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.
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.
- Not enough people are photographing these subjects
- 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
- 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.