There’s a story about the Alaskan Gold Rush. It said that the people who made the most money weren’t the people who panned endlessly for gold, but the people who sold the shovels. They were selling the dream, not the reality, and that’s where the money is.
I see a lot of marketing ventures online, workshops, eBooks and more all saying how they have the key to help you market your photography. They toss out all sorts of buzzwords like SEO, podcasts, newsletters, marketing plans, guilds, etc, all promising fantastic results. Heck, if you have a DSLR and sign up for their service you’ll be the next National Geographic staff photographer. All it costs is $$ per month, and your new career is worth that “investment”, right? Makes sense – your friends have told you that your photographs are “amazing” and all you need to do is take it to the next level. You’ll be working full-time at something you
They’re selling the shovels (and getting a guaranteed revenue stream for them).
Don’t get me wrong, you do need to market your photography, but by far the best marketing is the simplest (and hardest) to do: Make great photographs. I mean truly great – something that sets you apart from everyone else.
The only way to do that is to practice. Shoot…a LOT.
Then study your shots and ask yourself what you can do better. Compare your shots (objectively) to the stars in your field. Really look at them. What does the background look like, what’s the lighting like, what emotion did you have when you first saw it, how did they convey that emotion through the photograph?
It seems so simple and yet most people still are looking for that magic pill: That piece of gear, the marketing service, the exotic location that will make it all happen. It takes discipline to do the hard work of developing your craft. Years of study and hard work. There is no magic bullet. It’s just practice and study, simple as that.
The people that made money from the actual gold were the first ones in. The ones who said “You know what? What if we tried this stream over here – I wonder what would happen?”
Try, play, study, and most of all keep shooting. Put together a body of work that will stand on its own. Then you can start the marketing side of things. And trust me, it will go a lot more smoothly than if you have a “pretty good” portfolio.
Don’t buy into the dream factories – make your own dreams through hard work. Make photos that you’re passionate about and the right people will be drawn to it.