In the not-too-distant past, photographers were able to rely on their photography to speak for them in order to create their success and although there was competition, it was not as fierce as it is now. Due in large part to the ability to enter the marketplace with less expense, the availability of high-functioning digital options, more simplified editing software, and the ease of establishing a website, the competition is huge. Becoming a published and successful photographer in the modern age no longer requires just the ability to take amazing shots. It also requires that you be able to market yourself in the right ways to develop contacts that will pass your name along to companies and clients in need of your expertise.
A recent article in the “Notes From a Rep’s Journal” blog by Heather Elder mentions that in 2015, photographers who participate in their own marketing will be the ones who are the most successful.
“Photographers that are committed to their marketing plans, engage in their own networking, have a strong voice on social media, utilize blogs and other websites to promote themselves and are engaged in the estimating process fully are the ones who are the busiest.” ~Heather Elder, photographer rep
Accomplishing this marketing is best done by utilizing all the tools that available. There are portfolio reviews to attend, e-mail promotions, snail-mail promotions, interviews, website updates, blogs, and networking events to attend. One of our photographers shared that she learned to play golf in order to network . Another states that he pays monthly in order to remain on the first page of Google.
Social media is another marketing option and in this article, we are going to concentrate on its benefits to the professional photographer.
Why Are Social Platforms Excellent for Freelance Photographers?
Basically, social networking is successful because of two things: people’s desire to connect and their desire to be entertained. Social media allows people to connect with one another, and to share what has entertained them (in the case of their children and pets, perhaps too often, but I digress)
People also are visual. They love images. This makes social networks ideal for sharing your work and building your reputation as a quality photographer.
Before I lose you, let’s address the elephant in the room: yes, there is a possibility that your images may be lifted. Even when protections are put into place, that possibility exists. There are ways to obtain images from websites even when the right-click is disabled and there are ways to remove watermarks. But because of the competition, it’s a chance that needs to be taken. Don’t be careless but don’t be so protective of your work that you cut off your nose to spite your face. Watermark your images. Most social networks have mechanisms in place that will allow you to report theft. This will result in the offending person’s images being removed in most cases.
You can publish your photos on social networks and quickly develop a following that allows you to prove to potential clients that their target demographic enjoys your work. You may even be able to find a way to become featured on one of the larger community “hubs” that republish awe-inspiring photographs with the proper attribution.
It’s also not just about your work, it’s about you. In 2015, it’s less about the photography than about the photographer. Social media allows you to showcase your personality, your vision, and your talents, as well as your work.
The Social Networks You Should Use as a Freelance Photographer
The best approach to take when establishing your presence on social networks is to take a broad one. You want your name on as many of the social networks that you can handle, as this will allow you to best grow a more generalized audience for your work. It’s best to try to acquire a standard name across all the social networks so that friends from one platform will recognize you on another. If you feel that participating on all social networks is just too much, at least try to claim your name and fill out your profiles completely. You never know who will be looking at your work.
“I look at a lot of work online. I have about a thousand bookmarks that I try to randomly browse through when things are quiet at work. I like to keep up with what some of my favorite photographers are shooting, but by choosing bookmarks at random I tend to rediscover people whose work I admire but for whatever reason have not stayed top of mind. It’s good to refresh my mental list of who is working on what out there; there are so many people making great work and I want to work with them all!” ~Genevieve Dellinger, Art Producer at 72 & Sunny
If you find that one or two networks produce better results, then you should focus on driving interaction with the followers you have on those networks without forgetting about the other ones. One of the keys is interaction. Showcase your work but do engage in conversation, as well. Below is a brief list of the social networks you might choose to use as a photographer.
When Google+ first entered the scene, it was one of the most popular social networks among photographers and artists. They said that there images looked better on Google+ (Facebook and Twitter’s images were much smaller at the time) and the gallery was an excellent feature for photographers, as well.
Google+ circles are great for dealing with the “noise” and the communities offer a lot of opportunity for sharing with similar interests. Hangouts are being used to network with other photographers or clients, to talk about gear to give tips, provide portfolio reviews and community photo critiques and even more.
And remember, Google+ is owned by Google. It is good for search engine results.
Facebook has a substantially larger active user base than Google+. This, coupled with the fact that it’s commonly integrated on other websites gives it an incredible amount of promise for photographers.
To utilize the site itself, you need only to create an account and to begin publishing your photographs. You can make your own business page, but this is only an optimal strategy if you plan to promote your own photographs alongside the work of others. As long as you don’t do too much promotion, you are probably fine with just a personal page. Remember that a personal page must be your first and last name. It may NOT be the name of your company or even Jane Smith Photographer.
One reason to consider a business page on Facebook is the ability to advertise using Facebook ads. Facebook has become a pay-to-play platform which may sound like a negative, but in reality, it’s not. Facebook advertising allows you to post less content and reach a much more specific group of people. And if you are growing an e-mail list (something you should consider doing), Facebook advertising has proven to be excellent.
One negative about Facebook is that 90% of users who “like” a page, never return to that page. This is another reason that Facebook ads have become necessary.
One positive is that Facebook is THE largest social platform and because your friends and family are probably already on it, you can take advantage of the 6 degrees of separation in order to make connections. Who better than friends and family to recommend you to their friends and family?
Twitter is the platform that gives you 140 characters or less to publish your message. It is a phenomenal tool to connect with individuals and companies around the world. But it is a very fast-moving platform and as such you must regularly publish your messages because they disappear quickly.
Twitter users frown on too much promotion so it’s best to use the 80/20 rule: 80 sharing and 20% promotion. Sharing your images is welcomed though and you are able to post up to 4 images at a time. You also have to option to tag your photos.
Twitter #hashtags allows for easy search results. For instance, type #photographer in the search box and you’ll be led to photographers who use Twitter or tweets with the hashtag #photographer in them.
Will you find many clients on Twitter? Probably not, but you will be able to connect with influential photographers to aspire to, companies who might utilize your photography, industry leaders in your area and because Twitter is usually the first to break news, a possible photo opportunity.
Flickr is an interest network which means that its goal is pretty much just to share images. There’s not much interaction there. On Flickr, you are able to license images for reuse or print sales or you can choose not to allow that option.
Flickr has come under fire lately when Yahoo! (its owner) started selling canvas images of its photos. They changed that policy but the negative feelings have lingered.
Pinterest is unique from the other social networks listed here due to the fact that it focuses entirely on pinning and repinning images. Images are pinned from websites and placed onto virtual bulletin boards. Boards can be organized into categories of the user’s choice so for instance, images could be grouped into themes such as nature, street scenes, animals, marsala (Pantone’s color of the year), etc.
If you have a website where you share your photographs, sell your photographs or write blog posts, Pinterest might be a great platform to consider. Images pinned from your website would link back to it and possibly bring visitors back to explore more of your offerings. One of the great things about Pinterest is that because of the “repining factor” the life of a pin is much longer than a tweet or a Facebook post. A pinned item could be repined even a year after the original pin.
It’s also a great platform if you are a wedding, portrait or events photographer and is excellent for finding some inspiration.
Instagram is a fun and easy way to share your images. You’ll find many photographers on Instagram and they seem eager to share each other’s work (with credit), so you have a good chance of growing a nice following. Plus Instagram is a great way to share photos of your life, your travels and your personality. Remember in 2015, it’s more about the photographer than they photography.
Instagram will also share easily to Facebook, Tumblr, Flickr and Twitter (although the size will be distorted in Twitter). Instagram cannot share to Google+.
This platform makes use of #hashtags and is the only platform where it’s acceptable to use large amounts of hashtags in a post. Check out the hashtags that other photographers are using.
It is a mobile only app though so in order to share images from your standard camera, you’ll need to upload them to Dropbox or another Cloud storage system and grab them on your mobile device. Another work-around for that (if you don’t have a cloud storage system) is to email them to yourself and then save the image to your mobile device.