Establishing yourself...

Discussion in 'Presentation & Marketing' started by Derek Lofgreen, Feb 14, 2006.

  1. Derek Lofgreen

    Derek Lofgreen Subscriber

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    I know there are some here that have enjoyed some success with their photography. I was wondering if anyone would like to share how they established themselves.

    I would first assume that a photographer produce quality images. What about things like websites, other forums frequented, local participation with other photographers, art fairs or galleries. What seemed to help you become an established photographer in your area or focus?

    Thanks,

    D.
     
  2. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    What kind of photography do you do. And who is your target market.

    When you figure out who you are marketing to, then it is easier to come up with a game plan.

    Michael
     
  3. Derek Lofgreen

    Derek Lofgreen Subscriber

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    I am not looking for any specific "how do I.." but more of an insight to how others established themselves. I know there are some successful large format shooters that sell their work and other 35mm portrait shooters that have become well known. Sometimes there are some key ideas that can be shared among all types.

    For example, in my other creative business I've learned that giving back to the community, relationships with others in the field, and corporate partnerships go along way in becoming "established". So I was wondering if there was anything people have done that they feel has helped them become an established photographer. Did they frequent other forums, give back to the community of photographers, organize a local group etc.

    Make sense?

    D.
     
  4. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    All your examples are great if you wish to become "known".

    But if you wish to make money you still have to establish who you wish to sell to and target them. Joining clubs and organizations is a great idea in the abstract but it is not marketing. And the things you mentioned, seem to be all photography groups, but photography groups do not buy your photographs.

    In your first post you mentioned "success". Does that mean to you that other photographers know you or does it mean that you make good money at it?


    Michael
     
  5. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Some of the things you describe work in some market segments, Derek, but not others. As Michael suggested, each market segment has its own peculiarities, and those may even vary by geographic location or region. The question, as posed, may be too broad to get useful responses.
     
  6. Derek Lofgreen

    Derek Lofgreen Subscriber

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    I guess what I am trying to ask is not how did you get established with your client base. What I was wondering was how do you get established within the photography community?

    There are two sides to the business it seems to me. Client establishment will bring you customers and has it's own marketing focuses. Then there is the photo community, with workshops, corporate endorsements, products etc. I was wondering about the latter.

    Does that narrow it down a little?

    D.
     
  7. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    I think that can be said of any profession Derek. I also think a love of what you do coupled with quality, consistency of style and ...a whole lot of luck goes a long way in becoming "established". Don't confuse "established" with successful if you are considering wealth as success!

    As others have stated, it depends a lot on what you hope to achieve. An established "commercial photographer" is one thing. A photographic "artist" is another. And, if you want to be both, don't use your "commercial" credentials when trying to establish yourself as an "artist". Granted, many artists are also successful in the commercial world, but there are many galleries that won't even look at your work if you are a commercial photographer. Some try to pass off both in their portfolios and Websites, it rarely works. People looking for art don't want to see still lifes of glassware whereas people looking for a great still-life photographer doesn't want to see landscapes.

    As for giving back to the community, relationships, etc., it is my experience that photography in the art business can be a little more fickle. It is a dog eat dog world and people can be a little tight-lipped when it comes to business practice. I find this less with artists than with dealers, but it can still be the same. Try asking many "famous" photographers about their technique and materials and you may be surprised. There is one well-known photographer discussed much on this board that is outright offended at such questions. In all fairness, questions about what film, paper and developer you use can get pretty redundant, but alienating your followers wouldn't seem the way to go. I do have to say that since joining and using APUG that I am happy to find there are many who are quite open about their practice and I find that heartening.

    Hope this helps...

    Bill
     
  8. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Many good points.

    There are many different ways to be successful. There is one well known local photographer (who I won't name) who has sold dozens of books, calendars, post cards, etc. But, his work is really poor quality - depth of field, time of day, subject locations - but he is successful. You need to define what is success for you. Is it the quality of your work, how well known you are, or how much money you put in the bank? That decision is yours alone.
     
  9. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    Sorry...I was writing my log winded response while you were posting.
    Those photographers that I think of as "established" are that way more because of the work they produce than what they contribute or post. For me, it is that simple. I don't need any more than that. In fact, if I know, talk to them or read what they have written, it sometimes takes away from the work!

    Bill
     
  10. Derek Lofgreen

    Derek Lofgreen Subscriber

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    Those are some very insightful thoughts Bill. I can see what you mean about an artist being sought after for there artistic abilities by both art collectors and commercial clients. And I have noticed that most photographers do act like you are asking them for some long hidden family recipe when you ask them "how do you do that". I always thought the individuals creative ability was the defining factor in ones work.

    Here is an example of what I was wondering. There is this photographer and he is a very good wedding shooter. His clients love his work and keep his schedule full. He also has a huge following of photographers that will buy his products, take his workshops, and camera manufacturers pay him to promote there gear.

    Another photographer is a travel and landscape shooter. He shoots medium format and prints these huge canvas prints and sells lot of them. His clients can't wait for more new ones and he just rakes in the cash. He also has a large following of photographers who will buy his products, workshops and is also indorsed by manufacturers.

    Okay, there are tons of great wedding shooters, and landscape shooters but how does someone begin to establish themselves like this? Is it simply a matter of marketing or is there more to it?

    D.
     
  11. bill schwab

    bill schwab Advertiser Advertiser

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    This is very true. There is that point of pride that might make someone want others to figure things out for themselves, but I've never seen much point in trying to be difficult about such things. I think that is more of a false mystique kind of thing. After all. a photographer is not made by the materials used.

    I really do believe it is marketing in most cases. There are people who are blessed with a sense of business and can make it doing anything. As for the hypothetical people of which you speak, I think much of it is in the promotion of one's self first. Then, when a following starts to tag along, the sponsors can step-in because there is a buck to be made. This in turn gives the "expert" more credibility, advertising, etc. It is self-perpetuating.

    Also I think in many cases it is a "those that can, do..." kind of thing. I don't mean that with any disrespect, it is just the way it is. If someone is making gobs of money at what they do, why teach? Same goes for famous wedding photographer "A" ... if he/she is making a good living traveling the country teaching those that want to be, why ever shoot another wedding? Of course there are those that do it all, but you don't see many of the really "big" names doing workshops.

    Bill
     
  12. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    It is learning to "market yourself" which helps you become established as a "name". Marketing your work goes hand in hand with that.

    The photographers I recognise as being "successful" (in that they make money and have a well known brand name) have all become successful through marketing - not just for the quality of their work (and in some cases, not even due to the quality of their work). Any one of the contributors to this forum could be successful if quality photography was the only reason for success. However, it is only those who grasp the concepts of marketing who will ever become known for their photography.

    I can't remember who the quote is from, but it goes like: "Become better at marketing what you do than actually doing and success will follow." Very true, in my opinion. If you want to be "successful", don't spend any more money on cameras - spend it on learning how to market yourself.

    Cheers,
    Graeme
     
  13. Derek Lofgreen

    Derek Lofgreen Subscriber

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    Graeme,
    That's a good point too. There is a difference between marketing your pictures and marketing yourself. Marketing yourself will bring a brand recognition to your work. Your work then becomes your products, weather it's the images themselves or other products like workshops, gadgets etc. Has anyone here at apug been able to do that?

    D.
     
  14. roteague

    roteague Member

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    Yes, there are several, including Graeme. He owns his own gallery in Western Australia (I'm waiting for him to open one in Sydney); that is a fine accomplishment in itself.
     
  15. Thomassauerwein

    Thomassauerwein Member

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    Being part of communities is a great thing to inspire yourself with and as far as success is concerned it is a one day at a time kind of thing. Look at individual accompliments as success.
    With respect to financial gratification this is a jearney of your own making. Sounds vague but the reality is, what the world needs is "not" another photographer. So through perserverance they need to understand why they need you. Most agency or companies get inindated with people looking for work that are willing to undercut everyone price wise to get the work. So shoot what you need to express yourself to potential markets show it, listen to their respnse, quantify it for its value then adjust in the places you agree with then try again. Luck is very neccesary and is something that with patience and great effort will show itself. This process will test your passion for this medium. Over and over again. even with some success every time you want to grow yourself to the next step you will be faced with the same issues. "It is acheivable!"
     
  16. Graeme Hird

    Graeme Hird Member

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    Derek, I'm not sure you should be making a distinction between marketing your pictures and yourself - I believe expert marketing requires the marketing of the whole package: every aspect of your brand needs to compliment the others. Selling the whole package is how you establish your brand name.

    An example everybody here can relate to is AA: when we hear the name, we all immediately think B&W landscapes of the American West, we remember the Zone System, a series of instructional books and an environmental activist. Ansel Adams became more than a photographer: he became an industry, with instant brand recognition amongst his chosen market segment.

    However, that recognition did not occur until somebody took his work and life story and started marketing them (and that was not AA, at least not initially ....). If left to his own devices, he would have kept selling his prints for $20 each to tourists in Yosemite NP.

    My advice, for what it's worth, is to buy some books on brand marketing, direct marketing and self promotion. Read them extensively and write notes on how each concept could be applied to your situation. Most importantly, act immediately. You only have one life, and time is running out whilst you sit reading this forum!

    Nobody but you is going to act to establish yourself as a successful artist/photographer. What are you doing about it right now?

    Cheers,
    Graeme