Great interview with New Jersey photographer Steve Greer.
After building a library of lifestyle and tourism images and writing two books, Steve is experimenting with new types of photography projects and adapting to the new social media age. You can view his work online here: http://www.stevegreerphotography.com/
Please tell us about yourself and your photography background.
I began my photographic career, 12 years ago, obsessed with the natural world. I studied all forms of flora and fauna, witnessed many amazing sunrises, and chased all sorts of critters through the muck and mire. At the time the marketplace supported my efforts and it was gratifying to participate with the major natural history editorials. I wasn’t getting rich, but for me, I was living the dream.
When my wife and I decided to start a family, I wanted to stay closer to home to be a dad. I traveled less, my files became stagnant, and had nothing new to offer my clients. Usher in the digital revolution and later social media, and I knew it was time to reinvent myself or be cast aside like many of my peers.
I assume that was when you started using a website. What effects did that have on your photography career?
With the help of a great friend, I had a web presence and embraced the dawn of digital cameras. But being home for dinner meant branching out to create a broader range of images. During some lean years, I steadily built a library of tourism and lifestyle photography. Overtime I was slowly becoming known for having files for all things New Jersey.
Knowing that I wanted to stay relevant in the marketplace, I had to change. My website morphed again, and I began building a portfolio of portrait and conceptual images to show commercial clients. And I started writing a blog. I cannot stress enough how important the website, and it’s properly built infrastructure, was critical for photo buyers to find me.
I’m now dipping my toe in the murky waters of social media, and making plans to have a website dedicated to the commercial and lifestyle photos. And one site dedicated for my editorial regional content.
You’ve authored two books about New Jersey. How did you come about writing them, and how did you promote them?
Book publishers took notice of my New Jersey work and soon I was collaborating with various authors. This eventually led to signed deals with publishers to produce two solo hardcover pictorial books about the Garden State.
The publishers arranged for an exhaustive book signing tour, and TV and newspaper interviews. They handled all the press releases, and made sure the book was carried with all major retail bookstores as well as the independent booksellers and trade magazines. Both books exceeded expectations and went into a second press run.
How do you balance photography work between commercial and personal projects?
This type of scale only knows how to collect dust. Once a contract is signed with the client and pre-production begins, the planets stop revolving and all my thoughts and energy go into making awesome photos. Everything else just fades to the background until the first series of images appears on the screen. It’s such an adrenalin rush to bring these concepts to life. Once the project is complete, I begin to decompress and regain my peripheral vision of the world around me.
I know you’ve recently had problems with selling “Personal Use” image licenses on your site. Can you explain what happened and what actions you took?
Some people were taking advantage of my “friends and family” rate and downloading my photos for commercial gain. Some were artists who would use the photos to reproduce the images in different mediums and then sell the original, or make multiple prints. Others claimed ownership of the images to support their website and make ads for photo workshops and seminars.
In your experience, what mistakes are people usually making on their photography sites?
Get rid of flash. Make it logical to navigate the site. And make sure your images are spectacular, fill the screen, and match the target audience you want to appeal to.
What website metrics do you track and what informed decision do you take based on them?
I use Google Analytics to track traffic patterns, hits, and where folks are spending the most amount of time on my site. But I’m sure I’m not even close to tapping into this amazing program.
Looking ahead to the future, where do you see your photography work going?
I feel I have yet to reach my stride. I’m still searching, experimenting, with subjects, and lighting to define a unique style and content. But I know myself well enough, that as soon as I feel like I’ve arrived at this place, it won’t be enough.
Your favorite books?
Gandhi’s biography written by Louis Fischer and Elie Wiesel’s Night
Highest altitude reached (by foot)?
Does a bicycle count? I spent 2 months traveling through the Canadian Rocky Mountains on two wheels. Starting in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada at 2100ft, I pedaled a bicycle 1400 miles to Vancouver, BC and back, passing over Rogers Pass at 4300ft. It included several backcountry hikes on foot, including Peyto Lake from Bow Summit in Banff National Park, AB 7400ft.
“Chains of habit are too light to be felt until they are too heavy to be broken” Warren Buffett
What’s something you’re still actively learning or struggling with?
It’s still challenging for me to accept what I cannot change and to celebrate when I learn a new life lesson. I usually wait too long to rejoice after life’s road bumps become smooth again.
What is your ideal morning routine?
Building large suspension bridges at the park and repairing small electrical appliances free of charge. Then during a coffee break I like to participate in full-contact origami, raise prize-winning clams, compete in bullfights in San Juan, cliff dive in Sri Lanka, and compete in spelling bees at the Kremlin.