Field Report:

The Non-Glamorous Side of Photography

Photography Mentors, Choose Them Wisely

My blog post “Photography Mentors, Choose Them Wisely” has been published on Black Star Rising.

March 29, 2012 Posted by | Photographers, rants, Web | , , , | 9 Comments

The Secret to Social Media for Photographers

I have written a lot about social media on this blog not only because most marketers are talking about it but because many photographers have expressed doubts about it. The truth is that social media is integral to most online marketing efforts these days. There are no rules which is probably what scares photographers the most but look at all the photographers who have become known as subject matter experts in the past several years. How many of them were widely known before the internet? The barriers to entry in order to get published in the past was determined by print publishers but now they don’t nearly wield as much power in the past and there are so many more opportunities to make a name for yourself. Take this blog post for instance. Sure I could have pitched this article to PDN or a mainstream business publication and pray that I get a heavily-edited version published months later but instead you get to read the original version here several days after I wrote it.

When I started this blog, my intent was to share some of the things I’ve learned in marketing to photographers that might not have a background in business. My photo blog wasn’t really an appropriate place to talk business since the blog is meant to highlight my photography so I created this blog as sort of a business information archive that I could direct photographers to if they had questions. It takes some time to write the articles for the blog but the benefit to me is that it helps to establish some credibility with my target audience and open up additional opportunities to get my name out there that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

I bring this up because photographers have traditionally written for magazines and authored photo books for the same purpose; to get their name out there, build their reputation and leverage that reputation to monetize other products and services. Lets face it, for most people, the pay for writing magazine articles and books doesn’t really justify the time incurred for developing the query, negotiations with the publisher, development of the article, re-editing and dealing with the accounting department of the publisher. Their real intent is to develop a brand around their name. Legendary nature photographer, Art Wolfe, has even been quoted as saying that he has done 60-something books but they don’t earn him much money and are basically a break-even deal but what being so prolific does for him is keep his name out there. Another example is that there are some well-known wedding photographers that shoot weddings for the same purpose. Shoot a few select weddings every year, broadcast how cool they are online then spend the rest of the year pushing their products and services onto other photographers because they have realized there is more earning potential to marketing to other photographers than in the actual art of photography.

So it’s true. Unless you have a plan for leveraging your reputation, publishing via traditional print or social media is merely for vanity. It doesn’t pay well on the surface but if you have a plan and stick to it then social media much like print publishing in the past can be your keys to the kingdom. That is the secret to social media for photographers.

February 22, 2011 Posted by | Marketing, Web | , , , , , | 4 Comments

Creative Industry Evolution and Extinction

I found this Fast Company article titled, Mayhem on Madison Avenue, to be a fascinating read. As a former ad industry creative, this really came as no surprise to me as I had realized that most of the creatives at the ad agency I worked several years ago had no idea about digital much less had experience with blogging, SEO, social media, etc…  Such was the case at the other places I worked at following that agency. The sad part was that no one figured their career path might be going extinct. Well that day is has already arrived according to this article.

Sue, the T-Rex at the Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois

Sue, the T-Rex at the Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois

The article cites agencies struggling to price work in the digital era because clients want more work but are willing to pay less for the work. Various business models have popped up in the meantime including crowd-sourcing ad creative. The “race to the bottom” if you will. Ten years ago when all media spend was limited to print, broadcast and radio it was easy to work in the industry because reaching people was rather formulaic and several large holding companies owned all the advertising spend. No longer. There are a million different ways to reach the consumer now and for the consumer to receive content. “Competition” is popping up in all sorts of places that never existed previously.

Sound familiar? Yes. The photography industry has already been heading down this path for ten years now as you already know. You can literally swap out the words ad agency for Getty / Corbis and photographers and write the same story.

Having only been a photographer during the internet-era, however, I feel there has never been a more exciting time to be a creative person because of all these reasons. My photography website for example reaches tens of thousands of visitors per month and I have about 1,000 more people that I reach on a daily basis via the social media sites I’m on. Had the internet not been around when I started photography, I probably never would have even bothered to try sharing my work much less talk about it because what audience would I have – family, local camera club, a stock photo agent, and a few clients? There’s not a lot of people where I live that are into outdoors and the type of photography I do.

Had this been 15 years ago, I’d probably have a few photos hanging on display in the local library, setting up a booth at weekend farmer’s markets and art fairs, be on the phone all day cold-calling and maybe consider running some print ads in advertising award annuals with no guarantee of success but a lot of money out of my pocket. But this is 2010 and here are two sites I have had an opportunity to be featured on in the past week:

Pro Nature Photographer – a website about the business of nature photography written by long-time industry vet, Charlie Borland.

The Rogue’s Gallery – an art website for current and former ad industry professionals curated by Steffan Postaer (ad god and creator of the Altoids ad campaign).

Who knows if I’ll get any direct benefit from getting my work on these sites but I know who reads these sites and those are the types of people I’m looking to reach. When you simplify the new technology down to that level, basic marketing principles have not changed at all. It is actually easier than ever to reach people and obtain any sort of metric you could imagine that was never available previously. You can cut it up so many different ways from checking referrer sites in your web analytics and tying that to geographic data, to seeing who comments on the sites, to which organic search terms people found your site via the search engines, to seeing Quantcast demographic info about any site out there. Any webmaster in the world can create a media kit and sell to advertisers now. You could create a media kit so detailed that it would bore even the most anal media buyer. This is powerful stuff at our disposal.

To conclude, there are some ad execs who get it though just like there are some photographers who get it.

December 6, 2010 Posted by | Marketing, Photo Business, rants, Technology, Web | , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Methods of Using Social Media Networks to Promote your Photography Business

Social media has become a very popular method to promote business. The benefit of using social media networks is when you do-it-yourself it does not cost a lot of money for your promotions. So where do your start? Following are five methods to help you develop your marketing campaign on social media networks.

1. Blogging: Blogs are very easy to create and can be as effective as a website. Several platforms offer free blogs. Two of the most popular are WordPress and Blogger. Both offer plenty of plugins and themes that will make your blog unique to your business and will help you promote it. Simply post interesting content on a weekly schedule and you will begin to gain readership. Ultimately, your business will become an information resource for your customers.

2. Create a Facebook Fan Page: A Facebook fan page offers readers a friendly explanation of what your business specialty is. Setting one up is a simple process and you should post fresh content daily. Images help attract readership so you could post some of your recent photos or a series of them on your page. Social networks like Facebook are people oriented so the more you can keep your business message personalized, the better.

3. Create a Slide Show: Create a slideshow of the photographs that represent your business and upload them to Scribd and SlideShare. Be sure your blog and Facebook URL’s are posted with your slideshows so prospective customers can find your sites. Fresh slideshows will help drive customers to your sites.

4. Twitter: Twitter is a real-time social network tool and offers an excellent opportunity to Tweet about an event your business is sponsoring. Just be sure you do not over sell. Remember you are simply publishing information and should not use it as a sales tool.

5. Post Your Photos on Twitpic: Twitpic is an excellent tool that allows you to upload your photographs to Twitter directly. People respond to visuals and a photography business is a natural for Twitpic. Simply upload your pictures from your phone or camera. Your followers will click on them and be able to read what you have posted. The key is to use striking photos that represent your business or event.

You have probably heard the social media debate discussing whether it is right for all business. One camp says that social media is helping businesses across the globe while the other camp says it is a fad and not worth the effort. So what is the answer? I firmly believe that any business that has customers is “social” and should use social media networks for promotion.

Guest Post by Louise Baker. Louise writes about online degrees for Zen College Life. She most recently wrote about the best colleges online.

August 18, 2010 Posted by | Marketing, Web | , , | 1 Comment

Getting Found by Photo Buyers

I skimmed through an article in Photo District News (PDN) about Urban Outfiiters photography choices and the part that really caught my attention was a quote from their photo buyer recommending to photographers to stop wasting money on mailers and focus on web marketing. She specifically referred to blogging, Flickr, and social media because that is where she goes to find new photographers to photograph for her brand. She said she spends a lot of time seeking out new photography blogs so she knows who is out there shooting what.

From what I have read, these days there seems to be an equal mix of art buyers who say they still prefer traditional marketing methods versus those who actively seek out photography online via Google, Flickr, blogging, etc…. But in the coming years as a younger generation of art buyers gets into the workforce, we will probably see a majority swing to web 2.0 because younger demographics have grown up during the internet age and have less reservations about working with people they meet online.

Times are changing so fast culturally that it is only a matter of time before that day comes. It was just nine years ago that I had a college marketing professor state that no internet company had yet figured out a way to become profitable. Now, things that used to be taboo to talk about, such as online dating, have become a standard way to meet people. Photo buyers are people too and it is only natural that they consume social media just like anyone else. Photographers who haven’t yet accepted this cultural-shift or are too scared to jump into the web 2.0 world are kidding themselves. True, there may be some well-established photographers who can probably ride out the rest of their career without changing a thing but it is also no coincidence that there are a lot of pros who grumble about how good things used to be in the 80′s and 90′s.

Another way to look at web marketing is that it can open up a whole new world of opportunities. Within the traditional photo buying market, you have ad agencies / publishing companies / art galleries / etc… where you have every working and aspiring photographer targeting that same small niche of photo buyers. With the internet, anyone with an internet connection and a need for photos is a potential customer. Suddenly you go from competing in a crowded market where there are only several thousand potential customers to a market where you have tens of millions potential customers.

May 10, 2010 Posted by | Marketing, Photo Business, Photo Industry News, Web | , , , | 3 Comments

Social Media Article on Black Star Rising

My latest article for Black Star Rising might be of interest to you since I have previously written about social media in several posts on this blog. This article addresses the questions that people might have regarding the purpose of social media.

Here’s the article:

Is Social Media a Waste of Time for Photographers?

January 26, 2010 Posted by | Marketing, Web | , | 1 Comment

Social Networking Etiquette 101

It is no surprise that anytime an opportunity presents itself, there will be marketers flocking to it. The problem with marketers is that they often jump into a new medium without fully understanding the motivations of those using the medium. I am writing this because I have been noticing more and more lately that people are creating Twitter accounts with no intention of interacting with people at all. These people just care about pushing their products or services onto people. Well guess what, those old-school push marketing tactics only serve to drive people away from you.

It is in really bad taste to DM someone with a sales pitch as your first line of correspondence after they have added you. It’s even worse if you DM someone your spammy message and haven’t reciprocated the add so they can’t even respond back to you. If you have built your profile effectively then there is no need to do this because we would already know what you’re about. When someone adds you on Twitter, the chances are that they have seen your line of work already and don’t need to be talked at in order think positively about you. Just like when you see someone in person that you want to talk to, you should be personable. Say hi and ask them how they are doing, or compliment them on something. Be sincere. You wouldn’t just walk up to someone and shove your business card in their face saying “I’m the shit. Now check out my website, goodbye.” It is also perfectly fine to not say anything and see if they want to say something first. Play your cards right and they’ll want to get to know you. Play them wrong and they’ll be indifferent to you.

Most marketers who aren’t experienced at social networking treat these activities as if they were the same as their mass media outlets. There is a huge difference. In mass media, it is generally expected that you are not talking to any specific person as it is an impersonal form of communication. In social networking sites however, it is all about direct communication with individuals. People join these sites to communicate with each other not buy stuff. It is about relationships and dialogue. You have to work at it in order to get to the relationship stage. Maybe then at that point, they might want to buy something or maybe not, but at least you’ll have acquired a brand champion.

Perhaps this blog post should be re-titled as, “Relationships 101″.

December 24, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, rants, Web | , , , | 9 Comments

Black Star Rising

My first blog post for the Black Star photo agency’s business blog, Black Star Rising, is now up. It is based off of my previous blog post on blogging best practices. I will be contributing articles to their site periodically so if you like my blog you might want to bookmark Black Star Rising as well.

Here is the article: Seven Strategies to Ensure Your Blog is Worth the Effort

Thanks.

October 27, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Photo Business, Web, Weekly Links | , , , , | Leave a comment

Professional Photography in the 21 Century is Like Mixed Martial Arts

For thousands of years, masters of a single martial arts discipline would have an almost mythical status. Karate, Kung Fu, Muay Thai, etc… If you could master your art then it was assumed that you could win any fight with relative ease. It wasn’t until the early 90′s at UFC 1 that a skinny Brazilian in a white bathrobe (gi), Royce Gracie, stepped into the ring and submitted his opponent, a pro boxer, with moves that most people had never seen before that a new era was born. After defeating two more far larger opponents that night in similar fashion, Gracie went on to win several more UFC tournaments but people started to realize that they needed to add jiu-jitsu and other skills to their existing arsenal just to compete. Experience, toughness and size were rendered irrelevant by Gracie because they had been caught off-guard. Unprepared for change.

I see much of the same things going on in the professional photography industry nowadays. Photography has always been seen as a print medium since it was invented but now the Internet has matured, many experienced photographers are struggling to adapt to the technological changes. Photojournalism is the area that has experienced the greatest amount of change due to all of the cutbacks and financial struggles of mainstream newspapers. Even in good times, the pay was shit, but now there is just not enough work doing traditional news for the amount of people qualified to do it. Many of the ones that are still working now have either adopted new business models such as the Strobist or those who have become multi-media journalists simultaneously recording still photos, video and sound gathering. Those who are still working and haven’t tried to learn anything new are treading on thin ice.

As if becoming a great photographer wasn’t difficult enough, now people are saying that we have to be photographers, videographers, writers, social media experts and recording artists at the same time?!? Crazy! I think that is a bit alarmist but there is truth to that as well. To fight in the Octagon, professional photographers have to at least have a working knowledge of the various disciplines in case they might need to apply it sometime. Not knowing is going to severely limit the upside for income opportunities.

Honestly I believe that once this all plays out there will be a place for everyone if they play their cards right. Just like there still are karate instructors, there are still going to be successful photographers that never record any sounds or video but there are also going to be those who don’t specialize in any specific discipline and create their own style by mixing a little bit of everything together. But I guarantee that all of the successful ones will be the ones who keep tabs on what else is out there even if they never pursue those avenues.

Recently, a Karate expert, Lyoto Machida became the light heavyweight champion of the UFC so now Karate is the rage again. But he didn’t get to the top by solely training in Karate. He also has a black belt in BJJ and is trained in sumo wrestling. He uses that other stuff to prevent others from dictating the fight, so he can stay upright the whole fight kicking people however he feels like. It is the same concept for photographers. Don’t let the changing market conditions take you out of the game. Adapt to it, dictate where you will play and kick the competition’s ass.

By the way, I recently posted a multi-media project on my site. Check it out: Nature Photography Multi-Media Video.

July 5, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Photo Business, Web | , , | 2 Comments

Ignorance is Ignorance.

I read about this story through Gary Crabbe’s blog originally, http://gadgetwise.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/24/flickr-as-an-interior-decorator-tool/

Basically the New York Times goofed by not having an editor check the article for ethical and legal concerns before publishing what essentially is a blog post demonstrating copyright ignorance. Here is a quote from the article, “And if you’re wondering about copyright issues (after all, these aren’t my photos), the photos are being used by me for my own, private, noncommercial use. I’m not selling these things and not charging admission to my apartment, so I think I’m in the clear.”

It is one thing to view an image on Flickr or even copy it to your desktop. But when you gloat about framing them and putting them on the wall then yes that is commercial use because believe it or not there are photographers out there that sell prints of their work that usually get displayed in frames on people’s walls. The entire concept for the article is irresponsible “journalism” at best but if the New York Times felt a need to publish this sort of rubbish then they should have at least made a designation that there are specific licenses on Flickr that state what you can and can’t do with images. Certain Creative Commons licenses (CC) for example allow people to freely distribute their work sometimes with or without giving credit to the artist. If that is what the photographers chooses to do with their images then that is their deal, but for the rest of the images that having an all rights served designation then that needs to be respected as well. Who knows why someone with an all rights reserved license would offer a full resolution image on their stream but regardless that doesn’t change the license terms.

If newspapers want to compete in today’s media landscape then they need to stick with what got them their reputation. Relevant, accurate journalism. Once newspapers start getting into reporting opinion rather than facts then they start becoming just like your average blog on the internet like the one you are currently reading. Sometimes facts are reported but you have to take it with a grain of salt because maybe it’s not entirely accurate. Sadly in this case I’m putting more faith in my own opinion than what I just read in the NYT.

Also of further interest look at the comments section of the article and the freelancer’s follow up post which didn’t exactly retract her original statements.

June 28, 2009 Posted by | Photo Industry News, rants, Web, Weekly Links | , | 5 Comments

Twitter

Nature photographer, Younes Bounhar recently interviewed me about the topic of social media. You can check out the interview on his blog -

Twitter for Photographers: An Interview with Richard Wong.

May 22, 2009 Posted by | Interviews, Web | , , | Leave a comment

Social Media Monitoring for Photographers

With the growing popularity of online social networking / chatter / media whatever you want to call it, information has never been more readily available for photographers. If you want to know what any particular demographic is looking for or talking about then there are software applications out there that help you do this research. For a marketer this is information that companies paid millions in research for in the past. For you and I, the small business owner, it costs nothing.

Take Twitter for example, which is characterized by it’s fast-paced speed of updates. Mainstream news outlets like broadcast news, newspapers and the radio aren’t even the first to break stories these days. Often times the story has spread virally via Twitter before any mainstream media outlets catch wind of it. Now imagine being able to listen in on any subject of discussion on the Internet like Superman. You don’t need a stock agency wants list anymore. Those will be outdated by the time they are published. The information is already out there for the taking. Experienced photographers should be able to gather a lot of useful information from adopting these new methods if they embrace the technology. Be creative. Think creatively.

There are applications out there such as TweetDeck that allow you to not only interact with your friends on Twitter, but you can customize searches around specific terms and see what people on Twitter are talking about in real-time. Keep one column active for the search term “stock photography” and it is fairly obvious that many people (especially photographers) out there are woefully uninformed about the photo licensing industry. Even more telling is the amount of people who expect to find great photography for little to no money. If you can stomach this type of dialogue for long enough you will also find gems in there such as a photo buyer who tweets about having difficulties while looking for a specific image. Maybe you are that person who can help them out. Be sure to know what you are talking about though. Know the value of your work to the end user. If you have the right image at the right time then the buyer should be willing to pay what’s necessary for it. A twist on the old saying, you get paid only what you ask for.

TweetDeck Social Monitoring Example

TweetDeck Social Monitoring Example

Market research is just one of the many other uses for social media monitoring which includes PR activities such as reputation management but that is a huge topic all on its own.

Updated 5/11/09: As requested, here are some other apps you might want to try for social media monitoring -

- twirl
- PageFlakes
- SM2
- Raven

April 30, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, stock photography, Technology, Web | , , , , | 6 Comments

Location Scouting – Google Earth

Google Earth Image of Morro Bay

Google Earth Image of Morro Bay

Prior to the internet, photographers were most likely to have discovered photo locations by consulting with topographical maps, scouting by foot, looking at photo books, postcard racks, taking guided tours or word of mouth. Those methods are still valid today but there are many more tools at our disposal now due to the internet. Google Earth is one of the more interesting tools.

Google Earth combines the geographical contours of topo maps with real life satellite imagery and pictures from photographers that have embedded GPS coordinates into their meta data. It is really amazing to be able to “scout” photo locations from the comfort of your living room or even while parked on a sidewalk if you can find a Wi-Fi connection. Anytime you pre-visualize a scene that you aren’t quite sure if or where to make it happen, you can type in the location in Google Earth and search around the landscape to see if it is possible. This can save you a lot of time and even help find locations you wouldn’t have found otherwise.

One of the most useful features for photographers is that you can set what time of day you want to see the landscape and the program will render the light to show you what you can expect to see at sunrise for example. You can also check the atmosphere option and it will take into account how the atmospheric conditions affect the lighting.

Google Earth Picture of Morro Rock at Sunrise

Google Earth Picture of Morro Rock at Sunrise

I played around with the program several years back but didn’t find much use for it because the renderings weren’t detailed enough. I took another look recently however and the satellite imagery appears to be much more comprehensive and detailed now in many locations. Google Earth is a tool that I intend to use more frequently when preparing for photo shoots. In fact, I found out about this scenic vantage point to photograph Morro Rock through Google Earth and intend to go there on my next visit.

January 23, 2009 Posted by | shooting pictures, Technology, Web | , , | 2 Comments

LicenseStream

I’ve been reading about LicenseStream on various blogs and photography business forums so I decided to sign up for myself. The first year is free for the standard account and then $50 afterwards. There is also a pro account which you can get 1/2 off for the first year but I am testing the standard account on myself to see if this is potentially a viable option for licensing images.
LicenseStream Stock Photo Invoice

LicenseStream Stock Photo Invoice

This image is of an invoice that I processed to myself. The price should be on there too but I whited it out before posting it online. If you are like me, that hates to do paperwork, then LicenseStream is definitely worth looking into. All I did was select the terms of use via drop-down menus and then email it to the “client”, then once I received the email, I clicked on the link to receive this invoice and payment options.

LicenseStream was touted as being fully integrated with the PLUS system hence the code under “Media Summary”. Basically how this works is that this code is embedded within your image meta data and the person who licenses the image should be able to copy and paste this code into the PLUS Decoder and get the terms of use instantly.

I personally think this would have limited use to buyers because only hardcore industry veterans would likely know enough to understand how this works. It is hard enough to get some photo buyers to understand the basic concept of image licensing to begin with. The plus side is that you can theoretically protect your copyrighted work a little better since the license would be embedded in the meta data. Given all of the Orphan Works b.s. that is happening in Congress, you can never be too safe.

PLUS License Decoder

PLUS License Decoder

PLUS Stock Photography License

PLUS Stock Photography License

Photoshelter’s payment and distribution options are pretty similar to LicenseStream’s but the difference is that the photo buyer can’t look for another photographer’s images on the site. This is a pretty big deal because whenever you send an instant license via Photoshelter you risk losing sales to other photographers if they decide to browse the Photoshelter home page out of curiosity. On the LicenseStream home page, there is no such site-wide archive search.

If you’re interested in seeing it for yourself, check out my LicenseStream gallery.

November 17, 2008 Posted by | Photo Business, stock photography, Web | , , , , | 6 Comments

Photoshelter Archive 2.0

Recently Photoshelter re-launched an updated version of their archive service. I have been with them for nearly a year and a half now am pleased with the updates. Among the cool features are widget-based slideshow galleries and licensing options that first appeared in the Photoshelter Collection. What I am most happy about though is that they finally adopted a suggestion that I made when I first joined and have inquired about several times.

Previously, the individual image pages would have a title like, “RW4986.jpg” on the internet browser. This was a problem because my images would show up on Google occasionally and have that listed as the webpage title. How does a title like that make someone want to click on the link? Not to mention that if the photo was ranking despite not having a good title tag then imagine what would happen if it actually had a relevant title tag. But now with the re-launch, my captions are in the title bar of the browser.

Ferry Landing Marketplace, Coronado Island, California - Photoshelter Archive

Ferry Landing Marketplace, Coronado Island, California - Photoshelter Archive

More than anything, what this says to me is that Photoshelter is serious about continually improving their product and doing what is best for photographers.

November 2, 2008 Posted by | Photo Industry News, Web | , , | Leave a comment

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