I hear a lot of portrait photographers today tell me that newcomers are taking away their business even though they only have a fraction of their skills and knowledge. That all it takes for these up and coming photographers is purchasing basic equipment and learning how to market their products.
That is, unfortunately, very true and for 2 main reasons. First, I always say that ‘a poor photograph well marketed will always outsell a good photograph poorly marketed.’ This applies to all of us. It is not uncommon at all to see fine photographers make a very poor living. Similarly, there are a lot of excellent products out there –books, portfolios, etc.– that are fantastic and yet are not selling very well, if they are selling at all.
Making the best product possible is not what generates sales. Marketing is what generates sales. And for most photographers, marketing is basically saying: “Here it is. I have this available and it is great.” Hoping to sell something with this approach is not only delusional, it is plain ridiculous. This is why learning marketing is so important when you make your living by selling your photography.
Second, today just about anyone with a DSLR, a couple of flash heads and a computer can do what only professionals could do in film days. Getting high quality portraits and wedding photos was hard with film. Getting a white dress to be white in print was a challenge. Getting soft contrast was difficult. Getting nice skin tones was difficult. Tutorials were hard to come by, if they were available at all. All this is a lot easier with digital. The bar has been raised significantly, and those who insist on approaching the portrait business the way they did with film cannot expect to stay in business long, provided they are still in business. And if your plan is to buy the most expensive gear out there and hope that it’s going to make the difference, you’ll just be out of that much money because anyone can buy the same gear.
What this all means is that the only way to truly stand out today and make a good living is by having a unique style and vision and marketing it adequately. This is not something you can buy at a store or get through software. Instead, this is something you have to work hard for and learn through dedicated study. That’s why hardly any ‘up and coming photographers’ have a personal style, and that’s why those who do put in the time and effort to acquire a personal style can market their work effectively and have little competition.
The thing with marketing is that it can’t be improvised. It has to be done right from the start. Errors are costly. Attempts to fix a marketing program after the product has been launched are as ineffective as trying to fix the rocket booster seal on the space shuttle after takeoff. The disaster is inevitable. Your fate is sealed at the start.
Since 2001 I have been focusing on teaching personal style and fine art photography marketing through my workshops, seminars, and Mastery DVD series. I have developed a system that has been extremely effective in helping students develop their own style and learn to use marketing to increase their profits. If what I wrote here echoes in you, if you can relate to all this, I encourage you to look into my workshops and tutorials. I believe you will find the help you have been looking for.
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