We're excited to continue our "What I Wish I Knew" series and feature some of our amazing contributors. This series chronicles the mistakes and revelations creatives made during their first years in business. Today Dana Pugh shares her lessons learned in her own practice.
I started my photography business back in 2007. At times, that seems like a million years ago. Blogs were a really big deal back then. When I would tell people that I had a blog, no one knew what that was. There was one family and children’s photography forum that was popular. If you wanted to know how to do something, you either had to go to one of the very few (almost nonexistent) workshops that were out there, or you had to summon all of your courage to email a photographer you admired. Flickr allows you a glimpse into the people behind the camera so you could gauge pretty well who would or would not answer your emailed questions. It was a very different time for photographers, making it hard for me to answer the ‘what I wish I knew’ question…Things are so different now that it would most likely not be relevant. I do know that many of the newer photographers who I mentor would benefit from knowing what it was like to market yourself back in those days.
If you wanted to have your work truly noticed, you had to get out into the world and show people your work. Today, social media has, for many people, removed the need to leave your office to do that, but what I would like to tell new photographers is that you shouldn’t put all of your marketing eggs into the social media basket. There is more to marketing than having a cool Instagram account...
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think that a great Instagram account or Facebook page can do a number of awesome things for your business. It is free marketing. I mean, you can’t beat that for your business's bottom line.
Social media allows you to truly show people who the person is behind your brand. This is an awesome way to let people connect with you on an entirely different level than simply through your imagery. You can create a brand where people want to work with you…the person and the photographer. Which makes it easier to charge enough to make a living. Social media also makes it easier for you to connect with other people in the industry—photographers, yes, but also vendors and publications. This can be a solitary career, so it is nice to create a support system of people who are in the same boat as you.
High numbers of followers gives you a certain amount of street credit. Potential clients may gauge whether or not they want to work with you based on the number of other people who think that you are worth hiring.
That said, there are some things that I think aren’t that great about social media.
So, while social media is a great tool, it is important to remember that it isn’t the only tool. I would go even further and suggest that it isn’t even the best tool you have at your disposal. Some other marketing ideas to consider:
The most important thing, both in your work and your marketing, is to be yourself. Don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be afraid to get creative in how you market and spread the word about your business. Instead of just mirroring what everyone else is doing, come up with your own plan. You’ll be better off for it.
Dana Pugh is a family photographer with a studio in Okotoks, Alberta, Canada. In 2010, she was named the first ever International Child Photographer of the Year by the NAPCP(National Association of Professional Children's Photographers). Her work is quirky, emotional and authentic which has lead to many features in industry blogs and publications, but she is most happiest seeing her work hanging in the homes of her clients across North America.
From a very early age I loved taking pictures and looking at them in magazines and books, but the art of photography captured my heart when I was a teenager, on my first overseas trip to Wales. From that point, I began shooting with a little film SLR and having my friend model for me. In college I took some digital photography and visual communication courses as part of my communication studies major, and decided to pursue a career in photography. I became a legal business and took my first paid client at age 20, and it's been quite a journey and adventure over the past nine years.
I secretly bought a mail-order 35mm camera when I was 15, and took lots of ordinary photos of animals and nature for several years. Although I majored in art and studied photography in college, my career started in marketing and advertising, from the client service end. Then I had the most beautiful baby, found my old camera and realized how much I love photographing people.