Why Photography Contests Are Good for Business: 3 Arguments

photography-contests-are-good-for-business01Photo competitions have been around since the art of photography itself, but their history in itself doesn’t mean they are without detractors. On the one hand, there are those photo aficionados who tend to believe  that such contests are a sheer waste of time, organized by money- and rights-grabbing brutes with no real interest in the art. Yet, on the other, photo competitions do have value for the artists, since they prompt them to take an honest, objective look at their own work, cull it, curate it, and put their best foot forward. That’s why we at Virtual Photography Studio believe photography contests are good for business, no matter if you’re into wedding photography, glam, editorial, or photojournalism. They can help you carve out a niche and build a name for yourself and they can also do a whole lot more – join us as we explore three essential arguments in favor of photo contests.

#1 The money

It might sound petty, but one way to tell apart professional competitions from lame ones is the cash prizes. The winner of the International Photography Awards gets $10,000 in cash; the winner of the Deeper Perspective section within the same contest receives $5,000, and there’s also a $2,500 prize for the year’s best new photographer. If you win the grand prize of the Smithsonian Photo Contest you get $5,000 and there are also five $500 cash awards for the categories, plus a Readers’ Choice award worth just as much. The National Geographic Photo Contest awards its Grand Prize winner with $7,500 and each category winner with $2,500. Petty or not, when a serious chunk of cash is involved, one can’t help but think of how great money would be for making further investments into business.

#2 The exposure

Some photography contests are good for business even though they provide no actual cash prize, as is the case with the Photography Masters Cup. This competition asks for a $30 entrance fee and promises exposure in the PHOTO Paper Magazine, as well as several online media outlets. The above-mentioned IPA has had the work of its winners published on Buzzfeed, as well as on EYEMAZING. It goes without saying that some photo contests are great for exposure even only by sheer association (Smithsonian and National Geographic are two examples).photography-contests-are-good-for-business02

#3 The business leads

If you win the IPA, you get a trip to the prestigious Lucie Awards in NYC – and if you’re double lucky, you can even get your image selected for a 45-photo exhibition in the build-up for the show. And most local winners will get automatic exposure in local media outlets, irrespective of how prestigious the competition is – you can usually count on national/local pride to boost your prestige. Many previous winners of the contests mentioned above explained that photography contests are good for business because they allow you to become more connected with actual buyers in your niche. As such, winning the right contests is highly likely to ultimately boost your revenue.

Verdict: Top photography contests are good for business every time

Yes, we did say top photography contests are good for business – because the shady ones can actually be detrimental. Here are a few guidelines, if you’re looking to expand the notoriety of your wedding photography business by entering a contest and don’t know where to start:

-          Be wary of contests that charge entrance fees, but don’t offer any cash prizes. These are the money-hungry leeches we were referring to in the beginning.

-          Always, always read each competition’s policy on copyright. You do not want to give rights to your work for free, no matter how otherwise prestigious the contest sounds.

-          Make sure you enter the right category, when applying – and also check out the profile of each contest. Some are geared toward editorial work, while others tend to lean toward photojournalism more.

15 Things You Should Know About Becoming A Fine Art Photographer

1. Never listen to the critiques. With billions of people on this earth, there will always be people that completely get what you do … and people that absolutely hate everything about you. Unfortunately in many cases, the “haters” are louder than the “lovers”. I love getting “hate” emails because it means I’ve touched a nerve. (Not that I don’t like the “love” emails too! ;) ) Never be afraid to let your true personality shine. You don’t have to make the world fall in love with you; only a select few that can keep you in business. The more edgy you are, the more “love” you will find.

15 Things You Should Know About Becoming A Fine Art Photographer2. Always study technique. The most important thing you can do for you career is study what you do. Learn the basics so you could do it in your sleep. You should be able to see and know you have a great image long before you check the file. Once the basics are down, refine everything you do from this point forward. Take a Photoshop class. A Lightroom class. A class on posing. A class from a master photographer. A class from a painter of light. And so on. Even if you don’t know how it applies to you yet, always be willing to learn. You never know how something will profoundly change the way you look at things. And have a huge impact on your business.

3. Forget about things and focus in on feelings. Have you ever stood back at an art festival, a gallery or a museum, and watched people take in the artwork? They don’t say things like ‘great barn”, “love the green” or “nice tiger”. Instead, they get caught up in what the artwork “says” to them. They’ll ponder awhile before saying “the color is so intense, I knew immediately what the artist was trying to convey”. Or they’ll say “I feel like I’m right there in the field with the artist, looking back in time at what this structure, this barn has meant to people over the past 100 years”. Don’t photograph something just because its there. Really capture its essence and put all of your emotion – your feelings – into it before you fire the shutter.

4.Forge your own path.

“If the path before you is clear, you’re probably on someone else’s.” ~Joseph Campbell

While you may think that the people at the top had an easy ride, I can almost guarantee you they didn’t. They followed people, they learned from people, they made mistakes, they failed. The more you do each of these things, the more success you will find. Its only when you give up that you lose it all. Start by mimicking those you love. Use those ideas to come up with new things. And slowly develop into who you are meant to be.

5. Quit undervaluing yourself. As artists, we believe too much in the “starving artist” concept. Did you know the most expensive photograph sold at auction so far has fetched $4.3 million? Yep, million. For a photograph. People love art. They pay for art. And if you view yourself as an artist, you’ll quickly put yourself in an entirely different dimension than just another photographer.

6. Limit your work. What makes a photograph more valuable is how many of them are available. If you want to see your work increase in price, limit the amount you print. Do something special with each image. Make them stand out. Make them WOW! Then proudly display a limited edition with every image and tell them exactly how many there will be. People love things they can’t have or are very rare.

7. Think of your work as a finished product. Are you mounting each image on the finest of materials? Are you framing to compliment your work? Do you carefully sign each piece? Do you provide an easel if you want it to sit in the corner of the room? Are you making each piece an experience to look at from all vantage points of the room? Think of the experience, and work backwards from there. You can learn from an interior decorator as well.

8. Watch where you sell. Are you trying to sell your images from a souvenir shop? Or is it a true art gallery that makes you feel slightly different upon entering? You can’t sell a $1 million image from the back of a Hyundai. You have to have the Jaguar experience – its what they expect before investing their money.

9. Visit every gallery you can. While your goal should never be to copy what is currently being done, by seeing what others are doing, you’ll learn along the way. You’ll come up with ideas for your own work – both what you want and don’t want to do – and can use those ideas and you continue to refine what you do. Here’s a great list of galleries to get you started.

10. Fine art is an online/off line world. People like to see your work. So you’ll have to get your work into galleries and art shows. But once people know who you are, they are perfectly comfortable shopping your website. They want to check out where your upcoming shows are. They want to take a look at your newest pieces. And to do so, you must have a professional website that provides all of this and more. Fine art is not an offline venture anymore. To be successful at it, you have to be as comfortable heading into a gallery to network with the owner as you do networking online with sites like Facebook and Etsy.

11. Visit an art fair – submit to an art fair. The only way to find out how well received your work is will be to get it in front of people. Start with one of the many art fairs around the world. Visit some to get an idea of what to expect. Then choose a handful to join and work. Make sure you have enough work to give a good representation of what you do – and that you have a website and business portfolio strong enough to continue the networking process for months to come.

12. Reverse your learning curve and find out more about art collectors. While its important to become the best photographer you can, turn it around once in awhile and discover what a collector truly looks for in an art piece. Learn how a photograph is appraised, what makes it valuable, and how to handle a piece as it moves from gallery to collector. You may even sit down with a gallery owner and talk about what makes a photograph valuable. Incorporate all you learn into your own business model and you’ll quickly see your value rise.

13. Don’t be afraid to start at the bottom. Everyone – every photographer – started at the bottom. They all took an image or two that wasn’t at top quality. They all cringe at some of their first works. And they all to their very first shows in order to learn and get their feet wet in the fine art business. Its okay to start with something small. Small things lead to big things over time.

14. Use crowdfunding to fund your next project. If you have an idea, there are many followers willing to help you fund it. You just have to ask.

15. Change your plans. The first rule of success is to have a plan. The second rule is to change it along the way. Don’t focus on too many things upfront; instead spend time putting one thing into play. Depending on how well that works, adjust and approach your marketing from a different angle. “No” should never be an option. You should only use that to refine your approach before you try it again.

7 Myths About Becoming An Artist Late In Life

At some point in your life, you’ll look at the life you’ve created and want something more. It may be as you graduate from college and decide your degree isn’t the path you want to take. It may be in your 30’s as you start your family and want to stay home with the kids. It may be in your 60’s as you retire and find yourself with more time on your hands. In any case, starting over can be a good thing when it comes to being creative and finding your inner artist.

Yet for many, the idea of finding your inner artist at a late age can be intimidating. Here are a few myths and what you can do to move beyond them.

Myth #1 You Have To Have Formal Training To Be A Great Photographer

I recently read a book Between The Lines by author Jodi Picoult and her middle school aged daughter Samantha Van Leer. In her note at the beginning of the book, she gives stories about how her daughter at a young age became a storyteller, and even began to write stories down as early as first grade. She states:

You are either born a storyteller or not, and my daughter – at age seven – seemed to have an intrinsic sense of how to craft literary tension.

Yes, artists can refine, they can learn, they can improve, and they can become better at what they do. But somewhere deep down inside, becoming an artist is inside our souls. Whether we choose to let it out at fifteen or sixty-five doesn’t change our potential. It merely changes the way we approach it and what we choose to do with it.

Myth #2 You Have To Quit Your Job To Be A Real Artist

Many, many people young and old start out on a part time basis. In some cases it’s for fun. In some cases it turns into a part time income. And in some cases, it eventually turns into something more. The purpose of becoming an artist is to fulfill something inside you that wants to let your creativity out. That can take any form you desire. [Read more...]

Can You Still Use Etsy For Making Money With Your Photography?

If you’ve been online for any length of time, you know sites come and go. What people were using even just a few short months ago to market their businesses may not work any more.

Many months ago I started looking at Etsy as a way to build up your brand as a fine art photographer.

Dig Deeper: How Photographers Use Etsy

Dig Deeper: 10 Places To Turn Your Photography Into Sales

Is Etsy still relevant today? As it turns out, the answer is yes.

Etsy is the king of the marketplace when it comes to selling handcrafted goods. You can sell your art without having to know how to build a website or start up an online store. Etsy does it all for you. You list it for free and pay a low commission on anything that sells. [Read more...]

7 Places To Display Your Fine Art Photography

Even if you are a full time photographer photographing commercial work, portraits or weddings, you’ve probably dreamed of having your best work on display for the world to see. As photography is more prevalent in our lives than ever, there are more places to display your work than ever before. Yes, you might have more competition for the few spots out there. But imagine how you will feel when you’re work is accepted?

Whether for display, or to sell as a piece of fine art, consider these places in your community as opportunities waiting for you.

Commercial Galleries

Probably the easiest galleries to find, and what people most commonly think of when you mention an art gallery, is the for profit commercial gallery. These galleries accept work that meets their clients’ expectations, and makes a profit when a piece is sold to a collector. A commercial gallery will offer you a contracted time period to represent you and show your work, and will split the sales price with you if a sale is made. Exhibitions are usually scheduled well in advance – sometimes 12 months or more – to prepare and market for the event.

 

Co-Op Galleries

Many galleries out there are associated with an artist and a group. In order to show your work, you have to have a membership into the group. Each membership has different requirements for acceptance, so shop around and find a group that meets your needs, as well as accepts your type of work. In some cases you will have to work at the gallery as well, so be sure its accessible to you and your schedule. [Read more...]

How Should You Be Marketing Your Fine Art Photography?

Here in the U.S. we celebrated Independence Day yesterday. And as a part of the 4th of July traditions here in Denver, we always head out and attend the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, one of the largest of its kind here in the U.S.

I love taking in the sites and the sounds – they have great bands on the main stage to help you enjoy even more. And this year we spent as much time as we could heading in to each booth, as it was in the mid 90’s with lots of sunshine as we strolled around the area.

This year, I noticed a few trends I thought I would share here.

Take Advantage Of Their Marketing

Any time you work at a festival, whether its something like the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, or even a bridal festival, chances are they are experienced at putting together a show. They know how to set up booths, get the best vendors, and market their show to the community.

Because they are always looking for ways to market their events more effectively, chances are they offer each artist a chance to use the latest technology. This year they have a website that showcases each artist within the appropriate gallery: photography, jewelry, drawing, wood, etc. And they also offered something new: a QR code attached to the sign placed at each booth. And this is where almost all need help.

People understand older technology – websites – and so they are using that fairly effectively. Yet when something is new, rather than finding out more about it, they simply use it in the easiest way possible. And this is where opportunity is missed.  While most people simply use the QR code to send people to a website, this is really your opportunity to grow your following. Why not send them to your Facebook Page, and give them a reason to like and follow you? Or maybe a special page on your site where they can take advantage of a show special? [Read more...]

Becoming A Fine Art Photographer

This post is Day 19 of 30 Ways In 30 Days To Redesign Your Life With Photography. This series seeks to provide you with practical steps to get you from wherever you are today, to exactly where you want to be – this year! If your goal has always been to take your photography to a whole new level, hang on and start enjoying a new lifestyle you’ve always dreamed of.

Have you ever walked into a gallery of fine art photography, and thought, “I could do that.” How great would it be to have a huge gallery that inspired millions from around the world?

Fine art means many things to different people.

  • Fine art might be selling a few images at a local craft fair.
  • Fine art might be selling your art as calendars, journals and books.
  • Fine art might be selling your work at art exhibits.
  • Fine art might mean ending up in a museum.

And of course how one views a work of art is completely subjective. We’ve all stared at a work of art and said, “Really?”

My definition of fine art photography may be different than others. I view fine art as:

A photograph created by an artist, and sold to an individual for the appreciation of the work itself.

I tend to look at things from a business perspective, so to me, if you can’t sell your work, and maintain an income stream from what you do, you can never be a full fledged fine art photographer. I don’t value the money itself; instead I look at money as a way to continue to work at your art in the best way possible.

So the first thing I do is look for support systems, resources and successful photographers to begin to follow.

Build Your Support Systems

So you want to be a fine art photographer? Let’s get started.

First, let me ask you what that means to you? Do you want to be in a gallery? Do you want to open up your own gallery? Do you want to sell books? Do you want to travel?

Start by defining what it means to you. Imagine yourself in a year, fully supported by what you make as a photographer. What does your life look like? How are you generating income?

Now lets work backwards. With that in mind, it’s easier to find the support systems already in place that you can build around.

If you want to be in a gallery, find a gallery that represents photographers. With a quick search I found Fifty One Fine Art Photography. I also found an Art Support resource that lists dozens and dozens of galleries throughout the United States – just pick your state and find out what’s around you.

Or maybe you have the desire to display your work at arts festivals. It’s a great way to travel to different cities and states, display your work, talk with potential clients, and experience a different lifestyle. I’ve found some great resources that can help you find an art festival, and apply for multiple locations in an easy manner.

With just a little bit of research, you can find a ton of resources that can begin to build up a plan for how to move forward.

Its Who You Know

When you walk into a gallery, it’s easy to wish for something. But because you have no idea how they got there, it will always remain a wish until you do something about it.

People don’t become famous by wishing. They become famous by doing. They find a person to ask a question or two, and then they take that information to heart. They start building one step at a time by acting on what they learn.

If you love what an artist is currently doing, ask him or her a question. If they are simply too large and unavailable, do the next best thing. Learn from their story. Buy their books. Visit their galleries. Read about them on their website. Follow them on Facebook.

You’ll quickly be amazed at how much information you can pick up just by reading.

You may learn of associations and groups they belong to.

By studying one site, I came across a great resource – The Association of International Photography Art Dealers. How much knowledge do you think you could gain from attending their upcoming show in New York? It’s March 17-20, still plenty of time to make your reservations and go.

Before I wrote my first book, I found out about the Book Expo America – a huge event that takes place annually, and has amazing classes, and row after row of publishers, authors and dealers. So off to New York I flew, and just absorbed for a few days. Yes, I was completely overwhelmed. But the notes and books and resources I took away from there were invaluable.
The key to remember in becoming a fine art photographer, or really any type of photographer, is you have to do things one step at a time. You won’t be on the top collector list the first week you try. It may take years. But imagine all of the fun you’ll have along the way. All the people you’ll meet. And all the things you’ll learn.

And that’s really the most important thing of all: the journey.

Just A Few Letters Spell S U C C E S S

What if you love photography, love the ocean, and want to combine the two into a successful business? I found the answer today in a website called Words From The Sea.

Two years ago while celebrating a birthday, a couple walked along the beach and began noticing shapes in the seafoam washing onto shore. David, a 30 year veteran in the photography industry, quickly started photographing the different shapes, and slowly began capturing the entire alphabet – naturally, no Photoshopping allowed. Slowly he captured the alphabet, punctuation marks, numbers and other characters to add to his collection. And the concept of Words From The Sea was born.

Today David and Lea have created a dynamic web presence that showcases these extraordinary creations. Not only is their wall art an inspiration, but their website is too.

You can purchase pre-created wall art in popular choices such as “faith” “believe” and “imagine”. Or personalize your artwork, and create something just for you – your first name, your last name, or the name of your hometown. Either way, your new artwork will be the focal point of your room, guaranteed to get people talking.

From there, Lea and David didn’t stop at building a business to make money doing what they love. They also decided to give back, and find a way to help what they love as well. They spell out on their site the importance of ocean conservation, and provide details on why we should care about our oceans future. Words From The Sea gives back by supporting ocean conservation, and raises money for both awareness and by giving a portion of all proceeds to ocean conservation programs.

[Read more...]

How Photographers Use Etsy

Ready to sell your images as fine art? Want to step beyond stock photography, and actually make a name for yourself in the fine art world? Why not start with Etsy.

People describe Etsy in a lot of ways. Yes, it may be a “Popsicle stick and yarn” kind of site, but its also a way for you to get recognized for your artwork. There are great artists on Etsy that are pulling in full time incomes with their artwork. Etsy is more than just a place to put up a few trinkets; its also a place to gain some serious traction, and use the advertising and leverage Etsy has built up over the years.

Etsy attracts members from over 150 countries around the world. Top categories are jewelry, clothing, crafting supplies, accessories, and art – which is where photography is listed.

If you don’t have an Etsy account yet, start by choosing a name. Mirror your business name as much as you can – its important to brand yourself from site to site. Then completely fill out your profile. People often short themselves by putting up a photo, a link to their website, and a sentence or two about their business. Don’t skimp here. Fill it with as much as you can. Even change it from time to time to share your interests with people.

[Read more...]

Enjoying Life As A Fine Art Photographer

This past weekend was a busy one for us. From a movie, to a concert, to a baseball game, and finally to one of our favorites, the Cherry Creek Arts Festival.

The Cherry Creek Arts Festival is one of the premier arts festivals here in America, with 230 exhibitors selected from over 2000 applications. With 13 artistic categories, you’ll see everything from jewelry, to photography. Not only do we enjoy strolling through the booths, but it’s also fun to talk with the artists and hear their stories. I thought I’d share some with you today, and give you some ideas on how to turn your own ideas into a fine art venture.

Sharon Westbrook Fine Art
Sharon works in a variety of mediums, but for this weekend she was showcasing her photography. We enjoyed looking at her view of abandoned buildings, and seeing things from a completely different perspective.

Shawn Ray Harris Photography
One of the busiest booths we came across yesterday belonged to Shawn Ray Harris Photography. As you entered the booth, he provided you with a pair of 3D glasses to view his imagery – and they literally popped into view. Even his business cards were 3D – great use of marketing.

Art By Nemo
I first met @artbynemo via Twitter, and have chatted with him a few times there. So when I saw he made it into the Cherry Creek Arts Festival, I had to meet him in person. Amazing drawings – how do you draw those circles by hand?

A E London
Our daughter has always had two passions: animals and art. So when we met A E London, we knew she could be a great mentor for her. She’s dedicated her life to animals and art, and her work was simply amazing, as well as her story.

Grin and Bark Studio
You can’t walk by a photograph of a baby or a pet and not go “ohhhh”. So this booth was filled with admirers and “ohhhh”s. Ginger DeLater not only is a pet photographer, but she also turns her portraits into fine art. From books and gift products, to fun wall hangings, she has a business that has allowed her to cross over into the portrait and fine art world.

Ever thought about heading into the fine art photography niche yourself? If so, here are a few tips for you.

Find an art festival in your area. Head out and talk to the artists – that’s what they are there for. Ask them questions and find out more about how they got their starts. They don’t have to be photographers – just chat for a few minutes and find out a little bit about their process.

What’s your passion? For Ginger DeLater with Grin and Bark Studio, it was pets. She doesn’t stop with fine art, she also takes portraits along the way. She had a sign up in her booth, and was commissioning portraits for this coming week in our area. What a great way to travel, and combine it with everything you love.

Start working towards your first festival. Find a small one in your area, and work towards being accepted – check out Zapplication for a variety of shows.