It is no secret that in order to sell photographs and to make money as a photographer, you need an audience who are willing to buy your work and clients who are willing to pay you to shoot for them.
The problem is, there is no set formula for how you achieve this level of widespread attention and ‘popularity’ to get those paying clients or that print buying audience.
Sure, you may have 2,000 likes on your Facebook page or 500 followers on Flickr, Twitter and 500px, but they mean nothing if no one is going to pay you for your work. The next problem is that there is no way of knowing how many of your followers will really buy your work until you announce a print sale, that is assuming that all of the people who follow you/like your page actually see the print sale announcement. Furthermore, that is assuming that the people who follow your work have the money to buy your prints in the first place.
I would love to start selling limited edition prints of my work but I don’t want to start selling if no one wants to buy and I would love to teach workshops but I can’t if people don’t know me or my work. This is why I feel the pressure to be popular. Surely, if I have 50,000 followers then I should be able to easily sell an edition of 45 prints or find 10 people who are willing to pay me to teach them about photography?
Sadly, it just doesn’t work out like that.
I fully understand that it really doesn’t make a difference if your Facebook page has 50,000 likes or 500 but that doesn’t stop me checking how many people like my page and it certainly doesn’t stop me feeling down if I’ve uploaded an image and only a few people have seen it on the various social media sites I’ve uploaded it to.
So how exactly do you become ‘popular’?
A good friend once told me that the best thing to do was to share your work. Everywhere and anywhere. Whilst this is good advice, you can only put your images on social media and wait for people to discover you for so long, You could find other photographers who create work within the same genre of you (which is a good way to see what others are doing and it will give you an insight into how to tailor your work so you are creating work that is different) but this comes with the problem that other photographers, just like you and I, want to attract people that will buy their work and not just look at it on an uncalibrated monitor.
I may look at other (wildly) popular photographers and pretend that their growing fan base doesn’t make me feel as if though I’m doing something wrong, but it really does. But I have to remember that most of the photographers I’m referring to have been photographing constantly for at least 4 years, not to mention all of the online and offline press they have received about their work.
My advice to anyone else who is feeling the pressure of being popular is to just get on with creating work that you are proud of and are happy to call your own.
I would love to say that you should keep continuing to create work and your audience will eventually flock to you but that may never be the case.
Maybe my friend was right. Maybe sharing is the best way.