Monday, November 29, 2010

Marketing yourself as a photographer

One of the harbour cats making her presence known in the hope of getting some fresh fish, Fuengirola, Spain. And it worked. See series here.

Most professional photographers do not know how to market themselves effectively. In this blog I hope to offer a few thoughts to get your creative juices going and help you differentiate yourself as a photographer from your competitors.

I'm a photographer but I am also a pretty successful marketer. So I straddle both worlds and see professional photography from both the seller's and buyer's viewpoints. I don't have all the answers but I think I do have a few pertinent questions.

First set of assumptions. You will be a successful photographer if:

  1. You are better than your competitors
  2. You offer something different that prospects value
  3. You are cheaper (but this is downward spiral as someone is always cheaper until they are so cheap they go out of business, and possibly drag you down into an unsustainable position)
So realistically it's better to focus on the first two options.

Now let's look at what everyone values. Something that is scarce. I think scarcity is the quality that underlies most things we value. How do you make what you offer something that is scarce?

Most photographers take a rather primitive view of marketing themselves along the lines off:
  • I've got professional camera gear
  • My portfolio shows well composed, well lit images (I'm competent technically)
  • My post shoot processing is good and you get high quality image files
Others go a bit further and say:
  • I'm well organised
  • I get on well with people (subjects, art directors, clients etc)
But who goes further?

In essence a client hires a photographer to do more than take a picture. The client is looking for someone who can help them communicate an emotion, a feeling, a brand - someone who can persuade and influence the audience.

All photography is about problem solving. You've got the technical problems (lighting etc), the logistics (getting everything and everyone in the right place at the right time) and most fundamental of all you have to bring your creativity and ability to solve the problem of how to use what you're given to communicate and tell the client's story (whether wedding or advert) in the most effective way possible.

The photographer's ability to communicate through her/his medium is at the heart of what we should be marketing. From all I have seen this is the scarce quality that really differentiates photographers. Can you tell a story, put ideas together in a unique way that has an impact on the audience? Can you solve the client's problem of how to communicate visually?

I think to market yourself on the basis of your equipment and ability to make a technically competent photograph is to sell yourself short. Good photographers do far more than that. They touch the hearts and minds of the audience and make people see and think about the world in a different way, connecting directly to their emotions in a way that words and sound, and even moving images do not.

In the same way that knowing spelling and grammar does not make you an author, knowing how to use a camera and process an image does not make you a Photographer (photojournalist, professional, documentary, fine-art etc).

So how are you going to become better, different from the rest and produce work that is scarce? And how are you going to tell people about what you really do?

Till soon,
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