PHOTOGRAPHY: 80% Marketing 20% Snapping

Is it just me or has the life of a photographer got more difficult? Maybe it’s the mass of competition out there these days, what some pros unkindly call ‘weekend warriors’, teachers and dustman and all manner of people who have had no formal training in the art of photography.

I, for one, don’t have any issue with people who think photography is easy and give it a good old go, because I find it is, mind you I was trained by one of the best over 35 years ago so if I don’t find it easy now, I never will do.

But interestingly it’s the end user who seems to be the issue. In this world of million photos per second, of Instagram and Facebook where we all see the value in photography, quality photography is becoming a little, well, superfluous.

The quality threshold has been thrust downwards and downwards to the degree that we even have free  digital filters available to simulate things in the old days we died to avoid.

Filters such as film-baked-on-the-back-parcel-shelf-of-a-Ford-Cortina-in-1973 or film-zapped-by-a-mega-dose-of-Sellafield-radiation.

I have seen these filters, well maybe I haven’t, but you get the picture.

The point is, the end user is happy to accept this stuff as an artistic twist, a new fresh idea,  exactly the argument I used on a client in the late 80’s when I kindly handed him back a reticulated film (google it if you don’t know what this is, what do you think this blog is supposed to be? Informative?).

‘It’s artistic, innit?’ I said.

I didn’t get away with it then, but now, it’s all the blooming rage.

So let’s look at how we compete against this threat to our art, this Panzer movement with the client outflanking us and the person with the digital camera taking us head on.

Firstly, we should look at our prices.

As I see it the price a pro charges is directly related to the size of his or her ego, not how much they are prepared to live (very) comfortably on. There are those who have to photograph one wedding a month to cover the bills, carry on, I’d get bored.

There are those who wouldn’t get out of bed for less than a grand, a grand what I ask myself, thinking that some mornings I have that covered,  but look at it this way, there are those who do get out of bed for a 12 hour shift for a damn sight less than that, fully trained and everything, like a nurse for example.

Does a pros ego make him more important than somebody who has just saved his mothers life?

So I think this is a big part of it, the prices pro togs (I really hate that expression and add it here to both illustrate a togs ego, and to excorcise it from my soul).

Now I charge a reasonable amount, but I don’t charge the ‘many thousands’ some do for very little, actually very, very little. The one wedding package ‘get out of bed’ fee tog (arrgghh, enough).

This is not a criticism (much), just a look at the cause of why we are all under pressure. Now here’s another point, I like those types of photographers, I really do, they generate so much work for me, here’s my work, is it as good as his? Yes, good, I’m half that price, easy marketing.

This isn’t a weekend warrior pinching their work, it’s a fellow pro with lots of experience.

So set your prices well, set them so you can invest in the latest, the best, so you can pay the bills, so you can have a new car every few years, and a nice holiday (winter of course), set them to what your surroundings allow, you wouldn’t try to sell a Rolls Royce in a shanty town, so don’t take the proverbial, the end user is wise to that now, really, they are.

So wise, they are being pushed into arms of the so called weekend warrior, the untrained and the downward spiral of quality begins, and very bloomy rightly so, we have allowed it.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some wonderful part-time photographers out there producing some excellent work, I have a new girl join me, Leah, who has never picked up a camera before in her life and under supervision has produced the photo used here, but equally the opposite also applies, there is some rubbish out there charging very little, a good litmus test I suppose, the point is that choosing a good one can be a big gamble.

Set your prices well, not too high that you disgust the client, and not so low as to not be a serious contender. And keep that damn ego under control, it’ll be the ruin of you, the best, busiest photographers I know are very unassuming, very business like and have absolutely nothing to prove, ever, ever, ever.

Now to what takes up 80% of my time, marketing.

When did I become a marketeer?

When do all serious photographers become marketeers?

When the work dries up I suppose.

So we try the usual, leaflet drops, and after walking the streets for hours, picking the dead flesh deposited by my knuckles from under a million letterboxes, and after 2000 leaflets and two enquiries, I’m beginning to think it doesn’t work, just a tad. Ah but there are those who say ‘all you need is one wedding to pay for it all’ to which I say ‘go fill your boots because mine are now worn through’.

Word of mouth works, of course is does, unless you are a nasty little creature, then it doesn’t, and of course, no matter what went before, we photographers are only ever as good as the last job, so word of mouth is good to a point, until you have an unhappy client, then it’s your worst nightmare.

For me the one thing that works time and time again is networking, what I think once was called ‘talking to people’.

Go and talk to people.

I attend two breakfast meetings a month and the amount of work coming through has been immense, plus it has the added benefit of not having a single weekend warrior in attendance, they all are, it seems, at work, funny that.

So network people, it’s key to your success.

Another area worth exploring is the good old email campaign, they are really easy to set up, Mailchimp seems to be the one to use and it’s free, free, free, but a word of warning, it will drive you, a naturally creative person, crazy, sitting in front of a computer building a spreadsheet of clients, you need the ordered mind of a Virgo for that sort of thing, not the flitting, crazy brain of a Gemini, like me.

I do have a Virgo for hire, if anyone is interested, drop me a line for a price.

The last thing, the very last thing, diversify.

Currently I have on the go:

(1) Writing a book about my early days as a photographer.

(2) An interestingly, unique project from which I sell framed limited edition prints.

(3) Photography training 

(4) This blog which when used in conjunction with local wedding venues increase my chances of more bookings.

(5) Continually, for every single second of the day, I’m marketing the businesses.

I kinda like it actually, it’s a nice challenge, and one which while all encompassing, is also very rewarding.

Remember, sometimes all you have to do is simply ask for more work.

Anyone got any work?


Photo by Leah Beavis

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