Thursday, March 10, 2011
Marketing and Business Photography 101
I don't talk much about the business-side of photography but it's critical to achieving any level of success as a full-time photographer.
The other reason I don't talk much about anything these days is that I'm working. With the Las Vegas Workshop 110% burned into my mind, paid-tests streaming in, and ad campaigns... things have been, good :)
Through the last 2 years of becoming a fashion photographer, I've long pondered the question "What makes you special?" and "What makes you different from the other (fashion) photographers?"
After 2 years, I finally have an answer. This answer is critical in establishing where I am in this market.
First and foremost I'm an entrepreneur. I've always been an entrepreneur. I hate corporate bullshit and I can never seem to play by the rules. It's why I've started now 2 companies (one of which failed) and it's why I left all my previous corporate posts. It's in my blood. My uncles, my dad, and my brother are all entrepreneurs so I come from a long lineage of men that don't take orders well.
Secondly. I'm a hybrid.
What makes me special is that I'm a new breed of photographer. I don't just shoot, hell I can't just shoot. I derive joy from sitting in front of the computer hours-on-end retouching my images. I push myself just as hard if not harder in Photoshop as I do behind the camera.
And I'm educated. I have a BA in Economics, an MA in Psychology and an MBA which means I'm really poor from paying tuition to academic institutions for a good 7 years of my life. But it also means I'm good with learning and teaching. With the wealth of knowledge I've acquired about photography/retouching combined with my training clients on using our software (at the company I worked for) and being a TA for Accounting in graduate school, I'm a pretty damn good teacher.
Lastly, I love getting to know people. Whether it's models, makeup artists or even the agents that I work with... I like to get to know people on an individual level. Which means I'm on the phone, at meetings, and sometimes behind the computer. Engaging with people makes me happy. Engaging with people also increases the value of my network.
With the basic information above, you get a pretty good idea of what I am. Basically I'm an ad-hoc, technically-savy, educated-educator that likes talking. So it should be of no surprise that I generate my income from teaching workshops, paid-tests, and shooting ad campaigns.
With that being said, I'm still trying to figure out how the entire self-promotion thing works. I'll be the first to admit that my website is always a lagging indicator (in economics terms) of how/what I'm doing but I'm always trying to put myself out there more. Lately I've been trying to target a demographic of photographers that have more disposable income because that's important to my workshops. I'm also cross-promoting myself in different channels; not just online websites, forums, but also via partnerships with other photographers and/or photography companies. But speaking of websites, your website is like your business card. It should be updated (often) and it should represent you to the best of its/your ability. I get quite a few eyeballs on my website and with the business it generates you'd think that I'd know better than to late it languish behind my flickr, tumblr, blogger and modelmayhem accounts.
Which is why I recently uploaded a promotional video that shows snippets of behind-the-scenes of my shoots. It's also why I have a screenshot of the video above because I need that screenshot to cross-promote it on my other sites. I do a lot of site cross-promotion because I never know where my audience is finding me. Sometimes they find me on flickr and other times they find me on LuminousLandscape.com. It's important that I have all my sites linked somehow to ensure that they get the full picture of who and what L U C I M A is.
That's why it's so important to know thy customer. It was one of Peter Drucker's tenets of successful businesses when he taught at my school. Drucker also said that knowing who your customers aren't is just as important as knowing who your customers are. When my clients find me, I make sure to ask them "Where did you find me?" or "To whom do I owe the gratitude for this referral?" Lately I've been finding that FaceBook has been a big driver and I am trying not to let my fanpage and personal pages fall behind though again, I can always do better!
In closing, the world is changing. Constantly. If you rely on traditional mediums of marketing you might miss out on future opportunities. Don't be afraid to change. Keep your pulse on the industry, it's always moving and new things are always popping up. Keep on generating successes and keep on growing. And always be thankful you're still here... because if you're still here, you're doing something right!
Another piece of the promotional puzzle :)