We’re talking marketing for photographers, with six simple, actionable steps designed to help you boost your brand, promote your portfolio, and get more clients! (Photos & quotes by: NICOLE JANSMA)
You have the gear, the portfolio, and the passion. Now you just need the work! Here are six marketing strategies you can do TODAY to get more bookings fast.
#1: Curate Your Portfolio – Especially On Instagram!
We talk to successful, experienced photographers every single day, and they all tell us the same thing: they’re booking tons of work through Instagram!
How, you ask?
They’re Showing the Right Photos
Your Instagram feed should be thoughtfully curated. The ratio of casual shots to professional imagery should be approximately 1 : 7.
To get more bookings, DO post these photos on Instagram:
- photos you’ve made for clients
- professional-quality photos you’ve made of your own family or friends
- no more than ONE behind-the-scenes photo per week!
If you’re struggling to maintain a healthy professional/personal balance, maybe it’s time to create a separate Instagram account for your personal photos – one your clients won’t see or associate with your brand.
Social media is an ongoing experiment for many marketing photographers. Try something for a couple of weeks, then (if it’s not working for you) change it! Everything from posting times to the types of photos you post will garner different attention depending on your unique audience and personality. Don’t be afraid to try new things!
They’re Using the Right Hashtags – In the Right Place!
Your hashtags shouldn’t go in the caption field below your photo. They should go in the first comment after you post your image! Share at least 11 hashtags for the best results.
While hashtags like #ILoveMyClients may be cute and fun, they won’t get you anywhere if you’re looking for new business. To get more customers, focus on location- and genre-specific hashtags like:
If a couple is using Instagram to look for a photographer in the Paris area, they’re much more likely to search one of the above hashtags than they are to search #BeautifulCouple or #GreenDress.
“One of my most random bookings came from an Instagram interaction. I was scrolling through a hashtag and saw someone’s post about Auburn (my alma mater). Being a good Auburn gal, I commented ‘War Eagle!’ (Don’t ask..it’s an Auburn thing!) Someone saw that comment, saw that I was in Chicago, and booked me for a shoot! There really is no such thing as an ‘insignificant’ interaction on social media!” – Nicole Jansma
They’re Posting (Almost) Every Day
Get more clients by posting a fresh image on Instagram every weekday – and on the weekends, too, if you’re ambitious! One of the best ways to improve your photography marketing is to choose a day each week to pre-select your upcoming week’s Instagram images, and schedule them to post automatically using Schedugram. (For a small monthly fee, actual humans post to Instagram for you – no bots!)
Don’t worry if some of the photos you share are old. As long as they’re high-quality and representative of your ongoing work, they’ll resonate with your audience!
As you get to know which images your viewers love most, post more of THAT.
Check your Instagram Direct Messages DAILY. Instagram ONLY notifies you of DMs from people you’re already following, so you’ll need to manually check for DMs from new prospective customers!
#2 Identify Your Target Market
Finding your niche helps you choose the right photography marketing strategy. Leaning into what you are already passionate about is one of the best photography marketing strategies. It’s much easier to think of the best style, content, equipment, or marketing approach when you know who you’re talking to!
Build a Customer Database
After identifying a target market, photographers can build an organized database to help monitor all projects and prospects. To help you get started, studio management software like Táve can categorize clients as:
- Potential clients or job leads
- Past customers or shot jobs
- Potential co-marketing or charitable partners
- Vendors and partners
When times are slow, you can go back to the list and see who you can send follow-ups, marketing ads, proposals, or promotions to.
#3: Get More Clients Simply By Asking
You know people. You have friends and family, and they have friends and family, and they have friends and family… and so on! You’re connected to these people through social media, your church, your day job, your kids’ school… And you have the ability to reach out to them directly and ask them to book you.
Sound scary? Maybe a little. But it’s not as scary as not having any clients!
Here’s how marketing to them works:
Offer A Promotion
Reach out to past clients, potential clients, and your friends and family and tell them:
“It’s portfolio-building season, and I’m looking to book five fun portrait sessions for the month of October! In exchange for allowing me to select an incredible new location, I’m offering each couple or family 20% off their session! If you (or someone you know) is interested, email me directly to reserve your spot. I’m can’t wait to create beautiful new photographs with you!”
(Direct communication is key when motivating people to buy!)
Of course, you can tweak this offer any way that will help you get more clients!
- free 8×10 matted print
- bring a friend
- save $500 off any winter wedding package
- free Mobile App
- book a wedding, and get a FREE engagement mini session
Host a Giveaway or Contest
In addition to asking for something, give something to your audience as well! To market your photography business, contests and giveaways are fun ways to attract potential customers and celebrate existing clients. Try running a contest on social media to generate new leads and gather new likes–audience building works wonders!
For example, ask people to follow your page, share a specific post, and tag three or more friends. Think of a prize that resonates with your target audience, has relevance to your business, and will urge people to use your services in the future.
These offers and discounts will not hurt your bottom line if you’ve priced your services appropriately. Deals such as these are considered part of your photography marketing budget, and are a normal cost of doing business. Don’t be afraid to provide special promotions in order to obtain new clients! Just make sure you know your numbers, and aren’t losing money on the offers you make!
“Word-of-mouth referrals are absolutely my biggest source of acquiring clients. This past year, for example, seven of my booked weddings came from just ONE client. And last fall, one birthday party event resulted in eight different portrait shoots. There are a lot of ways I do that, including referral perks; but the most important thing I make sure to do is to give my clients an unforgettable experience. Then they actually WANT to tell other people about me!” – Nicole Jansma
Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the best forms of marketing when you’re looking to get more clients! Reward your legacy clients (repeat customers) with a referral program that gives back! Some examples are:
A Points System
Earn 1 point every time a brand new client books me based on your referral! 5 points = 50% off your next session. 10 points = a FREE portrait session!
A Credit System
Earn a $25 photography credit for every new client you refer to me! Use your credits toward your next session, or toward prints or albums!
A Prints System
Earn FREE PRINTS when you refer new clients to me! For every brand new client who books me on your referral earn your choice of one 8×12, two 5x7s, or four 4x6s!
Podcaster Cathy Heller of Don’t Keep Your Day Job recently doubled her subscriber count by making one simple request of her followers:
“For my birthday,” she asked, “share this podcast with one other person.” People did, and Cathy was rewarded with a blossoming listenership and even more loyal fans! The takeaway? It never hurts to ask!
#4: Boost Online Marketing Presence
Use Social Platforms
Let’s be honest, most photographers and clients spend A LOT of time on social media, which can be a budget-friendly way to market. So, why not take advantage of these free marketing tools to boost clientele and bookings? Depending on your style or niche, you can try marketing on the following platforms:
- Tik Tok
Consumers get ideas from Pinterest photography boards you make. If you specialize in event photography, create boards showing your photos of event venues, wedding receptions, or corporate event ideas. Then add a succinct description of your boards, as well as relevant tags, to increase their visibility.
For maximum marketing impact, upload photos at least three times a week. Add creative captions, as well as relevant hashtags and tags. Along with posting, be sure to show up in Instagram Stories! That’s an awesome way to show followers behind-the-scenes clips of you on a photo shoot, or even your office where you work.
Take advantage of live video, tagged photos, and posts encouraging followers to interact with your page. Make sure you include relevant details about your photography business, like your email and website, as well as call-to-action buttons to enable followers to contact you quickly.
Even though this is a newish social platform, don’t wait to get started on it! The target audience on Tik Tok is a bit younger; however, if you’re a senior portrait photographer, utilizing this platform could place you in front of your ideal clients. Additionally, you can use it to drive people to your Instagram account, if that’s your preferred social media channel.
Join Online Directories
Not all clients look to social media to find a favorite photographer. Some consumers prefer searching the web to find vendors. Experiment with listing your photography business on sites like Google My Business and The Knot.
A good photography marketing rule to follow is to establish a presence wherever your target audience is likely spending their time.
Start an Email List
You probably have social media accounts for your photography business, so you’ve heard about limitations and restrictions on what you can create and share. While social algorithms may have a lackluster effect on your photography business, email marketing is a totally different ballgame!
For instance, Facebook may suddenly ban you because someone didn’t like your post, even if you followed community guidelines. Instagram may ban you for using the same hashtags too much.
But the great thing about starting an email list is that you own it. It can also be a more personal approach to connecting with ideal clients. However, it’s key to carefully plan send times, brand voice, and frequency if you’d like an email list to be an effective way to market your photography business.
Entice people to sign up for your email list. Perhaps you share special deals with them first, or even provide insider tips on preparing for their shoot. Remember – people are busy, so you want to make it worth their while to be on your email list!
Write Blog Posts
Writing beautiful blog posts is a great way to market your photography business. After you shoot a session, take time to blog about it! Not only does this allow you to showcase recent images you’ve shot, but it also gives you an opportunity to highlight other vendors you worked with. This can help you build vendor relationships, which in turn, can help grow your client base.
You can also blog about helpful topics that your clients might need advice on. For instance, write an article about why families should get maternity photos taken, or what to wear during an engagement shoot. Then, incorporate your work to help your target market see the value of your photography business, and subsequently, entice them to book your services. Marketing photography services through your blog can be a great way to thoroughly explain the value of you and your photography!
Get Featured in Print and Online Media
Newspapers, magazines, blogs, and online news agencies are always on the hunt for visual assets to improve their stories and publications. If you’re also a street photographer, try taking pictures of local events or document the lives of daily people.
You’ll be surprised by how your images can turn into feature stories if given the right exposure. This is a great way to boost your visibility.
#5 Find Co-Marketing Partners
To start, scout for businesses or professionals where potential clients spend money, yet aren’t in competition with you. Identify where your target market goes on the weekend. Determine where their kids spend after-school hours.
If you are a wedding photographer, partner with wedding venues and see if you share images with them. Reach out to businesses and pitch ideas where both parties will benefit from using photography marketing.
Just remember that you should focus on what you can do for them. After that, create collaborations that your photography business will benefit from. For example, you can agree on discount codes, or maybe mention their business on your website and link to them.
Build a Partnership with a Charity or Organization
Working with a charity may mean providing your services for free or at a discounted rate, but donating your time is a smart photography marketing opportunity. Overall, you’ll expand your network and connection, giving you extra exposure.
Before donating your time to every organization that comes your way, assess whether accepting a job can positively affect your photography business or not. The great thing is that you can meet donors who may need your photography services in the future. While the return may not be immediate, it’s still a good way to get out in the community and give back through a creative outlet.
#6: Pursue A Passion Project
Sometimes, we aren’t booking the clients we want because we aren’t showing the work those people want to see!
But how do you show that work if you haven’t shot it yet?
It may be time to craft a styled shoot – a photography session you control 100%, with a hand-picked location, carefully-selected subjects, and whatever wardrobe, props, or styling you deem best.
Styled Shoot Reps
Senior Photographers have long-known the value of selecting a Senior Representative – a handpicked high school senior who receives their session for free, then markets the photographer to their entire class!
You can use any styled shoot to get more bookings for your photography business:
- One well-connected engaged couple who models for your wedding styled shoot can send you dozens of prospective customers!
- One community-involved family who participates in a portrait styled shoot can connect you to an entire network of photo-loving families!
- One gregarious business owner who sits for a portrait styled shoot can attract a thriving group of successful headshot clients!
People Love Passion
People are attracted to passion. When you’re photographing scenes and subjects that light a fire in your soul, that excitement spills over into your portfolio, your social media, your website, and your communications with potential clients.
As you grow your portfolio and your business into something that excites you, share that joy with your followers and fans!
We don’t get more customers by anxiously, aggressively insisting that the universe send work our way. We build our businesses by creating with intention and connecting with purpose.
Watch your wallet, invest in your craft, and #FocusOnWhatMattersMost. We believe in you!
What’s the craziest way you’ve ever booked a photography client? Tell us in the comments!