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Soft Sell Approach to Marketing Your Photography

Published: 09/01/2019
By: larry

Shane in Canada has some ideas she wanted to bring up and talk about. This is an approach to marketing we haven't talked about in the past. I'll just pass on Shane's comments on this subject.

Shane says:

I was thinking that a post on both big and small personal projects would be a great idea. Unpaid shooting that inspires and motivates us on a creative level--with the marketing/social media benefits in developing your name and brand. I have a big personal project I've been percolating and procrastinating about for several years. I've taken one small step and am determined that 2019 will be the year I make progress. Most successful photographers like Mike Kelley know the personal and professional benefits. Mike's aviation project helped him get known and his Icelandic architecture made his portfolio and website more interesting.

Larry, you once posted that a varied website like mine, and every other photojournalist I've ever known, can be confusing for real estate clients. In my experience, my media background and a varied website is an advantage in shooting for Realtors and developers. My clients love telling their clients about my interesting media background and mentioning some of the famous people I've photographed. They tell me it makes them look good that "their photographer" has worked for three of the largest Canadian newspapers and various USA magazines (Time, Newsweek, People, and others) and referring them to my bio and website.

It can be good to use whatever we have to market ourselves. I found it very interesting to read that Tony Colangelo was a psychologist. I will likely encourage others to hire him as a real estate/architecture mentor.

Personal projects, volunteer work, and various things we do and have done can be a soft sell approach to marketing. Every client needs good professional headshots--one of my other specialties. My website shows my clients that I can do a professional job for any type of photography they might need. I also like some variety even though real estate and architecture is currently my main focus.

I'm sure many readers can give more personal examples of what Shane is talking about.

8 comments on “Soft Sell Approach to Marketing Your Photography”

  1. I completely agree. I have gotten RE work, family photos, children, head shots and more from having a varied website. It has never intimidated anyone.

  2. Fully agree. While I have two websites, one general, the other RE, and while both updating (a whole different issue) there is obviously overlap in the general website. As such, it can serve either audience. I have also discovered a technique to gracefully handle those that want to micro-manage me on site. I created a general portfolio on my iPad which I distract them with, and by the time they are finished...I'm done and collect my iPad back. While my daughter lives in Switzerland, I am "forced" to go over there each year to spoil (babysit) the grandchildren...and since over there extend a week for other areas of Europe. Most of the photos are landscapes with a few personal thrown in, like daughter's wedding in a cave in the Canary Islands, or street/event photography, like inside a chocolate factory, gondolier framed by the Rialto Bridge, or Montrose Jazz festival, etc. It is amazing how that trick with a specialized portfolio works as it keeps their attention through the distraction.

  3. I personally believe that variation on your website, in moderation with a professional approach, is a winning combination. Realtors want to know they are working with a professional photographer, but not exactly a wedding photographer earning extra cash by shooting homes on the side.

    In my particular market (Northern CA, wine country), I shoot a lot of commercial work for wineries or wine related businesses. It's a big part of the lifestyle here in general, and it's always a selling point for realtors to "come live in the wine country lifestyle." As a result, I've found that realtors really enjoy the fact that I produce photography for our local industry, in addition to real estate.

    I think it's OK to show 1-2 professional genres that you work in outside of real estate, but don't let it get too saturated to come of as a "jack of all trades, master of none." Keep the portfolios genre specific on different pages.

  4. Other side of the coin, I shot a home in Woodburn, OR two weeks ago and the Realtor said he picked me because all I shot was Real Estate, no babies, no weddings, just Real Estate.

  5. When it comes to taking on personal project you're passionate about, anything that feeds your creative spirit makes you a better photographer. And taking better photos will always be of benefit to your clients, and therefore the business. (though often easier said than done)

    But Marketing 101 says you must protect your brand and not dilute the message of your services. I would follow Larry's advise and keep separate websites and identities for your different ventures. While I chose to launch my RE business under my own name, if I had to do it again I probably would have given the RE side a more generic business title so I could pursue more diverse projects under on my name.

  6. Shane raises a very interesting question (and BTW Shane, thanks so much for the shout out!)

    Here's the thing, though ... IMO, the question is not, "Should I or shouldn't I" have multiple genres of photography on my website. I'd respectfully suggest that the more salient question is: "What am I trying to communicate to my marketplace/target audience?" Or, "How do I want my customers to experience me and my work?" These are the core questions related to one's brand and, as with all major business decisions, the decision of whether to show multiple genres on your website, has to be put through the filter of how one's brand is going to be impacted.

    If part of your brand revolves around wanting to be seen as a RE photography specialist, then you shouldn't have a gallery devoted to pet photography or food photography, as doing so would send out a mixed message to the marketplace (you should probably have a separate site for these other genres.) If, however, part of your brand revolves around creating awareness of your diverse skillset or diverse interests, then yes, have multiple genres of photography on your site. A great example of this can be witnessed by going to the websites of notable shooters like Scott Hargis and Mike Kelley, both of whom highlight a number of different galleries, including special projects. Indeed, Mike Kelley has an entire gallery devoted to his passion of shooting airplanes. The key is not confusing your message by placing photos from all different genres into the *same* gallery. Indeed, if I'm a real estate agent and I'm looking for a photographer, I want to see examples of real estate photography ... I shouldn't have to sift through food photos and pet photos and wedding shots, in order to find a suitable real estate image.

    The other consideration revolves around the old adage: 'Whatever you put on your website is what you're going to be hired to shoot.' A few months ago, I removed my gallery devoted to headshots because, even though it was a very lucrative part of my business, I didn't enjoy it *at all* and I didn't want people to continue calling me to do that type of photography.

    The final consideration I'd like to offer has to do with where you want to take your photography business, i.e., what is your desired state? This is ultimately the "North Star" on which all your business decisions have to be based, because if you don't know where you want to go, then any road will take you there. That is why having a clear brand is so important!

  7. I have several websites for the different types of photography that I do as well as engineering work. I'm in the camp that believes that having a web site that is dedicated to RE photography and maybe headshots is the best approach. I see plenty of RE photographers that have sites showing all sorts of different work from personal to commercial and many of them make it hard for a prospective customer looking for RE photography to get to the proper gallery, information on terms, pricing, etc. I want to have a nice broad and cleared path rather than requiring visitors to bring a machete and bug spray.

    I don't see any problem in showing customers the other types of work you do when you've persuaded them to contact you for RE business. Plenty of agents also have other businesses and there is the possibility of getting more work from them. I have an agent I work for shooting their listings and also the craft jewelry they make and sell on Etsy. They called me first for RE work and after we chatted I was able to pick up the product photography when I mentioned that I do that as well. They aren't a huge customer, but nice to work with and I enjoy small product photography that isn't at a break neck pace.

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