How four pHotograpHers managed to surpass tHeir fund-raising goals
and underwrite tHeir pHoto projects. By Holly stuart HugHes
More and more photographers are using crowd-funding Web sites Kickstarter and Emphas.is to solicit donations to support their photo projects. Yet many fail to meet their goals before their deadlines and then can’t receive any of the money pledged. To find out what makes ome crowd-funding efforts successful, we looked at four recent proposals that set ambitious pledge goals, and managed to surpass them.
What they all have in common is a well-produced video pitch, a written proposal
that clearly explains what the photographer will do and how the funds will be used,
and considerable time and effort invested in spreading the word to a wide range of
Here the photographers explain the work they put into the task of soliciting support before, during and after their fund-raising pitches.
© marcus bleas Dale/vii Photo
PleDGeD: $16,910 from 147 backers
Though pho Tographer Peter Dench had gotten a book publisher interested in
his sardonic photos of English life, he was eager to get a book published in time
to capitalize on the media attention that The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the
Olympic Games in London would attract to his homeland this summer. Dench used
the new book-publishing arm of the crowd-funding site Emphas.is to fund the printing of 1,000 copies of his 144-page book, England Uncensored. The Emphas.is founders estimated the print run would cost $12,000. In his proposal, Dench describes the
book as “not an idealized brochure of a green and pleasant land, but more a laugh-out-loud romp through this often badly behaved nation.”
the Pitch: Dench says he geared his proposal to readers of his humorous monthly column on the online magazine Hungry Eye and to his more than 2,000 Twitter
followers. “I looked at examples of video appeals on crowd-funding sites and found
many of them a little dry,” he says. “I wanted my appeal to reflect the project, which is
full of humor.” His video appeal opens with his images of bored tourists and drunken
revelers, then cuts to footage of Dench, sounding like a cheery tour guide, describing his project while seated on a canvas beach chair in Weymouth, the seaside town
where he was born. He completed the video in December, but to avoid the holiday
crush, he waited until February to launch his appeal and begin drumming up support.
“Anyone who thinks you can just post [a project] online and then go on about
your daily routine is naïve,” Dench says. “From the outset, I knew it would be a job,
for the first two weeks at least.” Before his proposal went live on Emphas.is, he started looking for “dedicated sponsors,” donors who would give $2,000; in exchange
they would receive 20 copies and have their logo printed in the book. After the
Emphas.is page launched, White Cloth Gallery in London, which represents Dench,
and a friend’s food company each pledged the $2,000. People who donated $50
would receive the standard edition of the book; a collector’s edition was offered
© Peter Dench/rePortage by getty images
Left: Peter Dench. Above: In appealing for funding to publish his photo book, England
Uncensored, Dench tried to make his pitch as sardonic and humorous as the photos themselves.
to people who donated $120. For higher donations, he offered books and prints.
Anyone donating $10 or more got access to the “Making of Zone” section of his
Emphas.is page where he would post updates on the progress of the book, and for a
donation of $25 he offered a personalized postcard.
For two weeks, he spent hours on Twitter, sending out announcements of the
project, updates, and solicitations for support to his followers and to selected in-
dividuals, while keeping on eye on his list of pledgers. “If you sit down and ham-
mer [away] at Twitter for two hours, you can see it having a positive effect,” he
says. Whenever someone pledged, he tried to send out a personalized thank you on
Twitter within ten minutes. “I think people appreciated that.”
He adds, “If the funding flagged, I would try to get a high-profile person to pledge
like [photographers] Marcus Bleasdale or Gary Knight.” When they pledged, Dench
spread the word of their endorsements. Stories about the project on BBC, the British
Journal of Photography and CNN World drove traffic to the site.
Dench admits that some of his Twitter fans threatened to stop following him to
avoid his frequent pleas. When he met his funding goal within 15 days, he stopped
“The worst thing I feared was that I would get close to the goal and have to start
ringing my mum or tapping up people in the street and saying, ‘Please back my
book,’” he says. “Luckily I raced across the line fairly quickly.”
the result: The book was scheduled to go to press in mid-April. Dench says
orders for both the trade edition of the book ($50) and the special edition ($120) will
be fulfilled after the books are shipped from the bindery.