Category Archives: Small Business

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.

Social Media Advertising for Photographers | Numbers Don’t Lie

Trey Ratcliff, a professional travel photographer who does some amazing work with HDR photography, has posted a video (below) and blog entry where he shares some rather revealing information regarding traditional, print advertising and marketing via social media. Here he compares actual sales results of his HDR tutorial video advertised in print within three different photography magazines – Shutterbug, Popular Photography and Photoshop User. The difference in results is amazing. While the print ad in both Shutterbug and Popular Photography only resulted in a handful of actual orders, Photoshop User generated results worthy of the investment. Ratcliff attributes it to the fact that it wasn’t just the print alone, given the fact that it was the same ad in all three publications, but that it was backed-up by an active online campaign by Kelby Media, the publisher of Photoshop User (as a side note, this is the only one of the three that I subscribe to). Ratcliff reinforces his findings by also pointing the online sales results he’s received from his ads on another photographer’s blog.

The beauty of new media is the accessibility and cost effectiveness to just about anyone who is just starting out with their own business endeavor, be it photography or house cleaning or cupcakes. But like everything else it has to be managed effectively. Just a few nights ago I was having this discussion with some friends here on Hilton Head. I was talking about the impressive results I’ve had with Facebook ads, particularly when it comes to my photography workshop programs.

Complete user control while targeting specific demographics – and setting my own budget – are big advantages over static ads in print, whether it be magazines or phone directories. A friend also pointed-out the fact that she noticed I make a concerted effort at keeping my the Facebook page for my business as responsive as possible. People today don’t just want to see what you have to offer but they need to know that they can interact and connect with you on a somewhat personal level. I think this is especially important for artists. In my work I’m also presenting an important part of myself, whether it be within a photographic print, portrait photography services or photography instruction.

I was fortunate to jump on the social media marketing bandwagon relatively early-on when I was just starting my photography business in Dayton back in 2003. I knew then that it was the future of advertising not to mention the enticing aspect of a tremendous bang for a relatively low buck. Like Ratcliff I had some prior experience in corporate marketing, coming to appreciate the importance of staying a step ahead of your competition when it comes to advertising and reaching your target market. David Esrati’s (owner of The Next Wave in Dayton) Websiteology half-day course on blogging for business and the WordPress platform was also a huge step in the right direction. Interactivity with the customer is something that was stressed as being absolutely vital for the success and impact of a business blog. If the interactivity and connection are missing than it becomes nothing more than an electronic version of the print ad

Moving-In | Hilton Head Photography Studio and Gallery

Over the last couple of days I’ve been gathering and relocating all of my photo biz materials (prints, bins, office furniture, computer gear, lights and light stands, soft boxes, etc.) to my new photography studio and gallery, located @ The Village Exchange on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. The official address is 32 Palmetto Bay Road, #3A.

As you can see by the images included with this post the renovations are nearly complete. The final walk-through inspection was approved and now I’m just waiting on the fixtures for the track lighting, vinyl lettering on my door window and sign. Once the Town of Hilton Head receives notification of my occupancy permit I will have my local vendor’s license and then I can schedule a grand opening. What’s really special is that my daughters Emma and Chloe will be here with me for that grand opening. It will be cool to have them help me plan and present the opening event.

For the last 10 years the space served as a location for a hair salon, so naturally some renovations and updates were needed. I wasn’t originally planning on a new wood floor but now that it’s in place I couldn’t possibly see how carpet would have worked with what I have in mind for this location.

Mike Halley of MH Construction, Inc., here on Hilton Head, has done an excellent job. I’m very pleased and thankful – thankful to have this opportunity to present my photography in such a great location. I’m blessed.

Next Steps | New Studio and Gallery

I’m very happy to announce that the remodel work is officially underway on my new studio and gallery space, located at The Village Exchange shopping area on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Posted here are some pre-remodel and initial progress images. My target for a grand opening and reception will be during the first week of June.

Within this space I will be showing and offering for sale select fine art prints from my growing collection of nature and landscape photography and presenting small group workshops and lessons on nature photography and digital imaging. I will also be providing studio and location portrait photography services for individuals, families and high school seniors. It was from my work with portrait photography whereby I earned my Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) designation through the Professional Photographers of America, while managing my photography business in Dayton, Ohio.

Additionally I’m considering including the work of other local artists, representing complimentary mediums of nature and local themed art. My goal is to enhance the overall presentation within the gallery beyond my prints of nature and landscape images.

I intend to provide a browsing and shopping experience that is welcoming, peaceful and pleasing for the senses – facilitating the fusion of artist, creative vision and art admirer based on a shared passion for the calming beauty of nature and subject, both in detail and on the landscape.

My goal for a grand opening reception is sometime within the first week of June. Please check back often, either on this blog or by way of Photography by Jim Crotty on Facebook, as I will be posting additional images as progress continues on the studio and gallery here on Hilton Head.

More than just being happy with this next step in my career as a photographer and artist, I am indeed blessed beyond measure. Not only due to the opportunity to pursue my passion but perhaps more so for the opportunity to share my visual discoveries and photographs with others, in presenting my images and through teaching and encouraging the art of photography.

Opportunity ? Storefront art project seeks to attract new businesses downtown

Storefront art project seeks to attract new businesses downtown

This could be a good opportunity for artists in the Dayton area, but the artist needs to consider what his or her expenses are when it comes to printing, framing, displaying, transport, time for set-up and take down, etc., etc. I’m suggesting that individual artists consider the potential return on such an investment.

Sometimes the only results are more requests to donate work for  . . . “exposure,” and on it goes.

This is not to say such results will hold true for other artists. This particular opportunity in Dayton could very well could lead to a prominent installation and profitable print sale. I like to think the quality and originality is what will sell the work, but I have my doubts when it comes to the local “art community.” I’m just suggesting to closely look at upfront expenses and then weigh and measure as to the potential return.

Art is business, no matter what the medium. The individual artist eventually must come to that realization and then press this fact with local art gallery owners, decorators, non-profit organizations, etc. When the local gatekeepers refuse to respond with consideration and respect of the artist as a professional then it’s time to seek victories elsewhere.

Too many times in Dayton I’ve experienced situations where people assume an artist can easily afford to give away his or her work for nothing. Once a particular artist has been labeled as such the damage is done and the local market turns toxic. Lesson learned and time to move on.

But this very well could be worth looking into.

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.