Former Art Buyers and current photography consultants Amanda Sosa Stone and Suzanne Sease have agreed to take anonymous questions from photographers and not only give their expert advice but put it out to a wide range of photographers, reps and art buyers to gather a variety of opinions. The goal with this column is to solicit honest questions and answers through anonymity.
The other day I received my second invitation to participate in AtEdge. I’m really flattered, but the price tag of almost $8K is a bit steep for me. The photography industry is very competitive and it’s about getting your images out there and seen. What are the best options for promoting your work and getting it seen? Resource guides, Workbook, Blackbook. Premium websites such as Photoserve, Dripbook. Direct mail, email blast (I’ve spoken to AD’s and they say they receive 50-100 emails a day and have stopped looking at them). Entering contests… All these services have pro’s and con’s, but they all cost. Seems if you want to take your photography career up to the next level, you have to pay to play. How do you get the most bang for the buck? Where do creatives look for photographers?
ART PRODUCER 1:
It’s not an event, it’s a process.
Marketing yourself as a photographer is no different than any other advertiser promoting their product. There are many “channels” for doing this, including conventional media like print, to newer media like email blasts and social media. As you mention, the idea is to get your work seen. Because there are as many different ways that people prefer to look at work as there are ways to show it, it’s necessary to do a little of everything. Just like advertisers do.
How to get the biggest bang for your buck? Do your homework!!
Taking a shotgun approach of blasting out promos to anyone and everyone can be quite expensive. With a little sweat equity, you can reduce the cost while putting out a more effective marketing campaign. So, presuming that your portfolio/website are ready to be seen in public, here’s a simplistic overview:
Determine WHO you want to work with/market to and what kind of work you want to do. Annual reports? Event photography? The agency for L’Oreal hair color? Use resources such as Workbook and Agency Compile (much of it for free!) to research accounts you’d like to work on and who does the work. Create a written contact list or use a list service to pull one for you.
Develop a marketing plan which includes promoting in a variety of media in a way that is relevant to your target market. For example, if you want to work in healthcare, don’t include images of cars in your promotions. Don’t edit your list, just chart out all the possibilities and throw in a timetable. The editing will come as you determine how much time and how many resources you have available to you. Include promotions that are reminders (postcards, emails) and also longer term promotions such as “keeper” pieces that are more substantial, like printed books or “stuff.” Contests are actually the cheapest way to get maximum exposure. If you had to pay for your own promotions with the same reach as an award show, it would be in the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars.
Determine a budget. Based on your short list, determine how much you have to spend. $50? Then you may have only enough to send out a few special promos to a few key people. $500? then you can afford either repeat promotions or a more special promotion to a few more people, plus a couple of contests.
Stick with it! It will take about 2 years to make an impact. You may luck out and get work sooner, but it’s hard to leave a lasting impression in less time than that. If you let up during that time and cease marketing, the clock starts over. If you’re getting zero response in the first 6 months, you may want to consider investing in a reputable consultant to evaluate your marketing tools (portfolio/website/promotions) to give you an honest opinion.
ART PRODUCER 2:
It’s quite a commitment, you have to do your research and find out what people prefer and which markets are the best fit. You have to look into the accounts at each agency, so you’re sure to know who’s doing what. Work with someone to edit your work in your book and website. Presentation is key.
In addition to promos, do agency visits/showings. As much as it sucks to feel like you have to provide food at the showings to get people to show, it works. And, don’t forget to provide leave behinds, that way they’ll have something to remember you by.
Finally, do award shows/contests. Creatives still use them as a reference and it’s hell of a lot cheaper than paying $8000 to get lost in the shuffle.
Many clients swear by their AtEdge ads work for them and other’s swear by Photoserve and even their ASMP findaphotographer.org list – while other’s focus solely on their email and direct mail marketing. We believe that you have to do your research first and see what options you have. Figure out your target market, your budget and do an equation that works for you (we prefer you at least start with 3 approaches – so that not all your eggs are in one basket). It doesn’t happen overnight, so find a plan you can build and grow over a couple of years – but it should be consistent and strong.
Call To Action:
Target market? Budget? Calculate!