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Many professional photographers start out taking photos as a hobby or a creative outlet. At some point, you realize that your talent is too good to be limited to a few nights and weekends here and there, and take the leap to becoming a full-time professional photographer. Starting your own business can be challenging. Once something goes from a hobby to a livelihood it’s easy to get lost among all the things that need to get done. Building your photography brand and voice is an extremely important piece of creating a successful business. Here are some tips to help you build your photography brand while still enjoying what made you take that leap in the first place: capturing amazing images.

Take photos because it makes you happy

One of the best ways to find your voice and build your brand is to always remember to take photos because it makes you happy – not because you need to sell them. This may seem intuitive, but many times photographers will spend so much energy researching the perfect equipment and collecting different lenses that they forget to step back and enjoy taking pictures. Having fun, trying new things and exploring will naturally bring out the creativity in you and lead to some of your best work. Plus, taking beautiful photographs comes from the heart – trying to “force” a perfect image for the sole purpose of selling it will probably result in a lot of frustration. Bottom line: if you do it because you love it and it makes you happy, people will feel more of a personal connection to the pictures you capture, in turn helping you to build a consistent voice and brand.

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Study your previous work

Chances are that if you’ve been photographing for a while (professionally, or otherwise) you have thousands of photos to look through. If you are just starting out with your business, devote some time to studying all of your previous work. Try to find common themes in your images – do you tend to like a certain time of day best? Do you prefer shooting people or landscapes? Do you prefer candid shots, or giving your subjects more direction to stage the perfect image? Once you’ve determined some common themes, this will give you a better idea of how to brand yourself and describe the type of work you do to others.

Build your portfolio to reflect your brand and voice

Studying your previous work is also the best way to start building your professional portfolio. Once you’ve landed on common themes in your work, figure out which photos you’ve taken that have garnered the most responses out of people in the past. Utilize social media. It is probably pretty likely that you have posted your previous work to some social media outlet at some point or another. It would be very simple yet extremely beneficial for you to go back and look at the comments people made on the photos that you shared. Which ones resonated the most with your audience? Which ones got the most attention, likes, shares, or engagement? This will help you determine your best work and what should ultimately make the final cut for your professional portfolio.

Write a stellar ‘About’ page that shows off your brand and voice

While most of your brand and voice is going to be conveyed through your images, being able to show off your personality through your website’s ‘About’ section is also very important. The ‘About’ page is most likely the first time a potential client is really “meeting” you – and it will set the tone for all your written communication with your clients. Whether you decide to use that space to talk about the inspiration for your work, your camera gear, or your personal journey as a photographer or creative – what you decide to say and how you say it will tell a potential client a lot about the way you do business.

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Don’t kill your creativity

So much of your voice and brand as a photographer comes from your creativity and is what makes you unique and sets you apart. Sometimes, when photographers start to take photos for a living, they become perfectionists – always critiquing and criticizing their work. Constructive criticism is definitely a good way to learn and grow, but too much of it can cause you to shut yourself down as a photographer. Some of the best and most famous photos have some technically “imperfect” aspects, and yet those are part of what has made them so fantastic. Don’t lose sight of your voice in an attempt to create an image that everyone else will love – focus on why you love it.

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What other tips have you employed over the years to help build a successful photography brand? We’d love to know!

 

How to Find Your Unique Voice as a Photographer


Four Tips to Finding Your Photography Voice

 

 

Hopefully by now you all know about the importance of social media for the success of your business. At this stage in the social game, Facebook and Twitter should be old hat. But what about some of the newer platforms that are quickly becoming more popular – even surpassing – some of the old favorites? Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr are the networks to watch in 2015 – and the good news for all you creative professionals – all of these platforms are dominated by photo and video content.

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InstagramWith 300 million monthly active users and Citigroup just raising the valuation of the network from $19 billion to $35 billion, Instagram has officially surpassed Twitter. With a number of recent updates to the app, such as looping videos, like its main competitor, Vine, does, Instagram has made some huge strides in overall user experience. Instagram also just released a whole slew of new photo editing tools – from creative tools, to brand new filter choices – making it the ideal space for creative professionals to share their photos. If you aren’t on Instagram already, this should be the first social network that you check out ASAP so you can connect with customers, showcase your work, and develop your brand. (Also, make sure to follow @liveBookswebsites!)

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Pinterest – With another round of funding, Pinterest is rumored to now be valued at $11 billion with an 111% growth in active users in the past six months. Pinterest has also been making some pretty significant updates to its platform – a smarter search tool called Guided Search that allows a user to filter their searches by adding specific filters relevant to the original search term. Plus, much like Instagram’s Direct feature, Pinterest also recently released the ability for users to have private conversations about specific pins. Since up to 80% of all pins on Pinterest are repins – this is a huge opportunity for photographers to organically “pin” their own content with a high likelihood that it will be re-pinned by the Pinterest community. Everyone – from agency’s (for commercial/editorial work) to consumers (for portraits and weddings) are searching photos on Pinterest. This is a great platform to showcase your work and get noticed – and don’t forget to #hashtag!

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Tumblr – While Tumblr has actually been around since 2007, because of some updates and a refreshed interface, its active users grew by 120% in the past six months. To put this all in perspective, Facebook’s active users grew by just 2% in the past six months.  And while Tumblr is mostly known as a microblogging platform, the reason to be on Tumblr is its highly engaged community. Posts are shared, reblogged, liked, and commented on with great frequency, and it has become known as the “Twitterized version of WordPress.”  While you can share and post pretty much any content you want, from text, photos, quotes, links, chat, audio, and video, unsurprisingly in this day and age, the most shared and liked content is photos. Since 83% of Tumblr posts are photos, and most users do not create their own content, adding your original photos to the content pool will set you apart in the Tumblr world. Check out Harrison Jacobs “7 Tumblr Tips for Photographers” for some really great info on how to best utilize this platform for your business.

I think we all know that social media is here for the long haul, and the good news is that it’s a great opportunity to show off your creativity and add meaningful content to the conversation. Take advantage of all of these free ways to get your brand out there – because it will be imperative for the future of your business.

 

liveBooks designers and marketing experts weigh in on the ten things you can do to improve your photography website.

1. Add Fresh Content
With the new year on the horizon, our design experts recommend refreshing the images and content on your website to make sure you are displaying recent and relevant work. “So many people like to build their site and forget it.  We’ve found that the most successful websites are those that are updated regularly,” says Ryan Maher, designer at liveBooks.com.  Just like a store changes the display window each season, we recommend refreshing the work displayed on your site two or three times a year.

2. Keep Mobile in Mind
It’s no secret that the world is going mobile. As more and more of your website traffic comes from smart phones and tablets, you need to make sure your website is optimized for those visitors. Whether you use a responsive website platform or enable a mobile-optimized version of your desktop site, you need to be sure your website looks good –and functions well– across all devices.

Mobilize Your Website

Expert Tip: Design with mobile in mind.  The mobile visitor behaves differently than the desktop visitor- make sure your site looks good for both!

3. Use Clear Navigation
Website Designer Adam Royer advises, “Function over fashion. User-friendliness is a must!” As you build your website, have an idea in mind of what you want your visitors to do when they land there. Do you want them to view your portfolio? Contact you? Watch a video? Whatever your answer, make sure your navigation and layout makes it easy for people to go to the pages you are hoping to highlight. A clean navigation menu is one of the easiest way to accomplish this!

Expert Tip: Make sure the text is legible! Use fonts that are large enough to be read on all devices.

4. Blog Regularly
Since we don’t all have time to change the photos on our website every week, a blog is a great way to add fresh content to your web presence without altering the look and feel of your website. Make it a goal to generate one blog post per week. You can start short and simple, just try to get something out there. Not only will new blog posts engage your visitors and showcase your recent work, it is also a huge benefit from an SEO perspective, as search engines tend to favor sites producing new content.

5. Let Your Images Do the Talking
Your photos are your calling card, show them off! One of the biggest trends in website design for 2015 is large, full-bleed photos that extend across the entire page. We recommend choosing a few photos that convey your vision, and displaying them (in a rotating slider or stacked) on your homepage.  A great website design that uses this full-bleed feature is the STATURE template within the liveBooks Professional Design Templates.full_bleed

6. SEO
Search Engine Optimization is considered one of the most important things you can do for your website. No matter how great your site looks, and how user friendly it is, search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing are not going to display it in their results without the proper keywords, tags, backlinks, etc.  While search algorithms change constantly, (making it nearly impossible to “game the system”) one thing you can do to help your ranking is to name your images. Since most photographers websites are portfolio based, you can counteract the lack of keywords with naming and alt tags in your images.

7. Make it Easy to Contact You
You’ve worked hard to get visitors to your site- make sure you’re making it easy for them to contact you!  Whether you utilize a traditional contact form or simply write out your contact information, our experts recommend having a way to contact you listed from every single page of your website.

Expert Tip: Contact forms with fewer than 5 fields perform best!

8. Showcase Videos
Whether or not you have a videography component to your work, including two or three videos on your site is a great way to engage your visitors and bring your work to life.  Each liveBooks template allows for vimeo integration, providing you with the ability to have a video grid, single video, or full-page video embedded into your site.  Some suggested video types include: behind the scenes footage of a shoot, a welcome video of you talking about your work or a promotional video featuring your work.

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Expert Tip: Videos perform better when they are integrated into your site, rather than requiring a pop-up to play.

9. Track Visitor Behavior
In order to ensure that your website is performing the way you want it to, you need to understand what people are doing (or not doing) on your site.  Google analytics is one of the easiest (and cheapest- it’s free!) ways to track the behavior of visitors to your website.  Once you understand how visitors are engaging with your site, you can adjust photos, content, and calls to action to maximize each visit.  Notice that people keep hitting your pricing page after visiting a specific gallery? Highlight that gallery on your homepage to increase conversions!

10. Choose the Right Photos
Some photos resonate better than others when put up on your website.  Designer Ryan Mahar recommends that you have a portfolio editor or even some friends or colleagues go through your images and pick out their favorites. Then choose what to upload accordingly.

 

Lou Manna has spent over 30 years creating images of all things editable. He is an award-winning commercial photographer, author and teacher based in New York City. His recipe for marketing for photographers is tried and true!

Marketing Basics

Most marketing experts say you need to strictly adhere to a plan and adopt specific tactics and objectives in order to be successful. Well, as a photographer with a creative soul whose spirit prefers shooting wonderful images more than being awash in spreadsheets, I follow three pretty simple rules: I cast a wide net in the right waters by having a great website, practice targeted email marketing, and make sure to stay in touch with current and potential clients.

By practicing this style of marketing, I have been able to maintain a thriving studio in today’s competitive environment.

Image courtesy of Lou Manna.

Image courtesy of Lou Manna.

Casting the Big Net

The Internet offers a huge sea of potential clients, so one of the key things for me is to cast a wide net with a great website. This net is my 24 hour presence and my virtual storefront, so it’s important to show my best work. Personally I love the way liveBooks displays large, high quality photos and permits me to change or move around images in a snap. I cannot tell you how many times I have had a potential client tell me they decided to call because they saw my site. Since I switched over to liveBooks, my revenue has risen over 50 percent. One client even told me he looked at more than 250 photographers’ websites before narrowing it down based on site views alone. It came down to me and one other candidate. I got the job.

Of course you can never be sure who’s surfing the Internet, so that’s why I make it a point to constantly include fresh images and keep the range of displayed photos wide. I can point to an example where just after updating my site I reeled in a big client, the National Mango Board, who in turn referred me to their agency. I was hired to shoot a campaign for them including recipes and beauty shots of mangos. As it happens, the account executive that we worked with loved my photography and decided to tie in the American Lamb Board and sent them to my site for their feedback. Once again my website came through for me without my knowledge. That union led to another client through the same agency, the National Peanut Council.

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Consistent Email Marketing Pays Off

Besides this wide cast, I like to use personalized email marketing to nab or influence individual targets—the ones I know. I call this my narrower net. My list is up to three thousand names, mostly clients, peers, people I have met and think might one day be a source of business or referral. My email marketing is not highly polished or sent out at consistent intervals. I send out HTML emails that feature a fresh image whenever I have the opportunity. My images are simple and clean with appetite appeal! I add a few personal sentences and hit the send button. I think recipients appreciate the sentiment and see this as a greeting card, not a marketing push. Just staying in touch reminds people of your work. A few holidays back I sent out about 500 emails with the martini glasses. Nearly ten percent responded with well wishes and I netted two big jobs. Today I count 80 percent of my clients to be repeaters, so email marketing is a real inexpensive mainstay for me.

Holiday Cocktail. Image courtesy of Lou Manna.

Holiday Cocktail. Image courtesy of Lou Manna.

Face to Face is a Narrow Net

The old fashioned way which is geographically limited is getting out there as much as possible to network face to face. People like working with a photographer they have met and are comfortable with. I always carry my business card that has a mouthwatering photo on the back. Combine this with a great website and consistent communication through the Internet and you have a winning recipe.

Lou Manna is an award-winning commercial photographer, author and teacher based in New York City. You can find more of his work on his website and blog.

Posted in Marketing

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