Robert Rodriguez Jr. Self Publishes a Calendar and Tells Us How

For the past 5 years I have produced a yearly calendar of my landscape photography, and apart from being commercially successful, is also one of my best marketing tools. My experience has shown me a successful calendar needs three things: compelling images, a good design and layout, and a good dosage of marketing.

The first step in making a calendar of course is choosing the images. I try to select from images I’ve made during the past year or so, making sure I’m not repeating any from past calendars. I create a collection for each calendar year in Lightroom, and this makes organization and processing a breeze. Once I select the images, I make virtual copies and place them into the collection (ie. Cal 2012), this way if I crop or otherwise modify them specifically for the calendar, I am not modifying my original RAW files.

I look for images that are appropriate for each month and season, and this seems to create a natural flow and continuity to the calendar that might not exist if the images were chosen at random. Because I also include 12 inspirational quotes, I may choose an image specifically because it adds a strong visual component to a particular quote.Once I have all 13 images selected, I bring my wife (and business partner) into the process and see if she has any suggestions. Often as photographers, we are too close to our work to be objective, and a second set of eyes that you trust can be invaluable.

I then export the images as 8-bit tiff files into Photoshop and convert them to CMYK, making any adjustments in the process for color and contrast. This is necessary if you are going to print using a commercial offset printing press.

I then layout the calendar using Adobe Indesign CS 5.5. I use a standard calendar template that you can find online, then modify it heavily to create my own look and feel that matches my other products (notecards, posters, books, etc). This is where a consistent brand image for your business really helps to promote and market you and your photography.

Once the design is complete, I export it as a print ready PDF and upload it to my printer. I’ve used several printers in the past, and this year I used Copy Craft Printers based in Texas. In general I choose a printer that has competitive prices, offers hard copy proofs (to ensure correct colors) and has good customer service, and of course a good reputation. I have a few friends who are graphic designers, and they always have good recommendations for online and local printers.

Unless you are doing a very small run of calendars (50 or less), I do not recommend doing it yourself using an ink-jet printer. The cost, time, and labor involved is not worth it in the long run, especially if you plan to sell your calendar.

I sell my calendars on my website, locally in several shops and galleries, and market it extensively through newsletters, social media, and of course word of mouth. I also use the calendars as a marketing tool, sending them to vendors, select customers, and those who have helped me in some way or another throughout the year. They are always appreciated, and karma has a way of surprising you when you least expect it.

I hope this gives you a good idea of the benefits and challenges of producing your own calendar. You can purchase a copy of my calendar on my website.

If you have any thoughts please leave a comment.

Robert Rodriguez Jr is an award winning professional landscape photographer specializing in landscapes of the Hudson Valley, Adirondacks, and New England. Robert graduated from the Berklee College of Music and was a music producer for 15 years before transitioning to landscape photography. His images have appeared in numerous publications including the NY Times, and his work has been used by many non-profit organizations including the Mohonk Preserve, and Audubon Society. His photography is also featured extensively by Scenic Hudson, a non-profit organization dedicated to land and nature preservation in the Hudson Valley. In addition, he has edited and produced documentary films highlighting the natural beauty of the region and produces a video podcast – Beyond the Lens. Robert conducts photography workshops and seminars in the region on a regular basis, and has been an invited speaker to many industry associations. Visit his website at http://robertrodriguezjr.com.

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