Stop Selling Yourself to Photographers

Stop Selling Yourself to Photographers

With social media ever present in our daily lives, it's easy to turn to photographers across the world for critiques. Photographers everywhere, some much better than you, some much worse, will climb out of the woodwork to tear your work apart, or give it the praise of a lifetime. Because of this, its so easy to get caught up in the thoughts of other working pro's opinions about what to do next. Stop.

Sure, take their advice, if its good. They'll teach you about composition, posing, color and everything else. They may be able to rip apart your photo, and inevitably make the next one better. But don't you dare market towards photographers.

If you're running a business in photography, you need to remember that your clients aren't photographers in Seattle, Chicago, New York, or Omaha, they're in your neighborhood. They're simple people looking to have their wedding captured, or their families, or themselves. They're just trying to be a part of photos that are interesting to them. They're looking for you to to make them happy with a product they'll love. Those photographers you're constantly showing off your work to aren't going to make your business better. They're not going to pay your rent or your car insurance, your clients are.

Sure, there are exceptions. Scott Kelby, Joe McNally, and David Hobby have all had incredible success marketing towards photographers. This website is another obvious example. But there is a huge disparity between photographers who have found success marketing to photographers, and photographers who have found success through clients. The odds of you being able to travel the world teaching classes on lighting is far more unlikely than you finding success in focusing on your craft as a photographer and marketing yourself.

Separate yourself from the industry for a second. Just because Sara Kiesling commented on your status once doesn't mean that you're going to get exponentially more work with photography. Do people in the city you live in know who you are? Are you a part of your own community? Is your work immediately recognized throughout town?

So take a moment and stop. Stop asking for other photographers to like your Facebook page (like my page, please), and start looking for ways to engage your clients and your community.

Instead of setting up meet ups with your photography friends, find community events that you can be part of. Instead of Skyping with your favorite photographer out of Miami, communicate with your local Chamber of Commerce on a possible business profile in their monthly flier. For every ten minutes you spend talking to a photographer on the other side of the country or world, you need to spend twenty talking to someone locally. Do that, and you'll really see growth in your business and in your craft.

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Noam Galai's picture

Well said Zach! It's very easy to forget that sometimes...

This might be correct for wedding/portraits photographers, but in other fields, such as nature/landscape, many pros depend mostly on photo-education for their income.

it is correct. :)

I hate that Sara Kiesling girl.

What you talking about!!! Sara Kiesling is the bomb!!!!!!!

FREAKIN.LOVE.THIS. dead on. thank you!

Criticism and advice are two different kinds of feedback...

Generally, any type of feedback that could have been given BEFORE a photo is taken is technical advice. This might sound confusing at first because feedback is often given after a photo is taken. The key for the photographer is to think about whether or not the feedback could have been given beforehand. If so, then it's advice. The fact that advice can be given in advance usually means that it's connected to a universally valid notion and will apply to all situations. This makes it more objective and less likely to be something subjective like a personal nit-pick. An example of feedback that constitutes advice might involve elements like sharpness, color balance, exposure, harmony, balance, repetition etc. All of these elements could be taught to a photographer before ever creating a picture. So if he's given feedback on one of these elements after the photo is taken, there's a good chance that he's getting advice about something objective.

Feedback that could only be given AFTER a photo is taken is usually social criticism. The reason it's social is because the critic had to wait until the photo was taken in order to form a basis for a judgment. Since the critic didn't already have an pre-concieved notion in advance about what would constitute good elements from bad elements, there's a good chance that he's making it up on the spot and it's just some personal nit-pick. A good example of this might be that "the model's hand looks weird" or "her hair looks funny" or "her skin looks fake" etc.

This is the first time I've ever tried to explain this in a forum so it might be a bit disjointed. But the basic idea is that objective feedback could almost always be given beforehand while subjective feedback almost always comes afterward. Sometimes, a photographer might want subjective feedback in order to know what pleases a market. In that case, all of then nit-picks and pet-peeves in the world might do him good. IN other cases, those types of feedback are the last things he needs to listen to. It's always a judgment call, but the judgment call gets easier when people can learn to separate the two types of feedback from each other.

Tam Nguyen's picture

Sara Kiesling has a voice of an angel.

Todd Douglas's picture

Always good advice. Just get out there in your own community, heck even just your zip code, and meet people so they know who you are and what you do.

Zack - loved your call to action for involving a local chamber for a profile. Will put that into practice!

CARONISM:Photography's picture


Good Stuff Zach

Wise words Zach. BTW Is Sara Kiesling someone that we should know about?


Antonio Carrasco's picture

EXACTLY... great post.

As a photographer it does you little good to only hang out with or network with other photographers. At best you might pick up some assisting jobs.

If you're a wedding photographer, you need to meet the wedding planners, wedding venue managers.

If you're a fashion photographer, you need to get to know the designers and model agencies.

Always remember the product you're selling and then try to figure out how to connect with the people who will buy that.

People seem to underestimate the power of the handshake these days. ;)
I've started balancing more face-to-face networking with the usual
social media marketing, and it's totally paying off!

Antonio Carrasco's picture

well said. Face to face meetings or even a phone call is 1000 times better than a random e-mail or text message or friend request.

Jonathan Menga's picture

well said

A.G. Photography's picture

You couldn't possibly be referring to this thread? cause that would be weird...

Nursultan Tulyakbay's picture

Another way to put it: How many non-photographers even know who Chase Jarvis, Joe McNally or Scott Kelby are? Probably not your potential clients. Although I have never thought of being facebook friends with successful photographers as a way to get more business. That's a thing?

I went through this with my business (when i was working on my own). I was trying to be the best photographer instead of the best for my clients.

Antonio Carrasco's picture

Also this is why you shouldn't spend too much time on 500px or Flickr. It's only other photographers on there. Great to go there for inspiration sometimes, but does nothing to help your business

Point taken.

Josh Hway's picture

Thanks for the Reminder!

My rule is, if they use the words "coloure" or "nice click" (or have a picture of themselves taking a picture of themselves) I just disregard their opinion....

I do find it amusing that right below this on the main page is an ad for photography workshops being sold to photographers :D

Couldn't agree more! This is something I began thinking about more than a year ago and for the past year I've been a lot less active on the regular (and heavily photographer-centric) social networking site. The result... My career has gone further!

James Tarry's picture

Good piece. The only people i care about my work are the paying clients and myself. Have never asked for C&Cs from photographers, never will.

Great post. I have been wondering what's the point of the virtual back-patting on some sites. I'm pretty sure the "Great photo! Come look at mine!" swopping is of no use to anyone.

good article, got to impress the clients that we work for, but it's cool for the ego if other photographers like your stuff, but it doesn't pay the bills LOL.

i did like the page