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Marketing Conversations for Photographers

Issue #6: Tips for how to price commercial photography

By Cindy A Stephens

As a marketer I can tell you that knowing what to charge for a service or product is always challenging.  There are no hard-and-fast rules to follow.  Unfortunately for photographers, understanding how to price our work has become ever more challenging in the past decade.  The shift to digital imagery has heralded new considerations with regard to digital products, the length of time a digital image will be in use, multi-media work, and more.

Commercial photographer Scott Indermaur tells me that “even people with 20 years in the business, they are still sharing pricing suggestions with each other.”

This is the first of several blog posts designed to help photographers price their work.  While I can’t tell you specifically how much to charge, I can provide examples of how commercial and fine art photographers approach pricing: what are the pitfalls?  What are the best practices?  Should you negotiate, and if so, how?

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Marketing Conversations for Photographers

Issue #6: Creating an Effective Photography Website

By Cindy A Stephens

You don’t have to be an expert in html to create a website that showcases your photography.  There are many easy-to-use website development tools that help even the most technically challenged build a photography website.

What does require some expertise, however, is an understanding of how to build an effective photography website.   Fortunately, the barriers to achieving this are crumbling for a photographer without the wherewithal to pay for a completely custom website.  It all starts with knowing who your customers are and what your goals are.

Get to know your audience

PhotoShelter’s co-founder Grover Sanschagrin tells me a common mistake photographers make is to “design their website for themselves.”  He says “they ask other photographers for input, but spend little or no time asking their actual customers – photo buyers and editors – for feedback.”  Grover advises photographers to get to know their audience and don’t automatically assume that you know what they want.

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Marketing Conversations for Photographers

Issue #5: Building Relationships with Art Collectors

By Cindy A Stephens

It’s a wonderful feeling to know that as an artist your work has touched someone and that they have purchased a print to have in their home or collection. In fact, many collectors purchase work not because they believe it will appreciate in value but because they love it. (See: Collectors Buy Art Because They Love It  by Kathryn Tully).

If you are represented by a gallery you may not know who purchased your print and will leave it up to the gallery to market future work to these same collectors (See: How to Find and Work with Galleries). For others, interacting directly with buyers is a fulfilling and enjoyable part of their artistic process.

Ask yourself, do you want to interact with your customers, personally? Some artists opt for gallery representation while other artists opt for greater engagement with customers and sell work directly to buyers. Beware that galleries might view it as a conflict of interest to do both

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Marketing Conversations for Photographers

Issue #4: How to Find and Work with a Gallery

By Cindy A Stephens

Do you want to be represented by a gallery?  Many of the graduating students from the Montserrat College of Art that I met during their portfolio review had answered that question for themselves with a resounding YES.

There are many advantages to working with a gallery.  Galleries have established relationships with individual collectors, museums, and other buyers so when a gallery agrees to take on an artist they also agree to promote that artist to these important audiences. Fine art photographer, Annu Palakunnathu Matthew tells me ““Some artists are looking for a brand name gallery which can definitely help with their career but I would be cautious if that is always the best match.”

So the real question becomes: how do you find the right gallery for your career?  The gallery landscape is more diverse than a decade ago:  there are artist-run cooperative galleries (e.g., Galatea), online galleries (e.g., Saatchi Online) and traditional brick-and-mortar galleries (e.g., Howard Yezerski Gallery), making it a challenge to find the best match between artist and gallerist.

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by Barbara Ayotte

Benedict Fernandez

Benedict Fernandez at his Almanac Gallery in Hoboken, NJ. Photograph by Elliott Ruga

On a recent sunny Sunday afternoon this spring, PRC Executive Director Glenn Ruga, his brother Elliott, and I visited the Almanac Gallery on Garden Street in Hoboken, NJ, owned by Benedict “Ben” Fernandez and his wife, Siiri.  Originally Ben’s parents’ home, the small gallery feels more like a museum, marking significant milestones in documentary photography. Ben is most known for his “protest” photography, particularly his famous and intimate portraits of Martin Luther King, Jr. (A portfolio of this work will be sold at the upcoming PRC event “Treasures from the PRC Vault” on May 7.)

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Photograph by Benedict Fernandez

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Photograph by Benedict Fernandez. One of 12 images included in Countdown to Eternity portfolio.

Ben was seated on a couch in a small, sparse room dominated by a wall of posters marking the first photography expos at Arles that Ben helped to organize, the ICP lectures of The Concerned Photographer series featuring the icons of twentieth century photography including Cornell Capa and Ben, and posters of rallies with Martin Luther King, Jr.  Photos of Ben with Lisette Model, Richard Avedon, Susan Meiselas and Capa dotted the other walls, near shelves of boxed prints and portfolios.

Minutes after we walked in, Siiri was ready to reminisce about the amazing influence and breadth of Ben’s career, of which Ben prefers to call “photo-anthropology” as opposed to photojournalism. Siiri started by taking out his famous Martin Luther King, Jr. portfolio “Countdown to Eternity,” commissioned by Kodak. The exhibition based on this portfolio has been shown in 18 cities and is still traveling. We didn’t know that there was also a second portfolio, commissioned by Leica. Only five copies of the Leica version were created and are valued at $25,000. The Kodak version sold at the George Eastman House Auction for between $5.000 and 7,000. (Ben and Siiri could not remember the exact price.)

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Marketing Conversations for Photographers

Issue #3: Building Your Online Presence

By Cindy A Stephens

“How do I drive more traffic to my website?” is a question that I hear frequently.  Creating a website is merely the first mile in a marathon of establishing your online presence, which is now fairly straightforward with the myriad digital tools that are available for photographers and other creative professionals.

The answer to the question is that once your site is built, you need to recognize that you have just started a marathon and then make the commitment to complete the journey.  This persistence is critical to successfully building your online presence.  And that, says online influence expert Stephanie Sammons, “cultivates business success.”

Stephanie told me that “most people give up before they reach their desired level of success with the volume of people visiting the site, growing their network or connecting with them.”

It all starts with getting clear on what your goals are and aligning your online presence with those goals, which Stephanie says is “very, very critical to building a successful online presence.”

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Marketing Conversations for Photographers

 

 

 

Issue #2: Describing Yourself and Your Work

By Cindy A Stephens

As artists we are natural visual communicators and are comfortable sharing ideas and information through images.  It is written and verbal communication, however, that is often used by artists to bridge the gap between our creative intentions and the audience of our work.  It acts as a translator to the language of photography.

Whereas artists are comfortable at storytelling using imagery, the rest of the world (including art collectors) often needs a verbal translation from these visual clues to discern the intended meaning. Reviewers and jurors sometimes need this verbal translation too when reviewing work.

Photographer and founder of Lenscratch, Aline Smithson, tells me that the way photographers share work has changed in the past 10 years.

“Prior to 10 years ago artists were bringing in portfolios of beautiful images unrelated to each other.  A lot of the focus was on the mastery of the darkroom print.  Now in the digital age, reviewers are looking for artists to have explored an idea in a deep way with at least 20 images.  Often times that work is enhanced by the written articulation of it.”

Describing yourself and your work now goes way beyond defining yourself by the photographic genre you fit into, such as landscape or nature photography.  “That’s old school,” Aline says.  “Now you are articulating ideas.  Why are you making those landscapes? What is that other layer that makes the work deeper?  How could a gallerist or curator convince a buyer or museum director that your project is meaningful?”

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Marketing Conversations for Photographers

 

 

 

Issue #1: How to Build Awareness for Your Work

By Cindy A Stephens

We are witnessing the democratization of photography.  The rise and rapid adoption of digital technology has made photography accessible to the masses in a way that wasn’t possible a generation ago.

Millions of images are now shared on social media sharing sites by hobbyists as well as emerging photographers and established pros.  Some work is superb and other images are merely mediocre.

The result of this seismic shift is that it is increasingly difficult to stand out in a very crowded marketplace.  Technical know-how and creative genius is no longer sufficient to becoming an established fine art or commercial photographer.  Marketing acumen — the ability to differentiate you as an artist — is now a required skill for photographers.

Free-lance photographer David H. Wells tells me that marketing is as important a skill for a photographer as the actual photographing.

“I would argue that marketing is more important [than photographic skill], proven by the wild success of many photographically mediocre artists who have great marketing systems,” David says.

I found it startling that David spends only 10% of his time photographing.  The other 90% is spent on marketing activities.  Like many photographers, he has multiple revenue streams including stock photography, assignments, and teaching workshops and he spreads his marketing efforts across them.

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On January 21, 2012, the PRC Board of Directors approved by unanimous vote a new mission statement for the organization. The new statement affirms our commitment to our members and the photographic community with updated language that is shorter and more focused on our core work. The new statement is:

The Photographic Resource Center (PRC) is a vital forum for the exploration, interpretation, and celebration of new work, ideas, and methods in photography. We inspire our members and the broader community with thought-provoking exhibits, educational programs, and resources that support the advancement of the photographic arts.

We look forward to your comments!

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I spent last weekend at the Center in Santa Fe reviewing the work of 27 photographers and seeing many others in informal sessions. Overall the work was excellent, especially by those who were not currently in, or recent graduate of, MFA programs. Below is a short selection of the work I saw that I thought most interesting.

Glenn Ruga
PRC Executive Director

Dana Popa
not Natasha


Popa won first prize in the Project Competition at Center for not Natasha, a documentary of 17 sex trafficked women from Moldova. Natasha is the pejorative term for prostitutes with eastern European looks. The images are bold, sensitive, and uncomfortable, as they should be for a subject such as this. Popa says in her artist statement, “I met seventeen women who survived sexual slavery. …Some of them too fragile; some very strong, trying to leave behind an unwanted past….I had to be both discreet and protective.” For those of us lucky to be in Santa Fe for these reviews, Popa was a sober reminder of how fortunate we are, and how powerful the medium of photography can be to bring home the truths about our existence.
www.danapopa.com/

David Taylor
Walking the Line


Border Monument 2A, 2008

Taylor received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008 to photograph along the US/Mexico border. He has chosen to focus his images on the 260 obelisk monuments built between 1892 and 1895 to mark the international border from the El Paso/Juarez to San Diego/Tijuana. His portfolio is comprised of more than 100 prints of the monuments and other sites along the way including smugglers, border patrol agents, and bricks of marijuana. The work is a harsh and dry look at the geography, landscape, hunters, and the hunted as they search for a better life on the north side of the 2,000 mile US/Mexican border.
www.dtaylorphoto.com

David Rochkind
Heavy Hand, Sunken Spirit: The Costs and Consequences of Mexico’s Drug War


This project, also on the US/Mexico border, is shot almost entirely on the Mexico side and shows the harsh reality of the drug trade and its effect on ordinary people caught up in a siege by organized crime, corrupt police, and the foot soldiers on both side. Rochkind uses the traditional 35mm format shot with a wide angle lens, up close, to get us close to the people effected by this undeclared war. While there is evil committed on both sides, Rochkind’s perspective is often to show drug runners and authorities, each as victims, caught up in a war of economics, fueled by the demand up North, and the poverty of the Mexican people.
www.davidrochkind.com/

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