In The Field: Photo Blog by Richard Wong http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog Sat, 07 Apr 2018 05:23:21 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/cropped-cropped-RW-Logo-2-1-32x32.jpg In The Field: Photo Blog by Richard Wong http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog 32 32 141781547 My Photography Bookshelf http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/books-for-photographers/ http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/books-for-photographers/#comments Fri, 06 Apr 2018 13:00:55 +0000 http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/?p=10433 Like many photographers, I own a collection of photography books. In-fact, I have an entire bookshelf dedicated solely to photography and travel books. Despite the prevalence of photography on social media these days, I still feel that printed books are as relevant as ever. There is just something magical about viewing a photographer’s work in print that can’t be reproduced on a computer screen. I’ve curated a list of my favorite books for photographers. In-case you’re wondering, the two books that inspired me to become a photographer were both Galen Rowell books; Galen Rowell’s Vision and Bay Area Wild, both of which you can find below.











What are some of your favorite photography books? I’m always looking to add to my collection.

Note: I was told that certain browsers with ad blocking enabled might prevent you from seeing the books and Amazon affiliate links within the post. Click here for the text-based version of this post.

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The Personal Evolution of a Photographer http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/personal-evolution-of-a-photographer/ http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/personal-evolution-of-a-photographer/#respond Wed, 28 Mar 2018 13:00:30 +0000 http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/?p=10385 As I reflect back upon my years in photography, I feel that my personal evolution as a photographer has largely been shaped by what was going on in my life at the time. As time has passed I find myself frequently not recognizing my older works or questioning why I made the creative decisions that I did at the time. I guess that is natural and a good thing. People change over time. I imagine that I’ll be refining my personal vision as a photographer for the rest of my life, or at least I hope.

Mount St. Helens at Sunset from Larch Mountain, Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon

Mount St. Helens at Sunset from Larch Mountain, Mount Hood National Forest, Oregon

This timeline is how I view my evolution as a photographer:

2000-2002: Everything is new. No idea what I am doing. Print film (color & B/W), point & shoot camera, dad’s Nikon SLR. I purchase my first camera, an Olympus digital camera. Test and experiment on trips (Olympic National Park, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Midwest) and outings to the local gardens. Read my first Galen Rowell book.

2002-2005: Purchase my first rolls of 35mm slide film because Galen Rowell shot with Fuji Velvia. Mind blown. Moved to San Francisco for graduate school. Shoot 35mm slide film and digital on poor grad student budget. Shoot nothing but sunrises and sunsets because all the photo instruction books say you should. Mostly California photography; limited budget for travel aside from first visit to Grand Canyon & Sedona during winter break since it was cheap. Spent a lot of time on the forums at photo.net.

2005-2008: Move back to Southern California and end up doing a variety of freelance work for several years. Purchase Canon DSLR and try to process photos in a realistic but bland manner because “Photoshopping” outdoor photography was taboo back then. Discover stock photography. Editor tells me I need to shoot more people pictures. Developed an interest in the street photography style of Sam Abell, William Albert Allard and David Alan Harvey. Travel all over California exploring my home state with a camera. Spend the next several years obsessively shooting every and anything I saw. Though passionate about photography, in hindsight I consider this period to be my low point as an artist but most prolific since my focus was primarily on selling photos. This was a learning experience figuring out what I’m most passionate about. Went through a lot of turmoil in my personal life during this period so working non-stop on photography was my way to escape.

2008-2013: Got a real job. I can actually afford to travel by this point so I branched out a bit. Purchase my first full-frame DSLR; the Canon 5D Mark II. This was a revolutionary camera for its time so I dabbled in some video as well. I started shooting less stock photography due to burn-out and started discovering my own personal vision by spending a significant amount of time at the Huntington Gardens. The Huntington was one of the gardens where I got my start in photography so things started coming full circle for me here.

2013-2016: Moved back to the Bay Area. Got married. Travel outside of North America for the first time. Rediscovered the passion and shot photography non-stop for three years until my son is born. Purchase my first professional-grade tripod; an Induro carbor-fiber tripod. I had been using backpacking tripods and cheap Manfrotto’s up until this point to save money. Start refining my personal vision.

2016-Present: Shoot less sunsets due to time constraints. Realized that sunrises and sunsets are not necessarily any better for outdoor photography than overcast or daytime. Photography is what you make of it. Transition out of stock photography. Rebuild my website. Start taking more creative liberties with post-processing. The only rules in photography are self-imposed.

I don’t know where the next 18 years of life and photography will take me but I’m game. I have photographer friends throwing in the towel due to various reasons but I don’t see that happening for me provided good health. I’ve always had a need to create whether it was music when I was kid or photography as an adult. That is just who I am.

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Are Facebook Ads Worth It? http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/are-facebook-ads-worth-it/ http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/are-facebook-ads-worth-it/#respond Mon, 26 Mar 2018 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/?p=10336 Rarely does a week go by that I don’t hear from business owners and photographers about how Facebook ads are a waste of money, blah, blah, blah. I’ve also been told that Google and Bing Ads are a waste of money. You know what those people have in common? They didn’t know know how to use these ad platforms properly. Not only that but they lacked a clear strategy for how to get to their end goal.

I’ve spent tens of millions of dollars on digital advertising during my career and can assure you that Facebook is not a shitty ad platform for businesses. In-fact, Facebook actually has some of the most sophisticated tools and targeting of any digital ad platform. Their ability to target people blows Google out of the water. Google is almost entirely based on keyword intent and some rudimentary demographic & psychographic targeting. Facebook on the other hand, a big double-edged sword I might add, knows a lot about their users either through usage data and/or from purchasing 3rd party behavioral data from companies like Acxiom and Epsilon. If you use a credit card or have a rewards card from any retailer then chances are that Facebook knows all about your purchase history. Creepy yes, but that is what makes Facebook’s ad platform such a potentially powerful tool in the right hands.

Impressionistic Photo of Blue Dicks and Sky Lupine Wildflowers at The Wind Wolves Preserve, Kern County, California

Impressionistic Photo of Blue Dicks and Sky Lupine Wildflowers at The Wind Wolves Preserve, Kern County, California

During my extensive use of Facebook Ads Manager, I have concluded that there are several common factors that lead people to believe that Facebook is a waste of money.

  1. The lack of a lead generation strategy
  2. Not defining adequate key performance indicators (KPI’s)
  3. Not setting up conversion tracking for lead generation and sales
  4. Too broad of targeting strategy

Let me explain some of the more powerful features of Facebook advertising. You can create “custom audiences” by uploading your contact lists into Facebook Ads Manager then serve up very targeted messaging. I wouldn’t suggest going with a sledgehammer approach here. Use some filter criteria here to weed out people who don’t fit the campaign strategy. Industry studies have shown that most people don’t purchase anything before having been exposed to your brand ten or more times. Facebook ads are another way to stay top of mind with your customers just like email is. When it comes to business you can’t let your personal bias cloud your judgment. If your customers are on Facebook and they probably are, then stop complaining and learn how to use it properly. I’m not the biggest fan of Facebook’s policies or their algorithm but I also recognize that they have built a sophisticated marketing tool for business people so I make extensive use of it.

Another way to market on Facebook: If your average customer usually fits into a certain demographic or psychographic profile, then you can define that criteria in Facebook and run ads to people that have never heard of you before and use that to grow your mailing list. Be very selective here. If you go too broad then you can easily end up spending a lot of money for questionable ROI. The more targeted you are the better ROI you will get. Think about how to generate leads first, and sell later. As mentioned above, people rarely purchase expensive items like photography or other luxury items without a consideration process. Commodities are purchased with minimal consideration but for everything else it generally doesn’t work that way. In marketing speak we refer to this as a “conversion funnel”. If your only advertising KPI are sales transactions then you will probably conclude that advertising on Facebook is a waste of money. Sales transactions are at the very end of a conversion funnel. If you’re only looking at the last touchpoint before the sale then you’ve missed all the other steps it took to get them to the point of sale.

To boost posts or not? I’d say that it depends but again, you need a strategy. Test different forms, set up your conversion goals and monitor the results. Test again. If your goal is to grow your audience on Facebook then maybe boosting to your friends and their followers would make sense. Do 18 year-olds buy photography? If not then stop targeting them. If your goal is to turn your existing followers into loyal customers then maybe targeting your followers only then driving them to your site makes more sense.

While I don’t doubt that many people have wasted their money on Facebook advertising, what is most ironic about this is that some people also believe that Russia and Cambridge Analytica swung the electoral in favor of Trump via Facebook ads. So what is it; Facebook ads are a waste of money for business owners but they are effective in brainwashing people? Don’t mistake this for political commentary. It’s not. I’m just pointing out that people who know how to use these tools can really do some effective persuasion for better or worse. That is the definition of marketing.

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Developing Your Photography Brand Part VI – The Wine Label Test http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/developing-your-photography-brand-part-vi-the-wine-label-test/ http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/developing-your-photography-brand-part-vi-the-wine-label-test/#comments Wed, 21 Mar 2018 13:00:34 +0000 http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/?p=10148 I originally wrote this series of six branding articles on another site ten years ago and wanted to update this for my own site. In addition to being a photographer, I have served in various marketing roles at advertising agencies, media and adventure travel companies since graduating from college. Since most photographers do not have a background in marketing I wanted to start sharing some of thoughts on the subject and hopefully help some people along the way.

Part I: SWOT Analysis
Part II: Target Audiences
Part III: Perceived Value
Part IV: Marketing Campaigns
Part V: Brand Identity
Part VI: The Wine Label Test

Storm Mountain, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

Storm Mountain, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

My ex-boss once told a story about two bottles of the same wine packaged with different labels. One label looked fancy meanwhile the other one looked cheap. When a group of ten people did a wine tasting test not knowing that both bottles had the same identical content, nine out of the ten people preferred the wine that had been poured from the fancy label.  They felt that the fancy label wine tasted better so therefore the conclusion from that study was that wine with effective marketing tastes better than wine that isn’t marketed well. Taste is all a matter of perception after all. Perception is all in the mind. So where does that leave your photography?

It’s all about how you present yourself and your work. For example, if you aspire to be a luxury fine art photographer then it wouldn’t be in your best interests to have a 2004-era website that is built in Flash; which can’t be rendered on most web browsers these days nor is mobile-friendly. You’ve got to be accessible and present yourself as being relevant to your audience.

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Developing Your Photography Brand V – Brand Identity http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/developing-your-photography-brand-v-brand-identity/ http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/developing-your-photography-brand-v-brand-identity/#comments Sun, 18 Mar 2018 13:00:52 +0000 http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/?p=10146 I originally wrote this series of articles on another site ten years ago and wanted to update this for my own site. In addition to being a photographer, I have served in various marketing roles at advertising agencies, media and adventure travel companies since graduating from college. Since most photographers do not have a background in marketing I wanted to start sharing some of thoughts on the subject and hopefully help some people along the way.

Part I: SWOT Analysis
Part II: Target Audiences
Part III: Perceived Value
Part IV: Marketing Campaigns
Part V: Brand Identity
Part VI: The Wine Label Test

Having a solid brand identity is generally what gets people excited about buying stuff. Lets be honest. If you took the photos from 1,000 professional photographers and tossed them into a random pile very few would truly be unique and significantly more interesting than another’s, ex. large stock photo agency sites. However when you look through a photographer website that is branded effectively the viewing experience is vastly greater than viewing your average corporate stock photo agency website. Or to take another analogy, what makes you decide to buy one liquid hand soap product over another? Strip the labels from the bottle and they look pretty boring but attach a nicely designed label and then you feel an emotional connection to the brand.

Gloomy Winter Evening at Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe State Park, Nevada

Gloomy Winter Evening at Sand Harbor, Lake Tahoe State Park, Nevada

How you develop your brand identity needs to carry over into all of your messaging from the way you write your blog to the way that photos are presented to the way you act in social media platforms like Twitter. If your photography blog is written like a glorified press release then who would want to read it? Certainly that is not the way to develop a loyal following. You want to portray yourself as having a personality not a robot. People respond best to those who come across as personable.

If you were to sum up your brand personality in one phrase what would it be? Edgy, cool, square, corporate, down to earth? Corporate is the worst in my opinion. That is just as bad as having none at all. Be consistent. Be human. If you want to have an edgy brand, then talk about the photos but use some modern slang here and there, find ways to name drop your favorite rock band if you feel that will help solidify your photography brand identity. When it comes to marketing you can’t just focus on the obvious, you have to think outside of the box.

Some photographers use a photo as their logo. Not a good decision. I don’t know of any successful brand that uses a photo as their logo. The reason is that a graphic illustration is much simpler and clean; and also translates well across any medium. You want to convey your brand personality as quickly as possible. I think editorial and commercial photographers are the worst at branding. They are so focused on doing what has worked for others in the past to where they neglect the fundamental basics to effective marketing. The photographers who tend to be best at branding are wedding photographers. They have to because they deal with the general public so they adopt mainstream marketing tactics. Even if you can’t stomach the idea of being a wedding photographer, you should really take a look at the successful ones and see how they are promoting themselves. It is a real eye-opener.

As for photographers in my genre, the ones who got it were Galen Rowell and Art Wolfe among others. It wasn’t just their images that propelled them to success, it was the manner in which they connected with their fans. Galen’s writing about his wild adventures made him famous. Art Wolfe’s work is all over the mainstream media. I’m sure both built businesses with stock imagery but they also realized there is a much bigger market out there in selling prints in galleries, doing workshops, writing, lecturing and being a visible personality. This allowed them to diversify. So rather than spend all day complaining about how stock photography has gone down the toilet, develop your own ideas and sell them. Don’t be content with just relying on others to market for you. You are a brand, not just a photographer. Photographers are a dime a dozen.

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Developing Your Photography Brand Part IV – Marketing Campaigns http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/developing-your-photography-brand-part-iv-marketing-campaigns/ http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/developing-your-photography-brand-part-iv-marketing-campaigns/#comments Sat, 10 Mar 2018 14:00:01 +0000 http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/?p=10144 I originally wrote this series of articles on another site ten years ago and wanted to update this for my own site. In addition to being a photographer, I have served in various marketing roles at advertising agencies, media and adventure travel companies since graduating from college. Since most photographers do not have a background in marketing I wanted to start sharing some of thoughts on the subject and hopefully help some people along the way.

Part I: SWOT Analysis
Part II: Target Audiences
Part III: Perceived Value
Part IV: Marketing Campaigns
Part V: Brand Identity
Part VI: The Wine Label Test

While photographers are creative and are great at creating their art, they are generally terrible at marketing themselves. There are several reasons for this. One reason is that it is hard to sell something that you are so emotionally invested in. For this reason it might be better to find someone to do the marketing for you. Another reason is that most people do not have the professional background or education in marketing necessary to do an effective job at it. It is hard to enjoy selling your own work trust me.

No matter which form of marketing you choose to employ it requires a well-conceived plan in order to be effective. In my previous articles on photography branding, we discussed targeting and market analysis; these are the starting blocks for what should be your marketing campaign. At this point you should come up with a one page brief. This is probably the most important thing I’ll have to share with you in this whole series of blog posts. As an example, here are the questions that an ad agency creative brief usually has on there:

  • Why are we marketing?
  • What is the advertising trying to do?
  • Who are we talking to?
  • What do we know that will help us?
  • What is the main thought to communicate that will differentiate us from the competition?
  • Tone / Creative Guidelines

The main thought is the “concept” behind your entire campaign and the message that your audience will be receiving. It is extremely important to narrow this down to a single point to communicate. Many companies and business people do not understand this and therefore end up with a crappy ad campaign as a result. To their credit, it is hard to fork out money for something and not be tempted to cram as many thoughts as possible in a marketing execution but this is a mistake. The consumer doesn’t care about your advertising. Advertising is an annoyance. If they are going to take anything away from your messaging it has to be concise and interesting. If it isn’t, then you should just hold onto your money instead until you figure out how to do this.

Once you’ve developed a good creative brief then you can decide what type of media to employ. Some ideas are so adaptable that they can translate into many forms of media from print ads, postcards, email, sidewalk stencil drawings to things that no one has thought of before. What you should do is evaluate what the competition is currently doing and do something different than them. That is the only way to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

Sunset Reflection in Lagoon, Alameda, California

Sunset Reflection in Lagoon, Alameda, California

So now that you have a marketing plan and creative brief, where should you market? Each business and industry has certain marketing channels that work better than others. Some of this is a function of how well you can optimize these campaigns but perhaps more importantly, it depends on where your audience is and where they are in the decision process. For more on what modern-day consumers think about as they go about the decision process, I highly recommend this white paper that Google published in 2011 called, The Zero Moment of Truth.

I came up with a list of some common marketing channels that might be of relevance to your photography. Each probably warrants at least a post of its own so I’m not going to cover any of them in this blog post. I may cover some of these in greater depth in separate posts. I’ve had firsthand experience with most of these on behalf of Fortune 500 companies, privately-owned companies, startups and my own websites so there are a lot of ideas floating around in my head.

Marketing Channels For Photographers

  1. Social Media
    1. Facebook
    2. Instagram
    3. Flickr
    4. 500px
    5. Twitter
  2. Search Engines
    1. Search Engine Marketing (SEM)
    2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  3. Display Advertising
    1. Branding
    2. Retargeting
  4. Email
  5. Affiliate Marketing
  6. 3rd Party Review Sites
    1. Yelp
    2. Wedding Wire
    3. The Knot
  7. Books
  8. Magazine Articles
  9. Print Advertising
    1. Magazines
    2. Brochures
    3. Postcards
    4. Business Cards
  10. Event Marketing
    1. Art Fairs
    2. Juried Art Shows
    3. Photo Contests
    4. Public Speaking
    5. Professional Networking
      1. Industry Events
      2. Chamber of Commerce

A key piece of advice before beginning any sort of marketing campaign is establish what your key performance indicators (KPI’s) are. Generally if you are doing any sort of digital marketing you should have Google Analytics (GA) installed on every page of your website. Then set up some conversion goals in GA. An example of a conversion goal is to track the number of times people fill out the various forms on your website. This is crucial to understanding which marketing channels are driving your most-efficient leads and sales. Once you figure this out then you should have no qualms about putting out the money. No attribution model is perfect (1st click, last click, multi-touch, time-decay, etc…) but having any sort of visibility is better than not having any idea at all. Print attribution is a little bit more tricky but there are strategies for this too. Some common print attribution strategies are to use promo codes or to create a vanity URL that only people who have seen your print piece would know how to access. Call tracking software can help with call-based marketing attribution. Google Analytics and Google Tag Manager are big topics on their own so I may also consider sharing some insights on those in future posts.

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Developing Your Photography Brand III – Perceived Value http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/developing-your-photography-brand-iii-perceived-value/ http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/developing-your-photography-brand-iii-perceived-value/#comments Fri, 02 Mar 2018 14:00:19 +0000 http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/?p=10142 I originally wrote this series of articles on another site ten years ago and wanted to update this for my own site. In addition to being a photographer, I have served in various marketing roles at advertising agencies, media and adventure travel companies since graduating from college. Since most photographers do not have a background in marketing I wanted to start sharing some of thoughts on the subject and hopefully help some people along the way.

Part I: SWOT Analysis
Part II: Target Audiences
Part III: Perceived Value
Part IV: Marketing Campaigns
Part V: Brand Identity
Part VI: The Wine Label Test

I’ve heard numerous photographers state that once you are thought of as a source for cheap photos, it can be hard to shake that reputation. These photographers are generally referring to pricing and licensing decisions. There are many more ways that one can cheapen the value of their brand in the eye of the consumer and most of them are not even caused by deliberate reasons. This is not to be confused with deliberately targeting low-end markets.

An important thing to consider when establishing your brand value is where you sell yourself. Compare several pieces of art all done in a similar style. One being sold at Wal-Mart for $25, a Thomas Kincaid being sold at your local mall, and another displayed at a fine art institution. If they are all on the same playing field artistically, then what is the difference between them? It is the perceived value of the venue in which the art is being displayed. It is about prestige. There is a reason why Wal-Mart doesn’t do limited edition artwork. Because they could never get away with charging enough to make it a smart business decision so they opt for selling in quantity. Wal-Mart is seen as a place where you go to buy stuff for low prices. Whereas the gallery scene is more likely to engage in that practice to “drive up the value” of the artwork. They can do it because they created a perception of value that meets their objectives.

To put this into a photographer’s perspective: If you are trying to command premium fees for your work then posting your good images on sites like bottom-feeding sites like Shutterstock then that would probably be a waste of time for you, not to mention it could weaken the perceived value of your brand. The manner in which you present your work has to be appropriate for who your target audience is. We should be doing all we can to strengthen that relationship no matter what market we are targeting. It’s very difficult to achieve however and something that we should all consciously work to improve upon.

It only takes one mistake to make it all come crashing down though so we’ve got to be careful. Let’s say that you have a nicely designed website that is intended to add value to your brand. Great. But you hear that Google ads are a good way to monetize your website so one day you decide to paste Google Adsense all over your site. Well all the brand equity that you worked to build all goes out the window by doing that. Can you imagine someone seeing a Google Adsense ad for 750 photo downloads for $50 / month on the same page where a photographer is trying to sell $2,000 prints? What message are you sending to the user? If you have a classy website, but add one low-class element to it such as Google Adsense then what perception of value is the viewer left with? A mixed one at best. Certainly this is not the way to go if your goal is to maximize the value of your brand. This is not to say that Google ads aren’t a viable option, but you’ve got to ask yourself do the benefits of doing this outweigh all the negatives? Exactly what are the potential downfalls?

Mendocino County Coast Sunrise, Little River, California

Mendocino County Coast Sunrise, Little River, California

One thing I see a lot of photographers do to their detriment is revealing too much about themselves. (I do this too but family is essentially the story behind my work.) There is a fine line between establishing a personal connection with your audience versus maintaining a sense of professionalism. I see photographers all the time write about their PhD in Mathematics, their love of god, etc… it is all fine and dandy to have that in your life but it adds nothing of value to your photographic brand unless you specialize in college professor lifestyle photos or work with religious groups. If you can somehow tie in your personal background in a relevant fashion then it could work to your advantage such as how Ron Niebrugge did on his bio. Knowing that Ron has an MBA with a marketing emphasis adds something of value to potential clients because it says to them that if they have a business problem that requires photography then Ron might be able to help them solve it. But unfortunately, many other photographers approach their bio more like a diary than an asset to their marketing efforts. It is good to show some personality in your bio because so people can get an idea for how it might be like to work with you but it shouldn’t create a negative perception of you either.

So what is your target market and are you doing all you can to maximize your brand value while eliminating everything that could potentially weaken it?

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Developing Your Photography Brand II – Target Audiences http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/developing-your-photography-brand-ii-target-audiences/ http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/developing-your-photography-brand-ii-target-audiences/#comments Wed, 28 Feb 2018 14:00:11 +0000 http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/?p=10140 I originally wrote this series of articles on another site ten years ago and wanted to update this for my own site. In addition to being a photographer, I have served in various marketing roles at advertising agencies, media and adventure travel companies since graduating from college. Since most photographers do not have a background in marketing I wanted to start sharing some of thoughts on the subject and hopefully help some people along the way.

Part I: SWOT Analysis
Part II: Target Audiences
Part III: Perceived Value
Part IV: Marketing Campaigns
Part V: Brand Identity
Part VI: The Wine Label Test

In the first part of this segment, I discussed analyzing your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. By utilizing the SWOT Analysis, you should have a better idea for who your target market consists of. In many cases there is a main audience and a secondary audience. These are the people that the majority of your marketing efforts should be concentrated on. Try to see things from their perspective.

There is an Australian photographer, Peter Lik, who owns numerous photo galleries and is a good example of someone who has done a great job at positioning himself within his market. Many photographers have argued that Lik markets to the “lowest common denominator” and doesn’t have legit professional credentials contrary to what his PR would lead you to believe. So what exactly are professional credentials? It’s all in the eye of the beholder. His audience is the general public so it really doesn’t matter what his peers think of him; your opinion is not paying his bills. His galleries are located in the most heavily trafficked tourist locations in the world such as the Las Vegas Strip so the majority of people that have seen his images probably have never seen photos of Antelope Canyon or Mesa Arch from Canyonlands National Park. To seasoned photographers, those are considered iconic postcard locations, places that don’t require a lot of creativity to come away with pretty pictures. But to the general population these photos are eye-openers. Why should he push the envelope in his galleries when the pictures he sells are making him hundreds of millions of dollars? It’s like comparing Kenny G with Pat Metheny. Metheny has the respect of his peers but who do you think sleeps easier at night knowing that his family is taken care of?

Emerald Bay State Park Sunrise, Lake Tahoe, California

Emerald Bay State Park Sunrise, Lake Tahoe, California

Peter Lik is not in the business of becoming a photographer’s photographer so he doesn’t spend time marketing to them. He is in the business of selling his brand. That comes across in all his promotional work including his website. On his website, it says that he is the most awarded photographer in history. Based on the list of awards he says that he won, that claim is dubious at best, but his audience buys it so more power to him. I have also read elsewhere that he once had an ad in an airport that proclaimed himself as the world’s greatest photographer. Further evidence that he is doing something that other photographers aren’t, in the past I’ve seen search queries from my web analytics that show people searching for things like, “Does Peter Lik have a girlfriend?” I’m not sure why those people ended up clicking on my website since I don’t even know the guy but it is interesting to know that from a business perspective.

You might wonder what the heck does having groupies have to do with running a photography business? Well, I have never once seen another search query like that for any other photographer on my website analytics. When people think of landscape photographers, the first impression is usually of middle-aged men that aren’t exactly redefining what it means to be cool. Mr. Lik obviously isn’t looked upon the same way though technically he is in the same demographic. The difference is that he has positioned himself in the realm of celebrities. He’s all about selling a particular lifestyle; a lifestyle that is the dream of most people. He doesn’t just sell art prints, he sells desire.

White Girls Having Fun Dancing, Venice Beach Drum Circle, California

White Girls Having Fun Dancing, Venice Beach Drum Circle, California

So what is your target audience? While going on assignment for National Geographic or having an exhibit in a renowned art gallery might be a closed market for most photographers, there are many more markets out there outside of those avenues. If you think about it, there are so many photographers out there that it is not even worth the time to spend significant resources marketing to the same audience that everyone else aspires to reach. Even if you were to get their attention, how much work would you expect to get from them considering that their contact list is probably a mile long?

If Nat Geo or the world’s most renowned art gallery wants to work with you then they will find you. Just make sure that you are doing what you can to be found by them if that is your ultimate goal. In the meantime, there is a much bigger market out there in this world to tap into. That is where the real work comes in. Defining your target market isn’t a process that happens overnight and might require a great deal of trial and error.

Who? Where? When? How?

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Developing Your Photography Brand – Part One (of Six) http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/developing-your-photography-brand-part-one/ http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/developing-your-photography-brand-part-one/#comments Fri, 23 Feb 2018 14:00:28 +0000 http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/?p=10199 I originally wrote this series of articles on another site ten years ago and wanted to update this for my own site. In addition to being a photographer, I have served in various marketing roles at advertising agencies, media and adventure travel companies since graduating from college. Since most photographers do not have a background in marketing I wanted to start sharing some of thoughts on the subject and hopefully help some people along the way.

Bodega Head Sunrise Long Exposure, Sonoma Coast, California

Bodega Head Sunrise Long Exposure, Sonoma Coast, California

The most effective way to market your photography or anything else for that matter is to develop a memorable brand. You should think of yourself as a brand first not unlike the way that McDonald’s, Target, etc… does. You are not just an artist, photographer, writer etc… You are a photographic brand. So how do you go about developing one?

When I was a business school student two decades ago *gasp*, one of the basic marketing concepts that the professors beat into our brains was called SWOT Analysis. SWOT Analysis stands for “Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.” Since most photographers are running their own operation by themselves, a lot of this analysis involves figuring out what your own skills and limitations are. This should be the starting blocks for how to develop your photography brand.

Strengths / Weaknesses: For example, if you are the quiet type like many photographers are, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a weakness as long as you are aware of how to maximize your opportunities for promoting your brand. Knowing this personality trait of yours, instead of wasting time and money on designing fancy direct mail postcards that you never plan on following up on with a phone call, perhaps you should invest in developing a website that allows you to accomplish your goals. Perhaps design a good print ad campaign to run in Communication Arts or other industry publications to draw targeted buyers in to your website. Or if you are married to a spouse that is more personable than you, see if you can get them to handle the outreach aspect of the business.

Your personality should also determine what areas of photography to pursue. If you are charismatic for example, then it would probably be wise to be a service-oriented photographer such as teaching photo workshops, photographing weddings, portraiture, etc… or become a “celebrity” of sorts with public speaking engagements. If you’re the egotistical type then it’s probably best to do things that don’t require communicating with others or let someone else handle those responsibilities on your behalf. You want people to like your work on their own terms, no amount of boasting about how much you love yourself is going to convince the audience otherwise.

Opportunities / Threats: One of the questions you should ask yourself is what is the current state of the market? For example if photo buyers consistently request for model-released, senior lifestyle photos so it means several things for the photographer.

  1. Not enough people are photographing these subjects
  2. Demand is high – people are living healthy for a longer amount of years than ever so marketers are realizing the benefit to reaching this audience
  3. Lifestyle images are in constant need of updating because fashion and hair styles change

Market conditions would suggest that these images can command premium licensing fees. This screams opportunity is all caps. However if you have no interest in photographing senior lifestyles then none of the above makes a difference. The key is to identify every single one of your opportunities and threats then find ways to work around them. Some types of photography such as travel and nature photography probably have more threats than opportunities but it doesn’t mean that there are no opportunities. It just requires more creativity to get where you where you want to be. For example, I see some photographers partnering with tourism boards in order to do Instagram takeovers. Travel magazines may not pay anymore (or even exist for that matter) but I’ve heard quite a few photographers getting paid some nice five-figure sums for their tourism board assignments so clearly the market has changed and some people have adapted. The rest of us complain about how good the old days were.

There are also other factors to consider as well: What about your personal life? How about long-term decisions?

Though senior lifestyles might be a hot subject to photograph, the fact that these photos have a limited shelf life means that these are short-term opportunities. Definitely great for paying the bills right at that moment but what happens if you can’t actively photograph anymore or get tired of it? The lifestyle images you took ten years ago are now historical photos and no longer relevant.

That may mean eventually transitioning that lifestyle photography experience into running a photo agency, teaching classes / workshops, writing, art gallery showings, designing products for other photographers, etc… Last but not least, don’t forget to pay yourself and invest your money so you won’t have to work until the day you die.

Part I: SWOT Analysis
Part II: Target Audiences
Part III: Perceived Value
Part IV: Marketing Campaigns
Part V: Brand Identity
Part VI: The Wine Label Test

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California Missions List http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/california-missions-list/ http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/california-missions-list/#respond Wed, 21 Feb 2018 14:00:13 +0000 http://www.rwongphoto.com/blog/?p=10120 For 21 consecutive days in December I posted a photo per day on Instagram from each of the California Missions. It was a fun little project. I wanted to post them chronologically but found myself having to do Google searches every day in order to accomplish this. I figured that I’ll post the list of California Missions here so I won’t have to look at other sites to get this information in the future.

Mission San Diego de Alcalá – Est. 1769
Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (Carmel Mission) – Est. 1770
Mission San Antonio de Padua – Est. 1771

Road to Mission San Antonio de Padua, Monterey County, California

Road to Mission San Antonio de Padua, Monterey County, California

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel – Est. 1771
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa – Est. 1772
Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores) – Est. 1776
Mission San Juan Capistrano – Est. 1776

Devotion Prayer Candles, Mission San Juan Capistrano, California

Devotion Prayer Candles, Mission San Juan Capistrano, California

Mission Santa Clara de Asís – Est. 1777
Mission San Buenaventura – Est. 1782
Mission Santa Barbara – Est. 1786
Mission La Purísima Concepción – Est. 1787

Christian Cross Atop Doorway at La Purisima State Historic Park, Lompoc, California

Christian Cross Atop Doorway at La Purisima State Historic Park, Lompoc, California

Mission Santa Cruz – Est. 1791
Mission Nuestra Señora de la Soledad – Est. 1791
Mission San José – Est. 1797
Mission San Juan Bautista – Est. 1797

Main Altar, Mission San Juan Bautista, California

Main Altar, Mission San Juan Bautista, California

Mission San Miguel Arcángel – Est. 1797
Mission San Fernando Rey de España – Est. 1797
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia – Est. 1798
Mission Santa Inés – Est. 1804
Mission San Rafael Arcángel – Est. 1817
Mission San Francisco Solano (Sonoma Mission) – Est. 1823

Sonoma Mission (San Francisco Solano) Chapel, Sonoma, California

Sonoma Mission (San Francisco Solano) Chapel, Sonoma, California

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