Field Report:

The Non-Glamorous Side of Photography

Shady Photo Contests

Photo contests are among the more controversial topics within the photography community. One of the most common complaints is that some photo contests are nothing more than a “rights grab”; meaning that the sponsor of the contest inserts legal language within the fine print that essentially allow them the right to sub-license, redistribute and use all photos submitted however they wish while freeing themselves from any potential liability arising from the publication of the images. For the sponsor of the contest that’s great because they can build a stock photo library that they can profit off of for almost nothing because let’s face it, most contests award a measly amount of prizes compared to how many quality images they get in return. Photographers on the other hand are getting ripped off for submitting to such contests and not to mention can potentially open themselves up to legal liabilities for the publication of those images because they give up control over where the images will be published by agreeing to such terms. (note: I’m not a lawyer so take this with a grain of salt.) These contests aren’t small time operations either as some are sponsored by some very well known organizations. Not all photo contests serve as rights grabs however so there are some that are legitimately there to benefit the photographer such as PDN, Communication Arts Photo Annual and the ICP awards.

How much benefit photo contests are to photographers is debatable though there are some that milk the exposure for all it’s worth. One photographer claims to be “The Most Awarded Photographer in History”, several claim to be “The Master Photographer” and do very well when it comes to the sale of fine art prints to tourists. While the more common way that photographers use this exposure is to refer to themselves as an award-winning photographer in their bio. Another thing to consider when entering contests is who the judges are and the audience for the publication of the images will be targeting hence why I cited PDN and the CA Photo Annual. For editorial, commercial and stock photographers the readers of those publications are your target audience so there is potentially good exposure to be had from entering those contests though there are no guarantees of gaining additional business from the exposure.

As for myself, I believe I’ve entered only three photo contests to date but haven’t won anything. I’m selective about these contests for all the reasons listed above, not to mention that if you don’t feel the contest will help then it’s essentially throwing money away that could be best served for other marketing activities. The odds of winning the top prize in photo contests are not much greater than winning the lottery so consider how many other entries will be selected for publication because that is a more realistic goal.

And back to my first point… always read the fine print before submitting to photo contests.

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July 3, 2011 Posted by | Marketing, Photo Industry News, rants | , , | 2 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

Words of Wisdom from Teddy Roosevelt

“Speak softly and carry a big stick; you will go far.” – Theodore Roosevelt

Self-aggrandizing behavior is certainly not unique to photographers, you’ll see this sort of behavior in any activity that requires skill, but in the past few years I’ve noticed a lot of newer photographers adopting this sort of tone online. Perhaps it is insecurity or a lack of social skills but there is a fine line between confidence and narcissism. You can trick a sheep fairly easily and I get why people might think it’s part of “marketing” but is that really the sort of person you want to establish a relationship with? Maybe I just wasn’t raised to place great value in beating one’s own chest but I just don’t get it.

Doing a kick-ass job, letting your actions and others do the talking for you seemed to work well for Teddy Roosevelt so maybe we’d all be best served using him as a role model.

January 19, 2011 Posted by | Marketing, Photographers, rants | | Leave a comment

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

Blogging Best Practices for Photographers

Blogging is one of the most powerful tools that a photographer has available due to the intimate nature of the medium. Those same benefits can also be drawbacks without proper etiquette. It is surprising to see how off-putting some photographers are when it comes to representing themselves on their own blogs. A blog at best is a method of establishing more personal communications with your audience. There are a lot of ways to attract an audience, which I will get to later, but attracting eyes is easy. Retaining an audience is another matter. Just like in advertising, you only have a few fleeting moments to grab someone’s attention and keep it. So what are some things you can do to build loyal relationships via a blog?

1. Write for your readers. People don’t want to be talked at or down to. Be personal. (There’s a fine line though. For example, don’t discuss your three abortions from 15 years ago unless that is an underlying theme of your blog.) There’s a photographer I’ve seen that writes half of his blog posts in the 3rd person. That sounds really bad. I don’t know whether that photographer drinks too much of his own Kool-Aid or not but I think he would be better suited not even having a blog than writing that way.

2. Post photos. That sounds really obvious but surprisingly, there are a lot of photography-oriented blogs out there that are overly-chatty don’t feature too much photography. It is really easy to get side-tracked from the main concept of the blog but I would try to minimize that. Create another blog if you need another venue to talk about photography-related topics not focused around your own work; like this blog for example.

3. Post consistently. This doesn’t necessarily mean everyday but be predictable enough so your audience can have a general expectation of when you might have posted something new. It is really hard to maintain much less grow an audience without consistent posting.

4. Keep the shameless self-promotion to a minimum. It is okay to do some but too much comes across as bragging. There are more appropriate venue for promoting. People are on your site because they generally want to like you. Reward the reader with quality content then you’ve got word of mouth marketing.

5. Enable blog comments and respond to commenters. People are taking time out of their day to offer you something so it is polite to acknowledge them. The advantage to having a blog over the rest of a static website is that it allows for two-way communication. Take advantage of that!

6. Widgets. Install relevant widgets and badges on your blog where appropriate such as Twitter badges, Yelp if you are a travel photographer, etc… These are things that should be adding extra value to the experience for your audience.

7. Make your RSS feeds and subscriptions easy to add. Not everyone uses feeds to read blogs but it makes it much more convenient for those who do. Most importantly, it is a timely way to distribute your blog without any effort.

How to attract an audience

1. Write content that interests your audience and is conducive to discussions. My article on Top Ten Most Influential Nature Photographers of All-Time is an example of this. Once I wrote the blog post, I started a discussion thread on the Nature Photographers Network forum. Then it led to other photographers starting discussions on several other nature photography forums and wound up being discussed on Outdoor Photographer magazine’s blog in addition to a number of other photo blogs. All I essentially did was start a discussion.

2. Social media integration. Having a presence on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Digg, niche forums, etc… is a perfect vehicle for seeding links back to your blog. Be sure to participate more than just shameless self-promoting though. Communicate with people. It is called social networking for a reason. TV commercials are past their moment in the sun because they don’t engage people. Facebook and Twitter are as hot as they are because you can “talk” with people who you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise. It adds a human element to the work.

3. Participate on other photographer’s and industry blogs. This is a really rewarding thing to do. As a photographer, you may only care about selling your own work but there is a lot of value in building relationships with your colleagues. Many times, they end up becoming regular participants in your blog or on the social networks with you as well. And yes, there is a bit of marketing psychology to this but that doesn’t mean participating with a “salesman-like” mentality. Be yourself!

4. Write articles for magazines both print and online. Be sure to include a URL back to your site if possible. The readers that are interested in you will find your blog through your site.

5. Public speaking engagements. Photographers like Chase Jarvis, David Hobby and David Alan Harvey for example have tons of people participating on their blogs because they have big offline visibility in addition to an online presence. Another thing they have in common is that they care about engaging with their audience.

6. Write good blog titles, categorize blog posts, and tagging. This is both good for search engine visibility and for overall site usability.

7. Be an innovative photographer and do any of the above effectively.

There are a lot of photographers out there doing an excellent job of blogging. Those are the people you should follow. Don’t copy them necessarily but figure out what they are doing and see how that fits in what your plan.

October 18, 2009 Posted by | Marketing, Photo Business | , , | 9 Comments

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

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

Developing Your Photography Brand Part VI – The Wine Label Test

In the previous segment of these articles on photography branding I touched upon the concept of brand identity. The reason why I bring that up is because I heard a story the other day about two bottles of the same wine packaged with different labels. One label looked fancy meanwhile the other one looked cheap. When a group of ten people did a wine tasting test not knowing that both bottles had the same identical content, nine out of the ten people preferred the wine that had been poured from the fancy label.  They felt that the fancy label wine tasted better so therefore the conclusion from that study was that wine with effective marketing tastes better than wine that isn’t marketed well. Taste is all a matter of perception after all. Perception is all in the mind. So where does that leave your photography?

It’s all about how you present yourself and your work. For example, if you aspire to be a luxury wedding photographer then it wouldn’t be in your best interests to have a website that looks like it dates back to 1998. You’ve got to present yourself as being relevant.

March 6, 2009 Posted by | Marketing | , | 5 Comments

Developing Your Photography Brand V – Brand Identity

In the previous segments of “Developing Your Photography Brand”, I discussed targeting, marketing campaigns, perception of value, and the evaluation of business climate. This time, I’ll discuss the core purpose for branding: brand identity.

Having a solid brand identity is generally what gets people excited about buying stuff. Lets be honest. If you took the photos from 1,000 professional photographers and tossed them into a random pile very few would truly be unique and significantly more interesting than another’s, ex. large stock photo agency sites. However when you look through a photographer website that is branded effectively the viewing experience is vastly greater than viewing your average corporate stock photo agency website. Or to take another analogy, what makes you decide to buy one liquid hand soap product over another? Strip the labels from the bottle and they look pretty boring but attach a nicely designed label and then you feel an emotional connection to the brand.

How you develop your brand identity needs to carry over into all of your messaging from the way you write your blog to the way that photos are presented to the way you act in social media platforms like Twitter. If your photo blog is written like a glorified press release then who the hell wants to read it? Certainly that is not the way to gain a following. You want to portray yourself as having a personality not a robot. People respond best to those who come across as personable.

If you were to sum up your brand personality in one phrase what would it be? Edgy, cool, square, corporate, down to earth? Corporate is the worst in my opinion. That is just as bad as having none at all. Be consistent. Be human. If you want to have an edgy brand, then talk about the photos but use some modern slang here and there, find ways to name drop your favorite rock band if you feel that will help solidify your photography brand identity. When it comes to marketing you can’t just focus on the obvious, you have to think outside of the box.

Many photographers use a photo as their logo. Bad choice. I don’t know of any successful brand that uses a photo as their logo. The reason is that a graphic illustration is much simpler and clean. You want to convey your brand personality as quickly as possible. I think editorial and commercial photographers are the worst at branding. They are so focused on doing what has worked for others in the past to where they neglect the fundamental basics to effective marketing. The photographers who tend to be best at branding are wedding photographers. They have to because they deal with the general public so they adopt mainstream marketing tactics. Even if you can’t stomach the idea of being a wedding photographer, you should really take a look at the successful ones and see how they are promoting themselves. It is a real eye-opener.

As for photographers in my genre, the ones who get it were Galen Rowell and Art Wolfe among others. It wasn’t just their images that propelled them to success, it was the manner in which they connected with their fans. Galen’s writing about his wild adventures made him famous. Art Wolfe’s work is all over the mainstream media. I’m sure both built businesses with stock imagery but they also realized there is a much bigger market out there in selling prints in galleries, doing workshops, writing, lecturing and being a visible personality. This allowed them to diversify. So rather than spend all day bitching about Getty Images, develop your own ideas and sell them. Don’t be content with just relying on others to market for you. You are a brand, not just a photographer. Photographers are boring.

October 20, 2008 Posted by | Marketing | , , | 1 Comment

Developing Your Photography Brand IV – Marketing Campaigns

While photographers are creative and are great at creating their art, they are generally terrible at marketing themselves. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that it is hard to sell something that you are so close to. For this reason it might be better to find someone to do the marketing for you. Another reason is that most people do not have the professional background or education in marketing necessary to do an effective job at it. It is hard to enjoy selling your own work trust me.

No matter which form of marketing you choose to employ (pull / push) they both require a well-conceived plan in order to be effective. In my previous articles on photography branding, we discussed targeting and market analysis; these are the starting blocks for what should be your marketing campaign. At this point you should come up with a one page brief. This is probably the most important thing I’ll have to share with you in this whole series of blog posts. As an example, here are the questions that an ad agency creative brief usually has on there:

– Why are we advertising?

– What is the advertising trying to do?

– Who are we talking to?

– What do we know that will help us?

– What is the main thought to communicate that will differentiate us from the competition?

– Tone / Creative Guidelines:

The main thought is the “concept” behind your entire campaign and the message that your audience will be receiving. It is extremely important to narrow this down to a single point to communicate. Many big companies and account people do not understand this and therefore end up with a crappy ad campaign as a result. To their credit, it is hard to fork out money for something that might not necessarily have measurable results and tempting to cram as many thoughts as possible in a marketing execution but this is a mistake. The consumer doesn’t care about your advertising. Advertising is an annoyance. If they are going to take anything away from your messaging it has to be concise and interesting. If it isn’t, then you should just hold onto your money instead until you figure out how to do this.

Once you’ve developed a good creative brief then you can decide what type of media to employ. Some ideas are so adaptable that they can translate into many forms of media from print ads, postcards, email, teaser sites, sidewalk stencil drawings to things that no one has thought of before. What you should do is evaluate what the competition is currently doing and do something totally different than them. That is the only way to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

September 19, 2008 Posted by | Marketing | , , | 2 Comments