Being a photographer is far more than taking pictures. In fact, pressing the shutter button is maybe just a small percentage of all the work we need to do as photographers. We must edit, do project management, understand how to do sales, customer care, customer support, and even psychology. On the more technical part, there is branding, web design, graphic design, and the feared and loved marketing.
You might be thinking, “I didn’t sign up for this!” And you’re right. I personally have studied business administration at the university for six years, about to get my degree, and I am nowhere near understanding all these aspects. It’s still just a small business, but you need to be constantly learning and evolving to succeed. Let this guide help you learn from your mistakes as well as observing so that your small photography business can thrive from your promotion!
Today, we’ll cover the following:
- What is the one mistake you shouldn’t be making?
- How to build basics of your photography brand
- Why is networking the most important skill?
- How to get more inquiries from existing clients
- How to build your social media
Before you start, don’t make the same mistake as I did: overwhelming yourself with too much perfectionism that gets you nowhere. I’m a shy and quiet introvert, so whenever I should be presenting myself and my work, I get anxious and feel very awkward to do so. This stopped me from making my own website, building my social media portfolio, and more. It took me more than a year to complete my website, and I’m only about to launch it now. It isn’t because of my limited resources or time; it’s simply because I feel scared about not doing it right. Well, you can’t make a mistake if you don’t do it at all, right? Wrong. You’re making a mistake by not doing it! And you’re not alone. It’s very hard to be the salesperson of yourself and your own products, but it’s the only way that you can thrive in your profession. Remember, you don’t need to start doing all these things at once. Take small steps and choose whatever you prefer first. Here are my top areas to focus on, if you’d like to start promoting your photography brand from home.
1. Branding Is the Base of Your Business
Since your photography is a small business, you need to create a brand! This is the most important step in marketing because it lets you distinguish yourself from other photographers just by looking at your work, page, or even one photo. If you don’t have anything yet, or you’d like to revise your old branding, focus on these three things first: your logo, your brand colors, and your font type.
Graphics by Ľudmila Borošová
You don’t need to hire an expensive professional, because you can make these simple decisions by yourself. To make it easier for you, create a mood board with whatever graphic choices you made and set one standard that you will use in all your posts. Something like the one above.
If you want to go further, you can create the tone of voice, write down adjectives that people associate with your photography (dreamy, luxurious, natural), and play with the gap between how you are currently perceived and how you would like to be perceived in the future.
2. Make Personas of Your Brand
Create three personas as your ideal customers. This is a great marketing technique, popular with many small and big companies. You can’t sell your products if you don’t know who you’re selling to. Write down everything about your ideal client but be very specific and give her a name. For example:
Lucy is an 18-year-old ambitious young lady who is very interested in pursuing her career in journalism. She doesn’t have a stable income, but her parents support her if they think the purchase decision is bringing the right value. In her free time, she likes to go outside with her friends and has a very active social life. She cares a lot about her appearance on social media and likes to build a small audience of like-minded enthusiasts about the news. She is about to finish high school and one of her biggest concerns is looking good at her graduation pictures. The only time she ever posed for someone was when her friends were taking pictures of her on the last sleepover. She is so excited about posting graduation pictures on Instagram because her crush is following her. If the pictures turn out to be perfect, she can use them to her advantage for more years to come – when applying to university clubs or her first job.
Do you see what I mean? When creating a buyer persona, cover their demographic and financial background, their hobbies, passions, and aspirations. After that, you need to focus on their challenges and fears that you could solve with your service.
3. Publish Your Website
If getting real leads and sales is what you’re going for, you need to have your own website. Social media is working just fine, but there comes a time when you’d like to attract more serious clients and therefore take it to the next level by having a real website you can market. There are many web providers you can choose from, so make a wise decision: find a sweet spot between affordable and easy to understand. Before doing the manual work, do the necessary research and write down everything you’d like to (ideally) have on your website. Look for inspiration from photographers in your area. What does their design look like? Do they keep it simple? How much text do they have? What do you enjoy and what do you find unnecessary?
Image 003 – Screenshot by Ľudmila Borošová
Don’t forget that to publish your website, you don’t need to make all your website dreams come true! For example, I have my website only in my mother tongue (as I would like to get leads from my area) and English is my second priority. It currently consists of my portfolio and a pricing list, but in the future, I would like to expand to a blog as well. It’s far from finished and being satisfied with, but it’s published to serve my current needs!
4. Start Networking
The best thing about attending the university for me was networking! Being able to meet new people with different business backgrounds every day is what made me look forward to school. They knew that I’m a photographer, so many times when they needed pictures for their small business, or they were looking for a wedding photographer, they knew who to recommend. But guess what, you don’t need to go to school to reach the right people!
Join online communities that are looking for what you have to offer. If you’re a wedding photographer, there is probably a local “Wedding Facebook Group” in your area/country. It’s full of excited brides giving each other advice on small vendors, venues, and creatives, and selling pre-loved accessories. Every day, someone is asking for a specific service, whether it be make-up artists, videographers, photographers, or florists. Just hop in and say hi in the comment section!
If you’re more of a product photographer, you can find a lot of work in local marketing groups or groups for small entrepreneurs. They are probably looking for you right now and you don’t even know it! Go look! There’s no need to pay for ads when you can be right where everything happens.
5. Start Leveraging What You Have
Whenever you work with a client, you must make sure that it wasn’t the last time! How do you do that? Well, after mastering your communication and delivering beautiful high-quality images, always overdeliver. Promise something (example: 20 pictures) and deliver slightly more. When a client is in the stage of receiving their pictures and you positively surprise them, their happiness must be leveraged! What I like to do is create some digital thank you notes that I can send in the package with edited pictures. It can be just a simple thank you, but why not add more? If you’re certain that your photo shoot went well and that you clicked with your client, don’t hesitate to kindly ask for a review. If you’d like to see more future sales, offer a discount code for the client and their friends! This is a fun way to track which clients are happy to spread the word.
Graphics by Ľudmila Borošová
As you can see, this graphic doesn’t match my current branding at all, and that’s why I wanted to show you! My first attempt at creating a thank you card for my clients wasn’t ideal, but it did its job, and it worked. Most of your clients aren’t wizards in graphic programs, so don’t be too hard on yourself with the first design. You can improve on the way I did! Just remember, a simple thank you note can do more than you think!
6. Start Building Your Social Media
Marketing doesn’t need to be just about running ads; discover the beauty of creating content! Create a posting plan for yourself and pick two platforms you will focus all your energy on; for example, Instagram and TikTok. Don’t forget that all your beautiful photos are not the only thing you can share. There are countless ideas there for photographers. Introduce yourself to your audience, run contests, talk about photography-related topics they’re potentially interested in, and communicate regularly with your followers by bringing value.
7. Run Online Ads on Google and Facebook
If your budget allows it, start learning more about pay-per-click advertising. If done right, these types of ads can bring you a lot of return on your investment! Don’t get discouraged in the beginning, as it takes some time to optimize your ad and make it convert. This has a steep learning curve, so only invest some of your money into it! You can always check how your ads are performing and do slight improvements once a week.
Social media has great power in showcasing your work to a wider audience, but Google Ads has the benefit of targeting people who have already searched for photographers in your area. Both platforms will work great together!
Graphics by Ľudmila Borošová
This is my first serious Facebook ad that I will be testing online within the next month. Is it perfect? No! But I can tweak everything on the go and achieve different results with the slightest changes in copywriting, media, or audience.
8. Start Selling Vouchers
Photograph by Ľudmila Borošová
If you have a quiet following, chances are that they need just a slight push to purchase your service. Try designing and printing your own vouchers and encourage them to buy them as a gift for their loved ones. If you make your intangible service a beautiful tangible product (voucher), it will be much easier for your customers to see the value for which they’re paying.
Photograph by Ľudmila Borošová
9. Publish to Magazines
Tearsheet from Like a Lion Magazine. Photograph by Ľudmila Borošová
There are tons of online magazines that would love to publish your work! Put yourself out there by creating a list of magazines that are looking for photoshoots and simply submit all the details. You will be surprised that being featured in a magazine is not impossible. Even though this is not going to bring you lots of new clients (if any), you can put this on your resumé!
Whatever it is that you choose for your business promotion, remember that marketing is a complex field and doesn’t consist of just one thing! Today, I gave you eight examples of things you can start doing from home, but there are many more ideas waiting to be discovered. All the steps that you do should have a clear goal and a metric to measure your success, as well as speak to the right audience. It will be a tough thing to master in the beginning, but once you get your first leads, you will understand the appeal!
- Why might perfectionism ruin your marketing efforts?
- Why do you need to work on your branding?
- What three areas of branding should be your key focus?
- What is a buyer’s persona? Should it be broad or specific?
- Where can you get inspiration for your website?
- How can you reach relevant people without paying for ads?
- How can you leverage the most out of your existing clients?
- What can you include in a thank you note?
- What photography-related topics could you talk about on your social media?
- How can you turn an intangible service into a tangible product?
- Design your logo, choose 3-4 most dominant brand colors and 1-2 fonts to use (one for headlines, one for paragraphs), and ask your family and friends for their opinions. Use these colors for all supporting materials you create.
- Create three personas for your photography business. Who are they exactly? Write all their characteristics down and draw them on paper.
- Browse at least 10 photography websites and write down what you love and hate about each one of them. If you decide to start creating your website, use this as a base for your design ideas!
- Choose at least one relevant online group where you can get leads in your area. Be creative! The groups are usually not related to photography at all.
- Better late than never! Kindly ask clients who you loved working with for an honest review. Never push them into what they have to say!
- Create a content plan for the next month and start working on the posts. When the time comes to publish them, you will have them ready!
- Before putting any money into paid ads, look up free educational resources on the topic. Dedicate one journal for copy ideas and lessons learned!
- Ask your audience whether they’d be interested in buying a voucher for their loved ones. Print them depending on the demand!
- Find three magazines that often publish the work of photographers that aren’t well known and register on their website. Choose the best photoshoot you have and get ready to submit it for their next issue!