Category Archives: Marketing

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

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

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.

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.

New Logo Design

Aibrean’s Studio Blog: New Logo Design for Jim Crotty.

April Sadowski is a very talented graphic artist here in the Dayton area. She was a pleasure to work with – professional, thorough and very quick turnaround.

In crafting a new logo identity for my photography business I wanted a design that moved away from the “Ohio” moniker and was more representative of my professional identity as a photographer and visual artist. In my years of being in business for myself, as well as many previous years working in corporate marketing and communications, I’ve learned where my own capabilities stop and where those of an accomplished professional begin. The art of graphic design and logo identity is one area where it’s not smart to attempt on your own. Turn it over to a pro and you will get pro results.