It’s all about the photo!

In this post, I want to tell you about a principle that I think is more important than any sales, marketing or workflow technique. I treat this principle as a rule in my work:

Your product must be the base of the business you are
trying to build ì and your product must be good.

I’ll explain… As a photographer, your product is your photo. If your photos are poor, you can’t expect your business to succeed ì it’s a no-brainer when you think about it. To make a living from your photography, you need to sell your work – this constitutes a business. Customers drive your business, and to attract them, your photo must be good.

What makes a photo good? That’s a complex philosophical question that we’ll save for another post, but from a business perspective, you need to define your market and meet their needs. There are thousands of photographers seeking to sell their work ì how are you going to differentiate your work? I see so many photographers who aren’t offering anything new. Your photos don’t have to be unique, but they should be good ì high-quality and targeted to your customers’ demands.

Like I said, it’s really a no-brainer, but it’s not something that photographers readily consider ì we’re usually thinking about the technical and artistic merit of our work, rather than its value as a marketable product.

Workflow + Presentation + Marketing = Sales?

You can streamline your workflow, present your photos online beautifully, and market your imagery like crazy. But, in the end, your time and effort will only translate into sales if the photo is worth buying ì if it’s got value to your potential customer.

As an aside – have you ever counted up the amount of time and effort that goes into each photo or shoot? Do you ever recoup the cost of this time when you sell a picture or charge for your time? Is your product worth the time you spend on it? This is a topic I’m looking forward to discussing soon ¶

The idea of ‘photo as product’ is really pivotal for me. I believe this principle to be at the heart of any photographer’s efforts to sell photos and make a living doing what you enjoy, especially in the online world when your competition is so unrestricted.

I’ll be elaborating on some of the points raised here in later posts, but please feel free to comment on my thoughts. I’m sure not everyone would agree with me and I’m looking forward to discussing the matter further.

A final thought…

As the digital photography market grows, it seems like every man, woman, and their family pet are taking digital photos and posting them on Flickr, Facebook, MySpace and the other social/media networking sites. Digital photography makes it easy, and some of these new-breed photographers venture into the world of traditional photography, doing weddings, portraits, events etc, for their friends and family.

Now, I have nothing against this ì I started out in a similar way ì but my point is that The Internet is flooded with photos, and more people are starting to sell their photos online. How do you think this will affect photography as we’ve known it in the past? Are we already seeing some of these effects?

Written by

Derek is Engineering Czar and Co-founder of Fotomerchant. He once picked up a camera and started shooting but everyone screamed so he stopped.

  • A though provoking article Derek.

    I’ve witnessed a few discussions in forums that’ve got quite heated between so called ‘professional’ photographers and amateurs who are attempting to sell their work on stock photography websites etc.

    The quality of a photograph, or ‘product’ as you have put it, is what makes someone a professional, not the fact that they sell their work. Yes, sales and quality normally do go hand in hand but if a consumer is able to produce a product of similar quality then it makes sense that the media and other sales avenues will turn to these cheaper sources more and more for their images.

    There are other challenges presented to photographers through ever increasing levels of technology. Video with enough resolution to print poster size from a single frame from 30fps cameras are just around the corner. Why have a film crew and still photographers cover the same event when you can send one and are able to cover both mediums?

  • You make some good points there Simmo,

    This topic is quite controversial and I think professionalism can mean a number of things when it comes to photography. In my view, a professional is someone who charges for the work they do under assignment, whether it be weddings, funerals, events, portraits, etc. Just like a professional football player gets paid to do a particular task i.e. play football for a professional level club.

    However, having said that, I agree that there is a level of “professionalism” that can be judged by the consumer, based on the quality of the photographer’s work.

  • I found you through a facebook ad. I might mention that the hot link didn’t work when I clicked on it. I had to remove the / at the end of the url and refresh it for it to work.

    I’m interested to see where you go with this. I’m an amateur photographer, but have been paid for several projects (weddings, engagement photos, portraits, etc.) I’ve considered doing a side business of photography and working to promote myself a little more, but creating a website is my hang up. I can’t afford to spend lots of money on outsourced web design. I know a guy who could do it, but then would charge me for every update. Ideally I’d love to do it myself, but then there’s the learning curve. I look forward to hearing more of your advice and thoughts.

  • Casey,

    Thanks for the info re: the Facebook ad. Don’t know how that trailing slash got there :)

    Web design can be expensive. There are ways in which you can reduce the learning curve when you do it yourself, but there’s more to web design than just a pretty website.

    I’ve got a few posts in the pipeline regarding this topic. I’m also working on an affordable service that is aimed at photographers in your position. It’s a common hurdle that so many photographers face.

    Stay tuned.

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