[by Michael Clark]
Promoting yourself and your work is a never-ending task for any creative. Over the last twenty years as a freelance adventure sports photographer I have tried just about every promotional method under the sun. No matter what type of promotion you do, it all comes down to the work. If the images aren’t knocking the art buyer’s socks off then you have a tough road ahead. I firmly believe that top-end work will draw attention and clients if marketed well.
If you can create “buzz” among art buyers and photo editors about your work then you have done a great job both producing top-end work and promoting yourself. What is buzz? How do you craft it? Buzz is basically other people out there talking positively about you and your work. An example would be if an art buyer you have worked with recommends you to other art buyers and talks about how great you were to work with. Or, it might just be that everyone is talking about how great your images are and how you are one of the top people in your specialty. Creating buzz takes time both for you to consistently create stellar work, and also for a significant group of people to see it.
As for my own marketing efforts, for me it all starts with my website, which is the hub of all my marketing. I have a rather unique situation, due to an assortment of factors, in that I show up #1 on Google when you type in “Adventure Sports Photographer” or “Adventure Sports Photography.” That alone brings in a lot of requests from a wide variety of clients and it also impacts how I market myself.
My website is home base to all of my marketing and shows up #1 for the search terms “Adventure Sports Photographer” or “Adventure Sports Photography.”
In addition to the website, I have a blog (http://blog.michaelclarkphoto.com) where I can make announcements, show recent work, and also talk about equipment, workshops, prints, and other items that may be interesting to those that follow my work.
The blog helps those following my work stay connected with my latest images and all of the other things I do like workshops, fine art prints, equipment reviews, etc.
For the last twelve years or more, I have been creating the Michael Clark Photography Newsletter, which is a 30-40 page PDF magazine. This PDF newsletter is much more than a “newsletter” since it is a quarterly magazine that I send out to over 8,000 people. Of those 8,000 or so people, about 1,500 are art buyers and photo editors and the rest are folks who have asked to subscribe to the Newsletter. As you can see in the screenshots below, the Newsletter includes in-depth, behind-the-scenes articles about my recent assignments, editorials on a variety of topics, equipment reviews, and also news items that appeared on the blog and much more. The Newsletter is a very unique old-school marketing tool and it leaves quite an impression on art buyers even if they don’t read it. For more on how I use the Newsletter as a marketing tool check out this interview with APhotoEditor.com. If you would like to subscribe to the Newsletter send me an email and I will add you to the list.
Above are a few sample covers and spreads from the Michael Clark Photography Newsletter. I have gone to great lengths to make the Newsletter not only interesting, but also informative and very nice to look at so that art buyers will at the very least thumb through it. Even if an art buyer doesn’t read an article or anything at all in the Newsletter, they generally remember me because of the layout, the images and the effort that goes into it. I have had art buyers contact me and say, “I remember your Newsletter from ten years ago and thought about you for this new project we are working on.”
[Side Note: The Newsletter is in large part responsible for my website showing up #1 on Google because all of the PDFs live on my website and are searchable by Google. Because these PDF Newsletters include a lot of text, they help boost my ranking pretty massively.]
Approximately every six weeks, I send out an e-promo to around 1,400 art buyers and photo editors using the e-promo tools offered by Agency Access. I also use Agency Access to create lists of clients that are appropriate for my work. In addition to the client lists I have built on Agency Access, which are mostly art buyers at ad agencies, I also have my own list of clients I have worked with or have had contact with. My e-promos usually have a link that goes to an extended web gallery of new work or to a blog post with a brief behind-the-scenes vignette of a recent assignment. I wait until I have new work that I am excited to share before sending out any e-promos, which sometimes means there are a few months between e-promos.
My e-promos are simple and allow art buyers and photo editors to see my recent work. Even if clients don’t click the link in the e-promo they are still reminded of my work and myself.
I also promote myself and my work via social media channels including: Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Linked In. These days, and I know this strikes a cord for quite a few photographers, many photographers generate buzz about their work via Instagram. I have worked hard to build a large Instagram following and I still have a long ways to go. One of the key ways to build buzz around you and your work is to create a following that isn’t just art buyers and photo editors. This is in large part the reason for marketing yourself on social media. If you have a million followers on any social media channel then you have a built-in way to advertise for your clients, which can be a bonus for those clients and also serve as another revenue stream.
Instagram is a huge part of my marketing these days. I have been asked to shoot Instagram only campaigns and I have been contacted for a variety of reasons because of my following on Instagram. There are a number of photographers that are doing very well because of their giant followings on Instagram. It takes time and effort to create a solid Instagram account, but if you want to continue to make a living in the future as a photographer then you need to be on Instagram.
Lastly, I meet with current and potential clients face-to-face as often as possible. In my experience, no other form of marketing beats an in-person meeting. Getting to know a client via a portfolio review or going out to lunch with them is a great way to get past the sales pitch and talk about real world possibilities. I always bring my print portfolio to meetings and I also bring a laptop or iPad to show some video if they want to see it.
My logo on the cover of my custom made bamboo 11 x17 inch print portfolio. My print portfolio book was custom made by Shrapnel Designs (http://shrapneldesign.com) in Vancouver, Canada.
That is about it for my marketing. I know I should also send out postcards and some more thoughtful and elaborate direct-mail pieces but I rarely get around to doing that. Just putting the Newsletter together is a huge effort and as my main marketing piece it has been incredibly successful.
Also, as a side note here, if you didn’t see Chris Winton-Stahle’s blog post entitled Knocking on Doors, I recommend reading that blog post as he covered a lot of ground and made some excellent points about marketing yourself.
Michael Clark is an internationally published adventure photographer and author. For more stories and inspiration check out his Newsletter, which is a quarterly magazine that goes out to over 8,000 photographers and clients. He also recently published an updated version of his e-book, A Professional Photographer’s Workflow: Using Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, which can be purchased on his website. See more of Michael’s work at www.michaelclarkphoto.com.