In the first part of this segment, I discussed analyzing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. By utilizing the SWOT Analysis, you should have a better idea for what your target audience consists of. In many cases there is a main audience and a secondary audience. These are the people that your entire branding efforts should be concentrated on. Try to see things from their perspective.
There is a photographer out there that owns numerous photo galleries and is a good example of someone who has done a great job at positioning themselves within their target audience. Some landscape photographers have argued that this guy markets to the “lowest common denominator” and doesn’t have legit professional credentials contrary to what his PR would lead you to believe. So what exactly are professional credentials? It’s all in the eye of the beholder. His audience is the general public so it really doesn’t matter what his peers think of him. His galleries are located in the most heavily trafficked tourist locations in the world so the majority of people that have seen his images probably have never seen photos of Antelope Canyon or Canyonlands National Park. To seasoned travelers, those are considered iconic postcard locations, places that don’t require a lot of creativity to come away with pretty pictures. But to the general population these photos are eye-openers. Why should he push the envelope in his galleries when the pictures he sells are presumably making him millions of dollars? It’s like comparing Kenny G with Pat Metheny. Metheny has the respect of his peers but who do you think sleeps easier at night knowing that his family is taken care of?
He’s not in the business of becoming a photographer’s photographer so he doesn’t spend time marketing to them. He is in the business of selling his brand. That comes across in all his promotional work including his website. On his website, it says that he is the most awarded photographer in history. Based on the list of awards he says that he won, that claim is humorous at best, but his audience buys it so more power to him. I have also read elsewhere that he had an ad in an airport that proclaimed himself as the world’s greatest photographer. Further evidence that he is doing something that other photographers aren’t, every month in my website stat logs I have people searching for things like, “Does (photographer) have a girlfriend?” I’m not sure why those people end up clicking on my website since I don’t even know the guy but it is interesting to know that from a business perspective.
You might wonder what the heck does having female groupies have to do with running a photography business? Well, I have never once seen another query like that for any other photographer on my website logs. When people think of landscape photographers, the first impression is usually of middle-aged white men that aren’t particularly cool. This photographer obviously isn’t looked upon the same way though technically he is in the same demographic. The difference is that he has positioned himself in the realm of celebrities. He’s all about selling a particular lifestyle; a lifestyle that is the dream of most people. He doesn’t just sell art prints, he sells desire.
So what is your target audience? While going on assignment for National Geographic and Vanity Fair might be a closed market for most photographers, there are many more photo buyers out there outside of those five to ten publications. If you think about it, there are so many photographers out there that it is not even worth the time to spend significant resources marketing to those same publications that everyone else is targeting. Even if you were to get their attention, how much work would you expect to get from them considering that their list is probably a mile long?
If these top publications want to work with you then they will find you. Just make sure that you are doing what you can to be found by them if that is your ultimate goal. In the meantime, there is a much bigger market out there in this world to tap into. That is where the real work comes in. Defining your target market isn’t a process that happens overnight and might require a great deal of trail and error.
Who? Where? When? How?
Residing in South Florida, nature artist Gloria Hopkins paints and photographs lush landscapes of various locations in the United States. She recently completed her first online book titled, Natural Design: Image Design for Nature Photographers.
What prompted you to take on such a complex topic for your first book?
When I began learning about art at a young age, image composition was a concept that was difficult for me to grasp. There were no art schools for seven year-olds, so I had to learn about it on my own and this took many years.
After discovering photography in 2000, I realized that the concepts of image design were the same for painting and photography, but few books existed that showed a photographer, practically, how to put together a composition.
I soon found a few online photo critique forums and fellow members would respond with great enthusiasm when I would address the design aspects of their images. I realized that they were going through the exact same struggles with image design that I went through with painting all those years ago. Natural Design was conceived to help clarify the topic for photographers while allowing me to write about my favorite topics.
Explain to our readers what the typical day in the life of Gloria Hopkins was like during the writing of this book? How long did it take to complete?
I began writing Natural Design in 2003 and it took me five years to complete. During the first two years I was employed full time and I had to work on the book at night and on the weekends, which I did faithfully. After leaving the office environment in 2005 I went to work on the book full time.
I spent many days at libraries studying every book I could find on art, design and photography. Other days were spent in the studio writing, editing and pouring over thousands of photographs. I would often paint at night, just to clear my head of the book, and for a change of pace. The days were long and sometimes it seemed there was no end in sight for the book and the non-paying, thankless work.
But I had Natural Design envisioned in my mind and I knew that it was an important book to write. It was self discipline, personal drive, and my love of writing and image-making that kept me going. The long days and nights were well worth it. Selling my first book was the single most satisfying moment of my professional life.
How have you been promoting this book?
The book was just made available in June ’08 and I have to confess that aside from a little affiliate marketing program I have just set up, and my new Google Adwords campaign, the only marketing effort I have made is displaying it on my website. I’m thrilled to say that the book is selling steadily through word-of-mouth, and I am enjoying a nice, long vacation.
How do you feel about photographers who don’t comply with park rules such as harassing wildlife or wandering off-trail?
I wish they would consider all of the consequences of their actions and not just the obvious. In addition to the clear lack of respect for the law and the authority of property management, those who break the rules disregard their own reputations as well. Not only that, they are toying dangerously with the reputations of all nature photographers.
Because we carry big gear we tend to be viewed as a group. Fair or not, that’s the way it is. And the bad behavior of one can and often does reflect negatively on all of us. Because we represent each other, in the interest of conducting ourselves professionally, and in order to establish and nurture good relations with park personnel, we should always be respectful in the field.
Any photography announcements or personal projects that you would like to tell us about?
Photo Design: Image Design for Photographers is already in the works. Also, I’ve been planning a six-month relocation “dream trip” from Florida back to the West in the next few years, of course photographing the whole way. My landscapes portfolio needs some new additions and I can’t wait to get out there with the cameras.
Most certainly a book will be written about the trip. From now until then I am working on securing the vehicle and financing for the trip, which is another reason for writing Natural Design and the forthcoming Photo Design.
You are most welcome, and thank you Richard!
To see more of Gloria Hopkins’ art, check out her website at: www.gloriahopkins.com
The most effective way to market your photography or anything else for that matter is to develop a memorable brand. You should think of yourself as a brand first not unlike the way that McDonald’s, Target, etc… does. You are not just an artist, photographer, writer etc… You are a photographic brand. So how do you go about developing one?
When I was a business student in the earlier part of this decade, one of the basic marketing terminologies that the professors beat into our brains was called SWOT Analysis. SWOT Analysis stands for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.” Since most photographers are running their own show by themselves, a lot of this analysis involves figuring out what your own skills and limitations are. This should be the starting blocks for how to develop your photography brand.
Strengths / Weaknesses: For example, if you are the quiet type like many photographers are, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a weakness as long as you are aware of how to maximize your opportunities at promoting your brand. Knowing this personality trait of yours, instead of wasting time and money on designing fancy direct mail postcards that you never plan on following up with a phone call, perhaps you should invest in developing a website that allows you to accomplish your goals. Perhaps design a good print ad campaign to run in Communication Arts or other industry publications to draw targeted buyers in to your website. Or if you are married to a spouse that is more personable than you, see if you can get them to handle this aspect of the business.
Your personality should also determine what areas of photography to pursue. If you are charismatic for example, then it would probably be wise to be a service-oriented photographer such as photographing weddings, portraiture, etc… or become a “celebrity” of sorts with public speaking engagements. If you’re the egotistical type then it’s probably best to do things that don’t require communicating with others or let someone else handle those responsibilities on your behalf. You want people to like your work on their own terms, no amount of boasting about how much you love yourself is going to convince the audience otherwise.
Opportunities / Threats: One of the questions you should ask yourself is what is the current state of the market? For example, if photo buyers consistently request for model-released, senior lifestyle photos so it means several things for the photographer.
1. Not enough people are photographing these subjects
2. Demand is high – people are living healthy for a longer amount of years than ever so marketers are realizing the benefit to reaching this audience
3. Lifestyle images are in constant need of updating because fashion and hair styles change
Market conditions would suggest that these images can command premium licensing fees. This screams opportunity is all caps. However if you have no interest in photographing senior lifestyles then it makes no difference. The key is to identify every single one of your opportunities and threats then find ways to work around them. Some types of photography such as travel and wedding photography probably have more threats than opportunities but it doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities. It just requires more creativity to get where you where you want to be.
There are also other factors to consider as well: What about your personal life? How about long-term decisions?
Though senior lifestyles might be a hot subject to photograph, the fact that these photos have a limited shelf life means that these are short-term opportunities. Definitely great for paying the bills right at that moment but what happens if you can’t actively photograph anymore or get tired of it? The lifestyle images you took ten years ago are now historical photos and no longer relevant.
That may mean eventually parlaying that lifestyle photography experience into running a photo agency, teaching classes / workshops, writing, art gallery showings, designing products for other photographers, etc…
Residing in the Appalachian Mountains of Western North Carolina, nature and children’s sports photographer Leann Greene is a busy, working mother of three. Find out how she does it.
Many hobbyist photographers can probably relate to you in addition to people who are thinking about having children. How are you able to manage your desire to photograph nature while maintaining such a busy personal life?
I need the outdoor photography as “me” time as I always feel recharged after spending the time on what I want and having tangible results. Of course you have to make some concessions but if you want it enough you can do it. I have no other hobbies so I don’t feel I’m being selfish in a way that detracts from my family.
The majority of nature photographers are men so how does it feel to be a woman in this testosterone-driven genre?
I think nature photography and especially landscapes can use the female perspective. The men I have photographed with are enthusiasts also and I’d say there is a “prove yourself” period that quickly fades away when your shared appreciation of the outdoors takes over. I enjoy hanging out with the guys and picking their brain about tactics and methods. I don’t know if many men feel comfortable asking the same of women photographers.
Name some female photographers that inspire you.
Lori Kincaid and Alison Shaw are two female photographers that I’d like to emulate.
Given your experience with outdoor recreation, share some general safety advice for the female readers of this blog.
Don’t worry about looking fashionable. Safety is the top priority. Make sure you have the right footwear for the outdoors. I have been in fear for people walking across rocks in everyday street shoes. Comfortable & functional pants can make a difference also because you may need to make deep knee bends or climb up big steps. So I prefer cargo pants.
I enjoy outings by myself so I can’t preach about not going out by yourself but one thing I’ve learned is always heed your intuition if you have an uneasy feeling about something or a situation. I have left early upon occasion when people or the weather conditions have given me a bad vibe.
As a life-long California resident, game hunting is not a common form of recreation in my region. However, it is a popular form of recreation in some states like North Carolina. So what does someone like me need to know to avoid getting shot at by hunters while photographing or hiking out in the woods?
First of all, you need to know the boundaries of the areas that you’re in. Game lands in North Carolina are marked by signs on trees but are also very easy to research online. The seasons for each county are also easy to research online.
Try not to be so quiet when hiking because wildlife will think you are a predator and hunters may also think you are game. If you are out during a hunting season then be sure to wear some hunter’s orange! Also don’t mock the hunters – duh! Overall though, everyone I’ve met is friendly and excited to be outdoors also.
You recently went on a wildlife photography excursion to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, with Cindy Nowlin, another nature photographer from your region. Tell us about the experience.
We planned our trip to find young whitetail fawns. Cindy is extremely familiar with the Cades Cove section of the park. For fawns, we actually didn’t feel the need to line up at the gate before sunrise since they wouldn’t be out and about until later in the morning and later in the afternoon. We were open to whatever was presented to us in terms of animals or scenery and filled our days with walking and exploring the park. With patience we were able to track the behavioral patterns of some does and fawns for some nice photographs.
You are a two-time winner of the Friends of the Wilson Creek Photo Contest and came in 2nd place in 2007. Developers recently took an interest to the Wilson Creek Wilderness Area, but they encountered some opposition. What is the current status of Wilson Creek now and what would the preservation of this area mean to you?
It turns out the land owners hoped a non-developer would want to purchase their land adjacent to the wilderness area. The actual wilderness area wasn’t for sale but land also along the creek was offered for sale. A developer was interested but their bid was rejected after much public outcry. The family did accept an offer from the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina and the Wildlife Resources Commission. Hopefully they will be able to secure the funds by the deadline of December, 2009.
For me, it’s one of those places where you can really feel away from it all yet still be close to home. Kayakers, fisherman, swimmers all benefit from the deal. It offers many free activities so why should only the affluent get all the good spots?
No arguments from me about that. So are there any photography announcements or personal projects that you would like to tell us about?
I’m taking a class on photographing people so I can offer high-quality outdoor portraits and combine my affection for the outdoors with a service to sell.
To see more of Leann Greene’s photography, check out her website at: http://www.lgimage.com
San Francisco-based nature photographer and independent photojournalist, Jim Goldstein’s images have appeared in the Washington Post, Sierra Club, Future Snowboarding magazine, Surfmag.com, SFGate.com, and a variety of other publications. Goldstein has also made a name for himself by writing about a number of controversial topics on his photography blog, JMG-Galleries.
You seem to know how to touch a nerve within the online photography community, as evidence by the 200 comments that you received on a blog post recently. What is the philosophy behind your blog?
The goal of my blog is two fold to introduce people to… 1. great photography and 2. issues that face photographers as well as society at large. In that sense I try to show not just how photography has an impact on viewers and our culture, but how culture and viewers have an impact on photography.
Would you say that your background in web marketing has played a part in being so well-connected to the online community?
Not to be disrespectful in any way as this question made me chuckle. I get a laugh out of this question mostly because when I think of an answer to this question I think about how long I’ve been online and how old that makes me feel. I’ve been actively posting photographs to the Internet for over 10 years and have been active in online discussions before the web browser came into being. In that sense I think my interest in photography and its display online has transcended my web-marketing career. Clearly my background in web-marketing has helped me stay in the know about various types of technologies/services and how they can be used from a marketing perspective. Ultimately I think it is my long tenure online and active participation that has helped me best keep the pulse of the online photographic community.
You once went on a lengthy photo excursion up to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge with renowned nature photographer, Art Wolfe, while he was filming his TV show. The images you came back with are stunning, especially of the caribou migration. What would the preservation of ANWR mean to you?
Thanks Richard its great to hear that my photographs had an impact.
To me, no pun intended, the Arctic Refuge (AKA ANWR) is the tip of the iceberg. The Arctic Refuge represents the first of many dominos that when knocked down will forever change how our protected lands and wildlife will be managed and preserved. Sadly the war of words has transformed how we even talk about the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The next time you listen to a debate about this one wildlife refuge take note of the terms used. “ANWR” it completely removes the correlation to “wildlife”. “ANWR” it becomes devoid of anything meaningful just as those who want to drill this region see it. It is a wildlife refuge and people seem to forget this in day-to-day discussion. People are also unaware that “wilderness areas” have the greatest degree of protection of any federally protected land, even more than national parks. No manmade elements, no roads, no buildings, nothing can be built in these areas to provide the greatest level of protection possible to the wildlife that live and migrate through these areas.
I was very lucky in being able to travel to this region with Art Wolfe and other conservationists. The trip opened my eyes even more to the plight of this area. Since this trip it has become clear to me that there has been a systematic effort in the past eight years to weaken the protection of our protected lands in a desperate effort to reach the last pockets of undeveloped natural resources including oil, timber, precious metals, minerals and even the commodity of land to cut costs for energy companies to run power lines from point A to B. Although President Eisenhower signed the legislation establishing the boundaries of the Arctic Refuge it is President Teddy Roosevelt that helped solidify the value and interest of protected lands to the greater population. These lands were protected for a reason and in the case of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge it protects the last pocket of migratory wildlife that rivals what most associate with the plains of Africa.
Permanent preservation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that is home to 36 fish species, 36 land mammals, nine marine mammals, and more than 160 migratory and resident bird species would mean a big and meaningful step forward in how the last of our wild lands are protected.
San Francisco is a pretty wacky place and you have photographed events like Bring Your Own Big Wheel as well as the Folsom Street Fair. Is there anything in the city that you haven’t photographed that interests you?
The great thing about San Francisco is that it is so incredibly diverse and open. The photographic opportunities are endless. With an open mind every event is a photographic opportunity. I personally would enjoy photographing more political rallies as well as some of the more eclectic events that pop up from time to time. Bring Your Own Big Wheel is a perfect example of the more random, eclectic and fun events that pop up. Seeing grown adults revert back to big kids riding plastic wheeled tricycles down a curvy San Francisco hillside road would make anyone smile or laugh.
Any photography business announcements or personal projects that you would like to tell us about?
I have several photographic projects underway, but the most noteworthy item to mention is the recent kickoff of a series of photo tours that I’m putting together. The first photo tour I have lined up is the Sea Otters of California Photo Tour in early September of 2008. For those interested in wildlife photography this is a great day trip to photograph and learn about California Sea Otters. I’ll have more photo tour announcements coming soon on my blog.
Lastly I’m happy to announce that one of my photographs has been selected to be shown at the Museum of History and Industry in Seattle as part of the 2008 International Conservation Photography Awards. If your readers are in the Seattle area some great conservation oriented photography will be on display there as part of this program from August 30, 2008 until October 12, 2008.
Professional agricultural stock photographer, inga spence is based in Northern Nevada. Having specialized in this niche for several decades, Spence has successfully evolved along with the industry. Let’s get her insights on the evolution of stock photography.
Did you have an interest in the agriculture industry prior to taking up photography, or were there other reasons for specializing in this niche?
I was definitely interested and attracted to ‘Agriculture’ prior to getting involved in photography… so I felt quite comfortable working in this field.
There’s been a lot of griping from pros that have seen licensing rates drop significantly over the past five to ten years. How has this impacted the way that you approach the business?
I feel that the main reason that licensing rates dropped is because certain large agencies have reduced their rates considerably, not considering the photographer. If there was a cohesive approach on this issue, the rates would stay the same, or should increase. Considering how the cost of equipment and travel expenses have risen, not to mention that these agencies are now dealing with digital files and their cost of converting 35mm is no more. (In other words, agencies should have better commission rates for the contributors)
You’ve spent many years to build up a significant library of images in both the 35mm and digital formats. Producing a body of work like this surely doesn’t come without costs. So what is your opinion about aspiring professional photographers that believe that a good way to get ahead is by giving images away for free in exchange for a photo credit?
Certain photographers are willing to ‘sell/give away’ at any cost not realizing that the end result will also hurt them in the future… degrading the whole profession… tearsheets are an item of the past. I believe that photo buyers don’t really look at credits. It’s the image that counts.
Should hobbyists care about valuing their work even if they have a day job to pay the bills?
YES, definitely. Many a great and present ‘professional photographers’ started photography because they enjoyed it. If the shoe was on the other foot, the hobbyist most likely would feel different. Many pros are still working other jobs in order to follow their dream…
Any photography business announcements or personal projects that you would like to tell us about?
After some 20+ years in agriculture, photographing worldwide (but not completely limited to that specialty). I am really interested to become more diversified. But agriculture will always be a part of me…
I appreciate the opportunity to express my feelings.
Professional outdoor adventure and lifestyle photographer, Sherri Meyer is based out of the historic, Sierra Nevada Foothills gold mining town of Auburn, California. Having access to the Sierras as her backyard, she has photographed a variety of adventure sports such as kayaking, marathon running and off-roading. Here are her thoughts on the current state of the stock photography industry:
I noticed that a number of your images appear to be of the baby-boomer generation. From what I have read, this is a category that is in demand and under-photographed so was it a conscious business decision of yours to photograph this demographic?
The main reason I photograph “Baby Boomers” is because I am one and most of the people I know are too. Some of them have become regular models for my photography. But, it is also a fact that photos of this generation are of high demand and in low supply. That is the other reason why I focus mainly on the “Boomer” generation. The “Baby Boomer” generation is the largest segment of the population. So why is there such a low supply of photos of them? Go figure! By the way, according to the publishing industry, you are also considered a senior if you are 50 plus. Photos of seniors are also of high demand and in low supply.
From a business perspective, what would you like to photograph that you haven’t already?
I would like to Photograph for REI and Title Nine. I would love to have my attractive and fit “Baby Boomer” models featured in their catalogs. Title Nine does use women of all ages in their catalogs, but REI seems to focus on children and models in their 20’s and 30’s. I really think they are missing the boat by not featuring older models in their catalog also. I would like to change that. Since the “Baby Boomer” generation is the largest segment of the population that means they also spend the most money for products [and typically have the most disposable income.] Therefore, they also deserve to be part of their marketing program! I would also like to do some food product photography. Every month, I pick up the Raley’s “Something Extra” magazine where I shop. It’s a free publication they put out for their customers. It’s full of recipes, accompanied with outstanding food photographs. I love looking at the photos and thinking that is something I would like photograph. Also, one of my sisters photographed food years ago, for the natural food company she and I worked for. I always admired her work. That may be where it all started.
Business reasons aside, what would you like to photograph that you haven’t already?
Cowboys. I have always been attracted to photographs of cowboys. I have stayed at a dude ranch and photographed cowboys, as well as other activities that go on at a dude ranch. I have also photographed rodeos and cowboys performing various other ranch duties. But, what I would really love to do is go on and photograph a real cattle drive. I would also love to photograph singer/songwriters Emmy Lou Harris and Jimmy Buffett, two of my all-time favorites.
When dealing with a client directly, is there a minimum price that you set for negotiations?
Absolutely. Our fees are negotiable; however our minimum fee for any usage is $150.00.
When a potential client inquires about the use of an image and claims to have no budget for photos, there are some amateur photographers out there that are willing to give the client unlimited use of the image for free in exchange for a credit. They generally believe one of two things: 1. it will lead to a higher paying transaction in the future, 2. they only care about seeing their work published so they can brag about it. How do you feel about this?
I don’t think anyone should give their work away for any purpose, period. If your work is good enough to use for free, then it’s good enough to charge for! Richard, this question really hits my hot button. I’m giving you my short answer to this question for now, but I would love to write more in a future post.
Without naming names, tell us about a client from hell type of story.
I have worked with more than one client from h**l and they all have something in common. They have no respect! The three that come to mind were back in my earlier days and they were all regional, low paying markets. One of them was a brand new magazine. The editor knew nothing about working with photographers. I had to educate him about everything. Then, when one of his employees left on bad terms, she left with a CD of my images. Who knows where they ended up? I had another editor lose 4 of my [slides.] After contacting him several times, I managed to get all but one back. One of them was “nowhere” to be found until I sent him a bill for $1500.00. The next day, it was found. Amazing isn’t it? Then, there was the client that lost a whole submission consisting of 40 slides. I billed him also for $1500.00 per image. Soon thereafter, the images were recovered. I didn’t stop there, however. I did get compensated for the inconvenience of it all. The biggest problem with this type of client is they get treated the same way a good paying respectful client gets treated.
I noticed that you recently switched from the Photoshelter Archive to hosting your own Lightbox photo archive. What factored in your decision to do so?
There are a couple of reasons why I chose to go with Lightbox Photo over PhotoShelter for archiving my images. First, I wanted to have my images on my server rather than someone else’s. It’s more expensive to use Lightbox and there is a huge learning curve to setting up the galleries, but the benefits are worth it. I feel like I have a lot more control of my images, I’m getting more traffic and uploading images is much faster. Don’t get me wrong. I love PhotoShelter. I think they are one of the “best bangs for your buck” out there. I do still use their basic service and I plan to contribute to the new PhotoShelter Collection (PSC) very soon.
Any photography business announcements or personal projects that you would like to tell us about?
I don’t really have anything in the hopper right now, but there are a couple of things I would like to do down the road. I would like to publish a coffee table photography book featuring photos of… We will keep that a secret for now. Also, I would like to teach photo workshops and maybe do a little consulting. I did teach a few classes a couple of years ago which included a photo workshop through the adult education program here in Auburn.
Thanks Sherri. You’ve provided some great insights for the rest of us to ponder.
See more of Sherri Meyer’s work at: http://www.sherrimeyer.com