Top 5 Tips to Being Taken Seriously as a Commercial Photographer
Photography isn’t always about the photos. You could take the most amazing photo on the planet, but if people don’t think you’re a legit photographer, they still won’t hire you. Over the years, Spectacle Photo has tried many different avenues of approach when it comes to our marketing, services, portfolios, and overall brand image. Some have worked very well for us, where as others held us back. Way back. Our goal has always been to be commercial photographers. We love taking photos for ads, billboards, magazines, and high end marketing materials of any kind. Being seen as a photographer/company that has the chops to get hired for the jobs we want is a struggle, especially if you’re new to the game. In order, these are the top five lessons we’ve learned about being taken seriously by agencies, high-dollar clients, the international community, etc.
5. Get rid of your wedding portfolio
Ten years ago, Rich and I shot weddings. We did it because that’s all we could get hired to do. Our photo portfolio was a mix of weddings, personal projects, and ads that we made for free. We did them for free in hopes that other companies would see them, like them, and hire us for their campaigns. After awhile, we realized that wasn’t happening. Companies still weren’t calling. To fix this, we started looking for representation. The responses were eye opening, and all ran with the same theme: “Thank you for contacting us, but our agency doesn’t represent wedding photographers.” “Your portfolio is good, but it primarily showcases live events.” “We’re not adding wedding photographers to our roster at this time.” “We require our photographers to have commercial portfolios only.” The responses, whether passive aggressive or blunt, were telling us what we had to do if we wanted to be seen as serious commercial photographers.
We stopped photographing weddings all together, and purged our portfolios of wedding pics entirely. This wasn’t hard for us, since we didn’t want to be doing them anyway. After we made this leap, the shift was amazing. Suddenly, businesses were taking us seriously as potential photographers for their campaigns, and high end clients started allowing us to shoot their ads, portraits, and headshots.
4. Submit your work
Go online and submit your work everywhere you can, even if you think it sucks. Submit it to bloggers, magazines, online forums, and image sites. When we started doing this we were shocked at the response. Even photo projects we weren’t happy with started getting us traffic, and through our relentless submissions we’ve had millions of people see our work. Any exposure is good exposure. Even a comment like “I hate this photo.” is better than nothing. Know what that comment means? It means that at least one person has seen that photo and now knows who were are, instead of it just sitting there on a hard drive. Traffic, views, and comments are very import. When people go to our Behance page and see that we’ve gained some sort of following, or if they see our photos being featured on Daily Mail, they know we’ve been at this for awhile and are serious about what we do.
3. Set a fair price and stick to it
Every week we lose out on jobs because we flat out refuse to take photos for less than what it’s worth. And it’s awesome. The customers who haggle and try to discount your craft and your time aren’t the kind of customers you want in the first place. When we stopped lowering our prices for customers, we saved ourselves from countless headaches and had more time to work on photos for the clients who knew the value of what we bring to the table. High end clients, such as advertising agencies, know what photography is worth and appreciate it when we set a clear price that meets industry standards. It establishes that we know what we’re doing, and gives them a solid number they can work with.
2. Be selective in what you offer
Services that we offer at Spectacle Photo all fall under commercial photography. This term “commercial photography” includes all kinds of different genres such as fashion, lifestyle, culture, and portrait shots, but we try our best to stick to that one definition. This is tough, especially when trying to figure out how to market a specific genre that we want to be more involved with. If we advertise that we do lifestyle photography, people automatically think that’s all we do. When we advertise commercial photography, they think we only produce high end advertisements. This isn’t the case, and it’s tough to get that through to people and companies. However, if you at least pick a term that can somewhat provide customers with a clear outline of what you do, you’ll have a much easier time.
1. Be yourself
I can’t stress this tip enough. Everyone on the planet is going to tell you how you should act, what you should say, what kind of work you should focus on, etc. If you listen to all of them, your photography, business brand, and life is going to be a big mess. You can’t please everyone. If you like to swear, and only enjoy writing blogs and content with massive amounts of it, then do it. Make it a part of what your company stands for. If you like basing your photos on subject matters that alienate a lot of people, then keep it up despite all the complaints and negative feedback. The customers who hire you despite of all the people you “offend” will be enough. If you get one out of ten potential customers to hire you, you’re on the right track. Your photography and brand should be an extension of who you are, and nothing less.
If you have any other tips you’ve found useful, let us know! We have by no means figured out all the secrets of the universe, and are always looking to grow as photographers and a company.