Today another guest post from emerging pro photographer Camrin Dengel. A talented shooter who seems to have a solid head for business and marketing, she’s someone to keep watching as she forges ahead with her career.
The Art of Business, by Camrin Dengel
Like most things in life, the outdoor photo business often becomes about who you know. This is true whether it means knowing models/athletes, editors or marketing specialist, or peers/mentors/big names in the industry. But when you’re just starting out how do you begin to make these connections? It takes a bit of work, as I’m finding out myself. Establishing contacts is much harder if you’re new and unknown. I’ve found that it’s extremely helpful to have connection to respected, well known adventure photographers.
They’re people that can help with reviewing work, getting you gigs, and sometimes just to ask for advice or show you the ropes a bit. Having those connections might even get an editor, peer or athlete to give you more time. For me editorial connections have proven to be such a big helps as well. Editors or other work relationships can help in similar ways by passing your name along to other individuals in the industry or by giving you credibility as a professional. Eventually this little web of contacts will turn into a larger pool to pull from and companies, editors, and the rest of the photo world will start to recognize your name and your work for being your own… I’m still working on this.
When you’re first starting out there is also the predicament of making yourself appealing to a client without lowballing the competition. When everyone and their mother has a fancy camera and are willing to give their photos away for free, how are you supposed to make a career out of shooting? I’ve found marketing my work to smaller companies is often much more rewarding at this point than aiming for the big names right away.
However, I’ve noticed a trend in nonexistent photo budgets and offers to trade photos for gear with these smaller companies. This seems AWESOME at first and then a few months into it you realize that while all these goods are nice they don’t pay the rent or help buy for groceries. So what do you do? Do you say no to the offer for free gear and keep your images for what seems like a rainy day? My opinion is yes and no. When bouncing my thoughts on this off one of my friends she said, “Come on Camy, we know you’re going to blow a big part of your pay check on gear anyways.” and she’s right.
As a photographer in the outdoor industry there’s a closet … or a garage full of toys that you need/want to have on hand, especially when you imagery bounces from whitewater kayaking to skiing, mountaineering/climbing to biking, and so on with additional subheadings under each sport. So the truth is that new, nice, expensive backcountry/outdoor gear in the mail feels like Christmas and that gear it is an important part of this business, but so is a dependable income to pay for gas, winter heating bills, plane tickets, and the occasional meal here and there.
My observations have lead me to believe in sometimes saying no. While editorial work most of the time has fixed rates, and is a take it or leave it kind of deal, working with individual companies requires negotiation. You can’t let them get away with throwing you free swag as payment or extremely low rates.
While breaking into the business has a huge learning curve, I’m realizing that it’s just a process of building that base. A base of a solid archive of work to pull from, connections in the photo world, a knowledge of marketing yourself, pricing your work, and a growing plethora of photo skills. Everything builds on itself. You’re just climbing the ladder. Every once in a while it gets overwhelming and I have to take a breath, break it down to the very basics and remember why I’m doing this.
Because I’m an artist.
An outdoor lifestyle and adventure photographer, Camrin grew up in Valdez, Alaska where she developed a passion for the outdoors. Whether she is skiing in the mountains, kayaking on the river, or just about anything in between, there isn’t much in the way of adventure that she’ll turn down. Along with her passion for photography and playing outside, Camrin enjoys brewing her own kombucha and window shopping gear stores. For more of her work check out her website and see here featured work in Women’s Adventure Magazine.