Life was simpler before the Internet. Exchanges made and relationships built depended on whom you met, phoned or wrote to. Research was done in a library, travelling, talking and experimenting. You bought in shops or catalogues.
Photographers marketed themselves in print, the yellow pages, and word of mouth. Photo libraries consisted of slides and negatives. There were fewer photographers then.
The affordable digital SLR changed everything. Semi Pro’s rose up and outnumbered the elite. The digital image is now reproducible, cheap and in abundance. The problem that faces photographers is how to get noticed; the problem for image buyers is finding the greatest images in a disorganised and growing mass of choices. There is still ‘an elite’; it’s just even harder to become one amidst all the noise.
Of course price matters, to both the buyer and the seller. Well established photographers, who’s names are well known, can still command a good commission for a job. If your name is big enough, you are a recognised artist; you can command a high price for your artwork. Unless you are famous though, nobody is going to pay a high price for your work if they can get it elsewhere for much less. There are many photographers for whom publication itself is reward enough.
News and documentary photographers have probably been hardest hit by the digital transition. It’s about being in the right place at the right time, getting a shot that will convey emotion as well as recording an event. The technical quality of the image and the experience of the photographer however has become less relevant, and the strongest images can come from anyone with a mobile phone, it’s not necessarily about talent or experience, sometimes it’s luck. Those who have dedicated their lives to seeing and catching the perfect frame that encapsulates an emotion or the environment are loosing their revenue to the lucky shot brigade.
Mobile photography is becoming an industry in itself. Not only that, but because people are taking billions of images and seeing so many (a video on YouTube suggests there are 348 524 706 340 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7p3RvIPuhw8 and these figures are already over a year old) people who are becoming better photographers. Photography has reached the masses and people are devouring it.
The wide spread adoption of Social Media caused the next earthquake for both photography and marketing. People can’t stop sharing their lives; it’s become a way of life. These social spaces provide a ready-made audience for everything you create in digital format, whether in pictures, video or text.
It’s a double-edged sword. The talented have been enabled; they have a voice and the tools to build an audience. Anyone can develop a blog, build a following, get noticed. On the other hand, the competition grows by the second, and it takes time, dedication and a plan to build a presence online. Not only that, you need to rip up your plan on a regular basis, everything keeps changing, new social platforms become overnight successes, you can’t do everything, you need to constantly refocus.
Those of you who know me will know that I have dedicated well over a decade to looking after the marketing for Silicon Beach Training. I understand how marketing has changed and what it takes to be noticed and chosen for a particular service or product.
Meanwhile, photography has been my pleasure, my escape not my business. I get paid for my photography when I’m noticed on the Internet and offered work I’d like to do. I did wedding photography for a short period but it wasn’t for me, but it’s never been my main income. I guess, in some ways, that’s good, as it’s so hard making a living from photography. Now though, it’s time for a change. I want to do what I love, photography and writing, AND be able to make a living at it.
It can be easy to feel intimidated by the successful photographer elite on the Internet. Photographer and Marketer Frederick Van Johnson, in an interview with Trey Ratcliff, estimates that Trey has a combined total of 8 million followers. He is not only the most followed photographer in the world; he is about the 5th most followed PERSON in the world. He adds almost 25 000 followers a day. Trey was content marketing before it even had a name. How can anyone compete with that?
The fact is you don’t need to, masters of the digital marketing world are sharing; take pleasure from learning from them, it’s one of the blessings of these digital times. It’s unlikely that you will be as successful as Trey Ratcliff or Thomas Hawk or Scott Kelby, but you don’t need to climb to the top of the highest mountain, you can just keep climbing and see how high you can get. There may be disadvantages to getting too big, the bigger your business the more resources you need. Trey has a hard-core team of twelve, he’s not just taking photographs, blogging, creating content, developing relationships, marketing plans, affiliate schemes, and writing all of his own social media responses, he is managing people and business.
You may be happier finding a comfortable position that is just enough for you, and I believe (and I’m sure Trey does too) almost everyone has the tools available to make that happen.
This is the prelude to a book I am writing on marketing for photographers. I know what I must do to market myself as a writer and a photographer, to reach an audience. I understand the transformation of consumer behaviour and the digital market. I’ve learned lot’s of tips and tricks in the last 15 years and I am prepared to share it; to produce content, guidance and images to interest my audience. My personal follower counts are modest, Google plus is my most successful platform with 43,751 followers today, but I haven’t even touched the surface on Pinterest and Instagram yet. Just to put this in perspective my follower count this time 6 months ago on 3rd June was only 14 500. I’m going to show you what it takes to build an Internet presence and do it at the same time.
It won’t happen overnight, and it may be sporadic, but I need to take time doing what I enjoy as my book is evolving. As I set off on my journey towards doing what inspires me and turning that into a respectable income, I’ll share with you my experience and advise on both photography and marketing. I will be developing this book at the same time as focusing my attention on using my digital marketing skills to forward my Photography.
I’ll cover SEO, Social Media, Blogging and Content Marketing, Influence and, of course, Photography. Hopefully, if you read my posts, you’ll be able to begin new practises and develop new ideas to market your own work. Maybe you’ll even buy the book!
Photography, the Internet, Writing, Social Media and Me by Heather Buckley