Artists of all disciplines are flocking to crowd-funding in order to make money for their projects and free themselves from the constraints of publishers. Musicians, artists, writers and videographers are flocking to sites such as Patreon in order to create their work on their own terms, so why are fewer photographers drawn to crowd-funding? Is photography less suited to crowd-funding than other art forms? A web-comic or music video might take a week or a month to create, a photo may take 1/100th of a second, can this perception be overcome?
There are a few, though not many, who are managing success on the level of the top artists who are making music videos and web-comics. Often they are using tuition videos or Photoshop tutorials for their key product, rather than the photos themselves. The most successful creators are currently those who already had an established following to boost their foray into crowd-funding, but what about those who are just getting started?
There are two approaches to crowd-funding: getting the most out of it, or getting the most money out of it. If you are looking for the latter, my top tip is to find a career other than photography!
Remember, this is your chance to be appreciated for the work you want to create, not just to get money. So if you’re looking for the former, here are my top 5 tips for getting the most out of crowd-funding your dream:
5. Set Inspiring Goals
Getting new lenses or equipment is all very well, but may not be a goal people will want to support, yet you see this on many photographers’ pages. if your aim is to hit a specific target for equipment or a project, you might be better off with a campaign on a project crowdfunding site like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo.
We all need equipment, but you already have a camera and lens, so use it! Go and click on the page of a singer or writer, you won’t see them asking for a new microphone or pen. I'm not saying you can’t use your earnings for equipment, but that’s not why you’re on Patreon. Show people the stages you’re reaching for as an artist, and remember that small steps when starting out are just as valid as your dream goal in 5 years’ time.
4. Decide On Your Product’s Size and Frequency
Web-comics and music videos are very popular and successful, take time and effort and culminate in a relatively big ‘product’ every week or even few months. If you shoot 800 photos in a day with people sponsoring you per photo, you’ll be a millionaire in no time!
I considered going the route of choosing a single photo from each shoot to be ‘The Image’ that would represent it. Or could each project could be a deliverable, but you still need to represent it somehow. A photo gallery or set of photos perhaps, but people see galleries of photos every day without paying, will people see value in it? A video or perhaps video slideshow?
I went with a photo essay because part of my work is to increase awareness of the causes I help. All of these ideas are valid and only you know what represents your work best, so choose wisely.
3. Be Careful With Your Rewards and Tiers
Even with 20 patrons I had an awful lot of work to hand-write 20 or 40 postcards after an assignment, and the hand cramps that follow. Consider digital gifts! Physical gifts are an amazing way to reach out to your patrons and given my field of work that’s exactly my goal: to make them feel connected and show them just how much they are helping the animals. Just be careful that the overhead of printing and delivery doesn’t outweigh the amount they are sponsoring you.
Just like with your milestone goals, make your tiers realistic. Make sure you have a $1 tier to show people how much that means to you. Believe me, when you get a new $1 patron it absolutely makes your day knowing that someone out there appreciates your work. Show them!
2. Your Extra Content
Give your patrons a glimpse into what they are funding. Show them the process you go through to for your shots, where you are going to get them and what went wrong or right. Getting closer to the artist they are supporting is what makes Patreon such a good experience as a patron rather than just buying a print.
One more thing, if you’re going to give photography lessons as bonus material for your patrons, why not make it about your style, not how to use a camera. There are a million camera tutorials on YouTube, but they were drawn to you for a reason, so show them more of it.
1. Stay True To Your Passion
The most important thing to remember: don’t fit yourself or your work around the market. That’s what you do in every other job, which is probably why you’re considering a service like Patreon in the first place. This is your chance to do what you want to do.
You will always be able to get a bigger pay cheque working for someone else in a field of photography that you aren’t interested in (yep, weddings, we were all thinking it). This is your chance to be appreciated for being as unique, outrageous, specific or obscure as you want. Take it!
You can support Peter and his charity work on his Patreon page, where you will probably find him ignoring all of his own advice.