The Importance of Networking to Advance Your Photography

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Ludmila Borosova
Ludmila Borosova

As I always like to say, photographers are entrepreneurs, so you should figure out different ways how to market yourself to become a professional. Everyone starts as an amateur, and the biggest gap between a professional and an amateur isn’t the gear they’re using or the style of their photos. In the end, the thing that matters is whether you can make a living out of it (part-time or full-time).

Today, we’ll cover the following:

  • What is word of mouth in marketing?
  • What is networking and how do you start doing it?
  • How is networking connected to the butterfly effect?

For me, the biggest jump wasn’t when I started running ads. It was when people started booking me even though I didn’t reach any of their virtual channels: I was recommended by others.

Recommended Reading: Want to expand your shooting skills and master photography? Grab our set of 65 beautifully designed and printable Action Cards that will give you over 200 photography assignments to help you take your photography to the next level. Check it out here.

Word of Mouth – The Most Effective Marketing Technique?

“Word of mouth” is the oldest marketing channel, and it means that everyone you ever met has something to say about you or your business. Whether it’s positive or negative, it can hugely influence your workload. If done well, it costs nothing but a lot of energy. The biggest difference between regular advertising and word of mouth is that people are more likely to form an opinion based on someone they trust. Online marketing is often impersonal, but a personal reference carries a lot of strength and impact.

Here Comes Networking!

The more people you know, the more likely it is that they will recommend you. Easy math! Networking is a fancy word for making connections with other humans. Let me tell you an example. Networking is one of the great advantages of studying at a university. Theoretical skills are only a fraction of what you gain. If you’re somewhat active during your academic years, you can make hundreds of connections: you meet your classmates, teachers, businessmen, and that’s not all. All of those people create your spider web of contacts that is unique to you. If you’re a photographer:

  • Your classmates can become your clients. They want nice pictures for their social media, for their business photos, for their wedding and family ceremonies.
  • Your teachers can recognize your talent and make things happen. In a second, you can be shooting university events and meeting other interesting people.
  • Your lecture guests from big corporates may be looking for a photographer at their company. Let them know that you exist!
  • The friends you make could potentially start their businesses. They will be looking for a photographer to kickstart their ideas.

University is just one example of how you can broaden your circle of people. As you get older, you’ll have fewer opportunities to meet people. We all like being comfortable in our bubble, but in the business world, it’s better to go out from time to time and actively search for networking opportunities.

Here’s What You Can Do Now to Start Meeting More People!

Make Sure That You Have a Portfolio

Before going outside of your comfort zone, take some time to perfect what you already have. Your work needs to be somewhat presentable before showing it to influential individuals, right? It doesn’t need to look super high-end. Just make sure to show off your best work on your website and update your contact information.

Attend Events That Matter

Is there a concert at the event you photograph? Hand out your business card to the band! Photograph by Ľudmila Borošová

Know what’s going on in your area! In bigger cities, there are some regular networking events that you can join and meet interesting people. But that doesn’t have to be it. You can join lots of local workshops, presentations, or events organized by clubs (travel clubs, business clubs, photography clubs, etc.) – the options are endless. Going just for one event in two weeks can make a big difference!

Print Your Business Cards

Always have at least a few business cards on your person! Don’t have any yet? No worries – there are plenty of online services you can use to design yours. If you have a bit of spare money, hire a graphic designer to perfect the branding. Don’t forget to mention your full name, occupation, phone number, email address, and website.

Master Your People Skills

It’s all about the connections! Photograph by Ľudmila Borošová

Being a good photographer isn’t enough while networking – people will remember you for your personality, not the photographs you showed them. Whenever possible, practice your people skills. As an introvert, I know that this may be difficult at first, but trust me, being comfortable at small talk with all age groups is very handy. If you don’t know where to start, I would say listening skills are number one. Be mindful and present at the moment. You must reply with a complex sentence that is related to the context of the information you just heard. And even better when you add your value to it! After the conversation ends, make sure to follow up with the person in a few days.

Being a good photographer isn’t enough while networking – people will remember you for your personality, not the photographs you showed them.

Learn How to Say Yes and No

Setting boundaries when attending events is crucial. It’s best to go to many events, rather than being a regular somewhere where it doesn’t bring you value anymore. If you feel pushed into attending an event, learn how to express gratitude and politely decline the invite. On the other hand, whenever life throws random opportunities at you, be prepared to say yes and accept new challenges.

Photograph Events

I met a lot of local wedding vendors thanks to networking. Photograph by Ľudmila Borošová

Even though I am a portrait photographer, I sometimes say yes to photographing interesting events. Why? I meet at least 10 new people each evening I do that! They usually approach me on their own and start a conversation. When I make a good impression, we exchange our business cards and they recommend my work elsewhere. You can start by shooting a university club lecture and end up at a dinner with acknowledged investors.

Be the Friend and Psychologist

When photographing clients, make them feel relaxed by understanding their concerns and making sure that they are well addressed and taken care of. Be interested in their lives and share a deep conversation (if you see they like it). Comfortable clients remember that they can trust you in more than just photography. They remember the photo shoot, how they felt, the connection they made, and the laughs they shared. This is great for building word of mouth!

Know Who You Know

A local singer I met thanks to networking. Photograph by Ľudmila Borošová

It’s tricky to remember everyone you meet after a while, so make sure that you have a folder with your connections! Whether it’s an old-school notebook, excel sheet, or your LinkedIn profile, there will be a time when this comes in handy. You could be sharing a new idea, new product, or just wanting to make a certain thing happen. From businesspeople to vendors to makeup artists, everyone is equally important. Why not start now?

Support the Reciprocity

Competition is an old-school word! I’m sure you’ve met a lot of photographers in your area, and you all specialize in different things. If your network correctly, you’re able to gain extra work. How? Let’s say a potential client approaches me, wanting to get newborn pictures. That’s not my field of expertise, but I know a photographer who is a pro in this area. I recommend him, and the clients tell him they got a contact from me. This takes just a few seconds for you, but it means the whole world to him! He will remember this act of kindness and he’ll support you equally next time.

Don’t Stay at Home

Of course, don’t stay at home! Networking online is never as strong as meeting someone in real life. And you don’t need to attend fancy events to meet someone relevant.

It’s the butterfly effect!

You don’t realize how much a small action can change your whole life, or in our case, bring you, new customers. The butterfly effect is just about that: the theory is that one small (almost insignificant) event in your life can lead to something bigger later on.

One of the best chefs in the country photographed by me, thanks to the butterfly effect! Photograph by Ľudmila Borošová

A few years ago, I was coming back from my regular visit home, sitting in a carriage of an international train. The journey takes a few hours, so naturally, I started talking with the woman next to me. Turns out that she was a painter having an important exhibition the next day. She invited me and didn’t think much of it, but I showed up the next day. It not only meant a lot for her and her art, but I met at least five other people that happened to be directors of big institutions. We are still in touch, and they offered me to have my exhibition at their place.

You don’t realize how much a small action can change your whole life, or in our case, bring you, new customers.

A few years ago, my roommate persuaded me to join a skiing trip to the Alps. I met a lot of people on that trip. Not only did I meet my current boyfriend, but I got to know 40 other people. One of them was an amateur photographer and we talked for a few minutes. A few months after the trip, she needed help on a photo shoot for an accounting company and I was in! The marketing manager of that company I communicated with soon changed jobs and kept me as a go-to photographer. Now, he’s working for one of the most famous chefs in the country and I get to work with a celebrity!

Recommended Reading: Want to expand your shooting skills and master photography? Grab our set of 65 beautifully designed and printable Action Cards that will give you over 200 photography assignments to help you take your photography to the next level. Check it out here.

Networking Is Fun, and the Sooner You Start, the Better!

Photograph by Ľudmila Borošová

I hope that now you understand why everyone you meet is important, and not only for you. You can be the agent of change for many people you know, too. If you know someone you can help gain more opportunities, go for it. You never know what will be waiting for you soon!

Self-Check Quiz:

  1. What is word of mouth?
  2. Why is word of mouth stronger than online marketing?
  3. What is networking?
  4. What can you do to start actively networking?
  5. What should be on your business card?
  6. Why are people skills important?
  7. What is special about photographing events?
  8. What do we mean by supporting reciprocity?
  9. What is the butterfly effect?
  10. Is networking only good for you?

Assignment:

  • Find three interesting events that are happening this month and attend them as a guest. Don’t forget to bring your new business cards!
  • If you’re starting, find an event that’s supposed “out of your reach” but very interesting. Email them that you would love to photograph it for free. One message can do wonders!
  • Think of an example in your life where the butterfly effect was strongest. What is it?

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