When the general public picture photographers, they tend to envision a creative individual who goes out and snaps away at anything and everything that inspires them; architecture, nature, sports, or whatever assignment they've been put on. It's likely that they never think of the hours we spend marketing, writing proposals, editing, doing book-keeping, etc.
When photographers think of each other, it's entirely different. We know all of the non-shooting work that goes in to running our businesses. It's true that we are skilled at juggling many hats at once, but one thing that most photographers aren't doing which is holding them back is writing.
No, I'm not just referring to the Instagram post where you describe a little about your image in 2,200 characters or fewer, although being able to tell a story in a short caption is also a useful skill. I'm talking about writing actual articles, ones that boost your internet reputation and highlight your credibility.
"But I'm a photographer, not a writer" you might say.
To that, I say "nonsense". It doesn't matter if you got an A in your AP English class or dropped out of high school before getting the chance to read "Of Mice And Men" — if you can articulate a story about a shoot, artistic concepts, or review photo gear, you can, and should write about photography. I'd like a few minutes of your time to explain just why writing is crucial to your marketing strategy, as well as give you some ideas on what you can start writing about today.
If you're publishing content consistently, SEO is the single largest benefit to publishing content (articles).
In case you're unaware, SEO is short for "search engine optimization", a collection of techniques used over the web that brings trust and credibility to your website, which in turn brings your site up in Google's page rankings. Most SEO experts agree that besides quality backlinks (more on that later), one of the single most important factors in SEO is fresh, quality content on a website. Where does that fresh quality content take the form of?
The answer is articles and blog entries, filled with rich media of course. As photographers, we have a leg up on other types of bloggers: we don't have to scour dreaded royalty free photo sites or pay for stock images. We have our very own libraries of photography to liven up our articles and keep them visually interesting.
Why is SEO so great? Because once you've finally worked hard to get your website up in the rankings for the search terms you've targeted with your articles, you are now getting free leads and saving tonnes of money that most people spend on things like Google AdWords. Just how much could you save? You can use a tool like Keyword Keg to find out.
The ugly truth about blogging for SEO is you have to be consistent; posting sporadically, and less than once every week or two isn't likely to get you results. So once you've committed to this strategy, you have to stick with it in order to see return on investment.
The good news is that writing can be a fun way to stay productive and keep your site fresh. For me, writing has become an enjoyable creative outlet and has even turned me on to writing fiction in my free time; that's how much I like doing it. If you haven't done much writing about the things you love (photography or other subjects), I urge you to try. You'll find that it comes much easier than, say, your midterm essay on The French Revolution. Then again, maybe you're a huge history nerd and the way you described the execution of Louis XVI was your best work to date.
Another benefit to writing articles on photography is that your written work will establish you as an expert in your field. While your clients and prospects browse your web site, many will come across your recent entries which will prove to them that you're actually doing what you say you do (photography).
Many people are under the incorrect impression that blogging means "having to write about your personal life." That is incorrect. You're free to exclude any personal information, and you don't have to write opinion pieces and risk alienating your audience either. All you need to write about is what you know, and that's photography.
Your articles serve several purposes: not just the SEO and credibility benefits I've mentioned, but they can also keep clients in the loop about what you've been up to. You can blog about recent projects and then use those as media to send out in newsletters or post about in social. This is all part of a marketing strategy that keeps your connections informed about what you're doing and keeps you top of their mind, so that when the need for new work arises you're the first person they think of.
Many photographers have found success writing books and e-books, usually instructional in nature. Not only does a book boost your credibility, it can also generate passive revenue to keep you afloat during slow periods.
The increase in traffic not only is a measure that improves SEO, but also will lead to a higher chance of being discovered by new prospects.
As I mentioned earlier, writing will provide you with fresh content to share across several platforms in order to boost traffic to your web site. One place you can share your articles is message boards or places like G+ or Facebook groups, but make sure to read the rules of each group before sharing your work as some social media groups have strict policies on linking back to your website and you may be penalized for spam.
For example, do you want exposure to those in the outdoors industry? Write a fantastic article on outdoors photography. You could make the article about how great outdoor photographs help brands like REI market themselves, etc. Then share the article with people relevant to the industry as well as photography publications as a guest post submission. If selected for a guest post, your article could gain you more exposure in that industry. The site hosting the article will also include a backlink to your website in the guest post. This goes back to SEO, as high quality backlinks improve your own site's credibility and Google ranking.
When guest posting, try to submit to the more popular blogs to increase exposure and traffic. Do not publish the article on your own website before sending it out! Send your unpublished draft to the publisher first. Most publications prefer to have proprietary content and do not want to recycle what's already out there on the web.
You might be wondering: What should I write about? Here are some ideas:
- Recent shoots, and the techniques you employed during them. There's no need to get into technical details if you're writing posts for your clients, however. If you're creating an article for a photography blog/magazine, feel free to be as technical as you want — that's the demographic that wants to know exactly what shutter speed you chose and where your flashes were positioned.
- If you don't have any recent work to show, write about current events pertaining to photography. These could be opinion pieces or simply your own recounting of what's going on in the industry.
- Equipment reviews also make for great content. Make sure to test the gear out and include captioned photos from the test shoots, showing exactly how the gear works in different photographic applications. Below is an image I put together for an equipment review of the Streaklight 360.
Given all of the above reasons that writing is essential to marketing photography, there is no excuse not to start writing today if you haven't already. If you don't have a blog on your website, you can hire your web developer add one for you. If you're tech savvy, you can of course add a Wordpress blog to your website on your own. Wordpress is an easy-to-use blogging platform that caters to SEO.
If you don't want to set up your own blog, you can start with guest posting or even start writing an e-book. Whatever form it's in — if done consistently and intelligently — writing is a part of your marketing strategy that can bring you massive amounts of satisfaction and exposure. I wish you the best luck on your writing ventures.