How to Sell Your Brand
This is really the most important part and the most important points I want to drive home to you. Kind of who to contact and why. This is what makes or breaks a career. Is when you're finally ready. You haven't released yourself into the world too soon. And you have something really meaningful to present. And you're ready to start up shop. It's not something you want to do over night because that's a big risk and especially with this, it's a huge investment. It's not something that happened overnight with me either. Is started as kind of gather up gear. I started to get a lens here, a lens there. And then I started to get a small job. So it's not something that happens immediately. You will kind of go through a growth spurt. There will be pains along the way. But you will have opportunities to sort of increase the quality of your gear over time and also the quality of your marketing. 'Cause marketing gets really expensive. It's more than the gear sometimes. When you're first starting o...
ut, you wanna contact local restaurants. You wanna contact chefs that you know or anybody that you know in the business. I had the luxury of knowing a lot of people in the business. So I was able to get at least some photo shoots worked up where it's a trade or whatever. You could eat at a good restaurant. But it is a process. When you first start, the smaller businesses are more likely to come to you because they don't have the budget. That's where you have an advantage. I have overhead. I don't have too much overhead. I feel like I'm in a really good spot. Some shooters have tons of overhead. Some shooters have no overhead. But there's a place for all of them. If you're just beginning your career and have overhead, you have a huge advantage. You don't have to charge as much for a job. And sometimes they might look at that and say, "Well they're not quite ready for this project." Or whatever, but some might say, "This is perfect. "This is awesome." And you just made a contact in the business you're gonna have for the rest of your career. So there's huger advantages to not having overhead. And I miss the days where I was free to kind of just pick up. If I want to move my studio, I have to move my studio. That's like 500 pounds of phone protection just for the props. (laughing) When do I put myself out there? I knew 'cause I had already decided. I was a private chef and like I can't make macaroni and cheese for nine year olds for so long. It was fun. But I decided to just sort of slowly build a portfolio, release it. But there's nothing to say you can't. There's plenty of famous photographers who are 20. There's plenty of famous photographers, or successful, I should say, in their 80s. There's no time. You'll know. How will I know? You'll know. 'Cause there's nothing holding you back, and sometimes I might, you know. Just like restaurants, there's a lot of people wanting to become a chef. A lot of the times, it just doesn't work. And so there's failure out there, especially in that business like nobody's business. It happens. Restaurant's close, you have to reopen. It's hard to be successful, and it's similar to this which is why I really recommend waiting. And kind of building up knowledge in another area and whatever you happen to be doing now, and if you love it, learn the heck out of it and then jump over to photography. It took me four years to really know. I think I was under the 10,000 hour rule, that was for sure. But with photography, it's so simple. It's a camera and a lens and a light. It's not rocket science. It's what desktop do you use? What desktop makes you feel good? When you look at it, there's a cause of reaction. Is it giving you what you want? If not, you change it. It can be daunting. I was daunted at first. It's like cooking. Once you get it, it starts to kind of roll and you can go with it. But patience is really a critical thing. I swear I've gone over this before. Did I repeat a slide? The how. Let me go over this. What you have to offer. So being a photographer isn't just about the camera. It's about what you know beyond the camera. Your ability to take a picture is really just based on your financial resource. The gear you're able to get. What you bring to the table is what you bring beyond. It's your artistic eye. It's what expertise you know you can bring to what you're shooting. And it's also the expertise. How to manage a team. I don't wanna say it has nothing to do with the camera, but it almost has nothing. I don't even know the camera's on set when I'm shooting. I'll go like this. But I'm thinking in my head, where's this art? I see it on the monitor. I'm immediately thinking, how do I make this better? How do I make it so the client specs? What's the food styles doing? What's our next shot? I'm the orchestrator, I'm the chef of this operation. That thing is just doing what I tell it to do almost second nature. It's not just about, "Oh, I can operate a camera perfectly. "I kind of have a vision." Especially with studio photography. It's about so many other things. I would go to business school before I would go to photography school in a heartbeat. Or cooking school, or if you're into portraits, psychiatry. (laughing) Getting in the mind. That's the most daunting thing for me is shooting people. I cannot. But that's what I'm saying. Everyone has their specialty. And you need to embrace it and not be hell-bent. If you want to be a portrait photographer but through this process of learning, you're like. That's what I learned. I would photograph chefs. The most un-photogenic. And they were all horrendous. They were bad. And so I'm like, I need to stay away. I will not shoot any project where anything. It's this and below. Hand models, that's it. If that. So you won't see a single hand in my portfolio. And that's another thing that separates. Like there's people who shoot lifestyle who have tons of people or hands. There's hands everywhere. I must have the food touch. I just decide, okay, I'm gonna do the opposite thing. It's worked out okay. But I'll tell you, magazines don't call me much. (laughs) So how do I get my work out there? So you've done all this and you're like, "I'm ready. "I wanna be a photographer. "I'm getting some jobs. "I've got some cash flow. "Things are moving in the right direction." How do I get my work out there? And the website is the core part of this. People don't even really ready my blog anymore. In fact, it's down right now and it's getting redesigned. This is the main point I wanna drive home. If you want to be successful, you have to think through the eyes of your clients. You have to think like an art director. You have to think like a creative director. You have to think like a brand manager. Forget photography. If you want to really reach these people, which is why I'm redesigning my blog, to match. I was actually looking for inspiration. I was looking at ad agency websites. How do they design their websites, and why is it navigated that way? And they base a lot of their websites on the projects that they completed. Not just individual images or components. It's this project. Even if it's multiple projects with a client. They'll be separated out. Like we did this for this person. And that's what the blog's gonna be. It's like this project. It's not just me, out of focus picture of me holding a spoon, going. It's gonna be like a really well-designed layout of the entire process of how we got to start to finish. So they can see, if they're a similar company. This is the process they followed. In their mind, that's how they think. They think in terms of projects. They think in terms of not just single images. But with a portfolio, it needs to be just the opposite. I strip it down and get rid of all silliness. It's only about the images. I mean I'll put the about page and everything kind of below it. I do all my own web design. And it's not perfect but it is navigable in a way. They care about the shots, and they wanna be able to know your style which is why I have like seven images that you immediately see and say, "Oh okay, I get it." And if they wanna click on, or not click on, they're informed what they're gonna get. And they can dive as deep as they want. There's nothing in their way. So there's numerous ways to ... This is the picture of the blog in production. And the logo needs some redesigning. It's pretty minimalistic. There's some of the packaging work I've done. And so when you click on one, it'll just go right to the project, behind-the-scene shots. All the stuff that went into it, so they see how this was created to an extent. Sometimes there's confidentiality involved, so I don't do it. But it just depends on the client. I wanna touch on this. As far as the avenues for getting your work out there. When you first start, it's your website. Now when you do your website, you're gonna be like, "Well nobody's coming to my website. "I'm not getting any work." That's pretty much everybody's experience when they first do that. But it's what you do afterwards that makes a big difference. If you're ready and you've put your dues in, you're ready to go, your website looks awesome, your portfolio looks awesome and you're ready, then the steps you take afterwards are gonna determine whether or not you're successful. I know it seems a little dramatic. And I've learned this from experience. You can recover, but. My temptation was to contact. I need to let everybody know about this. Everybody in the world needs to know about this site. So you look up email directories. Anything you can do to just send people images of your work. And you carpet bomb the daylights out of the industry to try and pound it through. I've heard people need to see your work three times before they'll call you so you just keep sending mailers and mailers and mailers. And none of it gets seen, really. In fact, I'm assuming my email's probably blocked. 'Cause early on, I would just email the daylights out of people. And it doesn't make a difference. If you're looking to contact a brand or an agency, there's gonna be like a couple people who handle whether it's the art buyer or client. There's usually a couple people that I found, or one person, who really handled the photographers. And who will set up meetings for you and who will be your point of contact within that agency or brand. And so it's getting to know those people on a personal basis and one at a time. And not a million at a time. It's what really makes a difference. It's completely ineffective to just go out there and try to contact everybody in the industry and see what sticks. It's to say, "I'm in the city." And I can say this but it went just the opposite for me. I gotta contact the local people and build up. It went the opposite. You never know what will happen. But what will happen is you'll meet. This is what happened to me. I did a shoot, and a design firm called me and said, "Hey, we want you to do this project. "And we've never worked with you before." And that's the hard thing is 'cause they don't. Even if you're a better photographer for the job, they're gonna go with somebody they've worked for usually unless they're not available. And that's usually where you get your break. Is because you're like their 3rd or 4th choice. But you're probably the best for the job, maybe. Maybe you get lucky. And if you prepare, it's not luck at all. So you go in. And I went in and I did a good job on the shoot. And then someone else took over the project on the East coast. They introduced me. A single job could lead to. It has led to maybe 12 to 13 clients for me without any marketing. Just through work. So it's like fishing. You just put your line out there, and it'll probably take forever. And you're like, oh my god. And then you catch one, and then all of a sudden, you're just catching fish and fish and fish. And then it starts to become ... Then it's the complete opposite problem for you. You're like, "There's no way I'm ever "going to have time to market again." In the beginning, I'm like, I have so much time to market. This is amazing. I'm never gonna not market. I can't believe people don't update their blogs. How are people not updating their portfolios? And now I know why. There's the option of having a rep, but I feel like in the food world, it's just not as useful as, say, fashion or automotive. I've been approached by a couple but it just never worked out. And I don't feel a need. A lot of major food shooters aren't repped. And it's just a different thing sometimes. If you do a lot of editorial, maybe it's, it's just I've never seen the need, especially as things progressed down the road, I think there's gonna be less and less. The only thing is that you're gonna have to stay on top of your marketing. You're gonna have to personally convince someone that you can do it. And you have to be able to assemble a team that can also execute. So there's gonna be a lot on your plate if you decide to go solo. There's a collective of photographers who online who have source books. There's different source books out there you can be a part of, and they're curated so they'll come to you and say, "Do you want to be part of this?" There's only one I'm with now. I don't do a lot of them. But I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing 'cause a lot of traditional houses still use those books. There's one that's really well known that I do and I stick with it, but that's kind of all I'm doing. As far as marketing goes, it's really about making first contact. I've spent five years. I can't imagine the number of hours I've spent trying to create the list of people I haven't even contacted yet who are in the business who I know I wanna work with. 'Cause they move but their specialty doesn't change as much. So I've created a list of people I really know I wanna work with, and I've only contacted maybe a third of them. But it's taken years to do it. There's some services that will tell you who to contact and their email. It's never the right person, rarely. Sometimes it is. But if it is, they're sort of dismissive. It's about a genuine reaching out to individuals who you actually really do want to work with and not just flinging it out there. So I really encourage you to start small. And you'll find that person who's gonna give you a shot. And if you're ready to go. And that's what I'm saying. Be patient. Because if you really are ready to go, it's gonna take off from there. If you're not, could be bad. It could get bad in a hurry. I've heard some stories. Let's say you get a meeting with a client. They're like, "Come on in." You need to bring in doughnuts even though everyone's on a health kick for some reason. Everyone's drinking kombucha tea and you bring a load of doughnuts. And they're like, "Oh thank you, jerk." (laughing) So your point of contact will set up a meeting if they really think that you're gonna be a valuable asset to them. And you're sort of joining their team. I'm a freelancer, but for my clients, I'm sort of invested in their future. Especially the smaller companies, and the big companies. I'm a part of your business now. I want it to be successful or more successful than it was when we started. And the visuals are one of the most important parts of that. You're teaming up with this person. It's a relationship over time. I have maybe 15 active clients right. You don't need many to be really rolling. You just need some good ones.