How to Create a Successful Local Marketing Strategy for your Photography Business


The internet has taken over most aspects of our daily lives. We can talk to the world at a moments notice, promote our services instantly, and sell anything we want day or night. However, in the quest to grow as many followers and fans as we can, it can become easy to forget about one of the most important opportunities that exist for your photography business. There is so much potential right outside your front door.

Think local

No photography business can afford to forget about their local community – so you need to create a complete marketing plan that addresses both the internet and your own local community.

Photography Business Marketing

You don’t need to reach an audience around the globe to receive a job from your neighbor down the street. How many people cross your path in a given day? How many of them know what you do or could potentially use your services? How many of them might be interested in what you have to offer?

Through local marketing, you want to create a daily strategy for your local connections to grow consistently.

Photography Business Marketing

Be informative not intrusive

You do not have to be overly intrusive about it. You do not have to sell to your friends, colleagues, or acquaintances directly. Have you ever had a friend that you haven’t seen in years suddenly contact you out of the blue asking to talk or to get together? Then you speak to them and realize that they have just gotten a job as a financial planner (or some other such thing) and are trying to sign you up as a client.

This is not what I mean by local marketing, but you do have to be effective at making people aware of what you do, whenever the situation presents itself. You want to intrigue people. When people ask what you do, help them understand your photography business. You are in a creative field, so make it sound as exciting as possible.

Photography Business Marketing

Just let people know what you do

If there is a crossover that might help the person, mention it. For instance, what type of photographer are you? What are the specific services that you provide? Depending on who the person is, tailor what you say to them or their situation.

Send out an official announcement letting everyone know about your photography business. Briefly, explain what your services are and how you might provide potential customers with assistance. When done correctly, this will not be intrusive but informative. People will congratulate you and celebrate your endeavor.

If you are trying to grow your family portrait or corporate business, the people you know will be a huge help. How many of your friends work for businesses or have families? I am assuming most of them. Why would these friends want to seek out a stranger to provide these services when they could work with someone they know? You can be that person.

Photography Business Marketing

Build relationships with other businesses

How many businesses do you frequent on a daily basis? From restaurants to law firms to local shops, there is a wealth of opportunity right under your nose. It is simple but can seem so daunting at the same time. Smile, talk to that business owner you have seen for years and tell them about your services and how they might benefit from them. Bring a brochure of your work.

For businesses that you do not have a prior relationship with, try to locate the person in the company who would be in charge of hiring out the type of work that you want to do. It can be much less effective to just walk in the door blind with the aim of speaking to the first person you see. Your prospective chances will improve significantly if you can make a pointed and direct contact with an influential person within a business.

Exhibit your work

Seek out gathering spaces, such as a coffee shop, a bar, or an event space to hold a show. This is good for their business as it provides art on their walls and a reason for people to enter their establishment. For you, it provides a fun space to show your work. If you live in a smaller community, where a lot of people who know you will come across the work, then this can be a great strategy. If you can draw people to the space to help show and sell your work, then that is a good thing. Many gallerists hold pop-up galleries in addition to their permanent spaces for just this purpose. Consider doing similar pop-up events of your work.

If you live in a smaller community, where a lot of people who know you will come across the work, then this can be a great strategy. If you can draw people to the space to help show and sell your work, that is a good thing. Many gallerists hold pop-up galleries in addition to their permanent spaces for just this purpose. Consider doing similar pop-up events of your work.

Photography Business Marketing

Make sure it’s on your terms

However, there are some pitfalls to this strategy. Providing your work to a business for an open-ended period of time at no cost doesn’t necessarily mean that your work will sell or that it will help you get noticed. I see artwork covering the walls of coffee shops all over New York, and most of it never moves. This is just giving the establishment free art with little or no benefit to you.

You need to select the correct establishment and have a way to draw people there with the specific purpose of seeing your art and hopefully purchasing it. Without that, this strategy can be as much of a drain on your time and resources as it can be a success. If these benefits are not there for you, the establishment should pay you for your work (or pay a rental fee) since you are providing a service to them. You are giving them an ambiance and improving the experience for their customers.

Photograph students at a local school

Another thing you could consider is contacting an acting or music teacher at a local school and offering to photograph the student’s headshots. If you do well, it will help build your portfolio and both the students and the teachers alike will tell others of your services. Hang an advertisement in a local business, do work for a local website, sell your work at a local fair; there are many creative ways to integrate what you do into your community.

Photography Business Marketing

There is an infamous and successful example of this type of strategy employed by a guitar teacher named Dan Smith in New York City. Beginning in the 1990s, Dan hung small ads in doorways and vestibules in businesses all over Manhattan. You could not walk into a diner or coffee shop without seeing one, and these ads persist today. He has built a business out of this single marketing strategy, and it lead him to be so ubiquitous that even The New York Times ran a profile of him.

The repetition is what worked for him, and it was not annoying; it was almost humorous and became a defining characteristic of growing up in the city. This is an example of the 80/20 rule, where 80 percent of your income can come from 20 percent of your marketing. Dan found a strategy that worked and pushed it to the extreme. It only worked because of the extreme measures that he took in plastering so much of the city with his ads. Other music teachers pasted their ads around the city, but none did it like Dan.


By working on a variety of local marketing strategies, these endeavors will combine to create an overall awareness of your business in the community. Some of the individual pieces might seem small, and all of this may seem tedious at first, but all together they can be very powerful.

For even more business help – join the Focus Summit 2017 Online Business and Marketing Conference for Photographers on Sept 26-28th 2017. We will cover marketing, business development, law, SEO, branding, blogging, and much more. Use the code “DPS” for a $50 discount.

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James Maher is a professional photographer based in New York, whose primary passion is documenting the personalities and stories of the city. If you are planning a trip to NYC, he is offering his new guide free to DPS readers, titled The New York Photographer's Travel Guide. James also runs New York Photography Tours and Street Photography Workshops and is the author of the e-book, The Essentials of Street Photography.

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