Despite the vast opportunity for photographers to gain widespread exposure on the Internet, through social networking sites like Facebook and with just old-fashioned word-of-mouth, it seems that getting a photographer's work in front of potential buyers is increasingly difficult. Many photographers are faced with the dilemma of trying to get attention for their work from previously more accessible audiences such as the photo editors licensing images, and potential buyers searching for that breathtaking image to hang on their walls.
Hard times call for hard measures. Like it or not, these hard times call for photographers who want a better chance of licensing and/or selling their images or reaching new markets for assignments, to become acquainted with the tools of publicity. Of course it would be great to have your own publicist and agent; someone to craft a press release about your work and pump up your bio; to pitch feature stories about your accomplishments to newspapers, magazines, and the evening news; to think of creative ways to use your talent to get more work; and finally, to take care of dealing with those pesky clients so you can concentrate on your art.
I have been representing and managing photographers and their work for more than 10 years, and I understand your frustration, and anxiety about the future. I've done the PR work, and acted as the agent. But, my job, and now yours, is to think creatively, not just about the work you do, but how you get it. They're not all the glam jobs (although some of them certainly are, and pay nicely too), but they pay the rent and sometimes, you're even appreciated. For example, I've done publicity for publishers for more than 20 years. As their advertising budgets started to get smaller (like every other industry), I saw an opportunity for photojournalists to begin photographing authors, and then videotaping them for use on the Internet and as Broll for TV appearances. That costs the client much less than advertising rates, and gets wider viewership. There are thousands of publishers and I recently heard that approximately 275,000 titles were published last year. Most of those books have book jackets, and most of those book jackets use photography of some sort.
But most of you don't have a few extra thousand dollars a month in your budgets to hire a public relations professional. The good news is that there are a number of steps that you can take yourself to get your work out there in front of the eyes that can buy it, license it, or give you an opportunity to get an assignment. In this column, we will give you the basics of how it is done and how you can do it, so you can …
• Identify your Target Audience – new ways to go outside the box to look for potential clients.
• Begin to create a media and/or photo editor list, starting with your phone book, your family members, and your high school classmates.
• Create a "Big Mouth" list.
• Write a press release or announcement. Think you can't write, or you have nothing to say about your accomplishments? We'll help you craft a one-page release that plays up your accomplishments without making you sound like an arrogant jerk that no one wants to work with.
• Disseminate information on your work – how and when to distribute your publicity information.
• Follow up with the right people who have the access and resources to buy your work.
• Get the job – and keep the clients coming back.
• Not give up even when you hit frustration at every door.
Let's begin with identifying potential places for you to get work. Let's say that you don't have an agent, and you're really shy, and you don't know where to begin.
First, decide what kinds of images you really like to make (example: sports, food, fashion, etc. I'm leaving hard news coverage out on purpose. I'll get to that later), then make a B list of what may not be your favorite, but you're still good at. Spend some time on the Internet. Look for which AD AGENCIES work on sports equipment, food products, and clothing manufacturers, and pay attention to how they use photography to sell. Now, get closer to home. Look for the local sporting goods, grocery and specialty food stores, and local men's and women's clothing shops. If you already have a decent portfolio of paid work, then look for the chains (Patagonia, The North Face, Mountain Hardware, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's markets, etc.). They ALL advertise, either in local papers, or on their Web sites. They ALL need images to put in those ads. If you live in a small town or city, think local banks, insurance companies, nurseries, tuxedo rental shops and places like that, where you usually wouldn't consider going, because they're not a newspaper or magazine. Now, you'll go there, and you'll probably begin to get work.
If your past work has included news coverage, don't despair. Your targets are going to be the same (in addition to staying in touch with all of your old friends, the photo eds, because you never know where they're going to turn up.) BUT, you'll be suggesting that you photograph the head of the company, or CEO, "the way you photographed the candidates during the last election cycle" or "in the style of the celebrity shoot that you did for Us Weekly."
Start thinking, photogs ... next time, we will look at creating a media list for publicity, and a "Big Mouth" list for jobs.