Marketing is something that often falls by the wayside for photographers. We push it aside when we’re busy, only to find the clients aren’t there when things slow down.
The best marketing efforts are those that are organic and purposeful. There is no quick fix. Promoting your work is not as simple as “build a website and they will come.” It takes consistency and effort to keep your name out there, no matter how long you’ve been in the business.
Here are my five top tips for marketing your photography business the right way.
1. Curate your online portfolio
As a professional photographer, you need an attractive, well-curated website to highlight your work.
Your website will brand you as either a professional or an amateur. It will serve as the first impression of you and your work. You need to pay attention to every detail, from the template you choose, to how your images flow together to create a cohesive narrative of who you are as an artist.
Put only your best work in your online portfolio, but try to approach your images as a potential photo buyer might. It’s easy to get emotionally attached to certain photographs, but sometimes your favorites are not the ones that are going to resonate with your target market. Create galleries that organize your photos into a grouping that make sense. Pay attention to the colors, shapes, and lighting that flow well together. Create an experience for the viewer as they move through your body of work.
If you feel you can’t see the forest for the trees when it comes curating your work, hire a photo consultant who can give you an unbiased and expert opinion.
Starting an online portfolio from scratch? You might want to choose a web builder made for photographers, such as Photoshelter or Format, as they also offer various tools to help sell and distribute images.
Squarespace is popular with a lot of photographers because of their beautiful, minimalist and modern templates. Wix is also another site that has improved in leaps and bounds in the last couple of years. It is highly customizable and unlike some of the other options, offers tons of different templates to choose from.
2. Print your work
The demand for digital imagery is huge, however, print is not dead.
If you’re a commercial photographer, having a print portfolio is essential for meeting with clients. Showing up at an agency meeting with an iPad to show your work will make you look like an amateur.
In the commercial and advertising world, agencies want to see how your images hold up in print because any flaws become much more obvious. It’s important for them to see how your work translates into print before they hire you.
If you’re looking for commercial work and want to work with ad agencies, design firms, or magazines, you’ll also need to send out printed promos to your target market three or four times a year.
It’s said that it takes an average of seven contacts with someone before they buy from you, so this tactic may not pay off immediately. However, never underestimate the silent watchers.
If you work on the retail level, such as in wedding photography or portraiture, it’s still useful to have printed work to show prospective clients. People love to see something tangible, something they can hold in their hands that will help them experience your work in a more direct way. The photographers who make a lot of money in these niches print out their photographs to show to clients in-person, which drives sales exponentially.
3. Create a quarterly email campaign
Do you have a ‘subscribe to email list’ on your website? If not, you should. Nothing converts like email. An engaged list is far more important than any form of social media. The changing algorithms and whims of companies like Instagram and Facebook can leave your business incredibly vulnerable if you depend on them.
By sending out a regular newsletter or a PDF mailer to your past clients and other relevant business contacts, you appear busy and relevant. Fresh content helps you connect to your audience.
Research whom you want to work with, and regularly make contact with them. Keep track of these contacts via a spreadsheet or CRM (customer relationship management), so you know who has received your previous mailing.
Hire a designer that can create a template for you. This will allow you to swap out pictures every time you do a new campaign with new work. Include your logo on the front and a short bio inside, along with your contact information. Alternately you can create a promo “newspaper” or magazine through a company like Blurb or Newspaper Club.
Your email promo should look as professional as possible. The email campaigns should go out to your target clients every quarter to keep you top of mind when they’re looking for a photographer.
Even if you send out printed promotions, you should also send out email campaigns.
Printed promotions are expensive, which means you can only send them out to a select group of people – your most ideal clients. But with email, you can send out a promotion such as a PDF mailer to hundreds or prospective clients.
4. Use social media strategically
Everyone is complaining about their love/hate relationship with social media, but if you’re using it for business, it’s non-negotiable. The keys to success are your perspective and using social media the right way.
It’s best to pick one or two social media channels and concentrate on bringing up your visibility there. Start by asking yourself what you want to achieve?
Do you want to:
- Drive traffic to your site?
- Connect with agencies and brands?
- Connect with potential brides or portrait clients?
Put aside time every day to post and engage with your target market by leaving thoughtful comments.
Know that the path from a “like” to any “purchase” is a really big leap. Social media should be part of a wider strategy of creating visibility and engaging with a community. It’s great to follow other photographers and support one another, but most of them won’t be your potential clients. Avoid the big time suck of social media and focus on the people that are likely to hire you.
5. Write a WordPress blog
I’m always going on about writing a blog. I think most photographers should have a blog.
One reason is that if you have a WordPress blog connected to your site, you can get a massive boost to your SEO. Updating the blog regularly will get you a higher ranking in search results.
Writing a blog will also help you connect with your audience and build trust. Your clients will feel like they have come to know you.
If writing is not your strong suit, you don’t need to write a lot. In fact, your posts should have lots of images instead. You can share about a family or personal branding session. You can share shots and a short narrative about the latest wedding you shot or write about how you recommend clients dress for their personal branding session.
However you decide to approach it, make sure that your content adds value for the people reading it.
To sum up
Marketing gets a bad rap. As an artist, you may feel like a used car salesman when you’re trying to sell your services. However, think of marketing as a way of putting yourself in front of people and letting them know you’re there.
The most successful photographers are those that demonstrate that they can add value and solve a specific problem.
By taking a more curated, thoughtful approach to promoting yourself, you’ll be able to build a business that stays strong in the face of trends and stands out amongst your competitors.
Do you have any other Tips for Marketing Your Photography Business? Share with us in the comments!