Is Photography Mostly Marketing Now?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by markjordan, Jun 9, 2010.

  1. After many years of intensely studying photography and shooting (maybe not as intensely) I still haven’t a clue as to why some photographers became famous and most have not. It almost seems to me it is more about the marketing of yourself as opposed to some extraordinary skill of composition or color. I see dozens of photos by amateurs on Flickr that are some of the best photos I have seen anywhere (at least they look that way on the computer). I also see the beauty in shots by the world famous photographers and recognize their skillful eye. But, there are thousands of photographers of equal technical and visual skill, yet only a handful become famous. Is there any way to sum up why this is? Is it really just down to being able to market and sell yourself? I even see some full time photographers making a living who really only have average visual work. How did they make it? If all this is, is having some technical skill, but the bulk is being a marketer, is being a photographer really all that impressive? Do you really want to mostly be a salesman? Is that enjoyable to you?
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  3. Right: you can't become a well-connected, busy professional without carrying on like a professional. And that includes mastering all of the issues surrounding contracting, art direction from clients, intellectual property entanglements, finance, reliable assistants and partners, viable transportation, and all the rest. Doesn't matter how creative you are, or technically skilled ... if you can't also run a business, communicate very well (and continually), and coordinate the conflicting interests and schedules of lots of people ... you're not going to be handed high-profiles jobs.

    Notice that none of that was about marketing. That was all about things you have to be good at in order to retain customers and get them back for the next job. Getting clients in the first place involves - just as it does in any business - lots of investment and networking. Most people who make beautiful photographs have no interest or ability in being a business owner, a marketer, and a power schmoozer. And that's why they don't make it past Flickr.
  4. "But, there are thousands of photographers of equal technical and visual skill, yet only a handful become famous. Is there any way to sum up why this is? Is it really just down to being able to market and sell yourself?"
    Well, yes. How else?
  5. "Is Photography Mostly Marketing Now?"

    As opposed to some time in a mythical past when people who were successful and famous made no effort to sell their skills and talents?
  6. The cream always rises to the top, but is anyone looking at the cup?
  7. It almost seems to me it is more about the marketing of yourself as opposed to some extraordinary skill​
    Its pretty much the story with so many other endeavors and professions. Nothing unique to photography.
  8. The cream always rises to the top​
    The world would be a very different place if that were true.
  9. Its not about what you know, but who you know.
  10. stp


    Thank god I don't give a rip. I just enjoy experiencing beautiful landscapes with a camera in my hands. It's fun, it's rewarding when I manage to get a good photo, and I like to share these photos with others. If I wanted to become famous, or if my livelihood depended on my photos, it would be very different; I'm glad it is the way it is.
  11. thousands of photographers of equal technical and visual skill, yet only a handful become famous. Is there any way to sum up why this is?​
    You don't want to know.
    There are thousands of entertainers every bit as good as those you see on television.
    Why then are there so many starving actors, singers, musicians?
    You don't want to really know do you?
    It is a less than beautiful world when you look closely. Fairness and justice do not prevail in this earthly realm.
    At one time I was very close to the professional golfing world; an insider you might say.
    Professional golf is not what you see portrayed on television or in the newspapers.
  12. It is the 'now' bit of this question that made me smile.
    Seriously if you want to become a star and be the in the top 0.001% of photographers around the world then you need to make 100% use of any advantage you can get. Posting on Flickr doesn't get you into that bracket.
  13. The scum rises to the top also.
  14. The cream always rises to the top, but is anyone looking at the cup?​
    I like Dirty Harry's take on it better, manure floats to the top (not exactly a quote but I just found that we have grammar police;-)
  15. Google Blogger lists over 450,000 user account entries for bloggers with an occupation of "photographer."
    Are all of those people meeting some kind of commercial need? They may be marketing themselves as a photographer, but how many people, right now, are meeting some kind (any kind) of commercial need with their photos? If we looked at it strictly, the list could be very short indeed.
    Photographers get paid for three main reasons. Someone wants:
    • to see the photo
    • to possess the photo
    • to show the photo.
    That's it. No exceptions.
    With Ansel Adams, we've seen the rise of the celebrated and marketed photographer (to a new level). Some will have their own marketing machines; but, fundamentally, these people still have to fulfill one of those three basic ideas with their photographs. If they don't, then there is no sale. After a long time of no sales, the business venture will close.
    The prettiness doesn't get any of it sold. The photo must satisfy one of those three basic ideas to meet the basic qualifying ideas for a picture to sell.
    Someone, somewhere, will have to be empowered or otherwise supported and made greater or stronger by getting the photo to help them do something. Ads? An entire industry built on bait and switch; profits from showing the photo, briefly. Editorial photos? An example of someone profiting from showing the photo. Photos for home decor? Profit or empowerment from possessing the photo. Porn or art galleries? Profit from those paying to see the photo. There will be some bleeding from one category to the next; the limits are not absolute. Yet, as a trend, those three main components are there.
    The professional photo satisfies a need or empowers someone else, to the point that they will pay to have that object and use it as a service. The commercial service it satisfies will be profit from: seeing, possessing or showing the photo.
    Prettiness, image quality, or opinions about how good the photographer is: are all subordinate to those basic ideas of seeing, possessing and showing. Really, where the marketing can help is in finding someone else who has a need that might be fulfilled with a photo serving one of those three functions. The seeing, possessing or showing have to somehow be there, on their own, as part of a sales plan of some kind, in order to begin even trying to sell the picture.
  16. I have found that whether it is a big deal or a little $1.35 profit, it has been those times when the photo somehow empowered someone else to do something that they wanted, or to somehow feel better about their human condition: those are the times that I end up closing the sale.
    You can have a thick catalog of really nice photos, but if they won't meet someone's need, you're sunk before you begin. It's gotta do something for someone else.
    The more quickly and easily they can imagine being successful, the more intensely and quickly you might be able to close that deal. Yet, it must do something for someone else.
    It's really gotta do something for someone else besides just be. If its main value is in just being, and that's not going to help anyone else, then it won't sell. Maybe someone will eventually feel empowered to possess it; but, until that moment occurs, and the photo meets the customer, nothing will happen.
    I am a big believer in this idea that the photo will only get us paid for seeing, possessing or showing. Coincidentally, I think that's also the order of payment or profit from least to most expensive.
  17. I have found that marketing to the public (Facebook, Twitter, or any other form of cold calling on the Internet) is not very useful. Limit it. It is much more useful to meet people and identify needs than it is to randomly cold call the whole world with a bunch of hoo-hah ads. You need your name out there some; but, that's not what's closing the deal or getting the photo sold.
    Cold calling on the Internet is even less successful than cold calling people at home with telephone solicitations.
    Ask yourself: Is this marketing plan another high-tech form of cold calling?
    Yet, one call, one ad, one meeting that links your products with their identifiable needs: that's the right connection. Enough marketing to meet the right people. With the right needs. They need to pay to see, possess or show your photo. Most marketing beyond that is not useful. Marketing below that, to the point that you meet or find no one and their needs, can smother you out. Most real marketing won't be in big baby blue bubble fonts. It'll be in meeting the right people and closing a good deal.
    I do not think it is only about marketing now. I do think people are inundated with a bunch of fantasies about using the right web page will somehow land a bunch of customers. It's as much about marketing as it ever was, but the deals are being closed for the same old reasons. See, possess or show the photo.
  18. Is there any way to sum up why this is?​
    Certainly. It's our nature to brag about the brand we spent so much money on.
    And things have drastically changed with the introducton of social media. And like other professions were the technology has trickled down and become affordable by the masses, this always happens when a combination of other elements converge.
    It's never been easier and cheaper for people to become a photographer and the predictable correlation is that it's never been so affordable to buy photography services and photos. So, what are you doing to stand out? What are you doing to sell as opposed to waiting for the phone to ring?
    More people are shopping and making consumer decisions from the net. So yes, to answer your question, it is mostly about marketing and gaining trust in your audience via social media and being there when your market goes looking for you. That last part is key. Tv, print media, and radio is now blocked out by our minds and for the first time in consumerism, markets are researching and going out and looking for brands to trust. Smart business are there and ready and accomplishing this by teaching and challenging their customers.
    I read a blog post last week and the average Joe Jane photographer that caters to the private market for weddings/families/grads etc is doing 3 hrs of blog/Facebook/Twitter a day in order to keep busy. Instead of spending money on traditional methods of marketing, we're spending time.
  19. The pictures that you see on Flickr are probably mostly from amateurs. Yes some of these pictures are very good, but what separates an amateur from a professional is the concistency. Pprofessional photographers have to put food on the table so getting that 'Wow' shot evey so often does not make one a true professional photographer.

    Of course there are plenty of professional photographers out there who own a corner portrait shop, shoot weddings on weekends, etc that nobody has heard of either. That does not mean they are not skilled at what they do. The ones that so-called "made it", or have become famous in the public eye are those that usually had some type of exposure through the media, either through books, magazines, art galleries, or museums.
  20. Define NOW?
  21. I think it's part talent, part promoting oneself, and part luck. You have to be good. You have to be out making contacts, meeting the right people, and promoting yourself to them. And sometimes you just have to be in the right place at the right time. Most important is that when the opportunity to impress comes along, you don't blow it.

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