Can't Miss Marketing Strategies for Photographers

DarrylBrooks by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

There are many arguments on the Internet about what makes up a “professional” photographer. People say you need this skill or that skill. Or that you need to have top-end equipment. Some even say that you have to shoot in a certain mode or style to be a professional.

But, by definition, what makes a professional photographer is the fact that you make money at it. Preferably enough to support you as a full-time photographer. This article will discuss strategies for getting your name out there, getting hired, and making money.

Looking Professional

Remember that time you hired a plumber or electrician to get some work done and the guy that showed up at your door looked so sketchy you were afraid to let them in? Or the times when the contractor had a professional-looking vehicle, a clean uniform, and a set of pro tools? Which one was better? Well, the fact is, you don’t know until you see their work, but you are more likely to hire the person who looks professional, right?

The same goes for being a professional photographer. If you want potential clients to take you seriously, you need to look the part. This isn’t so much about gear, although that’s part of it. It’s about presenting a professional, confident demeanor. It doesn’t matter if you are showing up for a job, or just wandering about taking pictures, look, and act the part. You never know when someone may approach you needing your services.

You definitely won’t know when they passed you by because you didn’t look professional.

Let’s talk about confidence for a minute. When someone hires or interviews you for a shoot, they need to know you can perform. And your confidence at every stage of the process will go a long way to selling that. Unless you are an excellent actor, the only way to look confident is to be confident in your abilities.

I was on a corporate shoot and used my contact there as a model to test the lights. I took a picture, looked at the image, and said, “Yikes!” Trust me. Don’t say yikes.

But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
~Bob Dylan

Confidence comes from experience. You need to learn and master your craft before you try to pass yourself off as a professional. Buying expensive gear doesn’t make you a photographer, much less a professional photographer. There is a saying that Minnesota Fats could beat most people at pool using a broomstick. A pearl-inlaid, two-piece stick in a leather case doesn’t make you a professional pool player. Experience does.

Professional Materials

You have a nice camera and professional glass. You have lighting equipment, and other gear to get the job done. And, more importantly, you know how to use it. But being a professional implies you are running a business. So treat it as a business and potential customers will take you seriously.

Foremost, this means professional business cards. Don’t order the “free” business cards you found in a pop-up ad somewhere. In the first place, they aren’t free, as you’ll pay more in shipping than better cards cost. But more importantly, they look cheap and will give your potential customers the wrong idea. Get help from a graphic artist if you need to, but make sure you have plenty of good-quality, professional-looking business cards.

Pro Tip: Always have a good supply on hand at all times. The number one marketing strategy is never to pass up an opportunity to let people know about you. And handing out business cards to anyone that looks interested is easy, cheap, and surprisingly effective.

The other materials you need to have are documents. You don’t need to spend money on these. You can find templates online, you can load into your word processor. Depending on the type of photography you do, you may need model releases, property releases, contracts, and sales documentation which includes what rights you are selling. This goes back to the professional appearance discussed above. Marketing is all about appearance and perception. Have professional materials and potential clients will take you seriously. A blank stare when they ask you about a contract is a non-starter.

Letting People Know You are a Photographer

This expands a bit on the business card tip above. Unless you have a brick and mortar studio, there is no way for people to know you are a photographer, much less a professional one, unless you tell them. Never pass up an opportunity to do so.

The first thing you need to do once you amass the skill level and go pro is simply to let everyone know. Everyone. Start with your friends, family, and coworkers. Then expand to neighbors, casual acquaintances, and people you regularly do business with. Carry your camera with you everywhere that is practical. More than anything else, this will elicit the question, “Are you a photographer?” Why, yes I am, here’s my card.

And that leads to the very next thing, and that is to get those business cards printed up. A lot of them. You will want different designs depending on your genres and audience. Let’s say you do newborns and seniors. Then you need at least two unique designs, showing your work in those two areas. Maybe you do food photography, so you have some printed up with a picture of fried chicken on it. Handing that card to a bride-to-be won’t get you hired to shoot her wedding.

You will want two or three distinct types of cards for each genre as well. You can start with just one, but expand to the others as soon as you can afford it. All the cards should be of top quality and display your best image in the genre you are presenting. The first version can just have your email address on it. These are the ones you will always have on hand to pass out to anyone and everyone.

Pro Tip: As soon as you can, invest in a domain on the internet. This will take some time and research, but it isn’t very expensive. You want something that resonates photography and has your name or brand name in there somewhere. You also want it to be as simple and easy to remember as possible. If you have to keep spelling it for people, it’s too complicated. The reason for this is, you want a professional-looking email address as soon as possible. doesn’t look professional or give people confidence that you will be around next year. Also, create a website, even a basic one. It should have an About page, a Contact page, and a very select collection of your best work at a minimum.

The second set of cards should have your email address and phone number on it. You don’t want everyone to have your phone number as that can be counter-productive. But if you are talking to someone that sounds serious and you think you want to do business with them, they need your phone number. This will also be the card you hand out to most people who become actual clients.

I say most because some clients will need the third version of a business card. This will have the above information, plus your full address. Obviously, you want to be careful with this one. You will reserve this card for clients or potential clients who have a need for your mailing address. You will mostly use this card for people who need to mail you a check; and that’s a good thing!

Social Media

No matter what type of photographer you are, you can’t discount the power of social media in your marketing strategy.

Even if you do have a brick and mortar studio, the days of taking out an ad in the Yellow Pages are long gone. You may think that using a global social media platform when your clients are all local is a waste of time. I can assure you it’s not. I have had local clients find me on sites that hosted in other countries with a global reach, for a job a few miles from my home.

Which social media platform(s) you use and how you use them will vary depending on your desired audience. But there are some general guidelines that will be relevant no matter your niche.

Pinterest and Instagram: These are essential for photographers. Though extremely different, they are both very much visual platforms, so what better place to showcase your work. They created Instagram for photographs, so make sure you set up an account and become a regular participant. Try to keep a consistent look and feel that ties into your main genres and post on a regular schedule; at least once a day if possible.

Pinterest is a different beast entirely, and you need to spend some time getting a feel for the place. But there is a great deal of sharing information on this site, and you can spread your message further and faster on Pinterest than any other social media platform. It is absolutely critical if you shoot weddings, newborns, family portraits, or seniors.

Pro Tip: I said participant in that last section, not contributor. Social media is all about being social. You’re not just there to post your work, but engage with other users. Be helpful and answer any questions you see, whether or not directed at you. Always respond to every message or reaction to your work. In short, be social, just like you would if you were at a party or event.

Twitter and Facebook: The grandparents of social media. They have been around longer than almost any other platform and I can’t overstate their reach or importance. This is where you want to spend most of the social part of your marketing and post your work there most often.

Twitter is where I focus most of my posts. You can get away with posting more often on Twitter than anywhere else. And you should, because of the transient nature of Twitter feeds. Things pass through quickly and there is less chance of any one post being seen by your audience, so you need a bit of a shotgun approach. Post often, but not repetitively. You will get blocked if you try to repeat the same post over and over. Mix it up.

Facebook allows for longer posts, so give them more thought. It also isn’t good for posting too often. Once or twice a day for your marketing posts are plenty. But jump in as often as you can to be social and helpful. This is how you will create and grow your following there or on any other platform. Also, check out Facebook groups. They are a brilliant way to target specific people.

The Rest: There are many other sites that fall loosely under the umbrella of social media and you will have to explore and experiment to find them and figure out what works. Google Business, 500px, LinkedIn, Flickr, and others may or may not be the right fit or be worth your time. Cast a wide net and check it often to see what you catch.

Reddit is the only one of the ‘other’ sites that need addressing. It can be a great resource or a complete waste of time. It is like Facebook in that they encourage longer posts and it has groups called subreddits. But the platform as a whole and the subs in particular, are fiercely protective and don’t tolerate perceived spam.

So to use Reddit effectively, you have to find relevant subs and cultivate a following before you try to market. Posting a link to your work as your first post in a sub is the quickest way to get kicked out of the sub, if not the entire platform.

Your Message

Who are you and what do you do? This is your message. It needs to be consistent and you need to get it out there. First, you need a professional headshot of yourself. You will use this across all of your printed and social media. If you can’t shoot it yourself, get another professional to take it for you. There is no excuse for this not to be excellent.

You may or may not want a logo, but if you do, get it done right. If you are handy with Photoshop, there are plenty of tutorials out there on how to do it. If you use one, keep it consistent across all your media as well.

You need a short bio. Actually, you need several of them. First, create one without regard to length introducing yourself and your services. Include a bit about your experience, and where and how your work has appeared. Don’t waste time or space describing your equipment. Using pro equipment as a demonstration of your ability is a rookie mistake.

Next, edit this bio thoroughly. Make sure there are no typos and it is grammatically correct. Edit it for brevity, but make sure you include everything. This is your basic master bio. You can use it on your website for your about page, and in some printed material. It probably won’t get used anywhere else unless someone asks specifically for it.

Now, look at all of your social media sites. Every one of them will have someplace to put a bio. And almost all of them will have a limit on length. Make a note of each site and the limit, which is usually in characters, but sometimes in words. Also, make a note of the tone of the site and how people react to it. For instance, your Instagram bio should be very personal, while your LinkedIn bio should be very businesslike.

Craft a separate bio for each site and save all of your bios in a place you can access them as needed. Each bio will be a subset of your master bio so the information is the same, although the exact words may be different. All of this together will make up your brand. You want to be easily recognizable, so don’t change it unless necessary. In particular, your image, avatar, and logo should remain the same. You want people scrolling through social media to instantly recognize you and click on your content.

You can be the best photographer in the world, but without marketing, no one will know. Apply these tips to your photography marketing campaign and start growing your business.

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I am a writer with over 16 years of experience and hundreds of articles. I write about photography, productivity, life skills, money management and much more.

Alpharetta, GA

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