For so many of us, marketing is key. Even some hobbyists maintain a website to sell prints, or they might approach the occasional gallery. Lots of us photographers are in business for weddings, portraits, graduation photos, product photography—you name it. And we all have to market ourselves somehow!
But there’s a problem that I’ve noticed—and this isn’t limited to photography, but I’ve seen it happen among photographers. When we’re marketing ourselves, there’s a fine line between marketing well and making an overt money grab.
What are the obvious money grabs? For the most part, it comes across as aggressive sales language. You’ll see things like “click here to buy this print!” or “I need your support to keep producing my photography!” It’s the kind of language that comes across as demanding and makes the viewer—the potential buyer—feel pressured. And if you’ve ever been approached by an aggressive salesperson, then you know this feeling well, and you know how off-putting it can be.
By the way, this type of aggressive marketing isn’t limited to just one marketing medium. I’ve seen it happen on photography websites and on social media with Facebook posts calling for users to please click and buy things. It happens at galleries sometimes, when enterprising photographers get just a little too pushy with gallery owners. Perhaps in some industries—I’m thinking of the “As Seen on TV” products as I say this—this type of marketing works. But in so many other areas, it only serves to drive consumers, who may already be a bit nervous about the investment, away from the purchase.
So if these aggressive marketing tactics aren’t the answer, then what is? The biggest thing to remember is that you’ll need to be authentically you. This means behaving like a human. For those of us who like to keep to ourselves, this might be a little difficult, but it helps to be personable and to share interesting details where we can. Talk a little bit about your photography or about individual images and what all of it means to you. On social media, don’t hesitate to post something funny that isn’t necessarily related to artwork, or to comment about an interesting project that you might currently be working on.
If you want, you can also be helpful. Share photography tips and tricks that beginners might want to know, or if you faced an unusual challenge in the creation of your images, then it might be worth your while to write something up about it for the photographers who may find themselves in similar tricky situations. That’s the biggest thing. To be real and personable, not a nameless, faceless sales machine. Strive to let people see the mind and the human being behind the photographs. This is what lets them know that you’re not creating images for a quick buck but because you truly enjoy pouring depth and meaning into your photography. When people see that, they’re more inclined to trust you and what you do—and thus more inclined to support your work.