Shoot for Success with Self-Promotion with Skip Cohen
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Many photographers act as if they’ve got a top-notch publicist on their payroll, and do nothing to promote their business or brand. They act as if self-promotion is a dirty word and not something worthy of their time, when in reality it’s one of the most important aspects of building any business.
So, let’s get proactive and put you and your skillset in the spotlight.
Self-Promotion Tool #1: Video/Slideshows
Nothing demonstrates your skillset better than a self-promotional slideshow, together with the story of your business. Great images combined with a few short video clips and good music creates an instant demonstration of your skills, enthusiasm, commitment and passion for the business.
Being a storyteller is one of the most important traits of great photographers, so learn to tell your own story. Here are the magic ingredients to telling your story.
- Your skillset: If your images are at best mediocre, stop adding insult to injury. Don’t show images that are less than terrific. You can sneak in a couple that might not be outstanding only if they’re part of a storytelling sequence. The majority need to be “wow” images—photos so good you’d have to show just one of them to get hired.
- Timing: Keep your self-promotional slideshow under three minutes. I shoot for two minutes or less.
- Music: Your choice of music will make or break your video. Stay focused on your target audience, which for most of you is Mom. Pick music that stays in the background, that isn’t distracting, that adds to your story instead of taking attention away from it. You want people to remember the whole story and the images, not just the music.
- Diversity: While a little diversity is great, don’t go overboard. Stay true to your core specialty. If you’re a wedding photographer, stay with weddings and people. If you’re a children’s photographer, stay with kids and families. It throws people off when an artist includes fine-art landscape images when their core business is weddings, children or fashion.
- Location, location, location. Just as a retail store needs a visible location with high traffic, you have to think about your Internet real estate. Don’t bury your video in your website. Put it right on the home landing page. Make it the first thing people see when they walk through the door.
Self-Promotion Tool #2: Your Blog
Even if you’ve been a little behind on your blog, it’s never too late to crank up the volume.
- Build a stash: One of the most important keys to a strong blog is consistency. If you’ve been posting every full moon, you’re wasting your time and cyberspace real estate. To make sure you’ve got something to post at least two days a week, build a stash. Your blog posts don’t have to be in real time. If you have an inventory of at least 20 posts, you can maintain a consistent presence and not lose momentum.
- “But Skip, I’ve got nothing to write about.” I’ve written about this before, but let’s hit a few ideas again.
- Holiday gift ideas: We’re coming into the fourth quarter, and this is your opportunity to plant a few seeds. Share ideas on picture frames, canvas prints, albums, posters, etc. All it takes is one call to your lab with the question “What’s new?”
- Picture-taking tips: Start helping Mom with ideas to raise the bar on the quality of her pictures, even if she’s shooting with her cellphone. You’ve got the expertise to help with composition, lighting, posing and even exposure. This is great content to share because it puts you in a position of being helpful to your readers and begins to establish your expertise.
- Contests: Launch the occasional photo contest. It’s the perfect interactive way to get your readers involved. The grand prize winner gets a free portrait sitting.
- Community events: It’s time to bring back the old town crier. Share information about things going on in your community. Do things like walkathons. Help out the hosting association with your photography. The public loves to see local businesspeople giving back.
- Personal experiences: There’s nothing wrong with getting personal on your blog as long as you’re relevant. Know your target audience and share events in your own life they can relate to. Don’t get too personal. Show that you’re human and you understand the frustration of finding balance in your life, etc.
- Throwback Thursday: I love throwback images as a marketing tool. Once every week or so, share a few old images to get your target audience thinking about those important memories. Write about how fast time goes by, how fast kids grow up and the importance of capturing those moments. Use throwback images to plant the seed for the importance of an updated family portrait.
- Use your pictures: Share images that demonstrate a point—what to wear on a portrait shoot, posing the kids with Grandma and composition. This is also a chance to demonstrate your ability as a storyteller with each image.
- How to hire a photographer: Share objective tips on what people should look for when hiring a photographer.
Self-Promotion Tool #3: Your Galleries
Your galleries have an incredible level of power in helping to build brand recognition and appreciation for your abilities. You have to keep your images fresh and appealing.
- Outdated material: Start by pulling old images off your site. Unless the image is one of the most incredible you’ve ever captured, it doesn’t belong on your website.
- Number of images: You need only eight to 10 images in a category to demonstrate your skillset. Wedding photographers don’t need to break out images into subcategories like “getting ready,” “the ceremony,” “the reception,” “bridals,” etc. Everyone knows the timing of events at a wedding. Break it down to no more than two or three groups, and show the images in sequence.
- “Groomals:” So many photographers want to share their brides but forget about the grooms.
- Diversity: Show your skillset, but don’t go overboard. Black and white, color, UV, macro—they’re all part of who you are. Just be careful that you don’t turn your galleries into a Photoshop demo.
- Albums: I love when artists show an actual album. No matter your specialty, building an album demonstrates your skills as a storyteller and can help plant the seed of other ideas with your target audience.
- Size matters: Pay attention to how your images are displayed. So often I find a website where the images are too big and extend beyond the bottom fold of the page, or they’re too small and I don’t get the full impact.
Self-Promotion Tool #4: Community Involvement
Fall is a great time to get involved in your community. The kids are heading back to school and nonprofits are launching campaigns. If you want the community to be good to you, you’ve got to be good to your community. Get involved.
Share announcements about upcoming events on your blog. Share images of events you’re supporting. Get to know the staff at those nonprofits you believe in, and let them know your willingness to help out at any time, with or without your camera.
One of the most important tools for building brand awareness is your relationship with members of the community. Here’s your chance to be more than just another vendor or retailer.
September is the perfect time to do a little fine-tuning and plant a few ideas with your target audience. It’s not hard, but it does take time. Nobody knows your business like you do, and nobody but you can get people excited about your work.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is responsible for one of my favorite business quotes, which puts everything I’ve shared today in perspective: “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts. It’s our job to make the customer experience a little bit better.”
There’s a party coming in the last three months of the year, and you’re the host. Let’s make your fourth quarter the best.
Photodex Video Contest!
The timing this month is purely coincidental, but we’re working with Photodex on a self-promotional video contest. We’re in search of the best self-promotional video from a photographer.
Here’s your chance to put together still images, a little video and great music for a shot at seeing your work highlighted online. But that’s not all. The amazing grand prize package is a Panasonic Lumix GX85 camera, an SP45mm lens from Tamron, a $250 credit for Bella Art Prints and Albums from Marathon Press, a new state-of-the-art Illuminati color and light meter and a year’s subscription to ProShow Web from Photodex. The package is worth almost $2,000.
The winning slideshow will be announced in November and shared on a number of websites, including those for Photodex and SkipCohenUniversity, and there will be an industry-wide press release.