So you’re taking the step that all photographers must if they want to be a professional. You’re taking your business online. The approach to taking yourself online can be a make or break moment. It’s the opportunity you have to stop treating your photography as just a hobby or an art. It’s a business, so you have to be prepared to treat it that way. That means sometimes thinking with a ‘business cap’ on that many photographers will find distasteful. Unfortunately, to find success, sometimes you have to just suck it up. Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of surviving as an online photographer.
The first thing you’re going to need to think about, as do all photographers. This is your online presence, your planting-of-the-flag. So what will make it a successful one? A photographer’s site, first and foremost, has to showcase their art. Even outside of your portfolio page, choose the best pieces to remain as part of the window dressing. Don’t go too artsy with it, however. Navigation needs to be clear and intuitive. You want to show off your style, but you want people to access your business easily enough. Another important factor to consider is just how many of your visitors won’t be using the traditional PC set-up. If you’re getting a website designer, make sure they list ‘responsive’ as one of their selling points. Responsive web design is design that can fit to different formats.
Nowadays, however, the site isn’t the only place where you’re expected to make an appearance. Photography blogging has taken off in a big way over the past few years. It can serve a whole lot of purpose to a professional photographer. First of all, it helps you build a brand (more on that later). It keeps them updated by offering continuous samples of your latest work. It also provides a bit more value for your clients. People like seeing their photos in a more professional setting. A client being able to see their pictures on your blog and share them can add a bit more worth to them. Finally, they make you become more visible, which is what we’ll look at next.
It should be no surprise that you’re not going to be a very successful professional photographer if you’re unable to bring in any clients. There’s a two-pronged approach to attracting people. Your visibility and the brand. A lot of visibility is about making sure you’re making the right noise in the right places. A gung-ho social media presence, building a community and getting involved, is important. So is using the tools of online business to make your website more visible on search engines. Search engine optimization providers can help you identify the ways of doing that. For example, blogging relevant content is great for your SEO.
This is what some might consider an ‘ugly’ aspect of online photography business. The fact that a brand is essential. We’re not in the era where your photography can speak for itself. You also have to do quite a bit of talking for it, yourself. On your blog, your site and social media, you need a brand. The brand is about identifying and displaying the value that you offer as a service. Particularly in relation to your other competitors. There is a lot of misconception, in particular, as to the relative ease of producing photography. So focusing on demonstrating a “high barrier of entry”, on a difficulty in reproducing what you can do, is important.
The dangers of online
Now to look at a point that is both ‘the bad’ and ‘the ugly’. You can’t responsibly talk about doing business online without looking at the security risks involved. If you’re managing all your business from one computer or network, it needs to be secure. This means sourcing the kind of next generation endpoint protection that’s a cut above the usual anti-virus. It also means being aware that there will be people very happy to steal your work and claim it for their own. In this case, make sure that that you copy or document the infringement on your work. Make sure the use doesn’t fall under Creative Commons of Fair Use. Find out as much information about the infringer and collect the proof that you produced the work well before them. Ask for credit or send an invoice to give them the chance to own up to that use. If they fail that, then you’re all lined up to lawyer up.
We hope that the tips above help you find those first steps you need to really build your presence and protect your business online. There will be plenty of difficulties ahead, but that’s all part of taking your photography a lot more seriously and making some money.