Photography: Jeremy Mason McGraw
Make a list of the most desirable jobs in photography and there’s a good chance that travel photography would come close to the top. Make a list of the toughest jobs to land in photography and flying around the world, staying in exclusive hotels and shooting beautiful locations would hold about the same position.
But for the last five years, it’s a job that Jeremy Mason McGraw, a photographer from Branson, Missouri has been able to call his.
Jeremy took up photography in high school in 1993 but his first jobs were in the entertainment industry where he designed theatrical scenery and lighting, skills that still influence his shoots. His move into travel photography came four years later, when he took a job with a production company on a cruise trip. Although he wasn’t hired as a photographer, Jeremy continued shooting for fun and used his trips to look for commercial outlets for his photography. With some careful marketing, he found them.
“I turned my seafaring life into an opportunity to sell my photos and was able to get prints of my work consigned to gift shops in the ports that the ship docked,” Jeremy explained. “I also sold them to the tour excursion companies that the ship used. Selling that work was my first experience as a travel photographer.”
Jeremy was still working in the entertainment industry but by this time, he was also hooked on a life of travel. After working for a while in Australia, he returned to Branson, and after eighteen months bought his first DSLR and some used strobes, and quit his production job to become a full-time photographer.
“I did a lot of publicity shots for the local shows in Branson at first. I was not making a lot of money so I set up a number of trades with local businesses for things that I needed to reduce my cost of living. I took every chance to get my work out into the world.”
Finding a Sales Partner Paid off
Contacts he’d made on the ship led to jobs in Vegas and Sydney, and at the end of 2002, a friend who would later become Jeremy’s business partner helped him to win a contract shooting photos for the Kohala Coast Resort Association, a chain of luxury hotels in Hawaii. That job in turn led to new contacts, and Jeremy’s partner acted as his sales person, targeting clients and selling them packages.
It was forming a partnership with a sales professional, Jeremy says, that really let his travel photography develop.
“Working with a business partner who solely did my sales helped my career
more than anything… Finding someone whose talent is in sales, marketing and business, who is equally as driven in their own talents [as I am in mine] is imperative for me because it allows me to spend more of my time doing what I am best at.”
That partnership has recently dissolved but Jeremy has now worked in Australia, Hawaii, Italy, Croatia and Malta, not including the 24 countries he visited while on the ship. Much of his work involves shooting hotels, commissions which, he says, pay him to stay in incredible destinations with all of his gear, and provide him with the freedom to explore his surroundings and obtain a feel for the place.
Photography: Jeremy Mason McGraw
Getting into Galleries
In addition to the commercial work though, Jeremy’s opportunity to travel also allows him to develop personal projects. Over the years, buyers have contacted him to order prints but being always on the move made it difficult to keep track of purchases and control quality, so print sales weren’t an option that Jeremy considered seriously. Galleries looked a better choice but without contacts, Jeremy knew they wouldn’t be easy to break into.
Because Branson lacks a good range of photo galleries, he emailed galleries further away and visited others while traveling, presenting his portfolio on his computer. But that wasn’t an approach that brought success either.
“What I found was that you really have to see a picture printed to get its full impact,” Jeremy explained.
Eventually, a friend agreed to host a show for him. They converted the ground floor of her house into a temporary gallery, added lights and using e-vites and photo cards. invited every one in Branson from the Mayor to the President of the Arts counsel. As a result, Jeremy has been invited to exhibit at a number of forthcoming art shows and two real galleries.
Clearly, every photographer has to find their own route to success in whichever niche they choose, but Jeremy’s experience does have lessons for everyone.
Finding someone to handle the marketing if that’s not your strong point, even if it’s only on a commission basis, can be a good way to build a client base and contacts.
And you don’t have to wear out your shoe leather to get your images in a gallery. Exhibit them yourself and promote your show well, and your success will depend only on you and the quality of your images.
[tags] travel photography, travel photographer [/tags]