how to start a photography business

How to start a photography business  

Photography business marketing tips – how to get clients

If you need to find out how to start a photography business – Assuming you are already a competent photographer and you have all equipment necessary and ready to go, you ask yourself a question: how do I get clients as a photographer. This article will give you general tips how to get people to employ you to take pictures for them in exchange for a fee. Every aspect of this will be subject to a different article, where more details will be provided. These are just a few marketing tips to help you get clients as a professional photographer, and start you thinking.

Invite family and friends to be models and start building a photography portfolio

That is the most obvious way to start building up a photography portfolio. You can take all the portraits you want as your family and friends will not have any expectations. Feel free to experiment as much as you like. If you are lucky you might get to photograph a wedding. Not charging any money will relieve you from the pressure to perform, as a wedding is a high demanding and high expectation task for a wedding photographer.

You portfolio has to be your website at first, but you will always need to have photos to show printed and organized in a hard copy portfolio and perhaps in digital format on your laptop or iPad.

Offer free sessions to other people

It is very important to organise few free sessions with people you do not know so you can get comfortable talking to strangers and asking them to pose for you. It is also a good photography experience to start with in real situations. Remember to be friendly and relaxed and it will be awkward otherwise. Organize few sessions until you are more comfortable taking various people portraits.

Offer them few prints for free on your own cost and some of them might order an enlargement.

Do not expect everyone to jump on you just because you offer them a free photography sessions as some of them will be cautious as they will think something must be wrong with it. Even if you offer free photography services for free, be prepared for rejection.

You can offer your services for an initial free session to all local businesses, especially the ones that may be somehow related to yours such as : photo and imaging, shops, hair dressing, baby clothes, wedding shops, florist. You need to approach them and be ready for a lot of rejection, however you have to do it. There will be always someone open to it.

Newsletter distribution, email database direct marketing

You need to start a newsletter by email in which you can say whatever you want to say, show your latest photography sessions, talk about cameras, even including food recipes or anything, just to enable communication channels. The newsletter is a powerful marketing tool and it will make people remember you exist.

Every time I issue a newsletter something comes up, either a question, a lead, an enquiry or even someone being annoyed. Make sure you do not get demoralised by people being upset, as it is part of life and you cannot make everyone happy. For this issue and for real legal unsolicited email laws, make sure you include the option for people to unsubscribe, as you will be liable to get sued for spam.

This may never happen, as nobody will go the distance to initiate legal action, it is too much trouble, however it is a good idea and practice to protect yourself.

In order to have the newsletter set up definitely you need to have as many email addresses as possible. You will need  to grow your database of emails, remember to record every email of every person you come in contact with regardless if they are interested in your services as photographer or not. Always take email and contact details of any people who might be interested in photography, as they will be your pre-qualified potential leads in the future.

Gathering email addresses is not an easy task. One way I have found very efficient, is to buy a Perspex competition box with a key and place it into a public space such as shop. You need to speak with the owner to allow you to do this, and you need to offer them a benefit as well. You can offer to share the email list you are going to receive or reward their clients with a gift voucher entitle them to a free session with you. You can make up a promotion and display it, and email will come.

You need to leave brochures, entry forms and business cards as well.

Email will come as there will always be people looking for a deal, bargain or freebie.

Once you get them to become your “free clients” you can offer them to sell an enlargement.

Internet marketing and social media – Facebook, and Twitter

All businesses have profiles on Facebook and Twitter these days. This is the new way of internet marketing and fortunately that is free at the moment.

You have to get yourself accounts, prepare profiles for your website and constantly post messages, offers, photos. Try to get as many friends and fans as possible and they will be receiving your commercial messages free of charge.

Make sure you do not overdo it and you might become annoying.

Facebook is a very powerful marketing tool for your photography business and for any business in general. You can organise events, invite people over and have them photographed for free. You need to initiate action in order of people to follow.

As an example, I have sent 200 messages to different people asking if interested in participating in a free photo session where first 2 prints are free of charge. You may not believe it but 20 people expressed their interest. I have hired a venue for 2 days and organised these sessions.

I have done a studio portfolio in no time, recovered the cost and made a profit.

You need to take advantage by the new media to promote your photography business as long as it is still free.

Posting constantly your session on Facebook will attract people to visit your site and also get you few enquiries

Public exposure

 baby markets, bridal fairs, exhibitions and any public event where you can expose yourself to a large crowd in a short period of time as a professional photographer

You need to find any markets or fairs, that may be related to your photography field such as bridal fairs, school conferences, baby markets and book a stand or a stall for promotion. This is not as costly as you might think, depending on the market, but you will get some leads. Have all your marketing materials with you, and do not forget to distribute as many brochures as possible. Never hesitate to talk to people as they are pre-qualified customers interested in the theme of the event and you will get leads. Make sure you record contact details and follow up immediately after with a phone call, email and photography services offer.

Remember next time you participate in a public event with business offering their services, there is always at least one photographer as well.

Exchanges marketing material with other businesses

Every time you do have a client, give them a bag with brochures and include as many as you can form other business. They might the same for you and that will add up. You need to find business on an similar level and willing to do it. Once you find people as business minded as you need to be, initiate conversations and exchange ideas

Organise a photography party

This is an interesting business tip for children photography. You invite few mums with their toddlers to a party where they can have professional photos done with their babies for a fraction of the price if they would pay by themselves. It also is a reason for them to get together and for you the get a lot of pictures in a short period of time with a lot of babies.

Encourage word of mouth

Once you finish a session, send your clients a “thank you letter”, and offer them a discount if their recommendation to someone they know, will book you in the future. Keep doing this and they will be some results. You photography business will grow slowly together with your clients list

Gift vouchers

Gift vouchers are another powerful marketing tool not only for your new photography business but for any type of enterprise. Do not hesitate to distribute gift vouchers to everyone visits you in any shape of form, or offer them as a sponsor for various events. You can include in your gift voucher a certain amount of money to be deducted from your next session. This way , if someone decides to sue that voucher, it will be applicable only to your business and you have a guaranteed client

Become a public event sponsor

This marketing technique will give you a good amount of exposure. Do not hesitate to offer your photography skills and time for charity events, public events organised by local council and various organizations. They are constantly looking for local business to give them a hand. Having good quality photographs will be a plus for them and they will accept anyone who volunteers

This will bring you exposure of your photography business to the public locally, and also you will have a chance to distribute marketing materials, and get noticed. Share all the photos on your website or watermark your photos, retaining the copyright, so your name will be noticed if your photos will be used publicly.

You may not money at the beginning but your business will grow and your benefits will come later.

Publish ads in the magazines related to your business

If you are a wedding photographer, you can buy advertising space in a bridal magazine and that will usually comes with also an internet listing. As a baby photographer, you can advertise in any children related publication and so on.

The disadvantages of this marketing tool are the cost and time. You won’t be able also to measure the return, but the good news is that being published in a popular magazine will give your business weight in the eyes of the people assessing if they want to employ you.

Also you can use the association with the magazine as a marketing tool for your own advertising campaigns on your website. You will be able to use their names stating that you have been published photographer and that is very helpful

Subscribe to lead generation website, and start to quote online

This proves to be one of the most profitable marketing activities you can do for the following reasons:

–       You will speak only with qualified customers who are looking for your photography services

–       You will speak to large number of people in a short period of time

–       You can see your competition

–       You can measure your performance and that will enable you to improve your marketing skills

–       You will definitely find customers for your photography business

Basically what you need to do is subscribe a service provider, and pay for each lead they sent you, or buy them in bulk. Even if at first it may seem a bit expensive, you will recover your costs easy. Do your research how you will find a business like yours on Google and it won’t take long to find these websites.

As a word of advice: do not get scared by the amount of competitors, as most of them are not real competitors, but just people having a go. Remember that it is all about the numbers and the more people you quote to, the more chances of closed business you are going to get

I can prove that this photography marketing method works as I can say I have received a lot of business from.

If you wish to succeed as a professional photography service provider, you will need to study your competition and do better than your competitors in terms of presentation, website, portfolio etc.

There are other marketing tips for your photography business, but you will find them naturally in the process of growth, establishing which ones work better for you and which one are not –  how to start a photography business.

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About Christian Tudor

professional photographer, main editor at Academy of Photography and