To do with more what can be done with less, is vanity

by Outlaw Photographer James Michael Taylor on January 30, 2011

in This is Business,This is Life

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Occam’s Razor: To do with more what can be done with less, is vanity.

Don’t fall victim to the endless barrage of “you gotta have this!” and “you gotta do that!” and “you gotta spend money to make money!” horsesh*t you read every single time you get on the Internet.

By the time you “need” brochures and postcards and direct mail campaigns and print/radio/online/CPC/CPM/banner/TV ads and a professionally-designed web site and an iPad and a projector and a comfy sales room with framed prints on the walls and Photoshop CS5 and Lightroom 3 and Animoto and a hand-stitched leather 16×20 print portfolio and die cut business cards and a marketing consultant and an outsourced post processing team and studio management software and a portable studio and Profoto strobes and PocketWizards and HD behind the scenes videos and a professional logo and all the other endless BS that gets shoved down photographer’s throats (by vendors and by other grognard photogs)… My friends, by the time you “need” any or all of that, you’ll be making more than enough money with your art to invest in anything you want.

The basics, the fundamentals, the stuff that gets out there and does real work at getting clients in the door…it costs next to nothing.

Hustle. And don’t spend a dime on anything that won’t hustle on your behalf.

Next Steps

  • Put away the B&H catalog, quit staring anxiously at your shopping cart, and go talk to people about photography. Volunteer to do photos for a local charity, hit the town and be seen with your camera, get your Facebook Fan Page up and tell your family and friends, write something fresh for your blog, or any of the many, many other simple acts of marketing that will make the real difference in your business.
  • This is one of the shortest posts I may ever write for this blog, but I truly believe the insatiable “gotta have more stuff” mentality is a disease killing off the momentum and motivation of so many potentially great artists as they try to break into this industry. It’s a disservice to both the artist’s muse and the potential clients who may never get to benefit from that artist’s talents because he or she just can’t get past the starting line. If never does anything more, I hope it vaccinates new-to-the-fold professionals from the debilitating effects of this disease. Want to take action? Read this post again, and take it to heart. You are all you need to be successful.
  • My writing at exists to serve your needs as an amateur photographer making the transition to paid professional. I appreciate and welcome your readership, and invite you to click the free “Subscribe” link at the top of any page of this site.
  • How can you apply Occam’s Razor to your part time professional photography business? Leave a comment below, e-mail me, or call or text me at 830-688-1564.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Danielle Raine January 31, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Hey! I love this article! I also enjoyed speaking with you the other day! I find myself almost getting caught in this trap of needing all these marketing materials….. I guess my question is, I was able to make a website, on the cheap without incurring debt, but now, how do I get it out there? There is so much info on SEO, and much of it is contained in EBooks that you have to buy….. I’m don’t have a huge amount of time to invest in SEO research and how to apply techniques…. What’s your suggestion on this? Is this an expense you think is necessary, or in vain? Thanks again!!!!


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor January 31, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Thank you for your comment Danielle, and for the visit on the phone! Always a pleasure to talk with fellow photographers.

Your web site is really lovely, thanks to your great photography! You’ve got a lovely style, very colorful. Your art will do the selling for you.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) can certainly get complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. The goal is to rank as highly as you can for certain key phrases that your potential clients are typing into search engines when searching for the services you provide.

For example, at it’s simplest, you would really want to rank well for the key phrase “Cypress photographer,” and also “Cypress family photographer,” “Houston senior photography,” etc.

Where you rank on the search engine is all about ‘authority’ – you build that authority through content on your site featuring the key phrases you want to rank for, and incoming links to your web site from other authoritative web sites. If there are plenty of sites that come up in Google for “Cypress photographer,” the sites with the most ‘authority’ in Google’s eyes will rank highest.

The easiest way for photographers to build authority is with a photo blog that you update at least weekly with a new photo shoot and some copy that talks about that shoot, where it was, what type of photography it was, and of course, kind words about your subjects. This is where you work in your key phrases… “Jimmy and Diane were looking for a Cypress photographer for their newborn baby boy, and I am thrilled they chose me to take his newborn photography.” That’s just a quick example, but see how many key phrases / words you get in there? Cypress, photographer, newborn, baby, photography.

You then want to build incoming links to your site. Depending on the make-up of your market and community, you can join your local chamber of commerce and business association, you can co-op with other related local vendors (like children’s boutique resale shops) to trade links to each others’ sites, you can work with your local newspaper to do a feature on you with a link to your site, and so forth.

SEO takes time, but the higher you rank in the search engines, the more likely clients will find you organically there. Any site with a free “SEO 101” article should give you most of what you really need to know. If you were looking at paying for something, I would suggest seeing what has in archive – a month’s subscription there will probably give you all the SEO, photography, small business, marketing and Photoshop tutorial videos you could consume in that time.

Second, you can buy into a program like Google AdWords, which for (I believe) as little as $30 a month, you can advertise your listing for the key phrases of your choice – this skips all of the SEO time and effort, and you only pay anything at all when someone clicks through to your site. So if you write your ad copy well, you’ll only get highly qualified leads who click through. Plus you get the value of all the impressions when searchers see your ad but don’t click through, and every little bit of exposure helps.

Another way to get the word out about your web site is through your traditional advertising. Of course, put it on your business cards and any other pieces of marketing you do. Add it to your e-mail signature. Put a link up on your Facebook page (a good way to do this without being spammy is to ask folks to visit your new web site and give you feedback on what they like or dislike).

I don’t think I could ever argue that education is a vanity expense (especially books, which offer incredible depth for the cost), but you have to weigh the time it would take to learn and practice SEO skills versus just grasping the basics and investing 10 minutes a week on a key phrase-rich blog post while looking for partners to trade links with.

Your biggest returns will come from using your business cards in person, your web site as an always-available portfolio, your Facebook and other social media to build regular interaction, and an e-mail newsletter for permission marketing. I can easily suggest John Jantsch’s Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine books for a great education on bootstrap marketing in the digital age. Michael Port’s Book Yourself Solid is another great one for photographers.

Thank you for your readership Danielle!


Danielle Raine February 7, 2011 at 12:19 am

Thank you so much, James! I am reading, and re-reading through your response and the original post! I was able to find two Senior Reps who will represent my business for the Class of 2012. I was able to offer them some rewards, low cost to me, and I’m pretty excited to see how it works out! I created forms, and they are in the process of getting signatures! This first run will be such a learning experience, and I intend to do my homework, but also to realize that things are going to happen that I can’t foresee. I’ll learn from those situations, and hopefully at a low cost! After getting Miller’s Product Catalog, it’s easy to get carried away with this “disease” you speak of in your post.

I made up a basic Pricing List, using the pricing model you suggested, while also adding a few albums and print boxes. I’ve found out that the templates for these “googies” don’t come cheap, either! It’s sort of like a slippery slope. Once you realize you need this, you all of a sudden need that, too!

I would love to talk with you more about this! I plan to email you soon! Thanks again, James!


Outlaw Photographer James Taylor February 11, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Sounds like you’re making good progress Danielle! Senior reps can be a big help to represent you in the high school crowd. One free shoot with a popular girl or guy form the school and land you dozens of senior shoots down the road.

Do keep me posted! As always, I look forward to hearing about your adventures!


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