Do you dream of launching a career as a photographer? Breaking into the photography industry involves more than an eye for lighting and composition. It also involves concrete marketing and business skills.
Landscape photographer Lee Duguid shares his advice with us about building a career in this competitive field. Currently based in Nice, France, Duguid first discovered his knack for landscape photography while travelling through Asia and Australia in 2003. He lived and took photographs in Australia for several years, exhibiting work in venues including Sydney’s Parliament House while further developing his technical skills.
Once you’ve realised that you have a passion for photography, how do you transform this into a career? As Duguid states,
‘Becoming a professional or successful photographer isn’t something that happens overnight. Very few photographers, especially the ones that love shooting landscapes get ‘a start’ per say. Instead it’s a slow process and one of constant work over several years.’
It is helpful to visualize your end goals as you begin. Ask questions such as what type of photographer do you want to become, and how do you plan to get there? Duguid explains that
‘I think it’s important to keep in mind what your end goal is, then figure out the steps you need to take to get there. For me, it was a case of traveling, taking lots of photos, marketing myself and building a following using all my spare time and holidays from work. I’m now getting some recognition and paid work, but I feel I am yet to get ‘a start’ in photography.’
While many may think that travel and landscape photography is a glamorous business, the daily reality of it involves much more than taking photographs in exotic locales. When asked to describe his typical workday, Duguid says that
‘As much as I love the creativity of photography, spending all my time doing it won’t help me reach my goals. This is always at the forefront of my mind and determines how I utilise my time. I joke that my passion is running a business rather than photography.’
Skills that come into play include web design, marketing, and product design. Duguid says that ‘If you look at the typical workday of any photographer the reality is that little time is spent on taking photographs. Most of it is spent on other business related tasks including administration, accounting, planning and marketing.’
With this in mind, as students look for photography courses to grow their technical skills they should also think about growing their marketing and business acumen. Duguid gives this advice when it comes to training:
“I would focus my energy studying Marketing with some modules on Business. Of course it is important to learn the technical and creative intricacies of photography; however you will never have a successful business if you aren’t business savvy.”
Yet learning the technical aspects of photography is also undeniably important, as Duguid says ‘that being said, it took me over ten years to get to the level of photography I’m currently at. Studying photography will help cut that time considerably.’ If you’re in search of inspiration in this regard, you can see evidence of his skills on Facebook – Lee Duguid Photography.
Marketing and Promotion
So why is marketing so important for photographers? Learning business skills alongside technical skills can help budding photographers with self-promotion. When asked how photographers can best promote their work, Duguid gives the following advice.
‘Photographers need to first figure out their personal and business objectives in relation to what they want to achieve and how much they need to earn. This can be done by creating a business plan. Even if it is only a very simple document, it will allow you to then devise a marketing plan.’
From the marketing side of it, he says that:
‘Promotion is a mixture of marketing to photo buyers and to photographers. I tend to market myself to other photographers as this is what I find easier. This involves writing technical or interesting articles on my blog, and updating all social media channels with new photos and interesting conversation. Marketing to photo buyers is a bit harder. I spend my time doing SEO and optimisation of my website so that people looking to buy photographs of specific locations should be able to find my work.’
In this way, online marketing can play a major role in the success of professional photographers.
Like many industries, it’s helpful to make connections with established photographers to grow your network. Duguid is a member of the AIPP, which he suggests may be helpful to budding photographers in Australia. He states,
‘I joined the AIPP with the goal of becoming a Master Photographer and to get to know others in the industry. I started as an Emerging Member gaining a full membership after completing their Business Mentoring program. This one year course helped me structure my business, create a Business and Marketing plan, and openly discuss my own questions regarding pricing for goods and services. I have also attended a few of the AIPPs yearly weekend seminars. I found these a fantastic way to broaden my network and to speak to some of the top guys in the industry.’
The Bottom Line
Finally, it’s important to keep your goals realistic. Landscape photographers often supplement their passion with other types of photography, such as wedding or real estate. For Duguid, ‘it made more sense to keep my day job as an Engineer. I get a pension (superannuation), financial security and all the other benefits of a ‘normal’ job.’ To become a full-time photographer ‘takes a lot of time, hard work, some luck and good business savvy.’
As Duguid states in his parting words, ‘Those who succeed in photography – or any business for that matter – are the ones that work the hardest and never give up.’ View more of his work and get inspired at Landscape Photography by Lee Duguid.