Over the past year, we’ve written many guides on photographic theory, given photography tips & tricks, and recommended photography equipment. However, we have not yet given tips for professional photographers related to the business side of things.
For those working photographers or those hobby photographers with aspirations to become professional (i.e. paid) photographers, here are some tips on how to promote and market yourself as a new photographer.
Do not spend too much money trying to advertise yourself if you are a photographer. There are very few varieties of photographer that require a large marketing budget. Try the methods and tips in this article before you start investing big bucks into advertising and promotions. Learn how to capitalize on free and cheap marketing before you resort to spending larger amounts of money.
Referrals are the lifeblood of a successful photographer (in some cases)
If you photograph events of any description, then referrals are your best friend. You need to encourage them as much as humanly possible. Do not wait for the referral pipeline to dry up before you start soliciting again.
[+] Introduce yourself to the people at parties before taking their photographs
Do it with a little tact. Work on your people skills so that it appears natural and friendly rather than creepy.
[+] Hand out business cards and offer friends and family rates
If you work events and/or family functions, then business cards are still useful, especially if you have your website and QR codes on your business cards.
[+] Incentivize referrals with discounts and special offers
Give people a discount or access to a special offer if they refer people to you. Give the discount and special offer to both the referrer and the person they refer to you.
[+] Create a referral program
This means setting up a referral commission. There are some photographers that are able to pull this off, and there are others that are not. For example, a wedding photographer may have a hard time getting clients via a referral commission, yet a person that sells to blogs may have people seeking out referrals as a way of generating extra income for themselves.
[+] Be frikining referable
If you are not good at your job, then people are not going to refer others to you. No amount of incentives and fancy tricks will have people send others to you. This also includes good customer service skills and a pleasing personality.
[+] Tell people that your business is driven by referrals
Asking others to tell their friends, and saying things such as, “My business is word of mouth” is still an acceptable way of getting referral business.
[+] Thank the people that refer you
Not only will it make them feel good about themselves (because it is unexpected), they may refer other people to you too.
[+] Add a link to a referral form on your website
Return customers may like to refer other people to you, or may like to join your referral program. You can make it easier with links on your website.
Explain why your images are better than the rest
The belief that people will know the quality of your work by looking at your pictures is foolish. Most people have trouble recognizing good from bad, especially when they are looking at your photographs on a phone screen. You need to dedicate a web page on your website to explaining why your images are the best.
How you explain the quality of your images is up to you and depends on what type of photographer you are. For example, if you photograph cars, you may show and explain how well your shots are staged, how well you use the light and contrast, and you may explain how you are able to create well-defined lines on shiny cars in sunlight.
Show people what you mean with examples on your website. For example, if you claim that you catch fantastic action shots without any blurring, then show one of your photos against another that is blurred.
Offer something unique with a legitimate reason
Do not make your unique thing your major selling point because people that buy photographs are rarely looking for something new. They are usually looking for something that matches their pre-conceived expectations. If you do offer something a little more different or unique, make sure you give a good reason for it. If you offer free black and white images, then explain why. If you offer free cloud storage for images, then explain why. If you do not explain why you offer something that others do not, then people will either assume that it is a cheap gimmick or that you charge extra for it (even if it is a freebie).
Do not go knocking door-to-door for extra work
No form of cold calling is acceptable. If you are planning to power your business with any form of cold calling, be it in person, on the streets, via email, phone or Internet, then you are setting yourself up to fail. You are also setting yourself up for a very difficult future. Cold calling is the fastest way to ruin your online reputation, which means the first thing people see when they use Google is the fact that you annoy people with cold calling. Do Not Do It!!!
Social media pitfalls and merciless mistakes
There is little point in explaining why social media marketing is good for photographers, and there is nothing you can learn here that you cannot learn from thousands of other articles on the subject. Instead, here are a few mistakes you should avoid when marketing your images/services on social media.
[+] Learn from the plagiarized cartoonist
Whatever you put on social media is going to be stolen. Even watermarking will not stop your images from being stolen. Cartoonists have this even worse than photographers because their material is stolen and other people make money on it on websites like FunnyJunk.
Many people feel that it is okay to steal material off of social media and share it as if it were their own. If you are going to post images on social media, then make them images that you do not mind being stolen. On the contrary, if you place your business name and website address in a discreet location, then people sharing them on the Internet may work to your advantage.
[+] Learn from the ugly watermarker
Watermarks are ugly and ruin images. Some photographers add watermarks to all of their images, and they lose business to people that do not watermark at all. Instead of watermarking, consider allowing your images to be stolen. If you sell images rather than your service as a photographer, then add watermarks with a light touch, and offer smaller versions without a watermark.
[+] Learn from the show off
Some photographers lose business because they put their most recent photos on their social media profiles. People do not want pictures of their birthday cake, or their office party on the Internet for the entire world to see. Even if you ask permission, and even if the client says yes, they may still be upset and disturbed by being featured on your social media profiles, especially if they are trolled (unfairly criticized) by your viewers/readers.
[+] Learn from the lawbreaker
There are quite a few examples of photographers that put images of kids on their social media profiles at one event or another, and are sued because the child was in protective custody, was a foster child, was adopted, or was at risk. Some kids need to be hidden in order to maintain their safety, which means you need permission from their guardian before putting their image on your social media profiles.