Getting new commercial photography clients isn’t as tough as it seems! Here’s how to deliver a dauntless pitch and land your ideal brand customers.
Six Steps on How to Pitch Photography to Brands
Commercial photography is the creation of images that will be used to sell: a product, a service, a dream—if you can buy it, it’s probably in a picture somewhere.
Brands are the entities who book and direct these commercial photo shoots, so if you want to tap into the big world of commercial photo-making, you need to know your brands and understand how to impress them.
Working on these two together paves the way for you to make a pitch, which allows you to present a business idea or offer a valuable service to prospective businesses. Here, we’ll outline the steps necessary to find and book your dream commercial clients!
#1: Identify Your Ideal Clients and Brands
Before you start out on your pitching journey, you’ll want to identify just who it is you want to collaborate with. Ask yourself, “who are my ideal clients and brands?” and then create a list of names, people, and brands you want to collaborate with.
If your niche is fashion photography, you might search up editor’s names in magazines that have caught your eye and you might want to pitch. If product photography is your area of expertise, perhaps you want to browse through photographer brands you follow on Instagram to get inspiration.
Here’s a reminder not to be afraid of setting your sights on your most ideal clients and brands. In other words, if you dream of shooting for Vogue or People magazine, make sure you add them to your list to pitch!
- Make a list of the people you want to connect with, and put their important details on a spreadsheet. Divide them into different target markets. For example: corporate, lifestyle, or product.
- Even if you don’t email them right away, saving their email address and keeping them on your radar is a great way to cast a vision for the future of your business. After all, everything starts with a dream, right?
- You can start getting their attention by tagging them on your Instagram posts. In this way, they may see your work immediately and reach out to you. It will be easier as you’re pitching to them, since there’s already something you can connect about.
#ShootProofPRO Tip: Be Intentional
When writing your list to pitch, make sure to select ideal photography clients and brands that resonate with your personal branding and style. Not only will it be easier to sell your vision and work to them, but you’ll be that much more passionate about working with them should the opportunity come to fruition.
#2: Curate a Swoon-Worthy Portfolio
Next, you’ll want to review your photography portfolio and make sure that it includes images that your ideal clients and brands will swoon over. Allow me to break down exactly what I mean: The key is not only to present a portfolio of beautiful photos to your ideal clients, but one that they can connect to because it aligns with their brand identities.
If you find that your already existing photography portfolio doesn’t clearly align with the potential clients and brands you want to reach out to, get to work and have fun creating new photos! Remember, you want your future pitchees to identify with these photographs (and ultimately hire you), so create with them in mind.
As an aside, you might want to get some help from some of your industry friends and fellow creatives who can aid you in the process of creating new work. Bringing in a makeup artist to glam up your model, for example, or having the help of a stylist in coordinating wardrobe will greatly enhance your portfolio work.
Email them and ask if they are willing to collaborate with you and offer them a copy of the digital images and photos you create as a thank you for their time and talent. In a way, you’d be pitching their work also so chances are, they’ll like the idea and be all about it!
#ShootProofPRO Tip: Get Mentored
Once you feel that your photography portfolio is ready for review, seek out the expert advice of people you trust, for example, a fellow photographer friend or former college professor from art school, to give you feedback on your work. Ask them: “If you were XYZ brand/brands, would you want to work with me based on my portfolio?” Two pairs of eyes are better than one!
#3: Educate Yourself on Your Ideal Clients & Brands
When the moment finally comes to email a pitch to your ideal clients, you’ll want to make sure you’ve done your research on them and know their brands. Having this insight will help you propose ideas that are relevant and relatable to them and earn you brownie points as a plus!
- Scrolling through their social media handles, checking out their website, and analyzing their imagery and overall creative aesthetic are all great methods of research.
- Learn about the brand’s history, goals, mission, and vision, as well as any relevant branding messages.
- Look at a company’s previous marketing work. This can help you understand their unique selling points, brand voice, and colors.
As an extra tip, take bullet point notes as you go, jotting down words or feelings that evoke their individual brand voice. For example, you might describe a potential fashion client as luxurious, bold, and colorful. (These notes will come in handy very soon; more on this in the next section.)
If your ideal clients see that you’ve taken the effort to get to know their branding and invest in them, it’s much more likely they’ll be willing to invest in you. As the old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
#ShootProofPRO Tip: Be Engaged
Make sure you’re following your ideal clients and brands on Instagram and other social media platforms, and like, comment, and engage with their content often! The more they see your name pop up, the more familiar with you and your work they’ll become. Social media serves as an excellent tool for connection; if you haven’t done so already, start capitalizing on it!
#4: Write an Eye-Catching Email & Deliver Your Pitch
I’m so proud of you for getting this far! You’ve made it to the most important step: it’s pitching time! Here are a few main points to keep in mind when learning how to pitch photography to other companies, crafting emails, and reaching out to people:
- Start with a warm greeting and introduce yourself. Share who you are and the reason you are reaching out.
- Remember that list of “feeling words” I had you jot down a bit earlier? You’ll need that now. Pull it out and refer to it as you write your email making sure that your language is consistent with your potential client’s branding voice.
- Include key details such as proposed shooting dates, timeline, and locations.
- Suggest a working budget. It’s reasonable to send a package quotation for negotiating. Make sure to add your assets, especially your shooting equipment, to justify your prices.
- Offer solutions to improve their branding. Don’t make it sound like they’re falling behind in their strategy. Rather, use statistics or data to show positive results of incorporating photography into their business.
- Most people are very busy and won’t read through long, drawn-out emails so ultimately, keep it short, sweet, and to the point. You can follow up with more details once your target contact replies to your email.
- Ensure you’re using a professional email address. Likewise, make an effort to find the correct email addresses. Some companies or people won’t easily give out their email details, so you either have to check information on their websites or LinkedIn profiles.
Craft Personal Yet Professional Emails
Establish a connection, and ideally, a personal one. Is your prospective company your favorite shoe brand? Do you admire the way their product makes them stand out from others on the market? Tell them clearly and exactly why you want to work with them in your email.
You can also create a template and then tweak it to make sure you send personalized emails.
- Use the name of the person you’re emailing. Double and triple-check the spelling before hitting the send button!
- Craft the email in a way that benefits the company entirely: what they will get from working with you or how they can improve their sales.
- Express your personality by sharing a personal anecdote or short story about why others work with you.
- Be specific yet intentional. Explain that you’re looking for a long-term working relationship that feels collaborative. Make it seem that you’re doing the work for them and not the other way around.
Offer a Valuable Job
Instead of asking “If they want to work with you,” offer them something of value and address a possible need. What is your expertise and what can you do for them beyond simply providing a photography service? Show them why they need to work with you!
Define what you can deliver that no one else can. Maybe you can serve as both photographer and stylist, or perhaps you have a background in underwater photography. Be smart about conveying your skillset, yet don’t limit what you can offer.
Give away a little something to spark interest and show them what you can do. For example, offer a discounted rate for new clients, or offer them a free post on your Instagram stories. Everyone loves free publicity!
Direct Them to Your Work
One of the most important parts of your email is sharing your work. It’s essential that you communicate through pictures why you’re a good fit for the job. Your work speaks for itself!
Be sure to include links to your website and social media handles in your email. You want to make sure that the person you are reaching out to can view your site and work quickly and easily.
#ShootProofPRO Tip: Personality Matters
When writing your email, aim to strike a balance between sounding professional while still allowing your personality to shine through. Just because you’re talking business doesn’t mean you have to sound uptight. Keep in mind that a logo or well composed image aren’t your brand, you are your brand! Make sure to be YOU!
#5: Make Sure to Follow Up
I truly believe that following up can mean the difference between sealing a deal or missing out on it completely! Personally, I can recall many times in my career when an opportunity came through because I made it a point to reach out a second time. The golden rule is: always, always, always follow up.
If a few days go by since you pitched to a potential company and you still don’t hear back, don’t assume that you’ve been ignored. Most people receive hundreds of emails at a time and your pitchee might have simply missed your email, or forgotten to respond, so you simply need to follow up!
If you don’t hear back from them after following up, it’s ok! Take it as an experience in pitching and move on to the next ideal work on your list. With more pitching-practice and perseverance, you’ll eventually get a response!
- Send a follow-up email about a week after your first pitch email.
- When writing your follow up email, include a concise recap of your previous pitching email and note that you realize that they might have missed it. This will not only remind them of you, but also serve as an indicator of how serious you are about collaborating with them.
- If you don’t hear a response for another week, there’s a possibility that the brand isn’t interested in collaborating. While this can feel disheartening at first, know that you can still pitch to them in the future. Take this as an opportunity to work on improving your proposal!
#6: Repeat Until You Succeed
Congratulations! You’ve officially pitched yourself to an ideal client and now it’s time to repeat the entire procedure over again. This may seem like an obvious final step, but I’ve included it to remind you that it is of utmost importance that you keep pitching!
To truly grab hold of more work opportunities out there and in turn, grow your photography business, you’ll need to start pitching consistently.
I recommend setting a goal for yourself of how many potential clients and people you need to pitch to within a given timeframe like a month or a week. Personally, I’ve found one email per week to be a good number but find what works best for you. As you continue reaching out, the process will start to become easier and easier and soon enough, you’ll be well on your way to working with the clients of your dreams.
Importance of Pitching Yourself to Businesses
Good things happen to those who work toward achieving their goals. Pitching is a great marketing strategy to get your name out there in the marketplace.
While companies can contact you directly, it’s always smart to reach out to them first! Remember, there’s a possibility that other photographers are already beating you to the job. In some cases, businesses aren’t even aware of the importance of using visuals and images. It’s your role to educate them and inspire them!
When you take the initiative and approach a potential client, you’re taking matters into your own hands and not letting your business be at the mercy of other people’s whims. Besides, putting yourself out there shows future clients that you’re proactive and the best commercial photographer for the job.
So there you have it, friends. We hope these email pitching tips can give you the confidence and courage to put your work out there. Begin small, and you may be on your way to achieving your dream job.
Here’s wishing you the very best on your journey. Happy pitching!
Written and photographed by LAUREN ALEXIS RODRIGUEZ
Lauren is a Miami-based fashion and lifestyle photographer who believes, as Eleanor Roosevelt declared, that “the future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”