Category Archives: Commercial Photography

Commercial photography services by Jim Crotty Dayton Ohio including event, editorial, product, facility, location and studio photo services

The Power of the Self-Portrait | Marketing the Photographer and Photography on the Web

I’ve always been more of the introverted, shy type. That’s a big reason why I became so involved with photography and nature at a very early age. I’ve never was known as gregarious and outgoing, preferring instead more “quiet” pursuits. The benefit is that I have an insight to my subject matter and a passion for the art of image making that provides just as much excitement today, at age 47, as it did when I was wandering the woods at age 12 with a Pentax Spotmatic F 35mm camera and a couple rolls of Kodak Tri-X film.

The downfall is that I didn’t develop what I would call “aggressive selling skills.” At least not initially. This is a big reason why most fine art photographers – nature, landscapes, wildlife – are rarely comfortable in the fine art of self-promotion. They put themselves through a bit of a beat-down and withdraw from what may appear to others as self-inflating behavior and bragging. But the truth of the matter is, in this age of the digital, independent artisan, there is still the need to compete in the open market. The photographic artist adapts, overcomes and pushes onward with the realization that half the process of selling art – whether it be prints, services or instruction – is the selling of self.

Human beings are visual and so much is determined within those few seconds of the first impression. With professional photography they want to see the photographer behind the photographs. They want to see the face of who will be teaching the photography workshop. They want to know more about who will be photographing their portrait. Although we go to great lengths to pretend that we don’t judge by appearances the cold, hard fact is that we do, all the time, whether it be through online connections at home or when out and about in our workplaces and neighborhoods.

Case in point – what page on a photographer’s web site or blog is visited the most following the home page and gallery of images ? The “about” or “bio” page. Always. We’re naturally nosy and we want to see the face behind the work.

Recently I had a profile article published in a local tourism magazine here on Hilton Head Island (note – print version included more images). They published almost all of the sample images from my portfolio that I sent to them except one – my own head shot. Even though it was well-written and the sample images looked impressive, the number one response I received from those who saw the article was “where was your picture?” When I kept hearing that question and comment it finally solidified what I had long suspected about how people react to my marketing efforts – for prints, workshops and commercial photography services. A well captured and presented self-portrait can make a big difference.

So, rather than react negatively I saw the omission as an opportunity to reconsider the appearance of the quarter page ad that I had been running in that same publication. I made some adjustments and decided yes, time to stick my neck out and be a bit more “aggressive.” Below is the result –

And then I thought “well, while I’m at it might as well update my Twitter background too –

The photographs. The photographer. What at first looks like a mistake becomes an opportunity – to learn, adapt and move forward. The age of digital is almost entirely visual-based. Welcome to the new “social hour” of business networking and self-promotion. Does this make me look “conceited, self-centered ?” No. For one thing I never considered myself exactly model material (although losing 50+ lbs in 2009 made me more comfortable with my self-portraits). The reality is that in order to successfully market online – whether static site, blog or social media – some confidence is required to “put yourself out there.” This is my work. This is me. I’m happy with my work. I’m happy with me. Sure there’s always going to be a negative judgement or two from the peanut gallery but nine out ten impressions are going to be positive. Those positive impressions may not result in an immediate sale of a print or workshop registration, but if people like what they initially see, they return.

And here’s more good news for professional photographers. The power of a well-captured and presented head shot extends far beyond the online marketing of photographs and photography services. It applies to just about everyone else presenting a business, profession or art online as well. The camera phone capture may be okay for Facebook but  . . . there’s just something about a professionally photographed portrait.

Food Photography | Tough on an Empty Stomach

Two things I’ve learned when it comes to assignments for food photography – 1) photographs best immediately out of the kitchen, and 2) can be challenging when the stomach is empty, which for me is pretty much all the time. That’s a little secret about Weight Watchers. You never finish. To make it work you have to stay on it, and on and on.

Last week I had the opportunity to photograph the very tasty and healthy offerings of Delisheee Yo Original Tart Frozen Yogurt and Superfood Snack Shop, my neighbor next door here at my studio/gallery location on Hilton Head. All-organic ingredients, Chef Catherine performs her culinary magic proving over and over again that healthy and natural can be just as good tasting (I argue more so) than anything fried, loaded with butter and packed with way too many fat grams and calories. I very much appreciate the opportunity to capture photographically the delectable goodness that is Delisheee Yo.

DSLR Camera Workshop Announced | Recently Published Images

UPDATE 12-23-10: The January 15 workshop is currently full, however, those interested can be added to my waiting list. Also, I will be repeating this workshop at least twice this spring, most likely Saturdays in April and May.

I’m happy to announce the addition of a second photography workshop for January 2011. On Saturday, January 15th, I will be presenting a five hour introductory program on the basics of digital photography and the DSLR camera, at Cox Arboretum MetroPark.

This is an introductory level photography workshop for anyone who has just bought their first DSLR camera. Basic settings and features for more creative control that goes beyond “auto” mode and the limits of point-n-shoot digital cameras. Classroom instruction with field demonstrations, both outside and inside, at Cox Arboretum. Refreshments and snacks will be provided.

$65 per person. $20 Deposit required for reservation. Class limited to first 25 people who register. Deposit payment by check to Picture Ohio, LLC, 7164 Hartcrest Lane, Centerville, Ohio 45459, or PayPal to “james@picturesqueohio.com.” Call 937-432-6711 or email jim@ohiophoto.org to register.

Also, the most recent issue of Housetrends Magazine includes a feature spread titled “Old Fashioned Colonial Christmas.” This was an editorial assignment that was a joy to photograph. Beautiful home in Washington Township (near Dayton) that was full of decorative details that conveyed the warmth and character of Christmas past.

Twitter vs. Facebook or Twitter and Facebook | Fired Up for SummitUp 2010

Fired Up for SummitUp 2010 | davidebowman.

I’m registered to attend the SummitUp event in Dayton, next Tuesday. Quite a line-up of interesting speakers. Lots of marketing and PR-types from throughout Ohio will be attending. So what does it have to do with photography ? Well, if you’re a photographer who has any desire to make a name for yourself and sell your work and services, SummitUp could very well be a treasure trove of pertinent information, as well as contacts, on the realities of marketing and branding for the independent professional in the 21st century. Three words: social media marketing.

But do all the available channels – Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, WordPress, Blogger, etc., etc. – fall conveniently under this catch-all description ? It will be interesting to listen to what the industry experts have to say on what works best when it comes to producing measurable results (actual sales $$$) versus pulling all of us backwards to those painfully insecure days of adolescent popularity contests.

I’m cool with Twitter, okay with LinkedIn but I definitely have a “love/hate/but more toward hate” relationship with Facebook. There’s something inherent to the basic platform and origins of Facebook that is well . . . let’s just say high school. What I do love about Facebook, however, has been the results obtained through the use of their ad program.

I’m a photographer. I’m an observer, not only of what is often overlooked but also patterns and behaviors, in all aspects of life. And the patterns of online behavior observed on these various social media channels is fascinating.

Photography is my profession; my business. I look for results (actual sales $$$). Commercial assignments, portrait sessions, fine art print sales, photography workshops and image licensing. Sure, I have an ego and there are times that I slip too far into the touchy/feely – the nebulous elixir of the artsy-fartsy emphasis on collaboration and everyone feeling good about themselves. That’s nice for social get-togethers at the local gallery, but then the cold, hard reality of cash flow comes calling, again and again.

Which gets back to why I prefer Twitter and why recently I’ve made some changes to my approach toward marketing my work and services via social media marketing. In short, I’m much more comfortable at driving content initially through my Twitter account – where’s there’s more of a clear boundary between what’s business and what’s personal – and THEN flow it to my Facebook business page. Previously I had made the common mistake of welcoming all sorts of “friend requests” on a Facebook personal account and then pumping-out photography business content at an entry point platform that was initially designed more on social acceptance and popularity.

Granted Facebook has been quick to make changes and adapt, moving away from group pages and more toward what I see as business-friendly “fan” pages.

Mashable recently posted a very good op-ed that begins to define the primary difference between Facebook and Twitter, which reinforces the lesson I’ve learned regarding both networking platforms. I’m looking forward to seeing how this will be discussed at SummitUp 2010 next week.

Photography and social media marketing – both a constant learning process. All in all, a good thing.

Head Shot Portraits for Twitter and Business Blogs

Professionally taken portrait head shot photographs can go a long way in projecting an entrepreneur’s personality, particularly when used as profile images on Twitter and business blog pages. I provide this service here in my home studio. The following image is from a recent session with Sara who was looking for head shot images to use with her Twitter page for her business.

One of the reasons I like doing these photography sessions here at my home location is the opportunity to use an ample amount of daylight coming through my southward facing windows. I show how this works in the Photographic Moment video tutorial that was shot this past January. It’s worth the extra effort and time it takes for me to move furniture to the side and set-up my lights and backdrops. I’ll be setting-up this arrangement again this Friday for another high school senior portrait session.

The following image was taken using just natural window light –

Tips on the Business of Photography

The following was a response to a Facebook friend and fellow photographer who was asking for advice on pricing and taking his work to the next level, from hobby to part-time endeavor and possibly profession. Some of my comments are unique to the local market here in Dayton, Ohio:

Right off the bat Josh, you’ve got the eye and the talent. Don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise. And don’t allow anyone to tell you what you should be shooting according to what they like. Shoot what you love, and stick to it.

I took a quick glance at the article. Nothing new or surprising there, but it is a good read for those just starting out. As far as assignment and stock licensing rates according to the ASMP guide – forget in a market like Dayton. I say “non-exclusive, limited usage rights” to potential buyers here locally and they don’t have a clue as to what I’m talking about. I’m not being mean. It’s just a fact.

Market your work and yourself outside the traditional boundaries. Look for buyers where no one else is looking. The local arts groups are okay for some initial advice, but they can also become a real hindrance and quite limiting. More often than not these groups are very subjective when it comes to who they will support and who they won’t support. Don’t give the so-called “art experts” power of you. Your work is too good to be limited that way.

Outsource your printmaking. Develop a solid, trusting relationship with a commercial lab and stick with them. Don’t get yourself and your money bogged-down with large format inkjet printers, paper, profiles, ink, time, etc. Trust me. It’s not worth it.

Set limits with customers who are only going to buy a print or two. Look at the return on how much time you might put into a sale for say one or two 11″x14″s. That’s what online storefronts are for. There are a lot of people who will devour your time and attention and end-up buying just one print.

Time + talent + skill + expenses + profit = price

I will be going over these and other lessons on the Sunday afternoon of my September workshop at the Inn at Cedar Falls. I’m also going to be doing a half-day program on the business of nature photography on a Saturday in November. Just haven’t confirmed it yet.

Once again Josh, you’ve got the talent and the eye. Don’t sell yourself short. Think outside the boundaries and rules everyone else is playing within. And always stay true to your creative vision.