From time to time I receive emails asking for advice from photographers who are just entering the business. Having recently replied to such an email, it made sense to share my answer with anyone who stumbles across this blog. The business of photography is evolving so quickly that marketing strategies that worked 1 year ago don’t necessarily apply today, however there are a few rules I have found to be true:
1) Only show work that you actually want to do. Editors and art directors love to pigeonhole photographers. You might have the best shot in the world of “x” but if “x” isn’t what you want to photograph – don’t show the shot.
2) Find a way to make yourself visible to the people you want to work for. 10 years ago this meant sending out promotional mailers on a regular basis to editors and art directors. Five years ago this meant sending out emails to the same. Today it means finding the social media channels those art directors are watching and being active and visible on them. Tomorrow it will mean something different. I don’t have the magic formula for this… I am experimenting just like you are.
3) Do good work. Don’t prove – rather continually improve.
4) Plan on starving. It isn’t feast or famine in this business – its only famine. Either you don’t have enough work to eat, or you are too busy to eat. The end result is the same either way. As a side note, most pro photographers net LESS on a year to year basis than the starting salary of school teachers.
5) Be nice… to everybody. The photography world is small and incestuous.
6) Find a way to survive. Some of the best photographers I know could not make it in the business and some of the worst continue to make ends meet. Your skill as a photographer only takes you so far. Your skill as a businessman/woman is MUCH MORE important. It is a long term game of attrition. If you can find a way to survive – you will win in the end.