When I say that photography is my life, I mean that quite literally. Now, don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love what I do, but it seriously takes up the majority of my time. Starting out (and standing out for that matter) in a market that is already filled to capacity with photographers of all skill levels takes a lot of time, networking, and unfortunately, working for free (however, in this industry, it’s normally called “TF” (trade for) or “pro bono.”) All of that is necessary to build your portfolio and get your name out there in hopes of one day being able to quit your day job, and making photography your full-time career, or getting signed by an agency (the latter of which I am trying to do right now.)
If you’re a new photographer, you may be asking, “What are ways of marketing yourself?” First of all, don’t just be a carbon copy of every other photographer in your area. In this industry, imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery, but it is the quickest way to make a lot of enemies in a short amount of time. When you’re just starting out, you may need help with ideas, but add your own twist to them. I found my “niche” in photography by mixing fashion photography and conceptual photography by using it to address issues/topics in culture/the media. Now, that’s not all I do, but that’s what I’m now known for in my area.
Next, you must get out and meet people. Go out and photograph fashion shows, get an account on modelmayhem.com, and always bring your business cards with you! Yes, you will have to work free for a while until you have a “good-enough” portfolio, but soon enough, people will be coming to you asking you to shoot.
Now, this next step, I don’t necessarily recommend, but it’s worked incredibly well for me. Find a person on facebook who you know is very well-known in your area, go to their friends page, and add a ton of people. Then, for whoever accepts you, “suggest” your photography page to them. Yes, I have to admit, facebook doesn’t like this, and probably at one point or another, will block you from adding anyone for a certain period of time, but I’ve found this tactic to work amazingly. (I went from about 100 “likes” on my page to nearly 700 in a few months.) Another thing you can do on facebook is to create an ad. I did this for a while, and only paid $1 a day to advertise my business. I highly recommend this.
Once you’ve done this, start marketing yourself. Upload your photos, get feedback, ask for reviews on your page, but most of all, always be gracious and thankful to people. If you’re good, people will tell you so. There are enough egos in this industry already. To go along with that, and this should go without saying, but don’t talk badly about people! I don’t care what they’ve done or not done-it will get back around to them, and the last thing that you need is to have a bad reputation.
Like I said earlier, once you start getting yourself out there, people will start coming to you for shoots. Here’s the part that I’ve struggled with, and am just recently starting to do more. Respect yourself and your pricing. If you don’t, no one else will. Along with that, even after finally developing a great and diverse portfolio, learn who is still worth working with for TF. For example, the models that helped you start out, or models that would significantly improve your body of work. Along with this, learning to frequently follow up with prospective clients is crucial.
The last tip I can give is to keep shooting. I can not emphasize this enough. Experiment, find inspiration through other photographers, magazines, whatever. Don’t ever think that you are done learning.
It can be a tough business, but if you’re really passionate about what you’re doing, it’s well worth it.