Thursday, 11 June 2009

Promoting Your Photography Business

Another great post from fashion photographer Melissa Rodwell.  I posted part one of this three part series dedicated to the business of photography last week.   This is part two and concentrates on your portfolio and marketing.  Melissa has written some sound advice here which holds true, no matter what photography business you run.  If you are serious about your business then this is a must read!!  

The photograph below is by Vincent Peters, click the link here to see his stunning and inspirational portfolio.

Part Two in the Three Part Series on
The Business of Fashion Photography

Vincent PetersImage by Vincent Peters

Last week we talked about the reality of the business and how to prepare yourself for the serious world that it truly is. I spoke of establishing your identity and your style. I wrote about how agents and clients take work in their best interest and so should you. And how believing in the value and worth of your work is tantamount to your success in the business. Today I’m going to address your portfolios and marketing yourself. In today’s age, the internet is a heavily relied on source for marketing. What does that mean? You not only have to have a physical presence with your work, you must have a web presence as well. Which means, you need a website. If you are sending your potential clients to a site that holds your body of work, like Flickr, you will not be taken seriously. Not to bash Flickr entirely, it’s a good platform to start on, but you don’t want to market yourself from there. Flickr is not recognized by agencies and clients as a reliable source for talented and dependable photographers. It’s deemed “amateur” and thus you will be perceived as one, even if your work is outstanding. The sad part about that, is what I said in the previous post: The Level you go into an agency is the level you will stay at. And what did I say about perception? Right. So listen, you don’t have to take my word as the absolute truth…I’ve just been in the business for a long time and these tips are tried and true.

You need a portfolio.  Here are some tips with your portfolio:

  • Your portfolio should be an extension of your personality. Again, identity and branding are so important here.
  • If you have 10 great shots and 10 mediocre shots, only show the 10 great ones. Believe me, they only remember you by your mediocre shots. In other words, less is more here.
  • Show a cohesive body of work. It should have a style. Your style. Find and then show it off.
  • Make sure it flows. Sequencing and color flow is so important.

Before you start with a book, you need a logo. You need to brand yourself. And this is where you can’t afford to cut corners and avoid costs. Hire a graphic designer to design your logo and business card. Use the logo on all promos and web presence, even email presence. It establishes who you are. The agencies may not remember your images, sorry to say, but when they see your logo over and over, they will start to become familiar your identity. Did you know that it takes 7 exposures before someone remembers you?? So consistency is very important. In a week or two, I am going to post some really great information on companies now that offer flash websites to photographers so you can get yourself a beautiful site and you can manage all the content yourself! That’s right…no more hiring overpriced and arrogant web designers who not only charge you through the roof for a site, but then are difficult to communicate with in the entire process. I swear to God at this exact moment I am willing to bet that 150 photographers across our planet are complaining right now about their web designer. They don’t take your calls or answer your emails when you’ve been asking them for three weeks to update your site, then they want to charge you for doing the work. It’s endless and they’re a pain. So get a website from one of the few places like or They’re competitive in price and it’s so easy to maintain and update your own site. And it’s in your own domain as well. More on that later, but same rules do apply with that site. Logo needs to be present, your 10 best images as opposed to 20 half great half okay, and consistency and flow is equally as important on your “digital portfolio”.

Here’s some tips on marketing:

  • Email marketing works on name recognition but not with strangers. Can you imagine how many emails art directors and editors get a day? They don’t have time to go through all of them. Yours probably won’t get opened if they don’t recognize your name.
  • Promo pieces are still the way to go. It should contain 3 to 5 images and shouldn’t be over the size of 5 X 7. Your images should show your style and be consistent with each other. Your logo should be on it as well.
  • Know your audience. Don’t blanket your promo cards everywhere. If you want to shoot fashion, find the art buyers who work on fashion campaigns and the editors that work in the fashion editorial world. If your style is high fashion, don’t send your promo card to Family Circle Magazine. You’re wasting their time and yours.
  • Come up with a game plan: target your audience and then be consistent with your promo piece. Remember the 7 times exposure rule: you need to update them with a new recognizable promo piece often and consistently.

And a few words about source books:

  • They’re not as relevant as they used to be.
  • Do your research on what source books work for your market. For instance, Workbook works well in Chicago but not other regions.
  • Never buy a single page. You don’t want to be placed next to a photographer whose work brings your work down.
  • Again, hire and use a good designer to do your layout.
  • Always convey a clear image of what it is you do! High fashion, beauty, lifestyle? What is YOUR style.
  • I went with At-Edge because of it’s exclusivity. I want to be in the source book that carries a  lot of clout. I also liked the fact that they invite the photographer, so not every one qualifies. It keeps me in a good class of photographers. Other source books works well for different needs and what level you are in the business. Obviously, At-Edge is for a photographer who is very established. There are other source books that aren’t as expensive and not as exclusive.

Source books are pricey. Look, it’s ALL pricey. Updating your website, printing for your portfolio, printing new promo cards every two months, advertising yourself in a source book…….it ADDS up! I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information. This doesn’t have to be done overnight so don’t get frustrated! These are tips you can come back to when you’re ready to take on the next hurdle in marketing and promoting yourself.

Next week we’ll fiinish the 3 part series on Negotiating and Estimating. Its where we will apply the idea of valuing your work and worth after you’ve successfully promoted yourself and caught the eye of a client!


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