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