Since February 2012, I have been working on a series of photos of people with interesting eye colours. The shoots consist of close-up eye photos for everyone and face shots for half of them. After doing a couple people at a time over weekends and eventually setting up bigger groups, I am close to 100 people for the project now. I have had to use my experience in photography and marketing theory to reach a large number of people. I explain the approaches I used in this blog series. Hopefully this advice can be applied to people working on their own projects, films or products.

Be Remarkable

I’ve receieved some very positive reactions from people I’ve showed the photos to and after photographing someone in a way they haven’t seen before.  I’ve had some challenges approaching friends, acquantainces and strangers – it seems that eyes are a personal and an usual topic and some people are shy about being photographed that close. To increase acceptance of the photo requests, I’ve had to take a persuasive approach hich showcases my work as attractive and technically good. I’ve also found ways to get people to like the project and to want to help by recommending friends, which is more trustworthy than me asking someone I haven’t met. Now in October looking back of my experiences, I can describe what worked best and I can fit it into marketing theory. I came across a marketing article few days ago explaining that advertising is not usually credible while sources of Public Relations such as the media, celebrity endorsements or word of mouth are powerful as recommendations.

Be Clear and visual

After realising how difficult it was to explain quickly what my project was about, I decided to print some photos to show people. I printed a few of my favourite eye and face photos to carry around in a file. Seeing people’s expressions and reactions to the photos is priceless – I can see it appears so unexpected, detailed and beautiful to them. Some people find the photos creepy, but the general reaction to the prints and the cards is “Wow!” or “Is this Photoshopped?” or “Who’s eye is this?”. Some people are confused by the topic, “But why eyes?” So I reply to that by saying “I can, most people can’t, and it gets people talking”.

I decided to create specialised business cards too, with my name/website address and a picture of someone’s eye on it. The link contains access to an eye photo gallery and ways to contact me to join the project. The main purpose of the cards was fulfilled – instead of a generic card, I could show friends and strangers exactly what they could expect when they would be a photographed in a few weeks. Also, when they get home and they are about to lose the card or forget what it’s about, the picture serves as a reminder of what the project is all about. It also serves as a general business I can use at events and concerts.

Be Credible

What I love about the card is that it shows people that I know what I’m doing and I’ve done before, so they can be sure of what to expect. If they want to see 8 similar photos from the same shoot day, they can see the eye gallery on the website. (I don’t put up of everyone – it will make the exhibition more special to keep some material unreleased)

In a few cases, I gave the card to friends who I speak to on Facebook already or I have already photographed. I want them to see how the project has progressed to print form. They look uncertain about whether they should keep the card, so I tell them they can keep it if they promise to give to someone else or carry around in their bag to show their friends. I feel like this would be a suitable strategy – getting people who already believe in what I do and who have participated, to carry around a piece of my artwork and to convince their friends to join. Which is more credible than if I had spoken to the person I hadn’t met before, or if I had sent them an unexpected message online. If someone is uncertain about what it is about or for, I feel that their friend would be able to encourage them to join.
Read Part 2 of this article.