The following is an awesome guest post from Dan Waters:
We all know the photography industry is more competitive than ever. The successful photographers are the ones who think like entrepreneurs and embrace the business side of photography. Simply creating thousands of photos and hoping they’ll sell through a stock library, or your website, isn’t enough. You need to plan the sale before you’ve even clicked the shutter button.
There are a trillion great images out there. It seems every grain of sand and blade of grass has been shot, processed and shared with the world. If there are a billion photos of the Eiffel Tower then what chance do you have of selling yours? You may as well buy a lottery ticket – at least the prize would be bigger if you won!
To help your photos stand out they need to tell a story. Since the dawn of time mankind has been fascinated by stories. Particularly emotional ones. It’s the first thing the Yahoo homepage shows. It’s why people read newspapers and books and watch TV. We love a good yarn.
No matter how well composed and lit your photo of the Eiffel Tower is, someone else’s will probably be just as good. However, how many people have done a day-in-the-life of the Eiffel Tower souvenir salesman who work day and night under the shadow of the great monument?
An alternative might be to make your photo of the Eiffel Tower look even more French. You could have an old French man eating a baguette outside a cafe with the tower looming over him. Or perhaps an artist in a beret painting the Tower. Now your photos don’t just show the Eiffel Tower, they have some context. One photo would be perfect for an editor looking for a food angle on Paris, while the other would suite a feature on the artistic side of the city.
More is more
One great photo is fantastic, but many magazines invest in a series of photos because they generally tell a story far more thoroughly than a solitary image. Also, if the photos for a feature are all from the same photographer then the style will generally be consistent.
Create photos that cover all aspects of the story, from the little details, the human perspective, the landscape, the architecture and so on.
A thousand words create a thousand pictures
We all know a picture is worth a thousand words, but a thousand words can often create a thousand images in the readers mind too. If you’re able to write a story to complement your images then you’ve elevated yourself above even more photographers.
Start an interesting project
Clearly the more interesting the story is the more sellable it is. Many of the famous photographers built their reputation based on their projects. They were no longer just another decent photographer, they’d become an exciting and relevant photojournalist, or a revered artist. Again, it was the stories behind the images that made the photography and the artist go from ‘good’ to ‘great’.
My project is the ManKIND project. I’m endeavouring to help, or do something nice, for someone from every country on earth. A tall order and a huge commitment. That’s why no-one else is doing it. What game-changing project could you start on? What are you passionate about? What untold story needs telling? Think about it.
I’ve illustrated this article with photos from my trip to Komodo Island. I’ve tried to show the way people on the island live, compared with the luxury experience of the tourists.
Bonus tip for selling your story
Ok, so you’ve created a unique and captivating series of images and even written a few hundred words to accompany them. You now need to be pro-active in selling your project. Magazine Editors are busy people and your amazing story may get lost among a sea of emails and post. One trick I learned was to wait for a new Editor or Sub Editor to join a relevant magazine and then send my pitch. New employees aren’t so set in their ways, are more open to new ideas and new photographers and are often temporarily less busy than their predecessor.
I’d send them an email entitled ‘Welcome to the team’ as it’s bound to get opened, it’s friendly and insinuates you’re a regular contributor, even if you’re not. It gets their attention, gets your idea in their lap and enables you to start building a relationship with them.
What struggles and successes have you had with selling photography? Leave a comment below – we may be able to help.
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