sold out everywhere in sight, there were no troubles at all. We met several drunken individuals pestering other guests and trying to pick up fights, but they were quickly pacified and taken outside the tent by security. Volunteers did their best to serve all customers swiftly, and even if the whole cask was emptied, they would replace them with new ones or advise something else. What was truly surprising was that the volunteers knew answer to all questions. We are not sure if they memorized names of all 200 brands, lists of ingredients used in the productions, or maybe they simply know so much, but it was a bit surreal and most impressive! If only politicians could answer of questions so precise and so quick! We have spoken to Steve Chase, one of the main organizers. Mr Chase was very kind and explained to us (first time visitors) what the festival is all about, why we cannot buy bottled beer and showed us around the festival grounds. We have been even equipped with official festival program and given an official festival beer glass.

Visitors resting in the main tent at the festival

Visitors resting in the main tent at the festival

Beer garden in the middle

Beer garden in the middle

Public enjoying the last rays of sunshine with a glasses in their hands

Public enjoying the last rays of sunshine with a glasses in their hands

A group of young visitors waiting for the music tent to re-open

A group of young visitors waiting for the music tent to re-open

If you care about statistics (some of our readers do) then we are pleased to report that the festival lasts three days (Thursday, Friday and Saturday). There are more than 200 ales and beer brands, over 100 draught ciders and perries (alcoholic drink made from pears), nearly 40 fruit and grape wines, stored in more than 500 casks. Music and entertainment is provided by 15 different bands and the number of visitors is estimated at around 14 000 people. The best thing about the festival, however, is not the number of brands or casks. Each year, the festival is donating a lot of money to local charities in Worcester and in the neighboring counties. Last year, the public donated nearly 4.000 pounds to Midlands Air Ambulance, St Richards Hospice and Cancer Research UK. Buying a pint never tasted so good before!

Almost like a summer festival: lots of people, lots of beer and live music

Almost like a summer festival: lots of people, lots of beer and live music

Liberty Lies leaflet left from Thursday night. the band entered the stage at 10:30 and gave a great show. You can follow them here: http://www.facebook.com/LibertyLies

Liberty Lies leaflet left from Thursday night. the band entered the stage at 10:30 and gave a great show. You can follow them here: http://www.facebook.com/LibertyLies

We have tried several samples of the ales and Blue Monkey won by a long shot. You can learn more about their award winning beer called Guerrilla here: http://www.bluemonkeybrewery.com/beers/guerrilla.

Dark Star Brewery was advertised to be so good that it’s worthy to join the Dark Side for one single sip. Their Art of Darkness was very tasty and fruity but a bit too sweet.  You can find their official site here: http://darkstarbrewing.co.uk/pdf/the-art-of-darkness.pdf or join their Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/darkstarbrewco

We have also liked the Birds and Bees from Scottish brewery Williams Bros. It was so light that looked almost white.  The beer was very popular with the public and we needed to queue for a while: http://www.williamsbrosbrew.com/beerboard/casks

Honorable mentions go to Wooden Hand for their Black Pearl. We are sure Captain Jack Sparrow would dump the rum for this beer! (http://www.woodenhand.co.uk), Mayfields Brewery for Marches Gold (www.mayfieldsbrewery.co.uk) and Wolf Brewery from Norfolk for generally being howling good:D Their Lavender Honey was a hit among ladies! (http://www.wolfbrewery.com/).

Main reception was the busiest place at the festival

Main reception was the busiest place at the festival

Collectible glass given to the guests at the entry. We gave our away as we had little use for it.

Collectible glass given to the guests at the entry. We gave our away as we had little use for it.

The beer tastes better when you are properly dressed!

The beer tastes better when you are properly dressed!

If you’d like to visit the festival, you still have one whole day to do it. Saturday is going to be very busy, so please make sure you can come early to buy the tickets at the door if you still do not have them. The festival site is open from 10am till 11 pm. Tickets cost only 5 pounds per person.

You can find more information online:
Official website for the festival: http://worcesterbeerfest.org.uk/
Official Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/WorcesterCAMRABeerCiderAndPerryFestival
CAMRA’s website: www.camra.co.uk
Worcester Branch of CAMRA: www.worcestercamra.org.uk/camra.html

Contact Details:
The BIGGEST Real Ale, Cider and Perry Festival in the West Midlands 8-10 August 2013 – 8-10 August 2013
Phone:   0845 269 6859
Email:contact@worcesterbeerfest.org.uk

Have a great time and enjoy the drinks. October Fest is 3 months away!
Raise your glasses!

XXX
Rita and Malcia Dabrowicz

Photographer at a bank

Hello kitties!

Banking can be confused.

Banking can be confused.

Paws up if you are tired of pseudo articles and in-helpful tips!

Let’s try something new. I am going to file this under photography section, but perhaps later on we will create a separate category for what my friend Annika calls “self – help pieces that you had to write yourself because there were none on the Internet”.

The idea for this post was born one day when I became very upset with several photographic and career related websites that offer unlimited amount of articles to read but nothing helpful to implement. You browse through the features and then you proceed to the comments and everybody says “Wow, great job. Well done”. In the meantime, you are left wondering if there is another person out there being equally annoyed at the complete lack of actual content.

Here is an example. Light Stalking (a very popular photography site with over 60K followers on social media) feature about photo-critique communities online written by professional art photographer:

http://www.lightstalking.com/5-incredible-online-communities-to-get-genuine-feedback-on-your-photography

Yes, over a thousand words and the picks are Flickr and Google+ and the hosting website (LightStalking). I have used Flicker on and off for about a decade (way before it was purchased by Yahoo!) and never got a single comment. Goggle+ is identical to Facebook, you have to pester people, even on photography – related pages to get constructive criticism.

But it ain`t that bad yet! Try to read this fine piece penned by a marketing guru about news journalism (caution if you have a weak heart!)

http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20121203225228-107961-how-to-save-a-newspaper-stop-being-a-newspaper

Forget about newspapers being all about readers, news and bringing awareness to the community. Turning real life stories into profits in excel sheets is all the rage these days. At least according to dorks.

 

Articles similar to those quoted above are popping up everywhere like pumpkins before Halloween and taking place of real, user-friendly advice columns that Internet was once known for.

And that is why I feel so tempted to write my own advice piece.


Creating your own Tips &Tricks

Rita and I are gamers. We grew up reading Tips and Tricks columns and tried out thousands of cheats, secrets and combos. We can tell a good advice column by just looking at how it is written. It has to be straight to the point, rational and going into details. There is nothing more infuriating than scratching the surface, stating the obvious and leaving your reader thinking they know something, while in fact you have given them nothing. It’s rude and completely against net-etiquette. We may sound like Dear Abby in this point, but then again if you want respect from your reader, you’ve got to give it all you have. This little blog proves our words. Since our inception, we have tried to give our readers interesting concepts and stories and tell them about artists, food, places and events worth knowing about. We have now 13k hits on our counter and that goes without any big promotion. We just write and people enjoy and respond to it.

Come to think of it, Rita and I already created one post that meets all criteria of a good advice column. It was about using social media to promote a band and you can access it here:

https://cocamidemea.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/john-brittany-crowd-funding-done-right/

It was meant to be a “one stop post” for those who considered a stint with social media and crowd sourcing to collect money for their own artistic (musical?) project. It went very well with the readers; we have received a positive feedback and a lot of attention. So, perhaps it wouldn’t be all so bad to try again, this time about something I really care about: photography.

Your nearest bank

Your nearest bank

Photographer and bank

I know what you will say – why not write something about exposure or taking photos in particular conditions, or where one should go to receive a constructive critique. Those are very important topics but there is one, perhaps even more important factor to being a photographer than technical merits and being recognized for your work. It is what it means to be a photographer.

What I am going to write below can be also applied to other professions, or even perhaps to ones personal life, so you are free to use this article as a point of reference in case of you will find yourself in similar conditions.

Professional or amateur, once you venture beyond the basics of photography you will notice one thing: equipment costs and sometimes it feels so expensive that is out of your reach. And new cameras or lenses or gadgets appear on a regular basis so you have to upgrade, upgrade and upgrade. Cables, cards, bags, tripods, books – whatever additional gear you can think of – costs as well. You also travel a lot more often than other folks: be it on a local or international level. So more expanses: clothes, shoes, backpacks, hotels, food, tickets, perhaps a car and petrol.

If you are a studio based photographer, things are even more complicated. You need lighting; you need backdrops, soft-boxes and oh, a venue.

Of course you can be inventive, buy second hand gear, rent out, travel light and on budget. Those things can be arranged, but still, no matter how creative you get in this department, sooner or later you will find yourself thinking: where do I get money for all this and next thing you are on a way to the bank.

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing bad about used gear or a shoe-string budget. It’s just not everybody’s way to do things, sometimes you simply want to have the gear in a perfect condition. However, it never hurts a photographer to have several options at hand. So if you are in need to arrange something here are two links that may come in a perfect moment:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/173777076106733/

Photo X-Change is a Facebook group set up by the Guild of Photographers in the UK for all your gear needs: selling, buying, exchanging. It grew large recently and you may meet people from most Commonwealth countries posting there. Probably one of the best places I know to buy equipment from: you are among other enthusiasts who know how to take care of the things and you may find some gems in the process.

Photo X-change Facebook group

Photo X-change Facebook group

http://www.lightstalkers.org/

LightStalkers is the oldest forum for travellers, photojournalists, photographers and adventurers online and has a big community of professionals hanging around. It doesn’t matter if you just want to travel somewhere off road, if you are a war correspondent or a budding journo – this community will be probably you first stop how to prepare yourself for life on the road with a camera as your best friend. You can network, find information about scholarships and grants and even receive critique on your work. If it requires invitation (it used to) just let me know, I will send you an invite, I have been a member of this forum since 2006 and you cannot find a better spot.

LightStalkers community

LightStalkers community

Questions, questions or what to ask to get what you want.

Banking in general is difficult for many people, less alone banking with a purpose. By purpose I mean that you go to a financial institution and deal with them because you want to use their offer to get yourself closer to your goal. It may be a small loan for equipment, easy and accessible banking while you travel or even a long time project like buying a studio or even a house.

To find yourself a right financial partner you have to ask tons of questions and read small print on every page. It’s good to keep a list of questions that will make it easier for you to decide.

Let us start with the most common issue – looking for a right banking account. It is not only crucial to obtain loan in the longer run, but without access to your money on the travels, you may face many unnecessary obstacles. Just one thing to be cleared here: if you plan to travel somewhere off beaten track or straight dangerous, please carry two bags: one with your clothes and equipment and the other with documents (and copies of documents), medicines and enough of cash in local currency to survive for a week (or preferably equivalent of 1000 EUR). In case of emergency, you just go for the grab bag and maybe sleeping bag and that’s it. You leave everything else behind, even the gear. If you travel in rather normal circumstances, you may prefer to keep less cash on yourself and most of it in the bank.

Money maker

Money maker

Bank accounts are also helpful if you run a business or even just earn with photography from time to time.

Each bank has their own terms and conditions, if you visit more than one bank, it is easy to be utterly confused!

So what to ask when opening a bank account:

–          What are conditions for a normal (“savings”) account and business account? – they tend to differ, it’s good to know!

–          What is the interest rate on the bank account? – it may come handy for business accounts.

–          What are the monthly fees for my account?

–          What annual fees there are?

–          Is there a tax that I have to pay at the end of fiscal year (“withholding tax”)?

–          Does that particular account come with online banking?

–          Do I get an ATM card?

–          Do I get a credit /debit card as well?

–          Do I get a check book?

–          Do I get travel cheques?

–          How long it will take to have the card/check book/travel cheques issued?

–          Is my debit/credit card international? – it must be if you want to use it abroad.

–          Do I pay any fees if I use an ATM of a different bank locally? – sometimes you will pay a % of the amount that you withdraw, if the banks  don’t have an agreement.

–          If I use my ATM/debit/credit cars abroad what are charges per transaction? – they may be as much as 3% per transaction, so it may affect how many times you use the ATM abroad. Even if the ATM belongs to your own bank.

–          What are the charges per transaction if a use an ATM that belongs to a different bank? – please note that in such occurrence you pay double: for withdrawing abroad and for using a different bank. It can come to 4-5 % of the amount you withdraw, so it’s important to have more on the balance than you plan to spend.

–          What are the exchange rates in the country where I plan to travel – good idea is to check with the bank a week before you travel to your destination.

–          If my card gets stolen or my banking is compromised, what are the security procedures? – always keep your PINs separate from the cards and keep the number to customer care helpline in case you have to block the stolen cards right away. This is a matter of life and death especially when you are travelling.

–          What is the minimum amount that must remain on the account? – at times you cannot clear the account to zero.

–          If I want to close the account how do I proceed?

Cash machine

Cash machine

That covers the basics, as you can see it’s a long list already. But knowing the above can help you to plan your budget, the way you handle the money, where you keep them and simply helps you to be more organized about your financial needs in general.

After approx. 6 months with your bank, you may be suitable to receive a loan. It is entirely different beast than a bank account because you not just place your funds somewhere, you actually borrow the funds you don’t own, to purchase either something smaller (equipment for example) or larger (a property like a studio). And essentially you have to give it back, with interest that is.

So what is there to look for, no matter the amount you plan to borrow? Yes, let us run another set of questions J

–          Am I suitable to apply for a loan?

–          What are the requirements for a national and for the foreigner to receive a loan? – it is generally easier to take a loan in your country of origin, but you may find yourself living abroad, so the more you know, the better you are prepared.

–          What is the minimum amount I may take?

–          What is the maximum amount I may take?

–          Do I have to pay a premium (own input) and how much it would be? – this would be when you plan to buy a property

–          Does the loan require a guarantor or a security deposit from my side?

–          How high would be the monthly rates?

–          Are there any other fees I need to cover? – taxes, notary, architects, insurance – there is always some extra cost written in small print on the back of the last page;)

–          If I buy equipment – can the bank insure it as well?

–          Can I prolong the guaranty of the equipment with the loan? – it is possible to extend the guaranty up to 5 years with some banks.

–          If l pay off the loan before the time, will I get penalized? – you may in some instances, because each month you pay more than you borrowed, so bank will be at loss with the interest.

Wait for service

Wait for service

–          What happens if I lose my job?

–          What happens if I get sick or die and the loan is not paid off?

–          Can I sell the property/equipment when the loan is still not paid off? How it is handled?

–          If you take a loan with somebody else, please see into separation of assets in case of a business split or bankruptcy.

Again, this is just a tip of an iceberg but can be a good start; all depends on what exactly one looks to purchase with the help of a loan.

Photographers like artists in general are known to be rather bad with their finances, so it is of uttermost importance to try to secure oneself and constant learning is advised.

We truly hope this post helped you in one way or another.

If you have any tips that we overlooked, please drop us a line and we will update the blog accordingly!

Adios for now

M+R