Why mentoring matters – what you can learn at every stage of your photography career

What comes to mind when you think of mentoring? Probably someone at the beginning of their career, or perhaps a new or struggling business owner. Like a new baby, a new business requires a lot of time and attention, more assistance in the transition from one stage to another, and access to the help of a more experienced business person can greatly impact the success and growth of a business in the midst of rapid growth and change. As your business gains momentum, seeking the help of a mentor may drop in priority compared with the more exciting and time consuming tasks you experience as a result of your increased demand. And lastly, as an established photographer, mentorship may seem completely unnecessary if you remain satisfied with your clientele and workload. But if we take an objective view of how mentoring, and being mentored affects the photography industry as a whole, some impactful ideas about supporting our profession emerge.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how mentorship affects the stages of the photography business:

New Photographers:

  • Gain information about best practices and industry standards (I once had a photographer tell me “There are no industry standards in photography” which couldn’t be further from the truth! Educate yourself at every opportunity.)
  • Avoid making financial and client management mistakes as a result of inexperience
  • Learn professional techniques and processes in a non-critical environment

Growing Photography Businesses:

  • Make peer and industry connections that expand their professional networks
  • Gain insight into their specific professional strengths and weaknesses and recognize opportunities to improve their business practices
  • Solidify and validate key aspects of their style and brand

Established Photographers:

  • Leverage their experience to influence new and growing photography businesses
  • Ensure the future success of the industry by supporting and improving best practices and relaying education to new and growing photography businesses
  • Maintain relevance by incorporating the new and innovative concepts and technologies of emerging businesses

Okay, so let’s put these big picture ideas into practice. Where and how do you go about finding yourself a mentor, or when should you take on someone to mentor?

If you are looking for a mentor to assist and support you:

  • First define your business goals – who can help you reach those goals? Do you need a business coach, or are you looking for a technical specialist?
  • Create a budget – write a concrete financial plan including how much are you willing to spend to gain the knowledge that will allow your business to return profit from that investment.
    • If not monetary, what kind of value can you offer to your mentor in return?
  • Be clear with your expectations – do you want this to be a short term, long term, ongoing, or open-ended relationship?

Why you should be mentoring other photographers:

  • Creating a more deeply engaged community of professionals strengthens the public perception of the profession as a whole
  • Engaging with new talent who recognize and value their own potential re-energizes stagnant business models
  • Open dialogue and information sharing lessens the spread of misinformation and undercutting.

What are some other benefits of mentorship that you have experienced?

The problem with marketing – a photographer’s guide

A simple view of how marketing came about begins with an event – a single person is searching for a specific product or service to purchase and is presented with more than one option. The person (let’s call them ‘the client’ now) has an opportunity to make a decision – enter marketing. The client explores many factors when making a purchasing decision, including some very broad and basic concepts like:

  • Familiarity (Reputation) – “She did photos for a friend’s family and they look great”
  • Values (Identity) – “We go to the same meeting group for green living”
  • Clarity (Understanding) “She takes fun, unposed pictures of kids and babies”
  • Relatability (Emotional Impact) “You can really see the love in these images”
  • Authority (Trust/Experience) “I saw your work on a wedding blog I follow”
  • Simplicity (Convenience) “Your online calendar helped me book quickly”

This seems simple enough – after all, check all the items of this list and you’re in business, right? It would be fantastic if that were the case, but the real problem with marketing is: you need to stay relevant, because your client is a moving target on a moving playing field. So how can we approach marketing in a way that is relevant, genuine, and efficient? I am glad you asked!

  1. Technology is not the enemy. Put down the Robocop DVD (Oh, see I’m already dating myself with a technology reference!) But seriously, as complicated as all of the new social media platforms and emerging apps can be, you can also leverage the new services and statistics from these to enhance, and even automate the parts of your marketing that rely heavily on technology. Whether you are just starting a business, or are a seasoned veteran with an established client base, digital marketing has allowed clients to find you more easily, quickly, and given you an opportunity to connect with a much larger group than was previously accessible. A few of my favorite digital tools are:
    – Tave  – Business Management for Creative Professionals – https://tave.com/
    – Pixellu Smart Albums – http://pixellu.com/smartalbums
    – Shootproof – Proofing and Commerce Integration https://www.shootproof.com/
    – Facebook Scheduled Posts – Never have time to post? Schedule all posts for a week   and then just focus on client interactions, not releasing posts!
  2. Leverage your popular content. Even basic web hosts have an analytics panel where you can measure which pages, posts, images or other collateral is being viewed, how frequently and for how long. Featuring the most popular on social media, creating a nice article about that topic, or simply making it a prominent feature on your website or blog can all boost perception of what was already working for you. Facebook now does this for you by notifying you when a post you made on your business page is getting more attention than the others.
  3.  Define your brand. Ok, come on, that’s generic. But really, have you defined your brand in a tangible way? When someone asks you what you do, do you have a solid elevator pitch that you’re comfortable telling someone off the cuff? Can you list 5-10 specific attributes of your brand? Can you describe your client experience using all five senses? Or, are you letting your clients define your brand for themselves? This goes back to my point about being genuine in your marketing approach. Clients can smell poorly disguised salesmanship through the screen. If you’re really all about hiking mountains and hanging off of cliffs to “get the shot”, can you back up your outdoorsy persona and deliver that experience to your clients? If you call yourself a photojournalist, are the images in your portfolio true documentary images, or did you produce them? Smart branding and marketing of that brand means that form follows function – in other words, what you see is what you get. Have a clear idea of who you are and what you do before taking that to market.
  4. Make your images into efficient content. Never has this been a greater concern for photographers than now, when 50-70 % of traffic to websites is on mobile devices over cellular networks. With images being your primary means of communication, making sure that your website is optimized for mobile devices has become extremely important – slow loading content is one of the major reasons potential clients leave a photographer’s website. Regularly update plugins and apps on your website for maximum performance and compatibility.
  5. Make lasting client connections. Your client’s experience doesn’t begin with an in-person meeting, or at the photo session; the experience begins with the first communication you offer – is it a personal email reply, a phone call, an automated reply from a client management system? Similarly, the experience doesn’t end when the client receives their product and/or service – you have no way of knowing how, when, and where the client will interact with your brand after you deliver…unless you ask. Start by thoughtfully planning out where and how your client uses their images – are they on the wall above the fireplace, in the bedrooms, on facebook and instagram? Connect with them – show them opportunities to use what you sell in ways only you as a professional know how to assist them in. Direct them to other services they might be interested in. This is the basis for customer service, not salesmanship.

These and many others are ways photographers are bringing a holistic marketing approach to their brands, using strategies that are already appealing to their clients, and maintaining relevance through using leveraging new technologies and approaches in communication. This is only an overview of the main aspects of marketing that photographers need to tackle, so stay tuned for more content on specific topics, tools and how to use them, and content strategy!

Reading Resources to help you get started with marketing:
For the designer: The Information Design Handbook – Jenn + Ken Visocky O’Grady
For the CEO: Designing Brand Identity: An Essential Guide for the Whole Branding Team, 4th Edition – Alina Wheeler
For the Philosopher: The Value of Nothing: How to Reshape Market Society and Redefine Democracy – Raj Patel

Meet the Femme Photogs

We’re so glad you’re here. We want to let you know a little about us, the Femme Photogs – who we are, what we like, and what we can do to help support your business growth and goals. From diverse backgrounds and skill sets, we bring many perspectives and opinions to the table with one thing in mind: inspiring, educating, and sharing information, products, and tools to help you succeed!

aaasmall

I’m Christine, founding author of the Femme Photog.
I’m a wedding and portrait photographer in my
7th year of business, based out of Redmond, WA.
I operate Entwined Portraits and Entwined Weddings.
I adore business management and marketing and
branding for small businesses. I have a BDes in
Visual Communication Design (Honors) from the
University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.