Throw a coin anywhere, and I can bet you that it will most likely land on someone who owns a dSLR. With both Nikon and Canon offering entry-level dSLR at reasonable prices, more and more people are beginning to realize that they can afford a dSLR instead of a limited-feature of a point and shoot camera. In addition to that, with the success of local wedding photographers, people have turned to photography as means of earning quick and easy money. Cause hey, recession or no recession, people still get married right?
Let’s face the fact, the number of photographers out there are increasing, and they are here to stay. So instead of dwelling and ranting about why the newbies are screwing the market, why not make yourself stand out from the rest of them? If you haven’t found your niche in the market, just keep on shooting. You will find it someday – it might take days, it might take weeks or it might take months. And in the process of finding that special-skill in you, expose your photographs as much as you. Make yourself known starting now – by the time you found your niche, you already have a market to tap into. Allow me to share with some tested-and-proven techniques in increasing your exposure in photography. Most of the guidelines below, I have come to discover based on my own experience, so it is not something I just plucked out of a book yeah.
- Upload your photos to image-hosting websites which has an online-community platform. I have personally used (and still do) Flickr since 2006. Do not underestimate the power of Flickr – treat it as your personal portfolio and upload worthy shots that shows the best of what you can do. I have successfully sold two photos to two different clients in the States. When I questioned my clients how they found my photos, they simply replied by searching through Flickr – which thus brings me to my next point below.
- Tag your photos. The term tagging refers to the act of allocating certain keywords that explains your photo. For example, for the picture below, I would tag it as Dreamland Beach, Bali, Indonesia, Beach, Sand, Ocean, Sunset, Reflection, Flare, Sun and Feet. You can be as detailed or as general as you want to but keep it within the subject of the photo. Why bother with this? Picture this, you just watched a performance by a local artist and you are interested in reading up more about him or her. So you head over to Google and type in this person’s name. In addition to the articles or websites that are related to the artist, google will also look for images that are tagged with your search them. Voila, free marketing there.
- Join a photo-related forum. Before Flickr came into my view, I joined a forum known as Lensa Malaysia. I can’t remember what exactly triggered me to sign up but I remembered that I was excited to meet with other people who have the same interest as I do. In the process of sharing my photos with the community, I received a lot of feedback and critiques on how to improve my shots or my editing. I still recall the single advice given from a fellow member, which up till today has become my a rule whenever I shoot portraitures. “When you shoot portraits, lock your focus on the eyes. Because a sharp eye is what will pull your viewers in”. In addition to receiving various advices, I was also given the opportunity to submit my photos to be included in a magazine article on Lensa Malaysia. I had never expected that my photos would be chosen, but I tried nonetheless because there’s no harm in trying right? Much to my surprise, not one but two of my photos were chosen in the article. While it may not be a popular magazine, it is still a publication nonetheless and any publications is good for your exposure and your portfolio. Below is a scan of the article which was featured in Applied Imaging, February 2006.
- Actively participate in a local photography community. When I say local, it means join the KL Flickr (KLickr) group if you’re in KL – not the New York community just because its cool. And I say this because, often, these communities will organize meet-ups or photo outings which gives a chance for the members to get to know each other. Some of my closest friends are the ones whom I met through the KLickr group and over 90% of the photographers I personally know was thanks to KLickr. Similar to photo forums, local photography communities also provides opportunities for members to display their photos to the public. One of the most recent was the 6 Degrees of Separation exhibition which is held as part of KL Design Week (KLDW) 2009 held in April of this year. In August 2008, me and 4 other photographers were featured in KLue magazine in relation to their article about the KLickr group. Also, in 2008 and this year, all KLickr members were invited to display their photos as part of the the annual KLue (magazine) event held at KL Pac. Thus, while networking was my main purpose in joining the community, KLickr has played an important role in my exposure as a photographer.
- Get to know the pros. And I don’t mean it in an ass-kissing way. Observe and learn – how they came to be the photographer that they are right now, what inspires them, what keeps them going in this competitive market, what makes them different from others. After completing my studies in the States and returning to KL, I shamelessly “announced” my return to a few local photographers. Within a span of 2 weeks after returning, I had met up with Mr Ted Adnan, Syahrin Aziz and Jay Ismail. Mr Ted had inspired me with his indifferent pose & lighting skills, Syahrin with his amazing post-editing skill and last but not least, my idol (and still is) Jay Ismail for his fashion shots of some of the top models in KL. What is the common factor I had deduce after meeting all of them? Persistence and perseverance – do what you like to do, don’t let anyone tell you what’s the wrong or right.
- Take up pro-bono assignments. If you were like me, and you were afraid of charging your clients but needed the experience, then the best way is to take up assignments on a pro-bono basis, ie. free of charge. Some people will disagree with me, but I’ve been there and I know how terrified I was to charge my clients – I was afraid I wasn’t able to perform as expected. Thus to build up my confidence, I needed the experience and what better way to do it than to approach my friends and ask them if I could take their photos. That being said, I only took up a few pro-bono assignments, and mostly were my own close friends. Little did I know how those pro-bono assignments led to the most efficient and cost-free marketing tool, ie. the via word-of-mouth. I won’t talk much about the concept of word-of-mouth but basically if someone notices your talent, most likely they will talk about it with their friends.
I hope the above list inspires beginner and amateurs to continue in their journey of the exciting world of photography. Feel free to comment on the list above or share with the readers other ways on increasing one’s exposure in the photography market. I know the list above is not extensive, but it should put someone on a good foundation in pursuing their dreams as a photographer, be it part-time, full-time or just for the heck of it