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

January 8, 2012 Publishing 11 Comments

Written by: Charlie Borland

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.

Related Posts: Why Fitness matters to Outdoor Photographers by Robert Rodriguez Jr.

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Currently there are "11 comments" on this Article:

  1. […] Pro Nature Photographer, a great resource on the business of nature photography. I recently wrote a guest post for them about how and why I self publish a yearly calendar. For those of you interested in doing […]

  2. Yardstick says:

    Thanks for the article, Robert. Just as a point of interest, how many calendars did you have printed for 2012? Also, if you don’t mind, can you talk a little bit about the cost structure and pricing of your calendar (i.e., unit cost versus selling price, etc.)? I understand that this is not necessarily always a money making venture, but if it’s worth doing, you should reap some kind of profit. :)

  3. Great questions – I usually go with about 500 calendars, which winds up running about $2000 depending on the printer. The key to making it work economically is having some kind of distribution and marketing system in place. While local shops and galleries help, the key for me has been selling to past customers that I reach through my newsletter, and social media, especially Facebook. Develop trust and confidence online, and you can sell – but it takes time and patience. I sell around 200-250 for $19.95 each, the rest I use for marketing and gifts – works well for me. (The first year I only sold 25!)

    Hope that helps, Robert

  4. Yardstick says:

    Thank you, Robert!

  5. I find Robert’s information solid here and on his blog. Enjoyed the read.

  6. Good stuff I’ve bookmarked this in Digg under “Robert Rodriguez Jr. Self Publishes a Calendar and Tells Us How | Pro Nature Photographer”. So hopefully our friends can give you a visit. Kudos for content!

  7. Yvonne says:

    thank you for a very informative article :D

  8. Mila says:

    Hi Robert,
    You mentioned the use of quotes to go with your images. What have you discovered as far as copyright law when using short quotes (giving credit to the author) in a self published calendar?
    Thanks for the informative article!

  9. Mila – As far as my research shows, so long as you give proper credit for the author of the quote, you’re fine. thanks for the great question!


  10. Latoya Smith says:

    Over the years I’ve ordered dozens of calendars that were printed with less than expected quality. Last year my company printed some calendars with PCA Delta in Pompano Beach FL, and they were great. I’ve been printing with them ever since. If you need calendars printed go to http://www.pcadeltaprinting.com/ I strongly recommend them.

  11. Are you still interested in finding the ideal calendar making tool for self-publisher on the internet? Please have a look at http://www.calvendo.de (it’s a German website, but there is an English language version). With CALVENDO you not only share and publish the calendars you make with your own photos, graphic art and writing: You actually sell them in the international book market. Regards, Hans

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