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Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World

Lesson 30 of 31

Marketing Composite Photography to Clients

Karen Alsop

Using Composite Photography to Create a Fantasy World

Karen Alsop

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Lesson Info

30. Marketing Composite Photography to Clients

Lesson Info

Marketing Composite Photography to Clients

Well I know that the marketing and the business side is very much an area that I was interested in when I first got into this genre, and it was an area that I found very hard to discover the answers. This type of photography, in marketing it to domestic clients, is something that's very new, and there's not many people doing it. And many of the people that I saw doing composite photography were not making it work as a business. Many of them were having fun creating it and amazing artists but were struggling to find how to actually make it work from a business perspective, and how to make money from it. And so I've spent the last couple of years working out what works and what doesn't, and finding ways to market my images to domestic clients, to families, and to have them approach me and want to pay me money to create an image for their family. So I wanted to share a little bit about that and certainly answer any questions that people might have, because it is a very different genre if ...

this is something that you're wanting to look at selling. So, one of the things that I discovered quite early on was that you can't approach marketing this type of genre as a photographer. So, to start with, I come from a wedding and portrait background, and I thought that if I created amazing packages and had different levels of packages with different options in them that I'd be able to sort of set prices and people would then choose a package and they would go with that. And that did not work for me. One of the things was that it confused people; I had packages set up where we would have, the bottom package would be one background and one person in the image, and then the middle package would be one background and three people in the image, and then the top package would be maybe multiple images in the background and different elements, and then multiple people in the image. And that got very confusing; it didn't always fit with what people were after. And it was a photography way of looking at it. I was even trying to package in with that a photo session. So on top of taking the photos for the composite, I was thinking that I needed to supply a portrait session, with your normal portrait family photos. And so I was coming from a photography point of view; that was my background. I don't have an art background; I haven't mixed with artists and galleries and things, so I really didn't know how to market it in a different way. So, I asked many, many photographers how do they do it; I had so many different ideas come to me; and I started sifting through things. After a while I realized that this type of work is more like a commissioned art piece. It's more like a painting. So, someone coming to me and asking me to paint them a portrait of their child was closer to what this would be, and this was the sort of marketing that I needed to do. But I also recognized that this type of work was a bit of an unknown to people. You know, painting's been around for so many years and people understand what goes into a painting and the time and effort and skill that goes into it, and they don't necessarily understand the type of skill and effort and time that goes into one of these images. They see the end result and they think it's lovely, but they don't realize what it takes to create it. So my marketing has very much been about sharing all of that process. Now I know sometimes that's daunting to people, but I will say this, it really, really helps in people coming to me and wanting to hire me to create something. I put my work out there; I put my speed edits out there. So nearly every time that I create an image, I will record the whole thing. So I'll use a screen recording software system and I will press record every time I'm working on something. I'll pause it when I go and have a coffee or whatever, I have a break, and then I'll come back and I'll start again. And then I will compress that down into a speed edit so that it's down to about three minutes, and I will put that out with a blog post of the final image. That blog post will also have in it behind the scenes photos. It will also have in it behind the scenes video. Now again, a bit of a scary thing for people sometimes, to have video of themselves, and it's not everyone's cup of tea. Obviously I don't mind it too much; I'm standing here. But it is really helpful, even if it's a very basic video, if it's something on the iPhone, if it's video of you working with the client, to have a little bit of footage of that that you can put up to show what goes into that actual photography side of things also helps. Because remember, it's not just about the Photoshop side of things, but it's also about the photography side of things and people seeing what goes into creating a piece from start to finish. So when I create an image now, I usually have, either myself, I have a tripod and I just set the camera up, or I have someone come alongside, they might want to come and help me, and they just grab a camera and film behind the scenes and capture all the different little bits that are happening and then I put that together into a little video that I put out with my finished image. So the blog post tells a story; it has behind the scenes photos. It goes through and every blog post is detailed in what we did, why it was created, you know, from start of talking to the client and what they wanted and going through all of those steps up to the finished product. And telling that story and grabbing people emotionally so that they feel, they love the image, they love what the final product is; and they get excited about how could that fit with my family, how could I get something like that? So that's one of the big things; that's actually one of the biggest things I recommend, is you need to show people the process, because they don't understand that process and they need to understand it so they know how to value it. So when people come to me now, they immediately know that it's going to cost a certain amount, and it's not going to be a cheap exercise. I had someone email me recently from another state; they're traveling over to my state in December and they were really wanting me to create something of their four children. And they were saying that they would love to pay for it, they don't know how much it is, but whatever it is they'll try and save, so immediately there's that expectation that it's something they need to save for, but it's something of value. So I don't need to be a salesperson to get them up to the price that I need to charge. Because I certainly need to charge enough to cover my time and my skill. So that's really important, that they understand it. I do also get my work out into the public as much as I possibly can. So on a local level, I have a cafe that's opened down the road, which I often spend time in, doing my work, and taking my computer down there. But when they were opening several months back, they were a new business and I knew that they would need images up on their wall. So I talked to them offered to supply a gallery of sorts, so I would supply all of the prints, frames; I could sell them, and they're up on their wall. So now in this cafe that's down the road from me, from my studio, it's like my gallery! (laughs) And people come in there, and I've had a big magazine from down in Gippsland where I am, and they've organized to have an interview with me from someone seeing the prints in the gallery and then telling them about it. And then there's other people that are coming to me through just having those prints up. I also have my book in that cafe and they read about it as well. So they see the images, they've got my information, they read about it, and the people that are in the cafe love my work; I've got a relationship with them, so they naturally talk to people about my work. So that's really important, to have people telling other people about your work. I've been on a TV show in Australia, in magazines; I've had front page in some magazines, Different things like that. All of those aspects take time and effort; you can't expect people to come knocking at your door necessarily asking to feature you in things. You need to start contacting people, getting your work out, even if it's into just local magazines and blog posts and things like that. Start small, build it up; it starts to come back after a while. So as you get your work out there, then you start getting more requests for things, then you find that there's so much and you don't have enough time to fulfill all those requests. But it starts to come back, but you can't expect to be asked by the biggest magazine in the country to feature your work if you haven't had any other features or haven't got any connections. Networking is central for marketing. I can't stress that enough: networking with people, sharing with people, talking with people. This is the tough thing; as photographers we often go into the business because we love photography, we love compositing, we love creating, and some of us may not feel that we have a business head or that we have a marketing head and we may struggle with that, and that's really a challenge. So, if that is a struggle for you, I really advise you to find someone that you can get alongside who can help with that. Maybe it might mean outsourcing that aspect of your business. If it's an area that you're not strong at, you might find that outsourcing it will give you the ability to focus on what you are good at. I love everything that I do with with Story Art. It's actually probably a rare thing to love everything that you do and not want to outsource any part of it. But when I was photographing weddings I would outsource the bulk of editing, because that was an area that took me a long time and it wasn't an area that I enjoyed. So I found ways to outsource things that I didn't enjoy. I was oversight to them; I could check them when they came in, make sure they were perfect, up to the level that I wanted, but I was able to give away that aspect and let someone else do it. I should say that there's everything I enjoy about Story Art except for the accounting (laughs); I think that's probably the case for a lot of us as well. And I have just hired a bookkeeper, and the weight that has come off my shoulders to not worry about the accounting side of things is amazing. I can pass everything on to her; she's got it under control. She just tells me what's going on and so I have a general idea, but she makes sure everything is done. And now for me not having to worry about that, that is amazing; I can focus on the creative aspects, the teaching, all the part that I love to do, and I pass that on. So if you've got any part of your business that you find is a struggle, I know sometimes it's hard to let go of control; it was very hard to let go of control of editing weddings. Because, you know, you want them to be perfect; many of us are perfectionists as well, and we want them to be perfect. But, it really does free you up. And you can still check and you can make sure that everything's going according to plan; you can let it go little by little as well. But having that ability to outsource will give you more time for what you like. So if you don't like putting yourself out there, then find someone that can do that for you, that can sell you. So for me, I don't mind selling myself in that way because I'm passionate about what I'm doing, I'm excited about what I'm doing, so it comes across naturally, but it's hard work. So, marketing is hard work and it's probably about 50% of what I do. So I create, and I create for clients, and I create for myself and whatever, but I also spend a lot of time thinking about how am I going to market this end product? The blog, the social networks, getting all of it out there. So having a plan as to every image that I release, because with this too, is so much time goes into one image. I'm not taking multiple photos and having heaps that I can release over certain days. It might take me weeks to create one image. So the lead-up to that is all about the little snippets of what I might be doing. So Instagram might actually tell a bit of a story about what am I up to? Okay I've gone and got these props. What exactly am I creating? Some hints along the way, maybe talking to people about what I'm creating. Sometimes I'm very open with the image that I'm creating and other times it's a bit secretive, so there's a mixture of things going on there. And then building up to the release. So if you're releasing a big image, you need to build up to the release. You don't want to release it on your Facebook, on your blog, and then have no one see it. Facebook is pretty terrible these days for getting things out there; you need to pay to boost posts and even paying to boost posts is costing much more than it did to get the same amount of reach. So you need to think about how you can get that organic reach, and that's going to come from people being invested in what you're creating and wanting to see it. Then they see it and they comment on it and they share it, and then that organic reach goes out and then it expands from there. Having a blog about it is something that they can go to to get more information and read and share that is really important. The blog is more important I feel than the social network. The social network will help get the hits to the blog, but having that information on the blog is really, really essential. And (laughs), so going back to sharing and blogging and sharing the information and releasing it, I'll give you an example. With Tahliyah's story, the one that I shared with you earlier on, that particular video and blog post, I shared with people about what I was doing. I shared photos of my time with Tahliyah, without sharing the image, without sharing any information about the image or any pictures of the image. I shared along the way, this is what we're creating; we're creating this image for this little girl. They got to know Tahliyah, so everyone that was looking at my site was getting to know this beautiful little girl and seeing the progress. So when it came to a point where I was about to release it, I let people know that I was about to release this image; I gave them pre-warning so they could make sure they logged back onto Facebook and onto my blog to check. When I released the image, I actually released it first as a video. So the video that you saw was the first thing that I released. And then a couple of hours later I put out the blog post that had all the information. But video can actually work sometimes better than photos, on Facebook and in social media, particularly if it grabs people's attention straightaway visually, because people will be scrolling through, and they will just stop at something, and if it's visual and they can see what's happening, they will then stop and watch and maybe play the video. So when I posted that, I posted Tahliyah's video, the next morning, now I don't have a million followers; I only at that time had 3,500 followers on Facebook, so quite a small following. And when I posted Tahliyah's video, it had over 150,000 reach the next day. The day after, 250,000 reach. It was shared over a thousand times. And that was not from anything that I did in terms of boost; I didn't boost it or anything like that, it was from people sharing it. So people seeing it, they knew it was there, they shared it. Then they shared it and they shared it. And people talking about it and commenting on it and it grabbing their attention. So, video can be extremely powerful; it can help tell the story. I know we are generally photographers, but bringing the video into your business can be a very powerful marketing tool and it can help tell that story in a very emotional way.

Class Description

Karen Alsop is known for creating beautiful fantasy worlds through her unique compositing techniques in Adobe® Lightroom® and Adobe® Photoshop®. Whether you're a wedding, portrait, landscape or commercial photographer, this class will show you how to create beautiful and distinctive images you can offer your clients to expand your business.  

Join us for this class, and you’ll learn how to: 

  • Shoot with your composite in mind: lighting, posing and angles.
  • Choose background and subject images that will work best in the composite.
  • Learn Adobe Lightroom and AdobePhotoshop techniques to create a fantastical atmosphere.

Karen’s emphasis on creativity and imagination in her process has helped her to make a product that competitors have a hard time recreating. Karen’s beautiful, intricate work is not simply the result of vast technical skill, but rather is the careful integration of a number of elements. She puts subjects at ease and inspires them with artful direction; incorporates them into fantasy landscapes using Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop and then effectively prices and markets the final product.  

Software Used: Adobe Photoshop CC 2015


Judy Mitschelen

I've found many great instructors at CreativeLive and Karen ranks right up there at the top! With her relaxed, thoughtful manner of presenting, I was immediately hooked. Her organization, clear explanations and demonstration, and on target response to questions are superb. This course covers an amazing range of skills and tricks of the trade. Whether you're interested in getting better shots to work with, better workflow at the computer, or better output at the end, Karen covers it all.


Karen is very talented and a great teacher and I enjoyed every minute of the course. But what I found to be the best part was seeing what an amazing person she is. The video of compositing the disabled children to make their dreams come true had me in tears. It has inspired me to use my talents to help others and not learn photo manipulation for self enjoyment. God bless you Karen.

Endigo Rae

This was such an amazing class! Karen is so talented, inspiring, and such an amazing teacher. Very forthcoming and open about all of her techniques. I'm so looking forward to jumping into compositing, I feel like this is definitely something my soul desires to explore and Karen has made it so easy and accesible through her beautiful course! Thanks so much Karen and CreativeLive!