Step X Step: Photographers Use Social Media to Connect with Friends, Fans and Clients

By Lindsay Adler and Rosh Sillars


Media is about communication. Business is about relationships. Social media is where communication and relationships converge. This new form of media is changing how we communicate. It is giving people more opportunities to network with like-minded people, grow their businesses and gain name recognition in their areas of expertise. This is especially true for photographers. You may be familiar with social networking tools like Facebook, Twitter and blogging but may not know how to put these tools to use for business success. The three examples presented here serve as an introduction to ways photographers can get online and embrace social networking efficiently and effectively—like never before possible.

Facebook Success Story: Lindsay Adler


Facebook can be used for business purposes to increase your exposure and success in all genres of photography. While Lindsay Adler’s personal Facebook profile has kept her in contact with friends and family, lately she has also used Facebook to grow her small but expanding studio portrait business in upstate New York.

Adler created a Facebook business page to increase her exposure shortly after opening a new studio in June 2009. For more interaction with clients and the ability to post information like hours, location and parking, she chose to classify her Facebook page as a local business instead of as a visual artist. She also posted her logo, a brief and friendly business description, images of previous clients and an album featuring favorite images so clients could see her work and vision.

Business pages have “fans” rather than “friends,” so she began directing the many contacts in her personal Facebook network to become fans of her business, using the Suggest to Friends link under her avatar on the business page.  Her new fans began actively commenting on her content with a great deal of praise, as seen in Figure … “Allowing clients to comment on my work served as free word-of-mouth advertising,” according to Adler. “Testimonials and comments posted by other clients are important to many people’s selection of a photographer.”

Adler estimates that 90 percent of high school seniors in her area have a Facebook presence, and these seniors are a large portion of her business. After photographing students, she would friend them (on her personal page) and put their photos on her business site in an album specifically for high school seniors. She would then tag the students, which resulted in the images appearing in the students’ personal profiles.

Two things to note:

1) Her photos had a clearly identifiable copyright watermark so that other people on Facebook could instantly tell who took them, and to ensure her copyright was protected.

2) At the portrait session, she asked clients if she could put their image on Facebook. As incentive, this was the only way they would receive the image as a (small) digital file to show their friends. If they refused, they would not get the file another way. 

The students would receive many comments and compliments on the tagged files in their profiles, and the images would also appear in Adler’s Senior Portraits Album, where students could view portraits of their friends.

After she started tagging students, her business snowballed. For one high school, she went from   20 to more than 60 student bookings within a few weeks. “Within a month, I had more business than I could handle,” according to Adler. “Most of the students who would call to book an appointment would mention they had first discovered my work on Facebook.” Others had used other studios but hired Adler to redo their photos after seeing the quality of her work on their friends’ pages. This Facebook word-of-mouth success also spread to mothers on Facebook, who booked Adler to take child portraits, family portraits and more.

In a small rural market, within three months of her first real business, Facebook helped Adler directly to get more than 30 percent of her work. The high percentage continues today, and she can track an even higher percentage of business indirectly to Facebook.

Twitter: @lindsayadler
Facebook: http://facebook.com/lindsay.adler1
Blog: http://www.lindsayadlerphotography.com/blog
Flickr: http://flickr.com/photos/lindsayadler
Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/lindsayadler

Viral Videos: The Bui Brothers


Lan and Vu Bui, also known as the Bui Brothers, started taking pictures as a hobby. They tried taking their hobby to the next level—in a poor way,  according to Lan Bui—by becoming mall (studio) photographers. Mall photography jobs are not good photography jobs, says Bui.

Later, the Bui Brothers found other jobs outside photography, which wasn’t what they wanted to be doing. In the early days, they used Flickr to show their images. Soon they started attending Flickr meetups. Over time, people started to hire them for small jobs. These small jobs ignited the idea to start their own business.

Within a few months of each other, the brothers quit their jobs and began to build the Bui Brothers brand. Around the same time, they became interested in video blogging. They joined the Yahoo video blogging group, which had only a few hundred members at the time (this was before YouTube and the ability to easily upload and view online video). Their biggest concern then was how people could download their videos from the Web using a dial-up modem.

The Buis started by documenting their lives and soon developed a following. To them, this new way to connect with people was the future. Next, they incorporated their video production skills into their photography. They shared what they were  doing, how they photographed and who they were as people. At the time, there were not many good how-to photography videos online. It wasn’t long before the Buis realized that by taking people behind the scenes on assignments, they were also promoting their own work. As they shared what it was like to work on a fashion assignment or behind the scenes at a wedding shoot, people got to know them. Prospects had already made a connection with them before their first meeting.

The Buis don’t have online portfolios. Lan Bui says a portfolio only shows their work, but people aren’t hiring them strictly for their work. They’re hiring them for their personalities and event experience. The brothers let their enthusiastic clients tell the story through video testimonials.

Lan Bui never carries a portfolio either. He shows work on his smart-phone and is excited about the prospects of interactive presentations using the new Apple iPad.

These days, the Buis also offer their clients video production services, with the idea that the social media platform used depends on the type of video project planned. For episodic content, the best place is blip.tv. If the project is high-end film style, Vimeo is the best bet. Use YouTube for everything else.

Here are a few social-media tips from Lan Bui:

Find someone who can be the spokesperson for your business, and make that person part of your company.
Set a time limit for publishing your first video.

Web site: http://thebuibrothers.com
Twitter: @thebuibrothers

Podcasting Prowess: Jeff Curto


A professional photographer and professor at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Illinois, Jeff Curto currently produces fine art photography that is included in both private and museum collections.

In 2005 Curto began a “History of Photography” podcast to accompany a class he taught. By making the podcasts available on iTunes, he quickly gained a large following, which now totals more than 10,000 downloads for each episode. Due to the success of this effort, he followed up with “Camera Position,” a more personal photography podcast that currently garners about 15,000 downloads apiece. These numbers are regularly growing and offer Curto a large audience with which to share his knowledge, expertise and ideas. Along with his success in podcasting, Curto has built a successful blog to construct a stronger community around his listeners. His social-networking activities on Facebook and Twitter have grown naturally from his involvement with the podcasting communities as well. Finding a photography niche within the podcasts has been important to Curto’s success. “I noticed that most podcasts had to do with technical issues in photography and that most of the tech podcasts that dealt with Photoshop and digital cameras were very well done and comprehensive. I therefore thought I’d deal instead with the more creative aspects of photography.” As always in social media, you want to further the conversation, not duplicate content that already exists. “The more you give away, the more people will come back to you,” says Curto, who seeks to use a friendly approach backed up with real-world experience to make his content attractive.

Curto’s new media efforts have helped him establish an international reputation as a photographer and photo educator. “Based on the success of the podcasts, I’ve been invited to do presentations on podcasting at PDN PhotoPlus Expo. More than 20 new collectors have discovered [my work] through my podcasts. Listeners have learned about and participated in my photography workshops in Italy. Spreading the word about my expertise as a photographer, teacher and podcaster has helped me move forward with things I want to pursue in my career.”

Curto feels that podcasts allow him to communicate his ideas clearly and easily to a large audience in his own voice.

To make the most of podcasting and blogging, he shares the following advice:

* For podcasts, consider asking listeners to post comments in the iTunes store. This moves the podcast up in the store’s hierarchy and helps attract more listeners.

* Set up your blog to automatically post new content to Facebook and Twitter. This saves time, so you won’t have to worry about each network independently. Facebook helps build a community interested in what you have to say, and Twitter is a great way to drive additional traffic to your site.

 * Your blog puts more of a human face on your business than a Web site does. A Web site is your business card, whereas the blog is a chat over coffee.

Web site: http://jeffcurto.com
Blog: http://www.camerapostion.com
Blog 2: http://photohistory.jeffcurto.com
Twitter: @jeffcurto
Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffcurto  
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/curtoj 


This article is adapted from The Linked Photographer’s Guide to Online Marketing and Social Media by Lindsay Adler and Rosh Sillars

© 2010. ISBN-10: 1435455088, ISBN-13: 978-1435455085.

Used with permission of Course Technology PTR. Available from booksellers or direct from www.courseptr.com.



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