Last month the Redeye Network asked me to talk at their Lightbox Project. The photographers present wanted to explore new ways to get their work seen.
It got me thinking about their desired outcome. I assumed they either want their work to be seen as a form of self promotion, or there are messages in their work that they want to promote. Any photographer looking to make a career out of their passion needs to get themselves and their their work out there. Maybe rather than talking about cutting through the noise I should say ‘being seen in the crowd’.
During my research I contacted working photographers in my network and asked them these questions.
1. Do you still make money selling prints/images or are you mostly selling time?
2. How do people find out about you and your work?
3. When you have a standalone project where do you show it online?
4. Do you hold exhibitions of your work?
5. What advice would you give to a new photographer looking to get their work seen?
6. What’s your most used work related tool and app/software?
Louise Smith (NorthantsPhotography.co.uk)
“I regularly freelance and am now teaching young people as part of their complimentary education.
As a photographer I’m found mainly by word of mouth, old contacts and LinkedIn surprisingly.
I find social media is a great way of sharing my work.
I have not held any exhibitions of my work since my Masters Degree but I will probably take part in an exhibition for my students next year.
My advice to new photographers would be keep shooting, sharing and networking. Make contacts, be nice and don’t be scared to share online.
My most used work related tools are Lightroom and Photoshop for editing. Instagram and Twitter for sharing images and Facebook for contacts with existing clients.
Also I can’t live without my invoicing app Invoice to go! Best app ever!”
Philip O’Connor (Eblana.se)
“I make my money mostly on a project/reportage basis. Photography for me these days is almost exclusively bundled with text and/or video. The occasional image still sells, but it’s so insignificant that I don’t push it at all.
Percentage-wise probably very little of my work is still imagery, but it is hugely important. I did a story about drug fixing rooms in Denmark that never would have made it into print if I didn’t have the images to go with it.
People find out about my work via social media and good old-fashioned radio. Turning up to talk about issues and stories, especially on the BBC/RTE/Swedish state radio, is by far the best awareness-raiser I have in terms of volume of numbers, while Twitter and Instagram alert other journos and editors to where I am.
I almost never do standalone projects as I’m not good enough. =)
I don’t hold exhibitions either.
My tip for all photographers would be to offer a text element to the story. Photographers by their nature tend to be excellent at describing what they see, as well as capturing it. This is a tremendous selling point, especially if you can do so on radio and it gives listeners a compelling reason to seek out your work.
I’m currently using a Sony Xperia Z2 and although I hate to admit it, Instagram is the app I use most. Followed by Snapseed. ”
Neil Turner (About.me/neil_turner)
“90% of my money comes from selling time at prices that reflect the end use of the pictures. That means that high end PR is charged at 3-4x that of newspaper editorials.
I’m found mainly through personal connections rather than promotional or social media activity.
I have pretty much stopped doing standalone projects unless they have a realistic chance of selling well or they have a significant effect on folio building – which tends to be themed single images anyway.
I don’t exhibit. Galleries want dull documentary nonsense and I am not into that kind of photography. If a picture needs to be explained at length then it isn’t something that interests me.
I recommend photographers print zines and limited edition books and get them under the noses of the right people. Which market you are in determines who those people are.
My workflow mostly contains Photo Mechanic and Adobe Camera RAW for production. Transmit for (FTP), Dropbox and WeTransfer for delivery. Dreamweaver (app) and Pixelrights (website) for web creation.
I’d say that I don’t use social media or my blog that well. I instinctively want my work to speak for itself but theres too much noise out there for that to be a sound strategy any more.”
Further reading from Neil Turner – http://neilturnerphotographer.co.uk/2014/06/06/where-does-the-work-come-from/
Peter Cox (PeterCox.ie)
“I sell prints, but as I have a gallery, if I was doing otherwise something would be wrong! However, I do also use my images to leverage sales of workshops I lead. Workshop income is probably about 30% of total revenue.
I’m mostly discovered via walk-ins to the gallery, which is on a busy retail street. Otherwise, online through my website and social media.
I don’t have a good vehicle for standalone projects at the moment. This is something I need to work on.
I regard the gallery as a permanent exhibition, but that being said I would like to hold exhibitions of work that doesn’t sell well in that environment – such as my Iceland/Greenland/Svalbard images.
I can say social media is your friend, but it needs work to get broad reach. Of course the work has to be of very high quality as well – the number of excellent photographers in the world today is far higher than it’s ever been. If you want to get your work noticed, it has to be unique and excellent.
Other than my camera my most used physical tool would have to be the tripod. I use planning apps like PlanIt! and Focalware to determine the position of the Sun, Moon and other celestial objects. Then Lightroom for image processing and organisation.”
Jennifer Barker (JBarkerPhotography.com)
“I am mostly selling time. At exhibitions I sell prints and images, these proceeds are generally for charity though, images captured while working with that charity/NGO. I don’t sell art images anymore.
People find me by me pestering them! Just getting in touch and telling them what I do. You can not do this enough. Persistence is key in this industry. Put together an interesting PDF of your work and email it directly to people you want to connect with. Also Twitter has been good, which is interesting for me as I certainly don’t use it to its full potential as of yet. I think this says a lot about this particular form of social media. Finally recommendations from other clients.
I show my standalone projects on my website or professional association websites.
I have held exhibitions. I started with local coffee shops and restaurants, then progressed to small galleries. For me its usually in conjunction with humanitarian and development related organisations so I’ve exhibited in spaces related to them, for example The Irish Aid Centre, Dublin.
I think Exhibitions are great if you want to be discovered. Even if it is just at a local coffee shop/restaurant which are known for holding exhibits. A surprising amount of exposure (depending on how you market this) comes from these and it will usually lead to new contacts and work. Also, enter competitions. PDN online and keep a blog.
The ability to to create a good rapport is my best tool. And I use Lightroom.”
Shaun Armstrong (mubsta.com)
“I sell my time and knowledge with commercial clients as a packaged solution; the images are the output. Some after the fact image sales but not significant element – potential to do more, my web systems will allow it. Personal work would be more focused on item sales but again not leveraged as yet due to time/other factors.
I’m found mainly by word of mouth, mine directly and indirectly through projects and connections – I don’t do the granular online analytics I should and will apply for possible future projects.
My websites are my main vehicles to getting seen. My business work as case studies mostly. Outside of this is a personal website as a gallery which I’d link to via a blog post and then other social spaces.
My work is used as part of others physical exhibitions as mubsta.com is a solutions business. I don’t have exhibitions in my own right as an “artist”. Would be nice for certain projects and possibilities exist but not key at the moment.
My advice would be dependent on goals but create and find a market or find a market and create. I’m constantly juggling this interplay within the game that is the real world. Depends on your social situation too. And specialism.
I shoot Canon full-frame and L series glass, post-produce on Mac and still find Aperture / Nik Suite meets my needs. I will migrate to Lightroom when needs determine. Don’t posses or use Photoshop. I use Photoshelter for gallery management on both websites with WordPress front-end for Mubsta (at present) and personal blog. I favour Instagram for social. I have presences on a number of other social spaces in both business and personal capacity but probably not used to full effect.”
Roger Overall (ShowAndTellCommunications.net)
“I sell a combination of my time, creative input, licence fee and production costs.
My time is based on my annual CODB (including what I wish to earn). I divide that by 46 weeks x 3 working days = 138 working days. A working day is either pre-production, production or post-production.
People find me via referrals, word of mouth, website, I also speak at events when I can and deliver workshops. The most original way I’ve ever generated work was by hosting a foodie podcast. It got me talking to people I wanted to work with, without me hassling them for work. I just approached them about doing an interview. Stephen Serio in Chicago does a Chicago business podcast. And that gets him in front of lots of potential clients.
I show my standalone projects on my website. I don’t hold any exhibitions of my work.
My advice would be to show your work everywhere, but don’t rely on your own platforms/website. Try to get it posted on popular photography blogs. This can drive huge traffic to your own site.
My most used work related tool is Lightroom and Photoshop”
Sophie Gerrard (sophiegerrard.com)
“I shoot editorially and sell prints through my gallery The Photographers’ Gallery. So I make some money. I am also a part time lecturer in photography at Edinburgh Napier Uni which makes up my income. I’m also co-founder of Document Scotland, we apply for funding, receive grants, work in collaboration with institutions and all those things bring in funding.
People find out about my work via my website and Document Scotland website DocumentScotland.com. Social media, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, also my gallery promote my work as do friends and colleagues.
I show my projects in all these places.
I also have a major show that began on 26th September, ‘The Ties That Bind’ at Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Curated by Anne Lyden it’s all over the Scottish press today. Check out https://www.nationalgalleries.org/whatson/on-now-coming-soon/document-scotland/about-the-exhibition-23641
You must promote yourself, whether that’s behind the scenes or in public. Show others your work, all those editors and curators talk to each other you know! Make a good website and show your work off. Blog, social network and take an interest. Sometimes the best way is to promote other people’s work. Share the love! It’ll come back your way in the end.”
I’m using social the most. Then Lightroom and Photoshop. Evernote and Twitter play a big part.”
I was intrigued by what was shared. I won’t summarise the responses as today’s photographer is a complicated being with varying needs. Some of the points above will surprise, some resonate, others I hope will inspire you to try something new.
As a freelancer my work didn’t really take off till I took a step back outside of the single image. Just as you can see audio playing a part in some workflows above, I found that creating photo slideshows gave me an edge.
Today images permeate everything I do. Images that I have captured. But like many I have had to take another step back. It’s not about the object. It’s about the feeling derived from it. I now look at the story first and then the toolkit. Photography has always been intertwined with technology but not at the expense of the narrative. Working this way has ultimately meant I’ve spread myself across platforms. Putting myself and my work into new channels outside of what I’m used to. Add collaborative projects to the mix and your network can move forward together. Maybe not so much cutting through the noise but being the most melodic part of it.
My advice to a photographer looking to get noticed.. Think about how the story can best be told and where. Photography can and will coexist with new forms of media. Embrace this and you will tell richer more immersive stories.
I’m @Documentally on Twitter and although mostly talking and running workshops… I still think of myself as a photographer.