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Tips: How To Increase Your Exposure In The Photography Market

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. ;)

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
    Wish You Were Here
  3. 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.
    Applied Imaging - February 2006
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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 :)

6 Degrees – The Outtakes

This is part 3 in regards to my post on the 6 Degrees project. If you haven’t read the first two post, you can read them here and here.

Ok. At first I wanted to share my views on the project. However, after reading through the second post again, I’ve pretty much said what I wanted to say. Apart from networking, I’ve gain confidence in presenting myself to people. What I mean is, how often do you call a stranger and ask them for their permission to photograph them? How often do you meet a person, and then having to photograph them in their own bedroom almost immediately? Perhaps for other photographers this is not something new, but for me, it has become a means of improving myself. And perhaps through this project, I will finally gather the courage to do street photography – something which I had always wanted to do but never had the nerves to do it.

With that boring part out of the day, why not have a look at the outtakes from the project. Some of you may wonder, after viewing this, why I chose the selected photo over probably a better one. I guess my answer is that my choices are restricted to the photos which are sharp, intriguing and does not require much editing (lol). I personally would like to extend my gratitude to my friend Isma who was pretty involved in the thought-process and the flow of the project – think of her as my personal editor ;) Last but not least, a big big thanks to KLickr for giving me (and 11 other  photographers) the opportunity to participate in this project.

Once again, if you haven’t checked out the exhibition, you have till this Sunday, 4th of April. Do come by – visitors now have the chance of faving/commenting on their favorite photos through post-its which are provided. If you’re curious to see which photos that has garnered the most attention, well… guess you have to find that out yourself :P

The Outtakes (Minor color editing)

6 Degrees Project – The Results

As mentioned earlier, the past few weeks I’ve been tied up with the 6 Degrees project. Assuming you have read that post, now I will talk about the thought process of the project, the photoshoot and the final results.

I knew I needed a common theme before I began shooting my first sitter. After over-thinking about it for 1 week, I received an advice from a friend who said, “Don’t try to do something that you’re not capable of. Do something familiar, but just make it different this time”. And thus it just dawn upon me that I should just be taking normal portraitures (as that’s what I enjoy) but with a certain twist to it.

The idea of shooting the sitters with an umbrella at out-of-place location came about as I wanted to explore the idea of contradiction. The concept will be tested from two point-of-views, that is from the sitter’s POV and the viewers (of the photo) POV. From the sitter’s perspective, I examined their reaction after being informed on the task of holding an umbrella and from the viewer’s perspective, I intend to have the impact that makes a person go, “But why?”. I believe this idea can be tested with other object, that is not exclusively umbrella. As long as a person is presented with a conflicting idea, he or she will react differently to the situation.

P/S: Pictures are clickable as usual!

First Sitter – Asrif, 25, Business Analyst

First Sitter - Asriff
I was recommended to shoot Asriff after I told my friend that I needed someone interesting as my first sitter. At the back of my head I thought, hey, even if the project fails, at least I get to meet interesting people and make new friends right?

Location: Bangsar Shopping Centre (BSC) parking lot. I knew for a fact that at least one level of the parking lot should be empty. So we headed down to B2 and sure enough there were no cars to be seen. After a few trial and error shots, I decided to use ambient lighting, as the usage of a flash would cause awful shadows on his face.

Comments by Asriff:
What is your connection to the next sitter?
His father is my second cousin. Which would make him, what? My distant nephew?

What did you think when your friend said that a photographer wants to take a picture of you?
I had a good long laugh before I realized that she was serious. At which point I was still quite sure that she’s talking about a photographer from facial treatment or weight loss company. Images of me to be used as the ‘before’ pictures, of course.

How was the photoshoot experience?
It felt like going out on a date with a certain girl, for the first time, you know. Can’t stop wondering if my facial expressions are alright (i.e.nowhere near the look of a pervert).

Second Sitter –  Ikram, 25, Executive

Second Sitter - Ikram
Ikram is the busiest among the six sitters. I couldn’t remember how many times we postponed the shoot due to either a) conflicting work schedules or b) conflicting schedules with hostess location (I’ll explain it below).

Location: The gym at Danau Idaman Condo, Taman Desa. As I needed a gym in which I can bypass the permission-to-shoot ordeal, a friend suggested the gym over at her apartment. The place was just as I had imagined it; there were probably only 3 people at max who were working out at the time of the photoshoot and I could easily set up my lighting equiptment without disturbing their fitness routine.

Comments by Ikram:
What is your connection to the next sitter?
Roomate at UTP in year 2002.

What did you think when your friend said that a photographer wants to take a picture of you?
I think it’s gonna be a wonderful experience as I have never gone through any private photoshoot session before.

How was the photoshoot experience?
I’m loving it. It’s addictive.

Third Sitter – Aizuddin, 25, Graduate/Unemployed

Third Sitter - Din
Aizuddin or known as Din to his friends. Not only he was ok with having the photoshoot inside the men’s toilet, he also came up with his own expression and ideas during the shoot. Fun fun.

Location: Men’s toilet at Name Of Building Removed, KL. It was a Sunday and I needed a men’s toilet which was deserted but not run-down to the point that it would be unhygienic or dangerous. What better place than the toilet at my office? Lol.

Comments by Din:
What is your connection to the next sitter?
Friends from University of Melbourne.

What did you think when your friend said that a photographer wants to take a picture of you?
This is so cool! Someone want to take a picture of me!

How was the photoshoot experience?
Great, I got to visit an office on Saturday. I heard lots of spooky things around the offices in KL, so I was hoping to see ‘something’, but unfortunately I only saw someone at the office, doing work. Got no life ah?

Fourth Sitter – Ajjie, 22, Graduate/Unemployed

Fourth Sitter - Ajie
For the shoot, Ajjie came accompanied by Din which was great as it can be pretty awkward having to immediately take a photo of someone without getting to know them first. She was the easiest to work with as she was very comfortable with the camera. (Well she couldn’t stop laughing as I had her holding the umbrella in the coffee shop).

Location: Hainan Coffee, Ampang. My initial spot was Old Town Cofffee at Waterfront Ampang. But upon requesting for permission to have the photoshoot, I was rejected with the reasons that I have to write in to their marketing department for approval. Pft. I even said it was for a personal photoshoot and yet they shrugged me off. Oh well, their loss is my advantage as the location we ended up with (Hainan Coffee) had no problems or complaints of me taking photos of Ajjie as she ate her lunch.

Comments by Ajjie:
What is your connection to the next sitter?
We call each other cherry sisters! :) We used to work together in a cherry factory in Victoria. She was friend of a friend initially,we first met at Sarah’s birthday party in 2006. And then we joined Carlton Reds team and compete in Futsal tournamenet together.

What did you think when your friend said that a photographer wants to take a picture of you?
Random, very random indeed.

How was the photoshoot experience?
It was funnnn, I remember trying so hard to stop laughing. I must have been slightly embarrassed then to pose in front of new met friends….and the umbrella was not helping either! But that became the fun bit of it.

Fifth Sitter – Wen, 21, Graduate/Unemployed

Fifth Sitter - Wena
Wen had to be the quickest shoot and the most awkward situation (for me) as I had to photograph her in her own bedroom. Imagine you, as a stranger and having to walk into a person’s room (that’s their private space!) to have their picture taken. My apologies Wen if I had made you feel uncomfortable about the situation. It was just as embarrassing for me at the beginning if that’s any comfort. Thankfully though, Wen was very accommodating to my request and my awkwardness was quickly replaced by the usual excitement that I get when I’m shooting portraits.

Location: Wen’s room at her home in Taman Ulu Klang, Ampang. Her room was painted red – really cool! To compliment the shot, she had a nice umbrella/parasol which was also red. My initial idea was to have her jumping on the bed but found it impossible as Wena was tall and unfortunately the ceilings were low.

Comments by Wen:
What is your connection to the next sitter?
Our dad’s were friends when they started working in Citibank probably some 20 over years ago. So technically we’ve known each other since young. but we didnt actually connect and become friends till years later when we went on family holidays in India and Dubai together. And we became closer when we were both in uni in Melbourne.

What did you think when your friend said that a photographer wants to take a picture of you?
Heheh she didnt explain much about the project except that it was based on the theme of six degree. i thought that was a pretty cool concept for photography and thought why not.

How was the photoshoot experience?
Interesting experience with the photographer!

Sixth Sitter – Juliana Johan, 24, Copywriter

Sixth Sitter - Julie
Was it coincidental or have I just proven the six degrees of separation theory to be true? I don’t personally know Julie, but as she gave me directions to her home, I thought wait; this sounds familiar. Then it hit me. Like wow, I’ve actually met Julie’s younger sister. It turns out that Julie’s sister is my cousin’s friend in which I had accompanied to the Black Eyed Peas concert when they came down to Malaysia in 2007. Or was it 2008? Yeah.. you can call it babysitting I guess.

Location: Julie’s residence at Bukit Antarabangsa. I was thrilled when Julie agreed to jump into the pool, fully dressed for the shot. (How often can you get someone you just met to do that for you?) As if she had read my mind, she wore a dress which was perfect! We started shooting at the waist level, while she gradually lowered herself till her body was fully submerged under the water leaving just her head propping up. Hehe..too cute!

Comments by Julie:
What did you think when your friend said that a photographer wants to take a picture of you?
That it would be a fun experience.

How was the photoshoot experience?
Pretty awesome.


Well. That was pretty long. I didn’t think it would be necessary but looks like I’ll have to push it to another post to talk about the conclusion and my final views on the project. To my sitters, thank you thank you thank you for making it happen. I couldn’t have succeeded if it wasn’t for each of you.

For anyone who’s interested, the photos above and photos from the photographers who are involved in this project will be up at the KL Design Week exhibition which will begin this Friday, 28 March till 4 April at CapSquare, KL. The KLickr (KL Flickr) section will be located on the first floor, right as you head up the escalators from the entrance next to Starbucks. Hope to see you guys there!