Build sales without selling?

February 15, 2012 by  
Filed under FREE Photography Tips, What's New

Joe Luter
You may have gone into photography partly because you wanted to stay away from sales.

And now you have just come to grips with the fact that every business revolves around sales. And every person in every business is in sales.

But since some of our best photographers can’t, won’t, don’t sell, we will go for the next best thing for you here: promotion.

Start out by thinking of photos you have shot that you really love. Even those you took in high school would do fine. They don’t have to be current.

Get them out and enjoy the viewing. Then figure out ways to get them out where for the public can see them too. If a few are current, enter them in competitions. If you have a studio, put them in a display window. How about putting one on the side of your van? Or if that is too tasteless for you, consider taking them to the art guild. Suggest to the guild editor that one or two might spruce up their newsletter.

Many of our photographers specialize in youth sports, dance and schools. Fine. You can still find some images to get excited about. They don’t have to be in those fields. But if they are, in sports, look at the action only and think about extreme cropping. A good sliding-into-home shot can become great if you crop it so tight there’s nothing left but a shoe kicking dirt into the catcher’s mitt (or face). You can add the explosion of dirt if it isn’t already there.

In dance, you may find your prizes among the older girls, especially sisters posing with a touch of humor. Did you take any of a girl struggling mightily with her shoe? Or one throwing a shoe?

If you don’t get a warm feeling from anything in your collection, shoot some new ones expressly for the purpose of building a nice “brag bag.” Maybe a collection of “funny faces” or an adorable youngster dressed for church but sitting in a mud puddle, totally absorbed with the scenery therein.

Then, your collection in hand, you are ready to exhibit in your town. It is a lot easier to put on a one-man show than you may think. In fact, it would be more difficult to get included in an established show because, in that you work for a living, yours may never be as far-out as their norm.

To put on your show, start by finding a venue that can benefit from your display, get approval and work with the building maintenance people to get it done their way on their schedule. Shopping malls, airports, convention centers and major hotels are typical locations.

Promote your exhibit with signs and a news release. The publicity would go to the newspapers and other news media and also to popular social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

All of this is indirect. You cannot openly promote your studio or even name it at your exhibit and you cannot name your specialty; the benefits will come. Identify your collection with a tag such as “Robert’s Visions.” If the editor asks if you have a business, answer as briefly as possible and then go back to your prizes on the table and “Robert’s. . .”

The news media leans away from business and toward art. Present your work as artistic.

Next, see if you can convince the local art director or editor at the newspaper to run a feature on your photography, knowing that if you exhibited that will make the likelihood much better. Or does your town or city have an art magazine? More do than you would think. Weekly newspapers work fine too.

To further promote, you definitely should put up an “online store” that is your 24/7 order entry station and promote it on your web site.

Back in your real life, you can now refer to having had your work exhibited in a one-man show and that will bring your work attention and prestige.

You also should be by thinking about how to make your daily work daily better on certain occasions. Backgrounds that sing. Light from heaven. Extreme expressions. Or whatever hits your “vision.” And you certainly can spread the word in your display window or the mail and let these things sell for you.

This advice runs contrary to the efficiency principles we often preach, but we would put time for this project down under the heading of “promotion” and keep streamlining your bread-winning workflow more and more.

We are business-oriented, practical people here and we have good evidence to believe that the artsy stuff is not the way to build a stable long-term business. For that, we recommend the business specialties of youth sports, dance or schools, all of which have efficiency at their core rather than artistic samples.

But the display will help you sell too. Even the most hard core “what’s in it for us” guys is going to be impressed when he hears you mention that you have exhibited at the convention center.

The question of your quality will be fully answered and you will be able to demonstrate the efficiency of your system and the wide array of interesting products you offer easily enough at the appropriate time.

But You’ve Got to Sell Too

We hope this information will be helpful to you, but sorry to say, it will not replace direct selling.

Even if you are just tiptoeing into photography, doing a little moonlighting here and there, you have to find the business. Likewise, if you have a studio but are finding people don’t just walk in so much these days, regardless of your quality. You have to go out of your house, book it and likely shoot on location rather than in the studio.

If you still balk at the activities behind the word “sales,” consider your world from a more distant view. Suppose you owned a studio and two of your photographers were doing stunningly beautiful work but the third, although not up to their standards, was booking a continuing series of job.

Who is going to be he most important to you? And who do you think may wind up owning a business?

Sales departments make out daily, weekly and monthly quotas of how many cold calls they are required to make. Start with that. Then establish a quota for monthly bookings. And live by these quotas. It is still true that you can find the best deals on new cars at the end of the month. Because they need to make quota. And so do you.

`You are the real sales director at your business, even if you pay someone else to carry that title.

You have skin in the game.

So let’s keep pushing.


Editor’s Note: If you are new to photography and have an interest in youth sports, you might want to see our program at or telephone us: 888-398-9934