Fine Art Landscape Photographer Case Study
- [Colby] Darren White. So Darren White is a fine art landscape photographer based out of Colorado. He creates beautiful, vivid images solely focused on the idea of landscape. And his main source of income is print sales, which is why I wanted to talk to him. So, let's talk a little bit about his stuff. So, Darren White's a photographer and photo educator. So, like most of us that are working at around the level that...the photographers that we're diving into, we have diversified revenue streams. So he not only does print sales, but he also teaches landscape photography work. There's a lot of photographers that want to do this type of stuff. It can be a good revenue stream, if you are a good educator and you have an audience, the people that might want to learn from you. So that's what he does. He specializes in fine art landscape photography, as I mentioned. You won't see any of the other images in there. He's not going to be sharing images of coffee or cats or wildlife or most other ...
things. He is mostly just fine art landscape photography. Total followers is around 325,000. He's active on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Facebook's his biggest by far. Instagram, like some of us, myself included, we got on a little bit late. Right now I believe his Instagram is 16,000 to 20,000, something like that. And he gets pretty good interaction for the rates that he has but Facebook is where he makes all of his business. His online personality is very engaging, but it definitely is business-minded. So, he likes to encourage engagement. He's huge on call-to-actions. He's huge on engaging. He likes to get people to interact and engage with the posts that he does, because he understands the algorithms and how to work around them. Much like a lot of stuff that we've talked about in this class. So, his main revenue streams are print sales, image licensing, and photo workshops. Print sales make up the bulk of it, photo workshops are probably next. He started to do more and more of those. And image licensing are part of the deal for this type of work. So, the turning point. The turning point for Darren is a little bit different than some of the other people that we're talking about in the sense that, it was the realization that he should never give up on his idea of pursuing this kind of photography. He recalled a time where he was flipping through a magazine, when he was out in the Columbia River Gorge out in Portland, and he was just dismayed at the quality of work that he was seeing. And what he did is that, he went home, figured out who the editor was, sent them an e-mail. Was very cordial, very nice, business-minded and said, "Hey, I checked out your magazine. I thought that your images could use some work. Would you be interested in working together in order to liven up your magazine?" And over the next few months, he ended up getting a number of cover pieces, a couple of double-page spreads, started making some money, and that was a turning point in giving him the confidence to understand that the skills that he had, both as a photographer and as an entrepreneur, were going to be enough to send him on a direction and start moving towards the idea of doing full-time work, which he wasn't doing at the time. So, building his following. So, he's been on Facebook for a long time, like a lot of us. So, he's been on there for 10 years. And he said that when you start with zero fans, it's really tough. It's tough to start from the beginning. It's tough to look at all these other people that have all this interaction or all these other engagements. And he says you really have to start diving in. You have to start at the basics. You have to start producing content. You have to spend the time to jump in and engage with other people, other followers, you have to follow other pages and engage with them. He recommends that you push out your pages to your family and your friends, because that will at least give you a small jumpstart. Those people might necessarily, because they're a little bit biased, constantly say that your work is amazing no matter what. But regardless, it will give you a little bit of boost in your numbers and give you maybe a little bit of momentum, it will get you going. Remember that whole idea of the empty restaurant syndrome that we talked about, where if you have a page that has no followers or very few interactions compared to someone that has a lot? A lot of people want to engage with engagement. So helping spur that with some of your personal profiles can definitely be advantageous. He also talked about the idea of making sure that the posts that you push out there can get as much engagement as possible to work around the algorithms. And he said that call-to-actions and taking the time to get to know his followers has been instrumental in building the interaction rates that he's been able to get. So, what he does is, every few months, sometimes it's every few weeks, depending on how busy he is, is, he'll do posts out there and just ask where's everyone from, all the new people that followed him. What are you here for? Where are you about? What location are you from? What type of photography are you interested in? He'll ask questions, he'll get to know them. He'll take the time. And because of that, in return, he's been able to get around a lot of the Facebook algorithms for a business page. And he gets really high engagement rates when it comes to Facebook. Now, Facebook in general is not going to see 70,000 interactions per post like Instagram does but a lot of Darren's stuff gets a couple thousand interactions on Facebook, which is big. He then takes that interactions and those engagements, and he continues to spur and build upon them. Build upon those relationships. So, when he's ready, it's a timely post to post about print sales or other deals that he has, or he's including hyperlinks, he's not getting penalized like a lot of other pages are because he's built up that trust, and the relationships both with his followers as well as with the algorithms, to essentially sidestep some of those ways that typically lower the reach or the impressions that you would get normally. Question? Yes. - [Drew] Yes. We have a question about, for people that are just starting out and still developing their own style, would your advice be to develop that style, to figure out what you want to specialize in? Or just start posting a smattering of different photos in different styles? - It's a good question. Everyone has to start somewhere. And I think for a lot of people the challenge is, is that there's always a barrier, or there's always a reason for you to not do something. There's always an excuse. And so oftentimes, it can take years to truly get a sense of style, to really understand what you really truly love doing. And for a lot of people that just takes too long. And regardless, building a following, building a brand, it does take time. But what I'd probably recommend is the idea that, since overnight success is very, very rare in this industry, is that the idea that you are posting and learning how your page is working, or your social following, or the content, how it's being received, is that you're constantly refining that. And by the time you actually do find success, most of that stuff is going to be years back in the past, or at least months. And most people aren't going to be looking back and seeing that stuff anyway. So, if you look back on Chris or Darren's or any of these posts back down to 2003 or 2006, well, I guess 2006, Facebook wasn't around in 2003, that you're going to see a lot of stuff that they're probably not necessarily proud of, because their vision has changed, their style has changed, their skills have changed. But it's still there because it still helped them build the foundation of where they're at. So, my recommendation would be continue to shoot, and continue to learn about your following and learn about the networks you're trying to be on. And don't worry too much about having it all connect right away, because it's going to take time and you'll organically get a feeling when things start coming together. And at that point, maybe you can change your approach. Excellent. All right. So, Darren's Facebook page. So, it's business page, Darren White Photography. If you're a landscape photographer, I highly recommend checking it out. Again, it's a great way to see what people are doing, that are finding success. So, Darren's Facebook page, a lot of the time he's posting two to three times a day. Sometimes they're not always just straight images and stuff. Sometimes they're images with just a question. Again, he's the king of CTAs. He's trying to engage with people. He's trying to get people interested. But he's definitely understood that, through his Facebook page, two to three times a day maximizes his engagement, maximizes his reach. Posts contain a bit of the backstory, but again, they're never too long in length. There are always some inspirational aspects of it. He likes talking about the places that he's working in, or places that he's photographed. He wants to feel people like they...maybe not as much backstory as Chris, but there's certainly something there. And he definitely engages with his followers. If you look through his comments, he's not going to necessarily be back on every single comment that's in there, but he's engaging. He's jumping in the crowd. He's talking to people, he's answering questions. And again, being the king of engagement, that's how he's built his audience. It makes sense. His posts average around 2,000 interactions per post, I'd say 2,000 to 3,000. Again, it depends on the type of stuff that he's sharing. Milky Way shots, like the one you see at the top of his page over here on the right, generally do better than other types of images. But he'll average around 2,000 to 3,000. Now, Darren's Instagram. It says Darren_White_photography, and I wanted to bring this up because, again, his focus is Facebook, but he's trying to build his Instagram. So he has a similar caption style to Facebook, it's inspirational, to the point, he tries to do CTAs as much as he can. He does use hashtags, but he uses them inside his captions. He averages two posts per day, because he's trying to build his following. Generally, a lot of the time, I found that they're in the morning and in the evening. He's not doing them in succession. He stagnates them out a little bit. He averages 600 to 700 interactions per post, which is actually pretty good for his following, which is around 16,000. Remember the averages that we talked about in the previous segment? That's actually higher. That's a pretty good average rate. He's above average in terms of those interactions and I believe it's because of that engaging style that he's adopted. So, parting advice. Darren's parting advice is for you to be real with your followers. Be real. What I mean by that is, this image wasn't an image that he's necessarily proud of. He was out there to shoot a specific shot, but he was willing to share an image as a lesson to sit there and say, "Hey, the weather wasn't so great. This isn't a beautiful shot, but I'm going to use it as a point to actually talk about, to actually engage, and start..." This is one of his times where he was asking about, what are you doing? And so he was able to use a lot of different types of content that he's producing, that he's creating, as further engagement points. It doesn't always have to be his best work. He's looking for those points of engagement so that he can build up his algorithmic profile, so that when he's posting other things that are actually revenue-generating for him, his engagements are much higher than most other business pages out there.