How to Nav­i­gate the Travel and Land­scape Pho­tog­ra­phy Busi­ness

Shutterbug - - Contents - by Maria Pis­copo

AT THIS MO­MENT there are 32,527,830 #trav­elpho­tog­ra­phy posts on In­sta­gram. With so many travel im­ages posted on­line, and avail­able for free, our busi­ness con­cern is that clients may find a great deal of those pho­tos “good enough” to use. So, what do you do to com­bat this prob­lem? For starters, you need to find more than one travel sub­ject (e.g., cityscapes, land­scapes, peo­ple) to rise above the on­line noise. You will also have to run a bet­ter, more ef­fi­cient busi­ness and add value with ad­di­tional ser­vices.

To learn more about the ob­sta­cles and op­por­tu­ni­ties to mak­ing travel and land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy a busi­ness, we spoke with four pros who are find­ing suc­cess de­spite the chang­ing mar­ket­place. Thanks to our con­trib­u­tors for their ad­vice: Mar­guerite Beaty, Jen Pol­lack Bianco, Julie Diebolt Price, and Mike Swig.

Shut­ter­bug: How do you work with each of these dif­fer­ent types of travel clients: ad­ver­tis­ing, ed­i­to­rial, fine art, stock, cor­po­rate, photo work­shops? Mike Swig: The ma­jor­ity of my work now is done via pri­vate travel in­dus­try clients. I of­fer unique pack­ages that are de­signed for each type of travel client and the ma­jor­ity in­clude high-qual­ity pho­tos with ad­di­tional ser­vices like so­cial me­dia takeovers or guest blog posts. Be­ing able to add ex­tra ser­vices makes find­ing clients a lot eas­ier. If you can dif­fer­en­ti­ate your­self from com­peti­tors, it will make find­ing work a lot eas­ier. Go­ing above and be­yond can help cre­ate clients for life and re­cur­ring in­come.

Jen Pol­lack Bianco: I’ve had op­tions on im­ages for ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns, but noth­ing has panned out yet. So, I’ve been work­ing on ed­i­to­rial and then selling im­ages af­ter­wards on the stock mar­ket. I don’t work in the fine art space be­cause I don’t un­der­stand that niche and you re­ally need to work with a top-shelf printer. I know many travel pho­tog­ra­phers who have healthy photo work­shop busi­nesses. But I’ve also seen des­ti­na­tions for travel pho­tog­ra­phy work­shops dry up—ice­land, for ex­am­ple. A des­ti­na­tion gets bub­bly, then hot, so every­one goes for a few years and then the mar­ket dries up.

Julie Diebolt Price: While my breadand-but­ter work over the years has been with cor­po­rate and small busi­ness clients, I’ve been get­ting back into travel and land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy in the last two years. My big push has been into stock pho­tog­ra­phy (which has a dis­tinc­tive style) and ed­i­to­rial (travel writ­ing with my pho­tog­ra­phy). I have been mar­ket­ing my photo train­ing for com­mu­nity ser­vices classes, field ses­sions, and on­line teach­ing. I also cre­ate Airbnb Ex­pe­ri­ences and photo walks, com­bin­ing travel tour guid­ing with pho­tog­ra­phy. In the past, I hosted, guided, and taught pho­tog­ra­phy work­shops in Italy, but have stayed state­side for fam­ily care­giv­ing rea­sons in the last few years.

Mar­guerite Beaty: When I lived in Mi­ami, I had some very good years teach­ing work­shops and it grew by word of mouth af­ter 1.5 years. I felt very chal­lenged in the be­gin­ning be­cause there were times that the classes were too full and other times I had one or two stu­dents. Too many peo­ple can­celed in the last minute but I never can­celed a class. I think that is the most im­por­tant tip: never can­cel! If there

is only one per­son, teach as if you were teach­ing to a group. I also hosted a free night pho­tog­ra­phy meetup group that at­tracted many peo­ple and helped me ob­tain pos­i­tive feed­back for my classes. This was prob­a­bly the most im­por­tant mar­ket­ing tool for my work­shops. Af­ter about one year, I of­fered less and less free mee­tups. I started to teach one-on-one and those were more suc­cess­ful in terms of money, my time, and be­cause I re­ally pre­ferred them. My work­shops led me to cus­tomers who bought classes for friends or for them­selves, cus­tomers who hired me to do pri­vate com­mis­sions, cus­tomers who bought my land­scape and travel im­ages. I fo­cus on fol­low­ing peo­ple who I think would be good clients for buy­ing im­ages or for the on­line classes. I spend at least an hour writ­ing com­ments on other peo­ple’s posts. This is very im­por­tant be­cause it has helped me con­nect to peo­ple. I have had quite a few cus­tomers com­ing from so­cial me­dia.

SB: How has your mar­ket­ing changed? What seems to work best for you— us­ing the tra­di­tional mar­ket­ing (di­rect mail, ads, call­ing clients) or on­line mar­ket­ing tools (web­sites, e-mail blasts, blogs, so­cial me­dia)? Mike Swig: On­line mar­ket­ing tools are by far the best re­source for me. In­sta­gram has been a great way to get in touch and show­case my pho­tog­ra­phy to po­ten­tial cus­tomers and clients. E-mail mar­ket­ing is al­ways king, so hav­ing a strong optin that pro­vides peo­ple value is al­ways the best in­cen­tive. E-mail mar­ket­ing is es­sen­tial, but it is also im­por­tant to use a com­bi­na­tion of paid traf­fic, blog­ging, so­cial, and other on­line tools. The hard­est part is find­ing the per­fect mix that fits your busi­ness.

Mar­guerite Beaty: Last year I fo­cused on my new web­site and on my brand­ing. This was the first time that I de­cided to take things more se­ri­ously and so I did a few on­line begin­ner-brand­ing cour­ses, bought books, and fol­lowed brand­ing stylists on In­sta­gram. I stud­ied col­ors, my ideal cus­tomers, im­ages and photo styles for my brand­ing. I thought a lot more about my cus­tomer and how I could de­liver what they want or need. I do be­lieve that it’s im­por­tant to have an idea of who you are and what your com­pany of­fers and how you want to rep­re­sent your com­pany. If you don’t spend a bit of time do­ing this be­fore any mar­ket­ing cam­paign, it will be very hard for you. Brand your­self and then you will see how easy it is to re­move your­self from things that don’t work. You will not waste time on new fads or pay for ad­ver­tis­ing in places where you won’t find clients. You will be more sure of your­self.

My mar­ket­ing ideas for this year in­clude: writ­ing more on my blog/web­site; us­ing my web­site to cap­ture e-mails and con­nect with peo­ple; us­ing my blog to cap­ture e-mails to mar­ket di­rectly to my po­ten­tial cus­tomers; us­ing Mailchimp ef­fi­ciently for e-mail mar­ket­ing; fo­cus­ing on Pin­ter­est and In­sta­gram. On Pin­ter­est, I use many boards with tips for my photo classes, travel pho­tos, and In­sta­gram ac­count. All of my im­ages di­rect peo­ple to my web­site.

I rec­om­mend you choose about three so­cial me­dia plat­forms and work on them for one year. Don’t do more be­cause you will not have time to work on them ef­fi­ciently (that was one of my big mis­takes). Af­ter one year, choose two that work for you and then give your­self an­other year. Does a year seem too long? You may be lucky and things may start to work out beau­ti­fully af­ter a few months but chances are that you will need to un­der­stand how to post in a way that fol­lows your brand and connects to your po­ten­tial cus­tomers and one year is not much time at all.

Julie Diebolt Price: All of my mar­ket­ing ef­forts are on­line. I have two web­sites: the “mas­ter” site, jdp­pho­tog­ra­phy.com, and the ded­i­cated travel site, jdp­trav­els. com. Both web­sites are blogs that show­case re­cent work (ide­ally). Ev­ery month I pub­lish an enewslet­ter that covers re­cent ac­tiv­i­ties, im­ages, and class sched­ules. Each of my web­sites has re­lated Face­book pages and In­sta­gram pages. I do have a Twit­ter ac­count and post to it when I pro­duce a blog post. I am

reach­ing out to Con­ven­tion and Vis­i­tors Bu­reaus to find op­por­tu­ni­ties to write and de­liver pho­to­graphs with ar­ti­cles. The Pho­tog­ra­pher’s Mar­ket is an an­nual pub­li­ca­tion with seem­ingly end­less op­por­tu­ni­ties to mar­ket your travel and land­scape im­agery. You sim­ply have to fol­low the in­struc­tions, then de­liver what they ask for when they re­spond to your query.

Jen Pol­lack Bianco: I reach out in­di­vid­u­ally to clients in des­ti­na­tions where I know I am go­ing next to see if it makes sense for us to work to­gether. I usu­ally do this through Linkedin, e-mail, or a so­cial me­dia plat­form. If the client doesn’t have a so­cial me­dia pres­ence they usu­ally don’t want to work with me.

SB: You have prob­a­bly done a lot of “learn­ing on the job.” What ad­vice do you have for those look­ing at get­ting into travel pho­tog­ra­phy—pit­falls to avoid or op­por­tu­ni­ties to pur­sue? Mike Swig: My biggest piece of ad­vice is that you don’t nec­es­sar­ily need a large or ex­pen­sive cam­era to get started. Find a rea­son­ably priced com­pact with man­ual set­tings and work your way up. The best cam­era is the one that you are go­ing to have with you! There are so many sit­u­a­tions where I don’t want to lug around a DSLR, so by hav­ing a com­pact cam­era or even a new smart­phone I can cap­ture some amaz­ing pho­tos. Tak­ing pho­tos is only half of the bat­tle, edit­ing im­ages is still an­other as­pect of pho­tog­ra­phy that most be­gin­ners don’t re­al­ize is im­por­tant. Pho­to­shop and Light­room are the main re­sources I use for edit­ing and I learned ev­ery­thing for free on Youtube. Once you have a base, start build­ing your port­fo­lio. Once it is de­cent, then you are ready to start reach­ing out and search­ing for clients.

Jen Pol­lack Bianco: Trends are al­ways shift­ing so con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion is part of the job. I feel like I re­sisted drone pho­tog­ra­phy and I’ve seen it used ev­ery­where, in­clud­ing wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy. If you are a free­lancer, you can’t re­ally take a break from new trends. It is most im­por­tant if you’re still es­tab­lish­ing your brand.

Julie Diebolt Price: Avoid get­ting com­fort­able or get­ting in a rut. The in­dus­try is chang­ing con­stantly and in or­der to stay in busi­ness, you must con­tinue to learn, to try new things, and be alert to trends. I had to rekin­dle my pas­sion for pho­tog­ra­phy be­cause I be­came bored with the small niche I had de­vel­oped. It took some ded­i­ca­tion to get out of my com­fort zone. I had to learn about camp­ing and night pho­tog­ra­phy; they go hand in hand—you’ve got to be in a dark sky with lit­tle to no light pol­lu­tion. Make sure you use a tri­pod. That will def­i­nitely give you an ad­van­tage.

Get to know and un­der­stand your tar­get mar­ket. For ex­am­ple, older adults don’t want to spend money on pho­tog­ra­phy. Baby boomers are my tar­get for the type of pho­tog­ra­phy train­ing that I do. Mil­len­ni­als are driv­ing so­cial me­dia and it is the place to be right now.

Be sure you es­tab­lish a bud­get for pro­mo­tional ex­penses. The abil­ity to boost posts on Face­book to a tar­geted au­di­ence is an ad­van­tage, but the fees can add up quickly and get out of hand. Con­sider pro­duc­ing short videos for stock agen­cies

or for des­ti­na­tions, such as ho­tels, B&BS, restau­rants.

Mar­guerite Beaty: Travel pho­tog­ra­phy is a very sat­u­rated mar­ket. There are dif­fer­ent types of travel pho­tog­ra­phy and you will need to choose your mar­ket care­fully. Do you want to do this just to get a few free­bies? Do you want to sell your pho­to­graphs to col­lec­tors and pub­lish­ers? Do you want to do this be­cause you have thought of a niche mar­ket? Do you want to take a few years off and pho­to­graph while do­ing odd jobs? Here are some tips:

› Be very spe­cific about why you are do­ing this so that you can con­nect with your mar­ket.

› Make sure that you have some in­come or an in­come-pro­duc­ing busi­ness on the side so that you can start this busi­ness or ad­ven­ture.

› Study your mar­ket and find out who the in­flu­encers are and how they work (In­sta­gram and Pin­ter­est).

› Do a few trav­el­ing tests be­fore you dive into this. Do some small trips, pho­to­graph and write about them and share so you can get feed­back.

› Fo­cus on your travel writ­ing as well.

› It’s not al­ways fun and glam­orous! There are times when you will be lonely, won­der if you chose the right thing, and want to give it all up. Every­one goes through ups and downs. Trav­el­ing can take a toll on you so be ready to en­ter­tain your­self and have fun do­ing things on your own. But learn how to meet peo­ple in a safe man­ner.

› Share your work with pub­lish­ers. Get to know who the ed­i­tors of the pub­li­ca­tions are and try to con­nect with them. This will take time, so be pa­tient.

› Con­nect with ad­ver­tis­ing firms or with graphic de­sign­ers who buy travel im­ages. This will take a lot of re­search. If you find one a year, that is fab­u­lous. Keep re­search­ing. Look for small firms and for free­lancers.

› Search for peo­ple who will ap­pre­ci­ate your brand and don’t try to fit in with some­one else’s brand. It’s not go­ing to end well.

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