Business Trends: Marketing Your Personal Work

Many photographers seem to have a fine art side to their work. Sometimes it is a beautiful black and white style of shooting. Sometimes the style is in the subject of the image such as landscapes or nature. Photographers often call this their personal work, but don't know how to market the images. Strong personal style tends to be purchased by high-end advertising clients or in industries such as editorial, stock, or paper products. The marketing can be unpredictable because the photos are based on the way you see the world and your personal creativity. It takes a very special client to go with your personal style instead of taking a safe, traditional route. You may have already been frustrated trying to get your personal style used by your commercial clients. Sometimes this gap is subtle and sometimes it is extensive. In some of the major city markets, style is the best seller for most photographers. If you are not in a major city or dealing with these clients everyday, your personal style may not be needed in many commercial projects. It is your job to find the right clients for this work.

Why is it so difficult to get these assignments? First, the clients are different. They take risks. They are driven by their own sense of style and vision. Second, they are not easy to find because they are not listed in any reference books. This makes traditional selling difficult since you can't identify the client to call. You need to do more direct response promotions such as source book ads and let the clients that understand how to use your style call you. Third, the image selection for designing an ad for "style clients" is very different. You must select work that only shows your personal style. Yes, it may cause a more conservative client to turn away, but your objective is to get the client who understands style to call you. Fourth, style often creates a broad and shallow client base. It is broad in the geographic sense. Clients who are willing and able to do something with a strong style are scattered across the country. They are everywhere, no one city having all of these clients. Now, with web marketing, you can reach across the world to global clients. However, it is shallow because these clients are a constantly changing and shifting list. They change photographers quite frequently to use lots of different styles.

Here are some ideas for marketing your personal style:
·Broadcast your style with source book ads supported by a strong portfolio of the same style.

·Mount an exhibit of your personal work with a local fine artist in your own studio and invite clients and the media.

·Combine a direct mail campaign that refers to a source book ad for the name recognition.

·Enter every creative and self-promotion awards program and get your work published--anywhere.

·Find a community service or public service project that will allow you complete creative freedom and make sure to get enough printed samples to use as promos.

·Display personal work in your studio so your commercial clients can become used to thinking "outside the box."

·A single self-promotion won't work well alone to sell personal style, so write a plan to have all the different marketing techniques working together.

·Shoot every single day--do it for yourself.

Computer artist and photographer Tom Upton feels, "My personal work shows up and sort of lives on the floor of my mental living room until I evict it by means of making it into some kind of image--usually on the computer nowadays. They are ideas that grab hold and don't let go until some kind of physical intervention takes place. It is different because I come up with it or it comes through me. No one is telling me what the specs are or when to do it. The style is usually idea or concept driven. The need to get it out also supports a kind of air of provocation, silliness, irony, or satire. Other personal work of plants, flowers, and kids is purely a Zen experience that is able to take place when the other personal monkeys are off my creative back."

Photo illustrator J.W. Burkey says, "Most of my personal work is experimental. Whether the finished image is kept or thrown away is not of primary importance. The critical thing is that I learned something; that I became a better artist in the process. In personal work, process is king. In commercial work, the finished image is king. As a professional, you have been given an assignment to produce an image that accomplishes a particular task. That's your goal."