Everyone wants to become a travel photographer, writer, or influencer, but most people don’t even know what the definition of those words really mean. The definition of a professional photographer today is so vastly different than when I graduated as a film photographer 16 years ago. Back then, you just had to take good photos and send the film off to a lab. Now, you have to be your own PR firm, marketing team, post-production house, and a videographer and writer in one in order to be competitive.
I sat down and thought hard about why my profession has changed so drastically in the past 15 years, and I realized that it is because of social media and mobile phones. Now, the average tween has a phone, camera, video, personal computer that can edit and write, and the web at their fingertips. They can reach more people in one post that most of us artists had access to in our entire careers back in the day and now, because of this photography and video professions are becoming even more and more saturated.
In the beginning, I used to look at this ever-changing technology in my industry as a threat. When I first bought my Canon Mark ii SLR camera which incorporated HD Video, I remember being very intimidated by the addition of video. I was nervous that people would become videographers as well and take over the industry. I was also apprehensive about using the video function because I knew really nothing about motion photography. To be honest, I still have a ton to learn, but I have finally gotten over the fear of the unknown and embraced the fact that our digital world we live in is constantly changing and that you have to be able to adapt to it in order to survive.
Much like the actors of old, they used to have to be a “Triple Threat”; sing, dance, and act in order to thrive on the big screen. The definition of a triple threat is "Someone in a particular field who exhibits three skills that are necessary to excel.” Being a photographer or influencer in today’s world plays by similar rules. Just like today’s tweens, you have to be able to be a storyteller across multiple mediums through photo, video, and written words. Just because you define yourself as a photographer or writer doesn’t mean you have to put yourself in a box. By using the free tools you have around you, you can expand your skill set and become more competitive and marketable.
Becoming a Single Threat- Photography
“Discover” your path, your voice, the thing that is going to get you where you want to go.
For me becoming a photographer wasn’t always about my love for photography it was always about the adventure. In fact being a photographer was never really on my radar at all. I used to want to be a zoologist, but a conversation I had with my mother when I was 13 years old, would change that dream of mine and forever alter my path in life.
In my mind, being a zoologist, archaeologist or a marine biologist was like being Jacques Cousteau or Indiana Jones…traveling the world in search of adventures. My mother was like, “Why couldn’t you be the photographer that follows these scientists around?” It was like a light bulb went off and after that point, I was hooked on photography. For me, photography was just a tool to travel the world, search for adventures and have freedom to make a living at it. But then I fell in love with it.
I didn’t realize at the time that that conversation would be such a pivotal moment for me in my life. This “exercise” of sitting down and realizing your strengths and weaknesses, what motivates you in your career or lives, and creating your business around these things is something that I speak about a lot.
Ultimately, you need to ask yourself what are your strengths and weaknesses? What do you really want in life, what kind of lifestyle do you want to live and what is your “voice” or style that you will be putting out there?
Branding Yourself as an Experience
When I first went out on my own and founded Beautiful Day Photography, I had to ask myself “What kind of business do I want to have?” If I truly wanted to be Indiana Jones and to have this life of adventure, I would have to focus on destination weddings and travel photography. But how would I book these jobs? How would I convince a client to spend more to have a photographer fly out with them?
I had to ask myself WHAT made me different and unique, and the answer was that I am giving them a VIBRANT EXPERIENCE. Not only through my highly saturated style of imagery, but with the service I provided as well. I love to travel and have adventures and I will do whatever it takes the get the shot. I LOVE to tell a story that takes them on a surreal journey of their wedding or hotel that looks as beautiful and glamorous as they have envisioned it themselves.
For my clients, they are experiencing their weddings or vacations with heightened emotions, like they are on a high, so I feel like I just enhance my own images to match their vision and THAT is my selling point. So when I book my clients, they are hiring ME, not just my photography, to capture the fun, beauty, and adventure of the ENTIRE experience of the trip, not just the wedding or hotel itself. I am branding myself and my work as an EXPERIENCE, not just as a vendor.
I decided, then, that a website was just not enough to convey what I do as a photographer. Great, my client can see my final product and my use of color, but they have NO idea what it took to get the shot, how I work, what my personality is, or what it would be like to work with me. I felt like I needed to have a behind-the-scenes video to show me in action on a shoot.
Becoming a Double Threat- Videography
When you first enter my website www.lauragrier.com, you are greeted with a “video business card” that describes me and what I do as a photographer in just a couple of minutes. I love this video because without words it shows more about me as a person and my personality than a person can get out of reading a long bio about me on my website.
They can see I love adventure, dancing, flying, road trips, dangerous animals, wearing hats, and my general style of work and quirkiness. You either like me or you don’t, but if you don’t then you are not my client. I realized that video was so important to humanizing me as a photographer and giving that missing personal connection that we are losing as human beings in this growing digital world we live in. In a world where most people are finding me and hiring me from thousands of miles away through social media and my website before they have ever even met me, this is an important tool to use.
We live in a visually rich, digital, internet, social media society. Visual brands are now driving their value creation in what they call an “experience society.” Basically, what that means is that we put more value on the “look and feel” of a product than the product itself. Services have become an experiential business.
So, why not create a heightened emotional experience through Video? Why not use this free tool to elevate your photography and the user experience of your clients?
Video is not the future, it is right now!
Over 90% of all online traffic is driven by video and social media, not our blogs and websites. That Is HUGE. With video dominating the internet, there is literally no excuse not to incorporate video into your marketing plan in some way. Video showcases your personality as an influencer and most importantly it helps you to attract the RIGHT clientele. So you need to put out the work and style that you are hoping to create and in turn attracting those clients that are inspired by your work.
Becoming a Triple Threat- Writing
Become a thought expert to further your brand
Although images are powerful on their own, adding words to an image not only creates a story and elevates your photography, but it makes your images searchable on the internet. Without words or hashtags, no one will be able to find your images. This thought made me realize that I needed to go back to my photojournalism roots and to start writing again.
There is not just one way to tell a story.
You can create multiple stories using the same photos by just having different words to accompany them. I thought about the millions of photos I have taken over the past 2 decades and realized that instead of them living and dying on facebook or a hard drive somewhere, that they could be easily repurposed by writing down tons of stories to go along with them. It also breathed new life into images from my past and allowed me to have new ways to use them. I found that when I approached existing blogs and publications about photo stories I had, packaging them with written stories made them much more valuable to publications.
There are three kinds of people on social media right now; the content creators, the content aggregators, and the content stealers. We are the content creators and we are extremely valuable! The internet is starved for new content and I found that combining these three ways of sharing my stories through photo, video, and the written word that it instantly opened new doors for me as a travel influencer.
By creating new content, writing articles or blogs, approaching travel publications and asking to contribute or guest blog, or just by traveling and shooting yourself, you are creating the persona that you are an “expert.” Experts teach and share their thoughts and ideas, so the more you do this, the more people will want to follow and share what you are doing.