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126 of 130 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book would be better titled "Efficient Track Photography" or perhaps "DEAL to a Successful Photography Business" if they didn't sound stupid and if the second one wouldn't get they author sued. He's also building a brand around the "Fast Track" name. No mistake, his method can get you where you want to go quicker by showing you how to avoid spending time doing things that get in the way.

What Mr. Sanders does, in a down to earth, relates-well-to-people way is to divide the photo market into two classes of image makers, Freelancers and Signature Branders. He explains why they are different, what makes someone better at being one or the other, and how to best leverage your innate skills, abilities, interests, and talents to succeed in that space. He even provides an on-line tool for evaluation yourself and deciding which path is better suited to you.

This book contains absolutely no technical instruction ("When shooting into the sun..."). There are references to useful resources for finding out real world solutions and getting real world employment, like Pictage and Grad Images, scattered throughout the book.

If you're looking for instruction on how to take pictures the try Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera (Updated Edition). If you want to know how to maybe start making (more) money once you do then this book is a good place to start.

Funny thing is, depending on your path and personal style, knowing how to take a good picture may not even be the most important thing.

The online test, a "$15 value" that comes free with the book provides some interesting insights into your personality as related to your photographic endeavors. It asks 150 multiple choice questions and produces a 6-page report that analyzes 14 aspects of "you" and provides a description of how you fared with each area and recommendations on how to handle any issues. My strong recommendation would be that you take the test before reading the book. I say that for a couple of reasons. If you wait until after you read the book to take the test (what I did) there's a risk you might recognize how questions asked relate to "bad" traits and skew the results. (Me Grumpy... Never!) Also, you are allowed to retake the test, the author even recommends it. So, you can always take the test a second time, after completing the book.

BTW, I feel that honest, effective reviews can take the place of first-hand experiences that are lacking in online shopping. I've always appreciated the help I've received from other reviewers and work hard to return the favor as best as I can. I hope you found this review helpful and if there was anything you thought was lacking or unclear leave a comment and I'll do what I can to fix it.
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41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
TOP 100 REVIEWERon June 2, 2010
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The budding professional photographer has a library of photography-related topics available in book form: technical ("Understanding Exposure"), business ("Best Business Practices for Photographers"), inspiration (name your favorite photographer coffee book), and now motivational ("Fast Track Photographer").

Honestly, if you've ever been to a photography workshop or seminar, you soon find that they are more about motivation than they are about sustainable learning. The same applies to this book: Mr. Sanders' book covers all the usual motivational subjects (be a brand, be unique, build your business from you and not a product like a photograph) and cheerleading without you needing to book a single hotel room at a workshop. In doing so, other topics such as inspiration and business lightly get glossed over as well. But that is also the problem - it's a slim book and it's mostly about using his evaluation test to determine how to develop the 'you' in the photographer. That means there is a lot of rhetoric and not as much meat. I don't know how much is really relevant since the people he uses as inspiration examples all established themselves before the digital revolution took off in the last two years. Certainly, they did not have to compete in such a saturated market.

Those with a business or marketing degree will likely already understand and utilize the concepts. For everyone else, Sanders glosses over a few hard marketing and branding topics in a very easy and friendly manner without all the business double speak. Since so many are starting businesses without even a small fundamental understanding of sound marketing and business practices, there is a strong need for this book in those photographers' libraries. It would be nice if more people realized that aping a professional will never yield the same results as developing their own innate talent.

Mr. Sanders says it early in the book: starting a business is easy and many are doing it; the only way to not have competition from them is to be completely separate and unique - to be a brand unto yourself. Of course, that doesn't really help you get from starting point A of newbie photographer to ending point B of being a unique distinct desirable brand (nor how to get your brand out to potential clients). What I thought the book missed is that being your own brand (or the most amazing photographer ever) doesn't translate into clients. So, you can follow the book and create a YOU brand, being personable and charming, but still be invisible to potential clients unless you do some hard connecting and marketing.

The thing I liked most about the book is that it will enlighten those who don't realize they have no idea what they are doing and will be eaten alive by those who do. You can't compete on price/product - you can only compete by being uniquely you. It is nearly impossible to sustain a business on selling photographs; what you have to learn to do is sell an experience by you.

I'm not sure where the 'fast track' comes in other than that he would like to encourage people not to make the common mistakes that prevent successful businesses. It's going to be a long track either way :)
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 17, 2010
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I'm still in the process of reading and digesting this book and while I'm pretty wary of "career" books (most of them are written by people who have never actually done what they're talking about) Dane Sanders is actually a very talented wedding and portrait photographer and so he's succeeded at what he's writing about. (Interestingly, by the way, he didn't become a photographer until he was 35.). Also, I write books about photography and have been a photographer for about 40 years, so usually anyone promising a "fast track" to a profitable photo career is either a huckster or, again, someone who has never done it for a living. But Sanders is not a huckster and he does do it for a living--so again, there is some authority behind the book. Still, being a photographer is tough enough, making a career out of it is much tougher so when I come across a photo-career book, I tend to look at it askance. What I'm trying to say is that I approached the book with a fair degree of skepticism.

But one of the points that Sanders makes in the book (Chapter 2: "The Power of Choosing Your Own Adventure"), and the one that caused me to give him more credence as someone who had something very worthwhile to say, was his very good advice to enhance the things that you are already good at rather than trying to fix all of the things you're not that good at doing. This is such fantastic (and rarely offered) advice. For example, I'm a travel photographer by trade and I realized, after a lot of frustrating years of trying to be all things to all clients, that what I was good at was revealing the soul of a place--period. (No doubt because I love to travel so much.) I'm not a wedding photographer, I'm not a very good portrait photographer, I'm not a great corporate photographer (don't tell my corporate clients that), but I am very good at landing in a far-off place and coming home with good photos of that place. So Sander's advice is to stop trying to get better at all the things you may not be that good at (you might need a second lifetime to get through that anyway--though it certainly can't hurt to get better at those things) but to show off and revel in the things that you are really good at doing. Accentuate the positive. The point is, I think, is that there is a *reason* you're good at the things you excel at--because you love to do those things.

That actually goes to a significant point that Sanders makes time and time again in the book: be who you are. It's *you* that you are ultimately selling, not photography. This is another very valid point that is often ignored in the attempt to build your career from your portfolio instead of your personality. In my books, for example, I talk as much about my life and my own fears and failures, as I do about f/stops and shutter speeds. And when people review my books, the one thing they point at over and over is the warmth of the writing and the humanity (and the lame humor). I can teach you to take a good technical photograph in half a day, but I can never teach you how to blend in with another culture or to make friends with people when there is a language barrier--that has to come from you. It's in you, you just have to let it out. And Sanders gives a lot of advice (and provides a good argument) for letting your personality shine through as you try to build a career. You might resist this advice and still think you build a career on having a studio full of equipment and a great and diverse portfolio--but clients could care less. They want to know that they can trust you, that they like you and that you are human enough to understand what it is they are trying to do in their business.

As I said, I'm still reading the book and I'm at the point now where he is talking more about assessing who you really are and how you can apply that to building a career. The book tends to have a few too many fictional examples for my taste, but they're short and not enough to put me off and they tend to make good points. Also, the book is a big new-agey for me (hey, the author is from California!), but again, the info is worthwhile and I like that he writes from his own perspective rather than trying to write yet one more plastic book without a human voice. I don't know Sanders, by the way, have never spoken to him. But I think that if you're seriously thinking of starting a photo career, or career-changing, you will get an interesting perspective from this book, as well as a good outline for figuring out just who you should be as a photographer.

I'll finish this review when I finish the book--but right now I'd say for the few bucks it costs, it's a good investment (or ask your library to buy the book). You still have to work on mastering camera skills and that takes many years regardless of what cameras you own, but you also have to know where you want to head if you ever expect to get there. [...]
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2012
This book is not bad, but if you buy the Kindle version, you will need to buy a $20.00 code to use the pDNA test that the book is largely based on. If you buy the print book, the code is included (hooray Digi-flat era).

I read up to chapter 3 and then realized, in order for this book to mean anything, I would have to fork over another $20.00 for a test with dubious credibility. I returned the book for a refund.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2010
I follow the author of this book online in other social outlets and find that he has a lot of good ideas and information but sadly I just did not gain much from reading this book. I felt like I was being sold on some idea through out the entire book w/o ever quite getting to it. I kept thinking "okay what is this great plan to put me on the fast track?" and never did quite discover what it really was.

I think the point of this book is mainly to take the pDNA test (which is essentially free if you buy the book, since the book contains a code). Is the pDNA test valuable? Well, it really just depends on where you are with photography and your career in photography. If you are having a hard time deciding what direction to go it is excellent for taking stock in where you are right now and your particular strengths and weaknesses. If you have a semi solid direction of where you want to go or you're quite comfortable with where you are (and if you are, you probably aren't likely to pick up this book in all honesty) then there isn't a ton to gain from it. Maybe an AHA moment here or there of something you hadn't thought about too deeply.

The book basically keeps reminding you that as a photographer, who you are determines where you are going to go with your art and career. There is no master plan except embracing who you are and using your unique talents to further your career in the field. It is kind of a self help esteem boosting book for photographers with a go get 'em attitude. Inspiring, but not exactly what I was hoping for when I actually picked up the book.

I would recommend it to people who are interested in a photography business but have absolutely no idea what direction they would go with it.

The book did contain some useful information in the forum of links/other resources. Sander's promoted his own forums in the book multiple times but I was disappointed to find that they too require a subscription fee.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The essential advice in this book is excellent and undeniable: photography is as much about creating a unique experience for your customer as it is about creating images. The useful self-test could help the aspiring business-owner in any field get a head start on creating the kind of business where their own personality informs the kind of business they start.
Sanders' essential revelation is that photography is a hospitality business: the photographer's job is to create an experience. That experience includes projecting one's own personal style in an attractive, constructive way.
Fast Track has two drawbacks. One is that it was written before the digital marketplace changed everything. The photographer building her own brand will find a lot more competition and a much more complex world. The photographer hoping to work for someone else will find more competition and lower pay.
The other is that it is extremely wordy with lots of filler. Do you really need a seperate table to tell you that the term 'experience' means one's experience as a photographer?
I'm sure that a lot of careers will be boosted by this book, and it would have been a Faster Track if it had also been a shorter one.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon June 20, 2010
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
A common definition of a "professional" is stated to be someone who earns money from their work. In photography this means that the pro photographer is able to derive some form of income from selling their images. And it is to the pro photographer wanna be that Dane Sanders has aimed "Fast Track Photographer."

Don't expect this book to teach you about photography. That's not its intent. It is designed to help pave the path from amateur to pro photographer. And here it only marginally succeeds due to the manner in which it is written and the information that it delivers.

Candidly, outside of perhaps some idle curiosity, Sander's book will hold little interest for the amateur photographer unless they intend to make the jump to a pro. In addition, much of the information contained in the book is either common sense or rather dry.

Take for example Sander's comment on the value of a photographer made repeatedly throughout the book. "Your core value as a photographer does not come solely from the photography you create. It comes from the photographer that you are."

Whether that is a gem of wisdom or simply double-speak I will leave up to you. For me, the book did offer some useful information, but it was not delivered in a manner that held my attention. I found Sander's writing style to be dry, reading more like a college text book, and sadly devoid of whit and humor.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2010
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Like many people considering this book, I'm an amateur photographer who found myself getting more serious. People have made favorable comments about my shots. Can I take it farther? Along comes this book by Dane Sanders.

I see it as two books. One part I liked a lot, and the other I flipped through as quickly as possible. The best part presents a number of stark choices regarding a career in photography. A central tenet is taken directly from Tom Friedman's The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-first Century. The photography business is global. There are few structural obstacles between any talented photographer and a sustainable market. As Sanders shows, this is a two-edged sword. There are many sorts of ways into the business, packaged (a little too conveniently) as the 'Signature Brand Photographer' and the 'Freelance Photographer'.

Prospective photographers are rarely aware of the full range of personal and business skills required to succeed. Photographic talent is only a small part of the equation. Marketing, bookkeeping, hygiene, and interpersonal skills are all key. The rapidly-changing nature of the business--driven by the web--requires a focused and evolving set of skills. Sanders gives a number of scenarios which help the reader to think it through. A core of this approach is an online evaluation called pDNA. The book contains a passcode which allows the reader to take the test once at no additional charge. Of course, it is recommended that the test be taken yearly. As you might suspect, subsequent tests are not free.

This brings me to the other part of the book. If you've spent any time at all in a large corporate environment, you're familiar with the range of evaluation tests and trademarked programs which are available to help the corporation evaluate talent. Most have little value, other than the money they put into the pockets of program providers. This book has some of that flavor. There's no important point without its own acronym. Most of the categories are just a bit too tidy for me. The pDNA test itself feels like a zillion other evaluations, with little real psychological science behind it. It can feel a little too much like a workshop you get dragged into by your boss. I will readily admit that some people like to work that way; for them this book is a 100% success. I'm a bit more skeptical about terminology that feels faddish.

In spite of my concerns, I think it's a book worth reading if you're considering a career in photography. The author presents a number of important points in a way that can't be glossed over. Regardless of terminology, they're questions that will come up quickly.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
One of the most popular self-helps books for job-seekers has been "What Color is Your Parachute." This updated version of "Fast Track Photographer" takes the same approach aimed at professional photographers. The emphasis is upon examining what your photography related business skills are and what you want to achieve, either before selecting photography as a career or when redirecting your career after starting out.

The book suggests that there is an important choice the photographer must make in selecting a career direction: take assignments from someone else (what the author calls "freelance") or seek assignments for oneself (which the author calls "Signature Brand Photography"). To aid in achieving that goal, the author provides access to an on-line self-assessment of one-hundred and fifty questions, which he calls the "pDNA" (photographer, discovery, negotiation, activation) that outputs a report that discusses one's personality and skills. The book then goes on to show how the reader's personality and skills are related to the choice between working for someone or being your own boss. The book discusses the pros and cons of each mode, and furnishes stories about photographers, including the author, who were faced with the choice. There are some other bits of business advice, like telling the photographer to farm out work that is not related to the essential parts of one's job. The author emphasizes that today's photographer must provide value to his or her boss or client, and inveighs against becoming a "grumpy", that is, a complainer about the system rather than one who accepts the way things are and goes about achieving his or her goals. There is little other discussion of what is required of a professional photographer. The author also has a web-site that includes forums related to the subject of his book, but as near as I could tell, access to the relevant forums required an additional fee and I did not explore the forums.

I suppose that for some aspiring professional photographers, making the choice between freelance and signature brand photographer is really important. However both of the patterns that the author describes seemed aimed at people who aspire to be event or studio photographers, rather than those who aim at other types of photography careers, like a press or fine-arts photography. On the other hand, I would agree with the author that knowing one's skills and personality and selecting goals are essential for a successful career, in photography or otherwise.

Unfortunately, Sanders uses words that he defines in a special way that may confuse readers. For example even the words in the title "fast track" suggest that he is going to explain how to become successful quickly, even though, as far as I can tell, that's not his goal. Even the words "free lance" normally mean not employed by one company. Even Signature Brand photographers are free lancers. Also, the continual use of buzz words like value and brand made me feel like I was listening to a management motivational speaker.

If you are considering a career in photography and don't feel you have an adequate assessment of yourself or some idea of where you want to head in your career, this book may prove useful to you. If self-knowledge and goals are not a problem for you, you might be better off reading about other aspects of professional photography.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon September 24, 2010
Format: PaperbackVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
If you are dreaming of turning your love of photography into a career, then you should definitely read this book. The author writes that if you want to make it professionally, you need to embrace who you are, not who you wished or think you should be. Your definition of yourself as a professional photographer establishes the ultimate end of what you are hoping to achieve and how you are going to accomplish it. To that end, the author has put together a well thought-out and easy to read book to help an aspiring photographer to self-reflect to determine what type of photographer they want to be and what that career will look like for them.

The book is broken down into eleven chapters which explain:
1. The current state of the photographer industry
2. An explanation of the fast track system
3. An introduction to the Photographer DNA Assessment Tool which is available online for free with a code
in the book or for cost if you want more than one
4. The author applies the test results to his own story as an example,
5. A guide for self reflection on the part of the reader to help you to paint a picture of your life as a
photographic professional
6. A guide of your test results
7 and 8. The life of a signature photographer or of a freelance photographer to help the reader to understand
each path.
9. The universal concerns that you will face as a professional photographer
10. Challenging thoughts and encouragement
11. Guide to overcoming your self-imposed obstacles to becoming a professional photographer

As a keen photographer, I found the book to be very helpful. Some things were more valuable than others, but the real strength of the book is that the author uses his experience to help the reader to focus their attention inward to try to figure out what type of photographer they want to be. A key part of this is the Photographer DNA Assessment Tool which is a self assessment that you can take on a website for free using the code in each copy of the book. The tests and self assessments which the book presents are not original in nature, but are special in that they are customized for a photographer. The author draws on his wealth of experience and stories about the careers of other photographers to give examples and advice about what the possible career paths as a professional photographer might hold for you. The author does not try to tell you what to do or exactly what your test results mean for you. He does give you examples of what the results have meant for him and for others, but leaves it up to the reader to determine their own course. The reader is urged to put down the book and to spend time interpreting the results. I think that the value of the book depends on the reader's willingness to pause reading to work on the self reflections and exercises before continuing reading again. The more time that is spent assessing strengths and goals, the more valuable the exercise will be.

One point made in the book that I thought had a lot of value was that the heart of your business concept should revolve around the things you both love to do and can do better than anyone else. This means outsourcing anything "generic" that you do as part of your business and build on anything that is uniquely "you". For example, I enjoy working with my photographs in Photoshop, but if I were to become a signature photographer and shooting thousands of photographs then post-processing should be outsourced so that I can concentrate on the core which is me as a photographer. When someone hires a signature brand photographer, it's the person holding the camera that they are hiring and that is where the emphasis should lie. I don't think that this is practical for someone starting out as a professional photographer, but it is something to strive for in the future. Again it comes down to focusing on your core strengths and having the drive to see your dreams through.

And that is exactly what the last chapter of the book is about: overcoming the obstacles that one can put in front of oneself to becoming the photographer that one can be. As with the other parts of the book, the author gives good advice punctuated with examples from his own experience. The author points to a key obstacle in his own career which is chaos in his life. Putting out fires can take more of his time than concentrating on his goals if he were to let that happen. Key to overcoming the obstacles is a vision for the change, dissatisfaction with the way things are and a plan forward. Very helpful advice not just for becoming a professional photographer, but for any challenge in your life.

I picked up this book unsure of where it was going to go and despite my early skepticism, I was really pleased with the advice the book contains. Overall, I highly recommend this book if you are even dreaming of becoming a professional photographer.
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