Going Pro–Portrait Style; Added Value As A Marketing Tool
It is everyone's dream: leave the "day job" and get paid for what you enjoy doing. Due to the depth and breadth of the market, portraits are a particularly good area to start (or expand!) your photography business. Portraits are needed both in the consumer and commercial client markets. They can't be easily replaced with a generic stock photo. In this market segment word-of-mouth marketing works as well--and sometimes better--than your traditional marketing tools.
Jennifer George-Walker (www.jwalker
photography.com) is a member of the Professional Photographers of San Diego
County and in her first year of entering print competition was awarded Portrait
Photographer of the Year in 1999. She began entering prints into competition
and in just three years had completed the educational and print merits needed
to receive her Master of Photography degree from Professional Photographers
of America (PPA). She is also a Certified Professional Photographer and recently
obtained her Craftsman with PPA. Continuing to push herself in new directions
and improving herself technically, George-Walker won the 2004 Professional Photographers
of California Family Photographer of the Year along with the People's
Choice Award. She is also teaching workshops in 2006 for PPOC (Professional
Photographers of Orange County) and WPPI (Wedding and Portrait Photographers
International) and her next West Coast School On Location will be in Napa, California,
from January 29-31, 2006 (www.prophotoca.com/wcs).
Though she has been in business a short time, she has achieved much success. Here's a look at how George-Walker "went pro" and what she can pass along to you.
Shutterbug: You market your work as artistic portraits. What
is it about that approach to the business that has made you so successful?
Jennifer George-Walker: Probably because it is a more complex process than the usual portrait and is perceived as having added value to my clients. It takes many different elements to create artistic portraits. It is a little bit of all these things: psychology, artistry, technical skills, and passion.
SB: Break it down for us, what is required to create this marketable portrait style?
JGW: The first element I think all photographers need is a very strong technical background. Without this foundation you cannot create images that you imagine.
The second element is an art background. Knowing composition, color harmony, and design fundamentals are essential. The elements of art and technical skills are what physically put the images together, but just as important is the psychology of people and your passion.
The third element is to know how to approach people, studying sales skills and people skills really make a difference. Until I took a little time and talked with other photographers on how they approached clients, I was not very successful. Once I put more of an emphasis on my "people skills" the more successful I became. One very important thing to always remember--it isn't about you, it is about them. This is their day, their images, their memories; make the most of it, no matter what is happening in your life. Lastly, if you are not passionate about photography, it shows.
SB: What type of portrait project or client do you most enjoy
JGW: I enjoy clients who are what I call "closet photographers." These are people who, if they had the skills, would be creating the image themselves. They get really excited about an idea they have, and we work together to create the image. Also, I enjoy working with clients who will let me experiment and come up with concepts for images instead of just documenting their lives.