In the competitive photography industry, Cameron Frost knows that it often is not what you know, but who you know. “Technical skills and knowledge are crucial for photographers to execute a shoot, but knowing how and where to network is what will get the jobs,” he says. Developing a strong personal brand for a photography business is what will set one photographer apart from another. With so many people calling themselves professional photographers these days, having a unique and identifiable trademark will make one photographer more recognizable and memorable, thereby leading to consistent work.
However, networking is next on the list of factors critical to a successful photography business. “The goal for freelance commercial photographers is to get in with renowned publications that will be able to provide them with repeat business,” says Cameron Frost. “Networking is something that can be done at very little cost to the photographer, but will ideally lead to a profitable future.” In the photography industry, the majority of a photographer’s time is spent actually taking pictures. The remainder is spent what photographers call “moving furniture,” such as editing photographs and videos, self-promotion and marketing, and of course, professional networking.
Networking is essential, especially if a photographer wants to break into the high-end market and shoot for big-name advertising agencies and national publications. “While it is not a process than can be done overnight, it is something that with a little thought and creativity will have a lasting, positive impact on a photographer’s business,” says Cameron Frost.
Professional networking begins with a sincere desire to meet and interact with others. “Of course,” says Cameron Frost, “if you are not a people person, photography is probably not the suitable field for you. Photography depends on a positive, enthusiastic attitude. It is what will make the model and the client feel at ease.” Simply showing up to a photo shoot is not enough.
To be successful at professional networking, photographers have to have a plan. This includes consideration for cultural taboos like pushing a portfolio on someone during cocktails. Photographers must have a course of action with realistic goals. This will most likely include approaching strangers, but “putting yourself out there and using colleagues as resources as much as possible is the only way professionals throughout the community will come to know who you are,” explains Cameron Frost. Additionally, if the intention of the photography business is to work closely with vendors, such as with wedding photography, networking is vital. Photographers should consider attending networking events.
Photographers who do not have much business could wait several months before they have another opportunity to work with other professionals. The sooner photographers begin networking, the faster they can establish a foundation upon which they can build professional relationships and partnerships.
The Best Places to Network
Photographers new to the industry may be ignorant of where to find networking events. Fortunately, they are frequent and easier to find, particularly in large, metropolitan areas. The following are resources photographers can use to find other professional photographers and industry-related events.
• Photographers can use forums on MeetUp to organize industry get-togethers.
• The local Chamber of Commerce
• Local artists groups
• Local, industry-related magazines
• Local chapters of national, professional organizations like the American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), the Professional Photographers of America (PPA), and American Photographic Artists (APA).
• Annual conferences such as Photo District News’ Photography Expo, held at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.
For wedding photographers, bridal shows are a fantastic place to network with brides and other vendors, especially for photographers new to the industry. All a photographer needs is their business card with their contact information and a link to their online portfolio.
Cameron Frost Suggests Getting Creative with Promotional Materials
Good networking begins with a small piece of paper: a business card. The business card should have the photographer’s logo or brand and their contact information and website address. Additionally, having a few samples of their work is also effective. “Business cards and other promotional material should be kept current; as a photographer gets new work, they should have business cards printed with more recent photographs,” suggests Cameron Frost.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that when a photographer hands out their business card, they should receive information in return. This will allow them to keep in touch with the potential client. Commercial and editorial photographers that are contacting art directors and photo editors can get even more creative with their promotional material. These “leave behinds” can be as simple as a postcard-sized sample of the photographers work or as elaborate as a handmade book. “I once sent an art director a magnet as opposed to a generic postcard,” said Cameron Frost. “The magnet is effective because not only does it have my contact information and a sample of my work, it is a functional item, and something more unusual and memorable.
Photographers can get very creative with packaging. “Keep in mind who you are sending these items to,” says Cameron Frost. “The more elaborate the promotional material, the higher the cost. Make sure that you are selective, and only sending these items to individuals and publications are you are truly interested in working with.
Leave behinds and promotional material are a great way for photographers to show how creative they can be. It is also a time to advertise personal projects that photographers have been working on. “If you are interested in shooting for a publication, art directors are often more interested in the work you are doing just to enrich your portfolio, and not necessarily for profit,” explains Cameron Frost.
Cameron Frost is a freelance fashion, fitness and celebrity photographer based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has had work printed in a number of reputable publications, including Elle, People, and DNA. He is also the art director and lead photographer for the media production company Excelsior Media. Outside of photography, he is involved with charitable organizations and advocacy groups, such as the Trevor Project, Human Rights Campaign and PetSmart Charities.
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