Much has changed since the days when Ansel Adams made his mark on the world. Like writers and sculptures, today’s photographer needs to straddle the fence between artist and SEO marketing expert. The bottom line is that the artistry is important, but if you can’t pay the bills, then photography may be relegated to a hobby instead.
The advent of digital photography has made the artistic part more accessible, but has watered down the professional aspect of photography. Like what happened to the music industry, the tools are there for anyone to use, but only those with the artistic eye for photography will have a chance to prosper. The Internet has opened up new opportunities for the modern photographer. But with it comes the need to know how to market your work to a worldwide audience A physical photography portfolio is still important because nothing beats the face-to-face meeting when it comes to selling your talents. But a robust website, a strong professional niche, and worldwide marketing penetration can go a long way.
Tag and Share
The Internet has changed the way photographers sell their work online. When web marketing strategists talk about Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, they are referring to making web content searchable by large directories like Google. The written word carries some natural SEO with it because Google will search the article for reccurring words. These words will become the keywords for which people search.
The same applies to photos. People have to find your images via search engines. It’s no longer enough just to post photos on your site with a price and a ‘buy me’ button. Your hard work online must drive traffic back to you. Here are a few online tips:
- Tag and share your photos. This is so important. Consumers are searching the web for images by tags, and if you use the right tags, you’re already in a place for search engines to find them.
- Title your images with good, relevant keywords. Every image should get a title. Digital cameras generally name the image with a numeric string. Unfortunately, no one is going to be searching for IMG67356. Name the image with useful keywords. A good name for stock photos of ducks in a pond would be [photographer_name_stock_photo_duck.jpg]. Likewise, fill in all of the meta information, so you as the photographer get the Internet traffic and credit.
- Use a watermark. Watermarking is an excellent way to show a portfolio online and cover the unauthorized use of your images. For those of you still unfamiliar, a watermark is a faint design that’s overlaid on the photo without obscuring the image. It may be the photographer’s logo or name. There are a few photo sites that will watermark and store the photos as part of their marketing packages.
Sell, Sell, Sell
There are no major businesses associated with photography distribution. Sure, there are stock photo agencies and licensing groups, but not a major distribution channel for world-class photography. Compare that with Hollywood studios, or the big cable TV providers and network broadcasters who are able to sell a visual creative project through its channels. Maybe that’s why it has always remained a powerful creative tool of the common people. It’s up to the photographer to determine how to sell one’s efforts.
Essentially, an independent photographer is a small business owner. And like other small business owners, you’ll spend more time selling and marketing your products than actually snapping pictures. Creating a successful small business means finding new ways to bring in income. For a photographer, that may look like selling stock photos online while working the wedding circuit. Or shooting images for Web use, while pursuing your vacation photos series. You can create consistent revenue by selling image rights at a low price point. Instead of selling a photograph for $500 once, the photographer can sell the rights to use the image 100 times at $5 each. Besides making money, web-based stock photography is a powerful way to create a web platform and drive business back to the photographer.
No Longer Just a Photographer
It is no longer enough to call yourself a photographer. There are too many different facets to this artistic endeavor. Photojournalism, video blogging and event photography are just a few examples of specializations that fall under the general umbrella of photography. Even graphic designers share similar talents and skill sets with photographers.
Taking pictures for a website does not have the same pricing strength as offering custom web photography. Offering custom mastheads for websites allows the photographer the ability to sell himself as something more than a picture hound. He is now a marketing professional, an artist, and a computer guru all rolled into one. By honing your niche more accurately, the smart photographer can increase demand for his particular specialization.
A photographer is not selling a photo. He is selling his passion. This is the basis of most marketing, but it is especially important for artistic consultants like photographers. There is no magic formula to successful sales. But the simple fact is that the photographer is selling art, passion and himself.
Top feature image photography equipment like dslr camera and image via Shutterstock
Paul Reyes-Fournier has served as the chief financial officer for social service organizations, churches and schools. He created his own marketing firm, RF Media. Paul holds a B.S. in physics and an M.B.A.