Although most professional photographers are in the “business” of photography, there is actually a difference between commercial work and that which falls under the “personal” heading. For example, a wedding photographer sells personal photographs. So too does someone who specializes in certain types of portrait work, special events photography, glamour, fine art, and even travel and outdoor types too.
This means that the photographer is going to have to assess their potential markets carefully if they want to sell their work or their services to the appropriate clientele. It all starts with a thorough analysis of local, regional, and even national or international markets with the goal of identifying the strongest potential customers. Remember, the modern world of the Internet makes it possible for a photographer on one continent to regularly work for a business or individual on another.
Analyzing markets boils down to some basic facts that include: understanding the variety of photographs or services available from the photographer, the appropriate clientele for the photographer’s area of specialty and style, and considering how to sell to the identified groups. Basically, it comes down to identifying a way to get photographs in front of all of the potential clients who are also the most likely to be interested in hiring the photographer, or purchasing their work.
This means that the photographer will have to be very clear about their particular area(s) of specialization. For example, if the photographer focuses almost entirely on wedding photography, but is also available for parties and events, they will have to assess the markets for potential clientele interested in either type of work. They will then begin to gather the contact information for each business, organization, or publication (with a particular emphasis on getting the name of the person most likely to make the decision about purchasing the work).
The next step is to then create the appropriate type of direct communication to grab the interest of possible customers. This is one point where selling commercial photographic services and personal photographic services can vary widely. This is because someone working on a personal level is going to have to retain a much larger base of clients, and this demands some alternative forms of marketing. They can go ahead and craft targeted “snail” or email campaigns for businesses, but they must also understand how to communicate directly with consumers and even art galleries too.
The mail and email campaigns would normally include a card or embedded sample image and a well-written communication about an interest in offering services or work to suit their needs. They may have to craft a carefully written letter if they are hoping to sell their work in a location such as a gallery, but it is well worth the effort because a show and any sales add a huge amount of value to the photographer’s work.
Alternately, the photographer could follow the traditional advertising route for marketing their services. They could easily place ads in local newspapers, participate in local trade shows, purchase a space in any appropriate business directories, and consider buying online advertising too. This is an especially important part of the selling process when the photographer is just starting their business, because it will help them to develop a client base. Once this has begun, however, they will tend to find that they have far more success with the direct communication approach at a later date.
Any responses for personal photographic work will usually need to be followed up with a meeting. At this meeting the photographer will normally have to show their portfolio to their potential clients. It is important to be sure that the portfolio is structured to meet the needs of the potential client, and this means incorporating pre-existing work that indicates the style and experience of the photographer in relation to the variety of work being sought.
Choosing Stock Sites
Some personal photographs are ideal candidates for the stock photography sites too. This is a very promising industry for all kinds of photographers because it is one in which almost any photographic subject can be sold. In order to get a consistent stream of income from this area, however, the photographer is going to have to know how to position their work in the best way possible. This means that they must add the right “tags” and make images that are a bit unique and useful.
There are many options for those interested in selling photographic work of a more personal or artistic variety. These are not all that different from the ways in which commercial work can be sold as well, and they all require some legwork and effort. They also demand patience and persistence too. Remember that most freelance photographers have to commit around 70% of their time to managing their business, organizing their photographic files, cleaning them up for sale, and then marketing them as much as possible. This means that it takes a lot of time to create income, but this does allow the artist to make a living doing something they love.
Top image by Chuck Coker