tonia johnston photography | avoiding great exposure

avoiding great exposure

July 26, 2011

I can't tell you how many times I've heard the words, "this will be great exposure for you."

I remember the first few times I heard those words and would be so excited!

Me to my husband: "Honey, they said it would be great exposure for me!" {Insert happy dance, hand clapping.}

Honey: "Baby, that's great! Let's celebrate!" {Insert more happy dancing and a booty shake. Not from my husband. He doesn't have a happy dance. This would be my booty shake}

I got a few of those under my belt. Some went well, some not so much. From those 'not so much's", I've learned a lot. I went from happy dance to eye rolling to being cautious and selective.

I know now that when I hear those words to take it with a grain of salt. Instead of giving an answer right there and then, I take a step back and really think about it. Sometimes, those words are uttered from people who have really good intentions and truly want to help you move forward and sometimes...not.

This is what I know:

Most people don't realize that photographers (and I guess any artist) specialize in something(s) (click the link above to read more on that). I have found that people think if you call yourself a photographer you just need a camera, a good eye and you can and should be able to shoot anything. That's not always the case. Photographers who are training (yes, training. This thing is a constant process) to shoot landscape may not know the first thing to shooting product or people and visa versa. It just is not the same thing. So, if someone now says to me that shooting a wedding will be great exposure for you and I don't shoot weddings, is it really going to be good for me? No. Any referral that I would possibly get would more than likely be about weddings that I have no business shooting anyway. And let me just add - I have NEVER gotten business from a "it will be great exposure for you." Ever.

That brings us to our target market. When you have a business and you specialize in something, you naturally have a target market. It means you have a set of people that you advertise to. I specialize in Seniors and Sports and although I don't advertise it (yet), I do also shoot for an occasional website. I don't advertise for it because I'm still trying to figure out exactly what kind of websites I want to do - people, product or both. So right now, I try to bring to my business High School Seniors and Athletes of any age. So if someone uses that line on me and the project is not going to expose my business to my market, it's probably going to be a no go for me.

With that being said, does that mean that I reject ever single offer for exposure? No. If a project comes along and it sounds like fun to me or if it's for a cause I believe in, I'll probably take it on...after I've thought long and hard about it and it won't be for the exposure. I'll know going into it that probably nothing business wise will come out of it and at that point, I'm doing it because I want to, not because I feel like I have to in order to get ahead.

And when offers come along that I truly feel WILL move the business forward, I think long and hard about it, understand that it is a chance to get my name out there (and expect nothing more than that), say yes and only then do I bust out the happy dance.

Let's face it, when we are first starting out in a new business we all need and want that exposure. Just make sure you're exposing yourself to the right people. If not, you'll find yourself shooting puppies instead of people or people instead of puppies. And being miserable in the process. Hold onto that passion of shooting and creating what you love, stay focused and you won't have a problem saying yes or no when the question comes knocking on your door.