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A Guide to Working with Interior Designers

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Interior designers can be a great source of business for landscape photographers, but how do you go about building these important relationships? Tiffany Reed Briley explains

Four months ago, we started a series of articles that were birthed from one question: what do we do with our pictures now that we are capturing such high quality imagery? If you have not had a chance to read these Bay Photo sponsored articles, be sure to check them out in the previous issues, or on the website. To date, we have covered A Guide to Galleries Part 1 and 2 and A Guide to Juried Art Shows and today, we will discuss working with interior designers.

Designers are a group of people often overlooked by artists trying to sell their work, but these influencers play a powerful role in helping art collectors stage their homes, purchase prints and guide towards specific pieces and artists. For this article, I met with a designer in our local Charleston market to draw on her experience.

Finding and approaching designers

Time is money. That principle is true of all business owners and it was evident in my time with this designer. She had clients walking in, numerous projects displayed on storyboards and each assignment was on a tight deadline. The question is then: how do you get your work in front of designers who are frequently out of the office and, when they are in the office, they are distracted by several projects?

Many larger cities near you will have local lifestyle, home, or architecture magazines. In them, you will commonly find adverts for interior designers. A quick Google search will also provide you with a list of names, but you will want to investigate each further by visiting their website. Pay close attention to the message that they are communicating about their style in their ads and on their website. Although a designer will want to have the ability to fit the décor of all clients, they will truly specialize and be sought after for a particular style. Ask yourself if your photographic style reflects that of the designer.

We discussed respectful ways to approach galleries in our first article and those same principles apply here. Your work must speak for itself and speak quickly. Consider printing cards, or even a short booklet, displayed in a clean format to highlight your work. Bay Photo prints booklets in 8 ½ x 11 format in 6, 10 or 26 page sizes. The booklets start out at $7.50 per book. Having several of these printed out and casually handing them out to galleries and designers boasts of professionalism and style, not to mention that it is an elegant way to display your work quickly.

Interior design vs. Instagram

Briefly mentioned in the previous article, what gets 10,000 likes on Instagram may not be what an interior designer would use in a project. During the research for these articles, a continuous theme discussed with these industry experts is that while vibrant imagery may be popular on social media, it will be limited in its use within design and placement on walls. More vibrant images may look exceptional printed large and placed in ultra-modern environments, but this may limit your sales to the consumer, whereas more traditional styles may gravitate towards monochrome and soothing imagery.

Identifying that the social media world differs greatly from the world of art sales is vital to success. Being able to approach the consumer market with a realistic view of what will sell in your area and providing imagery that speaks to the consumer will be paramount to your photography business.

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Build the relationship

If you have a successful first meeting and the designer expresses an interest in your work, you will want to foster that relationship.

The key to sales is keeping in mind that you should not harass, but rather work to build a relationship. Perhaps after your initial introduction, you could follow up quarterly by delivering a small box of local baked goods and a fresh booklet of new imagery that you have captured. The key is to not take up time; you simply want to maintain a casual, friendly presence.

Designers will consistently have new projects in progress throughout the year. While the list of homes they are working on in February may not suit your work, they may have a business they are styling in November that would be a fit.

In the early stages of new projects, designers look for where they will place art pieces during construction or a re-model so that lighting can be strategically placed to highlight the pieces. They will consider the size, format and natural light and at this point, you will want to have your images come to mind while they are in the planning stages.

Make it easy

Once the designer includes one of your pieces into a project they are working on, ensure that the process is easy, quick and simple for them. They will not want additional stress or time spent having the piece created. At the beginning of their order, be sure to confirm the size and ask if they have a preference for the medium on which the piece is printed. For example, in a more modern home, the picture might be printed on metal, whereas for a traditional home, it might be printed on canvas or within a frame. It would be an exceptional idea to be familiar with the products offered by the lab you use. For example, Bay Photo can print up to 4’ x 8’ and prints on many different materials. If you are very familiar with what is available, you will be able to clearly and smoothly communicate the options. Make it easy for the designer.

Pricing

Have an idea of what you would realistically like to net financially for each picture. The designer will likely take a cut and you will need to have an idea ahead of time of what you will charge after your printing costs. Recognize that giving a discount today may mean a long term relationship tomorrow.

In closing

Since we have moved into the digital age and cameras have become more accessible to the consumer, we have seen a huge increase in the quality of work that is being produced by an ever-growing number of people. When you look at that great big pool however, and you attempt to find photographers that treat their art like a business, the pool gets exceptionally smaller.

Take your art seriously and believe in yourself. Seek the direction of trusted individuals within the art community and ask them for honest feedback.

The value of a business plan cannot be overstated. Additionally, at the beginning of each year, it’s valuable to consider your goals and the way you will achieve those goals. If selling your artwork is something you are interested in doing, get started, make initial connections and see where those doors may lead. Above all, recognize that this is your business and any successful career will take time, sweat, persistence, consistency and hard work.

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About Author

Tiffany Briley

Tiffany Reed Briley currently lives in Charleston, SC with her husband. They own Charleston Photography Tours and The Photography Workshop Company. Tiffany is on staff at The Landscape Photography Magazine and Wild Planet Photo Magazine. Raised in Alberta, Canada she enjoys photographing the seascapes of Charleston, the majestic vistas of the Canadian Rockies, and is always ready for the next adventure awaiting her.

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