Baring your Soul on Crowdfunding Photography Projects

Crowdfunding photography projects is a natural fit for the online funding phenomenon because of its visual nature but that doesn’t mean it is easy.

Today’s crowdfunding campaign review is with Brian Catelle and his BARE USA project on Kickstarter. Bare USA is a nationwide photography project that delves into studies of natural beauty in contrast with man-made decay by photographing nude models in abandoned location nationwide. Not only is crowdfunding providing an avenue for Brian to raise money for his photography project, it is also providing an avenue for him to bare his soul and his struggles.

First, tell us a little about yourself.

Crowdfunding Photography Projects

Crowdfunding Photography Projects

My name is Brian Cattelle. I am a photographer currently based out of south Florida by way of Maine where I grew up and earned an education in New Media and Advertising. Several years ago, I struggled as drugs and alcohol took over my life. I eventually sought help and came to rehab in sunny south Florida in 2008. Over the past five years of sobriety I have turned my life completely around and rediscovered my passion for photography. This project is a way for me to take my photography and my life to the next level.

In a way, the nude models in my BARE USA project are like a symbol of hope among the chaos and destruction of the surrounding buildings. This has proven itself to be a reflection of my own life and experiences.

Have you ever done a crowdfunding campaign before?

I have managed to successfully photograph in 30 of the 50 states. This was made possible by my last fundraising efforts through IndieGoGo. But my experience with IndieGoGo was lackluster. I felt like I literally drove all my personal traffic to their website and gave them 7% of my earnings. I felt like I could have set up my own methods to collect money. However in the end I was grateful for what I did raise and had enough to embark on the first leg of my journey.

What did you do before starting the campaign to get ready? Can you take us through your process?

I think everything I have done to date has been building towards another crowdfunding fundraiser. I have just been cranking out content on YouTube of my journeys and posting on all my social media every day. I did my best preparing my website, reaching out to blogs, creating a killer video, and alerting friends of my efforts but I always find that at some point I just have to pull the trigger or I will just keep planning on doing something and never actually do it.

Brian really put the time in on pre-launch crowdfunding and it’s showing in how much he’s raised so far. He’s got a great blog with a ton of images and descriptions that really brings people into the story. Creating a crowdfunding blog is a lot of work but it really pays off in building a community around your project and you can use it after the crowdfunding campaign as well.

Beyond his blog, Brian has gone the extra mile to get the word out about his crowdfunding photography project. He talks to everyone he meets about the project and has really used social media to his advantage. Take it from someone with a blog, it is extremely difficult to get people to share your content. Brian has more than 1,300 Google+ shares on his website which really speaks to the strength of his community (and makes me a little jealous).

Social media is one of the best crowdfunding marketing tools out there if you can get people excited about your project. It takes time to build that kind of follower base but really pays off once you’ve got it.

What has surprised you most about running a crowdfunding campaign?

There have been some people that have put down pretty big pledges that I didn’t see coming. I’m also finding that that being published online and having people share your project is not proving to be all that effective yet. I thought that being published in the worlds #1 nude art magazine Volo would bring in some pledges but it doesn’t look like it has.

Crowdfunding Photography Orlando Art Show

Crowdfunding Photography Orlando Art Show

How many hours a week do you spend on your campaign?

Too many to count. This is hard work. It’s not like I pressed a button and sat back and watched the numbers rise. I have to constantly be trying to get attention, reminding people of what I’m doing and how they can help.

I often feel like I turn people off to crowdfunding when I actually get down to the process it takes to be successful. Too many people jump into crowdfunding because they hear stories on the news and think it will be an easy buck. Crowdfunding isn’t easy but it can be a great experience and can mean more than money through the free marketing and outreach you’ll get. Learning the process makes it a little easier, something I’ve tried help out with my eBook Step-by-Step Crowdfunding.

How much have you spent on your campaign?

On my project as a whole I have spent every extra penny I have. On this particular campaign, not much at all really. I have spent a lot of time but I decided this time around that I should have to spend much money. I went and shot a video for the project and that probably cost me $100 altogether. I had the right equipment, a friend to film, a model that was willing to work for free and the skills to edit all of my footage.

I paid $160 for Green Inbox which messages all your Facebook friends’ messages. This is something you can’t really do on your own. Last time I tried I tried during my IndieGoGo I was blocked from facebook the whole time I was fundraising. It seems the direct message is the most effective, especially for smaller pledges from friends. I don’t really trust the other services that say they will do a PR blast for you. I just don’t see that working out and I’m quite weary of those who try to take advantage of people seeking contributions, I’m a skeptic and realistic.

The PR services is something I talk about in a recent post on crowdfunding promotion services. A whole industry has sprung up to ‘help’ crowdfunding campaigns get noticed but many of these services are little more than spamming your campaign page out to people that really don’t care. Understand what you are really getting with these crowdfunding promotion schemes and what really works in promoting your campaign.

What is the biggest mistake you've made so far in crowdfunding?

I’m really not sure. Ask me again if I don’t reach my goal. If I do reach my goal then I guess I did it right. Sometimes I feel like I waste my time just spinning my wheels. I spent an entire day sending 80 emails to companies seeing if they would like to “sponsor a state”, one of my offered rewards. Out of those 80 only two have replied that they were not interested. But you never know it’s out there maybe one want it.

What do you think is the thing you've done really well so far?

I think I made a really awesome video and explained my project very well. I also think it might be a little too technical and long. I haven’t shied away from asking for what I need from people, something I would do in the past. I have stayed strong and continued to push my message.

Brian has done a lot really well with his campaign, even if it is not immediately clear.

  • His crowdfunding photography project obviously lends itself well to using images on the campaign page. He’s got some really artistic photos and it’s driving a lot of interest from the collector community.
  • He has done a good job building exclusivity into his rewards with limited rewards at most levels and things like signatures and special thank-yous.
  • He offers real depth with 12 different reward levels and something for everyone. From the casual visitor that wants to back Brian and his personal story to the avid art collector, you’ll find something in the rewards that fits.

How are you reaching people on an emotional level?

I think that’s the biggest thing I have going for me. If I tried this five years ago, there is no way anyone would pledge, I was a washed up shell of a man. I have worked hard to be who I am today and people seem to like me and want to help me. Those who know my personal story love the fact that I am doing so well and following my dreams.

How are you building community with supporters?

I’m just always talking about my project with everyone all the time. It’s all I really have to talk about right now anyway I mean it is the most important thing happening in my life. I worked with 30 models this summer, all of whom had a great experience and loved being in the project so they are a big help too. Just through the work and talking to people, bringing my project out to the public has helped me drum up interest and earn some fans.

Is there anything else people should know about raising money through crowdfunding?

This isn’t easy. It’s a lot of hard work and dedication. It’s a constant go-go-go and you can’t let up or give up. It’s probably a good idea to have some team mate’s to help out, spread the word, and just get more stuff done in a day. I really have none which I think puts me at a pretty big disadvantage. I also think you have to be uncomfortably straight forward and direct about what it is you need. Likes and share are great but what you really need is for people to pledge your project. You need to tell them that.

Brian’s hard work and constant dedication is evident in his daily numbers seen below from Kicktraq. Most campaigns start strong before fading away because the campaign owner slacks off and the campaign loses momentum. Brian has been vigilant and pounds the virtual pavement everyday.

Crowdfunding Photography Project Daily Pledges

Crowdfunding Photography Project Daily Pledges

He hits on the campaign’s biggest weakness with the lack of a team. He has done a great job at outreach and getting people to talk about the crowdfunding campaign, building a team of sorts, but it would take a lot of work off of his shoulders if he pulled in a few of his most vocal supporters to help out a little more.

What's next for you?

First things first, reach my goal of $10k. That’s all that really matters right now. I am confident I will reach my goal because I want it, I have to have it and I believe I will get it. Once the campaign is over it’s time for me to hit the road and photograph nude models in abandoned places in the remaining 20 states. I plan on venturing thought the southern states, the west coast, Alaska and Hawaii.

After that I will try to get a book published and making some limited editions for my backers. I am also considering traveling the country again, showing of my work at various art fairs and galleries. I have a few ideas floating around for my next project but for the foreseeable future BARE USA is my focus.

Good luck to Brian and I want to thank him for a great crowdfunding campaign review. He’s done some great things with his campaign and I’ve no doubt he’ll reach his funding goal. If you’ve got a crowdfunding campaign you’d like to review or just have some questions, email me or use the comment section below.

About Joseph Hogue

An investment analyst by profession, I run two blogs (Crowd101 and PeerFinance101) in personal finance, peer lending and crowdfunding. I've been on both sides of the table as a lender and a borrower and am excited to be a part of the peer movement. With the power of the internet, people are helping other people manage debt and raise money in ways never before possible.

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