I've been making a wall calendar featuring my photography for the last half-dozen years or so. Originally I had a small number printed and gave them as gifts to my clients. Last year I took another step by printing a couple of hundred copies and actively marketing them in various ways (more on that another day).
The whole exercise involves a bit of effort, and a bit of cost, but in my book it's well worth it, for several reasons – both artistic and commercial.
- Preparing a calendar gives me a project to work on over a long period. Constant photographic inspiration can be hard to come by unless you're travelling, but having a project in the back of my head all the time means I'm always on the lookout for possible subjects.
- It challenges me to more creative. I always come up with a theme for my calendars, which means I can't just pull together any random dozen 'decent' shots, and there isn't much temptation to delve into the back catalogue.
- It forces me to print some of my better images of the year. Everyone should do this but few people do. The reality is that our images are never completely safe – and they certainly don't have longevity – if they're only stored digitally.
In future posts I'll share the stories behind some of the images.
- It helps me share my work more effectively. Sharing our pictures is so easy now that cutting through is virtually impossible. And even if one of your pictures happens to get centre stage, its moment in the spotlight is likely to last a few days at most before the next big thing comes along. However, when someone has one of my calendars on their wall, they get to enjoy each month's image for a full month before turning over to the next one.
- It's a great form of advertising. As I moved from being a completely amateur photographer towards offering a professional service, the calendar has been an excellent way to remind people about what I'm doing. Many in my network know me for my writing first, photography second, and I need that to change over time. The bonus of a calendar, as opposed to a framed image, is that it is refreshed every month and so stays more visible. Many people write their appointments on it – no, not everyone is using a digital diary – so look at my work frequently.
- It's a great mid-range product. At a pre-Christmas market stall, for instance, I can sell greeting cards at around $4 each, framed prints at up to $300 each ... and my calendar for under $30. Guess which one ends up earning me the best return?
Preparing a calendar doesn't need to be a huge amount of work. For non-commercial use, there are countless online photo product services that include calendars, in various formats, amongst their offerings. They all use some form of template system so you don't need to buy or learn any expensive software in order to get a good result.
For the longer print runs I do now, I've found it better to prepare a file in InDesign using a calendar template as a starting point – a process that has a decent learning curve, though of course you could use a graphic designer to do this for you. I then use an offset printer which reduces the unit price. That's all a bit more involved but worth it if you want to sell your product.
My 2017 calendar is now available for pre-order, with stock due by mid-November. Contact me if you have any questions about how I prepare my calendars.