How Do You Market Yourself
You have to have your own website, and it has to be maintained regularly. You have to be able to have somewhere to send your clients to look at your work. The idea is to break that down into categories that are digestible. Your website needs to have ease of use, so that if it's got a flash player and it's not playing, you're gonna get about 30 seconds before that Art Director, or that person who's looking to hire you is like, all right, I'm done. Literally. There is an attention span for most of us about this much on the internet, and impatience with websites that don't work. So make sure it's representative of your work, keep it tight, keep it tightly edited. Because you're gonna get about five or six looks. Click, click, click, click, click. I will know if I wanna hire you. I know personally, when I look at somebody's website, like if I wanna hire them as a stylist, or I want to hire them as a proper, one, two, three, four, five. If you don't catch my attention with five pictures, I'...
m not interested. And I have some patience, but five is about all I'm gonna give you. So you've gotta impress me with those first five pictures, and your website better work. That's as much as I can say. Portfolios. Not as prevalent anymore to have a print portfolio. It's an expense to have a print portfolio done, to keep it maintained. There are sites out there where you can build an online book. This is what we use at the agency that represents me. I need print portfolios every once in a while, and they send them to this company and they do a beautiful job of printing, binding, and they're reasonably priced. They're not as durable over time, so you probably need to print them a couple times a year, but ultimately, it's way easier than trying to go to a printer, print out your prints, get a book, put them in the book, send them out. If you find you need a print portfolio, I would seek out those kind of companies, and ones that are local for you, or even ones on the internet. But if you don't feel like anyone's ever asked you for a print portfolio, don't feel like you have to make one and have one in reserve, because by the time you use it your imagery is gonna be old. So keep your Instagram tight. Keep your Facebook, if you're using that, tight. Then use your website to promote your work. But ultimately a portfolio is becoming a little bit of a thing of the past, but there's still options out there if you feel you need one.
What's your thought on blogging?
That's a great question because I had this discussion recently about my own blog, which I kept up and running from 2007 until this year. Although I didn't write on it for quite a while, I was still updating it with Instagram photos and whatever. Then I thought, this isn't really sustainable for me anymore, and I don't want something old and not being updated regularly with my name on it. So I didn't erase my blog, I just deactivated it. Because I felt that creating content for free, even if it's for me, wasn't helping. Because I wasn't monetizing my blog, I wasn't seeking to monetize my blog, and it was becoming harder and harder to maintain. So as much as I loved doing it, and I really enjoyed writing it, and posting pictures, and creating fun stuff for the people who read it, I didn't see the return on investment, especially with my time. So I think ultimately if you're not either interested in monetizing, or have the ability to monetize your blog, or you're just not having fun doing it, and you feel like it's a lot of time, I would say those days might be coming to an end. Especially with the fact that you can do the same things on social media in a lot more efficient way. I would probably say blogging for those of us who have to create content on our own is probably a hard thing to do right now. Your energy is better spent other ways.
Great, thank you.
I've said this a couple of times, I'm not going to belabor the point. You need to be active. Your social media needs to be representative of what you do. But I also think that, because it's a social activity that we do outside of our work, you need to designate whichever one of those is going to be personal and do it personally. And whichever one is going to be professional, designate it, and do it professionally. But don't cross-pollinate. Because your politics, or your family pictures, and all these things that are blended in with your work, will affect how clients see you. It's unfortunate that you don't want to share all those things with everybody who wants to hire you. Because it's not necessary that they know you're a new mom, right? Because that might be held against you because they think that your time is being spent at home, or maybe they don't want to know what your politics are because their politics don't agree with that. All of those things are business decisions. So if you want your Facebook to be the thing that you do your personal thing on, you can still post your work there occasionally for show, but I would be very careful about who can see that. Because if it's wide open and everybody can see all those things, you don't want everybody knowing what you can do, and what you can't do, and what you feel. You can't live out loud in business. It's really hard. So it's important that you have that outlet, because it's important for us personally, as human beings, to be able to connect that way, but you do need to designate one, two, whichever one it is that you wanna do, but make sure one of those. I would say, listen, Instagram belongs to you as a photographer. If you wanna have a personal Instagram and a professional Instagram, go for it. But whatever you're doing, that's the one that people are gonna look at first. Facebook is a little bit too wild and wooly for me, as far as professional stuff. And Twitter has become a megaphone. It's really not part of what we do anymore as food photographers. I barely use my Twitter account for that. I like to rant and rave on it though (laughing) like everyone else. The idea is that they've all kind of found their own lane. But for us, there's a couple of other sites out there. I'm on a site called Foodie. A couple of you are on that site as well. That really help promote the idea of food photography in particular. I guess I said site, but it's not a site it's an app. Sorry, I'm getting older. (chuckling) That's my main advice to you is curate, and navigate those things carefully, because they're gonna be important.
Do you use Snapchat, and the side to that is, what's your workflow for curating images, and all the different social media. Like if someone's following you across the board, how do you best curate that? Do you do overlap, could you talk to that?
Sure, I'm banned from Snapchat because I have an 18-year old daughter. So no, I am not on Snapchat. I'm on Snapchat but I am basically officially banned from Snapchat, so yes, no, I will not be posting any pictures of me with a rainbow tongue, or a unicorn head, (laughing) as much fun as that is. As far as the other question about curating that stuff, I have a little bit of a workflow with how things get published, right? So I have the respect of my clients that I don't publish anything on social media. This is actually a point I did not write down that just came into my head, because I thought it was common sense. But it really isn't, because I have this problem on my own sets, where I get stylists and people running over to my set and taking pictures over my shoulder, or whatever. I walk away from the set and they're taking pictures of the food on the table. I'm like, what are you doing? You can't do that. You can't publish that picture yet, it's not even out. You need to be mindful of that on your set, is that there will be people like, hey this is great, let's take a picture, great food, whatever. Then that's out on social media before you even publish your images. That whole thing is yours, right? The whole creation is yours, even before you take the picture. It's still yours, it's your vision. So you need to guard that. So have some sharp elbows around the table, keep those stylists away. My workflow is, out of respect to the clients, obviously it's common sense not to publish anything that is not published yet, unless you can off take, and I'm trying to promote the idea of the project. So if it's a cookbook, I may take an outtake with my phone, not with my camera, and publish it on social media to say, hey, we're working on this today, blah blah blah, drum up some support, drum up some enthusiasm for the project. That's okay, as long as your client is okay with that. The other part of that workflow, after I'm sure it's okay to publish pictures is, I watch until it's published. I'll publish it with credit for the people who worked on the project, which is very important. The cross-pollination of that is really important in our industry. Support the people who work with you and for you. I always shout out the publication and maybe the person who wrote the recipe, because sometimes they don't get the credit. And then the stylist, and all of that. So that's sort of my workflow, and then I'll publish it. I'll start on Instagram and I'll let it jump over to Facebook, and then sometimes, if it's something that has an appropriate place somewhere else I'll push it over to somewhere else. Then sometimes, because I don't want it to look too much the same everywhere, I'll go on Foodie and I'll publish a different photo of the same photo shoot. Now with Instagram you have that swipable thing where you can publish multiple pictures of a photo shoot, which really plays into my workflow, especially with the Melissa Clark column at the Times, because we always publish multiple pictures. So I can publish the whole package after it's already been out in the paper. That's a really nice option. I hope that answered the question.
It does, and an addendum to that question. Can you talk a little about, for your own personal preference about timing. I follow you across social media, so I feel like about once a week I'm seeing stuff, or--
Yeah, I think over-posting ends up watering down your product. As a business person, you don't want to be out there too much. I know it's fun to publish a lot of pictures, and then publishing multiple pictures of the same thing, and all these kind of things we find. I would say use your judgment when you're flipping through your feed. When somebody blows up your feed with 75 pictures in a row, and you unfollow them because you're sick of them, don't be that guy.
How do you think about talking to your client about that, in terms of you're gonna give them an image, but you might post it on your social media.
Yeah, that's a good question. That works both ways because it's not just about you posting it on your own social media, it's also about them wanting to post it on their social media. So that's a separate part of the negotiation. If they want social access to the photos, that has to be a different line item. And we'll talk this about copyright as well. Because we have what's called an embargo in media where different companies have a different timeframe as to which they would like you to use the photos to promote yourself. That's sort of gone out the window a little bit, because if you're working for a magazine and it's out, they want you to post. So it works both ways. They want you to post as long as it's on their timetable. It's, again, about copyright too. There are certain projects where, like an advertising project, I'm certainly not going to post that on my Instagram unless you pay me to do that. So that's a whole different thing. You need to be mindful that if you want to promote yourself, you also don't wanna give anyone else free promotion. Because it's a bad standard to set, it's a bad precedent. Mailers, it's sort of old snail mail kind of thing. But promo pieces are still done, we still do them. We print them and we send them out to Art Directors, and we send them out to magazines, and we send them out to agencies. It's still nice to get. I was little taken aback the last time I spoke to my agent. She's like, we need to a mailer, we need to do a promo, and I'm like, we still do that? And she's like, yeah, people still love it, and it's still a good way to get outside of the fray of the internet. Nobody's looking like that anymore. When somebody actually gets a piece of mail now, because they're not inundated with mail, it actually stands out. So it actually works to our favor now, to go back to the old model of making promo pieces. There are, again, websites out there that offer you the opportunity to maybe make a little book, or maybe make a five-page thing, or maybe a little layout on a postcard, and send that out to your clients. The return of investment on that is very simple. You get one extra job out of that, that's paid for itself 10 times over. And it's a nice thing to have physically too. When you go out to a meet and greet, or you're at an event and you're meeting people in the industry and you can hand those things out to people, it still matters. It's this personal touch to that that actually works really well in our business. It feels old school, but we'll just call it retro. And it works. Contests. I am currently judging a couple of photo contests. And I'm going to be entering a couple for the first time in a long while. I've been asked by my new representation to kind of get out there. And I'm like, I'm judging contests. They're like, no, get out there and put your work out there. (laughing) So I couldn't escape that one. It's still an important thing to get out there and put your work up against other artists and see what the response is. There are all kinds of different contests to enter. There's big ones, there's little ones, there's Facebook ones. Any time you're out there getting critiqued, letting people see your work, being vulnerable as an artist, you will learn from it. Sometimes it hurts, but the reality is as a creative you want to use the tools that are at our disposal to grow. Like I said, I was a little hesitant. I have published images all over the world, but to put them in a contest I'm like, oh I dunno about that. (laughing) Because maybe I don't wanna know, you know? But it's okay, everyone feels that way. No matter where you are in your business, at the heart of it we all have the same core here. We all have the artist's core, and we're all really vulnerable, and we're all really sensitive, and we don't wanna be told that someone doesn't like our work. But if you don't put yourself out there, you're not gonna know what's next. What's next is really important in our business. We have to know how we're gonna progress. This is another, going into Facebook groups. There's a couple out there that I've participated in as a mentor, and helped younger photographers, or people who are at different stages of the business, and talked to them and offered them advice. I feel like they're very supportive of one another, and I think that it's another really good mechanism for professional growth and idea trading. I also belong to a group in New York City of professional photographers and we're all in food. We sit around tables in restaurants and gripe about all the things that we have to gripe about. Considering we're all considered food photographers, our experiences are so different. That's why it's important to network with people in the industry. Because I learn so much every time I go and talk to this group of men and women, because they're different ages, have different experiences, have different client bases, and then we share the horror stories, really. And what went wrong. It's not about drumming our chests, and look what I did this week, you know? It's about what went wrong, and what negotiation was really hard. All of those things matter. Whether it's on Facebook or in person, if you form networks and you form groups, it's really good for your business because you learn things that you can overcome without having to experience them. And this is another paid business services that are out there. Things like portfolio reviews and showcases. Showcases like Le Book, or Production Paradise, and things like that where they collect imagery from particular artists for a price, and they put them together in a book and they send them out to art buyers. They send them out to advertising agencies and different art buyers so that your work is being shown. This is an old process, this has been going on for a very long time, where in the advertising world these types of showcases and bound books and different things, they sometimes have events, meet and greet events. And then they also sponsor portfolio reviews where you can pay to have a professional in the industry that you think you're aiming at, to go over your book and look at it, and say, okay here's where you're missing something, this is really good, you should capitalize on that. I've done portfolio reviews in the past, and I feel that people walk away from it really understanding better what it is that they do well and what they maybe should leave behind. When you talk to a professional who flips through your book and in 30 seconds can tell you five different things that you're doing well, which feels really good, and five different things that you could do better, which is knowledge, it's a great way to grow in a business. Also these meet and greets, you're meeting professionals in the industry, again you can ask questions. Say, I had this issue with a client, I'm not quite sure what I should have done, I did it this way, do you think I could have done it better? If that person says, well I think you did the best you could in that situation, then you realize okay good, I'm where I am.