I attended the Palm Springs Photo Festival last week for the first time. I have heard for years what a great event it is but never could get my schedule to work so that I could participate. Well, this year worked out and I was so happy that it did.
It was wonderful to be surrounded by such amazing and talented photographers, hang out with old friends and make some new ones along the way. It is no wonder that photographers travel from all over to attend the seminars, meet vendors and have their portfolios reviewed by industry professionals. Thank you Jeff Dunas and all of your fantastic staff, volunteers and sponsors for hosting such an important event for the community.
As I reviewed portfolios I found the challenges for the photographers the same. This made sense to me because I have found that regardless of where photographers are at in their career, they face the same challenges, just at different levels.
During the reviews, I asked each photographer to tell me about their marketing. Incredibly, many of them told me that marketing went to the bottom of their to do list. They were either too busy shooting, didn’t have the inventory to share, didn’t know who to market to, or didn’t have a clear plan for it.
I explained that not marketing has devastating effects on business. There are way too many talented photographers in the marketplace for a photographer not to market.
Think about it. If a photographer chooses not to market, that means their imagery and their name is not as top of mind as the next person’s. That means, when a project comes up, most likely, the person who IS top of mind will rise to the top of the consideration list.
That also means that the other photographer will get the opportunity to engage with the agency and client, they will get the opportunity to estimate and ultimately they will get the opportunity to bid on the job and develop the relationship. And that doesn’t even address the possibility of a second or third missed project with the same agency/client if the shoot goes well.
Marketing of course requires imagery AND knowing who you target market is. Here is how I summarized the process for them:
- The single most important thing a photographer can do is to shoot new work.
- When a photographer is not shooting new work, the next most important thing they need to do is to research their market and network.
- And, it is with this new work and these networking connections that will make their marketing effective.
Beyond marketing, there were three other recurring topics:
1. Photographers that are looking for an agent should consider reaching out to agents to share work rather than ask for representation.
Many reps have full rosters and if asked about openings will say there are none and then the conversation is over. If a photographer shares work, the door remains open and the rep can get to know the photographer over time.
Here is a blog post I wrote about finding a rep in 2011. I am not sure I would change much if I re-wrote it today.
2. Adding a motion solution to your still photography options is important to consider.
Consider this: it used to be that jobs that included both motion and still photography would very likely originated with a still photographer. Meaning, they chose the photographer based on their still work and figured out the motion component as needed.
Well, now, many times the motion component is the hero part of the project, so many jobs are originating with the videographer or director. Meaning, the agency or client first finds the videographer or director and then they find the photographer. And, more often than not, the videographer will absolutely have a print solution so there is no need for the agency to search for the photographer.
3. Photographers need help and many times do not know who to ask.
So many photographers, no matter where they are on the spectrum, are feeling overwhelmed by their to-do list. It makes sense given how many more things they are required to do to shoot, market, and land a job.
I suggested hiring a consultant such as Agency Access for bigger picture marketing needs or even an intern to help out with social media or other smaller marketing needs. I also shared some of my own resources such as data base management software Daylite and social media programs such as HootSuite to help manage contacts and schedule posts. I also suggested considering a designer to create templates for email blasts and mailers and even treatments so that they spend less timing designing. Finally, I offered the idea of splitting a production assistant or studio manager with another photographer.
Overall it was a wonderful event, I met some incredible photographers and I enjoyed seeing so many amazing colleagues. I just wish I had more time! Maybe next year!
About the author: Heather Elder is a photo rep currently representing 8 commercial photographers while simultaneously blogging about the photo industry. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can find more of her articles on Notes from a Rep’s Journal, or browse through the work she represents on her website. This article was also published here.