Are you on Facebook?
Are you using Facebook to promote your photography or mostly so friends can follow along and see what you're up to?
What about Twitter? How many tweets did you send this week?
And how exactly am I going to make any money off this stuff.
Well, it turns out Dave Sandford has been using social media to promote his work for a while and he has some good ideas.
I've know Sandford for years. He was a Ryerson College student with an interest in sports when I was shooting the NHL for a company making hockey cards. We saw each other at games as he became a regular shooter for Getty Images and NHL Images. We crossed paths at Buffalo Sabers games but more often in Montreal at the Canadiens and the Senators in Ottawa, and of course in Toronto at the Leaf Games. I had one year when I shot just over a 100 games, and Sandford was working a full slate of games as well, maybe even more that me since he also shot the Red Wings in Detroit.
I think both of us would say, "Those were the days".
Dave and I met last week for lunch when I was in London, Ontario where he lives.
I've moved on from shooting sports and Sandford has changed as well. One thing we both learned from the hockey lockouts is this fact.... you have to expand your list of clients because you can't count on Pro Sports to actually play the game.
Sandford also learned from a friend working for the Calgary Flames how to use social media and just how important it is.
If you're a freelance photographer, you need to be on Facebook and you need to build up your friends. If you hope to keep your account casual and just post occasionally so your real friends can see what you're up to, then open a second account for your photography.
From talking with Sandford and other photographers, I've broken postings into two groups, live events and flashback events. If you're at a shoot or assignment today and have a chance to post something about it, whether it's you working, the final image or something interesting or funny that happened today, thats a live event posting.
If you're sitting at the beach having a day off, then you post a flashback image. This would be something you shot in the past, one of your great images or an image from the past that had an interesting or funny story. It's this combination of live events and flashback that makes your Facebook postings come alive.
Of the two styles, the live events are better postings. It's happening now and brings along that energy. The flashbacks postings are great to show off your award winning images and show the depth of your work.
I follow a number of photographers on Facebook. You don't have to follow too long before you start to see repeats in their postings and realize their best work might have been years ago. One photographer posts mostly about his time working for Ansel Adams and you don't have to follow long before you find out who he worked for. Another keeps showing award winning images from the Vietnam War, they were great images, but its time to move along.
There's also a balance of how often you post. Most people are happy to see one image a day. Three or four has them reaching for the "un-friend" button which will stop the Facebook feed to their account. Plus who has enough quality work to post three or four images each day. You can get away with less than one posting a day but people have a lot of friends, so you'll be too far down the page and lost in the noise. One posting a day seems to be a great solution.
Your circle of friends is another key to success on Facebook. You have to realize these are not real friends, they're Facebook friends. In other words you don't know them at all, and that's OK. Your real circle of friends is limited by who you know while your Facebook friends can be everyone and you need to accept "Friend Requests" from everyone.
"I get a fair number of Friend requests," says Sandford, "and each week I get requests from people I don't know and have never met. These are the key to getting work."
It seems all your real friends know you're a photographer and what your work is about, but these strangers get to see your work for the first time, and you don't know who they are.
"You never know who is looking at your work through Facebook. When I started to shoot wake boarding I had no contacts with the boat or board companies but people from these companies started seeing my postings and some liked what they saw," said Sandford.
So far these companies have rung up about $10,000 worth of work for him and he started with no clients in the field.
He also plays is smart. When posting a photo on Facebook he's sure to name the rider, mention what brand of board he's on, the name of the park or lake, what boat was pulling the load and mentions the other riders out that day. So instead of a great photo of a rider that his friends will see, he also has a posting that anyone searching for that brand of board, boat or the riders name will find, and the great work is the start of a great conversation with a new client.
It seems most freelancers would be interested in $10,000 of business in an area where they had none.
Besides the postings on Facebook, Sandford is posting on Instagram and also sending tweets. It's the very same principal repeated. You never know who's looking at the work, and sometimes it's a new client with a few dollars to spend or a Photo Editor looking for a fresh image. Check out my blog on Instagram here.
One final point that Sandford mentioned about posting to social media, sometimes as a freelancer, working by themselves, you have days that aren't going well. With no circle of photographers around to add a social element to the day, no comradeship from the industry, it can get lonely working freelance and you can get in a rut, but then a comment left on a posting, or a number of "likes" can change the mood of the day, and help get you through some of the rough spots. We all need that once in a while.
You can find Dave Sandford's website here. Take a good look at a top sports photographers work and be sure and read the testimony.
Although I've worked as a photography all my life, I'm currently back at school trying to finish my Masters in Fine Art Degree at the Maine Media Workshops and College.
Jan Rosenbaum is one of my mentors this semester and the project I'm working on is a paper on social media and the future with photography.
My retail store for rangefinder gear and Zeiss lenses is www.rangefinderstore.com
My retail store for large format photo supplies is www.bigcameraworkshops.com