Clearly I love a little blog title with 5 tips in it. See the 5 career lessons I’ve learned, or 5 tips for breaking into fashion photography. Well, now I’ve got 5 marketing tips for you. I might start calling this series ‘I got 5 on it’. (Choon). As always, these tips are from a fashion photographer’s perspective so will be most relevant to photographers, but some of them are applicable to other careers.
1. Start a newsletter
At the end of 2013 I was accepted onto the New Creative Markets programme with Photofusion. This was an EU initiative which provided incredible professional development opportunities for photographers such as workshops, talks, courses, mentoring, as well as spending time with photography peers. The programme ended last summer (culminating in an exhibition and my photo was selected for the catalogue cover) and I will be eternally grateful for those 18 months of development. They made me realise the importance of all the other things, besides taking photos, that make a successful photographer. One particular workshop was about online marketing. I had already put into place many of the items covered, but I became very interested when they started talking about a newsletter. It seemed like a really useful addition to a marketing plan.
I did that workshop in February 2014 and it took me until July 2015 to send my first newsletter, a culmination of being busy and procrastinating an unknown entity. Mostly, it was procrastination. I’m busier now than I was then, but I never miss sending out my newsletter every month, it’s one of my favourite business tasks. My subscriptions are growing every month and if you’re a nerd like me you’ll get great satisfaction from reading the analysis reports and figuring out what you can do to increase opens and clicks. If you’d like to subscribe to my newsletter, just fill out your details here.
2. Print your portfolio
I printed my ‘book’ (jargon for a hard-copy portfolio) last year. It took time, effort, and quite a lot of money but it’s been one of the best investments of my career so far. The response from editors and art buyers has been overwhelmingly positive. They all say how refreshing it is to see a printed book and what respite it is from looking at portfolios on iPads. Besides, when you have a printed book you have an excuse to meet with someone. Otherwise, they can just look at your website and of course, it’s far better to meet with someone face to face.
These were the steps I took when getting my book printed:
- I was brutal when deciding which photos to put in my book. Or rather my mentor, Zoe, was. It’s almost impossible to be objective about your own work so enlist help. I see Zoe every time I need to update my portfolio - I’ve written about this before. Zoe helps me choose which photos are good enough to be printed and which ones to scrap. You might find yourself emotionally attached to images and reluctant to part with them, but ruthlessness is essential. The further along in my career I get, the easier I find it to reject an image that isn’t good enough.
- I printed the best quality I could afford. I printed on fine art matte paper from MPrint. I can’t recommend these guys highly enough. Their service is personal and bespoke, using their calibrated screen, they give you a preview how your images will look once printed and if they need to be adjusted (brightened, saturated etc.) they can do this for you as an additional service.
- I bought the best folio I could afford. I used Cathy Robert, her folios are beautiful and she has so many sizes, colour swatches and materials to choose from, so you can make your book suit your style. I went for a grey, leather bound book with my name embossed on the front. It was expensive but it will last for years to come. The best thing about Cathy’s portfolios are the way they are bound. If you want to refresh your book by taking old photos out and new ones in (which you should), just leave it with Cathy and she can update your book in a couple of days. Once your book is ready, start making some appointments to show it to people!
3. Keep shooting
This is the most important piece of advice in general for a photographer, not just for your marketing plan. You need to keep shooting to develop your voice, your style, your brand, and of course, your skills. I’ve written before about creating opportunities for yourself but in addition to that, if an art buyer/fashion editor (whoever your target customer is) sees that your book or website hasn’t been update for ages, it’s very off-putting. It gives the impression the photographer isn’t busy.
4. Enter competitions
This one is a real 2 birds, 1 stone tip. Not only does entering competitions get your work seen by a panel of experts, but if you have success in the competition you get some fantastic press coverage. Plus everyone wants to work with an ‘award winning photographer’. Make that 3 birds, 1 stone. There are loads of competitions out there so scour the trade magazines for them and get yourself on some mailing lists to find out when they open. I won a competition last year and was delighted with myself!
5) Business cards
My best friend laughed her ass off when I told her I was getting business cards. She had this idea of me as a cheesy 80’s business woman in a bad suit mouthing ‘call me’ as I passed my card to someone in a bar.
She was only half right.
Once my cards arrived though, she insisted on taking a few and now hands them out on my behalf if she ever meets anyone relevant to my career. I give my cards out all the time, it’s so useful for networking. Plus, I can have one of my photos on the back of the card so it’s also a quick way to show my portfolio. I really recommend Moo for beautifully made, unique business cards (that are also eco-friendly).
Of course, there are dozens of other marketing tips, each one more obvious than the next (blogging, SEO, website, mailshots, social media etc), but I think it’s useful to be reminded about them now and then. As always, I love hearing from you so if there’s any marketing tips you really recommend, leave them in the comments below.