Promoting Yourself As A Photographer

Promoting oneself as a photographer
The Sky Is The Limit

Shining Through the Spotlight: Mastering Self-Promotion as a Photographer

I founded my photography business in 2006, shortly before I retired from my day job at The Wall Street Journal. I learned photography as a teenager. I knew photography as a science, art and craft, but what I didn’t know was how to make a photography business succeed. What I didn’t know was how to become known and respected as a photographer.

Very early on, I asked a rather famous Colorado photographer (I’ll spare you the name dropping) what advice he would give to a photographer trying to make a name for ones self in the business? He gave me a simple and direct reply.

Promote yourself. Take every opportunity to promote yourself and your work in every way possible.

Capturing the world through your lens and sharing your unique vision: a photographer’s dream. But in today’s saturated scene, simply being talented isn’t enough. The ability to effectively promote yourself is crucial for standing out and attracting clients. Worry not, fellow visual storytellers, for this blog post is your blueprint to self-promotion success!

Building Your Foundation: The Essential Tools

1. Website – Your Digital Home:

A well-designed website is your online portfolio, your first impression. Showcase your best work, highlight your specialties, and make it easy for potential clients to contact you. Invest in professional templates or hire a designer to create a site that reflects your personal brand.

2. Social Media – Your Network:

Instagram is your visual playground, Facebook allows in-depth storytelling, and LinkedIn connects you with professionals. Choose the platforms that resonate with your target audience and curate engaging content. Share snippets of your work, behind-the-scenes glimpses, and valuable photography tips. Remember, consistency is key.

3. Blog – Your Voice:

Sharing your knowledge and insights establishes you as an expert. Write blog posts about your creative process, photography techniques, or industry trends. This not only attracts potential clients but also builds a community around your work.

Beyond the Basics: Stepping Up Your Game

1. Network Like a Pro:

Attend industry events, workshops, and conferences. Connect with other photographers, potential clients, and collaborators. These face-to-face interactions can lead to invaluable opportunities.

2. Collaborations – Sharing the Spotlight:

Team up with other creatives like stylists, makeup artists, or models for exciting projects. This cross-promotion expands your reach and showcases your versatility.

3. Testimonials – Let Your Clients Speak:

Gather positive feedback from past clients and prominently display them on your website and social media. Social proof is a powerful tool that builds trust and credibility.

4. Run Promotions and Offers:

Special discounts, limited-edition packages, or contests can attract new clients and generate buzz. Be creative and tailor your offers to your specific niche.

Staying Inspired: Fueling Your Creative Fire

Experiment and Explore: Don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone. Try new techniques, genres, and projects. This keeps your work fresh and exciting.

Seek Inspiration: Immerse yourself in art, music, and films. Travel to new places and meet new people. Broaden your horizons and let the world inspire your lens.

Connect with the Community: Engage with other photographers online and offline. Share your work, offer feedback, and learn from each other. A supportive community can be a source of invaluable inspiration and motivation.

Remember, self-promotion is a journey, not a destination. There will be ups and downs, but persevere. Keep creating, keep connecting, and keep refining your approach. With dedication and the right tools, you’ll shine through the spotlight and build a thriving photography career.

5. Don’t be afraid of change:

Change for the sake of change isn’t necessarily a good idea. Make change for the better. The better for your business, the better for your career, the better for your soul.

When I first started my photography business, I was a wedding and events photographer. It paid fairly well too. The problem for me then was I didn’t really enjoy that work. It was a lot of stress. Brides, mom’s of brides, drunk relatives and friends, bossy ministers and venue owners & operators. I enjoyed the actual work of making photographs for my clients but all the peripheral stuff really turned me off. I needed a change. I made the change. I quit taking on wedding clients and then I quit taking on event clients. I didn’t want the stress and I didn’t really need the money. I could find other ways to make money with my photography and I did.

I moved to a business model where I was selling my prints and products at art festivals and shows and online and in galleries. It was hit and miss, and a lot of long hours, but I did okay with that model for quite a few years, so I took up doing photography training and hosting workshops. I continued with that model until my health started getting the better of me. My business approach and subject matter continued to change as my business matured. I added services and approaches to my business model that worked, and dropped what didn’t work. Mostly though, I stayed happy about what I was doing. I think perhaps, satisfaction with what I was doing is the most important aspect of being a professional photographer to me. I followed my heart and didn’t worry about the rest beyond using my head to make what ever I did work for me.

Bonus Tips:

Invest in high-quality equipment: It doesn’t have to be the most expensive, but reliable gear will elevate your work.

Always work on improving your photography skills. There is always something to learn.

Sharpen your editing skills: Learn how to post-process your images to perfection. There are many great tutorials and software options available.

Offer excellent customer service: Be responsive, professional, and go the extra mile for your clients. They will become your biggest advocates.

Don’t give your work away. Nobody ever made a living giving their photography away for free. The best “exposure” is paid exposure.

So how did all this work out for me?

I am now 66 years old (at the time of this writing) and I’ve had a good run in life. I worked most of my adult life as a “Newspaper Man” with The Wall Street Journal, and retired from that world in 2007. I learned a lot in those years, but what I didn’t learn was how to own and operate a successful photography business. Before I started my new photography business, I went to the best and smartest people I could find and tried to learn as much as I could from them before I waded into the business of photography.

Being officially retired from my full time career at The Journal, my goal for my photography business was pretty simple. I wasn’t interested in getting rich and famous. I didn’t suffer from the “rock star” mindset, thinking everyone was going to know me and treat me as someone special in the industry. What I wanted to achieve was to be known in the industry here in Colorado as a competent and reliable photographer who did good quality work and treated his friends and clients with respect.

That was and still is my definition of “successful.”

And I have been successful, by my own standards.

I’ve established myself quite well in the industry, I have a great list of clients and publishing credits from my 18 years as a commercial photographer. I have made a ton friends and acquaintances and I’ve pissed a few people off in the process. I don’t worry about those I’ve pissed off, because I never intended to hurt anyone, but this business is rife with people who are insecure, pretentious and just plain incompetent. I don’t have the time or inclination to make everyone happy. My goal was and still is to make my audience happy and more importantly, make myself happy

What I have found though, is that Colorado is full of wonderful people in the photography business, both professional and amateurs. It’s the honest, down to earth people in this business I enjoy meeting and knowing. I love it when my friends succeed. Photography is not a competition to me, it’s an art and a way of life that I like to share with like-minded individuals.

My business today is totally different from when I started. I retired from taking on clients and doing paid workshops and tours in 2017. Mostly, my work these days is as a landscape and wildlife photographer. I sell prints, wall art and stock photos. I’ve been lucky in that I didn’t have to rely on making a ton of money. I made my money when I was younger and retired from The Wall Street Journal. These days, I’m just a guy living with his wife and dogs in the suburbs of Denver, doing photography for enjoyment and living pretty much on a fixed income and the money my photography earns on the side. And I am quite happy too.

My stock photography produces a steady income and I keep adding to my stock portfolios every year. That’s a lifetime of earning. So long as stock photography exists, I’ll have an income. I am also heavily published as a photographer. I may very well be the most published commercial photographer in Colorado. It’s hard to tell, I can only go by what I’m seeing across the industry and I’m not seeing anyone else getting anything close to the amount of commercial exposure my work gets. I’ve been published by hundreds of publications in just about every medium that exists. I keep finding more of my photos published every day. Over the past 10 years, I’ve sold over 50,000 photographs to publications around the world.

In my book, that’s pretty successful. The reason for that success has been that I promoted myself at every opportunity along the way.

The final takeaway?

Do what works for you and be happy. Believe in your talent, showcase your vision, and never stop learning. With the right approach and a consistent effort, you’ll transform from a passionate photographer into a self-assured professional, ready to capture the world, one click at a time.