A practical primer on how to get discovered as a photographer, how to promote yourself, and how to gain more notoriety and fame as a photographer:

What do you really want from photography?

MODERN PHOTOGRAPHER: Marketing, Branding, Entrepreneurship Principles For Success

First and foremost, what do you really desire from photography?

I cannot speak for you, but I think a lot of us have different desires:

  1. To make our passion of photography our living.
  2. To gain more influence, fame, and recognition for our photography.
  3. To improve our photography, to bring ourselves more delight in our own photos, and also to impress others with our photos.
  4. To be able to travel the world, to live ‘location independent’, become a ‘digital nomad’, and to also become ‘financially independent’ through our photography.
  5. For us to make a body of work that will last long after we die (to build a photographic/artistic legacy after our death).

What is marketing and branding?

To be frank, at this point ‘marketing’ and ‘branding’ pretty much mean the same thing. It means:

  1. Being able to meaningfully differentiate yourself from others
  2. Becoming more famous and influential
  3. Being able to inform other people of your products or services
  4. Becoming more recognized, trusted, and notorious (people know your name).

But to be more specific, this is what I believe:

‘Marketing’

Marketing is ‘putting yourself out there’. By putting yourself into the market. To proclaim yourself, your services, and (optional) making money from your artistry.

Generally speaking, you market yourself in order to sell something. To either sell your ideas, products, or services for money, or to ‘sell’ yourself and your own personal ideology, thoughts, and beliefs.

For example, it is essential that non-profits market effectively, or else they will get no donors to give them money. Also, religions need to have good ‘marketing’ if they want to gain new followers.

‘Branding’

If we think quite literally, to ‘brand’ yourself is to take an iron-hot brand, put it into the fire, and to literally ‘brand’ yourself. For example, we ‘brand’ cattle to signal to others that this cow belongs to me.

Generally speaking, when we think about ‘branding’ or famous ‘brands’, we think about a specific logo.

For example:

  • The ‘Crown’ logo for Rolex
  • The ‘LV’ logo for Louis Vuitton
  • The ‘Half-bitten Apple’ logo for Apple
  • The ‘Swoosh’ logo for Nike
  • The Green Mermaid Lady for Starbucks

I don’t think it is essential for us as photographers to have a specific brand-logo for ourselves. However, I think it is more important for us to promote our own real names (first and last name). Furthermore, it is beneficial for ourselves to associate ourselves with a certain color (humans remember color quite vividly).

In praise of first and last names: Personal Branding 101

For example, I am building my ‘personal brand’ — the ERIC KIM name.

And through this, I can put my name on things. I can put my name on the ERIC KIM Straps, ERIC KIM Portfolio Bag, ERIC KIM Case, and my ERIC KIM Workshops.

The reason why it is essential for you to brand your own name:

By building the brand of your own name, you are building equity in yourself and your own name– which you will own forever!

So when you make your own website (essential), make sure to register it as your firstnamelastname.com, or perhaps firstnamelastnamephoto.com or something like that.

For example:

And to become more notorious (more people to know your name), recognize that it takes a long time! Ain’t nobody become famous overnight. It means to constantly produce innovative, impactful, and meaningful ideas. To show that you are of substance (substance marketing), and keep taking more interesting risks in your life.


Marketing ain’t evil

E. Selfie, 2018

There is this strange notion that marketing is somehow ‘evil’. No. I think anyone who says that marketing is bad, tasteless, or ‘evil’ are anti-capitalist. And anyone who lives in a capitalist society and states that they are anti-capitalists are hypocrites and deserve to be ignored. If you ever meet a person who is anti-capitalist and owns a smartphone, uses wifi, drinks coffee, eats kale or quinoa (not home-grown), watches Netflix, and enjoys farmer’s markets– ignore them.

If anything, I believe one of the essential first steps to entrepreneurship is to simply ignore everyone else. When you start differentiating yourself from other people by self-promoting and marketing yourself, others will start to dislike you. Why? The more famous and successful you become, the smaller they will feel (in comparison).

rolls royce

Thus frankly speaking, the best way to accelerate your entrepreneurship is to disconnect yourself from others– especially to others who are pessimist, negative, or nihilist. Also to ignore all ‘experts’.

Let us remember our motto:

Marketing is good.

Branding is mostly hype

A tip:

Almost everything you read out there about branding is wrong, misguided, or over-hyped.

As an entrepreneur, the most important thing for you to is to simply experiment for yourself, and discover the truth for yourself. What has worked for others in the past won’t work for you, nor should they work for you.

Do it yourself!

Eric Kim tub red

Furthermore, entrepreneurship is better seen as ‘bricolage‘ (DIY; do it yourself) — trial and error, and experimentation.

I’ve read a billion articles, videos, podcasts, and books on marketing, branding, etc– and to be frank, none of them have helped me. The only thing which has helped me included:

  1. Publishing more blog posts on topics which personally interested me.
  2. Striving to create information which I considered 10x better than anything else out there.
  3. Publishing more YouTube videos on topics which interested me; topics which I felt were insufficiently discussed on the internet.
  4. Ignoring all past blueprints of success, and ignoring how others got successful. Instead, just seeking to be 100% myself; regardless of how many feathers I would tussle, and regardless of how many others would hate me.
  5. Ignore all ‘advice’ from others (regardless if they are from friends or foes).
  6. Ignoring views, statistics, follower numbers, likes; focusing on my own inner-metric of success (whether I am proud of the work I do). An anti-quantified approach. Data is over-hyped because it tells you what worked well in the past– data cannot PREDICT what will work well in the future!
  7. Ignoring all other photographers and people in my field, realizing they aren’t “competition”, because I am in a totally unique field of my own. Knowing you exist in your own personal sphere.
  8. Always cultivating a suspicious eye towards the ‘success’ of others. Generally speaking, everyone always over-exaggerates their success. Most people with flashy stuff are just leasing, renting, or in debt for their lifestyle.
  9. Not quantifying your success by dollars, followers, or head-nodders. Instead, thinking of ‘success‘ as a verb– whether you are ADVANCING toward your own personal life goals.
  10. Daring to attempt more; indulging your own ‘crazy’ ideas.

Conclusion

Remember– you’re constantly in a ‘state of booming’ as a photographer, visual artist, and individual. What this means is that you shouldn’t seek ‘consistency’ for your personal marketing and branding.

Allow yourself to evolve! Allow yourself to sprout new wings, to change colors, and to develop new claws or armor.

Marketing and branding are still quite modern notions. They will continue to change, evolve, as our technologies rapidly march forward.

But let us remember, in this brave new world of photography and digital entrepreneurship, we must be bold. Better to be bold and wrong than to be meek and trivial.

GO HARD!

ERIC

Photography Entrepreneurship 101

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