Photography Marketing Magic – Invaluable Advice For Photographers Under 20

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Maybe it’s the lousy economy… but on the photography forums lately there has been a noticeable increase of young people (15-19 years) wondering if it’s possible for them to make an actual living as a photographer.

Now, I’d like to say from the start that I believe that anybody who has the following two traits can make it in the photography business, no matter how old they are:

1. Above-average skill with a camera. There’s no getting around it… in order to be successful, you’ve got to be technically good enough that the vast majority of your clients are satisfied with the work you deliver. Because no matter how smooth you are when negotiating a job, if your work stinks, you’ll eventually (or maybe even quickly) end up with a bad reputation in the business. And bad reputations can take a long time to get rid of.

2. A strong marketing sense. Sure, you must be able to deliver the goods… but the ability to promote yourself, network, and set yourself apart from the competition are the single biggest factors that determine whether you make it or not. Studying photography is crucial, sure… but studying marketing and business should be a close second.

Now, of course it’s not as easy as all that. If you’re under 20, there are certain biases that your prospective clients are naturally going to have against you:

Some of them will be stubbornly convinced that simply because you’re young, you must not be a competent photographer.

Some of them will stubbornly elect to go with somebody who has years and years of experience… even if you are able to provide superior work.

Some of them will stubbornly refuse to hire you just because you don’t have an enormous body of work.

These are ridiculous on many levels, of course… but they are also part of the reality of the business world.

That being said, if my 16-year-old son or daughter came up to me and said, “Dad, I’d like to be a professional photographer… how should I do that?” I would give them the following advice:

First, get good. Learn to take pictures that are better than other people take. Figure out what kind of pictures you’d most like to shoot (fashion, nature, real estate, etc.), then learn all the intricacies of that particular craft. Just like a writer gets good by writing… a photographer gets good by taking pictures. Lots and lots of pictures.

Second, find a mentor. Somebody who has already made it in the photography business. Somebody who is doing the kind of photography you’d like to be doing… who is living the kind of life you’d like to be living. Somebody who is willing to teach you how they became successful. Somebody who remembers what it was like to be 16 and just starting out.

Third, study the marketing greats. Learn not only about how to run a business… but about things like direct mail, sales letters, copywriting, and general advertising theory. Read books by David Ogilvy, Claude Hopkins, and Dan Kennedy (even if you’ve never heard of them). Think of yourself as a marketer who does photography… not a photographer who does marketing.

Fourth, think long-term. Once you’ve figured out exactly what kind of photography you want to do… write out a detailed business plan. But not a 6-month, 9-month, or 2-year business plan. I’m talking about a 20-, 30-, or even 40-year business plan. Because the sooner you embark on your ideal career, and the sooner you know the steps necessary to succeed at that career, the more successful you will ultimately be.

The way I like to look at this is… even the greatest photographers in the world at one point took their very first picture. For some it was at 4 years old, for others it was at 25.

So if you’re a teenager who wants to get into the photography game… I’d say get serious and get started today. In 40 years you’ll be glad you did.

James Robert Gratiot is a photography marketing strategist and author of the groundbreaking new PhotoMarketingMagic system. If you’re truly interested in transforming yourself from “starving artist” to “successful photographer,” please check out his PhotoMarketingMagic site today.

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