Gaining the attention of a publisher is tough. It takes time and patience. Landing images in a calendar is a real honor. Being asked to produce photos for multiple calendars year after year? Definitely an even greater honor.
For several years, I’ve worked with Welcome Books (www.welcomebooks.biz), providing images for both their Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley calendars. In 1994, I began making my travel photos available to calendar publishers—including Golden Turtle, Audubon, and The Museum of Natural History—and had my first image published in 1996. In 2000, I submitted work to Lonely Planet Images for stock.
A fortuitous decision between Welcome Books and the California Society America Automobile Association to publish a joint calendar led to the selection of seven of my images for the first “Hidden Napa Valley” calendar, including the cover image.
In 2004, when Welcome Books gained control of the project, they began featuring my images, exclusively.
Planning a calendar starts many months prior with a publisher’s decision to market certain calendar themes. We just debuted the “2006 Hidden Sonoma Valley” calendar. Development starts up to 17-months prior by mapping out image needs and delivery with the editor (see timeline box, below).
A systematic approach to shooting and submitting images is necessary, focusing on two major requirements: capturing scenery representative of each month and shooting to accommodate print space specs. The “Hidden” calendars feature two images per month: an A landscape, the large photo running above the fold and into the calendar page, plus a B winery property, a smaller photo in the calendar block section. I shoot both, plus the cover and centerfold.
Color is another important element, but it can be a challenge to get a good shot during a dull and gray December. I keep an eye on framing each scene to work within print page confines: the Napa and Sonoma calendars both feature up and down rectangular photos. I shoot with a Hasselblad, so I must consider how the publisher will crop the final image.
The right equipment is key to any project’s success. I bought my first Hasselblad, a 500c, in 1965. Today, I use six lenses, three bodies, and four backs. I like the 503cxi, which accommodates a mechanical flash, and I shoot with Fujifilm Velvia. I’ll use an assortment of lenses—50, 80, 120, 150 and 250mm—but stay primarily with the 50 and 120mm lenses for superior depth of field on wide-angle shots and closeups. On occasion I use neutral density filters and polarizers to cut the light, glare, and harsh shadows. A tobacco-color filter can be effective for warming skylines or certain areas of an image.
Producing a calendar at Welcome Books takes seven people: photographer, publisher, managing editor, art director, designer, assistant editor (who works on captions and text), plus a calendar director.
Work is done well in advance of a product hitting the book shelves. I email or FTP images to the New York office where they are scanned, cropped, and adjusted. Layout begins and basic copy is dropped in. Sales blads for the 2006 calendar were produced in October 2004, which means nearly all photos were due by then. This calendar is regionally distributed, with under 10,000 copies sent to wineries, hotels, tourism boards, gift shops, book and calendar stores, plus some online retailers. The 2006 calendars feature a complimentary poster/2007 calendar as a center spread.
Marketing and promotion start early. Blad mailings to catalogue accounts go in December, and then in-person presentations to all large accounts start. The publisher does significant telephone and email sales solicitation efforts and the team solicits trade magazines, such as Publisher’s Weekly, to feature products in calendar roundups. Websites such as bn.com are contacted so they can post the calendars on their websites. On occasion, I’ll do personal appearances to help sell the calendars.
According to Welcome Books editor Lena Tabori, “If we have an extraordinary creator and an extraordinary subject, the staff time taken to produce and manufacture an exquisite calendar makes the difference. While working with Wes on “Hidden Napa,” we met with a local grower in the valley, who signed on to do a new Mumm 2006 corporate calendar, featuring Wes’s images.”
There's always another image to shoot for a calendar...