Professionals: You’re Not a Photographer, You Promote & Sell Photography

Can you imagine hiring the services of a lawyer who had never read a book about law? Yet millions of people start a photography business without knowing anything about marketing, selling, pricing or merchandising.

The trap many photographers fall into is they love the photography so much that they simply focus on that and forget the rest of the business. Instead, think like a business owner, not a photographer.

"Blue To White Falls"  captured by Mitch Johanson.

“Blue To White Falls” captured by Mitch Johanson. Click image to see more from Mitch Johanson.

Try to think of yourself more like a clothing store manager. You’re not designing the clothes; you’re just marketing and selling them.

Now I realize that you actually are creating the photos, while the clothing store manager isn’t designing the clothes, but using this analogy is important for several reasons:

  • Most photographers think if their photos are really good they’ll automatically become successful. This very, very rarely holds true. This misguided belief is like opening a store with really nice clothes and hoping it will do well without the correct marketing, selling, pricing and merchandising strategy. This principle is why some average photographers are doing really well while some great artists suffer.
  • Once you see yourself more like a business owner and not a photographer you start to look at things with an objective eye. For example, would you feel hurt if someone walked into your clothing store and then walked out because it was too expensive? Probably not. It’s a subtle but important difference to the way you look at things.
  • You start to make decisions based on good business sense.

Are you one of the shrewd 10%?

Research by Dun and Bradstreet showed that 90% of small businesses that failed did so due to a lack of skills and knowledge on the part of the owner. Obvious? Maybe. But a lot of people feel that hard work is enough, or that a good product is enough. Nope. You need knowledge like I provide on this website.

Because you are reading this, I know you study too – or maybe you’re desperate, I’m not sure.

The only reason I’m able to give you these ideas is the same reason you are reading them. I study.

I’ve been a marketing professional since 1997 and before that I studied it at university. You’d be shocked at how little most people in the marketing profession actually study. I study almost every day, year after year.

After all, I believe marketing is the subject of success, not matter what industry you’re in.

The next time you hear business advice from a photographer on a forum consider whether they have studied what they’re preaching. More importantly, have they tested it and measured it and compared it with other techniques?

professional photographers

“Paris on fire” captured by Bastien Milanese (Click Image to See More From Bastien Milanese)

It is madness to spend years learning through trial and error without studying and testing your results. With the right information you can pick up what you need in a few weeks from people who have invested lifetimes and billions learning what you need to know. Billions? Sure, I take lots of ideas from other industries and successful businesses. Simply reading the newspaper or magazine covers will give you plenty of ideas for writing headlines for your copy. These industries invest millions into studying effective headlines and you can steal their techniques.

A word of warning

It’s not enough to have lots of marketing ideas. This can be almost as dangerous as not having any ideas. Why? Because you can end up with so many tasks and tactics that you have no focus.

You’re fiddling around on Twitter and Facebook, writing a blog, writing an email newsletter, printing direct mail, designing adverts, setting up joint partnerships and so on. You end up taking on too many tasks and not doing any of them particularly well. There’s no defined strategy behind each one.

Focus on the marketing tactics that perform best for you by measuring and testing them. Then, have the strength to ditch the others.

About the Author:
Dan Waters writes about differentiating a photography business. He shares information learned from the most renowned marketing and sales professionals like Drayton Bird, Jay Abrahams, Ari Galper, Clayton Makepeace and many others. He then translates their ideas into practical advice for photographers.

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