The Daily Chessum

When I give my Social Media Marketing talk most of the examples I give of photographers having success using it to market themselves involve lots of writing and monkeying around with a blog which can feel ridiculous to present to a group of people who take pictures for a living. That’s why I always end my examples with Jake Chessum’s blog where I’ve come to love the simplicity of a daily image from one of my favorite photographers as a brilliant marketing tool.

In my mind it easily represents how social media will allow those in the hiring seat the opportunity to follow photographers they’re interested in, rather than get blasted with emails and promo cards. Additionally, people can easily share his content and if he added a couple simple features it could be on twitter and facebook in an instant.

This is where social media is taking us, to a world where everything comes into our purview after someone endorses it. You don’t have to look further than the survey I did with Art Buyers and Photo Editors to understand that this is how hiring decisions have always been made: someone recommends you, a magazine I like hires you, an agent I trust has you on their roster, you win an award I keep track of. Now there’s just a more efficient way for recommendations to happen.

It’s been a year since he started so I decided to give him a call and ask a few questions.

Rob: Tell me, why did you choose this format to put your work out there?

Jake: Well, first of all I didn’t want to write one of these confessional type of blogs. I think it’s too easy to get yourself in trouble with clients that way. I wanted to be able to put new work up without having to go into the website and reorganize the portfolios. I wanted something immediate, to capture that moment when you’re really excited about something you’ve just done.

What about the time commitment, a photo each day must get difficult for someone as busy as you are?

If I’ve got a job coming up and won’t be around I can post ahead and I always keep a folder with 20 or 30 in the bank. There is pressure to create something and so when I’m in between shooting jobs I’ve got to have the camera with me for when I see something. It’s actually quite good in that it keeps you motivated to shoot.

What about the fact that this is one more thing photographers have to do now?

I remember very clearly as a kid how everyone said that in the future technology was going to do all the work for us. How we were going to be down to a 3 day work week and have loads of leisure time. Turned out to be complete bullshit, the opposite is true. This stuff adds to the workload, but I do feel it’s a positive and necessary thing.

Do you see this replacing any of the traditional marketing you do?

I think the whole industry’s in a transitional period so we don’t know what’s going to happen. Look at vinyl, everyone said in 5 or 10 years nobody will buy a vinyl record but now when an album comes out you’ve got to have a vinyl edition for the collectors. I do know you’re taking a risk if you’re not participating in these emerging outlets.

How well do you think it works as a marketing tool? There’s not really a way to tell if you’ve landed jobs because of it is there?

No not really unless somebody tells you. It does put the pressure on to be on your game. You’ve got to pick 30 pictures a month that you stand by. I couldn’t do it without my wife. She’s a great editor and critic. When I’m traveling around the world on jobs I can post and let people know where I am and they can follow and know what I’m up to. When a shoot is published in a magazine I can post the outtakes, some of which are often favorites, but didn’t make the cut for space or other reasons. Media is changing day on day and the consumption of images is so rapid. The real payoff as I said before, is the immediacy of it. When you’ve done something you’re proud of and you’ve got that great feeling about it, you can publish it, for everyone to see.

There Are 9 Comments On This Article.

  1. Inspirational and practical. Thank you Rob and Jake. I got a lot out of Jakes comment “Look at vinyl, everyone said in 5 or 10 years nobody will buy a vinyl record but now when an album comes out you’ve got to have a vinyl edition for the collectors.”

    Do you think this applies to photographers who shoot film? Meaning in the future could shooting film be a way to stand out in a digital world?

  2. I have to agree with him about the endless verbiage on some photo blogs. Talking/confessing about a photograph/assignment is the domain of MFA candidates and photography critics. My favorite photo blog is a Tumblr by fashion/celeb shooter Terry Richardson. Lots of photos with minimal captions. By following it you gain insight into his life and work, and isn’t that what a blog is supposed to be about? See BTW-this is a real personal endorsement as I’ve never met Terry Richardson nor do we hang in anywhere near the same circles!

    • I’m a huge fan of Mr. Richardson’s blog, too. Nor am I a fan of “endless” verbiage. But I have to say that writing about photography need not be solely
      the domain of MFA students or critics. Some photographers write well about their trials and tribulations. I know my blogging approach of verbiage (not endless), opinion and fotos has cost me clients, but I also know that it has gained me clients. The clients it has cost me were not my kind of clients. The clients it has gained me, are.

  3. More insight to throw in the hopper and see what comes out in the end. I think many have said it is important to find what works for you. I think one thing that is very important to the immediacy of today is being able to be fresh. Having a camera with you the majority of the time helps.

    • Not to take anything away from Chessum, I’m a huge fan, but “marketing genius”? The guy’s got a tumblr. A LOT of photographers these days have a tumblr and Chessum was far from being the first. That’s neither good nor bad, I just don’t think it constitutes marketing ingenuity.

      Actually, what I like about Chessum’s tumblr is that it doesn’t come across as some deliberate marketing scheme. It’s just a photographer putting up some of his images. Honest and simple.