What many photography programs in college seem to forget is that running a photography business is just that – a business. It does not matter how great your images are, how talented you are or how amazing your portfolio is, it no one sees your images and if you can’t negotiate a fair price with clients, your photography business will fail. A new photographer needs to spend about 80% of their time marketing and trying to find new clients, 10% shooting portfolio samples, 5% doing quotes and bidding on projects and 5% actually shooting the projects. So why are 95% of their classes on how to make and edit pictures?
Most photography programs in colleges just teach students how to make pretty pictures. Not necessarily pictures that clients will want to pay for, but just nice, artistic work. Although most photography programs have one business or marketing class, it is usually taught by someone who has not succeeded in the market place, and so the teacher is working part-time to pay the rent.
If you are still in school, take classes in the following areas:
Marketing & Advertising
Starting a business
If you are already out of school, try to find a photographer who is financially successful, and become their intern even if you have to work for free. Learn how they find clients, sell to them, invoice them, shoot for them and keep them coming back for more.
Creating Your On-Line Portfolio
Your web presence is your window to the world. It must be professional, well designed, optimized for search engines so that it is on the first page of major search engines, and targeted at a particular client group. Do you want to land advertising agencies with food clients with your portfolio? Then why do you have out of focus black and white pictures of flowers and mountains on your website? Do you want to shoot corporate events for FedEx, Bank of America, and Sony? Then why do you have dark and moody nudes and still life images on your site?
Pick 5-10 companies you would love to work for. They can be companies that sell clothing, jewelry, car, food, electronics, it doesn’t matter. Then go to their website and look at all the images they show there. Find their magazine advertisements. Go to the library and see if you can look at their annual report. Contact them for free brochures. Study the type of images they use, and then show that type of images on your website. Then contact the advertising agency or marketing management of those companies and ask them to look at your work, hopefully in a face-to-face meeting. If you have images that you love, but they would not be purchased by these 5-10 companies, don’t include them, or put them on a page on your website called “personal.” That way your clients will see what you love, but understand that you know what they want to buy as well.