Category Archives: Marketing

Thoughts and tips on marketing as well as advice on how professional photography can make a difference with your marketing message

Knowing the Client’s Client | Photography for Company Web Sites and Social Media

When completing photographic assignments for a client’s marketing and web site, I strive to capture the light and setting that is best suited for the particular product or service being advertised. To do so requires more than just technical skill. It requires an understanding and appreciation of the client’s clientele and their customer service goals. This was my goal while photographing the newest additions to the accommodations at The Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills, Ohio last week, the “yurts.” These structures are a beautiful and unique combination of both framed tent with all the comforts of a completely furnished cabin.

With this particular assignment I wanted to convey the atmosphere of the “glamping” experience – glamorous camping – but including in the imagery both the comforts of the yurts and the intimate connection to the natural surroundings. With The Inn being a client of my photography services since 2003, as well as the location for both my autumn and spring nature photography workshops, I was very familiar with the “guest experience” goals of such a special retreat location in this beautiful area of Ohio. Another goal of the assignment was to capture the natural light of the setting of the yurts throughout the progression of the day, from morning to afternoon to dusk to evening.

In today‘s world of so much of a company’s products and services being visually communicated via the web and social media it’s vital to invest in photography that will do just that – convey the essence of the experience through professional imagery that both reflects the uniqueness of what is offered and a commitment to the customer who will likely return. again and again.

Newly constructed yurt accommodations photographed at The Inn at Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills Ohio. Photography for marketing and web site.

The Peaceful Power of Calming Imagery

Where print installations of my work can be seen . . . Mayo Clinic, Rochester MN – Andrews Air Force Base Ambulatory Care Center MD – The Zangmeister Cancer Center OH – Miami Valley Hospital OH – Wooster Community Hospital OH – Soin Medical Center OH -Englewood Health Center OH – Springboro Health Center OH – Buckeye Oral and Maxilofacial Surgery Office OH – St. Rita’s Hospital OH – Wood County Hospital OH

Flyer promoting fine art nature and landscape photography by Dayton Ohio Photographer Jim Crotty

Jim Crotty’s Top 13 Tips for Nature Photography | Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusive

Jim Crotty’s Top 13 Tips for Nature Photography Professional Photographer Magazine Web Exclusives.

I am thankful for the opportunity to be featured in the December 2012 issue of “Professional Photographer,” the monthly magazine of the Professional Photographers of America. Accompanying the article is a “top tips” list published as a web exclusive of “Professional photographer.” Both the web exclusive and the print article include recent samples of my work with nature and landscape photography, particularly from here on Hilton Head Island.

I’m honored to have this kind of exposure and attention to my photography, especially from the largest organization representing my profession. I’ve been an active member of PPA (Professional Photographers of America) since 2006. PPA serves as an excellent resource for education and training, insurance, certification and industry advocacy, something that’s especially important in today’s environment when professional photographers are competing with a growing number of hobbyists who dabble in photography-for-hire on the side.

To have my work and experience considered worthy of attention and publication by my peer group on a national level is indeed something of which I am very grateful.

Letting it Fly | Stock Photography and Creative Commons

It’s funny how the inter-connectivity of social media marketing can foster discussions and trains of thought that can have a direct impact on how you do business. For photography and photographers social media has been the game-changer when it comes to marketing and promoting work and services. It’s a powerful tool, no doubt, but if not careful the tool can begin to manage the craftsman rather than the other way around. Case-in-point: piracy and image licensing. This is why David Esrati’s (Dayton Ohio “websisteologist” who helped me discover the power of business blogging with WordPress) latest tip on a new WordPress plug-in caught my attention. It’s called Compfight and what it does is allow WordPress bloggers to search Flickr for stock photography based on keywords, however, the images selected are all listed as “creative commons” usage rights. Basically, instead of managed rights with licensing through the photographer the images can be legally posted on other sites and blogs with often the only requirement being a credit listing and link back to the originating photographer. To see it in use I’ve posted several of my own images within this blog entry using the Compfight plug-in. It works pretty well and the back links are included seamlessly.

The use of this plug-in immediately brings-up the argument for, or against, allowing creative commons for images posted by professional photographers. The argument against goes along the lines of “anyone who copies and re-posts images should be paying stock licensing fees” and that photographers who allow creative commons with attribution are “giving away their work for free.” However, I’m beginning to see the merits of the argument for creative commons, especially since Pro Photographer Trey Ratcliff lit a wildfire with his Google+ article on why he allows  such widespread usage. Not only that, but he also advocates against the use of watermarking logos or copyrights on posted photographs. Another pro shooter who admire and follow, Scott Bourne with photofocus, soon picked-up on what Trey was getting at and followed suit.

Basically online images are going to be “pirated” and copied no matter what types of precautionary tactics are employed by the photographer. The reasoning behind of “just let them go” is that those individuals who copy and post to their Tumblr and Pinterest pages will never be worth tracking down and fighting in the legal arena and the usage is more often than not non-commercial and innocent. If the photographer is smart in how he or she prepares web-ready images, the photographs will be low-resolution JPEGs sized for looking nice onscreen and but when sent to a desktop printer quickly reveal the difference between web-ready and print quality. Custom export settings in image file management programs such as Lightroom and Aperture make it easy to manage appropriate versions, whether going up on Flickr and a blog or to a printer for a 30″x40″ on canvas. The additional argument is that the casual “lifter” is often not part of the photographer’s target market to begin with.

The paying clients are going to be the heavy-hitters who have it as their standard practice and policy to pay for stock photography that’s destined for editorial and/or advertising use. Granted there have been a few glaring exceptions but the vast majority go into the stock photography game knowing full well the rules and penalties. Sure they’ll often search Flickr but when they find what they are looking for they know best to contact the photographer directly and begin the negotiating process.

This is why I recently re-set the permission on my nearly 1,200 images posted to my Flickr page as “Creative Commons – Attribution, Noncommercial, No Derivative Works.” In a way I’m “letting them go” but with a “light line.” I’ve dramatically increased the potential for commercial/editorial reach and visibility with what in actuality is minimum risk. The one thing that I still do though is include my watermarked logo. For one thing I like my logo, thanks to the pro talent of April Sadowski @ AIBrean Studios. It conveys the message that these images are indeed the work of a professional and helps advertise my brand. When it comes down to it, isn’t that the primary purpose of social media MARKETING ?

Are my images on Tumblr and Pinterest ? Sure. All over, including my own Tumblr page “It’s All About the Light.” Heck, one of my images – a street scene I captured in midtown Manhattan back on June 2010 – has been re-blogged and “liked” on Tumblr over 4,000 times. Has there been advertising or editorial usage without my knowledge ? Nope. If there is I will find out, but almost all of those re-postings are from teenagers who’ve visited Times Square. Fun. No biggee. Let it go, because something much bigger may come back my way down the road.

Does this mean I can give away my photography for free ? Absolutely not. It’s merely a more evolved approach toward social media when it comes to professional photography and understanding the target customer, whether that be for fine art prints, stock licensing, workshops or assignment work. In fact I still link to my policy via my Flickr about page regarding requests for donations. Re-post one of my images to your personal blog or Pinterest page? No problem. But ask me to donate usage to promote your organization, product or service, when you are paying for other support services, and then I will be happy to negotiate fair and reasonable usage terms that we can all be happy with.

Choose your battles and practice good karma. Eventually it’s all good. You just need to be careful not to make it TOO good for the other guy.

Water Dance
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Jim Crotty via Compfight

The Last Sunflower by Jim Crotty
Photo Credit:
Jim Crotty via Compfight

Lighthouse Interior by Jim Crotty
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Jim Crotty via Compfight

Patient Hunter by Jim Crotty
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Jim Crotty via Compfight

Surf at Sunrise on Hunting Island by Jim Crotty
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Jim Crotty via Compfight

Halloween Pumpkins by Jim Crotty
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Jim Crotty via Compfight

NovemberMoonwithMatFW.jpg
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Jim Crotty via Compfight

 

 

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