How to Create a Unique Vision for Your Photographs

It’s said that the inventor of Vaseline ate a spoonful of it every day until he died in 1933.

Me? I prefer pies.

Former magazine art director turned food photographer, Kyle Dreier has one thing in common with yesterday’s pet photographer. ..

Having sat in an art director’s seat at a major magazine where he was responsible for buying the photos that illustrated their articles, he believes in branding yourself as a photographer and developing a unique vision for your photography that you can then sell to editors and art directors.

How do you do that?  He explains with pies below…


Lori Allen
Director, Great Escape Publishing

By Kyle Dreier

I think I’d be happy as a baker.  Fat and happy.

As a young boy, and even through my college years, I learned how to make pies. And, to this day (when time allows), I enjoy the art and process of baking a delicious (and sometimes decent-looking) pie.

Today, as a commercial food photographer, I spend an inordinate amount of time (and money) marketing my unique vision to my target audience to land dream assignments.

Quite the roll reversal from the mid-1990s when I was an art director of a national magazine and photographers were vying for MY attention.

So, let’s have some fun here and see if I can’t help you understand what it is that photo-buyers are looking for and how you as a photographer can give it to them.  And, let’s also get back to pies…

For the next few minutes, consider yourself a baker rather than a photographer. As a baker, who wants to sell your unique pies, you need a marketing plan that answers three questions: What? Who?  And how?

** First: What are you marketing?

Through a creative process assisted by your passions, experiences, and experimentation (and filled with a healthy dose of trial and error), you’ve established your “unique vision” for your pies.

While your vision might still be in development (which for me it is and will be my whole life), it’s important to think about presenting your unique vision to potential clients.  And it’s also important that you yourself understand what that unique vision is.

Do you make apple pies?  Maybe.  But a lot of other bakers out there make apple pies.  Do your apple pies have a double crust?  Are they made from local apples?  What makes your apple pies different?

** Then, you should think: Who is my target?

Before you can start marketing with any hopes of success, you have to decide to whom you are marketing.

Who likes pies? And, more specifically, who likes the kind of unique pies you make?

The who is your audience… your target market.

Is your target market everyone? No. People who eat? Sort of. People who eat pies? Getting closer. People who eat the unique kind of pies you make? Yes!

Let’s say you determine that your target market for your photographs is magazines. Good.  That’s a start.  But it’s still a broad category.

Your goal is to get as specific as possible about who your audience is. What magazines might be interested in your unique vision? What magazines would find your vision appealing?

You should be able to start narrowing this down rather quickly. Find that market and picture it as the center of a big bullseye.

And, don’t be afraid to aim at the bullseye. I know, you’re concerned that there are other potential clients out there with whom you might miss the opportunity to work.

You’re right. There are.  But there’s no way to focus on them. It’s too scattered. There are valid potential clients that might be on the second or third circle out from the bullseye.

Let me ask you this: do you always hit the bullseye when you’re aiming at it? No? Neither do I. But you’ll get calls from people outside the bullseye even when you’re aiming for the center. You’ll even get calls from people completely outside your target. I’m a food photographer and have gotten calls to photograph babies and weddings. Um, excuse me, these aren’t food.  But it happens.

** Now ask yourself: How will you reach your target?

The worst thing you could do, aside from not identifying your target, is to just stand there and never shoot an arrow at it.

So, what do you do first? What if you mess up? What if you get an assignment and you’re not ready?

If you’re like me, these questions begin to swirl around in your head and the next thing you know you’re doing nothing. Paralysis by analysis.

Walt Disney said, “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

Nothing accelerates the learning curve like “doing.”

Do you really want to do assignment photography for magazines? It’s gonna take some work, and it’s gonna take some time, and it’s not going to happen overnight. In fact, you might find that it takes months to develop a relationship with a Photo Editor to get that first assignment. But sometimes, it only takes a phone call.

Marketing is a game of practice. You’re not going to hit the bullseye every time. In fact, you’re going to have occasions where you simply miss the target all together. But, the important thing is that you tried.  And you’ll learn from the experience at the very least.

While there might be some science to marketing, there’s a heck of a lot of trial and error. You’ll find some arrows more effective than others.

Tomorrow, I’ll send you a few things that have worked for me that might work for you.

And, in the meantime, take tonight to think about your pies.  What kind of baker do you want to be?  And who’s the target market to buy your photographs?

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about how you can turn your pictures into cash in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.  Sign up here today and we’ll send you a new report, Selling Photos for Cash: A Quick-Start Guide, completely FREE.]