Photography is a business when it's not a hobby. And the ingredients that keep a photography business thriving are the same as the ingredients for any business. My philosophy and approach to my work has been to focus on mastery rather than marketing. It's not the only way to go. Some people become successful and even famous long before their work warrants it by focusing first on marketing and sales, and that's absolutely valid. You see people who have hundreds of thousands of fans more or less because they have an afro, or a mullet, or an engaging personality, and technical skill is secondary. Those people do well, and I'm always impressed that they do. But I've always been somewhat obsessed with technique, and that is what interests me most, so that's where I've focused. I always felt like if I oversold myself, I would get people pumped and they would hire me because I'm interesting rather than for my work, or that I would be hired and not be able to deliver. At this point in my experience, I would recommend this: if you're looking to be an in-house photographer somewhere, focus on your work. Afros don't get you very far in interviews. If you want to be a freelance photographer, using memorable marketing ploys, like wearing a bowtie everywhere, works. You just need to be remembered. "Oh yeah, I've heard about that guy. The guy with the mullet." When I played chess back in high school, I wore an old-man-hat to all the tournaments. Before long, when I sat down to a game, my opponent would say, "Oh, crap. The kid with the hat. My friends told me about you."
So I spent years working hard to learn all that I could, and while I am still learning, and always will, I feel my work has finally gotten to where I feel confident that I could do any job I landed. So now I'm turning my attention to marketing. I have a portfolio I'm still working on, but am proud of. I have a website. I have a facebook fan page. I have a Photoserve account at PDN. These are the basics. But what about a brand? When people see my site, do they get the feeling that it's intentional, and professional? Or thrown together and amateur? Is my work cohesive? Is there a mark by which people can quickly recognize me, like an afro or, since I was born with the world's straightest hair, a good logo? I've been asking these questions and many others, and so many of the answers aren't what I want them to be. So I've begun making some changes.
I have found and hired a team of designers to begin work on a logo and new business cards for me. Do I know for sure that having a logo will make a major difference in getting work? No. But hey.
They're great designers and by covering the logo base, at least if I'm not getting the kind of work I want, I won't have to wonder if it's my lack of branding. The more of these holes you fill, the easier it is to drill down to what your marketing strategy is missing. If I have a logo, website, business cards, killer work, big names on the client list, awards and an afro, that pretty much narrows it down to not making enough contacts in person, by phone or by email. And if I'm emailing and calling, maybe I know it's not enough in-person approaches. So just like I had to figure out how to light a subject in a cave, I'm figuring out how to reach the people I'm looking to work with. The world of the photographer is a breeding ground for excuses, and the more excuses you can eliminate, the closer you are to getting clients like Walmart knocking on the door.
Another change you'll see is more frequent blog posts. One post every 3 months isn't quite enough to invite a following, and I do want people sharing my work and my content with others. So I'll be posting here more than just when I win an award or get published on FStoppers (Like I was two weeks ago!). Sometimes I drive to work (where I do product photography) thinking about my goals and how I'll get there, so I'll start writing those things down and sharing them, as well as tips and ideas that I have.
Thanks for reading. There weren't that many photos to keep your attention, but I'll have more of those for you next week.