Generating Revenue Through Social Media


Monetizing your Social Media Presence for Outdoor Photographers


Lesson Info

Generating Revenue Through Social Media

So using social media to generate revenue. Now again this is going to be tied to the idea of outdoor, landscape, nature, travel photographers. And the way I like to look at social media in general is the idea or the analogy of social media is very similar to a camera. Now a camera is a tool. A tool that we photographers use in order to create images. That's what we're here for. We capture light, we create images. And that tool is something that many of us has spent a long time learning how to use. We understand and we taught ourselves about aperture, and exposure, and composition, and subject matter. We understand how to photograph things at night. We understand how to play around with long exposures. We've dedicated a lot of time to understanding and getting a lot of value out of our camera. And what happens if you don't know how to use your camera? What happens if you don't know much about a camera? Let's say you bought a $10,000 camera. Now that camera has a $10,000 value but if you...

don't know how to use your tool, doesn't have much value to you, does it? It's not doing much for you. And social media is the same way. So social media when it comes to outdoor photographers, regardless if we're talking about revenue generation or increasing profits or making money, is something that you have to learn how to value. You have to learn how to create value out of it. Because a camera by itself doesn't have any value and social media by itself doesn't have any value. But if you learn to use the tool...if you learn how to use social media in order to generate revenue then it can become exponentially valuable. So one of the first ways for outdoor photographers to generate money is selling prints. Right? I think a lot of photographers have that notion or that mindset that they want to get into or they already are interested in nature or landscape photography and they want to sell prints to make a living. And we're going to go in a little bit a little further in to this class, so I have a section specifically about selling prints and we're going to talk about that. But just to cover it briefly right now I want to let everyone know some sense of reality about what's changed in the photo industry. So the photo industry has changed a lot in the last 10 years and a lot of it has changed because cameras are more affordable, more people are interested in photography, so again there is somewhat more competition out there. But it's also affected things such as marketing and advertising. Now a lot of the revenue streams that used to be very prominent in this industry have changed and shifted. I've known many photographers that have made a lot of money selling prints and license and images, doing stock work, periodical work, publications that used to pay a ton of money. And those revenue streams have changed. They've evolved and some could say they've evolved in a negative way because those revenue streams for most people aren't nearly as beneficial as they used to be. And print sales or something that's still viable to do isn't generally something that most photographers can make a living off of by itself. It's simply a matter of economics. Supply and demand. If a photograph...Well I like to use the term that...or people like to use the term that a photograph is worth a thousand words, right? And a photograph is no longer a dime a dozen. There's so many of us taking pictures, a photograph is more like a dime a billion these days. So if you think of the fact that so many people are out there taking images, there's so many more people out there also selling prints. And the fact of the matter is that most people that want to purchase prints need to have some sort of personal connection to your subject matter. And since most outdoors, nature, and landscape, travel photographers are photographing things in the natural world it can be difficult to use something like social media in order to find those individuals. Most of the people that I know that make a living doing print sales generally live in an area that has high tourism, that is easily accessible, and it generally has the demographics of people that come through usually have a higher level of income. Exposable income or disposable income more accurately. So people that set up galleries or have gallery or event spaces outside national parks, places that are in like Las Vegas, Hawaii, aspects of California, places that have a big drove of tourism with a lot of that expendable income. When it comes to social media I know a handful of photographers that do find success using social media to increase print sales and we're going to talk about some of those things. But I do want to let everyone know because I get so many emails and messages every single month from aspiring photographers, specifically related to outdoor photography, that are asking that question. Well first off they ask, "How do I do what you do and how do I sell prints?" And those are two very different things. Because for me personally prints sales is like less than a 1% of my revenue. So in a given year I may make a couple thousand dollars selling prints. That's usually something I don't promote or push out there. Something usually that just comes in. People find my work out there on social media and will come back and say, "Hey, I really want this image." And then I'll work with them generally on a one on one basis because it's not a big aspect of what I do. And the reason for that is that I kind of felt that I saw The Writing on the Wall a few years ago and I realized that the value for me for my images was different. I wanted to change things a little bit because I realized that stock photography was dropping. I realized that people weren't buying prints as much as they used to. So I don't want to necessarily dissuade people, I just want to be honest with you. Print sales is something that you can do to generate some additional side revenue but for 99% of you it will not be something that you can do that will make enough money to do photography full-time. Just nature of the beast. But all is not lost, like I said, there's still money out there. I'm not trying to be doom and gloom. There's a lot of it out there. It's just not in the same place as it used to be 10 years ago. So next one we're going to talk about is image licensing. Now image licensing is probably more like 8% to 10% of my revenue. Image licensing is essentially the idea that another company wants to license the rights to use your images in order to promote their own brand or product. Use it for advertising or marketing typically. Sometimes they use it in logos but those are technically marketing as well. And licensing as I mentioned is a descent portion of my revenue. Using social media to generate image licensing like print sales can be challenging. There are ways which we will talk about in order to help you get...have more potential opportunities to maybe then help you get a little bit more aggressive or offensive instead of defensive in terms of trying to pursue it but image licensing is still a decent portion of what's happening out there in the industry. And if you have quality work especially for landscape, travel photographers, then you have a probability or at least the opportunity to license those images and generally for good money. There's still decent money out there. I've licensed images for a couple hundred bucks. I've licensed images for over $25,000. It depends on the image, it depends on the company, it depends on the needs, depends on the industry, what's happening. There's a lot of variables. So we're going to talk a little bit about that as well. Publications. Getting published. Now, as I mentioned before, revenue streams have shifted and getting published or having your work published is something that is still highly beneficial. Generally more so in an indirect manner. And what I mean by that is that years ago you used to get paid quite well to make the cover of Time Magazine or National Geographic or any of the other kind of big publication out there and with the rise of more of the internet and blogging and digital publications and the fact that there's just so many more photographers out there the prices that they pay have dropped. A few months ago I was reached out to from a company, a publication, they wanted to put one of my images on their cover, give me a two-page spread, give them five to six images and overall paid about 750 bucks. That's not bad, I suppose. It's $750, but that's not enough to cover mortgage. It's not enough to pay for your kids to go to school. it's not enough generally to pay rent. It's something and it helps and it's nice, but getting published these days is something that has an indirect value depending on the publication and depending on your business structure. So I leverage the idea of getting published to generally promote my brand, to promote the product and services that I offer, to extend the reach, to get my name and my work in front of people that I typically didn't have the ability to reach on my own, and so the idea of getting published is still something that is viable, that is I feel important. But like I said, just don't expect to be a millionaire doing it. Sponsorships are also part of the industry these days and it's something that a lot of people have questions about them in terms of both making money and increasing brand value and both of them can be true. Now I'll be honest, and we have a section on sponsorships so I don't want to get too much into it but sponsorships for a lot of companies in the photo industry specifically generally are not paying sponsorships. A lot of the time the companies just don't want to give you money. Or at least don't want to give you money directly. It's still possible to get sponsorships, it's still possible to get value out of it, it's still possible to make money out of sponsorships, but just know that most companies...I know a lot of people think that they're going to reach out to a camera company and Canon or Sony or Nikon is going to pay you thousands of dollars for the privilege of you using their gear. I guarantee you there are 10,000 people waiting behind you that will do it for free and those companies know it. Now if you've built up a brand and you have something unique to offer then there is the potential for it. Some of my sponsors do pay. It's generally not a ton of money, like I said directly, but it opens up a lot of other opportunities and we'll talk about that in a little bit as well. Marketing campaigns. So I know a lot of people are very interested in the idea of Instagram. A lot of people here are instagramers. Instagram is one of the most prominent social media platforms these days for photographers. For nature and outdoor landscape photographers. And marketing campaigns and the money that companies are spending in places like Instagram and Snapchat and other places is huge. I know a lot of photographers that have a much larger following than me that make anywhere between $8,000 to $15,000 a post. Now they built up these massive following and so for some people that might not necessarily be attainable at least right now, but know that if you do build a following there is value in that and you can sell that value to companies. Of course the idea is you generally want to work with companies that are representative of you and your brand. Some people don't, sadly. They just sell themselves to whatever is out there. That's your choice. Know that people will usually pick up on that. But regardless, marketing campaigns are a huge revenue generation aspect of what we're at right now in terms of the social media age and where the industry is, massive. Millions of dollars a year are being spent by companies that want to work with people that have started to develop their social media presence. And yes, the more followers and the more engagement you get the better it can be. The more money you will be paid. The more value you have to offer. Because at certain point when it comes to things like marketing campaigns and when it comes to working with other companies at a certain point the value and the quality of your work matters less. A lot of photographers don't like to hear that. They like to think that the quality of your work is going to determine how much you're going to get paid. And that might have something to do when you talk about image licensing, you have a unique, beautiful image that maybe no one else could create and that has immensely more value than say, another image that was different, but when it comes to your brand, your quality of your work at a certain level doesn't matter because there's a lot more people out there creating quality work as well. So you have to have something else to offer. Now this class is built around the idea of monetizing social media and social media for a lot of photographers out there these days can be that differentiator. It can allow you to have something else to offer. A lot of the companies that work with me don't work with me because I tell funny jokes or I have a winning personality. They work with me because I have a marketing arm. I have platforms that allow me to push products or to have influence, if you want to use that term. That has immense value. And when it comes to marketing campaigns a lot of times that's what they're looking for. They certainly want quality work. They're not going to work with a photographer that has a large following that doesn't have quality work. And there's not too many people out there that are taking bad photos that have large followings. Probably a few but the importance of understanding about marketing campaigns is, A, that it can generate a lot of money, but, B, that a lot of companies, maybe not necessarily the biggest companies in the industry but a lot of companies out there still want to work with people and a lot of companies, especially mid-level companies don't have the budgets to afford the higher-end social media photographers. So for a lot of you that are developing your following and you feel that you have momentum and you got good engagement, kind of growing into something, there's a lot of people that you can reach out to. There's still a lot of money to be made but you're not going to be paid $10,000 a post. But you could make something. And you can string those together and as you build and grow that can grow onto something bigger. And in this class we're going to have a handful of sessions talking about how to reach out to companies, how to research, who you need to talk to. I'm going to teach you how to send a cold email. We're going to talk about actually sending in a pitch like a bid or a proposal. We'll break down all those things to help you guys get an insight into what I do. I actually have cold emails that I've sent out and actually proposals that I've sent out and I've blurred of course important information but we'll talk about them and I'll answer all your questions because I want you guys to feel confident in those things. Most people don't know who to talk to. Most people have never sent a cold email. They feel nervous about it. Most people don't know what to do or what to include when it comes down to a pitch. So I'm going to share with you with what I do, which isn't necessarily the only way to do things, but hopefully it will give you some sense of insight. And the other biggest part of this industry and what many people are getting into or realizing or have realized is that there are more photographers now than ever before and there're more people out in nature taking pictures. And so the fastest growing demographic in terms of clients in this industry is actually photographers. You guys are here watching a Creative Live. You guys are a testament of this industry. So photographers are looking to learn about photography. You guys are looking to learn about social media. People like myself photo educators understand this, understand that there are a lot of people out there that want to learn. They want to figure out how to be more creative. They want to figure out how to leverage things like social media to make more money. And so the largest demographic out there are other photographers and so the idea of photographers offering products and services to other photographers is actually a great idea. Now I will tell you, I'll be honest, one, not everyone is a great educator. A lot of people get into things like workshops because they think it's easy money, and they struggle filling them because they just don't have the following or the ability to and in general they're just not good teachers. Not everyone has that ability to teach. You may and if you do you might have something to offer but if you don't or if you haven't learned to understand how to teach, how to meet people at their level, how to offer something unique and different, I recommend generally that you stay away at least from teaching workshops but you could still do things like video tutorials. Recording yourself, editing your work, maybe you have a unique style or a trait or feature that other people want to copy or mimic or figure out how to do. Or maybe you could create eBooks about composition or creativeness or post-processing or social media. Regardless of whatever it is, it is a reality of this industry that there are a lot more photographers now than there were before. That means there are a lot more clients. This is one of the reasons that photo education is about 40% of the money that I generate in a given year, because I understood this. Because I saw the writing on the wall. Because more cameras are being sold. Because post-processing software is more available. Because social media has allowed us to share content. And the more content that we share the more people that were interested in photography and the more people that were interested in photography the more people that picked up cameras and the more people that picked up cameras the more people that end up buying my products and services. Just the nature of the beast.

Class Description

Social Media is a powerful marketing tool, but how do you leverage yourself to gain the attention of new clients or potential sponsors? Colby Brown covers how you can find ways to monetize using various networking platforms. Whether you’re interested in finding clients, becoming a brand ambassador, or selling prints this class will give you the tools needed to make strides in getting your network to work for you. You’ll learn: 

  • The significance of getting verified and how to find the right target markets for your business 
  • How to use ads to expand your business on Facebook 
  • The hidden value of LinkedIn and how to utilize it for sponsorship or brand influencer work 
  • How and when to pay to expand your reach


Linea Broadus

Colby's class was packed with great information for landscape photographers! From writing pitches to marketing with social media, he clearly explains how to achieve personal business goals. Thanks, Colby!

Beatriz Stollnitz

I was fortunate to be in the live audience for this course. If you (and I !!!) take the time to truly absorb the content presented and put it in practice, this course will pay for itself over and over and over. It is rare for someone at Colby's success level to be so open about the financial aspects of what they do, and the details of how they do it. Highly recommended!

Esther Beaton

There were 2 benefits from this course. First was the straight info from Colby - very specific - on how to write cold emails and pitches, how to find prospective clients, where to sell work, etc. Second BIG benefit was his stress on our individual creativity to achieve new revenue in this new age of the photography boom. Oh, and there's a 3rd: use social media; you almost can't go wrong.