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How many people will ever see your photographs? If you’re planning to sell your images, it’s your responsibility to help people find them. Even if you’re a world-renowned nature photographer with your own T.V. show like Art Wolfe, building an audience can be as important as clicking a shutter. Here are seven tips from Art to help photographers drive traffic to their work. Sign up for Art’s free webinar on October 5 to learn how he makes his stunning images, or watch his archived first webinar here.
Aerial view of Lake Natron, spotted with a flock of flamingos. ©Art Wolfe

Aerial view of Lake Natron in Tanzania, spotted with a flock of flamingos. ©Art Wolfe

I’ve talked and written about how photographers need to look beyond the stock agencies to market their images. There are a host of pros and cons to these alternate business models, but the need to drive traffic to your website is always the tallest hurdle. No single approach will do. Instead, you need to attract attention, and keep it, by projecting your brand across a range of media platforms and by creating mutually beneficial collaborations. Here are some tips for how all kinds of photographers can do that.

1. Collaborate

Once you have a collection of images, see if you can create an association with other photographers to market a particular class of subjects. Photoshelter makes that easy with their Virtual Agencies, but there are several ways to accomplish the same thing. By grouping your work with that of other photographers, all of you can offer a wider selection of similarly themed work to potential buyers. My work is available alongside images from Thomas Mangelsen and David Doubilet at WILD, our virtual agency.

2. Organize

If each photographer does a good job of file naming and keywording, a buyer is more likely to find your image collection. Online galleries also allow you to display a larger selection of your work than an editor at an agency would allow. This is not an invitation to self-indulgence, however; show only your best or most saleable work.

3. Prioritize

I steer clear of microstock. If you can produce what the market demands in high volume, there is money to be made there, but it tends to encourage “treadmill shooting,” a mentality of “generate content” instead of creating art. Forgive me if I stick to Rights Managed and Royalty Free.

The sun sets over the southern Atlantic ocean as ten thousand nesting pairs of black browed albatross settle in for the brief summer night.

The sun sets over the southern Atlantic ocean as 10,000 nesting pairs of black browed albatross settle in for the brief summer night. ©Art Wolfe

4. Contact

Once your collective is up and running, or even if you decide to fly solo, contact all your existing clients with the news. Buy and use lists of prospective clients, like those provided by Agency Access and other services. More »

The International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP) has thought outside the box since Cristina Mittermeier and several other top conservation photographers founded it in 2005. Membership in the league is by invitation only and its photographers have found innovative ways to create tangible change on conservation issues, as with their Rapid Assessment Visual Expeditions (RAVEs), where a handful of photographers tackle a specific issue to produce multimedia content and raise awareness. Trevor Frost joined the ILCP staff in March as the RAVE director, and has also helped expand the organization’s use of social media as a publicity and community-building tool. Recognizing that fewer funds would be flowing to the non-profit during this economic downturn, the ILCP has embraced tools like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to further their cause for small amounts of cash — a lesson that photographers of all kinds can learn from.
©Barry Goldwater, courtesy ILCP

An image from the ILCP Borderlands RAVE. ©Krista Schlyer

Miki Johnson: How did ILCP decide it wanted to focus more on social media like Facebook and Twitter, as well as online community building?

Trevor Frost: As a young photographer and explorer, I’ve had to spend many hours networking to get to where I am now. So when I joined ILCP as the Director of Rapid Assessment Visual Expeditions, I thought it would be great to make a online avenue for others like me to meet and work with the accomplished photographers, scientists, and explorers that make up our organization.

ILCP already does a good job at facilitating communication between members, especially our emerging league and experienced fellows. But ILCP members have little communication with others who aspire to be photographers or conservationists, yet are not quite skilled enough photographically to be a member of the ILCP. By providing a social media platform for this communication, we can link less experienced photographers, explorers, and scientists with members of our group who are very experienced. This will help support new talent, create a community beyond membership in the ILCP, broaden the reach of ILCP, and, we hope, lead to higher conservation achievements.

©Janos, courtesy ILCP

From the ILCP Borderlands RAVE. ©Krista Schlyer

MJ: What online tools is ILCP utilizing to extend its communication?

TF: ILCP is focusing on Twitter and our new online magazine/blog to generate a community and to catalyze connections between conservationists, scientists, and photographers. With the online magazine/blog we hope to create a digital outlet that photographers will want to be published in, something they want to put on their resume. We also hope it becomes a platform for communication and critique, and offers a place to publish stories that have been rejected by traditional media.

On Twitter we are starting off by posting links to websites and news stories that feature ILCP or its photographers, affiliates, and partner organizations. Eventually we will expand this to include a wide range of interesting conservation topics. People only want to follow Twitterers with the most interesting updates.

One major goal of all of this is to drive increased traffic to our websites and multimedia pieces, which help disseminate conservation messages. The increased web traffic should also help us forge new relationships with corporate partners by offering an opportunity for brand exposure. At this point ILCP’s involvement in social media is in its infancy. Aside from our followers and fans increasing on Twitter and Facebook, we have not seen direct benefits yet. We do, however, expect to see benefits over the course of the next year.

©Ian Shive, courtesy ILCP

From the ILCP Borderlands RAVE. ©Ian Shive

MJ: Why did ILCP decide to focus its resources on social media and online tools?

TF: When people ask how they can help non-profits they almost always hear: Please donate. This is frustrating. People want to get their hands dirty. Many of the most successful conservation projects involve citizen science and participation. When people have a chance to work along side well-known scientists or photographers it, makes them VERY excited about the subject and, I believe, it motivates them to become more involved, including donating money.

ILCP membership is based heavily on one skill — the ability to produce stunning images. Thus the ILCP can seem elitist. We realize there are many photographers who take brilliant images and work very hard on conservation who are not quite to the standard of ILCP, but who could still benefit from working with ILCP in some way. Using social media, we can create an extended ILCP community without actually extending membership.

We hope that this will help our followers grow as photographers and conservationists, so at some point they can join ILCP as a member. This also fosters communication, moderated by ILCP, between emerging photographers and the extremely talented members of the ILCP. All of this empowers conservation. The bigger the army, the better!

MJ: Have ILCP members embraced this new social media initiative?

TF: I don’t have any concrete numbers or names but in the last two months I have noticed, especially on Twitter, more of our members tweeting. Even some of members with more years under their belts.

There are certainly a few of our members who are quite skilled with social media tools. Not surprisingly, most of them are our younger members or emerging members. A few names that come to mind are Chris Linder and Ian Shive. Both have helped ILCP produce the first Rapid Assessment Visual Expedition blog (Borderlands RAVE) in addition to a few other projects.

There are two upcoming Rapid Assessment Visual Expeditions (RAVE): one to the Flathead basin in British Columbia in July 2009 and one to the Yucatan Peninsula in September 2009. Stay tuned for a RAVE website with field dispatches, the ability to track expedition members, and live photos and video.

Be Part of the RESOLUTION: How have you used social media to lower your publicity and communication expenses? What online communities are you part of and how involved in them do you feel?

Conservation photographer Daniel Beltrá was named the winner of The Prince’s Rainforests Project (PRP) Award at this year’s Sony World Photography Awards Gala ceremony in Cannes, France. The award includes a three-month expedition to document threatened tropical rainforests in the Amazon, Africa, and Indonesia, all fully funded by Sony Eco. Daniel has turned his passion for nature and his frequent work for Greenpeace into an award-winning career, including World Press Photo, Pictures of the Year International, National Press Photographers Association, and Lucies awards — he calls his recent success “a snowball.” We couldn’t help but ask what got the snowball rolling in the first place.
Big river boat trapped on a sand bank East of Barreirinha, Brazil, during one of the worst droughts ever recorded in the Amazon. ©Daniel Beltra

Big river boat trapped on a sand bank East of Barreirinha, Brazil, during one of the worst droughts ever recorded in the Amazon. ©Daniel Beltra

Miki Johnson: You are obviously very passionate about nature and conservation issues. Where does that passion come from?

Daniel Beltra: Really since I was a kid I was passionate about nature and photography. I was interested at first in being an agency photojournalist, and I managed to get a staff position with EFE — the Spanish national agency. I was shooting all kinds of stories, but still with a taste for nature. I never finished college but I did a couple years of forestry engineering and four years of biology. Then I got tired of the normal day-to-day photographic work –- from the press conference to the basketball match to a demonstration. I wanted to do stories more in depth. I ended up quitting my job and I started working for Gamma, which allowed me to shoot stories that I selected and to give them more time.

At the same time I started shooting for Greenpeace, which opened this whole world to me as a photographer. That was really an incredible opportunity. All of a sudden I found myself traveling to Polynesia or the Antarctic or to Patagonia. So I was really on the frontier where many of these environmental issues were happening.

I got started with Greenpeace when I was a staff photographer in Spain. I talked to their local branch and they said, we do a lot with the media, so if something is going on in your area we’ll let you know. They called me one day and said they were doing a mammal survey on the Mediterranean. So I talked with my boss at EFE and he said, “Yeah right. What’s the news? And you want to take two weeks to do it?” I ended up convincing him to let me go on my own holiday time. I went with the agreement that if the story was good enough, the agency would distribute it. I was willing to go on my holiday because I was really passionate about it and I saw that it was a great opportunity.

Shooting for Greenpeace opened up this whole world to me.

I had a great time, they ended up distributing the story, and Greenpeace really liked it too. They came back to me and said, if you want to work with us, we’d be really happy to have you. But I was a staff photographer and I couldn’t. Then in 1992 I quit my job and started working with Greenpeace in Spain and also Greenpeace International, which is based in Holland. Since then I’ve been really involved with them. From 1992 until I moved to the United States in 2001 I was the Spain correspondent for Gamma. And often Gamma would say, “Are you working for Greenpeace or are you working for us?” Because I always wanted to go on the Greenpeace assignments. Of course Gamma had interesting assignments, but it’s very hard to compete with someone saying, “Do you want to go on a survey of the Arctic for three months on an icebreaker?” That was a no-brainer for me.

Greenpeace is my main client by far. They don’t employ any staff photographers; they work only with freelancers. I think they are clever the way they always want to have names in the industry that are recognized. So there’s a bit of a separation between the activism and the professional journalist that comes in. And in my case I try to keep that line separated, but deep in my soul I am very loyal to Greenpeace. But they don’t tell me what to shoot or anything. Of course they tell me they want a story about the Amazon, but once I’m there they don’t say show this, don’t show that.

Things are really changing with non-profits. I get the feeling that some non-profits can afford to pay regular market fees now. Maybe not 100%, but 75%. I think Greenpeace is very clever…they decided what are the best means to reach the public and inform the most people. And good photography or good video is a great tool. So to put someone that can do a great job in a situation that is very interesting and then they expose that in the media, it tends to work very well.

I feel that my work has more impact now than when I was a photojournalist. Not because I am better, but because of the situations I’m working in. I’m not only documenting what’s happening, but there’s a really strong will to change the situation. Greenpeace has pioneered that.

  • After a 4-month hiatus, the photo-sharing community magazine JPG is back in action. The last few months were a roller-coaster ride: since the announcement of its closure in January, there’s been news after news of possible buyouts, but nothing confirmed until late February. JPG sent out its official “back in business” announcement on Tuesday, May 12, to its community members. Expect the new JPG to hit news stands soon.
  • We were glad to read that Iranian American photojournalist Roxana Saberi was finally released from the infamous Evin prison Sunday, after the court reduced her conviction from 8 years in prison to suspended sentence of two years as a result of a five-hour appeals hearing. Saberi was detained by the Iranian government in January and subsequently convicted of espionage charges. Her release comes at an opportune time — the film she co-scripted, “No One Knows About Persian Cats,” just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday.
  • The much-anticipated Richard Avedon retrospective opens today the International Center of Photography in New York City. The exhibition includes images that the master fashion and portrait photographer created between 1944 to 2000. The New York Times has a great article and audio slideshow about Avedon and the exhibition.
  • The latest NASA mission to fix the Hubble telescope has been all over the news this week. Last week NASA released some of the last pictures produced by the 16-year-old camera on Hubble — the new ones will take a little while to hit the internet. These ones are so breath-taking, we can’t imagine how stunning images from the new $126 million camera will be.


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