by Sharon Wright
Recently the New York Post, featured a piece about doll photo bloggers! Woo Hoo! Mainstream, bitches!
While it was focused on American Girl dolls and not directed toward fashion dolls or bjds, it does shine a light on what has been trending more and more.
From the NYP:
“It’s mind-blowing,” says Gloriana Bonillo, whose New York-based label, “Little Gloriana,” sells the trendy doll clothes that many of these photographers and bloggers use on their miniature models.
“We call them photo stylists, and they bring in a lot of money with sales. They will do one posting, and every girl who follows them buys something,” says Bonillo, adding that a posting can result in up to $15,000 in sales a day during the holiday season."
“When people discover this, they are blown away that it exists,” says Bonillo. “Basically they are making it okay to play with dolls.”
Social media is the single most powerful way to market these days. People want to buy the things their peers are using. They look for reviews and opinions from the people they trust and admire. Companies recognize this and we have seen the shift in how they spend their marketing dollars. Advertising is not mainly from magazines or tv anymore; those are now more like the second or third tier of marketing. A vast majority of smart companies know that one of the best things they can do is to put their products in the right hands and the world will follow.
When I got into photography, I used dolls as my subjects while I learned. I was amazed at the response I was getting when I would post pics. Hell, I never even realized that doll photography was a 'thing'. When I made the move to post them on my own photography page I never had an agenda, I just liked learning and sharing my images.
Artists, designers, and companies took notice and began to send me their products because they understood that people 'shop' my photos. If I got a new doll, my pictures made others want that doll too. If it was a prop or dress or accessory of some kind, it was the same result. They understood that there is tremendous sales power in numbers and great content.
The #1 question people always ask me is how can they do it too? So, I'll share a few things I think are the keys to building a strong social media platform.
If you want to excel at something you have to take time to learn it. Take time to study photography. Take time to understand lighting and how to work with it. Take time to learn natural posing. Take time to nitpick the hell out of a setup. Then nitpick it some more. Make sure there are no crazy hairs, no paddle hands, no dead stares, no harsh flash, blah blah blah. I can't teach anyone photography, hell, I barely understand what I am doing most of the time. There are a gazillion tutorials online. Just Google anything you want to know. That is how I taught myself. It doesn't take expensive equipment, or a fancy camera. It's about learning to use what you've got to the best of your abilities.
Take advantage of multiple social media outlets. There are tons of options when it comes to social media platforms. I stay active on my Facebook, but I'll admit I'm terribly lazy at marketing myself on other platforms, which I know is wrong. Find a couple that work best for you and your style. Instagram is currently the medium of choice for most photo bloggers.
You can't just throw a bunch of crap out there and hope it sticks.
When you post pics, don't post 5-10 shots from the same shoot if they are all very similar. It's boring and screams newbie. Find the best one or two and use those. You can always share another one or two from the same shoot on a different day or time. And, always be critical of what you put out there. Are you super proud of this image? Does it make you giddy to look at? No, not really? Then don't post it. I've done it time after time and then I regret it and delete it the next day.
Post. Post. Post. You have to consistently post content. No, wait, let me correct that - you have to consistently post good content. Post at least once a day, or try to. At the very least, one a week. The more visible you are on the feeds with appealing content, the more followers you will develop. Real followers, not the ones you buy from Fiverr. If you have 10,000 followers but nobody likes, comments, or shares your posts that's a dead giveaway - unless, of course, your posts direct someone to another site. People will not go back to your page to like something they had to leave the site to see. (Perfect example is STAND, my social media posts all direct them to the website so Facebook, Instagram interactions will never be significant)
Don't spam the feeds. Space your posts out a bit. Don't post boom, boom, boom. (I have a tendency to not follow this one when I get super excited about a shoot, but I try.) Allow people to see and react to one shot before throwing another at them. Oh, and on Facebook, don't post an image on your page and then run and post the same image in every group you are a part of. First of all, most of the same people are all in the same groups, so you aren't really showing your work to anyone new. You aren't building your personal page because they already know that you are going to post it to the groups they frequent anyway, and then people just stop looking at your stuff all together because they are tired of all the posting notices so they either unfollow you or worse - they block your posts completely. Nobody wants that. I've talked to quite a few people who complain about that, and I notice it too. Try to post on your page and maybe one group a day. Or post a new pic on your page and a different one in a group. Mix it up. Just try not to be a spammer, it won't help you at all, it will actually do the complete opposite.
Watch your stats. Know who you are talking to. Take a peek at the posts that get the most likes. What time was it posted, what was the content of the post, what about that post made it appealing to your audience? Facebook has great analytics - use them. See who your audience is, where they are from, what their age ranges are. If the majority of your audience is from the other side of the world then schedule posts that are during their peak usage times. (Okay, look, I will admit I completely suck at that last one, I'm a right now post person, but if you want to really take it seriously then that is what you should do)
Expect people to unlike/unfollow you. Some people will love everything your produce but there will be a number of people who will change their minds and go and unlike the page. It happens. It's fine. Don't insanely watch your numbers. BUT - if it's happening a lot then it is a sign that you need to reanalyze how you are interacting online. Have you been spamming the feed? Or groups? Have you been MIA for a while? Don't panic, just look for clues as to why. When it happens on my page it is mainly because I am posting things that are out of the box for my audience. Which leads me to this.....
If you want to shoot content that is WAY out of the box that your main audience is in, then multiple pages are your friend. My creativity is really erratic. I shoot bjds, fashion dolls, action figures, even sex dolls...just whatever sparks my creative bone at the moment really. The problem is that my main audience isn't THAT diverse. Pics of Sideshows Marty McFly in front of the original locations from Back To The Future or Mezco Toys Walter White (Heizenberg), at his Breaking Bad locations in Albuquerque, just don't have the same reaction from fashion doll and bjd fans as it does when posted to a page that is targeted toward movie/tv fans or figure collectors. Many people will love it, but sometimes you need to be prepared to create different outlets. For me, it's just worked out better to do that since my more 'creative' ventures tend to skew very dark, or erotic, or even just toys or figures that don't flow well with other audiences. My Skinning a Sex Doll series and the Naked Stormtrooper series both went viral and would not have been possible if I had posted them on my FB or IG pages. First of all they would have been banned, but it's just completely different than my main audience is used to. For those I have a totally separate website and I'll post teasers on my social media to direct those that are interested to that page. You will figure out what works best for you. Again, shoot what you want, but if you tend to be as diverse as I am, you may want to consider different sites for different audiences.
You are a brand. My images are distinct. People can see an image and recognize my style immediately before they even see the watermark. People know my name, they know my personality, they know my style. There are a handful of other photographers that I can recognize immediately too. It's probably the biggest key to being 'successful' as a photo blogger. Distinguish yourself from others by developing your own style of shooting and editing your images. Show your personality in your posts. Don't just post an image and disappear, you have to interact with your audience as well. Get involved with your followers. (The bonus is that you make some amazing friends too :) ) Treat yourself and your photography as a brand so that when people see your work it is instantly recognizable and people relate it to you.
Do it for YOU. Don't shoot what you think your audience wants. Create what YOU want and the right audience will follow. It's very easy to get caught up in worrying about what people want, or what they will like, or how many reactions you have gotten. It does nothing but cause you to lose focus on your art. You lose your creativity and your images, and ego, suffer.
The better you get, the more people will talk - and it won't all be good. That's just a reality. Look, people are going to hate on those who are doing anything that others take notice of. They will hate on those who are different, bold, talented, creative, etc. Haters are just gonna hate. Accept it. Just don't listen to any of it. I did when I first started out and it got to me in a pretty bad way. I had to stop going to the forums and boards because of all the negativity. It was/is toxic and I don't need that shit. Nobody does. It is juvenile, sad and completely ridiculous. Just do what you love and shut the haters out. You have to know that the hurtful bullshit is just their own insecurities bounced outward to deflect from themselves. To be honest, if nobody is talking shit on you then you probably aren't doing it right yet ;)
Share your passion with everyone. I found through all of this that what I do creates excitement and curiosity from others who are not even involved in the hobby. No matter if they are male or female, young or old - everyone wants to know more about it. And who knows, maybe they'll become collectors too and you'll have someone new to play with :)
Like I said, there is no right or wrong way, you will have to find your own path. Just love what you do, show your enthusiasm and personality.
I will leave you with these last few things of what NOT to do:
Don't do it to feed a starving ego - you'll end up mad and depressed way too often - and by often I mean all the time.
Don't do it to get free shit - if you do receive gifts, be incredibly grateful, respectful, and humbled that your work is valued.
Don't do it to make money - While there is value in what we do, it is not going to support you financially. At least not for a long while. Yes, I have a number of clients, however, there is no way that this is going to sustain my lifestyle full time unless Mattel calls, which is highly unlikely since I don't really shoot their products. It did lead me to becoming Editor of Haute Doll magazine, which was an amazing experience but, ultimately, was just not the right fit for me. I love photography, and I love being able to celebrate others who love what I love, so STAND and the Lookbook were born.
Don't forget that once upon a time you were learning too. Don't look down on other peoples work. They just haven't learned it all yet. Hell, I haven't learned it all yet. (As I build each Lookbook I am reminded of it all the time. The people featured in the books make me want to up my own game for sure.) Just don't be an asshole to someone who's work may not be up to par with yours just yet. When people like what you do, they want to show you what they do. Be positive, give them advice but be constructive. It's a whole lot easier to be nice than to be a jerk and we all feel better later. And hey, your shit stunk at one point too. ;)
The final thought - HAVE FUN! If you aren't having fun doing this then step away for a bit and rejuvenate yourself. There have been many times I have had to take a break for a while. If it's not fun then you aren't doing yourself any good. We got into this hobby because we enjoyed it. Spend some time just playing, not shooting. Just get back to remembering the WHY you got into dolls to begin with <3
Hope that helps. If you have any suggestions or comments, please leave them below. I'm no expert in this. I can only speak to what works for me, if others want to chime in with what has helped them I'd love to hear about it!